This is my first "I Like" post. What is it? Everything and anything I like. Why? Because you might like it too!
Most of the "I Like" topics will be quite specific to Ireland; restaurants I enjoy, places I like to visit, things I like to see or do. But that's ok, if you're ever in the neighborhood, maybe these suggestions will come in handy when deciding where you want to eat or visit.
Other "I Likes" might just be about fun gadgets I've found, and not necessarily only for the kitchen.
Just to be clear, this isn't in any way a paid endorsement section, it's just things that I think are interesting and that I would recommend to my own friends and family.
So for the first ever I Like, it's all about Avoca Food.
What is Avoca?
Originally Irish handweavers, it's now grown into more than just a store for cosy handmade mohair blankets, tweeds and scarves, they also have the most amazing range of kitchen paraphernalia, exotic and interesting foodstuffs like preserves, jams, colourful dried pastas, chocolates galore, coffee and tea of every kind, nurseries for the garden enthusiast, jewellery, clothes, books, and also the most incredible food, either for take away or a sit down at the in-store cafes.
There are eight Avoca stores in Ireland, I've only been to four of them so far. They also have a store in Belfast. My favourite is the one in Kilmacanogue, Wicklow, which is also the headquarters. You can also visit The Mill in Avoca village which is the oldest working woollen mill & surviving business in Ireland (so says Wiki).
When Andrew's parents came to visit I made sure to add "eat a meal at Avoca" to the list of things to do, for a couple of reasons. a) It's a great place to buy gifts b) I look for any excuse to see if they have anything new and interesting c) They have the most amazing salads, perfect for hungry vegetarians (not that Avoca cafes are vegetarian, they just have a really great variety that is vegie friendly)
Salad. Yes. I want to tell you how much I like, no, LOVE, their salads.
Let me paint the scene.
You walk in to the cafe and pick up a tray, that was the easy part.
Then you slowly make your way along the food counter where gorgeous, huge feta, spinach and pinenut quiches, massive baked potatoes filled with so much that you can hardly see the potato, tartelettes with countless variations, gorgeously layered terrines and meaty lasagnes sit. If you manage to walk past all of that (and more, trust me, there's so much more) you get to the salad counter.
There sits between 8-10 massive bowls of the most colourful and mouth watering salads you'll ever see.
The person serving you asks what you'd like. A salad plate please. Yes, the large plate.
You start to point out the salads you'd like to have; a bit of the potato salad with fresh mint, pasta with black olives, sundried tomatoes, pinenuts and shaved parmesan, tomatoes of all colours, grated carrot with sesame seeds and coriander, broccoli with huge cubes of creamy feta, Moroccan cous cous with pomegranate seeds and currants, coleslaw with poppy seeds, and beetroot with mayonnaise and almond slivers. (€12 well spent, in my opinion.)
Before you know it, you have a mountain of salads on your plate (no really, just look at the picture, it's a mountain!). You decline the other 4 or 5 salads for fear that you'll be banned from eating there again.
Then you make your way to the dessert.
Oh. My. Word.
Double chocolate cheesecake topped with so much whipped cream you're not sure if it's just a cream pie or hiding something underneath. Huge chocolate chip cookies. Ginormous eclairs. Mud pie so muddy it looks ready to eat you. Once you've finally settled on a dessert, you're asked if you want extra whipped cream with that. *faint* (At least you're only having salad as your meal *snigger*)
I'm actually not even doing it justice. There are so many things to choose from that I feel like a kid at Christmas each time I go there.
The thing I really love is that the food isn't all dainty or perfectly presented. It's as if your grandmother got into the liquor cupboard before baking and decided to triple the amount of ingredients for every dish, then she gives you a wink and a fork and says, "Dig in!". No airs or graces but still beautiful and, most importantly, delicious. It's really like eating at home, but home on steroids. Does that make sense?
I won't get into the other things I like about Avoca in this post, I'll save those for another time. (It gives me a good reason so visit one again, always a dangerous thing for my credit card ;) )
Oh, and I forgot to mention, they have their own Avoca cook books with all of the delicious things they serve at the restaurants. I've got the salad book (no surprise) and I'll be building up my Avoca cooking book collection soon enough (I have got to get the desserts and soup books!)