Reading the stylish and useful Ard Bia Cookbook reminded me of meeting Aoibheann Mac Namara back in 2008. I was interviewing her for the Foodtalk series of documentaries for Newstalk: her son Oni – the book is dedicated to him – was just a tiny baby and I remember her breastfeeding him while we were setting up the recording. That night my producer and I enjoyed a superb meal at Ard Bia and afterwards I wrote this introduction to her piece in the programme.
Aoibheann Mac Namara intro
Walk through the Spanish Arch on Galway’s quayside and the old stone building that houses Ard Bia is before you. Long and low with red-framed windows and door bright against the grey stone, it sits with its back to the water, hunched up against all the damp Galway climate has to throw at it.
Once inside, you are cocooned from the elements, your soul soothed by a seasonal menu that travels – like its owner, Aoibheann McNamara – from Ireland to India, with visits to the Middle East and onwards to New Zealand.
Inside, the room is bright and light, full of mis-matched chairs and tables, with Aoibheann’s ever-changing art display hanging on the walls. My favourite corner is the snug, tucked away on the left, where a few friends can eat and drink the night cosily away. There’s even a half-hidden drawer underneath the table, stuffed with random notes and scribblings from former occupants.
I love to choose a mellow yellow chowder, laden with Galway Bay mussels and spiced with saffron; or savour some good Irish lamb, cooked slowly in a Moroccan tagine. Once I’m relaxed and satiated, the weather finally doesn’t seem to matter so much. The world outside can wait while i have my ice cream; and root again in that drawer of mysterious notes from other happy customers.
Kieran Murphy intro
The sun is shining on Dingle and Murphy’s Ice Cream Shop is the obvious place to head to. Of course, the first thing you want to do is have an ice cream – but which one? Will you go for an old-school classic like vanilla or chocolate, something with a bit more texture – honeycomb, rum raisin perhaps? – or will you have to go straight for the latest flavour to arrive behind Kieran Murphy’s counter: Guinness and Chocolate, anyone?
The best way of deciding is to try them all – and then there’s the small matter of figuring out which of their coffees you want to accompany it. You might get distracted – as I do – by Kieran’s hot chocolate menu – will you have the chocoholic’s bittersweet hot chocolate, a spicy Aztec hot chocolate or go for the cocoa-rich extreme hot chocolate?
With all this sweetness – happiness – just within your grasp, how can you say no? Whole days, whole summers even, can be lost here, watching the sú craobh sorbet run down the back of your spoon.
Foodtalk: Dairy was first broadcast on Newstalk on 25 January 2008. The Ard Bia Cookbook by Aoibheann Mac Namara and Aoife Carrigy is published by Atrium and on sale here.