(fried, scrambled or poached)
(aka bacon in Ireland)
Full Traditional West Cork Breakfast
Why is Ireland's food so good?
The PRODUCT (it all starts here)
Ireland's landscape and climate allows for growing quality produce such as fruits and vegetables
Meats, such as Irish beef, are so good because the cows are outdoor grass-fed in lush pastureland that allows herds to wander, meander and munch. Every day. Protein-laden grass and nibbles from hedgerows and ditches add flavor to the end result.
All of this ensures rich and tasty dairy products such as butter (the world's best butter comes from Ireland) and cheeses
Wild-caught fish and seafood are fresh and just-off-the-boat.
The FOOD PRODUCERS
Produce is grown and animals are raised on family farms. Fish and seafood are caught and prepared by local fishermen.
Traditional farming techniques ensure healthy livestock with quality meat, traceable from farm to fork
Restaurants and markets purchase food products from local producers (farms and fishermen) ensuring the product is fresh and there's a quick farm/sea to table process. Many restaurant menus indicate where the food products were purchased.
Knowledgeable and experienced
Passionate about delivering a quality product
Very creative in their recipe design while experimenting with different ingredients
Make full use of all the natural ingredients available especially on a seasonal basis
The GUESTS (and the resulting competition to acquire more guests)
Guests have become more knowledgeable and adventurous thereby wanting more innovative menus and greater variety
Guests are interested in healthier options with the freshest ingredients
Guests are interested in the fusion of different flavors
All of this is driving chefs to create more diverse and cutting-edge menus
The mantra right now is: Fresh ~ Local ~ Seasonal
How to Experience
#hashtag your way across Ireland
one restaurant at a time
Restaurants, like Ard Bia in Galway City, that focus on creative dishes making full use of the meats, seafood and produce that's available in the local region including vegetarian dishes that are to die-for. Some of these restaurants are in upscale hotels and B&Bs. If you're interested in a Michelin-starred restaurant - there are 21 across the island. Three have 2-stars and the rest have 1-star. Aimsir in the town of Celbridge (County Kildare) only offers a tasting menu (about 15 courses) and received 2-stars just 4 1/2 months after their opening in 2019.
Head to food-oriented regions such as County Cork which is known as the Culinary Capital of Ireland - especially the southern coastal town of Kinsale which is at the start of the Wild Atlantic Way. Northern Ireland has had a food revolution going on for a number of years now making it one of the most popular food regions on the island.
Directly from the food producers at Food Markets (like Cork's English Market) or in the local town farmers markets.
It's known as Pub Food and as I'm sure you probably guessed, it's served at the local pub. This is a great place to get many of Ireland's traditional dishes. If you're interested, search out Gastropubs which specialize in serving high-quality food and will also help you pair the drink with the food.
Many counties have Food Trails - written guides and maps that list and describe quality local producers, markets, cafes, restaurants, gastropubs where you can find some of the best food offerings in that county.
Most hotels and B&Bs serve, daily, a full, traditional Irish breakfast.
Many of the mini-markets located at petrol (gas) stations have a full serve deli section where you can get things quickly and fairly cheaply. Some of them have a Carvery section where you can get a full hot turkey (or other types of meat) meal with all the fixings.
Food-focused tours are in most of the major towns and cities. Led by expert, local guides, this is a great way to learn about the local Irish foods and sample them. Plus, it makes for a pretty fun day.
Festivals - there are some great food festivals in Ireland. The Kinsale Gourmet Festival and a Taste of West Cork Food Festival are just a few of the many throughout the year.
Visit the town's boutique food shop and pick up some artisan cheese and a bottle of wine and stop enroute and enjoy a picnic.
you just have to try.........
Boxty - a potato pancake; it's delicious when folded over and stuffed with savory creamy fillings like salmon or chicken
Irish soda bread - developed around 1840, this classic Irish staple is made with baking soda instead of the standard yeast; you'll find it is often served with soup
Irish stew - Ireland's famous stew of mutton (or lamb), carrots, potatoes and onions. It was featured on the menus for third-class passengers on the Titanic.
Literary stew (aka Dublin coddle) is a stew of bacon, potatoes, onions and sausages. It was a favorite of writers Jonathon Swift and Sean O'Casey and was mentioned in writings of James Joyce.
