Wednesday, 10 December 2014

A Moonlit 'Spirit Stroll' through Shaker Village of Pleasant Hill, Kentucky



The story of the Shakers is one which stuck around with me for a while after I left their village. Partly, I was charmed by Pleasant Hill, where they made their base - a charming rural patch of land in Kentucky, lined with stone walls and undulating fields. But mostly, I was intrigued by their history.

Wednesday, 12 November 2014

Memory Dish: S'Mores with Homemade Marshmallows


We got a new wood burning stove this week. I haven't quite gotten the hang of all of its nuances yet - I'm either prodding a few blackened logs and muttering under my breath, or staggering back from a fire roaring so loudly it sounds like a fighter jet.

But when it does settle itself down, it's nice to be back in front of a fire. And as I hypnotise myself in front of the flames, there's a recurring idea that pops into my head. Marshmallows!

Last year in Nashville, I finished off a meal with s'mores at the Tavern Midtown (home of the balsamic martini). I'd just finished the most incredible burger, so I was pretty involved with that, until a local girl insisted we all share a few. So out came the Bunsen burners, and the instant flashbacks to chemistry classes in school. Bunsen burners! Do you remember the thrill of being allowed to use them? I can't even remember what we did with them, but I do remember fiddling with the plastic tubes and being shouted at for messing with the gas taps.

Anyway, the s'mores. I hadn't actually tried them before, though I had of course heard of them. Those All American campfire treats, eaten while huddled together in plaid and hunting hats, waiting for the serial killer to come out of the trees.

It wasn't quite the same scene in Tavern, but it was pretty cool nonetheless. You take your cracker (more of a digestive biscuit), pop a square of chocolate on it, melt your marshmallow over the flame and smoosh them all together. And there you have it!

I wanted to get fancy when I made mine, so I made the marshmallows. This is insanely easy to do. I went with the David Lebovitz recipe, and as he says, if you can whip egg whites, you can make marshmallows. I've seen fancy pants ones in the shops recently, with salted caramel, rose petals and all that jazz. But as they were about €7, they did NOT make it home with me. You do need a sugar thermometer, but don't let that put you off. They're very cheap, which is just as well, because some tosser just broke mine.

You can, of course, just buy the marshmallows.

I feel a bit weird giving this recipe after such a stern talking to from my dentist yesterday. He has me convinced that all of my teeth are about to spontaneously combust in a big dust ball of icing sugar, and now I'm terrified. But he did tell me that if you eat sugar with meals, rather than in between, the damage is all but eradicated four hours later. So if you want to be good, eat these WITH a steak.

And that's all your life lessons for today.

S'mores with homemade marshmallows
Inspired by Nashville
Adapted from a David Lebovitz recipe

Ingredients
8 sheets of gelatin
Water
200g sugar
100g golden syrup
4 large egg whites
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
140g icing sugar
140g cornflour

1. Soak the gelatin leaves in 500ml cold water.

2. Put the sugar, golden syrup and 80ml of water in a saucepan on a medium heat. You will need a sugar thermometer - sorry.

3. In an electric mixer, beat the egg whites until they form stiff peaks. Whisk in a pinch of salt.

4. When the syrup reaches 118 degrees Celsius, carefully pour the mix into the egg whites, while the beater is still on high. Mind you don't splatter yourself.

5. Pour the gelatin leaves (and two tablespoons of water) into the syrup saucepan and swirl around until it's melted. Then pour this mix, and the vanilla, into the egg whites, which are still being beaten. Keep the mixer on for five minutes, until the outside of the bowl feels cool.

6. Mix together the cornflour and the icing sugar, and dust the hell out of a baking sheet (feel free to make pretty patterns in it). Make sure every inch is well covered. I used what I think is a brownie tray.



7. Scoop your mix into the tray, using a plastic spatula, and make pretty wave patterns for the hell of it. Leave it to try for at least four hours.

8. When it's dry, dust the top with the mix, as well as any work surfaces you're going to use, and a pizza cutter or knife (the pizza cutter did an amazing job). Cut into whatever shapes you like.





These would make amazing gifts, in a little box. But we're not interested in that right now - let's get to the s'mores!

I got these chocolate chip cookies from Le Fournil in Sligo, But you can use any biscuits you like - digestive if you're traditional (I hate digestives).


Then you need to toast your marshmallows. Ideally, you'll be snuggled in front of a fire, an Avoca blanket slung across your shoulders. But I also tried doing this with a candle, and it did the trick perfectly.

Put a square of chocolate on your cookie, then squish your melted marshmallow on top of it, before adding another cookie. Give it another wee smoosh, and then eat it, while making a solemn vow that you'll never tell your dentist what you did.


Tuesday, 30 September 2014

Five reasons to love French supermarkets


My God, do I love a French supermarket. I may adore ambling through the actual markets, or starting the day in a patisserie, but there's something about the hypermarché that gets my tummy all of a quiver. 

