Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Driving on the Other Side of the Road, Part Two

The Setting: Woke up at 6:30 a.m. on my day off so Hoosband could show me the efforts of top PhD programs to woo him before he shuffled off to work. Proud Weefay. Awake Weefay. Just gave the arm of my love-seat and my leopard-print Snuggie a caffeinated baptism, so it's gonna be a good day. Time to write.

The Soundtrack: Judging by the whooshing wind and pouncing shadows of flailing palm fronds upon my window shade, it's about to be rain and lots of it.

On the Stovetop: Nothing yet, but by the time Hoosband gets home, the smell of German Short Ribs and buttery Spaetzle will greet him at his car and usher him up the front steps for an Oktoberfest fit for two.

The Scenario: Irish reminiscence, continued.

With Juicy in our hearts and butter on our brains, we set out for North Cork to witness the conception of the latter.

"The miracle of butter," beamed a very proud miracle-maker, "is how a white liquid transforms into a yellow solid with a little salt and a lot of love--no added colors here."

If you've heard lore of Irish butter, perhaps that it cannot be beat, I tell you you've heard correctly.

The grass in County Cork is so green you want to roll down the hills in a white linen suit and bring some of that vibrant color home with you. The air is so fresh you want to be the kite to fly in it. The cows consume this grass and this air and produce milk so full of flavor and goodness that when it is churned to golden perfection you fleetingly think, Calories? Hmm.... I believe I remember caring about those once... before the thought is gone completely and your world consists only of the Kerrygold Irish butter melting on your tongue and the brown bread it proudly adorns.

Lunch was Ardrahan cheese fritters with red-currant jelly and porridge with cream and honey at The Vintage, a charming establishment in Kanturk, County Cork, noticeably popular with the sixty-and-up crowd, happily serving breakfast all day. I may have received some funny looks from my own crowd when I ordered porridge, but let me tell you, Goldilocks and the three bears knew what was up: my lunch was just right.

The mid-day meal, however, turned out to be entirely unnecessary, as we were greeted at the Ardrahan Farm by Mary Burns and a full spread of her delicious, handcrafted farmstead cheeses, her son Gerald's signature Irish coffee, and the most incredible tiramisu-inspired cake to ever tickle my tongue.

We toured the farm, met the cows, and watched as two adept women crafted wheels of Duhallow farmstead cheese. Artisan cheeses may be any cheeses that are made primarily by hand according to traditional procedures, but farmstead cheeses are only those that are made on the same farm where the milk is produced. This is Mary's business.

Fully integrated, from the cows to the aging rooms to the packaging, Mary and her small, dedicated team do it all.

Two cheeses are produced here: the mild, fresh-tasting Duhallow (named after the region where the farm is located), and the more pungent, washed-rind Ardrahan (the flagship cheese, named after the farm itself). Very different cheeses, both are sold in the States, and both are very good.

Asked if she might launch another cheese in the future, Mary said no with such conviction that I almost believed her. But the gleam in her eye was full of maybe.

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