A McDreamy McMeel
by Wendy Koro
Irish Chef Noel McMeel
Celebrity Irish chef Noel McMeel is a charmer
--- self assured, boyishly good-looking, and positively exuberant about
food. It's no wonder he's caught the fancy of television audiences throughout
the UK, cooking at the forefront of an edible revolution blazing across
Ireland. I had the great pleasure to sit and chat with him recently
during his lightning quick promotional tour of the U.S. at the Los Angeles
Biltmore Hotel. He was relaxed and engaging despite a brutal schedule,
effortlessly balancing his obligations to the press with the culinary
pressure of cooking a fabulous meal for 300 hungry critics later that
night. Confident in his abilities, Noel is a talented Irish chef on
a mission, conquering one set of taste buds at a time.
The principles McMeel endorses are lofty, yet simple. Find the very
best locally grown seasonal ingredients. Support farms and businesses
that respect the earth. Prepare meals that delight and excite the senses,
but don't let creativity lure you to overcomplicate or overdo. Rule
#1: let the natural flavor of good food shine through.
Noel's commitment to these concepts is long-standing,
unwavering, and not merely the residual effect of the many kitchens
he has graced. He is quick to credit sustainability guru Alice Waters
and her staff at Chez Panisse in Berkeley, California for life changing
lessons in culinary simplicity. But McMeel is bent on paying forward
those ideas in his own grand vision for modern-day Ireland. This man
has very big dreams.
A McDreamy McMeel
He's not content to revel in his success at Castle Leslie,
where he cooked for seven and a half years for the likes of Sir Paul
McCartney's lavish nuptials, where he stamped his personality so vividly
that the place is virtually synonymous with his name. It's not enough
that he's a frequent presence on BBC television's Great British Menu,
Food Poker and Master Apprentice and RTE's The Afternoon Show --- all
while undertaking a new challenge at the luxurious Lough Erne Resort
(that's pronounced Lock-Airn, all you Yanks) in Northern Ireland. No,
Chef McMeel has even more fish to fry.
As much as he is presently focused on fine dining, Noel is intent on
spreading his knowledge and philosophy beyond his own kitchen and across
any invisibly drawn class lines. He recently teamed up with Tourism
Ireland in a splashy Boston to L.A. tour of the United States, just
to show American palates firsthand how remarkable Irish cooking has
become. (It was a devious plot to soothe and tantalize us
knew that sensual shot glass of goats buttermilk sorbet was addictive?
But now that we've tasted McDreamy's luscious breast of wood pigeon
atop a caramelized onion glazed puff, his delectably rich Silver Hill
duck confit straddling creamy mashed potatoes with chive and fennel
and an intense drizzle of Irish orchard honey-sweetened stock reduction,
they know we can't stay home.) And Noel's looking to the future, maybe
even a legacy, in another powerful project he's cultivating --- a hands-on
garden-to-kitchen school program to get kids cooking early
just in Ireland, why stop there? To top it all off he's building a new
website to showcase his ideas, share his recipes and boost his friends'
businesses at www.NoelMcMeel.com.
In fact, despite basking in the current fickle spotlight of competitive
cooking, McMeel seems to be a team player-genuinely grounded-and first
and foremost, a really nice guy.
Exceptionally devoted to his craft, Noel uses his talent,
ethos and celebrity to promote a fresh return to smart idealism in the
kitchen. The result is grand food simply delicious to the tongue, healthy
for the belly, good for the Irish economy and oh so kind to the earth.
Check it out, people. One more reason to indulge in
a wee bit of travel... I see a McDreamy Irish McMeel in your future.
Love your lamb shanks.
--- Paul, Scottsdale AZ
Haven't been called Tad for . . .gee, maybe I've NEVER been
called Tad . . . guess I'm the only one with chutzpah enough to mention Bourdain.
--- Ken, Shutesbury, MA
I think we must have had an entirely different experience in
the UK. (Fresh Food and Real Ale week 1). We were up in Edinburgh and
they served something called Neeps & Tatties. The items were
boiled so long that I couldnt even recognize what I was eating. Come to
think of it
I couldnt taste them either. Later I found that Neeps
are Turnips and Tatties are potatoes.
