DUBLIN . . . the city of words and
The UNESCO City of Literature
Babbie De Derian, travel, food & spa editor
The train ride from Belfast to Dublin takes two hours. I taxi to “the best address in Dublin”, and check into The Merrion Hotel, the recipient of a dazzling array of awards, and a member of The Leading Hotels of the World.
In front of The Merrion Hotel
There are many great ways to explore and discover Dublin: I begin by picking up a Dublin Pass at the tourist board office; it gives me free entry to 31 visitor attractions. I then jump on the hop on/hop off bus for the city tour. The bus travels both sides of the river and through Phoenix Park, the largest in Europe. Developed as a royal hunting ground, it opened to the public in 1747. Aside from one of the oldest zoos in the world, it also houses the residence of the President of Ireland.
Electric pedi-cab, another great way to see city
Dublin tour bus stops at the National Gallery
The streets of Dublin are full of surprises
Dublin is: a cultural city with literary connections; a place to linger. One of only four cities in the world to receive a UNESCO designation, this storytelling city of spoken and written words is home to four Nobel laureates and a magnet that draws writers of worldwide stature. I spend time in the National Library, viewing the Yeats Exhibition, at the Dublin Writer’s Museum and James Joyce Tower, cross the Samuel Beckett Bridge, and rest at the Oscar Wilde statue.
The Merrion Hotel was created from four magnificent Georgian style landmark buildings; to quote hotel manager, Peter MacCann, “We have given back the grace and elegance of the 18th Century to four important landmark buildings, and we have embellished them invisibly with 21st century technology.”
My junior suite, serenely furnished in soft period colors with a mix of patterns, textures and 18th Century style furniture, is a welcome sanctuary. The hotel staff is appreciatively attentive and always quick to ask “can I bring you something? “
Sweet treats sent to my room
Executive Chef Ed Cooney, impassioned by his love for art and cooking, is a creative tour de force in Dublin’s culinary world. Dinner in the Cellar Restaurant is a stellar gourmet experience, thanks to Ed’s company and that of restaurateur Tom O’Connell, a member of Good Food Ireland.
I glance at the menu; it is impressive, innovative and inviting. I decide to pass the baton to Chef, and have him orchestrate a special symphony of flavors. For starters: we are served a Carbury Chicken and Rabbit Terrine, garnished with pear puree and mushrooms a la Grecque … and the Crisp Fried Calamari with Arrabiata sauce and herb oil. Both are beautifully presented and savory, paired with a German Riesling. For our main course, the Skeaghanore Duck Breast, with lentils, spiced carrot puree, shallot jam and parsnip crisps is superb; it challenges my taste buds … and the spiced monkfish with curried butternut squash, steamed bok choy and basmati rice is a delicate fusion of Asian and Indian spices. We sip a light pinot noir which compliments both dishes. It’s hard to resist the selection of signature chocolate deserts, including an orange colored chocolate ball that oozes cream when I dig into it.
Ed Cooney tells me: “Dublin’s gastronomic scene is exciting. Modern Irish foods now have an identity and appeal all their own. We have a new generation of highly qualified and motivated young people. I want to demonstrate this new energy and focus on Irish cuisine with a simple uncomplicated menu, using the best quality Irish ingredients”.
Executive chef Ed Cooney makes my evening
The duck is succulent and tender
An orange made of chocolate
The future of Ireland’s Culinary Revolution; leads back to the source, and Good Food Ireland is leading the way. This association of organic farmers, cheese makers, fisherman, chefs and pubs is on a mission to bring back the healthy production of local food, and to teach the value of supporting the integrity and passion of small producers.
The next day, I wander the city on foot; meeting friendly locals, exploring one neighborhood after the other, Street signs with arrows pointing to every tourist attraction make it difficult to get lost. I only have two days in this intriguing “City of Literature”, but hopefully, I will have an opportunity to revisit during DUBLIN CONTEMPORARY 2011, a citywide celebration from September 6th to October 31st.
The most happening places in town
ART TEA at the Merrion is a witty and uniquely creative treat that includes a selection of signature desserts, inspired by the hotel’s impressive art collection. With works by artists such as Sir John Lavery, Jack B Yeats and Paul Henry (all of whom are represented in the National Gallery of Ireland just across the road from the hotel) the collection is one of the finest and largest private collections of contemporary Irish art in the country. Drawing from this rich source of inspiration, pastry chef Paul Kelly and executive chef Ed Cooney brought nine paintings to edible life as centerpieces for their new Art Tea. In choosing the Coconut and Blueberry Macaroon, inspired by Louis le Brocquy’s “Woman in White”, I have my Art … And Eat it!
The Ritz-Carlton sends a car, and I am off on yet another venture... Thrilled to go where Ireland takes me.
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