America, Countries, Food

Jimbalaya in New Orleans

Son of a gun, we’ll have big fun on the Bayou as we go Platinum Jimbalaya in New Orleans.

Or if you’re being particular Jambalaya and a crawfish pie and a fillet gumbo but I took to Cajun cuisine the first time I sampled it.

On the forecourt of the American Travel Fair in Washington DC where the New Orleans delegation held their liquid breakfast.

Food for thought

Jambalaya today: Get stuck in

That liquid being the famous local delicacy Sazerac.

And the jambalaya being a spicy rice pot of chicken andouille sausage, shrimps and veg.

Crawfish pie, well being crawfish which tastes a bit like lobster under a crust.

While gumbo is the Louisiana state dish, a soup of meat or shellfish, or maybe both.

With the Creole Holy Trinity of celery, bell peppers and onions.

New Orleans Saints

Easy as: Crawfish pie

All of which was consumed with relish and all before 10am.

Before the Saints came marching in and led us into the conference room.

Those Saints being the famous Preservation Hall Jazz Band.

Well we’re being seduced again by the tastes and sounds of New Orleans.

As the Big Easy delegation are the first out of the traps with details of their American Travel Fair party.

Which this May is being held in San Antonio in Texas.

And where helpfully their gig will be at the Westin Riverwalk where we’ll be staying…

Well, we are always where the party is at.

Rhythm in the heart

Souper: Gumbo

Of course New Orleans is just eight hours by road across the Deep South and served by road, rail, bus and air.

Or you could go Platinum with a 14-night fly-drive Southern Rhythms trip from €1519pp.

And what’s best is that this offer takes in and ticks off five states, Georgia, Tennessee, Mississippi, Louisiana and Alabama.

But let’s get the Irish Travel providers and American experts to give us the highlights…

Their pitch is that we will get to tap your feet to the beat in Nashville, Memphis, Lafayette and New Orleans, the region that gave rise to every form of contemporary American music.

And visit Natchez, perhaps the best preserved antebellum town in the South.

As well as historic buildings in Atlanta, where the spirit of Scarlett O’Hara is still in the air.

Although for all her fineries we’d be more Downstairs and all that jazz.

And Jimbalaya in New Orleans.



Countries, Europe, Food

Matters of the custard tart

Romantics everywhere listen up, head for Lisbon for matters of the custard tart.

Well, they do say the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach and the Portuguese speciality is likely to go right to it.

We have the monks of the Hieronymites Monastery in the parish of Saint Mary of Bethlehem to thank for our pasteis de nata.

The monks using the left-over yokes from their eggs for the pastry delicacy having used the whites to starch their habits.

On such good husbandry did Portugal earn its stripes in the bakery world.

Phallic baking

Top tip: The phallic sweet treats

Though they do do a roaring trade in a line of pastry penises (or doces falicos) or cakes (bolos).

Not made of course by mucky monks.

But a matchmaking priest from the 13th century called Sao Goncalo, or Saint Gonzalo.

Whether God had blessed him handsomely in the phallic department has been lost to history.

But the good people of his town Amarante at the western mouth of the Douro valley, celebrate him thus with these delicacies.

Twice a year… in January and the first week of June.

The pastries are given as gifts at the start of the year.

So that the recipient will have a fertile year.

And again around his saint’s day in the first week in June.

With a procession, fireworks, penis bunting, fetching penis deely-boppers and a lot of pastry penis gifts to single women.

Capital cooking

Obrigado: With the Scary One in Portugal Centro

All of which cake miscellany which I discovered along the way in Secret Portugal is just by way of getting into the spirit of Valentine’s Day early.

Which the European-based yacht charter group Catamaran Charter Croatia (no us neither) have also shown a particular interest in.

Catamaran Charter Croatia looked at each capital city in Europe.

By analysing Trip Advisor data on the number of romantic restaurants and hotels per million people in each city.

