The new Bridgestone Irish Food Guide didn’t see the Husband and I wrong on a brief trip to Carlow this weekend. Just released, it is a compendium of food producers, delis, markets, cafés and restaurants up and down the length and breath of the country. This is Sally and John McKenna’s eighth edition – the last one was published in 2004 – and it is a lovely chunky book, rammed full of great eating and an essential companion for any trip around Ireland.
Along with the favourites that I’ve written about in the past, including the Cake Café, Ardagh Castle Goats Cheese, Al-Khyrat, Country Choice, Glebe Gardens, Fallon & Byrne and Sowan’s Organic Bread Mixes, it’s great to see that there’s also a lot of blogger involvement. Val of Val’s Kitchen is a contributing editor and, while you’re flicking through the book, watch out for Murphy’s Ice Cream, La Cucina, Bubble Brothers and Ummera.
We took our copy with us on the train down to Carlow on Friday night and, after quickly dumping our bags at Barrowville Townhouse, it led us to Lennon’s Café Bar for dinner, a duck liver salad for me, monkfish wrapped in Parma ham for himself. The food was tasty, definitely above average Irish pub grub standards, although finishing with an underwhelming and over-chilled cheese plate may not have been the best move. The next morning, after a very substantial breakfast, we tackled the Bridgestone-noted Farmers’ Market in the town centre. Not wanting to carry loads back on the train, we limited ourselves to two types of cheese – sundried tomato and basil Carlow Farmhouse Cheese and Coolattin Cheddar – cherry jam, beetroot chutney and raspberry tonic from Malone Fruit Farm and a bag of the most divine fudge from The Truffle Fairy. Small, but very well formed, the Carlow Farmers’ Market has a lot to recommend it, not least the fact that it’s situated right in the town centre where no one can forget about it – unlike the now abandoned Fermoy Farmers’ Market. Wandering around town, we also spotted Bosco’s but unfortunately the Carlow Craft Brewery was closed – the Husband is a big fan of their O’Haras Celtic Stout.
There are far too many chancers in the food industry in Ireland. I really don’t think that there can be any excuse for a muffin served, still in its packet, as happened me yesterday in Lemon Jelly on Joyce Street. Although I wouldn’t necessarily agree with the McKenna’s assessment of Munchies in Fermoy, for finding great food in out of the way places, it’s difficult to beat the Bridgestone Irish Food Guide.