Kenmare Kerry Food Tour Review
Those of you who know me will know that I love a good food tour. They’re a great way to find out more about the area you’re visiting and they give you a real insight into the local culture. You get the opportunity to try local specialities and maybe even get the chance to talk to the artisan producers who make them. It’s something we always look out for when we’ve visiting somewhere new.
Karen Coakley – The Kenmare Foodie
When I saw that TV chef and food blogger Karen Coakley (I would recommend checking out her blog Kenmare Foodie for great recipes and inspiration) was starting a 3.5 hour food tour of Kenmare, I knew that I would have to bring the kids along and check this tour out.
This week, after spending a few days with the kids exploring ‘The Kingdom of Kerry’, we booked our places and headed over to Kenmare for Karen’s tour. The food tour is usually held on a Wednesday to coincide with the Kenmare Farmer’s Market (more on this later).
It was my first time in this popular tourist town and there was a great buzz about the place. Kenmare is a relatively small town yet the streets are adorned with plush hanging baskets and I loved the fact that most shops were independent artisan shops with little or no sign of chains or franchises.
We headed to Maison Gourmet in Henry Street for the start of our food tour. There we met Karen herself and a group of excited food fans ready to enjoy her sell out tour. This family-run bakery (open 7 days a week) is an institution in Kenmare at this stage and I can see why. The homemade pastries and bread selection were tantalising our taste buds and we hadn’t even started the food tour.
We met Emma who, after giving us aprons to wear, brought us out back to show us where the magic really happens. There we were introduced to Paul and Patrick who’s speed and skill wowed us as we watched them roll, knead and cut the delicious pastries that we had been drooling over when we arrived.
Emma explained (and showed us) how they use the very best of ingredients, top quality flour and chocolate imported from France, as quality of the end product is vital to them at Maison Gourmet.
After a very brief lesson, we all had the opportunity to try our hand at rolling out croissants and also shaping baguettes which we would be able to collect later on that day.
We left Maison Gourmet and strolled a few doors down to Lorges Chocolates where Karen shared the story of how Benoit Lorge setup his chocolate business down the road in Bonane when he initially shared a space in the village post office, which he eventually took over when the post-mistress retired.
Karen showed us around the shop, explaining about the range of local artisan products that they stock from Wasi seaweed pesto to homemade marshmallows. We tried their dark chocolate and also some of the seaweed pesto on crackers before we were given a selection of four chocolates to bring away before moving onto our next stop.
Roger O’Sullivan’s Victualler
This is a butcher like no other. Helen there told us how they make their own 90% sausages with free-range pigs from nearby Kilgarvan. We’re passionate about butchers that use free-range pork as pigs are treated so badly in this county.
We had the chance to sample freshly made spicy and plain sausages and they were a hit with everyone on the tour. It was at this point, I was wishing we didn’t live 4.5 hours away so that we could bring some sausages home.
O’Sullivans are also famous for their Sneem black pudding which is made with real blood, not dried however it had sold out so there was none for us to taste but we still enjoyed some Clonakilty black pudding with our sausages.
Bridge Street Co-operative
This Co-op was setup in 2009 by Kenmare residents with an incredible selection of whole foods products sourced locally where possible. I love the fact that you can buy exactly the quantity you want so if you only need a small amount of a particular spice then you don’t have to buy a whole jar. What a wonderful way to cut down on all that plastic packaging that is consuming our daily lives.
In the shop, we tasted locally produced Knockatee cheddar, gouda, nettle and blue cheese. There was even an 18 month blue cheese that was the most incredible cheese I’d ever tasted, and I’m really not a fan of blue cheese.
While we were there there was a vegetable delivery from Whitethorn Farm by well known local Billy. Karen told us all about one of the products in his delivery, organic red Russian kale, something I’d never heard of but is apparently delicious if you like kale.
Kenmare Farmers Market
This bustling market takes place from 10am-2pm every Wednesday in the town square, hence why the tour is held on a Wednesday. We visited the market briefly where we saw an amazing array of produce from Irish venison salamis to Sabine’s duck courgettes.
Alain and Christine Bras Wine
We then paid a visit to the delightful Alain and Christine’s wine and card shop. Not a usual combination of items however their story is an enchanting one of how two people who brought their passions together made it work in a commercial setting.
Alain gave us an in depth insight into wine, how to taste it, the importance of glasses and the different grape varieties while we all enjoyed a generous tasting of Lafleur de Lynch Médoc Bordeaux. This man really knows his stuff and makes me wonder why anyone ponders supermarket wine aisles in the Kenmare area when this man can sell you exactly what you’re looking for at a good price. The kids weren’t tasting wine but interestingly they were all captivated by his passion and knowledge.
This was one of our favourite stops, not just because the homemade gelato was utterly delicious, it was, but because we met Margaret who told the inspiring story of how she and her friend Rose setup Kenmare ice-cream. The kids were enthralled by her enthusiasm for her business and her infectious personality. To be honest, we could’ve stayed there chatting with Margaret and eating her ice-cream all day.
Tom Crean Fish & Wine
Our second from last stop was to try Expedition Ale made by Tom Crean’s granddaughter Aileen along with 9 White Deer Brewery in Ballyvourney at the Tom Crean Fish & Wine restaurant. Bill told us how the story behind the ale and offered us the chance to try it. I’m not a ale drinker but I really enjoyed it so much so we bought three bottles to bring home.
Aileen Crean, granddaughter of polar explorer Tom Crean, told us how she broke her leg on an Antarctic expedition back in 2016. After she was rescued, she persuaded her sons Cian and Morgan to carry on and complete their attempt to re-enact their great-grandfather’s journey, which they did successfully. It was an amazing story.
Our last stop was to return to Maison Gourmet to collect the baguette that we had shaped earlier that morning. After that we went back to many of the shops and bought products to bring home to Sligo, the wine we’d tried and another that Alain had recommend, the seaweed pesto and some locally roasted coffee beans that we had spotted in Lorge Chocolatier.
So what did we think?
This food tour is not like any food tour where you might try different products and move on. I loved the fact that each of the producers took the time to talk to us. We really had the chance to discover how the people behind the food bring their incredible artisan products to life. We came away inspired and humbled by the passion of these producers and hope to return to Kenmare soon to spend more time in this very special place.
€55 per person which I think is good value considering the food tour lasts a good 3.5 hours and you also get to try so much food, wine and beer.
Book your our place on the food tour via Eventbrite at Kenmare Foodies Four Tour