Browsing: Food & Travel

Ireland Revisited

May28

The rain has started to fall on a Sunday morning at the lake.  D will soon be home from the tennis courts as the guys who assemble each week, will be forced to delay their weekly matches.  I would love to be on the overhang of the deck but a Momma Robin has perched upon her nest of blue eggs and every time I have to venture past, she vacates the nest.  So I am in our cozy cottage instead, with the window flung open to hear the birds singing in spite of the rain.  My Mom once told me, that this is the sign of a long rain.  If the birds cease to chirp, it is because they know that they will soon be back at it.  But if they continue to sing, it is because the rain will continue for hours.

This is one of my favourite weekends of the year as we are a family of dancers and this is recital weekend.  There was a time when this meant hours of preparation, but now we just show up and take it all in with enormous smiles on our faces.

We left directly from the auditorium for Lester Beach in order to have dinner with D2 and P.  It was our post-Ireland dinner, when we could relive our favourite moments of our trip.  We certainly get our monies worth out of our vacations, would you not say?

As we walked in the door, the Celtic music was blaring and we were swept up in a quadrille (well not exactly because we only had half of the required four couples) and handed Smithwicks and glasses of Guinness.  I told you we were a family of dancers.  Perhaps we could be described as a family of imbibers too-not as complimentary….

But to the food!  When we were in Ireland, D had a craving for seared scallops which D2 and P remembered.  They wanted to treat D to a little delight to thank him for being our chauffeur on this trip.  D2 sizzled up the butter until the colour was a gorgeous bronze and then quickly turned the nuggets over the heat for just moments-exactly the way that we love them.  They served this with Molly’s Irish bannock that they managed to search out in St. Boniface.

Next up was a hearty potato and clam soup, reminiscent of one we had for our pub lunch whilst circling the Ring of Kerry.  D2 added white pepper to finish the silky spoonfuls with a little bit of heat.

A spring time salad of strawberries and pecans came next.

By this time, we were recreating a Limerick exchange that we had so much fun performing with a related Murphy while we were in Ireland.  That one took place, with an ocean between us and this one with Lake Winnipeg separating us.  At least there was no time difference as the last go round had our sparring partner up until 3 in the morning!

The entree was an amazing meat pie with the flakiest of pastries and a savoury filling.  The honeyed parsnips that I prepared in the city were P’s request from our pre-Ireland get together.

For dessert we indulged in ice cream, topped with Baileys Irish Cream and a plummy glass of port.

By this time it is midnight, at it is time to go.  We do not have far because our cottages are almost across the street from each other.  The journey took longer than one might expect though, as we had neglected to turn on any lights at our little place and did not have the fore-sight to bring along a flashlight.  We managed to find our way without incident back to our summer house, appropriately named: Life is Good.

Kath’s quote:

“For ….we can make liquor to sweeten our lips

Of pumpkins and parsnips and walnut-tree chips.”

-Henry David Thoreau, ‘Walden’

Love-that is all.

Old Ebbitt Grill-Washington DC

May8

Upon checking in at The Madison in downtown Washington DC, I did the same thing that I do in any new city that I travel to-I started researching where to dine!  The helpful concierge handed me a five page restaurant list.  I scoped out the places which were on the same street as the hotel for a starting point and then cross-referenced them with Urbanspoon.  I had made a selection and just had to run it by Lynn, my roomie for the weekend, who had not yet arrived.

While she was freshening up, I went back downstairs to speak to the handsome concierge again, this time to determine if there were any other sights that we might see on our walk to and from Old Ebbit Grill. Did I feel like a hick from the sticks when he pulled out a tourist map and showed me that the Old Ebbitt Grill was next door to the White House!

We knew before arrival that they were fully booked for the evening, but we decided to take our chances and find a stool at the bar.  This turned out to be the perfect choice as our bar keep was a feisty little thing with a big personality.  I haven’t seen a multi-tasker like she was in my life.  So too, we got to witness the dining room servers with their variety of world accents, requesting their wine and cocktails from our bartender.  Well in truth, they shouted their requests at her.  This turned out to be part of the charm of this bustling place.

My first beverage choice was a DC Brau “The Public” which was a local pale ale.  The flavour was very hoppy, which made me very happy…. (sorry I could not resist).

I was delighted to see that they identified that their mussels were from the Canadian province of Prince Edward Island but decided upon a cup of chili to start.  I loaded this up with the available options of chopped white onions, sour cream and cheddar.  Lynn took our server’s recommendation and choose the bacony clam chowder (Boston style).