The full Irish breakfast (similar to the Ulster Fry in Northern Ireland) - usually has eggs, sausage links, pudding (black and/or white), bacon (looks like grilled sliced ham to Americans) aka rashers (Irish slang for bacon); cooked half tomato and usually served with toast. You will probably see this on most breakfast menus so you won't have to look far.
Good to Know: in Ireland, bacon is similar to what Americans call sliced grilled ham. If you want what Americans call bacon, then ask for "streaky bacon".
Black and white pudding (and no this is not the dessert-type pudding Americans are used to). Black pudding is a type of blood sausage made with pork blood and pig fat or beef suet along with a cereal such as oatmeal and/or barley and a few other ingredients. White pudding is similar to black pudding but without the blood.
Corned beef and cabbage - you might have had this at home a few times on St Patrick's Day
Mashed potato dishes (aka "mash")
Champ is mash with scallions
Colcannon is mash with cabbage
Potato farls is a potato-type bread from Northern Ireland
Waterford Blaa is a soft bread roll introduced by the French Huguenots in the 17th century. Paired with dry-cured bacon, it's a real delight. As a side note: there are 12,000 baked daily in Waterford.
Smoked salmon is a local staple. It is served on many breakfast menus.
Drisheens, Crubeens and Tripe (if you can get past the ingredients)
Drisheen is a black pudding from Cork made from cow's sheep's or pig's blood
Crubeens are boiled pig's trotters
Tripe is usually a cow's stomach, slow cooked in milk with onions
Cooking up an Ulster Fry breakfast
(similar to the full Irish breakfast)
Fun facts .........
The potato was introduced to Ireland in the latter half of the 16th century Today, it's made into boxty (a type of pancake), champ (mash with scallions), colcannon (mash with cabbage) and potato farls (potato-type bread from Northern Ireland).
The cross at the top of the traditional Irish soda bread is there to let the fairies out
At its peak, the Cork Butter Market was the largest butter export market in the world
The age of the oldest "bog butter" discovered in Tullamore, County Offaly is 5,000 years old. Bog butter was thought to be buried in bogs as a way of preserving it.
Ireland produces enough milk and dairy per year to feed 52 million people
Just a TASTE of Ireland's best FOOD experiences
Food tours are one of the best ways to learn about, experience and sample Irish food. From walking tours that stop at local eateries in cities & towns to driving tours that stop in nearby towns and usually drive through beautiful scenery, you'll find food tours across the island. Knowledgeable guides will introduce you to the foods of Ireland and provide some very interesting background info.
You can find cookery schools (as they call them) all across the island. Learn about the local ingredients available to you and sometimes forage for the ones you need, discover how to select the tastiest and freshest ones, gain the techniques to work skillfully in the kitchen, prepare Irish recipes and then sample your finished products.
Ballymaloe Cookery School, for instance, has a selection of classes ranging from a half day to a full intensive week.
Foraging for seaweed on the local beach
Foraging means to search the natural environment for edibles - picking blackberries from roadside bushes, seeking out wild mushrooms in damp forests and, one of Ireland's hottest trends, foraging for seaweed on its unspoiled shores.
Learn to forage for seaweed (aka sea vegetables) on the local beach while learning about the different varieties and how to select the best ones for cooking healthy recipes, for use in health and beauty products and even for relaxing in a seaweed bath.
Visiting an oyster farm
Farmed since the 1800s, there's something about Ireland's oysters. Visiting an oyster farm, like DK Connemara Oysters along Ireland's unspoiled Galway coast can be a fun learning experience and a delicious one too. Take a walk on the beach and learn how oysters are grown, over a three year period, from seed to plate. Oyster festivals, like the annual one in Galway (since 1954) offer family-friendly cooking events, oyster shucking heats, champagne pairings and other fun activities. I think many people like oysters but most people don't know much about them.
How about Afternoon Tea at an Irish castle?