Monday, 29 September 2014

Hotel Review: The Cliff Townhouse, Dublin



Where: The Cliff Townhouse, Dublin

Why: Have you ever finished an amazing meal and wished that your bed was just that bit closer? This Dublin hotspot may be the answer. The Cliff Townhouse is a “restaurant with rooms”, combining incredible seafood in the elegant restaurant with comfortable and chic bedrooms upstairs. All this in a beautiful Georgian building on the edge of Stephen’s Green.


Highlights: The food is as great as I had hoped it would be, with a predominantly seafood menu offering up the best ingredients Irish waters can produce. We feasted on perfectly cooked scallops with pork belly, creamy risotto, rich and tender monkfish and juicy lobster. The townhouse itself is stunning, with a grand staircase, tall sash windows and ornate furnishings creating a homely feel. In a world of high tech bathroom gizmos and hotel room wizardry, it was a relief to be in a bedroom which just worked – proper taps in the bath, windows you can open and a cosy Donegal tweed blanket on the bed.

Lowlights: The listed building does have a lift, but the rooms aren’t wheelchair accessible.  

Best for: Serious foodies, looking to satiate their appetites in a charming setting.

Concierge’s Choice: The Little Museum of Dublin is just a few doors down, and came highly recommended by the team at reception, who sometimes have complimentary passes for guests. Other recommendations included the new bar Peruke and Periwig on nearby Dawson Street, as well as The Hairy Lemon.

Ask for room number: There are only nine rooms in the townhouse, some overlooking the green and others facing the back. All have their own quirks and vary in terms of size and shape. Room 205 is a particular stunner, with a park view and an ornate fireplace.


Guests of honour: Samuel Beckett is one of the most prominent former guests the building has seen, choosing to write in one of the stately rooms, presumably by a roaring fire.

Rates: The ‘Cliff Townhouse Experience’ includes dinner for two in the restaurant, an overnight stay, full breakfast and a welcome glass of champagne. Rates start at €233 for a midweek stay in a townhouse room, in the winter.  For accommodation only, a townhouse room starts at €143 per night, midweek.


Contact: theclifftownhouse.com / 01 638 3939

This review originally appeared in the Irish Independent. 

Friday, 26 September 2014

Travel Pennies wins Best Travel Blog at the Image Blog Awards!

My lovely trophy
On Wednesday, I headed to Fade Street Social for the IMAGE Blog Awards, where I was nominated in the Best Travel Blog category. You know how people always say that they weren't expecting to win? I can honestly say, hand on heart, that I wasn't. I even had an awesome GIF planned for when I lost...



I thought I'd pop along, have a glass of bubbly and meet some of the brilliant bloggers I only know online. I did those things, of course. After a brief period of time standing like an absolute lemon at the bar, I spotted Karen and Joanne of Lovely Girly Bits, grabbed them and forced them to babysit me for the rest of the night. Hurrah!

I met some other wonderful bloggers too, which was really nice. But the highlight was...

WINNING!!





I was completely chuffed.

Congratulations to all the other nominees and winners, and my apologies if you had to listen to me talking about Bondi Rescue (again).

Thanks a million to everyone who voted and to all of the wonderful people at IMAGE.ie!

Wednesday, 10 September 2014

What I ate in London


I'm a huge fan of the Grub Street Diet posts from New York Magazine. Each Friday at 2pm, I log on to see who's been featured, and what they've spent the week eating. Usually, it gives me extreme New York based food envy - whether it's sandwich cookies from Jenny Slate, two Thanksgivings with Jessica Seinfeld or Chrissy Teigen's Starbuck's cup of red wine.

Friday, 5 September 2014

Hotel Review: Posada del Organista in Santallana del Mer, Spain


There's something to be said for staying in a tiny, family style B&B. There's all the quirks that you'd expect if you were, say, staying with an eccentric aunt somewhere in the countryside. There's the one stair that creaks, the rooster crowing at dawn, and the food that you would give your arm to have made for you every day. 

Wednesday, 3 September 2014

Image.ie Blog Awards 2014


Well, how about that? Travel Pennies has been shortlisted for the Best Travel Blog in the Image Blog Awards 2014, and I'm thrilled! I'm in good company too, there are some fabulous blogs in the travel section. 

If you like reading the blog (or owe me a favour) do go and give me a wee vote. You just need to click on the link below, click for me under the travel category, and you're done. You don't have to vote in all of the categories if you don't want to. 


Thanks a mil!




The Fuente Dé cable car and climbing Picos de Europa in Cantabria




There's something so exciting about mountain air in the morning. I think it's because it feels like you're about to do something - you're hiking, or you're cycling, or you're skiing. It feels like the start of a day when you're going to accomplish something.

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