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.
Plate to Page is led by two writers; the charming, I-could-listen-to-you-talk all day Jamie Schler from Life is a Feast, and the amusing and talented Jeanne Horak-Druiff from Cooksister, who join forces with two photographers, the generous Ilva Beretta of Lucillian Delights and the lovely knowledgeable Meeta Woolf of What’s for lunch, Honey? to present a formidable lecture team; united in their purpose of making sure that you have plenty to think about and work on all weekend long.
Added to this conversant and lively quartet was an eclectic company of equally passionate food writers and photographers from almost every continent on the globe. As a direct result of the “each one a contributor, each one a participator” ethos of Plate to Page, every writing session or photography presentation was rich with colourful and engaging opinions.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.
Splendid scenery in County Navan.
I left Ireland with a full think tank. I have been reminded to engage more purposefully with my writing and to examine the mechanics behind the words. I was reacquainted with writing tools and exercises which I last attempted, when forced to do so, by a lecturer who was determined to drive 1000 words from my pen in an essay entitled “The theoretical discourse of modern graffiti.” I am quite sure that Jeanne and Jamie would not wish to hear any word associations derived from this particular topic.
For me, the culinary highlight of the weekend, if I am allowed to pick, was Sunday’s lunch and dinner sponsored by Board Bia and prepared by the talented David Kiernan of the remarkable blog Kitchen72. I would fly back to Dublin tomorrow for this man’s baked salmon with celeriac puree. Or maybe just for the celeriac puree. One big bowlful of celeriac happiness. Just for me. Sigh.
A morning on assignment at Sage and Stone Market
This fudge smelled so good, you could almost taste it from three feet away.
Dear Husband got some Irish Whiskey Marmalade from this very table.
Nothing to do in an impulsive Irish downpour but to take refuge in the Cappuccino truck.
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.
Adore the knife sharpener, miss the Rustico.
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.
Shooting for an editorial using a sponsored product. Not hard to guess our choice.
Creating mood shots. The radish photograph taken by Yours Truly. Takes a bow.
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.
My deepest gratitude for a memorable weekend to Jeanne, Jamie, Ilva and Meeta.