Snow Day

Walking  in an Irish winter-land. You should try it. Surreal and beautiful, and not all that common in this country. Coming from Canada, as I do, and seeing the national response to a bit of snow here was theatre for me. The Irish Transport Minister put out a statement claiming that taking to the roads would be a suicide mission. The Taoiseach urged the public not to risk “life and limb” by venturing out. Pat the Baker said there was an unprecedented demand for bread. He wasn’t lying. The shelves were emptied in all the supermarkets, starting with bread but followed closely by milk, and potatoes, as well as most fruits and vegetables. Except pineapples. I’m reliably informed that there were still some pineapples in Tesco’s a few days ago.

On Twitter Emma Ní Chearúil urged everyone to calm down after she went to make toast and her mother yelled, “NO! That’s the storm bread!!”

I suppose to a population not used to such wintry conditions, a bit of hyperbole isn’t misplaced, but I did find it hilarious. But then it started snowing… and snowing… then the wind came, and it started to feel like maybe “Game of Thrones” wasn’t a work of fiction after all. I’m sure I spotted zombies in the tree-line.  Winter is here, in a way most inhabitants on this island have never seen, and I haven’t since I was in a country properly equipped to deal with it.

Schools and universities have closed across the country. Motorways shut down. Flights cancelled. The road to our house is impassable, resulting in the cancellation of all of our bookings. Ireland has stopped and so have we. And until life as normal resumes, we have been doing what I hope everyone has: venturing out into the blinding beauty that has visited us. If you can’t beat it, join it. It is truly magical.

Our girls have been making snow angels, in their nice, warm aran sweaters tobogganing down any vertical slope they can find and getting oh so close to making the greatest snowwoman of all time, just to have the victory snatched from them by the burning pain in their feet and hands, courtesy of the snow finding its way into their boots and mittens. A flashback to my youth that I never thought my kids would provide me with at Roundwood.

So, here we are. Frozen in, with nothing but time and gloves on our hands. We’ll get that snowwoman built, find the fastest hill and learn to live with frozen feet until it all melts away.

And although it will make paying our bills a little more difficult if that doesn’t happen soon, I think I’m ok with it. We have a wine cellar.

I shouldn’t have laughed Ireland.

Swear Jar

There is a certain amount of inevitable overlap between home life and business when you run your home as a business. Therefore you need to be conscious of what parts of your private life you share with the world, and in some cases, you need to adjust behaviour accordingly. For example, Hannah and I have become experts at having full-blown arguments using only our eyes; and we had to completely cancel “Naked Tuesdays”. Other than a few small adjustments however, we have learned how to wear our home comfortably, and share it’s warmth with anyone who finds themselves in it.

Besides cooking, my life revolves around my Hannah, my kids and my music, all of whom I try to serve with equal dedication. When we first got to Roundwood, I thought that keeping some of these elements separate from the guests would be part of the gig . Little did I know how much they would be able to bounce off each other and live together in harmony. Gone are the days when children should only be briefly seen and not heard. More than a few times, when looking for the kids to get them started on homework or piano, have I found them in the drawing room, filling in the guests on who their best friends are, how nice their teachers are, and the joys of Absynian long haired guinea pigs.

The kids are a layer of overlap that stretch between the guests and the kitchen. in the evening when they’re not informing the company on the current state of childhood, they’re doing their homework in the dining room, within earshot of the kitchen, and although a professional kitchen shared with your family has different standards than most. . . there’s still a lot of swearing. To understand, try splashing burning oil on your arm and say the first word that comes to your mind.

I didn’t realize how much swearing was being done, nor how much I burned myself, until the introduction of the swear jar. It was a physical manifestation of my children’s influence on the workplace. With every bad word I utter, a chorus of “swear-jar” wafts into the kitchen from the dining room, and I’m ok with that. I get to keep being myself and the girls are learning how to work the system. It’s a very full swear jar.

Then there is the music. In the early days, I’d try to sneak away from the kitchen in between jobs, to a quiet corner somewhere to knock out a few tunes. As we steadily got busier, my quiet corners became more scarce, the workload increased, and subsequently less tunes were knocked out. The only fix I could see was keeping a guitar in the kitchen and playing anytime I had five minutes. It’s amazing how many extra five minutes you can find in a day if you try.

