Last month, I was super lucky to be invited along with a handful of Irish bloggers to a trip to discover the food and craft scene in Kilkenny. I had never been to the city, or the county for that matter before, my knowledge of Kilkenny city extended to ‘somewhere there is a castle‘ (which, in fairness, could apply to pretty much anywhere in Ireland) so this weekend ended up being the most perfect introduction one could dream of really. I have to say Kilkenny found a cosy warm little spot in my heart after two intense days of exploration and meeting the lovely people behind the local food and craft scene.
I thought I would reminisce with you what happened during those two days and I’m crossing my fingers that I manage to somewhat convey the warmth of this beautiful county through your screens.
Here is Day 1.
On the first day, Dee from Green and Vibrant and Mag from a local trout farm welcomed our little group of bloggers in front of the castle (that castle!). The blogger tour was taking place as part of the #1000Feasts campaign (more on that later) and Kilkenny food festival Savour Kilkenny. After all the introductions were made, we had a little wander around the festival, smelling and sampling the best food of the county.
We then headed to listen to a talk on ‘War Stories from the Kitchen‘, an insight into the Irish restaurant business. It was an interesting peek behind the ‘kitchen curtain’.
Then all of a sudden, it was lunch time and we made our way to Billy Byrnes pub which shelters the Bula Bus in its backyard. A literal hidden gem.
The Bula Bus serves street food with foraged seasonal goods. I absolutely loved that take on the cuisine genre and the place oozes so much coolness, what with the double decker rescued from the Manchester public service and its street art makeover.
I had the wild mushroom gnocchi which were little mouthfuls of melting joy, accompanied with a side of sweet potato fries. The garlic sauce was so on point, it wasn’t even funny.
Replete, we had a little mooch around the town. Kilkenny is quite the charmer what with the cute shop fronts and the river running in its heart.
I was looking forward to have a closer look around the castle and had my mind blown to find a breathtaking autumn wonderland within its walls.
Another surprise and a bit of a culture shock also awaited for me inside. The Irish Conker Championship was taking place that very day on the castle grounds. I had never heard of the practice before but I soon found out that it is actually a very popular game in Irish and English school playgrounds. I watched grownups hitting nuts on a thread for a while and felt that I may have missed out on something in my childhood.
After this entertaining if not slightly surreal interlude, it was time to go back to Savour Kilkenny where we were to meet some of the new food producers on the county scene. I sampled some tasty cakes from Eadaoin’s Kitchen and chatted with the sparkly Joan from Joan and Bob’s Juicy Jams. Artist husband and wife have put their creativity into the business of jam-making, in every steps from the beautiful drawn label design to the surprising flavour combination. Can you think of something more decadent than putting Strawberry, Peach & Prosecco jam on your toasts for breakfast?
The festival closed its doors and it was time for us to head to our accommodations to freshen up before dinner. I stayed in the Abbey House B&B, just next to the Jerpoint Abbey in Thomastown.
Dinner parties were hosted all over the county for the night of the #1000Feasts. The campaign had for goal to raise money for the building of a food hub in Thomastown. The place will serve as a school to train chefs but also provide education for healthy eating and growing with a community garden. This is an important project not only for the county but also for Ireland as a whole to improve and build upon their food destination status. The operation was a great success but the target has not been reached quite yet, so if you’re feeling generous, here is the link if you wish to donate for a great cause.
My feast took place in a little cosy restaurant in Thomastown called Cafe Sol Bistro. For starter, I chose the plate of halloumi cheese and orange, the combination was actually incredible. I would have never thought of it! For the main, I had a courgette roast, it was as delicious as beautiful to look at. All the flavours came perfectly through without it being too seasoned or spicy. A mistake I found is often made with vegetarian dishes. I was really chuffed with my choice.
For the second part of the feast, we met again with Mag, she welcomed us into her home where we enjoyed a tasty slice of cake for dessert and lively chats. Her husband Ger even treated us to a little impromptu singing performance. And there it was, in the candle light glow, the infamous Irish hospitality which made the whole campaign a success and a night to remember for years and years to come.
I will tell you all about day 2 next week so do come back for more awesome Kilkenny people and cute fluffy sheep – edit here is Day 2. Also do check out my fellow bloggers who were also present on the trip: Margaret, Janine, Elaine, Sadhbh and Billy.