The culinary tourists went home happy

          Carla Blake

   welcomes Noreen Kinney

        back to Ireland

ell done to Noreen Kinney who is very effective in passing on her passion about Irish food, through her websites:
Noreen Kinney, centre, leading a group of Americans and Canadians on a tour of the Cork Butter Museum.                                                                                                                    Picture: Neil Danton/News Digital
Noreen was a well known culinary personality here in the 1970s and ‘80s. She wrote for the Irish Weekly Examiner before leaving in November 1990 to live in Florida, where she is still very active under the title of Cordon d’ Or Cuisine.  She has many fans throughout the US and Canada.
I met this very pleasant group with Noreen – whom I’d known in those far-off days in Cork – during one of their designated tour stopovers, at SeaStar in Curraglass, Co. Cork, which has received two Best of Irish Food awards from the Guild of Irish Food Writers, for its smoked salmon and whole cooked salmon.
The touring party was taken on an information tour of the premises, which gave a particularly good insight into the strict hygiene regulations required in food production in Ireland nowadays.
Afterwards, we all sat down to a delicious lunch of various SeaStar products, which resulted in a chorus of appreciative ‘ooohs’ and ‘aahs’ from these serious visiting foodies.
  They enjoyed the salmon sensation spread with dill and cucumber on crackers, the smoked salmon, the seafood chowder, whole cooked salmon subtly flavoured with dill and lemon and served with hollandaise sauce, crab claws and mouth-watering flaked crab meat, all served with salads and homemade mayonnaise.
It seems that most of their Irish culinary tour stops were equally successful, judging from the responses of many of the “tourists” I spoke to. They all agreed that Noreen who’d made most of the arrangements and accompanied them, was a very good organizer and had added greatly to their enjoyment.
They’d spent their first day in Dublin seeing the sights and making a most interesting visit to Bord Bia, where they learned about traditional Irish foods, including Irish soda bread, and the evolution of the Irish cheese industry. They also dropped in to the Guinness brewery, where they had a ball.
Their subsequent coach tour included Wexford and Wicklow, the Garden of Ireland, where they enjoyed a stay at Tinakilly Country House.
In Co. Tipperary, they checked into the Cashel Palace Hotel, which also lived up to their high expectations.
En route, they visited several well-known Irish food producers and sampled their wares.
I’m always fascinated to hear “from the horse’s mouth” how what we in Ireland have to offer our tourists measures up.  Almost all of this group mentioned the hands-on cooking fun they had at the Ballynocken Cookery school in Wicklow; and their visit in the same county to the Orchard Centre, a dairy farm which produces some of the cream for Bailey’s Cream Liqueur, where the visitors loved the contented looking cows.
They were also very impressed by the pride and commitment of the Grubb family, who make Cashel Blue cheese.
“How could you pick something you’ve enjoyed the most, when it’s all been so outstanding?” was the response of Alice Meeter, a retired teacher.
“But the things which immediately come to mind are the wonderful fresh food, beautiful scenery and the fact that the Irish have been so friendly,” she said.
Marilyn Kostin from Kalamazoo, a cookery teacher, said she was surprised that we in Ireland seem to serve food that isn’t processed in any way, high quality, freshly cooked and good to eat.
Kenneth Shackell, a retired engineer, who is English, said the food was exceptionally good, and everyone he had met here had been very pleasant, and that he’d thoroughly enjoyed the entire trip.
Carol Penn Romine from Los Angeles, a writer, chef and a culinary tour guide, said everything they’d seen and done and eaten in Ireland was so special, and the welcome was so genuine, that she hopes to organize a culinary tour of this country herself.
She’s already been in touch with me about it since she got home.

Carol Blomstrom of San Diego said, “I’m so happy with everything. People have been so friendly to us, I just love it.”