And yes, that’s right, Lisbon came out on top.

Side dishes

Dutch of class: Amsterdam Middle Eastern fare

All of which will come as a severe blow to the French who still insist they invented cooking.

And who come in second (Paris) and third (Monaco).

While the Italians who treat food with suitably less reverence and more fun have San Marino in fourth and Rome fifth.

Andorra is more than budget skiing (who knew?) and places sixth.

While look beyond their crepes (delicious though they are) and Amsterdam, in seventh, boasts eclectic Middle Eastern fare.

Athens, with its table-long banquets would turn even the most carniverous vegetarian.

While if your idea of food heaven is mixing two of three great pleasures in life then ninth-placed Prague with its beer soups is well super.

And if you’ve got money to burn then Reykjavik, in tenth, may be worth stretching the budget a bit.

The Five ‘Fs’

Fin and games: Portuguese love their fish

But it’s Portugal that’s tops, the land of the 5 Fs.

And you thought it was three… Football, Fado and Fatima but add to that Fish and Fertility fare.

And remember too to head for Lisbon for matters of the custard tart.


America, Countries, Food, Food & Wine

Winging it to Buffalo

Our thoughts obviously go out to our friends in the hardest-hit city in the Big Freeze of 2022 and vow to help them out by winging it to Buffalo.

Buffalonians, or Bills if you’re a fan of their American Football team, are a hardy bunch who live life to the full.

Full of cheer, beer and the culinary delight that they are best known for and shared with the world, Buffalo Wings.

All of which our group of Travel professionals were treated to first-hand in Dublin a couple of years ago.

And which, of course, we had to be spoonfed on how best to eat the chicken chunks.

And given the backstory to our favourite wings.

But no, they have nothing to do with buffaloes or Buffalo Bill.

Although it’s fun to imagine the Great Cowboy munching on chicken as he lassoed a buffalo out on the plains.

Buffalo wings on the bill

Downtown: Buffalo outside of the winter

No, Buffalo in upstate New York.

Close to the border with Canada, is far removed from the Wild West.

Although food is food everywhere and its origins often similar, hungry, or thirsty, folk, late at night.

And the need to rustle up something to fill the belly.

Which is where they were at just down the road in Connecticut.

With their Neapolitan apizza and their hamburgers from Hamburg.

As usual though we digress when where we want to be in the Anchor Bar in 1964.

Where Teresa Bellissimo welcomed her son Dominic back from college with open arms.

But with bambino and his amici needing fed.

Hot, hot, hot

Home of the wings? We were here first

Teresa needed a fast and easy snack and fell upon the idea of deep frying chicken wings (normally thrown away or reserved for stock).

And tossing them in cayenne hot sauce.

Where this gets even more interesting and is particularly culinary is that a battle then broke out.

When local bar Duff’s began selling its Buffalo wings.

We’ll let them fight it between themselves.

And content ourselves with the fact that there’s all the more to go around.

Who and why they came to be served with blue cheese and celery takes some more digging.

Wagon ale

Out on a wing: Duff’s

Maybe with a Circle the Wagons local IPA and Pilsner or any of the range of excellent upstate New York ales.

Just a couple of reasons then for winging it to Buffalo when it all thaws out.

So good luck Buffalo and we can’t wait to get around the table with you again and fly out with British Airways.


Food, Food & Wine

Eat like royals this Christmas

It’s the one day we all get together with our families and bitch about everybody who isn’t there… and you too can eat like royals this Christmas?

Forget what you’ve seen on telly about their hilarious tradition of giving each other cheap presents because that’s just mean and condescending.

Do the Cath: Cath Kidston

No, we want to know about their gamey pleasures, or maybe now that Chuck is in charge of the firm at Sandringham in Norfolk, it’ll be all nut roasts and organic veg.

And thanks to our old friends at interior and culinary specialists Cath Kidston we can give you an insight into royal favourites.

