Thought all you’d find on our plates is potatoes, meat and two veg? You’ll have a tasty time being proved wrong. Culinary traditions differ all over the island of Ireland, producing local delicacies and regional specialties you’ll be dying to sink your teeth into.
From berry liqueur and specialty cheese, to craft beer and free-range bacon, our guest blogger Allie Gavette has zipped around the island to find what can’t-miss local delicacies are on the menu.
Boozeberries Liqueur, County Down
As the days get longer and warmer, this refreshing berry liqueur may be just the ticket.
The bobbing berries are just waiting to break free and add a dash of colour and zesty flavour to champagne or summer cocktails. For those not familiar with such ruby liqueurs, Boozeberries supply a mini cocktail and dessert recipe book with your bottle to inspire even the most novice of bartenders. Our favourite: pour straight onto vanilla ice cream.
This family-run company are getting the attention from foodies around the world, from Country Living Magazine to the International Liqueur Masters competition and Great Taste Awards (winning silver and gold, respectively).
Best of Bridgestone Good Food Guide says of Boozeberries: “Rich in colour and powerful in alcohol. A great new concept not to be missed.”
We’ll toast to that!
Cashel Blue Cheese, County Tipperary
In 1982, a small family farm in the heart of saw a gap in the Irish cheese market that other farmers didn’t even know needed filling. Two years after spotting there was no local blue cheese producer, the Grubb family perfected their perfect recipe for Cashel Blue.
The distinctive gold wrapping that envelops the soft off-white cheese with ribbons of blue, matches the awards it won since its creation. Cashel Blue has since found its way onto the menus of some of the best restaurants on the island. You’ll find it on cheese plates at the Ballyvolane House in County Cork, in potato cakes at Café Rua in County Mayo, on a burger at Rocket and Relish in Belfast, and in a particularly tasty-looking pizza recipe (with caramelised onions and thyme) in the kitchens at Ballymaloe cookery school in County Cork.
You can just as easily pick up Cashel Blue at a local supermarket or specialty grocer. The Irish Farmhouse Cheesemakers Association (CAIS) also offers creative recipes for the cheese, including potato and cheese pie, cheese and apple strudel, and Cashel Blue and celery soup.
Despite the enormous success of Cashel Blue and its recent sheep milk sister Crozier Blue, J&L Grubb keeps business in the family and in the area. It’s possible to see the cheesemaking action firsthand by appointment.
Tullamore Dew Whiskey, County Offaly
“When she ordered whiskey, she always chose Tullamore Dew…”
There’s a good reason Stieg Larsson’s heroine in “The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest,” chose this classic Irish whiskey as her tipple of choice.
“The result is a tasty beverage that goes down easy, with a marginal bite and very smooth finish. Even if you’re not a big fan of whiskey, this one isdefinitely worth a try,” says Gayot spirits expert James Riswick in a recent review of the drink.
This establishment has been distilling their liquid gold since 1887, and visitors can now see the very place it started. The Tullamore Distillery and Heritage Centre gives tours of its historic facilities, which date its founding back to 1829. At the gift shop you’ll find the perfect excuse to try the full range of Tullamore products. Yes, please!
O’Hara’s Beer, County Carlow
Step into an Irish pub these days and as well as old favourites Guinness and Beamish, you’ll find bottles of niche local brews too. Microbrewers are popping up around Ireland, but the Carlow Brewing Company in has paved the way to become to be one of the most well-known.
The New York Times took notice of them in 2006, when they made Carlow Brewing Company one of the stops on their foodie tour around Ireland. Though they’ve been exporting their beer as far away as the United States, Seamus O’Hara told the newspaper that they’ve started to see more awareness of smaller, local breweries from Irish people themselves.
We’d say it’s about time, too. With O’Hara’s signature creamy stout, Curim Gold Wheat Beer, and Moling’s Red Ale, there’s a plenty of award-winning craft beers to tempt you away from the traditional taps. You can find these brews at O’Brien’s Wine, Beer & Spirits, or at the Brewing Company itself, where tours are available daily.
Waterford Blaa, County Waterford
If there’s one thing that is well known for (okay, aside from exquisite crystal), it’s the Waterford Blaa. Much easier on the wallet and much less fragile, the Blaa roll has earned its own fame.
According to local history, these fluffy white rolls with the distinctive powdering of flour have been around since the time of the Huguenots in the 18th Century. After 24 years of practice, and generations of bakers in the family, M & D Bakery in Waterford City has the method of blaa-making down. The brothers and owners of the bakery, Michael and Dermot, say the bread can be used any time of the day, as a base for a breakfast sandwich, as a roll for dinner, or as a simple snack when filled with bacon.
But good luck finding these morsels in the afternoon, because these popular buns will have flown off the shelves by lunchtime. They have a short shelf life and are best served warm, right out of the oven. Because of this, coupled with the fact that they are entirely hand-made at M&D Bakery with no preservatives, the blaas have never traveled off of the island of Ireland, making them a treat truly unique to Waterford. Other established Blaa bakers are Hickey’s, and Barron’s, also in Waterford, and Kilmacow in Kilkenny. The four bakeries are in the process of applying to the EU for Protected Geographical Integrity, or PGI, status. This will give blaas the same protection as the likes of Champagne and Parma Ham, which would explain why the recipe is such a closely-guarded secret!
O’Doherty’s Black Bacon, County Fermanagh
With a list of awards as wide as one of their hogs, O’Doherty’s self-described ancient way of making bacon has proven that sometimes the old way is the best way. Although proud of their other meat products, (see: Best Steak Burger in Ireland), O’Doherty’s star player is their Fermanagh Black Bacon.
O’Doherty’s meat is all completely traceable, from the Aberdeen Angus beef reared on the shores of , to their pigs that roam the island of Inishcorkish on Upper Lough Erne.
Customers who want to see the quality of life of the animals firsthand can even arrange to visit the island to see how the pigs live in their natural environment. O’Doherty’s free-range way of raising pigs has inspired other farmers in the area to do the same.
It’s no surprise O’Doherty’s came up with a cookbook, too. With recipes like the sumptuous Roast Pears wrapped in Black Bacon seen above, they’re showing how to get more creative with your rashers. But hey, if you just want to stick with the old fry-up, we’re not judging.
In fact, we’ve got tons of recipes for traditional dishes around the island of Ireland.
Northern Ireland is a foodie haven as well, our blog will give you food for thought.