Parisa Ambwani from Danville, California, said she felt very in tune with the food culture here: “It’s so visceral, the vegetables in particular are always garden fresh, and several of the producers we’ve met are so passionate and excited about what they’re doing, and about using high quality fresh ingredients, that the simplest of dishes are full of flavour and need no dressing.”
Susan Bugeja from Toronto said she’s always loved cooking, is very interested in good food and enjoyed the trip to the full, but that, speaking generally, the perception in Canada is that Irish food is not good.
“Ireland doesn’t get much mention in the press or in current events programmes, and most of what there is occurs around St. Patrick’s Day. Apart from that, you’d be amazed at the ignorance about your country of the average Canadian,” she revealed, adding that it might be a good idea for the Irish Tourist Board to organize effective publicity highlighting Ireland as a fantastic tourist destination.
Last but not least, before they went on their way to spend the final three nights of their tour at Acton’s Hotel in Kinsale, I spoke to John O’Neill, the group’s coach driver, of O’Connor Autotours, Killarney.
He was obviously well liked and respected by his passengers, and he is doing a great deal for Irish tourism in his own way.
  “I’ve been doing coach tours for many years, and standards have improved so much that nowadays, when we stop at a hotel for lunch, and they ask, “Is the food good here?”, I feel so confident that I say, “If you don’t find it good, I’ll pay for it myself,” and nobody has ever held me to that,” he said.
  He, too, agreed that Noreen had organized a hugely successful tour.
I’m told that this very pleasant group of tourists from the US and Canada also greatly enjoyed their stay in Kinsale, where they used Acton’s Hotel as a comfortable base, while experiencing several of the town’s famous restaurants.
They travelled by coach through beautiful Cork scenery to the Heritage Museum in Cobh, and Irish Distillers in Midleton (where they sampled Jameson’s Whiskey).
They had a guided tour of the Ballymaloe Cookery School and gardens, and very much enjoyed a short presentation by the Irish Examiner’s Regina Sexton, food historian, who joined them for dinner at the famous Overdraught pub in Tracton.

Noreen Kinney’s culinary tourists at the Cork Butter Museum

On their last day in Ireland, they had a glimpse into our food history at the only Butter Museum in the world, in Cork city, and spent a happy morning exploring the English Market, which once again came as a revelation to them of what Irish food is all about.
That was followed by a lovely lunch at the Farm Gate restaurant, and topped off by visits to Blarney Castle and the Blarney Woollen Mills, before they returned to Kinsale to pack for their flight home early the following morning.
Congratulations Noreen, for giving these visitors a very comprehensive culinary tour of Ireland.
THURSDAY, NOVEMBER 23, 2006                                                                                

Written testimonials from the

Culinary Professionals group

who were on the

Irish Culinary Tour


My very sincere thanks to one and all who were on the Irish Culinary Tour. It was a great honor and privilege to show my beautiful country to you, and I thoroughly enjoyed the wonderful time we spent together over the 8 days. For me too, it created a memory to last a lifetime. I will treasure the cards, testimonials, gifts and photographs of our visit to Ireland. My very sincere thanks to the Sponsors who made it possible for us to enjoy such incredible, often unique experiences; and for their superb Irish hospitality for which Ireland is famous. Also, thanks to the many others we met, who showered us with their genuine kindness and friendship. Many in the group frequently commented on the sincerity, friendliness and helpfulness they encountered everywhere in Ireland. They were amazed and delighted. Thanks also to John O’ Neill who made the tour so entertaining while he drove us around the southern parts of Ireland; And to Jay Warren, Tour Operator in Pennsylvania, who worked with me to ensure the logistics of the tour were in order. Both Jay and John did an excellent job to ensure that everything fell into place for our group.

