Glenlo Abbey – one for the Bucket List

Just two miles outside Galway’s city centre you will find Glenlo Abbey Hotel. Nestled in a neatly manicured golf course, this 5 star hotel invites you in with open fires and a warm welcoming smile. Of course you will find all of the luxuries one might expect from a 5 star establishment, but only Glenlo Abbey can offer dinner on board the Orient Express. Yes, you read correctly –alongside the hotel you will find two original Orient Express carriages.

Pullman About the Orient ExpressI am not sure I have ever enjoyed dinner in more impressive surroundings. One carriage (Leona) dates back to 1927 and was a favourite of none other than Sir Laurence Olivier. The woodwork, the brasswork and many other original features lend themselves to that feeling that you have just stepped back in time. Pullman FL 2000pxThe newer carriage (Linda 1965) was used in the filming of Murder On The Orient Express. I liken the experience to how I felt when I visited Havana. It’s like you’ve just stepped on to a movie set from a different era. Indeed, Mr. D very quickly decided that this restaurant should be on everyone’s bucket list – high praise indeed. lampNow of course all the history and nostalgia are great, but what about the food?

Having been offered an enclosed compartment in the first class carriage, we settled down in our private dining space and embarked on what can only be described as an epic food adventure.IMG_0821

The set menu offered lots of choice and great value at €52 for two courses or €59 for three courses. It is such a joy to see such a wide and varied menu packed with local produce.

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We firstly enjoyed an amuse bouche of hake with smoked mussel, violet potato and seaweed, bringing the taste of the nearby sea right to our plates.

Our waiter, Bart, suggested a delicious wine (Spanish Mencia €40) and his recommendation was spot on.IMG_0828

For starters I chose suckling pork belly, seared king scallops, romanesco, caper and raisin. Using McCarrens of Cavan pork and the freshest, perfectly cooked scallops, I was most reluctant to share with Mr. D. However, he was feeling exactly the same about his Liscannor Crab and Connemara Smoked Salmon with green apple, yogurt, cucumber and wasabi. Both dishes were bursting with flavour, texture and imagination.

The raspberry sorbet that followed had the perfect amount of ‘bite’ to it and was the perfect palate cleanser in advance of our main courses. I chose the Tipperary Dexter beef – a fillet and an oxtail croquette served with thyme scented Ballyhoura mushrooms, beef dripping fondant potatoes and burnt onion jus. Himself chose the Athenry chicken – seared supreme, parfait tartlet, crisp leg croquette with Irish kale, fondant potatoes and a thyme jus.IMG_0826 Not a word passed between us. We were immersed in a world of pure flavour and sublime taste sensations. We were gracious enough to share though, and I must say the parfait tartlet was in a world of it’s own.dessert

Then it was time for something sweet. When I spotted carrot cake on the dessert menu, I wondered might it be too predictable. After all as much as I love carrot cake, how could one produce and present it to the level of the dishes that had gone before it? But when it’s served with a goats cheese orange yogurt sorbet, walnut crumb and candied heritage carrot, you know that it’s going to be something special – and indeed it was. While it was presented beautifully and imaginatively, it wasn’t a case of all show and no substance, in fact it was anything but. The carrot cake texture and flavour were beautifully complimented by the sorbet. Being a chocoholic, Mr D went for the dark chocolate sphere with raspberry, truffled honey popcorn and chocolate soil. As the chocolate sauce was poured over the melting sphere, I prayed that I would get to taste the sauce, and I did. It was perfect. Tea and petit fours ended this epic food adventure. The marshmallow was light and the chocolates bursting with flavours like orange, pistachio and peanut butter. The perfect end to a perfect meal in what has to be one of the most perfect settings for dinner. IMG_0790

It’s true – this is definitely one for the bucket list..

Back soon

 

Fiona

 

Enter the cool competitons over on www.freddybuttons.com to be in with a chance to win some fab prizes while picking up the perfect Christmas gift for the children.

This feature first appeared in TheTaste.ie

Fiona Gets Fit – Part 2

After the epic fail that was my attempt to get fit at the end of the summer, the time has come to make another attempt.  Since my last disastrous effort I have rewarded myself with food – and more food.   Yes, I’ve used all the lines – it’s for my work, t’would be rude not to, I’m a restaurant reviewer and the all too frequent ‘ooh I’ll just have a small piece’.

How could I say no?

 How could I say no?