This slowly bled into the drawing room for parties, and into the dining room as the “musical sixth course” that we sometimes offer. Musical-me is also quite handy when the “happy birthday song” is required. I knock that one out of the park.

My experience with the music that has passed through this house has been amazing. From jamming “who has seen the wind” with Donovan. Or singing the acoustic version of the newlyweds favourite song in the dining room after the speeches. Or being able to redirect the flow of after dinner conversation from the horrors of American politics to a special sort of harmony that could only have been achieved with the perfect entanglement of my life and Roundwood’s. Fuck me, I love it here. . . Swear jar!

Kitchen Notes: Butter Tarts

When I took over the cheffing duties at Roundwood I was entirely new to the game. I didn't arrive with a bag of tricks, so I had to learn some quickly. After acquiring a few and building the confidence to experiment, I thought it would be fitting to put a Canadian twist on the food we were making here. But an inventory of my childhood culinary experiences left slim pickings for inspiration. Cuisine in Canada in the 70's and 80's moved in very questionable directions. This was a time and place that would suspend ham in jello and call it a salad.

Then I remembered the Mennonite Farmer Markets in St. Jacobs. I wish I could say that I was drawn to the fruit and vegetables spilling out of baskets on endless rows of tables, but my love of fresh, hand-picked produce would take a few decades to grow. Little-kid-me made a bee-line for the homemade baked goods, specifically the butter tarts.

What is a butter tart, you ask?  According to Wikipedia, "A butter tart is a type of small pastry tart highly regarded in Canadian cuisine and considered one of Canada's quintessential treats. The sweet tart consists of butter, sugar, syrup, and egg filled into a flaky pastry and baked until the filling is semi-solid with a crunchy top." Well described Wikipedia.

Happy that I had come up with a uniquely Canadian offering, I just had to figure out a way of jazzing it up a bit. Delicious as butter tarts are, they certainly don't qualify as fancy desserts and if I was going to introduce Ireland to one of Canada's national treasures, I wanted it to be wearing its Sunday best.

So, why not make it into a tart? With a chocolate crust. As far as I can tell, chocolate never made anything worse. Add a few dried cranberries and toasted cashew nuts, and presto. Ireland, I give you fancy chocolate crusted butter tart. Recipe below.

Chocolate Crusted Caramel Tart with Cranberries & Cashew Nuts

plain flour (sifted)        450 g
cocoa powder (sifted)        50 g
icing sugar (sifted)        100 g
salted butter (cold)        250 g
eggs            2

Combine dry ingredients in the food processor. Cut butter into workable cubes, and slowly add to mixture. After all butter is incorporated, add eggs and mix until the dough is formed. This is the finished product, no kneading, resting, or proofing is required. Refrigerate for a couple hours before working.

Roll out dough to ¼” thick. Press into a 2” deep, spring form pan. Dough is somewhat malleable and can be cut and reformed into pie pans if being uncooperative. Blind bake for 15-20 min at 180º C, or until top edges of crust begin to brown. Cool.

brown sugar        1½ cups
melted butter        ¼ cup
eggs (medium)        3
vanilla paste        1 tsp
AP flour            1 tbsp
whiskey            to taste

Sprinkle craisins (dried cranberries or raisins) and toasted cashews (or any nut) into the cooled pie shells. Pour in filling mixture. Should fill shell completely. Bake for 25-30 min at 180º rotating pie half way through the cooking process to ensure even baking. Let cool before serving.

Notes from the Kitchen… Time to move on…

The new oven weighs roughly a million pounds. It’s two ovens, actually, one stacked on top of the other and combined they’re nearly fourteen feet tall. Obviously from the warrior cast of some kind of oven people that until recently I never even knew existed. It has a probe on the inside that shows the internal temperature of the meat you're cooking, on a digital display, as you’re cooking it. It has 14 different heat and fan settings including a pyrolysis function that allows you to heat it up to nearly a thousand degrees, and turn any residual oven grime into ash.

It took three large men (and myself) a couple hours and some very careful manoeuvring to get it into the kitchen, and another 24 hours of experimentation before I got comfortable enough to cook anything in it for guests.

I remember watching an interview with Jack White once. He was sitting in his giant room of guitars, and naturally the interviewer asked him which one was his favourite. He picked up a shitty little banger off the wall and started playing it, explaining how he bought it at Walmart before he was rich and famous, but that he still played it all the time because it kept him honest. Because he really had try to make it sound good.