Noreen Kinney

Pioneer - New Irish Cuisine (1960-1985)

Culinary Ambassador for Ireland


This trip has been amazing. It has given me such an appreciation for all things Irish. It brought me back to my roots……..SB - Canada

I am thrilled to have been able to travel on this most exciting culinary Tour of Ireland with you. It has been an amazing, delightful, fabulous and educational experience, for which I am most grateful for your wonderful efforts in making this happen. You are a very caring, special lady, and I feel very blessed to have met you. Thank you from the bottom of my heart for making a dream come true. Thanks for the memories…..RMG - Canada

Such a nice crowd of people to share such an unusual holiday! I have thoroughly enjoyed the whole tour….KS - UK

Thank you for a fabulous trip. I hope you enjoy wearing this gift at a Cordon d’ Or event, and think of us when you do. May God smile on you.,,,,, SB & RMG

The Culinary trip to Ireland will be one of my treasured memories. Your wealth of knowledge regarding Ireland and Irish food has been mind boggling, and your many anecdotes so fascinating. It was also enriching to meet your friends and colleagues in Ireland. The food history lecture by Regina Sexton was a highlight….MK - Michigan, USA

I wish it could have been just a few days longer to see a few more things. We ate superbly. We could never have had this experience on our own. Marilyn and I thank you from the bottom of our hearts for your planning, your knowledge and your graciousness. We have felt like your guests in Ireland….JK -

Michigan, USA

It was a great trip in all respects. Many thanks!......DB - Canada

I’m so grateful for the opportunity to take this trip. Thanks so much for all the introductions, and an opportunity to join in the commentary on the bus. Overall, it was a lovely trip. Having the Sponsorships enabled us to do so much more than we could have otherwise. What I liked best and enjoyed most – Ballyknocken School, The Orchard Center – Baileys and Cashel Blue….CPR - Hollywood, California, USA

Thank you for a wonderful trip. You are a generous gracious host, and a great Ambassador of this lovely country and its delicious food traditions. All our meals were very good, and I think that the heritage of the cuisine was aptly demonstrated. I particularly enjoyed Ballyknocken Cookery School, the Jameson Distillery, Dinner with Regina Sexton (and her talk); and also Peter at the Butter Museum. Even our days on the bus were fun with your anecdotes, John’s stories, and the company of the other guests – a good group? Carol and I hope to make many more trips to Ireland. Perhaps we’ll see you over there again, but our tour with you will be with us always. Many thanks to you too for organizing our special 9th anniversary celebration, it made it quite special….APR - Hollywood, California, USA

We enjoyed everything thoroughly! The Irish are too generous with their food and drink. I did not want to waste food, but I just could not finish everything I was given, regardless of how good it was. I can’t thank Noreen and all of Ireland enough for a great tour….GC & AL - San Diego, California, USA

It is impossible to express how wonderful this trip has been! I am so impressed with Ireland, and we were blessed to see the loving passion of the people. It can only mean great things for the future of the 40 shades of green. Because of the many years of dedication you have put into Irish cuisine, I feel we received the benefit of royal treatment. Thank you so very much! Your thoughtful planning gave us the privilege of seeing so many fantastic sites, and eating so much top, over the top food. You are the best! With admiration, again, thank you, thank you, thank you!.....AM - West Virginia, USA

Thank you so much for the “fabulous” introduction and tour of Ireland and its food culture. The aprons that said “Ireland – An Island of Food” are so true. I had a wonderful time, and the tour exceeded my already high expectations. A “fabulous” culinary tour, I think it was the best I have been on. You did an outstanding job, and I think everyone on the tour appreciated all your skillful work. The food was worthy of a “culinary tour”. I have great memories, and just wanted to thank you again. Thank you!.... CB - San Diego, California, USA

This trip to Ireland was excellent. I can’t explain it by words. Thank you for your efforts and knowledge. My new experiences on Ireland were unique and super. It is a lovely country, lovely people and delicious food. Thank you!….PA -

San Francisco, California, USA

I agree with everyone that it was a “successful” and “wonderful” Culinary Tour of Ireland. I for one really loved it. John, our driver made it even more enjoyable. My favorite visits were to Ballyknocken Cookery School, with lots of fun cooking and eating the lunch we made. My second favorite visit was to Bord Bia with the demos and lunch plus the cheese demo. Third is the Orchard and Baileys Irish Cream. I enjoyed meeting all the lovely people, and the “Cows”. The lunch was excellent. I enjoyed the visit to Jameson’s Distillery, and not least, the dinner at the Overdraught where we met Regina Sexton. The visit to the English Market and our lunch at the Farm Gate upstairs was wonderful too. But, I enjoyed ALL the rest as well. Extra down time spent in Kinsale is a must for your next tour. The four hotels were very comfortable, and the dining in the evenings was superb. All venues were different, all very clean, comfortable, and each one perfect for their settings. Much Aloha!....SB - Seattle, Washington, USA

