If you’ve never been to Ireland, you may be under the impression that the food items offered are pretty much limited to fish ‘n chips, lamb stew (with a touch of Guinness), and corned beef and cabbage. And you couldn’t be more wrong.
Sure, you can get these dishes – the tourists demand it – but you’d be missing out on some spectacular cuisine. Ireland has had a renaissance regarding food and the focus has changed to farm-to-table and sea-to-table - fresh, local, sustainable.
And, according to discoverireland.ie - “It's time to Taste the Island! This Autumn, we want you to join us in a celebration of Ireland’s food and drink. Discover the source of your favourite dishes, savour the secrets behind the craft, open up to new flavours and get ready to join the food and drink revolution - all across Ireland.” Be sure to visit their website to become aware of special events.
But, at any time you’re in Ireland, you’ll find great food. And it really doesn’t matter if you’re in noted foodie destinations such as Dublin, Cork, or Galway, or if you’re in remote areas of the country such as Co. Sligo and Co. Mayo, you’re going to be delighted with the freshness of the ingredients and the clever and novel use of indigenous ingredients. Whether you’re eating at a four-star establishment or you’re on a rural road in an ordinary looking pub, you’ll most certainly to be able to open the menu and see a complete listing of where the kitchen has gotten their ingredients – seafood, beef, lamb, poultry, veg, cheese – each listed separately and each with the proud name of the local producer alongside.
One of our favorite “gastro-pubs” in Westport would be the acclaimed Tavern, actually just out of town in Murrisk. Their fish chowder has won a number of national and international awards – smooth and silky and chock-a-block with large, tender, savory chunks of seafood. Want to know what’s in it? Your server will turn on her heel, return to the kitchen, and ask the chef what came out of the sea that very morning and made it into the sinful concoction sitting in front of you. Oh yes, and it’ll be accompanied by some fresh baked, substantial brown bread and Irish creamery butter.
Want to experience one of The Irish Times favorite cafés? Head north out of Westport, through Ballina and Enniscrone, toward Easkey, just into Co. Sligo - to Pudding Row. Here’s chef Dearvla James’ philosophy – “We use the best possible ingredients that we can find in Ireland, with as much emphasis on local and organically produced food as possible. We combine these quality ingredients with the freshest, highest quality breads and pastries that we bake fresh every morning.” Visit their website (http://puddingrow.ie/), look at the pictures of the breads and the scrumptious dishes and then try to talk to me about fish n chips…
Don’t want to drive that far? Limit your drive to neighboring Castlebar and try Café Rua - (another Irish Times favorite – my, they can be so fickle…) or the newer Café Nova. As they say in the movies, you’ll be enchanté .
Don’t want to drive at all? Then stay in Westport and visit the Leafy Greens Café, the This Must Be the Place Café (Irish Times again), or the extraordinary Creel, down on Westport’s Quay. Each with its own focus and charm. Or stop into the Clew Bay Hotel for Westport town’s best scone and a fine cappuccino. You can’t go wrong.
And we haven’t even begun to talk about an evening meal…
Local and fresh ingredients, prepared with creativity and care, and plated and presented in a way to delight your eye. Yes, if you’ve not been to Ireland, you’re in for quite a surprise.