None of these things should have stopped me exercising.  Now it’s not like I’m lazy.  I’m up at the crack of dawn and I work all day – I write, I travel, I give talks, I attend events, I collect the kids, I cook the dinner (notice I’m not mentioning housework here).  And now my clothes are too tight – I mean they are really tight.  I have options – stretchy pants (ah God no), a bigger size (I swore I’d never ever ever go over size 12-14) or I could get off my arse and do something.  Last week I started.  I brought my runners into Freddy Buttons HQ and tried to squeeze in a bit of a walk each day.  On one day I even walked to Penneys to get Halloween make up for Ruth (if you follow me on snapchat you’ll know all about that particular drama). But as sure as I’m lying here in the bed writing in the dark, if it rains next week that’s the walking out the window.

I can never refuse a bacon and thyme bread roll

 I can never refuse a freshly baked bread roll

But I have another plan (at this point when my parents read this, my mother will be rolling her eyes to the heavens and my father will be laughing his head off).  Seriously though I have a plan.

I’m getting a Cross Trainer.

Yes, a Cross Trainer is going to be the answer to all my fat problems.  I will become the Queen of Cross Training (once I figure out how to use it).  How difficult can it be?  I will put it in the sitting room in front of the TV and I’ll become so immersed in intelligent TV (Judge Judy) that the pounds will dissipate without me even knowing.  I reckon by the beginning of 2016, I’ll have a body like Elizabeth Hurley.  How hard can it be though really?  I’ll be snapchatting and vlogging from my cross trainer in my designer work out gear – God, I’ll be fabillis.  I’ll be a shining beacon of good example to women world wide.  Oh yes, t’will be the making of me.  Don’t you agree?  I hope you do as I will need all the support I can get because my own family crack up laughing at the thought of me trying to work a cross trainer.  Seriously, they have no faith.  Okay, so I have failed before – but that only makes me more heroic right?  Maybe I should skip Judge Judy and just have the theme tune to Chariots of Fire in the background to spur me on, such is my determination. All I know is I’ve got to do something – and fast.

Anyone know where I could get a gentle Cross Trainer?

Back soon

Fiona

 

Dream It & Do It on Nov 7th is SOLD OUT. Some tickets remaining for Nov 14th. Buy them HERE

* Buy the full set of Freddy Buttons books (signed) over on http://www.freddybuttons.com

* Read Fiona’s feature on Sloe Gin in the new edition of Irish Country Magazine – in shops now.

* To book Fiona to visit your group click HERE

Dream It, Do It – November 14th

With the first Dream It, Do It in Killashee selling out in hours The Naked Blondie and I decided to set up another event for the week after for all the disappointed women who didn’t get their tickets for November 7th.  Same time, same venue but a different date and different speakers.  Both events are going to be fantastic.  Nicola (The Naked Blondie) and I have met with chef Philip and pastry chef Paul in Killashee and they are cookin up a storm with Philip using Slim Valley Fresh Food’s finest meats.

The speakers on November 14th will be Niamh Mannion (Masterchef finalist and reviewer for TheTaste.ie), Ann Shields who set up Anneco Beauty (an Irish company making natural mineral make up) and Nessa Robins, a wife and mother of four whose first book, Apron Strings, is a must have in every house (she currently writes in Irish Country Living).  All these women inspire me – they are strong, independent, nurturing and kind.  I can’t wait to hear their stories.Fiona_Poster_Oct_2015 The Style Shaper is back again to help us all with dressing to suit our shape and to answer your style questions.

I have the privilege of being the keynote speaker and MC for the morning.  Of course The Naked Blondie will also tell you about what motivated her to lose ten stone.  There will be time for a Q&A session and some debate.  The funny thing is Nicola and I couldn’t be more different – yet we find such inspiration in each other.  We will  most likely argue on the day over the use of Frylight and lots of other things no doubt – but the banter is great and you’re more than welcome to join in!

Then there’s the goody bags – let’s just say they are generous.  Oh, and spot prizes, lots of spot prizes…

You can book your tickets

HERE

Back soon

Fiona

Dream It & Do It on Nov 7th is SOLD OUT. Some tickets remaining for Nov 14th. Buy them HERE

* Buy the full set of Freddy Buttons books (signed) over on http://www.freddybuttons.com

* Read Fiona’s feature on Sloe Gin in the new edition of Irish Country Magazine – in shops now.

* To book Fiona to visit your group click HERE

 

 

Snapchat all the way…

It’s been one of those weeks where, as they say, “Ive been meetin meself comin backwards”. I did snapchat my way through this week though.  Snapchat, if you don’t know, is an app downloadable on smart phones and it’s my current favourite in my social media toolkit.  Basically I can record little ten second snaps of my day and upload them directly to snapchat.  There they’ll stay for 24hours before they disappear into the ether.  It’s a lovely way to give my followers a birds eye view of what I’m doing.