That’s kind of how I felt about my old oven, even though it was held together with a bungee cord for the last three years. The racks were held in place with mismatched bolts, and the lights no longer worked thanks to a brownie mixture accident that made the kitchen smell like chocolate for months every time I turned it on. It was a disaster, but my disaster, and I knew how to navigate it. It made me feel like the underdog, who everyone is supposed to root for. More than once, guests have come into the kitchen and marveled at the fact that their meal was prepared in. . . that thing.

Getting a new oven was long overdue, and as much as it scared me at first having to learn a bunch of new tricks, it’s now clear to me that if anything in your life is held together with bungee chords and hope, it’s time to move on.

Kitchen Notes… Wild Mushroom Soup

Wild Mushrooms 250g
Dried Mushrooms 250g
White Onion 1
Garlic 1 Bulb
White Wine 250ml
Water 500ml
Cream 500ml
Coarse Black Pepper
Lemon Juice

I’m going to let you in on a little secret soup method that they (probably) don’t teach you in culinary school. It’s called the chuck-everything-in-a-pot-and-cook-it-til-it’s-done method. Puréed soups lend themselves extremely well to this style of cooking. Now if you think you can make this soup taste better by carefully caramelizing this, or simmering that, you go right ahead. I’ll be having a drink by the fire while you’re busy fawning over the soup.

All you need to do to make this delicious soup is follow these three simple directions:

1. Combine everything except the lemon, salt and pepper in a pot. Bring it up to temperature without letting it boil over, and simmer gently for 15-20 minutes, or until the dried mushrooms have softened and the cream has had time to reduce a little.

2. Pureé with a hand blender. If you don’t have a hand blender you should reconsider attempting this soup, but a regular blender will work too. Also, you may want to put it through a medium-gauge sieve before serving to give it a more refined consistency.

3. Finish with fresh lemon, salt & pepper to taste, and if you really want to add some wow factor, drizzle a little truffle oil into each bowl just as it’s being served.

Notes from the Kitchen… Basket Case

​​I think there's something great about eating the thing that your food comes in. A crunchy foil​ ​housing a gooey centre. Gooey things can be delicious but they’re, well. . . gooey. So in the kitchen, I’m always on the lookout for new flavour delivery vehicles. A cool looking, crispy and compact way to present the goo to varying numbers of guests, with various dietary requirements. This can be a tricky manoeuvre, especially, for the first course. It’s always a little more intricate, and it sets the stage for the meal. Working from a set menu, you want to be sure you get everyone's attention right away.

We all know that gluten is particularly troublesome these days, and cooking without it can be ​... ​challenging. Please don't get me wrong. Gluten intolerance is a curse, and not just for the chef. My taste​​buds ache for people who can't eat pancakes. Genetically modified wheat strains are wrecking us and our stomachs. But for the record, when I've custom made a gluten free menu for someone who eats pancakes for breakfast, it increases my intolerance.

Enter the potato basket. Imagine something between and potato chip (crisp) and a french fry (chip) strong enough to hold your soup, but tasty enough that you could eat a bag of them. Now fill it with just about anything you like. It’s perfect.

It took an incredible amount of experimenting to get them right, but it was worth all the smashed muffin tins, and now, when I’m serving a large number of guests, I have a uniform delivery vehicle that can be customised to even the most specific of dietary requirements​... ​unless of course you're allergic to potatoes.

The Beginning…

There was a time in my life when it would have been unimaginable to me that I would be writing a piece about life in the country with any personal insight.  I was a city boy, raised in Canada, and spent years touring from city to city playing music with various bands. I was aware of the country, and drove through it often on my way to the next gig. But I wouldn't have known what to do with myself if I was ever left there for an extended period of time. That was then.

The short story of how I got here is that I spent my first 28 years in Canada, moved to Ireland to study for a year, met my darling wife Hannah (saw her house) and fell instantly in love.  The opportunity arose to change my career path as a musician, when her parents decided to retire. They had been running Roundwood House as a country guest house since Hannah was five years old, and handed the reigns to Hannah and I in the summer of 2008.