Royals get stuffed

Elfy meal! Get stuffed up

Of course anybody who has slaved at the stove for Christmas dinner (er, that’ll not be me) will tell you that the secret of any festive meal is the stuffing.

And Cath tells us people are already starting to plan their menus, as searches for “stuffing recipe” have
increased by 238% within the last three months, reaching a 9,900 average.

From a classic turkey stuffing to a mushroom one, there are numerous recipes that will
satisfy the Christmas appetite.

Markle Christmas: Harry and Meghan

But for the royals it’s a blend of sage and onion flavours, according to former royal chef Darren McGrady.

This recipe by Good Housekeeping combines all the traditional ingredients but with a little twist to
give the stuffing a moreish texture – crumbled and chunky sourdough bread.

Meat-free and perfect for vegetarians, this stuffing recipe is a go-to for any Christmas-loving family!

No prizes for who the Windsors want to get stuffed this Christmas, of course.

Royal puddings

Hot stuff: The Christmas pud

Talking of big puddin’-faces…

The Royals favourite dessert recipe has been revealed by chefs in the Royal Kitchens on the Royal
Family Instagram account.

The recipe features 40ml of brandy to add extra spice to the heart-warming dessert (or maybe cherry brandy as Chas is in charge).

But you can substitute it with orange juice or cold tea if you don’t want to use alcohol.

In the Royal Kitchens, the Christmas pudding mixture is stirred up on the Sunday before the Advent
season, hence it’s called stir-up Sunday.

The Sussexes aren’t coming: Charles and Camilla

The search for “Christmas pudding recipe” increased by 1,038% within the last three months.

Of course the pudding one ginger-headed aristo and his pushy Z-lister wife will be sitting down will be laced with venom.

Whoever’s side you fall on, and you can just sit on the fence.

Literally, as it’ll be warmer than the house you can’t heat.

I’m sure you’ll take comfort that they are can all eat like royals this Christmas.



Countries, Europe, Food, Food & Wine

Christmas cracker in Croatia

And the warmth of your festive welcome in the Balkans cannot be cooled by anything as small as a World Cup semi-final… it’s a Christmas cracker in Croatia.

Our old Croatian friends tell us that the World Cup is different this year even though they’ve been pulling up trees again.

It’s just that this time because the football extravaganza is being held in December it’s Christmas trees.

And that they are having to wrap up warm when they take to the streets to celebrate another victory like the one they savoured against Brazil in the quarter-finals.

Today, of course, it’s another South American behemoth.

But this remarkable country of only four and a half million proud souls is used to fighting above their weight.

And they may also have a secret ingredient which can explain the question that is often asked… how do thy do it?

Divine intervention

Dressed to kill: Medjugorje

And that is the Man upstairs, and a woman too, his mother.

At least that’s what I was told by the Franciscans preaching in the Marian hub of Medjugorge.

And OK it’s really Bosnia & Herzegovina but try telling that to the good folk of that town.

Where the only thing that vies for attention on the stalls and the shops are Croatian flags, chequered football tops and pictures of the sainted Luka Modric.

And where the bartender at the Irish Centre in the town gets his music deck out.

And plays Dynamo Zagreb songs and their games on the big screen.

Z is tops

Zagreb is, of course, the country’s capital and by dint where the biggest markets are with a bunch of awards behind it.

Its Christmas market opened on 26 November and will run until 7 January 2023.

Look out for the  creative shop-window displays, shimmering lights and decorations adorning the cobbled streets of the upper town.

Sample the roast chestnuts, sarma (sour cabbage rolls filled with minced meat), paprenjaci (peppery gingerbread cookies) and vanilla half-moons.

And watch out for the paper that they shoot from the Gric Cannon every day at noon.

Beautiful advent

Tree-mendous: Opatija

Venture to the coast between now and January 8 and you’ll find Opatija which has been hailed as ‘the most beautiful advent by the sea’.

