Story and photos by Barbara Angelakis

Irish Gastronomy Bread Display

Ireland, the new foodie destination

Ireland is known as the beautiful emerald island for its breathtaking vistas; glorious literature; boisterous dance and music; ancient mystical tales; and of course, kissing the Blarney Stone. But hold on to your hats, Ireland is soon to be known for its cuisine… Really!

Gone are the days when tourists visited Ireland with minimal expectations that their stomachs would be filled with memorable feasts. Great strides have been made to place Ireland on the gastronomic highway of well traveled destinations that offer amazing food such as France, Spain, Italy, Portugal, etc.

I recently was invited to a St Patrick’s Day press luncheon where three master chefs traveled from Ireland to New York to dazzle the media with their artistry. As Alison Metcalfe, Tourism Ireland’s Executive Vice President US and Canada, said by way of introducing the chefs, “Ireland is about stories but the untold one {so far} is about the emerging cuisine”.

Irish Gastronomy Chef  Noel McMeel

All those gathered for the lunch were invited into the professional kitchen at “Cooking By The Book” culinary & cooking event space in Tribeca (New York City) where the event was held to give full rein to the visiting chefs expertise.

Irish Gastronomy Chef McMeel Fish

First up was Chef Noel McMeel, who charmed us with his chatty culinary tips and bits of humor all the while grilling a two inch filet of Irish Hake (similar to Cod) skin side down in a skillet to crisp it up with just a touch of lemon before he popped it into a hot over for just 4 minutes so as not to overcook this delicate white flaky fish. He then set about making traditional Irish colcannon; his version was hand-torn kale and bits of rendered Irish bacon hand-whipped with butter and cream into pre-boiled potatoes –Irish of course- that were then topped with micro-greens after plating. His dressing - always placed on the side to give the diner the choice - was again hand-torn herbs, in this case dill, mixed into a cream sauce. The Irish do love their cream and butter.

Chef McMeel is Executive Head Chef at The Lough Erne Golf Resort, Fermanagh, Northern Ireland. His distinguished career  has included the unique distinction of cooking for the wedding of Paul McCartney and Heather Mills at Castle Leslie in Co. Monaghan.

Irish Gastronomy Chef Darina Allen

Next Chef Darina Allen, who along with her brother Chef Rory O’Connell, established the Ballymaloe Cookery School in Co. Cork, Ireland in 1983. The school is set on their family farm that supports dairy cows and chickens and grows its own produce for farm to table and sustainable cooking methods of which they are enthusiastic devotees. She has authored over 10 cook books and has been a frequent guest on TVprograms extolling the virtues of Irish food. She was happy to pose holding her latest one once she got out of the kitchen and her flour covered cooking apron. Flour covered because Chef Allen chose to demonstrate bread making techniques that were quick to prepare and wonderful tasting. And since the lunch event was co-hosted by Kerrygold the cheese and butter producer of Irish products, we had plenty of their rich creamy butter to slather on the bread hot out of the oven. 

Irish Gastronomy Chef  Allen Salad

Chef Allen was also responsible for our starting salad of baby leaf spinach with crispy caramelized pecans, bits of blue cheese and slices of roasted pears… yummy!

Irish Gastronomy Chef Rory O’Connell

Finally Chef Rory O’Connell ended the meal with a divine Ballymaloe praline ice-cream covered with praline brittle. The ice-cream was unbelievably smooth and creamy and the brittle covering added just the right crunch.

Chef Rory also graciously posed with his latest cookbook.

I am convinced. If this is the level of culinary excellence one can expect when visiting Ireland, pack my bags, I’m on my way.

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