An Eejit Abroad: Let’s Talk About Grub
By Conor Makem
We at the Ohio Irish American News want to help you plan your next trip over to the auld sod, whenever that might be. So, with much ballyhoo, we’re producing our second food-focused Eejit Abroad Travelogue.
What’s that you’re saying? You want to know what self-respecting eejit would head to Ireland for the grub? The answer is you. Don’t believe us? Read on!
The days are gone when travelers to Ireland and Northern Ireland can expect a continuation of the airline food that got them there. The island has experienced a bit of an Irish food revolution in the past number of years and those in the know now head over for a gastronomic experience unthought of twenty years ago.
They’ve taken what they always did right—grass fed livestock, organic vegetables, slow cooking—and they’ve thrown it all into a giant mixing bowl with fresh ideas from the ever-shrinking world. What’s come out on the other side is innovative fare that has Michelin stars popping up like Whack-A-Moles and pubs reimagining their stick-to-your-ribs basics.
Some random greats
A wonderfully kind farmer has turned a passion for nature into award winning products. Olly Nolan’s farm in the Dublin Mountains contains grass-fed Dexter beef cows, vegetables, fresh eggs and more. But his fame has skyrocketed thanks to his one-hundred percent raw Irish honey from his apiaries around Dublin and Wicklow. Olly gave a tour to the other half and myself a couple of years ago and his business has only grown since then.
Among his multi-award-winning varieties of honey are heather, blossom and softset. You would be well advised to have a spoonful of one or all with butter on toasted brown bread. Remember to say a hearty thank you to all of the bees out there helping to keep this a healthy planet and visit www.ollysfarm.ie to find out more.
We can also recommend switching up your Irish cream liqueur occasionally for Coole Swan, an amazing mix of single-malt whiskey, Belgian white chocolate and fresh cream. They take their name from the Yeats’ poem, “The Wild Swans at Coole,” and the liqueur is entirely Irish made.
Try it in a Baby Guinness using just Kahlua (or your coffee liqueur of choice) and Coole Swan. There’s no Guinness involved, you simply pour three parts Kahlua into a shot glass, then using the back of a spoon to keep the liquids separated, pour on one-part Coole Swan to the top. It’s a shot that looks like a Guinness, isn’t strong, and tastes like a dessert, no fibbing. Plus, Coole Swan is available in the U.S.
And while talking about cream, I’d be remiss if I didn’t explain that ice cream in Ireland is a taste experience to behold nowadays. If you’re in Dublin, Galway, Dingle or Killarney, stop by a Murphy’s Ice Cream shop. They don’t use colorings, flavorings or powdered milk, but you’ll find fresh from-the-farm milk, local cream, free range eggs and organic sugar. The ice cream comes in flavors you’ve never even considered, like Irish Brown Bread (which tastes like its namesake and yet is absolutely delicious), Honeycomb Caramel, Candied Chilli Pepper or my personal favorite Dingle Gin.
Heading back on the distillery train, Kilkenny is home to Highbank Orchards, which claims to operate Ireland’s smallest distillery. They produce unique options like Pink Flamingo Gin, Organic Pommeau, Medieval Cider and
Drivers Cider (for the teetotaler). Highbank is a perfect example of small Irish producers making a big impact on the culinary landscape.
If you’re in Galway City, consider starting your morning in a restaurant with something for everyone. I recommend McCambridge’s on Shop Street. You’ll find the obligatory full-Irish breakfast—with sausage, bacon, black and white pudding, tomatoes, poached eggs, potatoes and relish—but also healthy options like the Vegan Portobello Mushroom with poached eggs, crushed avocado, beetroot hummus, miso sauce on a toasted sourdough with toasted mixed seeds, or the Kilbeggan Organic Porridge with poached Irish rhubarb and toasted pumpkin seeds. Or if you prefer a more midday meal, they offer foodstuffs like baked ham or a steak sandwich.
Galway is one of the food capitals of Ireland, and one of the highlights of Galway is Cava Bodega, a Spanish tapas restaurant, where just in case you can’t make up your mind, you can fill up on a variety of small plates. The laid-back establishment is committed to supporting local farmers and producers and offers tempting treats like scallop and baby fennel with saffron mayonnaise; Moorish couscous, rose petals and hay smoked yogurt; or for dessert sorbet, rose cava, berries and liquorice meringue.
I spent a lovely evening in here with the other half and we were quite taken by pairing the meal with Spanish wines.
Farm fresh food
Of course, if you’re lucky enough to have the use of a kitchen while spending time in Ireland, you could do no better than visiting a local farmers’ market, where you’re sure to get the freshest produce possible. You’re also bound to run across a variety of baked goods, which could do your soul no harm. Irish bakers are giving the French a run for their money in confectioneries.
Possibly the best-known conglomeration of food producers in the country is still found at the English Market in Cork City, which has been running since 1788. It’s set in a permanent structure in the heart of the city and is packed with fishmongers, farmers, spice sellers, meat and cheese producers, cafés, restaurants and confectioners. If you’re hungry, this is a dangerous place, but it will have the cure for what ails you.
And if you bring along the wee ones, they might even get a fright out of the catch of the day. I had to do a double take for one particularly prehistoric looking monster. But since I don’t eat fish, I left well enough alone with that one.
*Conor Makem spent 22 years traveling and honing petty gripes as an Irish musician, and enjoyed a further 13 years of people not returning his calls as a journalist. He is fluent in English, American and old Kerry farmer. More of his photos are on Instagram under cb.makem.
On This Day in Irish History
1 August 1915 – Patrick Pearse (1879-1916) gave the graveside oration at the funeral of the Fenian Jeremiah O’Donovan Rossa.
2 August 1649 – The Battle of Rathmines, Irish forces were defeated outside Dublin by the English Parliamentary Army, paving the way for Oliver Cromwell’s arrival several days later.
3 August 1916 – Sir Roger Casement (51), humanitarian and militant nationalist, was hung in Pentonville prison.
12 August 1652 – “Act for the Settling of Ireland” allows for the transplantation to Clare or Connacht of proprietors whose land is confiscated by Cromwell to meet promises to adventurers and soldiers, also known as the “To Hell or Connacht” Act.
15 August 1992 – Michael Carrith, southpaw Irish boxer, won the welterweight gold medal at the Summer Olympics in Barcelona; the medal is Ireland’s first ever gold medal in boxing.
17 August 2006 – The Morris Tribunal report, on a range of allegations against the Garda Siochana in County Donegal (1993-1999), was published. It was to bring about the biggest overhaul in policing in the history of the Irish state.
21 August 1976 – The remains of William Joyce, ‘Lord Haw Haw,’ –Propagandist executed for treason in 1946, were reinterred in Galway’s Bohermore cemetery.
28 August 1815 – Mary Letitia Martin, novelist known as ‘Princess of Connemara’, born in Ballynahinch, Co. Galway.
29 August 1975 – Death of Eamon de Valera, one of the leaders in the failed 1916 Easter Uprising; President of Sinn Fein from 1917 to 1926; and President of Ireland from 1959-1973.