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.
I’m heading off to Barcelona with the sister for three days in a few weekend’s time and I’d love some food suggestions! We’ve never been there before so this is completely new ground for us both. The Boyfriend has been recommending the “silky” coffee to me, the sister has lists of places to try out (she arrives several days before me) and, my appetite whetted by the Mediterranean Food Company’s tapas class and several nights consumption at Dublin’s Market Bar, I have every intention of eating my way through as much as possible of everything on offer in Barcelona.
New Zealand cafés still continue to surprise and delight me. A moist Spinach Risotto Cake at Reid’s Store during a break while driving to Nelson the morning after we arrived, eaten in bright sunshine outside on the decking was my re-introduction to café cooking, NZ style on this trip. There were other days of happy eating. Marinated Lamb on a Puy Lentil Salad with lemon yoghurt dressing at Nelson’s Morrison Street Café, with a glass of local sauvignon blanc; a sticky, dried fruit-packed, gluten free Ginger Slice with a long black, milk on the side (my coffee order of choice in NZ) in Muses Café, Motueka, en route to the Boyfriend’s family bach in Ngaio Bay; a last Christchurch breakfast of a fresh-baked savoury Spinach and Cream Cheese Muffin followed by an enormous date-studded sweet scone outside Veronica’s Café on New Regent Street, soaking up the last rays of sun as we watched the tourist trams going past.
Two weeks in New Zealand and I didn’t want to leave. Being on holidays and it being summer, rather than grey and gloomy Irish winter, certainly made things harder, especially as we had such a good time catching up with family and friends on that side of the world. We thoroughly enjoyed the main reason for our trip – the Boyfriend’s sister’s wedding last Saturday – especially as the reception was held in a recently opened vineyard in Moutere, Woollaston Estates, and I had more than a few chances to sample their 2006 Nelson Sauvignon Blanc!
We left a damp, wintery Ireland last Friday morning and touched down to blue skies and sunshine in Christchurch, New Zealand, on Wednesday after a three-day stopover in Kuching with my Malaysian family. Sure beats sitting around in Ireland with the post-Christmas blues! While in Kuching we got a chance to feast on our favourite teh tarik, or pulled tea, and roti canai, layered Indian breads that are served with a runny dahl. The next day, the reheated roti are especially delicious when they reappear with kaya, an unctuous coconut spread, not unlike lemon curd. Daily feasts of tropical fruit at my aunt’s house included papaya, the hairy-skinned rambutan, several types of banana, mangosteen, sweet ripe pineapple and rich, juicy-to-your-elbows windfall mangos from the neighbour’s tree. This time round we avoided the durian, however!
Last weekend’s (unexpectedly extended) stay in England included a trip to the best farm shop I’ve ever visited, the HFG Farm Shop at Beeston, Norfolk. We were in Norwich visiting the Engineering Couple and my kinswoman, their beloved Irish terrier, Bridie, who, knowing my love of food, brought us there after a morning spent tramping and on the river in their Canadian canoe. Outside the shop were long stems of brussels sprouts and sparkly Christmas wreaths but the real treasure was inside. Tables were piled with home baking – hungry from our morning’s activities, Paradise Slices, Flapjacks, Shortbread and Date Slices immediately caught our eye – while groaning shelves of jams, jellies, oils, vinegars and chocolate lined the walls. A freezer was stocked with a multi-coloured selection of loose frozen fruits and baskets of locally grown vegetables were stacked high at the end of the room. The food available was more than tempting and, although I did resist, I still managed to walk out of the shop heavily laden with the aforementioned baking, brown paper bags of spelt and wholewheat flour from Letheringsett Watermill, a warty celeriac, a selection of nobbly Jerusalem artichokes and, because I never can resist something gingery, a bottle of Great Uncle Cornelius’ Finest Spiced Ginger Non-Alcoholic Apertif.
I didn’t have much time for shopping on my recent Berlin trip but I did manage to make a selection of purchases around the themes (although I didn’t notice this at the time!) of cherries and chocolate, mostly from the fantastic Kollwitzplatz Saturday Market.In the cherry category we have:1 x bottle of Griotka cherry liqueur from Prague Airport. Very useful when you arrive at a cold cottage late on Friday nights, especially when sips of the liqueur are alternated with sips of caramelised cinnamon hot chocolate.1 x bottle of kirschwasser or cherry brandy from Berlin. Still unopened. I’m limiting myself to one bottle of alcoholic cherry drink at a time!1 x small tin box of Pulmoll cherry sweets, also from Prague Airport.1 x bar of Nestle Noir Cerise chocolate. Decided to pass this to the family – it then disappeared too quickly for me to test it.1 x jar of amazing cherry-laden jam from Scandinavia, I think, that I ended up buying after starting a conversation with a Very Persuasive saleswoman in Kollwitzplatz Market.
In Berlin most of this week to present the Other Voices website at the Prix Europa internet competition. A total of 22 sites are nominated for the Exploration award, each of which has to give a half-hour presentation. Our area of the competition is fortunately limited to three days – long, intense and tiring but also incredibly rewarding. It’s not often you get the chance to sit down with your professional peers to discuss and share concepts, ideas and inspiration from all over Europe. As for getting to see Berlin, forget it. The most I’ve seen so far is through the window of the bus that takes us to Potsdam every morning or from a taxi speeding through a hushed late-night cityscape. I’ve a free day on Saturday though – perhaps time to explore some markets and discover Berlin – and, of course, have some close encounters with German food – for myself.