Sunny birth days

The perfect birthday? Take a day off work – this is always nicest if done midweek! – and book a night away in Gort na Nain, a vegetarian guesthouse near Nohoval outside Cork city, run by the welcoming Lucy Stewart and Ultan Walsh, vegetable growers and suppliers of vegetables to Café Paradiso, amongst other Cork restaurants. Drive there after work the day before your birthday, picking up the Husband en route, and arrive just in time for your pre-booked three-course dinner. Relax and savour Lucy’s fabulous cooking, using fresh-picked vegetables and fruit grown by Ultan, with the other (very entertaining) couple that happen to be staying there that night. Take a long walk to see the sea before tucking yourself into a large, comfortable bed in an bright and spacious room.

Rise early on a sun-drenched morning for cards and presents before wandering downstairs for a lavish breakfast of just picked strawberries, homemade muesli, brown bread, muffins, pots of coffee and, the piece de resistance, homemade chestnut sausages with fried potatoes, egg and spicy chutney. Persuade Ultan to show you around his polytunnels – giving the Husband notions – and admire his neat asparagus beds, the newly-planted apple orchard, rows of salad greens, aubergines, beans, artichokes, tomatillos, peppers and several varieties of tomato plants. Before you leave, check out the chicken run – there are plans afoot to populate the back of the cottage land with a couple of chickens once we actually get round to organising accommodation – and leave, knowing that this visit won’t be a one-off.

Proceed on to Kinsale and, after a walk to stimulate appetite, take yourself for a long-anticipated lunch at Fishy Fishy. Despite the Sister’s warnings (“Arrive early and be prepared to queue or arrive late and be prepared to queue”), we were whisked to a table immediately (always good to be doing these things midweek) and start to study the menu. We chose a chilli-spiked seafood salad and fish pie, added a couple of glasses of white wine and sat back to observe Kinsale, and our fellow diners, in the sunshine. Orders of clams and mussels arriving at neighbouring tables had me thinking that I should have gone for a different lunch but, when it arrived, there was no disappointment and no leftovers. Finish off with a decent brownie, served with ice cream and too-cold chocolate sauce and some good coffees then proceed directly to Charles Fort for afternoon reading and snoozing in the sun.

En route home, call into the Teacher’s house for a cup of tea and to plan this summer’s holidays (we’re driving to and camping in France with the Teacher and the Tax Advisor) before making it back, eventually, to the cottage for supper in the sun. A perfect birthday? Without a doubt!



Food writer. Broadcaster. Blogger. Author. Married to Eight Degrees Brewing. Member of the Irish Food Writers' Guild, founder of Irish Food Bloggers Association and co-author of Sláinte: The Complete Guide to Irish Craft Beer & Cider (New Island)

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