Food and Drink Trails
“A stunning introduction not only to Irish cuisine but to the city itself”: that’s how Pauline Frommer’s Ireland described the Dublin Tasting Trail from Fabulous Food Trails, just one of a number of companies currently running exhilarating food trails. The popularity of the food trail closely tracks the rise in artisan producers around the island, and is a new and fun way to get a different perspective on a city – by meeting the people who create its food.
As well as visiting street markets, cheesemongers, butchers and bakers, you can learn all about the city’s colour, taste its personality and get to know it from the inside out. Most trails are on foot, but if you want to do your own, pick a county, pick your transport and let your gourmet imagination run riot… There's even an Irish Whiskey Trail, which offers a free downloadable map in English, French and German to Ireland's most esteemed distilleries, whiskey pubs, hotel bars and specialist whiskey pubs that you can enjoy all at your own pace. And if you want to spend a little more time discovering some of Ireland's gourmet counties, we've three suggested food trails to get you started...
Right at the shirt-collar of Ireland, County Fermanagh is one of the best places to start a journey to Irish foodie nirvana. In fact, the best dish to start you off might be one of the county’s most famous: Fermanagh bacon. Plenty of local vendors that sell it, but O’Doherty’s Butchers in Enniskillen is supposedly founding location of the award-winning Black Bacon, which follows traditional time-honoured methods of production. Fermanagh as a whole is a mixture of rustic Irish foodstuffs and modern Irish food expertise. It contains treasures such as the Fermanagh Country Market where food sculptures are featured right alongside the fruit, fresh bread and homemade jams. But it also contains icons of modern-age cooking methods, such as the Belle Isle Cookery School. It is this meeting of old and new that make Fermanagh such a compelling, dare we say delicious, food location.
Mayo is another county that fuses old and new, where food is cooked with much thought as to where it came from. This fertile space of Ireland is capable of growing much of its own food, and a host of local producers and many food markets have set up shop within its borders. Organic vegetables are popular in Mayo, and the entire county is embracing the move toward organic and local fare. Westport gourmands are generally to be found feasting on Clew Bay langoustine and seared Mayo mountain lamb at La Fougere restaurant, and Westport Market is a great place to find artisan treats on Thursdays and Saturdays. For a more low-key experience, head to Newport, a pretty little village not far from Westport along the coast. Here you’ll find award-winning black and white pudding from Kelly’s artisan butchers, as well as “putóg”, a more traditional and unique black pudding. And fancy a bit of old-school tea room atmosphere? Don’t miss Mary’s Bakery & Tea Room in Ballycastle, a town on the ruggedly beautiful North Mayo coast.
County Cork is famous for its independent spirit, and nowhere is that more evident than in its food – after all, Cork is frequently referred to as the “gourmet capital of Ireland”. Kick off your foodie tour at the English Market in Cork city where locals set up to sell every food item a person could possibly need. Once you’ve visited the market, hook yourself up with the iWalk Flavours of Cork Tour, which takes in Cork’s diverse flavours. And don’t forget to try Dennis Cotter’s famous veggie restaurant Café Paradiso while in town. There’s so much going in County Cork that it’s hard to decide where to go next… East to Midleton to visit Ballymaloe in Shangarry and Frank Hederman’s Smokehouse? Or west to Kinsale, to spend some time in Cork’s gastro town? It’s a tough call. One thing’s for sure… this county is one of the most diverse and stimulating, bringing together a wealth of culinary creativity to create something special.