--- Lindy, Phoenix, AZ
My mouth was watering as I read some of your descriptions of
the fantastic fare of ... England? I had always felt smug about the lowly reputation
of British cuisine as this gave us at least one country with a worse culinary
reputation than America's. I guess I'll have to change my views. Your article
made me actually want to take a CULINARY tour of Britain. Yummy yummy yummy.
--- Sandy Miner, Portland, OR
Thanks for your note. Thanks to Traveling
Boy I get to interview a world famous chef this week who is widely recognized
as spearheading the Yummy movement in Ireland. Guess I'll have to take yet another
culinary tour a little further north and check it out... (I love my job!) ---
Very interesting, mouth-watering piece by Audrey! (A McDreamy McMeel). Your
web site is fascinating!
--- Susie, Victoria, BC
Combining travel, food, and intelligent advice -- BRILLIANT!
Your site fills a long-felt need for hungry roamers. Keep it up! It's Anthony
Bourdain with reservations and CLASS.
--- Tad, Boston, MA
As a travel journalist I am constantly asked what are
some of my favorite travel experiences. The list is endless. But there is
one destination that seems to raise the most eyebrows. That destination
is a cruise to Antarctica. Sadly, that cruise line I was on is no more,
but today there is a plethora of cruise lines that offer similar packages.
Here's a look back at my Antarctica cruise.
Journey to the Bottom of the Globe: Exploring the
White Continent of Antarctica
Treasures of Ireland: Food, Fun and Falconry at
Ashford Castle (Dispatch #18)
The Palladian Traveler soars above the crowd with
a gal named Lima, cruises across a lake dotted with hundreds of islands,
and feasts like a king in a regal dining room.
As she came around the corner we could not believe
how big she was. Massive, and yet incredibly beautiful almost elegant
in fact. Her lines were so symmetrical she seemed to blend into a classic
example of astonishing good looks. The other fact that amazed all of us
was how quiet she was. We felt sure that with the obvious overwhelming power
she evidenced, she'd be extra loud. It's a cliché, but she was as
quiet as a church mouse or "as quiet as dreaming trees."
Would You Believe She Can Carry 800 (Yes, 800!)
In the 1840s, the population of California was only
14,000, but by 1850 more than 100,000 settlers and adventurers had arrived
from all over the world and they came for one reason: gold. James
Marshall had discovered the first gold nugget at Sutters Mill in El
Dorado County, creating the largest gold rush in history.
Highway 49 Revisited: Exploring California's
The Southwest Louisiana Mardi Gras in Lake Charles,
the second largest in Louisiana, does not need parents there to avert their
childrens eyes. This is family entertainment and children are very
much part of it. The main office of the Lake Charles CVB has costumes from
last years Mardi Gras but it also has figures to fascinate little
ones from country boys fishing for their dinner to alligators who have already
fed and are rubbing their stomachs.
Lake Charles Family-Size Low-Key Mardi Gras
Having recently received a misguided shout-out from
the president during Black History Month Frederick Douglass has done
an amazing job... it seems a good time to revisit the cultural icon's
legitimate place in history. And a visit to his home in Washington, DC
surely a place the current president might want to consider visiting himself
would be a good place to start.
Cedar Hill: Frederick Douglass' Home is as Imposing
as the Man who Lived There
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For a wealth of travel ideas to fit every
price range, interest and style, see www.DiscoverIreland.com
Whether your passion is food, history, gardening, golf, castles, the arts,
incredible scenery, or all of the above, you can enjoy the magic of Ireland
on foot, cycle and horseback, by self-driven car, on escorted tours or
in chauffeur-driven luxury. "Cookery courses" in the Search
bar will yield an extensive list of cooking schools.
here for Noel's goat's buttermilk sorbet recipe, see
A helpful site is www.goodfoodireland.ie
which lists many food events, artisan and farmer's markets, and some of
the best eating and drinking spots in a host of Irish locales.