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Coming home from Ireland is never, ever easy, and it seems that no matter how long we stay, we never get enough time in this magically beautiful country. We booked our March visit in October and not-so-patiently waited for the trip. One thing we always try to do when in Ireland is to get out to Connemara, where my father-in-law is from and where my husband spent weekends and holidays growing up. A hike in the Irish countryside is invigorating, and this time we decided to spend the night after our hike  in a very special castle hotel, Ballynahinch Castle. After everyone climbed up the side of Errisbeg, we headed to Ballynahinch for the start of a wonderful evening.

Ballynahinch Castle

The whole family finished up the hike with drinks and tea in the Fisherman’s Pub at Ballynahinch.

Views from the hotel are stunning in all directions, whether looking out the restaurant window at the river and wild gardens in the back or looking out the pub window at one of Connemara’s majestic, rocky mountains.

Ballynahinch Castle

view from Ballynahinch Castle

Once we warmed up and relaxed over drinks, those who were spending the night checked into our rooms. Ours was elegant and comfortable, with a huge dressing room attached to the bedroom. It had a lovely big bath. . . with brown water. Ballynahinch actually sources its water from local bogs, and it is filtered and treated with UV lights so it is perfectly safe for bathing and drinking, it’s just brown. It’s also really good for your skin, and mine felt super soft after splashing around in a hot soak.

Ballynahinch Castle guest room

Ballynahinch Castle fox

On the way down to dinner in the Owenmore Restaurant, I took a couple of photos of the inside of the castle. The above painting is of a fox who used to visit the front door of the castle when my husband was growing up. He and his family fondly remember the fox, who has since died.

Ballynahinch CastleThe fine dining area at Ballynahinch Castle, Owenmore Restaurant, is really something special, with stunning views and grand yet subtle decor.

Ballynahinch Castle Owenmore Restaurant

The dinner menu is a three course, set menu, which we enjoyed at a leisurely pace while catching up with some locals the family knew. As my in-laws were celebrating their 50th, one of their friends even brought us a bottle of Champagne.

Each morsel of food was heavenly and inspired by all of the fresh and local ingredients Ireland has to offer. So many people think Irish food is terrible, but in my experience it’s the opposite. The seas and fields produce some stellar ingredients that really shine when treated properly. Head Chef Xin Sun’s guidance is truly an asset to Ballynahinch, and has made Owenmore Restaurant a destination.

Ballynahinch Castle Owenmore Restaurant

{Connemara Smoked Tuna Ceviche, Mussels and Coriander Croquette, Crab Wonton, Shellfish Foam}

Ballynahinch Castle Owenmore Restaurant

{Market Fish – Cod with a Thick Tomato Sauce}

shamrock potatoes

Because it was the night before St. Patrick’s Day, our potatoes were festive shamrocks.

walnut cake

{Warm Walnut Cake, Honey Ice Cream, Caramel Sauce}

Jameson

When dinner was over, we returned to the Fisherman’s Pub for whiskeys before finding a piano and fire in one of the castle’s rooms. My husband played songs into the night while I sat by the fire and felt like the luckiest person in the world. If you ever get the chance to visit Ireland, I can’t recommend Ballynahinch Castle and a trip to Connemara enough.

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Tags: castle, Connemara, Dining out, Ireland, Irish countryside, Irish hotel, restaurants in Ireland, St. Patrick's Day, Travel, travel blog, travel bug, travel to Ireland, vacation

New England hibernates for long enough, and if you live here, this past Winter has felt particularly awful. When we woke up to blue skies and beaming sun on Saturday, we knew that a beach day was in order, even if it meant walking barefoot with a winter coat on.

We have been under a lot of stress lately that we can’t really control, so we decided to get away from the everyday and take a trip to Onset, which is a tiny village in Wareham, Massachusetts, a stone’s throw from Cape Cod.

About an hour from Boston, Onset is marked by stunning, calm beaches and sweet Victorian homes.

Onset, Massachusetts

The sun was strong enough to warm the sand, and it felt SO good to walk along the water’s edge barefoot. I went to the beach in Miami, but there is just something so different about a New England beach.

Onset, Massachusetts

You may already know that we are OBSESSED with the sea, so we spent a good amount of time wandering Onset’s beaches, building up quite the appetite. Unfortunately, Onset is very seasonal, and a lot of the places I scoped out were not open.

Onset, Massachusetts

Lucky for us, the pizza place we stumbled upon, Marc Anthony’s, was way more than a pizza place and was very cool, while offering ridiculously good, inexpensive food, great music, and friendly service in funky surroundings. I loved the long wooden tables and stained glass, and the soundtrack, which went back and forth between Grateful Dead and Beatles during our entire lunch.

Marc Anthony's Pizza

The seaside makes me crave seafood, and fried clam bellies, fries, and chowder were the perfect, cozy lunch to come inside to. Everything was delicious, and Marc Anthony’s had a steady line of takeout and sit down customers. Clearly, they are on to something.

fried clams

Onset, Massachusetts

After lunch we went for another walk on the beach and checked out some of Onset’s beautiful architecture before heading to nearby favorite day trip town, New Bedford.