For example, on Monday here at Hunters Lodge we had the photoshoot for the Christmas edition of Irish Country magazine.  My followers on snapchat got a sneak peak of behind the scenes of the shoot.12095270_1507084139590241_3186023873387059342_o

On Tuesday I was in Cork doing book readings in libraries.  My snapchat followers came with me and had a birds eye view of where I was.

Wednesday was a day of meetings for me (my followers have seen my Freddy Buttons HQ) but of course I found time to post and answer a few snaps.

On Thursday I had the huge pleasure of enjoying lunch in the new Samsung kitchen at L’Ecrivain.  It’s not every day that you can share with your followers, the joy of watching a Michelin star chef cook for you. First hand, snapchatters got to see the stunning food served by Derry Clarke.  Fabulous! In the afternoon I visited a property run by the Irish Landmark Trust – an amazing spot on Fitzwilliam Lane, and again, I shared it with my followers.  The evening was spent in the RDS Concert Hotel at the web awards hosted by Rick O’Shea – again, my snapchat buddies came with me.IMG_3054This morning, I had great pleasure in snapchatting the super breakfast table at Ariel House.IMG_3067 Later for lunch, I shared my lunch experience at Farmhill in Goatstown – the latest eatery to hit the Dublin scene and owned by some friends of mine. IMG_3070I love being able to share my daily life experiences with friends, family, fans and followers.  Nowadays, it’s getting easier and easier to do this.  Writing blogposts takes time – snapchat is instantaneous and the best thing about it is all the messages I have received from people telling me that they feel like I’m talking directly to them when I snapchat.  This makes me happy.

I’m off to Glenlo Abbey on Sunday afternoon to review dinner, and yes, I’ll be snapchatting if you want to tag along.

So now you’ll find me on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, LinkedIn, WhatsApp and Snapchat(I know, I know).

If you download snapchat, be sure to look me up – my username is hunterslodge so be sure to find me.  It’s great fun!

And in other news, our three speakers for Dream It & Do It on November 14th have been confirmed so I’ll be back to announce them shortly.

Back soon

Fiona

Dream It & Do It on Nov 7th is SOLD OUT. Some tickets remaining for Nov 14th. Buy them HERE

* Buy the full set of Freddy Buttons books (signed) over on http://www.freddybuttons.com

* Read Fiona’s feature on Sloe Gin in the new edition of Irish Country Magazine – in shops now.

* To book Fiona to visit your group click HERE

 

Afternoon Tea at House

Afternoon Tea at House

I have been reviewing afternoon teas for quite a while now and one of the questions I’m most asked is “is there a more savoury afternoon tea?” Up to now I’ve been saying that the bottom tier of savouries is your lot when it comes to afternoon tea – but I’ve found somewhere that bucks that trend. As a huge lover of savouries, I’m so excited to tell you about this one…IMG_0649

I paid my first visit to House on Leeson St recently and the minute I walked in the door I fell in love with the place. This is a truly delightful venue. Open fireplaces, stacks of logs, tables in the garden, a stunning bar, welcoming staff – need I go on? We opted for a table in the garden to take advantage of the little bit of sun that was peeping through the clouds. Fabulous! Our first mission was to order one of the cocktails specifically designed with afternoon tea in mind.IMG_0663 As a fan of Jameson, Mr Dillon ordered the Eau de Vie (Jameson Black Barrel, Cointreau, Baileys chocolate deluxe, hazelnut syrup, fresh cream and almond milk) and I had a Tom Collins (Beefeater24 shaken with herbs, fresh lemon, hibiscus tea syrup and topped up with Fever Tree soda). Both were delicious, but we agreed that my Tom Collins was the nicest we have ever tasted.IMG_0683

And on to the afternoon tea…

At House you’ll find a good range of loose leaf teas to choose from, but this time we both chose the Irish Breakfast Tea to follow our cocktails. Then the goodies arrived. Three tiers – the bottom tier was sandwiches, the middle tier was sweet and the top tier was canapés. For this afternoon tea you start with the top tier so we tucked into the canapés – goats cheese and beetroot mousse, Cajun chicken bouche, chicken liver paté on crostini and black tiger prawns with lime and cream cheese. These were all delicate bites that were not only delicious but had some really good strong flavour combinations going on.IMG_0676Next up was the sandwich selection on the bottom tier – freerange egg and rocket on granary bread, tomato, Parma ham and mozzarella parcels, smoked salmon on Guinness brown bread and tuna and cucumber sandwiches. These were all freshly made and, again, the flavours here shone through.IMG_0670

