Ireland: The Fat Finding Mission

Flight Club: Ireland ’11

To encompass our mutual desire to travel more, my friends and I decided to start an informal group called Flight Club. Matt had never been out of the country and was dying to do so, Lindsay needed a vacation, a real vacation, Heather wanted an adventure to put to use all her multifaceted travel accessories, and I had not been out of the country since studying abroad, which dawned on me as being quite a while back in doggie years. Back to the real question—Why Ireland? Well, here’s the abridged version—They speak English there, Heather has been there several times, and Matt is a redhead. However, it was a conversation between Heather and me that brought the trip to fruition. She casually mentioned that on one of her previous trips she visited a place called Baltimore (in Ireland) and saw posters for a Fiddle Fair that had just passed. When she said this, I immediately became obsessed with going to this fiddle festival in Ireland. The seed was planted, and thus, began my campaigning for the trip. I made posters and PowerPoint’s, which turned out to be needless because everyone was game for getting out of dodge. So, the first trip of Flight Club was finalized…Ireland!

Expectation 1: Touch a baby sheep!

I’ll be honest and say that I was not really expecting such an exceptionally delicious food adventure in Ireland. I should also add that I had no real expectations, except to see and maybe touch a baby sheep. Luckily, our tour guide, Heather, and fearless navigator and driver, Lindsay, allowed us equally non-contributing members of Flight Club, Matt and myself, to all have over-the-top, fantabulous meals in Ireland. Yes, we did partake in the stereotypical Irish cuisine, like bangers and mash, fish and chips, and meat pies, but it was not necessarily those traditional foods that caused our mouths to water and our bellies to smile weeks after returning home. There were more than a few food destinations that I still dream about to this very day. Thanks to the awesome cameras and photography skills of Matt and Heather, I shall provide sufficient evidence that Ireland is not only a destination of beautiful scenery where sheep and castle ruins speckle the vibrant green countryside like boardgame pieces, but it is also a land where the appetite can be satiated and satisfied.

Those tiny white specks are sheep

Since the four of us share a love for all things food, Heather did some pre-trip research to assist in our pursuit of superb dining destinations by scavenging media outlets and consulting her travel guru, Mr. Rick Steves. Another means of stumbling upon edible gems was by asking the locals. Irish people are extremely nice and will most likely point you in the right direction of good eats. However, we learned to always ask women for directions because for some strange reason the men tended to give us directions that had us driving around and around roundabouts. Another thing to keep in mind is that Ireland closes whenever it feels like it. Just because a restaurant has a dinner menu does not necessarily mean that it will be open for dinner. Okay peeps, hold on to your seats and loosen your belt buckles because I’m about to take you on an unforgettable five-course meal, Irish-style.

First Course: Dublin

In Dublin with our new Dutch friend, Sofie

If you visit Ireland, you pretty much have to go to Dublin. However, regardless of what others may tell you, you do not have to visit to Limerick. Dublin is the quintessential Irish city. Everything there is old and beautiful. There are castles and churches dating back to the 13th century and a history that entails Viking raids and settlements. So yeah, apparently Vikings really existed and are not just a fun football team mascot, which gives me hope for the unicorn. Speaking of unicorns, Ireland has a thing for them. You can see unicorn symbols all over Ireland. In fact, the Lion and the Unicorn represent a time-honored symbol for the United Kingdom (which includes England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales). Enough about unicorns, let’s get back to the food.

Lindsay and I posing in the “artsy fartsy” courtyard at The Cake Café

While in Dublin, we ate breakfast at a little hidden café recommended by Bobby Flay, who recently did a television special on Ireland. I’m not joking about the café being tucked away. It was like trying to find Harry Potter’s Platform 9 ¾. After making all sorts of twists and turns down and up roads in Dublin, we finally stumbled down beautiful alleyway lined with bicycles to find The Cake Café. There we had a magical breakfast that included Soldiers and Eggs (strips of buttery toast served with a ramekin of poached eggs) and a pleasantly strong elixir, also known as coffee. My only complaint was that the buttery strips of toast were NOT actually shaped like soldiers. Since it is called The Cake Café, we could not help but indulge in dessert after breakfast with sampling of chocolate cake and lemon squares. (http://www.thecakecafe.ie/)

My tiny traveling companions enjoying some cake crumbs

Second Course: Beautiful Baltimore

Lindsay and the serenaders (sounds like a band name) at Glebe Gardens and Café

What else can I say about the quaint fishing town of Baltimore, but that it is Lindsay’s heaven on earth. This is where the entire Ireland trip began as a mere twinkle in my eye.  We scheduled our trip in order to be in Baltimore during the last day of the Fiddle Fair. That faithful day, we ate outside at the glorious Glebe Gardens and Café with the rare Irish sunshine on our backs, the food coming straight from the gardens surrounding us, and fiddles, banjos and other instruments serenading us. The atmosphere and food were as close to perfection as I have ever gotten. (http://www.glebegardens.com/)

A pasty (savory turnover filled with meat or fish) served with mixed greens,  marinated cucumbers and chutney

As a dessert selector connoisseur, Matt showed off his skills with the selection of this lemon meringue pie, his best work to date.