There is an adjustment period though; trading city life for country life. Out here, life is work. Paddy the musician, didn't understand what life was going to be like living in the shticks, but Paddy the chef wonders how many songs I would have written if I'd had the work ethic then that I've had to adopt living here. The city kid's natural instinct when anything goes wrong is to call the experts. If you live in an apartment and your toilet backs up, you call the landlord and ask him to send a plumber, and as if by magic, when he leaves, your toilet flushes again. But this is not the case when you're the landlord, the plumber, the electrician, the list goes on. You're expected to be able to deal with small maintenance issues. So you try it yourself, break it a little more, then call the expert.

The city also gives you a certain immunity to noise. It took me a long time to get used to the silence here. Living in a city provides you with a sub-conscious soundtrack to the sound of humans. Most of it is filtered out and disregarded.  Car alarms and sirens. Laughter, jackhammers, and kids. Any one of these sounds now however, would wake me in an instant.  I have become an expert in every unnatural sound in the country, and any time I hear one, I will immediately try to determine where it's coming from and why it is being made. You could say I've traded filters. I no longer respond to creaks in the middle of the night, or the ungodly sound of a vixen in heat, which would make any city dweller with a sense of self preservation hide under the sheets. But a car door closing in the night will have me down the stairs and outside before I've even woken up, and you don't need an alarm clock when the birds are telling you that there's work to be done. This new life couldn't be more different than my old one. I've traded noise for silence, anonymous for personal, and I've made life my job… I wouldn't trade it back for anything. It's a good life.

Notes from the Kitchen… How do you cure an egg yolk?

How do you cure an egg yolk? First, you have to get it to admit that it’s sick. But after that it's a pretty easy process - gently bury it in equal parts salt and sugar... and wait.

The first time I saw someone curing an egg yolk on YouTube, I jumped out of my chair and immediately burrowed a dozen yolks into a sugar and salt bath, and then noted the effects on each as I pulled them out at different time increments. But even when I found the perfect curing time and fleshed out all the different methods to produce this tasty little garnish, the question still remained. . . now that it's cured, what do I do with it?

Ted and I have great fun in the kitchen playing the "What if?" game. What if we put this with that? That with this? What if we tried braising it instead of roasting it? What if we use yogurt instead of cream? It's discovering the answers to some of these questions that has led us to some pretty interesting plates.

Sometimes it’s immediately clear if something has worked. . . or if it hasn’t. Then there are the times that the initial results disappoint, but potential remains and you wait  until the day inspiration finds you and one slight tweak leads to a stunning success.

The slightly cured "just long enough" version  that produced a thin savoury membrane over the luminous, raw yolk, naturally made us think of breakfast. Black pudding and streaky bacon. The debut performance of our slightly cured egg yolk was basically a bite sized breakfast complete with hollandaise sauce served in a potato basket. The black pudding component eventually got melded into a delicious croquette, which in turn lent itself very well to our homemade raisin chutney.

And then came the day we asked “What should we do with these asparagus that won't last much longer?”

Wrap them in proscuitto and serve them with a black pudding croquette and the lonely cured egg yolks. Obviously.

It writes itself.

Notes from the Kitchen… Songs of Innocence & Experience

Delicious animal face parts. . . Many people would argue that these words should never be spoken together. But have you ever tried a braised Irish lamb cheek? Or beef sweetbreads covered in a Cashel Blue Cheese sauce? Many people haven’t. And even for those who have, they may not be at the top of the list when ordering off a menu. . . so it’s a good thing we don’t have a menu!

This wasn’t always the case. When we started the process of taking over the kitchen at Roundwood from Hannah’s mother, the meals she prepared seemed like they would be impossible for me to reproduce on my own. Rosemarie had spent years in that kitchen honing her craft, perfecting recipes, and learning both the subtleties and the broad strokes required to deliver a crowd pleasing set menu.

She was a great teacher, but when she finally took off the apron, the combination of my limited experience and a fear of deviating from her winning formula, meant I that cooked somebody else's food for a lot of years.

I don’t say that as a bad thing. It was absolutely necessary. I was not Rosemarie. I had never had a job in my life that didn't involve a guitar. I needed to practice. And to do that, I needed Rosemarie’s play book.

Fast forward to today. Rosemarie’s Parsnip and Cashew Nut Terrine is still a front runner. But things are changing in Ireland. Attitudes towards food aren’t what they were twenty years ago, or even ten years ago. Palates have evolved, and very conveniently evolved at the same pace that I’ve learned how to cook.