And finally the sweet tier – raspberry cheesecake, vanilla cheesecake, red velvet lollipops, macarons and a chocolate cheesecake. They were light and colourful and a perfect finish to the afternoon tea.IMG_0677The teapot was refilled and the cups were topped up in our lovely spot in the garden. The staff members were helpful and attentive from the minute we walked in the door to the time we left, and I must say, I can’t wait to return.IMG_0672

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While I was there I just kept thinking that the name “House” could easily be changed to “Home” because once you walk in the door, you really do feel like you’re home. Well, if your home has a warm welcome and a refreshing Tom Collins waiting for you that is….

Back soon

Fiona

 

This review first appeared in TheTaste.ie 

Dream It & Do It on Nov 7th is SOLD OUT. Some tickets remaining for Nov 14th.  Buy them HERE

* Buy the full set of Freddy Buttons books (signed) over on http://www.freddybuttons.com

* Read Fiona’s feature on Sloe Gin in the new edition of Irish Country Magazine – in shops now.

* To book Fiona to visit your group click HERE

Dream It & Do It!

This event SOLD OUT in hours, so we’ve added another date – Saturday November 14th. Speakers to be announced – but they’re gonna be fab! https://www.eventbrite.ie/e/dream-it-do-it-tickets-18901541018?utm_campaign=new_event_email&utm_medium=email&utm_source=eb_email&utm_term=viewmyevent_button

Fiona

Fiona Dillon Writes

Following on from the great success of my first ‘Dream It & Do It’ event in Ariel House with Nicola Carolan (The Naked Blondie), I am delighted to announce that I am teaming up again with Nicola.  This time we have even bigger and better plans.

We invite you to join us in Killashee House Hotel on November 7th for a morning of good food, chat, inspiration and motivation.  We will have guest speakers with really positive stories to share.  Whether you want to lose weight, write a blog, start a business or generally, just feel more positive about life, we have the hints, tips, advice and guidance to get you on the right road.

Brunch will give you the opportunity to sample some of the delights of Slim Valley Fresh Foods (and we all know it would be no fun without something a little bit naughty on the plate too…..).Final Poster

One…

View original post 233 more words

Dream It & Do It!

Following on from the great success of my first ‘Dream It & Do It’ event in Ariel House with Nicola Carolan (The Naked Blondie), I am delighted to announce that I am teaming up again with Nicola.  This time we have even bigger and better plans.

We invite you to join us in Killashee House Hotel on November 7th for a morning of good food, chat, inspiration and motivation.  We will have guest speakers with really positive stories to share.  Whether you want to lose weight, write a blog, start a business or generally, just feel more positive about life, we have the hints, tips, advice and guidance to get you on the right road.

Brunch will give you the opportunity to sample some of the delights of Slim Valley Fresh Foods (and we all know it would be no fun without something a little bit naughty on the plate too…..).Final Poster

One of Ireland’s best-known food bloggers Aoife Ryan (Babaduck), will tell us how she manages to work full time and still have one of the top food blogs in the country.

Ellen Kavanagh of Waxperts will share her story of the dream she had and how she made it a reality.

As well as the stories, we’ll have advice on how to dress for your shape with The Style Shaper and Grace Mongey (Faces by Grace) will be on hand, not only to tell us about her weight loss story, but to share her top tips as a make-up artist.

Of course Nicola and I will be talking too – and there’ll be plenty of time for a Q&A.

Then there’s the goody bags.  All I can say is that those of you who attended our first event will know that our goody bags, are eh, rather large……!

The tickets went on sale yesterday and were sold our within hours, but don’t worry, we have rearranged space at the venue and added some more tickets.

You can get your tickets

HERE

I am so looking forward to this

See you there!

 

Fiona

 

Buy the full set of Freddy Buttons books (signed) over on http://www.freddybuttons.com

* Read Fiona’s feature on Sloe Gin in the new edition of Irish Country Magazine – in shops now.

* To book Fiona to visit your group click HERE

My Boy Freddy Buttons is a Finalist!

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again.  When you immerse yourself in the imaginary world of an 8 year old boy, you begin to believe he is real and treat him like one of your own children.  Fact. Everywhere I go, people stop me to talk about Freddy Buttons – what they like in the books, their favourite stories and what recipes they have tried are some of my most frequent conversations.  I respond, not like an author, but like a mother, such is my love for Freddy Buttons.  When he does well I am proud.  And he has done well.  I got word today that his website, which is only in it’s infancy has been chosen as a finalist in two categories in the 2015 Irish Web Awards.