Third Course: Killarney

A “romantical” carriage ride through Killarney National Park

Ireland has amazing seafood, most of which is caught and prepared within a stone’s throw away. I had the best piece of salmon EVER in Killarney. Nothing really special as far as preparation was concerned, but it was in its simplicity that it exceeded deliciousness. The restaurant responsible for this mouth-dropping experience was Trevyvauds (http://www.treyvaudsrestaurant.com/). As a word of advice, always order the seafood chowder if offered…ALWAYS! While visiting Killarney, we also went to a ice cream place called Murphy’s, which has several locations throughout Ireland. Here we had our first taste of sea salt ice cream. Before you get weirded out about salty ice cream, think of yogurt pretzels with their sweet and slightly salty notes. The sea salt ice cream sundae served with caramel sauce and peanuts was a memory maker. (http://www.murphysicecream.ie/)

Heather and Matt enjoying Murphy’s sea salt ice cream

Forth Course: Dingle (It’s our kind of town)

I kissed a goat and I liked it

Besides being a funny name for a town and a forefront runner for the name of my first puppy, Dingle was another fishing town that tantalized all my senses. The people were exceptionally nice, and The Goat Street Café provided an incentive to return with its lunch special of hake fillet (type of fish) in a chili, coconut, and ginger broth and served with jasmine rice. (http://www.thegoatstreetcafe.com/)

Fifth Course: Gallway

Ard Bia at Nimmos Restaurant in the Spanish Arch

Our last supper tablescape at Ard Bia

Saving the best for last, our last meal in Ireland was the by far the best. Just like the scenery when driving, we kept thinking it couldn’t possibly get any better. Then we would round a turn and BOOM…there would be sheep in front of a castle in front of waterfall in front of a mountain. Ooh’s and ahh’s would ensue. The food was the same. We would have an exceptionally delicious meal, and then the next would totally trump the previous. While searching for a place to dine for our last supper in Ireland, we first embarked on disappointment. The restaurant we intended to go to “had closed down but served gorgeous food,” said the peppy jogger we questioned. Heather had Ard Bia at Nimmos Restaurant listed as another possible dining experience, and after discovering it had moved and then finding it, we sat down at 7:00 and did not leave until 10:30. We indulged ourselves in every possible course and beverage starting with smoked trout pate and wine, followed by individual entrees that included grilled brill (Me), spiced mayo lamb rump (Matt), a cured seatrout served with clam barley risotto (Heather) and a rib-eye steak with stout mustard (Lindsay), and then ending with coffee and a wide array of desserts—chocolate and Tuscan olive oil mousse (Me), pistachio ricotta cheesecake (Matt), rhubarb crumble (Heather) and lemon posset (Lindsay). It was the perfect end to a delicious trip. (http://ardbia.com/)

SIDENOTE: We drove in Ireland on the opposite side of the road and on the opposite side of the car. Correction—Lindsay drove in Ireland. Matt took the passenger seat position, which would actually be the driver’s seat here, and Heather and I occupied the backseat of the Volkswagen Golf, also known as Crumb Castle (reasoning follows). For the most part, driving in Ireland went rather smoothly. We only got lost a couple of times, but we did have an incident of almost running out of gas after seeing this beauty, the Cliffs of Moher…

Cliffs of Oh Sweet Mother

It was after 9 pm, and we had not eaten dinner yet. We were in search of a gas station because apparently 20 km on winding country roads is very different than 20 km on a highway. We were hungry, which at this point had never been an issue. We spent a majority of the trip full as ticks (as Matt loves to say). Luckily, being the always-prepared person that Heather is she had purchased a garlic cheese ball and crackers from Cheesemongers in the last town. We finally found a gas station, but finding food proved to be impossible at that particular hour and location, Middle of Nowhere. Alas, we succumbed to eating that garlicky ball of goodness as a celebratory snack for finding a gas station. This feasting made the car smell like a garlic sock and left the backseat known as Crumb Castle for the remainder of the trip. As the messy snackers that we are, Heather and I knighted ourselves as Lady Crumbly and Princess Crumbleton of the lavish Crumb Castle. And everyone lived happily ever after.

The end.

 This blog is brought to you by—Trish! and our hero Rick Steves…

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4 Comments »

  1. Lady Crumbly (AKA Heather) said

    Nice spot of writing, Princess Crumbly. I ALMOST don’t care how nerdy and sloppy I am portrayed because I value humor above all else.

  2. Stefany said

    Sounds like you had a delicious time!! I’m so happy for you guys. 🙂

  3. Meghan said

    Yay for an update!!! Was hoping it would be about the Land of Ire! Keep it up.

  4. Scott said

    Awesome pics and write-up. I’m still laughing over “touch a baby sheep.” I imagine it would be like touching a smelly pillow.

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