At Dromoland Castle, Mrs White’s Afternoon Tea, is a feast fit for royalty. You’ll enjoy the prettiest selection of treats: scrumptious finger sandwiches, warm scones with clotted cream and homemade jams, delicate pastries, our signature tea brack and the sweetest confections. Of course, our specially selected loose leaf teas from around the world are served in sparkling silver teapots, alongside the prettiest china. Other castles with afternoon tea include: Ashford Castle, Belfast Castle, Waterford Castle Hotel, Clontarf Castle Hotel and Castle Leslie.
Ireland has great
The English Market, in Cork City, is one of the oldest markets in the world (1788). Meats and fish, herbs and spices, fruits and vegetables, cheeses and pastas are just some of the many products on offer. Browse, buy something for later or take time and enjoy a meal here. It's a bustling, friendly and delicious food adventure. Another great market to visit is St George's Market in Belfast. Built in the late 19th century, the market is a gourmet treasure trove and an eclectic mix of traditional and modern life in the city. Many other cities have weekend farmer's markets that are fun to stroll through.
Ireland's Beer & Spirits World
Ireland produces some of the best beers in the world. The Irish also know a thing or two about beers. They have a history of brewing dating back 5,000 years. Legend has it that St Patrick had his own brewer. As Maudeline Black of Black's of Kinsale put it, "in Ireland, we can't grow vines but we do grow fantastic malt - the key ingredient to making beer". This, along with Ireland's fresh water and the patience of the brewers, combines to make some pretty fine beers. Visit the iconic breweries like Guinness or Smithwick's or one of the small craft breweries like Killarney Brewing Company.
In the 19th century, Ireland was the global powerhouse of whiskey production. This fell apart in the 20th century. At the start of this decade, there were 4 working Irish whiskey distilleries. Less than 10 years later, there are now more than 30 whiskey distilleries in Ireland. Each one invites you to taste, smell and see the making of Irish whiskey up close. Ireland is the best place in the world for a whiskey experience. If you're interested in Irish whiskey or yearning to learn (and taste) more, then visiting a whiskey distiller or enjoying a whiskey experience is a must on your trip.
~ these are great rainy day activities ~
The Guinness Storehouse
Immerse yourself in 7 floors of fun and excitement as you explore the story of Ireland's most iconic beer. Enjoy the panoramic views from the famous Gravity Bar, dive into the history of Guinness in Dublin and experience the unique taste of Guinness. Tour, taste and learn how to pour one of the world's most popular beers. See what goes into making this iconic beer that's been around since the 1700s. Upon conclusion of the tour, receive a complimentary Guinness.
Visit the world's oldest licensed whiskey distillery that's located just a few miles from Ireland's rugged north coast. Tour the brewery that started over 400 years ago in 1608. The Bushmills Brand Experience encompasses guided tours around a working distillery, tutored whiskey tastings, a specialist whiskey shop and a well-stocked gift shop with exclusive Bushmills merchandise. At the tour's conclusion receive a complimentary whiskey in the 1608 Bar.
Enjoy interactive and surprising experiences along the way of this one-hour brewery tour that includes a complimentary Smithwick's pint at the conclusion. Learn about the history of this brewery which has been in operation since 1710 and about the story of the 13th century monks who settled at St Francis Abbey and began the unofficial brewery - that is until Henry the VIII's Reformation in 1537 closed down the abbey. Don't forget to get your Smithwick's souvenirs in the retail shop. You won't find it online.
Two locations to choose from:
Dublin - tour the original Jameson Distillery which has been in the heart of Dublin since 1780. In addition, enjoy whiskey tastings, the whiskey blending masterclass where you can blend your own whiskey and the whiskey cocktail making masterclass. A lot of options.
Midleton - enjoy a couple of distillery guided tour and whiskey tasting options. There's also a distiller's apprentice tour - a deep dive education in all things whiskey.
Killarney Brewing Company
If you're looking for an independent Irish craft brewing company, then Killarney Brewing Company is a good one to visit. Check out the brewhouse up close and personal. Their tour guides are true Killarney characters who feel obliged to pepper you with local folklore and flavor. The one hour tour consists of a "cheeky" introductory film, a walking tour of the brewery, a "meet the brewer", and a complimentary beer tasting with a little story-telling added in.