Oh yes, it’s that old ‘proud mama’ syndrome again for me!Freddy with yogurt (1)

 

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But really, how could you not love him?

Fiona

 

Buy the full set of Freddy Buttons books (signed) over on http://www.freddybuttons.com

* Read Fiona’s feature on Sloe Gin in the new edition of Irish Country Magazine – in shops now.

* To book Fiona to visit your group click HERE

Take A Break at Faithlegg House Hotel

Get Away From It All At Faithlegg House Hotel

Did you ever just feel like you need to down tools and get away?  Just twenty four hours away from the hustle and bustle of life can do wonders for recharging your batteries and I have found the perfect place to do this.  Somewhere away from the madding crowds where you can take a walk in manicured gardens before enjoying sumptuous food.  I have found Faithlegg House Hotel nestling in the Waterford countryside.  Surrounded by an 18 hole golf course, Faithlegg House oozes tranquillity and charm.  This centuries old mansion provides modern facilities encased in historical splendour.  High ceilings, sash windows and crystal chandeliers create an ambience for dining that just draws you in and washes away your worries. IMG_0557

And so to dinner…

Head chef Jenny Flynn has put together a menu which is both imaginative and packed with local Irish produce.  The starters ranged in price from €7.95 (Cream cauliflower soup with crumbed hazelnuts and caramelized apple) to €12.50 (Carpaccio of Beef with horseradish yogurt, rocket, extra virgin olive oil and parmesan.  I had the Pan Seared Scallops with apple, black pudding, local cider and mustard vinaigrette (€12.50) and the scallops were cooked to perfection with the cider adding a deliciously sweet element to the dish.IMG_0553  Mr Dillon stuck with one of his favourite producers and thoroughly enjoyed the Goatsbridge Trout offering of trout gravadlax and rillette, smoked trout veloute and pickled cucumber (the veloute could have been a tad smokier, but the texture was perfect).IMG_0550

Let me add at this stage that the servers were excellent – attentive (but not overly so), well-mannered and courteous.

And on to mains…

Main course prices ranged from €21 (Hand-made pasta with roast squash and Bluebell Falls goats cheese, ginger nut butter, pickled courgette and chervil) to €29 (Oven roasted troncon of turbot with orange and lime confit, cabbage and saffron potatoes.  What caught my eye was a Skeghamore duck tasting plate (€28) – duck breast, Muldoons whiskey cherries, confit leg and pan fried fois gras.  Meats on a plate rarely make for an aesthetically pleasing dish, but the taste certainly made up for the visuals.  Himself opted for the chargrilled fillet of Irish beef (€28) with fondant potato, wild mushroom fricassé, banana shallots and a natural jus.  Let’s just say there wasn’t a word out of him – never a bad thing!  The beef was cooked to perfection and packed with flavour.

This was washed down with an Australian Cabernet Sauvignon (€40).

Time passed, twilight turned to darkness and it was time for desserts, ranging in price from €8 for a homemade icecream and sorbet selection to €12.50 for a Wexford strawberry tasting plate.IMG_1554  On offer also, was a selection of Irish cheeses served with a quince paste and blaa crisps.  I enjoyed the strawberry tasting plate which consisted of Eton Mess, Sablé biscuit (yum!), ice cream and pannacotta.  Mr Dillon chose most wisely by ordering the Triple Chocolate Mousse served with wild berry granita (€9) – this is a chocolate lovers dream with a delightfully light consistency.IMG_1559

As we sipped on our teas and coffees, we felt like we had been away for an age.  That’s what Faithlegg is all about – welcoming you in, nourishing you and sending you back out into the world refreshed.

It’s so good to get away.

Back soon

Fiona

 

Dream It and Do It!

So delighted to report that the first Dream It and Do It event last Thursday night was a huge success.  I don’t seem to have a minute to blog this weather so I’ve recorded a little piece to tell you all about it.

Some pics courtesy of The Naked Blondie 

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So there you have it – the first Dream It and Do It has been and gone and we’re working on a date and a venue for the next one.  I can’t wait!

 

Back soon

 

Fiona

 

Buy the full set of Freddy Buttons books (signed) over on www.freddybuttons.com

*  Read Fiona’s feature on lavender in the new edition of Irish Country Magazine – in shops now.

* To book Fiona to visit your group click HERE