Have you ever taken the 109a bus out of Dublin, Ireland to spend the weekend in County Navan?
If you do (and I would like to think that if at all possible you really would) some forty five minutes later, past fields of green and country cottages, through quaint villages and down small (read ridiculously narrow for a bus) village roads you must be sure to alight at Garlow Cross, at which point you will find yourself a mere one and a half miles from Decoy Country Cottages, a most charming place to stay.
If you make this journey in the spring, you will take one deep breath of the fresh bitterly crisp air which will blow straight through to your bones and be tempted to head towards Tara Na Ri for a pint. You may even want to take a moment to relish in the obvious abandonment of all urbanization and to yield to the calm, soothing sounds of the Irish countryside.
Or, you could do what Photogirl and I did, and head straight into three frenzied, jam packed, information loaded, non-stop, work-is-fun kind of days, and take part in a Plate to Page Food Photography and Writing Workshop. Whichever you choose, I cannot imagine that you will leave County Navan with any regrets.
Let me not mislead you, Plate to Page weekend is as much about work as it is about food, a lot of food, tables and tables in fact of delicious abundance. Once you can get to it that is. Sharing a meal with a group of food bloggers is a bit like riding with the food paparazzi. No plate is left un-styled, no meal or part thereof permitted to forgo its required digital footprint. Before you have even taken a bite, your food has been Tweeted and Instagram-ed and Facebook-ed around the world. Hard times for a hungry girl.
But, every meal was worth the wait, especially when the wait involved sipping a glass of Nino Franco’s Prosecco. We were treated to lunch catered by Earl’s kitchen and Irish style moussaka from Donald Russell for dinner on Friday, and on Saturday the feast continued with Morish humous and fresh bounty for lunch from Sage and Stone market, and a sweet end to dinner with chocolate fondants and cheesecake also from Donald Russell.
Let me not mislead you, Plate to Page weekend is as much about work and food as it is about goodie bags. Our hosts and very generous sponsors know how to put the goods into goodie bags. Our bags of loot included DonegalRapeseed oil, Ed Hicks Bacon Jam , a wee bottle of Patron Tequila,salted chocolate from Rococo Chocolates, a chic new chef’s apron from Nino Franco, Heartbreak Recovery Kitchen Cookbook, a micro-plane and a magnificent knife sharpener from Edgeware Products, with which I am now slightly obsessed, as well as two very proudly South African products from NOMU, Pistachio and Sumac Dukkah and Skinny Hot chocolate.
As the luck of the Irish would have it, I also won the Nomu Recipe Box in a lucky draw on Saturday evening. I have had my eye on this recipe box since it launched earlier this year. For a brief, teeny tiny moment, I considered gifting my win to another non South African participant. I was greatly relieved when the moment passed. Two taxis, innumerable tube rides and three flights later, my box looks beautiful in my kitchen.
It was very late on Sunday night by the time Photogirl and I started packing our bags for an early morning taxi back to Dublin. Terrified of having a dull experience in Ireland, we managed to coordinate our trip with the first bus strike in Ireland since ’85, which helped to make this very expensive adventure ride possible.
Fortunately, the great “Husband and Kiddo desertion of 2013” was no yet over and we still had heaps to look forward to.
My deepest gratitude for a memorable weekend to Jeanne, Jamie, Ilva and Meeta.