Driving in Ireland

Type of Post: 
Beyond New England
Inishowen Vista

Regular readers know that we drive quite a lot. Our favorite Saturdays are spent in the car, exploring scenic locales and discovering foodie goodness.

In June of 2016, we took a long-anticipated vacation in Ireland. Naturally we spent most of it driving through some of the most sublime scenery we had ever explored. Of course we also found lots of foodie goodness, which is documented elsewhere in this blog. This post is for those who are considering a vacation that involves driving in Ireland.

Coastal Drive along the Ring of Kerry

The first thing to know is that it's expensive to drive in Ireland. Gas is expensive, of course, as it is in most of Europe. But the car rental is pricey, too. We rented from Avis at Dublin airport, and were disappointed to learn that they do not honor the CDW (collision damage waiver) insurance that many credit cards provide automatically when you use them to rent a car. The CDW cost nearly as much as the car rental, and it has a thousand-Euro deductible! They also had a super-CDW with no deductible.

Irish Pancakes

Irish Pancakes

Irish pancakes are not like American pancakes. They are thinner, closer to a crepe than to a big fluffy American pancake, with no baking powder. They are typically served with honey or jam, or brushed with lemon juice and dusted with sugar.

Pancakes figure prominently in the Irish celebration of Shrove Tuesday, or Mardi Gras, which they also call Pancake Tuesday. This is the day to use up all the eggs and fat in the house to prepare for the Lenten fast. My mother's side of our family still makes pancakes on Shrove Tuesday!

Lemon-Butter Cod

Lemon-Butter Cod

This was one of those inventions born of necessity. Lorna had bought a lovely piece of cod, but I did not have the ingredients for my usual preparation.

I remembered a wonderful light fish dish that I had had in Xrisohorafa, a lakeside village in remote northern Greece on a similarly hot night many years ago, a simple preparation of fish with olive oil and lemon juice, with some parsley and sea salt. I had some butter on the table so I used that instead of olive oil; it was a fortuitous substitution. 

Coffee in Ireland

Type of Post: 
Beyond New England

Coffee in IrelandTravelers from New England soon learn that Ireland has a very different coffee culture. While Americans consume on average .931 cups of coffee per day, the Irish consume only .215, or less than one quarter of the coffee their American counterparts consume.

We explored the countryside and also the biggest cities, Dublin and Belfast, and of course I was on the lookout for good coffee. Here's what I discovered: 

Svíčková na smetaně

Czech Svickova

Svíčková na smetaně (hereafter simply svickova) is classic Czech home cooking, but it is often made for fine dining events as well.

It's a braised sirloin of beef with a sauce of pureed vegetables and cream, traditionally served with fluffy knedlicky (bread dumplings sliced with a thread).

I made this with my Czech friend Jana in November of 2015, when the coming winter mader her think of her father's Svickova back home in Prague! 

A Swedish Feast

We had a Swedish feast. I don't remember why...I guess it seemed like a good idea at the time. We had no lutfisk, but I had acquired some Swedish potato sausage and the rest became self-evident.

A Swedish Feast

We had: 

Oyster Stew

Here's a Yankee classic, submitted by long-time reader Sue Sullivan.

Fresh Pasta

Mandilli de Saea, photo by Richmond Talbot

What a treat is fresh pasta! When we toured Italy in July 2015, our most memorable meal was a plate of fresh ravioli in Rome. The story is rather longer than this page requires, but the bottom-line result was that fresh home-made pasta is work exploring, so I did.

In this case, it was for Annette's Genoese Birthday, so I made silky-smooth, super-thin Genoese Mandilli de Saea (Silk Handkerchiefs) with fresh pesto.  It was fun and delicious!

Savoy Cake

Savoy CakeThis beautiful, light sponge cake works well in a fancy mold, and it accompanies berries, preserves, or chocolate sauce wonderfully. Unlike the similar Genoise Butter Cake, this one uses no butter.


Type of Post: 
What's on my Mind?

There is something to be said for a restaurant where you order your favorite dish every time you go, and it always tastes the same. It’s as comforting as the pillow upon which you lay your head, but Bondir isn’t that sort of place. Oh it’s comfortable enough, and the staff is welcoming, and there are no snooty waiters peering down their noses to see which fork you choose. We entered the premises at 279A Broadway in Cambridge on a chilly evening and were offered a seat by a warming fire. We sipped Spanish cava and enjoyed the homelike atmosphere.

But as soon as they brought the bread basket, what we thought of as reality began to twist and bend. There was “sea bread” in which black squid ink ranged across the slice like the negative of a photo of the Milky Way. The bread also contained shrimp and seaweed. I think the shrimp may have been dried and ground to a powder. The bread had the heartiness of wheat and a briny flavor that reminds you of the scent of the ocean when you walk in the froth of waves in the cool of a summer sunrise. I ate it in fascination tinged with disbelief.

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