And which has the added attraction of an ice rink by the sea.

Juraj Šporer Art Pavilion is its centrepiece, with kiosks offering festive specialities, divine desserts and mulled wine.

While we’re advised that the charming fishing village of Volosko has the catch of the day.

Pearl of the Adriatic

Pearl: Dubrovnik

For many, Dubrovnik is ‘the pearl of the Adriatic’ and it certainly was for James Joyce.

Way before Game of Thrones brought a new audience.

Its own winter festival until January 6 covers an array of locations including the iconic Stardun in the old town with festive concerts.

The festivities of the old town are set against a backdrop of thousands of glittering lights.

For even more sparkle and merriment…

Head to the colourful Winter in Lapad Bay, which comes complete with ice-rink.

Get connected

Luka here: Croatia’s finest

While Šibenik will get you connected with the New Year with the Stereo MCs on the main New Year’s stage in the square in front of the Cathedral of St. Jakov.

Where you can also enjoy Ireland’s finest, music icon Róisín Murphy.

The celebration starts at noon in the legendary park with the performance of the Šibenik Bagatin band.

And in the evening a program on two stages awaits visitors.

It’s all a Christmas cracker in Croatia..

And thanks to our friends from Croatia for the Sretan Božić.




America, Countries, Food

Power of three ingredient recipes

You only need three strings to play a guitar and happens it’s similar with cooking so here’s to the power of three ingredient recipes.

I’ve been down this route before from making pasta (water, flour and egg) to baking an American apple pie (probably more than three).

And my take-away is that it’s always better if you have someone there helping you through it all.

Like Cath Kidston who has sent us these dishes with a trio of ingredients.

And naturally we’ve picked out three and put our sprinkle of background to each.

Mac my day

To go: Mac’n’cheese in Barbados

Mac and cheese: An easy Italian dish much loved by Britons and Americans.

But we weren’t expecting to get it with every dish out in Barbados and Tobago. But we did, irie!

Follow Cath’s instructions to make a dish for four with these ingredients:

One and a quarter litre milk

455g dry macaroni 

200g shredded cheddar cheese

Say Cheese

Doggy days: A half-smoked in DC

Cheesy Hot Dog Puffs: And few things scream the Oo Es of Eh more than hot dogs and here’s a variation on the theme.

Cath tells us we need:

One sheet of puff pastry

Six hot dogs 

§Six slices of cheddar cheese

And, of course, her instructions.

And talking about variations on a theme, here’s one recommended by Barack Obama, no less, from Washington DC… the half-smoked. Enjoy.

Fill me up peanut butter cup

Reese is the word: Best bar none

Peanut butter cups: And is there a sweetie more American than peanut butter cups?

You’d have to go to Hershey’s in Pennsylvania for the Reese’s original.

Unless, of course, you follow Cath’s recipe with these, yes, you’ve got it three ingredients.

Three tbsp powdered sugar (sifted first)

120g creamy peanut butter

170g melted chocolate

So fill me up peanut butter cup.

Because these are the power of three ingredient recipes.



Countries, Europe, Food

Pile in on World Paella Day

For the day that’s in it and because I fear The Scary One is leaving us with ‘heat-ups’ (her word for leftovers) tonight, let’s pile in on World Paella Day.

It’s a date on the calendar I should have marked in her diary alongside our anniversary which was three days ago but didn’t.

So it’s just as well that my old amigi Sara and Kathryn from the Spanish Tourist Board in Dublin flagged it up.

And a wee Rioja: With Sara

By inviting the cream of Irish Travel (I’m confined to barracks just now) out for a big paella.

Which is paella round-grain rice, bajoqueta and tavella (varieties of green beans), rabbit, chicken, sometimes duck, and the lima or butter bean garrofo, cooked in olive oil and chicken broth.

Mellow yellow

Man v Paella: And the paella always wins

With the yellow colour we know and love infused by saffron.