And with time grows confidence, and almost a decade at Roundwood has really taught me what this county has to offer. When I replaced the beef in Rosemarie’s bourguignon with Mick Keegan’s Laois-raised lamb cheeks, I finally started to feel free to improvise. Started to feel like it was becoming my kitchen. It’s now one of our most popular dishes. Check out the recipe below:

Lamb Bourguignon

lamb cheeks (or substitute beef cheeks)  600 g (about 20 cheeks)
bacon: coarsely chopped 100 g
button mushrooms: quartered 100 g
shallots: quartered 100 g
red wine 0.5 litre
beef stock 1 litre
garlic: minced to taste
rosemary & thyme: finely chopped to taste
salt & pepper to taste

Clean the fat and sinew from the cheeks. Season and sear in a very hot pan. Deglaze the pan with some of the wine and transfer cheeks into roasting pan. Add garlic, herbs, seasoning, and the rest of the wine. Cover with beef stock. Cover the pan with tinfoil, and braise at 350° for 1½ hours or until meat is tender.

In a separate pan, cook bacon until crispy. Add to cheeks. Cook the mushrooms and onions in the bacon fat. Again add to cheeks.

You may need to reduce the sauce some more once all ingredients are added. Just place the roasting pan on the stove, and reduce until you get the desired consistency. It should be dark, rich and gooey.

It’s also important to note that the beef stock, made here at Roundwood, takes about 48 hours to prepare. When using shop bought stock for this recipe, be sure to look for an unsalted product.

An Idyllic Escape with Food Worth Fixating Over, The Taste, Darina Coffey, September, 2017

