Happy Halloween!

We’re off to the Untied States for at autumn tour. First on the list is a visit to the Washington DC area to meet my first grandchild! I’ll be making the Halloween chili at my daughter Katie’s place in Silver Spring, Maryland this year.

And I’ll be blogging from the road for awhile.

Sadly, we won’t be home to celebrate Day of the Dead this year. We usually have a big party and drink a lot of mescal.

But we built the altar anyway. It’s a pretty strong tradition, once you get started. It just feels wrong to ignore your friends and family that have passed, just because you won’t be home.

So we lit some candles and had some toasts before we left for our US holiday and we will, no doubt, have a few more gatherings around the Dia de los Muertos ofrenda before we take it down.

Just before I left Ireland, I stopped over in Dublin to attend the Irish Food Writing Awards dinner. The charming Corinna Hardgrave, the Irish Times restaurant reviewer, was seated to my right at Table 5. We had a great time discussing the Irish restaurant scene and the highs and lows of being a restaurant critic.

I was asked to judge two categories this year, Seafood Writing and Food Blogs. The Seafood Writing Award went to Janine Kennedy, a transplanted Canadian who works as a dairy farmer in Tipperary when she’s not writing about food. Appropriately enough, her work appears in Farmers Journal. One of the articles I judged was about an oyster farm in Sligo that offers tours.

Glenmar Shellfish, a wholesaler in West Cork, sponsored the seafood writing award. The company’s CEO, Diarmuid O’Donavan, was seated to my left. We had a lot to talk about as well including fish species and the worldwide market for Irish fish and shellfish.

Being the author of Sex, Death & Oysters was one of my qualifications for judging the seafood awards. Diarmuid and I discussed the role that Irish edulis oysters play in the world market.

Ireland supplies European flat oysters to famous European oyster appellations where they are dunked in the local waters and then rechristened with prestigous names like “Belon” and “Colchester.” But don’t get me started, I could write a book.

Glenmar Shellfish supplied the crabmeat for the sensational “Crab Tian” that was served as the dinner’s first course. It was so pretty, it was hard to get started eating it. But I eventually got hungry and mucked up the luscious pile of cold crabmeat and creamy topping and spread it on slices of sourdough.

The Food Blog award was won by The Botanical Cuisine Digest, a student-written publication. Visit the website for more info.