I just returned from a wonderful 10 day trip to western Ireland where a friend and I had the privilege of staying with another friend who owns a house north of Galway city, just over the border in County Mayo. I'll start with the food, and my next post will be the sights.
Fortunately, Ireland is a land of more than just potatoes, as evidenced by the beautiful array of produce in Valerie's sizeable garden.
From Puddleducks, a cafe in the town of Cong, a marvelous salad with copious amounts of Cashel Blue Cheese. We couldn't believe how much cheese was on here! (Named after Jemima Puddleduck from the Peter Rabbit stories!)
McDonagh's in Galway -- fish and chips; this is pollock, but we also had hake which isn't as overfished. (I couldn't really tell a difference between the fish, they're both whitefish of very similar texture.)
Leenane Hotel with white wine, garlic, and herbs, along with brown soda bread and chips (french fries) of course.
Nan Phaidi House cafe that catered to the tourists, but had delicious food. Here, Guinness beef stew; really nice flavor, though the beef could have been a little more tender. The islands, which were traditional fishing villages, are also known for houses with thatched roofs. And as throughout Ireland, gorgeous flower baskets on your house or business.
Roadford House B & B. Trip Advisor rates them as the best restaurant in Doolin, and it was easy to see why. Beautifully prepared lamb three ways: sausage, medium-rare chops, and confited and made into a patty.
The Garden Cafe, where I was delighted to have their Dingle Dog of the Day: lamb and herb sausage with caramelized onions. The sausages are made locally, as are the buns. This was so simple, and so good! I couldn't really identify the herbs in the sausage, and unfortunately, our waitress didn't know either, but it was tasty. We sat outside in the garden, where the local cat kept an eye on everything.
Out of the Blue, which creates their menu based off of what they were able to get fresh at the fish market each day. This was a potato-crusted pollack with chives and cream; they shredded the potatoes to make the crust, and seared the heck out of it to make it marvelously crisp.
Courthouse Pub where I did manage to try a Guinness. I normally don't care for dark, heavy stouts, and have not cared for Guinness when I have tried it in the States. I asked the bartender for a half-pour, and was pleasantly surprised at how much I liked it and drank the whole thing! It wasn't bitter like I recall it previously, and apparently Guinness beer in Ireland is not pasteurized which may account for the taste difference.
John Bennys Pub -- our three separate dishes (pork loin, steak, and scallops) were all horribly overcooked. We got a good laugh out of it though, and went back to Murphy's Ice Cream for the second time that day! On my first trip, I had Dingle Sea Salt (like heavy cream with a touch of salt) with Caramel Honeycomb (yes, as good as it sounds!), and my second, Toasted Irish Oats (subtle toasted oat flavor and texture) and Chocolate.
Nolan + Lambe cafe, a very rich goat cheese tart with potato and Waldorf side salads.
Charcoal Grill, a fantastic doner kebap (where the meat is roasted vertically on a spit, like a gyro) place, where I had chicken and lamb, topped with garlic and chile sauces. (This place happens to be the favorite of my friends who live in Ireland, and I can see why!)