A Hidden Ireland gem you simply must uncover... In this country of hidden gems and uncovered treasures, hopping in the car and taking the road less traveled is always a fantastic idea. That road, for me, veered off the familiar N7 to Mountrath, a tiny County Laois village about which I had heard very little, apart from whispers from ardent food lovers of uncharted culinary territory. After a surprisingly painless drive, just an hour and a half after leaving Dublin, I navigate a winding tree-lined driveway through an enchanting forest to arrive at what can only be described as a Palladian villa, the 300 year old Roundwood House awaits. A member of the prestigious Hidden Ireland portfolio, I was about to find out just why the 33 member properties are so sought after. Owner Hannah greets you at the grand double doors and children’s shoes line the entrance way, you are being welcomed into someone’s home, but certainly not your neighbour’s two up two down. A double height entrance hallway is breathtaking in baby blue, with a mahogany round table centre-piece of fresh cut flowers and goodies from local artisan producers proudly on display in every corner. The personal touch, that genuine warmth, is an element of a property which can’t easily be faked and within minutes of my arrival I’m perched by the open fire, settling in and drinking in the ambiance of a historical house bursting with character and charm. Handmade oat flapjacks and coffee follow swiftly and the phones are set aside to simply unwind in the moment. Paddy, Hannah’s husband, co-host and chef, comes to greet me and tells me enthusiastically that he has been hard at work in the kitchen, with a group of chef friends helping him put together tonight’s five course surprise feast. I can’t but peruse the menu ahead of visiting a restaurant, but Paddy is giving nothing away about what will appear on the list of locavore delights later in the evening, building quiet anticipation. As Paddy and co work their magic in the kitchen, an afternoon of wandering the grounds and lounging without the white noise of modern life lay ahead of me, and I couldn’t have been more content. Roundwood has ten guest rooms, four of which are in the main house, and my Yellow Room, just up the grand staircase which dominates the entrance hall was true to its heritage in every way, lovingly restored rather than renovated. The presence of a fireplace harked back to the room’s original state and as would come to be a theme throughout my stay, a selection of books sat atop a handsome dressing table, willing me to dive in. The entire house is dotted with bulging bookcases rather than plasma TVs and wifi routers, reminding you that pleasures of the past can be just what the doctor ordered to escape the pace of life we all tend to keep these days. As it was a mercifully dry day, strolling through the cobbled courtyard, stopping to pet Rococo the golden retriever, admiring ducks and being mildly terrified by a plucky and inquisitive hen was the perfect way to while away an afternoon in nature. Roundwood’s extensive grounds are storybook beautiful, I sigh to myself, even before I clap eyes on the piece de resistance – A Beauty and the Beast-esque library. Spread over two levels, with ample armchairs in cosy corners, The History of the Evolution of Civilisation library is packed wall to wall with everything from Fisk’s tome on the Middle East to the Book of Kells. This enchanting space is couched in exposed brick, with beautiful brass lighting fixtures hanging from exposed beam-lined arched ceilings. I couldn’t help but feel like this space, in its sumptuous solitude, was luxurious in a way no hotel, five star or otherwise, has ever compared to. Reluctantly leaving the library, the aroma of all kinds of deliciousness greeted me at the doorway and filled the main house, beckoning guests to the dining room for the centerpiece of our stay – a dining experience to remember. As a Hidden Ireland property, guests can sit at a communal table to further the homely ambiance and in this case, despite being dotted all around the grand red-walled dining room, conversation flowed between guests immediately, something you just don’t get in a hotel dining setting. A couple who married at Roundwood mere months earlier and a family of four, their children now teens whose childhood holidays were spent here, were fantastic gauges of Roundwood’s enduring charm. “There aren’t enough superlatives, it must be my 10th time here” I’m told, and they speak of Paddy, Hannah and their kids like old friends and reminisce about many a session in the drawing room post dinner. Unburdened by choice, our starter was one of the most more-ish lamb dishes I have enjoyed in recent times- a wispy crisp of lamb crackling sat atop melting slow braised Lamb Cheeks with sweet velvety parsnip and a herbaceous mint chimichurri. Simple and ample as this was, every mouthful was to be savoured and I would have eaten it four times over – a triumphant start indeed. For our second starter, meaty Oyster Mushrooms are crispy fried and umami rich, and the heady scent of truffle lingers in the air. Leaves shouldn’t be exciting, but here they shone, freshly plucked from the garden hours before. Finished with a Mossfield cheddar crisp, which added to the intense savoury edge of the dish as well as providing pleasing crunch, this was a plate of simple ingredients with incredibly tasty results. Clever balance and emphasis on fantastic ingredients becomes the obvious order of the day by the time an ample main course of Sirloin of Beef arrives. Homegrown produce is a common theme, but Paddy tells me one of the girls who works here grew the asparagus – I’ll allow it, charred and grassy against blushing pink beef and magenta sweet beetroot puree with a dash of piquant horseradish. Seductively simple and entirely satisfying. The sound of greedy scraping of plates punctuates the evening – although each of the five courses are generous in size, there is a shared feeling that leaving any go to waste would be a travesty. “Does anyone feel like cheese?” chimes Paddy, emerging from the kitchen once our demolished mains are cleared – that most wonderful of propositions. What a happy girl I was to be presented with a quadrant of quality Irish Artisan Cheese alongside homemade sesame crackers and a pot of Hannah’s mother’s own green tomato chutney. Mossfield Cheddar (Bruce Springsteen’s favourite, Paddy tells me) sat next to one of my favourites, Crozier Blue, Little Milk Company brie and the jewel in the crown of Irish farmhouse cheese, the ever distinctive and ever enjoyable Milleens made up an expertly curated cheeseboard worth lingering over. A final flourish of a Chocolate Cup, filled with a scoop of homemade craisin and Cognac ice cream – that’s rum and raisin with added oomph – put my sweet tooth to bed and ushered me towards my room after what had been a thoroughly enjoyable dinner which alone was worth booking in for. The fact that Paddy is not a formally trained chef baffles me, but not unlike the gifted Kevin Murphy of ídas in Dingle, he is innately connected to his ingredients and committed to helping them shine. This carries through to a simple yet scrumptious breakfast, which begins with stewed rhubarb from the garden with local curd and granola and freshly squeezed orange juice. A French press of good coffee later (something which has proven elusive to even the finest hotels), and having sworn I was still full after last night’s extravaganza I had made good inroads into one of the better full Irish breakfasts I’ve enjoyed, all sourced from local farmer and butcher Mick Keegan, with two plump and perfectly poached eggs and more of that excellent green tomato preserve. Worth it. Lamenting that the rest of my day couldn’t include lingering in the library and saying my goodbyes, I reflected on the words of a fellow guest, he who comes year in year out – “three days at Roundwood is worth a week anywhere else in the world.” Utter tranquility, inimitable original charm and a welcome as warm and inviting as an open fire after a winter’s trek in the neighbouring Slieve Bloom mountains combined with an exceptional culinary offering, Roundwood is a feast for the eyes and the (hungry) soul – a Hidden Irish gem you simply must uncover.