We cannot believe that Christmas is a mere 5 months away and so for this post we asked our Founder, Lisa McGee to put together a list of her top 10 Irish Food & Drink Products to buy for Christmas. Especially for those of you living in the USA we want you to have plenty of time to think about ideas. Not all of these may be available to ship outside of Ireland, however, they are great ideas for ordering to deliver to people for Christmas in Ireland and supporting true Irish artisan products!
Lisa told us " I love giving food and drink presents for Christmas because most of us a have all the material things we are ever going to need. So why not do the same this year for your family and friends? Ireland has an amazing range of fantastic products - these are just a small selection of the many amazing things I have discovered and keep in my own kitchen."
1. Dingle Gin
Over a year ago I was introduced to the Dingle Whiskey Distillery and the Founding Fathers on a visit to Enterprise Ireland in New York. We featured the Founding Fathers in the Taste ISLE column in our Premier Issue (read here on page 13). And I've since grown to love their Dingle Gin - they also have Dingle Vodka which is very popular as well. The concept of the Founding Fathers is one of great interest and in addition to buying their Gin or Vodka (which I recommend doing so from the Celtic Whiskey shop - as they ship worldwide) you can also buy a cask of their whiskey - talk about the ultimate gift for someone who has it all! For more go to their website - Dingle Distillery. Also check out our current issue of ISLE as we've now run an 8 page feature on the distillery written by whiskey connoisseur Fionnan O'Connor.
2. Rhubarb Syrup from Wild about
Now I'll be honest it is not just the rhubarb syrup that I'm "Wild About" from this company - you may recall we featured them in Issue 3 (on page 6 of our Taste ISLE column - CLICK HERE to read) - all their cocktail syrups are also amazing for not only cocktails but Fiona introduced to her 'Hot Rhubarb' at the Dingle Food Festival- that will warm you down to your wellies on a cold Irish day. The nettle pesto that is a constant in my fridge (when in season) here at home in Nenagh plus our intern at the magazine (and my daughter) Sophia is a pesto fanatic so that's another reason we are seldom out of it. I'm also just delighted that Wild About just won Producer of the Year 2013/2014 - very well deserved - to buy on-line or find a stockist go to their site Wild About.
3. Goatsbridge Caviar
Yes you heard me correctly Irish caviar and let me tell you it is delicious! We featured them in our Premier Issue in the Taste ISLE column and have watched their popularity grow steadily. A product of Goatsbridge Trout Farm located in Thomastown just outside Kilkenny City in County Kilkenny the caviar along with their delicious smoked trout. For more visit their website Goatsbridge Trout Farm.
4. Black Pudding
As an American black pudding is not something I would have regularly come across and when I do explain to my American friends what it is - I usually get the same reaction. However, I was introduced to it many years ago in the Irish community back in New York before I even moved to Ireland and I LOVE black pudding. It's not just that Inch House is located only half an hour from Nenagh (we featured Inch House in our Getaway column in Issue 2) but I just happen to particularly like the flavours in their pudding and when it is served (as pictured above) with goat cheese the combination is amazing. Of course it is not only available at the restaurant - it can be bought at local retailers throughout Ireland - I get mine at Country Choice here in Nenagh. For more on the pudding and other products - go to their website Inch House. They also just won Farmhouse of the Year 2014 from Georgina Campbell among several other accolades this year.
4. Irish cranberries
At Christmas time I love making my own cranberry sauce but I've also become slightly addicted to making a stewed cranberry ginger mixture which I mix into my porridge on winter mornings. Cranberries are so American but I was delighted to recently discover the only Irish cranberry farm - Slieve Bloom Farmhouse Foods - that is just up the road from ISLE HQ - a visit is planned soon but I was able to buy fresh ones at the RDS at the December Craft Show and they are now in the freezer waiting for me to stew them with some stem ginger. For more on Slieve Bloom Farmhouse Foods and their products - visit them here at their website.
6. Irish Beef Bonds
For those of you who have read Issue 4 - you'll know we featured some recipes from butcher Pat Whelan's latest book - The Irish Beef Book. Pat runs his flagship butcher shop in Clonmel but also has branches in Avoca in Rathcoole and Blackrock. An idea I love for Christmas for true Beef Lovers, is one that he introduced recently - it is his Beef Bonds. "The Beef Bond is a certificate giving a share in one of our renowned Angus, Hereford or Wagyu/Kobe cattle. Each Beef Bond includes the ID number, breed and expected maturity of the animal it is linked to. The bonds can be short-term or long-term maturity." What's not to love? To order yours today - go to James Whelan Butchers website.
7. Cashel Blue Cheese and 8. Burren Smokehouse Salmon
Cashel Blue is a cheese that I've been eating and enjoying for many years now and I suppose because it can be so easily purchased in the Duty Free shop in Shannon Airport that my family in American also enjoys it on a regular basis. Every time I travel home - I pick up the same thing - some Cashel Blue and some smoked salmon from the Burren Smokehouse (maybe that's why my family is so eager to have me come home? ). Anyway both products make fantastic Christmas gifts and they will both last throughout the busy Christmas weeks and are easily on hand for last minut.e entertaining. . For more on both go to their website - Cashel Blue and Burren Smokehouse. Both companies have been proudly featured in the pages of our magazine. We did a big feature on the Burren Smokehouse and the Roadside Tavern/Burren Brewery in n our Premier Issue (click here to read) and Cashel Blue was our featured food producer in Issue 3 (click here to read)
9. Green Saffron Spices
Personally I cannot get enough of these fabulous spice mixes - mainly because they make me look like a curry master in the kitchen and everyone that tries them - loves them! We featured Green Saffron in our Premier Issue because we are such fans and cannot resist stocking our cupboard with their ready made spices. Green Saffron has a range of spices, ready made mixes and lots of other great products - for more got to their website Green Saffron.
10. Selection of Ciders
I've always been a fan of cider and I'm so impressed with the range of smaller producers there are around the island - in Issue 2 we featured Longueville House in Cork which produces a great cider and in our current 1st Anniversary Issue we also featured Toby's Cider coming out of Northern Ireland. Armagh Cider also produces a nice range of choices as well. I've tasted many at the various food festivals I attend throughout the country. From Kilkenny I also enjoy Highbank Orchard's cider. This is just a selection for this post and of course there are bigger companies we are all familiar with both here and abroad - and sure that was how I got introduced to cider to begin with but I do relish the smaller producers and the variety of flavours available now.