It is Thanksgiving in the good old US of A today. A time to sit back, reflect on life and things to be thankful for – including having a nice dinner in the company of family and friends. Combining your contemplative thoughts with a substantial meal might remove the guilt of eating too much – but alas, not the calories! We recently attended an event in Ireland that also combines thought and reflection with entertainment and a good meal: “Food, Folklore & Fairies”.
FF&F takes place in Dublin’s oldest pub, the Brazen Head. It is an easy 15 minute stroll west from Trinity College, to give you an idea. You can walk through the lively Temple Bar area, hotbed of pubs, music and late evening fun, or along the River Liffey. If it’s raining (it’s been known to happen in Ireland), take a brolly or just grab a cab or summon an Uber, available in Dublin these days (at the time of writing, no Lyft yet). If not, and you’re early, grab a drink in their nice courtyard! FF&F is held daily year-round, with a more limited schedule of just Thursdays and Saturdays in January and February.
The evening starts at 7pm but, it’s recommended to arrive 20-30 minutes early to get seated and place your order timely. Yes, “adult beverages” are served: you’re in a pub, after all! The event room is cosy, intimate, almost like someone’s home, upstairs right above the pub. The seating is family style at long tables or rounds. Say hi to your table mates and before you know it, you have a night of easy camaraderie and perhaps even new friends. The room does get hot with so many people in it, and the guests along the perimeter opened some windows for fresh and cool air. And this was October!
The audience was a varied mix of families, youngsters, elderly folks, honeymooners and a dozen nationalities, with or without Irish ancestry, from Americans to Canadians to Eastern Europeans to Australians, all having a grand time. Hmm, I do think Australians have a grand time no matter where they are and what they do. An admirable people in my book, much like the Irish.
And don’t just take my word for it that spending the evening at FF&F is an excellent use of funds and vacation time: TripAdvisor reviewers agree! While I always approach reviews with some trepidation – check the source, check the review date especially on negative reviews – Food, Folklore & Fairies scored as Dublin’s Number One Dinner Theatre 2011-2016, and that’s impressive!
FF&F is not touristy or campy by any means. It’s fun and informative, yet has a more serious and occasionally sobering side to it, as befits Ireland’s past. Storyteller Michael was knowledgeable, full of enthusiasm, energetic and proud of his country and heritage. He was moving, almost dancing through the room, turning in all directions so all guests could hear and see him equally.
Michael took us through centuries of Irish history, bringing to life the ancient fairies still influencing life today and describing the Great (potato) Famine of 1845-1847 when Ireland lost almost a quarter of its population. The country still hasn’t fully made up for that loss, even today. Then again, this being Ireland, resilient, cheerful and alive with a hearty, warm and welcoming people, the lighter moments dominate, and laughter abounds throughout the evening. Check out the Food, Folklore & Fairies website to see who the storytellers are, the evening’s format and other fun and useful information.
The mesmerizing storytelling is alternated with some great musical entertainment too, uplifting foot-stomping fun, very Irish. Wild Rover, anyone? They’ll teach you how to get the clapping right! My apologies for the poor pictures by the way: flash photography during the event is a no no of course, and even a high ISO setting was not enough to “freeze” Michael! He was intense – yet broke things up with a lighthearted quip and Irish humor.
The 3-course meal itself is traditional Irish with lots of menu choices: a soup, chicken salad or fish cakes appetizer; 5 menu options for a Main: usually Beef & Guinness Stew, Traditional Irish Lamb & Potato Stew, Bacon & Cabbage, Salmon or a Vegetarian option. There’s even a Children’s Menu, as it’s just fine to take wee Johnny or Mary along for this outing. And then there’s dessert: Traditional Apple Pie or Chocolate Cake, for those able to handle more food! Servers attend to the tables during breaks in the presentation, taking drink replenishment orders. Your booking includes the dinner, and your drinks get ticketed throughout the evening, payable at the end.
Afterwards, you can go downstairs for another drink in the busy Brazen Head – musicians were setting up there when we came down – or hang out in their outside courtyard, a good alternative to the crowded and hot inside. Alternatively, pop into one of the many watering holes in Temple Bar, music everywhere, or just stroll back to your lodgings while taking in the street life and call it a day.
Whatever you do next, I hope you will reflect on Michael’s stories about Ireland’s often troubled yet always fascinating history, as well as the indomitable spirit of the Irish. Food, Folklore & Fairies gave us a rare combination of memorable, educational and thoroughly enjoyable entertainment over an evening among a wonderful people, and I for one am thankful.
So, American subscribers, I wish you a wonderful Thanksgiving today, whether you use the original menu or not. And to all others: no moping about having to go to work instead! Just be thankful you even have a job to go to: like food, folklore, fairies, friends and family, it’s not something to ever take for granted….
DISCLAIMER: My travel blog “Con’s Corner” takes a sometimes irreverent look at 4+ decades of travel in the British Isles. My trips are real: no months of staging the perfect photo, no waiting for the perfect weather, no Photoshopping, no promo story in exchange for a freebie: I pay full fare. It’s true travel. Note that my opinions and views are not necessarily shared by the company. In fact, they may be shaking their heads. The photography is mine except where credited as noted, as are all typos, grammatical errors, and odd expressions. It’s a blog, people, not literature! I also accept full responsibility for any puns, varying on a scale from hilarious to ouch… Be all that as it may, I intend to keep at it until I get it right. Con Jager, Santa Rosa, USA.
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