Once again, another note to thank you for providing a splendid culinary adventure for us in Ireland. Andy and I both enjoyed it immensely. It was wonderful to meet so many people who are so keenly interested in spreading the Gospel of Good Irish Food! And, we both feel like we’ve built friendships that will reach beyond the tour itself….. CPR & APR - Hollywood, Callifornia, USA

I loved the 18 folks that we had on our tour, and I think it is a perfect size. Again I want to thank you for an amazing time. I loved the trip….. CB - San Diego, California, UA

I think the three visits connected with drinks were the highlights for me – Baileys, Guinness and Irish Distillers. As for the hotels, I think they were all very good. The tour length was just about right. I can’t think of any way you could have improved the itinerary. It was all excellent, and most enjoyable….KS - UK

Our favorites were Bord Bia, Ballyknocken Cookery School, The Orchard Center, especially going out to see the Baileys Ladies! Also Cashel Blue Cheese. Both the Orchard and Cashel Blue gave us some good insight into the importance placed on the responsible production of dairy products and the pride these people take in creating quality food. It was a good tour length – any shorter and we wouldn’t have had the fullness of experience that made the tour strong; any longer might have taxed people’s energy and enthusiasm. Overall, I thought the tour was excellent, and I’m so glad I was able to go on it. Thank you Noreen…… CR - Burbank, California, USA

Everyone really enjoyed the Culinary Tour of Ireland, and found it all so interesting, with so many varied activities and excellent food. It was wonderful to meet everyone. They are a great group and everyone got along so well together. I thoroughly enjoyed their company. MF - Ireland

It was a wonderful tour, and I heard nothing but good reports from everyone. It is a wonderful achievement Noreen. Congratulations! I loved the visit to Irish Distillers, and the delicious Irish Stew ‘a la Jameson’…..RR - Ireland

I was glad to meet you and the people on the Tour, who plainly enjoyed themselves and were very impressed with Food Ireland. Everyone said what a wonderful time they were having. Well done Noreen, and all good wishes…Carla B - Ireland

Noreen….Looking forward to driving you around again when you come back again to Ireland….John O’Neill - Killarney, Ireland

Many thanks, and our sincere appreciation for all of your hard work in putting together this most wonderful Irish culinary experience. As Catherine Fulvio said: “Only Noreen could get Sponsorships for us all.” Thank you so much…… This card was signed by the 18 people in the tour group, and had several written comments too, (seen below). It was presented with a gift to Noreen.

What a memory…..Thank you, thank you so much! ….. Absolutely Fabulous. The best culinary tour I have ever been on …. Such a wonderful value and tour ….. Thank you Noreen …. So nice to have the opportunity to meet you again after all these years. It has been wonderful ….. Many thanks for a great trip and all the special introductions! ...... My most sincere thanks for a most memorable experience in my life. You are a “Gem”. Good Bless and love ..…. Words cannot describe how wonderful this trip has been ..…. Best wishes always ….. Incredible, unforgettable tour of Ireland ….. Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!


Noreen Kinney organized a great trip

She took us around Ireland real quick

Not once did she fuss

She took great care of us

Best Tour of Ireland – this is the one I would pick

John O’ Neill - 6th October, 2006


The Limerick was written for the group by John O’Neill


Bord Bia, The Irish Food Board, sent the following Testimonial to Noreen in October 2002, a couple of years prior to Noreen initiating plans for a Culinary Tour of Ireland.

'Thanks especially for those complimentary remarks about what Bord Bia has achieved to date. We cannot claim full credit. A lot of people - not least your good self, who pioneered the whole movement - and some brilliant chefs and food writers have contributed so much towards the changes in the Irish food scene.'