Paella, meaning frying pan in Spanish, has come to be the city and the country’s biggest food export.

But foodies will tell you that the dish derives from Valencia, while historians will point to the Moors from North Africa who introduced rice cultivation.

Paella is of course international now and the Valencians even host a World Paella Cup with the best chefs from around the world.

And thankfully without those ubiquitous ‘celebrity chefs’ we have all come to loathe.

Less Oliver: And more Paellaman

You know the ones who pimp their paellas like mock cockney Jamie Oliver who uses chorizo by Jamie Oliver or the rice, chicken, squid, chorizo ​​and clam version by chef Gordon Ramsay.

OK, I don’t have anything against you putting in whatever the heck you like into the pan to make your paella because after all anything with rice in a paella, or pan, is eh, a paella.

It’s just Oliver’s fake chumminess and Ramsay’s fake fecking puts me off my food.

Although writer Ana Vega ‘Biscayenne’, citing historical references, showed that traditional Valencian paella did indeed include chorizo.

And he exclaimed: ‘Ah Jamie, we’ll have to invite you to the Fallas.’

Paella on the pounds

No need for plates… just dig in

And what we all want to know in these straitened times is can it feed the masses?

Well Valencia restaurateur Juan Galbis claims to have made the world’s largest paella with help from a team of workers on 2 October 2001.

He claims to have fed about 110,000 people and this is even larger than his earlier world-record paella on 8 March 1992, which fed about 100,000 people.

Galbis’ record-breaking 1992 paella is listed in Guinness World Records.

So pile in on World Paella Day, there’s enough for everyone.






Caribbean, Food, Food & Wine

Kabawe Libre in St Lucia

The beauty of the Caribbean is that they all have their own take on island life and we can put our own mark on each which is why we give you Kabawe Libre in St Lucia.

And if that sounds like Cuba Libre then that’s deliberate.

And because the St Lucians hosted me so well on their trade show in Dublin you can have that pitch for free.

Apt really because that’s what Libre is and because the rum flows liberally throughout the West Indies.

When in rum

All shapes and colours: Rum in the Caribbean

Kabawe is the Creole word for Rum Shop.

And the St Lucians value theirs just as much as the birthplace of rum just down the water in Barbados.

Which is why the exotically-named St Lucia Tourism Authority CEO Lorine Charles St Jules is promoting the Kabawe Krawl experience.

Best explained by the woman herself:

“The aim of the Kabawé Krawl is that visitors to our shores experience the unique Bar, Rum, and Culinary adventures in Saint Lucia.

“This will allow for the tourism dollar to be spread through our smaller communities and local hot spots nationally.”

She explained that there was a process.

And that all interested bars will undergo an onboarding process.

Domino dancing

Happy chappies: Dominoes in Barbados

And they will be trained in customer service and safety management.

Of course the first starting point for me would be a bunch of oul’ fellas in the back room.

Slamming down dominoes and stamping down on a floor with sand on it.

And not the type we get in my own homeland of Scotland to mop up the slops.

But authentic grains from the beach outside.

Irie Barbados: With Jevan and Donna

We know what a rum shop should look like from limin’ with the locals in Barbados earlier this year and on previous trips.

And we’re keen to explore our old pal Marc’s new Island Time Rum Tour.

While we’ve been down this trail too with Antigua and Barbuda.

They clued us in on their Beach Bar Trail at that Dubin roadshow.

Best bar none

The best greeting: The Irie Bar

We imagine then that the Kabawe Krawl will follow a similar route which checking out a map of the isle might mean:

Starting in the north at the Irie Bar it has all the features we love…

A bamboo structure with plants, flags, local crafts and fishing elements and reggae.

In the pink: The Pink Papaya

The Pink Papaya at Point Seraphine is another which sells itself on its name…

And its jerk chicken and cocktails on the patio.

A rum, a therapy: The Rum Therapy Bar and Treatment Centre

The Rum Therapy Bar and Treatment Centre echoes Soca star King Bubba’s mantra on life… rum is mi only medicine.

