Monday, October 4, 2010

Driving on the Other Side of the Road, Part One

The Setting: Slipping on the much-required lounging uniform of elastic-waisted pants and an over-sized T-shirt and sliding onto the sofa after a day full of cheese tastings and wine pairings.
The Soundtrack: Nothing yet, but as soon as my fingers bore with the keyboard, it will be last week's episode of Glee on Hulu.
On the Stove-top: A steaming pot of veggie chili. Healthy? Truly. Tasty? Let's hope.
The Scenario: Dreaming of returning to Ireland...if my wallet or my waistline can ever afford it.
The trip was amazing.

I left MIA excited, nervous, frightened, and thin, and returned exhilarated, worldly, and considerably more well-padded around the midsection.

Dopey from sleep deprivation, high on briny Atlantic air, and bewitched by the melodically lyrical Celtic language, suggestive of magic and mischief and bedtime stories, I consumed pints of stout and three-course meals with far less discretion than a squirrel gives to nuts.

Analyzing the subtleties of Cheddars by day and raising cheers and beers by night, four days felt like weeks but flew by too fast all the same.

We arrived in Dublin and were whisked off to lunch at the O'Callaghan Davenport Hotel, where I first pledged my eternal love to the exquisite cultural treasure that is brown soda bread. Speckled, hearty, moist, and surprisingly complex in flavor, from bite one I was rendered incapable of resisting this necessary component of every Irish table.
My resolve for moderation was further weakened at our next appointment, a cheese tasting with some lovely chaps who grade cheddar for a living. Not a bad gig, though I fail to see how they remain so thin if they are perpetually surrounded by the Vintage Dubliner my hands kept sinfully reaching for.

Dinner was foie gras terrine with cherry sauce and brioche toast, risotto with cepes and truffle oil, and strawberry-rhubarb crumble with homemade vanilla ice-cream at Peploe's Restaurant. A former president dined two tables down.

Morning came early. At the train station I tried to buy a phone card and failed. However, while tarrying unsuccessfully at the uncooperative automated kiosk, I discovered another Irish treasure, undoubtedly soon to make its mark on the States. Butler's Chocolates, founded in Dublin in 1932, is in the business of purveying happiness--seriously, it's their motto. But that's not just lip service. Order a delicious (ethically sourced, they assure you) espresso drink from a Butler's Chocolate Cafe, and select the complimentary chocolate of your choice. I selected a chocolate-hazelnut confection with which I would love to arrange a recurring renz de vous. Thinking of applying for a franchise? Might I suggest you come to Florida?

The train took us through the Irish countryside to the Carbery Co-Op, where I gobbled more Vintage Dubliner and incredible, homemade brown bread after donning a lab jacket and touring the cheese-making facilities.

Down the road just a smidge, we were welcomed with coffee, tea, and mountainous servings of banoffi pie at a quaint, family-run market. I almost marvel at how I was able to inhale the pie with such speed and entirety, but then I remember the crumbly looseness of the crust, the gooey, caramel-ly filling, the happy clouds of whipped cream, and the subtle shavings of milk chocolate, and ravenousness sets in once more.

We couldn't stay for seconds, however, as we had a hot date with a stunning herd of cattle. When you meet the cows who produce the milk for the Carbery Co-Op, you understand why the cheese tastes so good.

"Why aren't they mooing?" someone wanted to know, as we stood upon the cows' abundant kitchen table. "They're so quiet."

"They aren't waiting to be herded or to be fed," the farmer said. "They don't take feeding cues from us. They eat when they are hungry. They are happy. They have no reason to moo at you."

The cows looked us straight in our faces as if to say, "Yes, we are awesome. Bow down if you desire."

The next stop was Kinsale, where I instantly began making plans to buy a home: Step one) pack. Step 2) come into money....

We took a street-train ride through the fishing village to the highest point in town, overlooking the water-side shops and bars. Postponing dinner at the Bulman Restaurant just long enough to enjoy some pints in the barely brisk, new-autumn air, we eventually gave in to hunger and enjoyed fresh seafood in the posh, upstairs dining room. I appetized on oysters and entreed on scallops and regret only that I failed to squeeze in some sticky toffee pudding for dessert.

Before catching what few Zs we could at the enchanting Actons Hotel, we hit Ned Kelly's tavern for a night cap or few. A talented one-man act provided mood music with a mix of pop songs, traditional Irish tunes, and Southern rock. I had never witnessed a crowd sing along more aggressively to John Denver than to Sweet Home Alabama, but then, I hail from the SEC. In the middle of "Country Roads, Take me Home" a lasting treat came in the form of a bar brawl when a fellow by the name of Juicy was forcibly removed from the establishment. Juicy remained a topic of fond memory and reflection for the duration of the trip. How did he receive such a nickname? What got him all rawled up? And as the trip progressed, all questions were answered with the ponderance W.W.J.D. What would Juicy do


Anonymous said...

LOVED the Blog and your easy-going but thorough style of descriptions and observations. I share your love of food & drink, travel, and beautiful countryside. (Doug Tommie, a Realtor co-worker and friend of your Mom)

Anonymous said...

You have definitely missed the mark on your should be a journalist or author.
Thanks for sharing your wonderful experiences with those of us back home. (Shirley McLeod, Realtor at F & C and friend of your Mom and Margaret S.)

Anonymous said...

I love your descriptions and interpretation of the trip. It makes me feel as if I am along with you on the journey. (Babs White, Broker at F&C and friend of Mom)