We took time to pause before we selected our main courses to soak in the cozy ambiance of the room.  It was not hard for me to imagine whispered and highly political conversations taking place in the low lit booths or the deals that must have been negotiated by lobbyists at the bar top.  Imagine the number of fascinating people who have passed through these doors since 1856?  I noticed as I walked down the white marble stairs and passed the “Cabinet” room, that they had been worn away in the centre of each step by constant use.

I had my first taste of  Lynne’s soft shelled crab.  I was fascinated by textured and the taste was sweet and succulent.

I chose a jumbo lump crab cake.  It was stacked inches high, was crunchy on the surface and meaty and delicious on the inside.

We were perfectly satisfied and content to be on our way but our server insisted that she treat us to dessert ( there had been a temperature issue with my meal).  I couldn’t resist the strawberry short cake made in the authentic style and crowned with local strawberries.

Lynne, the baker, was delighted with the strawberry and rhubarb pie and commented particularly on the skill displayed in the making of the crust.

We did find our way for a view of the White House that night.  I was especially thrilled when I saw a light in a room go off and another go on.  My imagination was stirred again of Michelle putting the girls to bed….

Old Ebbitt Grill on Urbanspoon

Kath’s quote: “Food history is as important as a baroque church. Governments should recognize cultural heritage and protect traditional foods.  A cheese is as worthy of preserving as a sixteenth-century building.” –Carlo Petrini

Galway and Ard Bia at Nimmos

April27

We knew weeks in advance of our arrival in Ireland that we would be there in time for the Galway Food Festival.

We strategically chose Saturday to make the drive to Galway City.  We wandered down Quay and then High Street (which are both restricted to pedestrians only) to find the Festival Village.

Along the way we also came across the Galway Market.  In the end, when we arrived at the Festival we had a quick look around and then decided to head back to the market and the quaint shops of the outside mall.  Since the intent of the festival is the celebration of Galway as a good food destination with a strong focus on artisan, seasonal and local produce, the festival was a success, even though we decided not to stand in the lines at the individual booths.

In the mean time, we accidentally found Ard Bia at Nimmos.

I was enthralled by the amazing little space and by the name and went on line to find out the source.  Ard Bia was on Quay Street five years ago then moved into Nimmos and both places were run by the same owners for two years.  In 2008 they moved Ard Bia to the Nimmos building in the Spanish Arch. The space is now the combination of both Ard Bia and Nimmos.

We warmed up with tea and sweets and then ventured back to explore the town.

Browsing and shopping was wonderful fun as the shops were as beautiful on the outside as the inside.

Ard Bia on Urbanspoon

Kath’s quote: “A woman is like a tea bag — only in hot water do you realize how strong she really is.”-Nancy Reagan

Wild Geese Restaurant-Adare Ireland

April23

As soon as we saw that there was an award winning restaurant in the village of Adare, we knew that we had to visit.  The Wild Geese has been included on Bridgestone’s top 100 restaurant in Ireland for the past 13 consecutive years.  D called to make a reservation and then we had to delay our arrival a number of times because the four of us had separate itineraries that day.  Having been in the restaurant business ourselves, we know that juggling last minute changes can be difficult to manage, but Julie handled our postponement with much grace.

As we entered Rose Cottage, we were escorted into comfortable sitting room with a cozy fire place and big comfy couches.  We choose a bottle of Les Jamelleo Merlot which was poured out and served with pitted black olives that had been smoked in brine.  These were such a treat that I searched them out while we were in Galway, purchased them and carried them all the way home to Canada in my suitcase.  While relaxing over our pre-dinner glasses, we were brought menus and asked to make our selections for the evening.  I am not sure if this is unusual in Ireland, it certainly would be considered so in Canada, and yet knowing that the Irish like to have their food arrive right away, this makes perfect sense.

Upon moving to a comfy table in the dining room, a server came by with a handled bread basket and then indicated each bread variety that was available.  I chose a Parmesan roll but all the choices were absolutely delicious.

But the truth is-they had me at the dishes.

The practice of serving an Amuse Bouche has become more common of late, but I am still as delighted as a little girl receiving a surprize birthday gift.  These were a pesto cheese a top a tiny biscuit, floating upon a red pepper puree-sublime.

First courses were a variety of little plates which were intended to be your own but because we are all food crazy, we love to share bites with everyone (what family is meant for).