Teeling and Slane Distilleries
(the new generation of Irish whiskey distilleries)
Teeling Whiskey, located in the heart of Dublin City, was the city's first new whiskey distillery in over 125 years when it opened in 2015. Slane is located on the grounds of magnificent Slane Castle. Launched in 2017, Slane Whiskey blends old Irish traditions with new innovative craftsmanship. Tour these distilleries and sample Ireland's newest whiskeys.
Other Ireland Beverage Experiences
Craft gin distilleries are popping up all over the island of Ireland infusing local flavors like hand-harvested elderflowers, elderberries, wild clover and orchard apples. Tour these craft distilleries and learn about the local ingredients and the distilling process.
The Irish Whiskey Museum
Take a journey back through time and learn the origins of Irish whiskey and enjoy the wonderful stories told by the entertaining guides. Become a true master of Irish whiskey tasting. Take the whiskey blending experience - a fully guided tour and an interactive tasting of 4 varieties of Irish whiskeys. Then learn to craft and blend whiskey to your own taste and bring home a miniature Irish Whiskey Museum branded bottle with a sample of your very own whiskey blend.
Armagh Cider Company
Some of the world's most popular ciders are made in Ireland. The Armagh Cider Company is located in Northern Ireland and welcomes groups to the farm to experience the whole process of cider making - from blossom to bottle. Visit the orchard, the cidery (where the apples are pressed, fermented, filtered and blended into cider products) and bottling hall (products are bottled and packaged). Best time to visit is from blossom (spring time) to harvest (autumn). Call or email to arrange a tour.
When you're traveling in Ireland,
make sure to learn.....
How to make
the perfect Irish coffee
As the story goes, the Irish Coffee was born on a typically stormy night in the winter of 1943 at the Foynes Airport in County Limerick. Chef Joe Sheridan, upon learning that a flight, which had departed for New York City, was returning due to bad weather, decided to add Irish whiskey to the passengers coffee to warm the weary passengers. And thus, the Irish Coffee was invented.
How to pour
the perfect Guinness
........oh yeah, there's an art to it.
You can even learn the art of the pour during your visit to the Guinness Storehouse.
Dublin Whiskey Tours
You'll hear tales of ancient monks, backyard stills, modern alchemists and everything in between. Visit Dublin’s best whiskey bars and learn the difference between a single malt, single grain, and our very own pot still Irish whiskey. There are 3 tour options - all include whiskey tastings and two include pairings with various foods. Join Dublin Whiskey Tours for a great experience when you're in Dublin.
Here are some of Ireland's popular walking tours focusing on whiskeys and beers and in some cases pairing delicious foods with them.
Cork Whiskey Walk
On a half day (4 hour) walking, eating and drinking tour of Cork City, you will be guided by a local distiller and transported back in time to hear stories of pious Gaelic chieftains, Rebel Cork characters, enterprising merchant princes, miserly city distillers, eccentric local personalities and the fascinating history and unique methods of the Irish distillers craft.
In the atmospheric surroundings of a local craft brewer, authentic Georgian pubs and Victorian era wine taverns, enjoy good company, traditional food and some of the finest of local Cork whiskeys.
Taste and Tour (Belfast)
Award-winning food & beverage tours include the Belfast Gin Jaunt (taste 7 different gins in 5 pubs learning all about gin, gin styles, garnishes, cocktails and more with their resident gin expert), the Belfast Whiskey Walk (visit the Cathedral Quarter's best whiskey bars with an Irish Whiskey Ambassador sampling various whiskeys), the City Cocktail Circuit (join cocktail experts for a 3-hour tour diligently tasting the finest cocktails Belfast has to offer) and several other tours with food and beverage offerings. Local guides will lead the cheer, helping guests discover the people, the history and the top tastes in the city.
Dublin Literary Pub Crawl
Experience the city's pub culture and hear about Dublin's famous literary sons and daughters. The Sunday Times (ranking the tour #4 in the World's Best 50 Walks), calls it "a two and a half hour crawl with Wilde, Joyce, Behan and Beckett, the tour visits four 'Publin' watering holes, allowing time for internal lubrication between comic cuts of the writers work". The tour is led by actors who tell the story of the pub, the poet and the pint. If you're looking for a fun evening while having a few pints with some of Ireland's best literary giants, join this tour that also includes a special evening entrance to Trinity College.