Think of afternoon tea, and a cake stand of stereotypes springs to mind. Stuffy rooms; squiffy customers with pinkies raised; bland clotted cream and crustless sandwiches.
Afternoon delight? Afternoon anaesthesia, more like.
Taking tea at Limerick Strand Hotel recently, however, I got something very different.
Sure, the cake stand was tiered. But it came layered with local treats - from finger sandwiches filled with the hotel's own baked ham to smoked cheddar from the Old Irish Creamery in Kilmallock, from Burren Smokehouse salmon to Bally goats' cheese.
A 'Smokey Breakfast Tea' was blended together with Cahill's Tea shop on Wickham Street. Desserts included Attyflin apple panna cotta and a toffee pudding created with head chef Tom Flavin's take on the famous Cleeve's toffee recipe.
Talk about place on a plate.
Look at this tribute to Limerick by @FlavinTom at the @LimerickStrand hotel. Afternoon tea celebrating local ingredients and producers, including his own take on Cleve's toffee, and a special blend from Cahill's Tea. â¬26.50pp. #thisisIrishfood pic.twitter.com/Hzndb6gmyp— PÃ³l Ã Conghaile (@poloconghaile) January 12, 2020
Sitting in a space overlooking the River Shannon and Limerick City, learning about local producers as I ate, smelling and tasting a cornucopia of teas, it dawned on me that this was an immersive experience that literally couldn't happen anywhere else.
That's why food is so important in travel - engaging the senses, telling stories, creating feelings that last long after specifics fade.
As Ireland gets more expensive and destination choices grow, our flourishing food and drink scene is a brilliant way to offer visitors truly unique experiences... memories they can only make here.
The Limerick Strand isn't alone in rebooting this fusty institution. The Westbury in Dublin has done afternoon teas inspired by graduate designs from NCAD, Vintage Tea Trips does city tours on Routemaster buses, and The Merrion has an 'Art Tea' based on its collection.
For a 184-bed four-star, though, such a creative investment can't be easy. Flavin's kitchen is busy, catering not just to drop-ins but guests, weddings, meetings and events. Generic food can be cheaper and easier to source, yet they've come up with a local twist that costs €26.50pp (2-4pm; strandhotellimerick.ie) - half the price of many top-end teas.
How long did it take Flavin to put it together?
"About 20 years," he says.
That's not a joke. This chef may be modest, but he's a super ambassador for Irish food and an enlightened manager of young chefs. He has spent years building a network of local suppliers, and his Limerick Afternoon Tea is a vibrant expression of that.
"We're lucky to have so many producers that care in Limerick," as he said at last week's Limerick brand launch, drawing attention to the county's unheralded food scene. "All I do is cook it."
I think he's done a little more.