One hundred thousand welcomes to my fifth blog about three of my passions — sustainability, event planning, and fine food and beverages.

Céad mile fáilte – one hundred thousand welcomes – are the words engraved in the atrium of the Convention Center Dublin. During our week working there, we came to realize that this was not just a tag line. The staff and the catering department of the center made our delegates and staff feel welcome, satiated and well taken care of.  While Irish Hospitality harkens back to the Celtic law of welcoming strangers, the CCD is ahead of its time. The CCD operations go above and beyond the environmental guidelines of the ISO 14,000. For a green event planner like me, that was the most welcoming part of the experience.

With its many curving streets, bridges, historic buildings and stunning views along the River Liffey, Dublin is a city is best travelled by foot.  After a long work day, and a bracing walk against the whipping wind and darkening sky, we are quite happy to enter the warm, wood-paneled Kehoe’s, an unpretentious and lively local pub.  And when the creamy-topped, ruby-red pint of Guinness arrives, and (in the words of James Joyce) the light music of fine Irish Whisky falls into a glass, we’ve arrived at the best part of the day. Pull up another stool, and I’ll order you a…

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Nitrogen tapped Guinness Draught and 12-year Redbreast Single Pot Irish Whiskey. Kehoe’s Pub, Dublin.

The spicy fire of George Bernard Shaw’s liquid sunshine cuts through the cold and warms you from the inside out. The velvety texture of the Guinness soothes the burn; the pleasantly bitter, subtly citrusy, hoppy beer is filling and comforting. Taken together, it’s almost as good as…umm…another thing mother didn’t tell me about. Bartender Luke is a gentleman about it, but apparently I have never been properly served…

 

Luke explains how well-crafted and fine vintage offerings need to be expertly handled to bring out their best qualities. The keg needs to rest after delivery, stored at a proper angle, and not tapped too soon or too late. The nitrogen tap is key, the smaller bubbles give Guinness its smooth and creamy texture. The beer is poured in two stages to create the luscious foamy top. It should be served at 4 degrees Celsius (39F); cool but warm enough to open the flavors.

A single pot, 12-year Irish whiskey, aged in a sherry cask, should never be molested with ice cubes, and although often served with a small pitcher of water, connoisseurs would advise to taste first before diluting. If needed, you may use your index finger to add a drop or two of water; the drops break the surface tension, coaxing out aromas and unleashing the complexities of the fine, amber vintage.

Convention Center Dublin and the Irish harp shaped Samuel Beckett Bridge

Convention Center Dublin and the Irish harp shaped Samuel Beckett Bridge

Ahh…and now that we are settled, let’s regale you with a few highlights from our week working in the Convention Center Dublin or The CCD.

The contemporary, barrel-shaped CCD is recognized as the first carbon neutral constructed convention center in the world. The glass facade brings in natural light and offers stunning views of the Dublin city center, the River Liffey and the Wicklow mountains. The five levels of meeting space, exhibit hall, and concert-grade auditorium make it an attractive and ideal convention setting.

It’s hard to sum up our excellent experiences working at the CCD. The event services staff were simply top notch; the AV and IT technicians professional and resourceful, the equipment and digital signage modern, the space clean and well laid out …but it’s the catering team that showed us what Irish Hospitality is all about.

Oscar Wilde once said, after a good dinner one can forgive anybody, even one’s own relations. After observing the catering excellence at the CCD, I’d respond with: when your delegates are satiated, the whole world is Irish. And that’s a really good thing.

The CCD bakes their bread and pastries in house. The homemade crusty bread and herbed butter made the staff so happy

The CCD bakes their bread and pastries in-house. The homemade crusty bread and herbed butter made the staff so happy.

The CCD catering team worked with our budget to provide a hot lunch each day. Creamy hot soups, a wide variety of flavorful salads; and healthy and fulfilling entrees. Last but not least, the CCD bakes all their bread and deserts in-house. The carrot cake with spiced cinnamon cream and the double chocolate mousse with cream and strawberries, call to mind Oscar Wilde when he said, “I can resist everything but temptation.”

No surprise, event evaluations were at an all time high. The attendees all loved the meals – and, to quote G.B. Shaw, there is no sincerer love than the love of food.

 

 

The catering was not just delicious and attractively served. The CCD follows the ISO 14,000, a series of environmental management standards developed and published by the International Organization for Standardization.  Here are some highlights of the environmental and social responsibility that is part of the catering team’s regular operations…

• The CCD aims to source 100% of their food from the emerald island. This not only supports local farmers and guarantees fresher food, but also involves less food miles, minimizing the fossil fuels used in transportation.

• Food labeling at buffet stations is a standard procedure; every dish is accompanied by a thorough list of all ingredients and known allergens.

• All serving ware is reusable, and we were delighted that included the “box” lunch containers, which were made from an extremely strong, lightweight and washable bamboo.

We green event planners can have a big influence on reducing our event’s environmental impact by requesting sustainable choices from a venue’s catering department. Sadly, it often feels like an uphill battle to educate, influence and persuade. Happily, the CCD team already gets it right. It was a markedly refreshing experience to arrive a venue and find they have already incorporated social and environmental values into their standard procedures. Thank you, CCD!

I have the simplest tastes. I am always satisfied with the best. (Oscar Wilde)

Every show we learn a few more tricks and tips, I’ll share a few with you:

InkCredible! Our excellent print broker Paddy Gallagher enlightened us about new eco-friendly ink products for signs and program guide printing. These inks have better color saturation, dry quickly and are smudge proof.

The Liquor Rooms – considered by some to be the best bar in Dublin. Order the Absinthe if you want a drink and a show, although our bartenders made the preparation of every drink a pleasure to watch.

Cheers, and may the road rise up to meet you!

Di