And we’re told that owner Nicole will encourage you to do a little number at the karaoke.

All after you’ve lubricated your throat with her spiced rums.

Now whenever I’m out in the Caribbean I’m briefed by The Scary One to pick sea shells at the seashore.

She sells Seashell: At the Seashell Beach Bar

And The Seashell Beach Bar, the still resort, has the taste of the sea about it.

Jump in (literally) but maybe before your fruits of the sea and rum cocktails.

Drink it in: St Lucia

Finish off at The Hustler’s Beach Bar, a watering hole that looks named for me.

And it has been named in places as the best hideaway ever.

Situated in a very recognisable name place too, Londonderry… and I’m sure the locals will give you its history over a cold one.


America, Countries, Food, Food & Wine

The Streets of Boston

Now I’ve experience of the streets of Boston and the difference a turning can make, albeit 35 years ago.

So when I’d overshot Chinatown in Washington Street yesterday.

And found myself crossing the Mass Turnpike bridge I knew I was off course.

Way to go Shojo

Chop, chop: Shojo

I had been personally waited on by restaurant manager Jim at Shojo on Tyler Street.

And licked my lips and fingers tearing through his Wu-Tang Tiger Style Ribs, Jasmine rice and Japanese Saison Du beer.

And heavy of tummy had decided to take a walk down Memory Lane to my old workplace, the Black Rose, on State Street.

Now the proliferation of Asian spellings and smellings ought to have alerted me that I was on the wrong scent.

The Black Rose

Get on your bike: The Godfrey

So I doubled back, span into a vortex and was suddenly back in 1987.

With the singer, Irish Terry, singing The Dubliners’ standard Fiddler’s Green.

I waited patiently, cradling my Guinness, for the favourite when I tended door and bar here in the Eighties.

And was glad to put bread in his jar for a rendition of Black Velvet Band.

Filled with the best type of fuel I rolled home and let the tiredness of a three-country, 17-hour Aer Lingus journey drift me to sleep.

And dream of days gone and to come on The Streets of Boston.

Before hitting the Streets of Boston again and checking out its famous T trams.

And a tea party.


Countries, Europe, Food, Food & Wine

Mum’s bread and butter puds

We put our family’s height down to big meals and steam desserts little knowing the Spanish secret of Mum’s bread and butter puds.

She was doubtless putting sherry into it… with the rest going into her!

Bunny business: Easter is coming

Mum has got lazy in her mid-90s and the best I get now on my visits are digestives or Irish bran cake.

Easter has always been a very personal time for us when the two of us would go back to her homestead in Co. Donegal.

Apart from the one year when we flew to Ibiza, little knowing it was a recce to lure my Dad over for our summer holidays.

A Spanish Easter

Ola Madrid: Fast city

Back to Espana, as so many of us are and this most traditional of Catholic countries really does do Easter.

From Palm Sunday to Easter Sunday, spectacular Semana Santa parades – including the Cristo de Medinaceli procession on Good Friday – draw huge crowds.

To the exuberantly decorated streets of Madrid.

Another Semana Santa tradition, torrijas are a dish born of frugality.

Pass the Sherry

Listen to the shrink: Frasier

Much like bread and butter pudding or pain perdu, but with an added spike of sherry.

Guests can benefit from 20% off their accommodation.

And those booking an Easter break of two or more nights at The Pavilions Madrid from 8-24 April will enjoy complimentary torrijas awaiting them in their room.

Prices start from €153 (approx. £129) per room per night including breakfast.

Mum’s the word

Raisin d’etre: The bread and butter pudding

Yes while calling something bread and butter has come to mean ordinary, in expert hands it is anything but.

And to think that I have a lifelong gagging reflex to bread and butter but in a raisiny dessert with custard.

And yes, the sherry that makes Mum’s bread and butter puds.