West Cork is undoubtedly a fantastic place to spend time in even if, as happened to us on last week’s communal honeymoon, it pours for most of the time. We were lucky enough to be staying in a wonderful cottage on Ardagh Castle Goat Farm but, with eight of the Husband’s family nearby in Baltimore and another half-dozen English Engineers staying out on the Sheep’s Head Peninsula, there wasn’t much time to properly appreciate the beautifully restored cottage! We did, however, get a chance to feast on the owner’s crumbly, Wensleydale-style Ardagh Castle Goat’s Cheese. A picnic hamper of Norfolk food specialities from two of the English Engineers yielded up a tube of Letheringsett Watermill Spelt Biscuits which had enough sweetness to marry happily with the cheese. Ardagh Castle Goat’s Cheese is only available locally around Baltimore and at the Saturday farmer’s market in Skibbereen but I’ve managed to export a large chunk of it to North Cork.
Life is busy – but, despite a routine that involves week-long neglect and frenzied activity at the weekend, the cottage garden is thriving! The Boyfriend is a member of the Irish Seed Savers Association so we got a few different types of potatoes from them, planting Cara, Ratte and Arran Banner varieties, along with some Roosters that sprouted in the bottom of the cupboard in March. They were all – apart from the Roosters, which is a more floury variety and an accidental planting – chosen deliberately for their blight resistant and waxy properties. So far the blight resistance, together with the blight-spray ministrations of a very helpful neighbour, seems to be working so hopefully there won’t be a reprise of the Great Irish Famine in Ballyvoddy (still, there’s always rabbit for the eating…)
Last night, Anne Kennedy of Greatfood.ie and I, in need of a glass of wine and some food, ended up – at her suggestion – at the newly decked out and recently reopened Shelbourne Bar in The Shelbourne on St Stephen’s Green. My memories of the old Shelbourne, admittedly after a couple of dynamite martinis in the Horseshoe Bar in the depths of winter, was of a gradually-getting-shabbier, heavy-with-tradition place. A grand old dame of Dublin, it was long overdue a facelift – although perhaps not one that went hand in hand with an American hotel chain. The Shelbourne Bar, where we ended up, is now a comfortable, light, bright L-shaped room on the left as you enter the hotel.
Wine, wine and more wine – if that’s what you’re looking for then the recently opened Olesya’s Wine Bar on Dublin’s Exchequer Street is the perfect place. With a long wine list, which includes choices from Georgia and the Lebanon alongside a good selection of new and old world wines, there’s plenty to choose from, should you wish to imbibe by the glass or bottle.
This is the book for anyone who has ever gone to Paris seeking French food and been completely waylaid from their Coq au Vin by the rich variety of ethnic restaurants in the city. With a far-flung variety of former colonies and protectorates, Paris is a melting pot for people and cuisines from all over North Africa, Asia and the Middle East. When we were there last year we spent a lot of time exploring the food available at places like the café at L’Institut du Monde Arabe, grabbing pastries from a spectacular Algerian bakery called La Bague de Kenza (subsequently written up in the New York Times, with recipes, and there’s also some great photos on Lulu Loves London) and trying to find a much-recommended restaurant called l’Afghanistan in the 11th arrondissement.
One of the many interesting things about food blogging is tracing the movement of ideas and recipes around the widespread world of bloggers. Since the first time I read about Mark Bittman’s No Knead Bread – currently on my (very long!) list of recipes to try – in the New York Times it has travelled far and wide. You’ll also find Peabody’s Cranberry Orange Cookies a-wandering around other people’s blogs, as is Donna Hay‘s Self Frosting Cupcake recipe, which first surfaced on Niki’s Baking Sheet and then moved out into the wider world.
If you’re in the mood for yellow food, Barbara over at NZ food blog Winos and Foodies has managed to wade her ever-gracious way through a total of 143 – that’s no typo, I did say 143! – entries for her A Taste Of Yellow foodie event.When I first started blogging, while living in New Zealand in 2005, it wasn’t long before I discovered Winos and Foodies, one of – as far as I know – the first NZ food blogs and I’ve been a fan ever since, admiring Barbara’s ever-inspiring zest for life, food, Donna Hay, baking and blogging, despite her ongoing battle against cancer.