Onset, Massachusetts

We never miss a chance to taste wine at Travessia Urban Winery, and while they were not quite ready yet, we loved learning about the new releases. I can’t wait to taste the latest wines produced by this wonderful winery, and I loved revisiting ones they had available. It’s crazy to see how wines change in the bottle. For example, the most recent vintage of Vidal Blanc was a little too sweet for my taste when it was released, and it has aged into a rich wine that is reminiscent of a Viognier, luscious stone fruit notes, delightfully weighty mouth feel.

Travessia Urban Winery

Our little jaunt outside of Boston reminded us what a difference a few miles – and a few degrees – makes. Massachusetts is one of the best places to live in the Spring, Summer, and Fall, and I am excited once again to be on the brink of the best times of year!

 

Did you enjoy the Spring weather this past weekend?

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Tags: beaches, day trips, fried clams, Massachusetts, Massachusetts travel, Massachusetts wine, New England, Travel, wine tasting

A winter getaway to a warm destination is most definitely a little slice of paradise. Our trip to Miami included lots of sunshine by the pool, dinner on the beach, and tons of really good food right from the start. Right after we checked in to the Sonesta Bayfront Hotel, we headed for the pool deck for lunch. The warm weather made me opt for a lighter option, a grilled Caesar salad and a glass of delightfully oaky Chardonnay.

Grilled caesarGoing for the more local flavor, my husband had a Cuban sandwich with to-die-for garlicky fries. The fries took away the light aspect of my lunch. What can I say? There’s nothing I love more than good fries.

Cuban sandwich

During our stay at the Sonesta, we visited their restaurant, Panorama, and their pool area bar a number of times for drinks and snacks. Sitting by the pool with Prosecco and soaking up the Florida sunshine was perfect, as was Sunday brunch at the pool. Panorama’s signature French Toast was covered in fresh fruit, a decadent treat to start the day (with mimosas, naturally).

Right next to the hotel was Peacock Garden Cafe, a fabulous cocktail bar and restaurant that featured live jazz in the garden. I didn’t snap any photos, but it made me feel like Hemingway was going to walk into the room at any time. I stuck to the Southern vibe and sipped mint juleps while listening to the jazz and enjoying warm Saturday night breezes. . . aaaaah.

Sonesta French ToastOne of our favorite meals of our Coconut Grove stay was at Jaguar.  As we tend to do, we sat at the bar and absolutely loved our server, who explained everything to us, including their extensive, amazing ceviche menu.

First up, I had a black pepper passion fruit capirinhia.

capirinhiaUnlike Massachusetts, Florida has happy hour, and we enjoyed discount drinks that came with ceviche spoons. In addition, we ordered the entire ceviche spoon menu and a ceviche special. Chunks of tender fish, lots of citrus, avocado, and spice filled the plate, and we had fun sharing all the flavors before moving on to a bigger plate.

Jaguar cevicheBelow is the Tiradito Nikkei, a plate made up of the following: tuna, ginger, soy, shallots, jalapeños, cilantro, lime, cucumber, avocado & sesame seeds. It woke up every sense and was fresh and light, the perfect way to eat. I could eat Jaguar’s ceviche every day. I truly miss it.

tiradito nikkei ceviche Jaguar

Chart House Miami viewsOur final meal in Coconut Grove was a spectacular one as we had lunch al fresco at The Chart House. Being obsessed with all things boating, we loved being able to see every kind of boat, from ones that cost millions to kayaks, going by as we ate lunch.

We were all about the seafood again. This crab stack, with mango and avocado, was as delicious as it was beautiful. It fit right in with the bright sunshiny day and felt like a healthy-ish lunch option.

Crab, Mango, and Avocado StackOur jumbo shrimp came with a flair, presented in dry ice. It was your standard shrimp cocktail, but it was pretty great.

Chart House shrimp cocktailFinally, we shared the “East Meets West” tuna dish, zesty tuna tartare drizzled with wasabi cream paired with seared peppered tuna & avocado, with kim chee slaw & plantain chips. Again, the flavors in this dish were off-the-hook. I think I could eat tuna tartare with avocado and wasabi cream all the days of my life. With lunch I enjoyed a tart and mineral-y Bogle Vineyards Sauvignon Blanc, perfectly bright and seafood-friendly. The one downside of the meal was that our server tried to upsell us on everything, right to the very end, when he tried to pitch a credit card of some sort to us. Otherwise, he was very nice and probably just doing his job with the sales pitches. Still, we just wanted to relax.

East Meets West TunaWe didn’t even scratch the surface of the dining scene in Coconut Grove, much less the rest of Miami. This is a place for bold flavors, fresh ingredients, and of course a little spice. I didn’t know what to expect when we planned the trip and I was very pleasantly surprised.

What has been your favorite foodie travel destination so far?

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Tags: brunch, ceviche, Coconut Grove, Dining out, dinner, Food, Lunch, Miami, Restaurants, Travel

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