Foodspotting began with a clear mission: to canvas the world with dish recommendations so that you'll always find a good meal wherever you go. This year, our desire to bring together travel and dining inspired collaborations with tourism boards like Discover Ireland to showcase dishes around the globe. As part of our partnership with Discover Ireland, Foodspotting's head designer Chris Connolly and I were invited to experience Gaelic cuisine in its native country, which we had the pleasure of visiting during Thanksgiving week. Read on for our favorite discoveries...
Liver, salmon and charcuterie plates at Farmgate restaurant in Cork, Ireland.
Tripe and onions simmered in milk is a traditional Irish dish.
Ireland's Waterford County is known for its blaa – a soft, doughy white bread roll covered with flour.
Chris and I arrived in Dublin two days before Thanksgiving on a chilly and grey Wednesday. It was the first time in Ireland for us both, so we had only the slightest idea of what to expect. Still, we eagerly anticipated trying Irish dishes we'd only heard of back in the States, like boxty (traditional Irish potato pancake) and black pudding – a dark sausage made by cooking blood or dried blood.
Finishing off a nontraditional Thanksgiving dinner of pork chops and venison medallions with a classic Turkey Day dessert of warm pumpkin pie at Ard Bia at Nimmos in Galway...
After checking into the elegant Merrion Hotel, we ventured out to explore Dublin by foot, determined to find a pub or two that served hot whiskey and fish and chips with mushy peas to acclimate ourselves to our host country.
Loitering outside The Temple Bar Pub in Dublin.
After our late afternoon snack of fried fish and whiskey, we made a beeline for Fallon & Bryne, a gourmet food market, restaurant and wine cellar all housed under one roof on busy Exchequer Street. We arrived just as the food market was closing, but enjoyed a lovely meal with John Mulcahy, Failte Ireland's Head of Visitor and Trade Engagement, in the upstairs dining room. I ordered the aged Irish fillet of beef cooked medium rare. It was the size of my fist, but was evenly cooked, pinkish, tender and came with fennel and potatoes. "Our cows are grass-fed and always have been," John pointed out to me as I cleaned my plate.
All restaurant menus we came across offered fresh fish – just one of the benefits of being a country surrounded by sea. This is the Oven Baked Cod @ Fallon & Byrne.
During our stay, we had the chance to meet some of Ireland's most passionate food producers, purveyors and restaurant owners. While we only met a select few, the gusto shown for Irish food and "Irishness" by the likes of Kay Harte of Farmgate Cafe in Cork's impressive English Market will remain with us always. It became apparent that the Irish pride themselves in real food free of hormones, pesticides and chemical "enhancements" that have sadly become routine in US food production. Where we elevate chefs to star status for taking food from the earth and serving it in an unaltered state, the Irish have eaten this way always.
What is Irish food then? Some say Irish cuisine stemmed from what they call "peasant food" – hearty vegetables, stews, eating every part of an animal. Today, this mentality translates to sustainably and humanely raised animals, fish caught that morning right from the sea and entrees that come with two sides of veggies. The Irish demonstrate the art of making the most of what they've always had. "What's Irish food?" Kay asked, rhetorically. "Pick up a spade and start digging."
A typical Foodspotting place setting. Camera, wine and our cheerful mascot, Spot.
Last but not least, photo opp with a cold and slippery friend in Cork English Market...
Photos by Chris Connolly.