There was Chicken Liver Parfait with orange segments and tomato chutney,

Duck & Vegetable Spring Rolls with a Japanese drizzle,

Goat Cheese baked with a light curry crust, balsamic and an apple puree.

And lastly, a Crusty Brie with a light pesto cream, pineapple/cucumber salsa and red pepper essence.  I could try to describe the potpourri of tastes but sometimes I just let the carefully selected ingredients (and photos) speak for themselves.  And this was just the first plates!

As I go back and unarchive my photos, scan my travel journal and check my notes-I can not for the life of me recall what I ordered that evening!  Perhaps I got chatting with Julie or telling some boisterous story and forgot to take a photo, before I tried to get caught up to everyone.  But here is the thing-it does not really matter what I had on my plate, I was with my beloved husband, brother and his wife and I took just as much pleasure watching them as they ate, then I know I would have enjoyed my own.  Does this make sense to you?

The table chose 3 ribs of Lamb which was served with a rosemary and garlic potato gratin and a rosemary juis for extra measure.

The Duck was accompanied by sweet potatoes and mushrooms.

Lastly, the Sirloin was tossed in garlic butter and came with a mushroom and Parmesan tarte and rosemary & garlic potato gratin.

There was definitely no room for dessert and sometime in the midst of our in-depth conversation with Julie, we realized that we were the last table in the restaurant, so it was definitely time for our short walk to the Manor gate.

Having met Julie we can see first hand the attention to detail and love of local food that she and her husband are committed too.  We know too (not because she was complaining) that it is an increasingly difficult time to be in the high end restaurant business with Ireland’s current economic conditions.  We wish Julie and David much success as their passion for food and the hospitality business is obvious from the very first time you walk into The Rose Cottage.

The Wild Geese Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Kath’s quote: “The best way to lose weight is to close your mouth – something very difficult for a politician. Or watch your food – just watch it, don’t eat it.”-Edward Koch

Limerick – Chocolat

April23

When my Dad and his family immigrated to Canada from eastern Europe, they settled in a place called Limerick, Saskatchewan.  I spent most summers there when I was growing up and had fond memories of doing so.  Many of the most vivid memories surround my little Polish Grandma’s food-potato soup cooling in bowls on the oil-cloth covered table, freshly killed chickens fried in boiling lard- producing the crispest and juiciest chicken I have ever tasted, poppy seed rolls, prune dumplings served with melted butter and cinnamon sugar, thimble cookies filled with raspberry jam, oh my, I should stop now.  None of memories connect me to Ireland, except that I have always longed to go to Limerick to see which community inspired the name of the prairie town that I came to love.

We dropped DK & PK off at the bus station for they were on their way to Cork for the day.

We were content to mosey around and passed by many Irish row houses with beautifully painted doors.  (Door images to come in a separate post).

We continued along the edge of the Shannon until we had a view of King John’s castle.

We were too early for a major market day but we poked around at the Milk Market anyway, imagining what it would be like when fishmongers and vegetable sellers set up their stalls there.

We stumbled upon a place for a cuppa tea and the sun found a way to peak through the downtown buildings.  We sat side by side and warmed up in the sun.

We ventured in and out of little shops until it was time to find some lunch.  A local fellow who hovered around the front door of  the lovely O’Mahony’s Bookstore where we spent quite some time (was he a hospitable manager, a doorman or a security cop?), recommend that we make our way to Chocolat which we found easily with his instructions.

We were nearing the end of our culinary adventures and so made our decision on what to order based on what was left on our “must try” list.  For me it was Bangers & Mash and for D it was duck.  We ordered and shared both.

The Bangers were made with pork and leeks and were perfectly grilled with onions and then placed upon a heap of creamy mashed potatoes.  The savoury onion gravy was a lovely indulgence.

The Aromatic Duck Salad was a tossing of pine nuts, mixed leaves and hoisin dressing.  We loved the pepperiness of the endive which offset the sweetness of the hoisin.

Chocolat Restaurant on Urbanspoon

 

We spent a lovely,  but too short time in Limerick.  Next time, well be sure to take in a rugby match (D even purchased a jersey)-go Munster go!  We encountered a bit of a traffic snarl on the way back to Adare….

Kath’s quote:  “No wonder you’re so bony Joe, and skinny as a rake. Well then, give us a bash at the bangers and mash me mother used to make”-sung by Peter Sellers & Sophia Loren

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