Sunday, August 29, 2010

"When I die, Dublin will be written in my heart." James Joyce

i didn't take that many pictures while i was in dublin because i don't feel like a tourist there. and i looved the amount of times people stopped me to ask for directions or thought that i was a local. but then i'd start talking with an american belfast-tinged accent and when asked, said i lived in italy - they were all sorts of confused. 
bridge shots across the sniffy liffy.
showing the local the most touristy spots.
a taste of emilia. feels like home. sorta.

organic. free range.
tennis pro's.

sand sculptures at the dublin castle.

ok so maybe this is a lot of photos having said i didn't take that many. but for a week in dublin, for me, this is not a lot.

Murphy's Ice Cream: From Ireland...with love.

A stroll through Temple Bar square caught my attention on Murphy's Ice Cream. Just in front of Bad Ass Cafe, the window on the corner boasted hand written listings of the current ice cream flavours: honeycomb, burnt caramel, Kilbeggan Irish whiskey, vanilla, rum raisin, dark chocolate, real mint leaf, Bailey's, sea salt, brown bread, and Kerry cream to name a few. BROWN BREAD ICE CREAM? Before I knew it, my wandering legs led me right into the little shop. I'm not one for indulging on ice cream in the middle of the day, but brown bread ice cream? How could I resist?! The cute scruffy guy behind the counter was more than happy to let me taste as many samples as I wanted and being as indecisive as I am, I asked if I could have two flavours in a cup (a typical request in Italy). Of course, he exclaimed, and then gave me samples of different combinations on the spoon to see how they would taste together. Burnt caramel and sea salt he suggested. Tasty combo of sweet and salty. I said I definitely want the brown bread. Ok, how about brown bread and sea salt? Sea salt from the Dingle Bay. I love Dingle. McCmbridge's brown bread which has been caramelized. I love Irish brown bread. Or why not try brown bread and Kilbeggan whiskey - award winning from the oldest whiskey distiller in the world from Co. Westmeath. Looking down at my handful of taster spoons, I thought I'd be full of ice cream before I even made a purchase! I couldn't be that person that only comes in for the free samples, but not a bad idea for next time I'm hungry and in the area...

According to the website they use "fresh, local milk from the endangered Kerry Cows. This indigenous species is renowned for its thick, creamy, and delicious milk but has fallen out of favour since its output in terms of volume doesn't match other breeds." It certainly was thick, creamy, and delicious. The sea salt was subtle. The whiskey flavoured ice cream was sweet and retained its authentic flavour. The brown bread bits in amongst the vanilla ice cream was crunchy and crumbly, not soggy - probably due to its crisp caramelization. 

Murhpy's is kinda like the Grom of ireland with seasonal flavours changing every so often and using locally sourced products when possible. A definite Dublin recommendation - even for those who wouldn't normally stop for an ice cream snack and especially for those who can't resist trying something new, tasty, and different. 

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Eco Cabs: the way of the future

slow. ecological. environmentally friendly. no pollution. good leg exercise. fun. sustainable travel. completely free. could be fun for a while. could be a fun internship. could be a fun thing to introduce to colorno. HA. i like it. go dublin go.

Friday, August 27, 2010

A Lesson on Irish Cheeses.

Wicklow Blue.

have I mentioned before that I love cheese? 
Ok first, a little background on the lesson on Irish cheeses: when i was in Dublin last, when I first arrived in Ireland at the start of the summer, I went to Fallon & Byrne, stared with my mouth open at the cheese counter, and was recommended a selection of Irish cheeses. Fallon & Byrne is the Dean & Delucca of Dublin. it is a beautiful old warehouse-like building with a food hall on the ground level - aisles and counters of epicurean goodies I could spend hours staring at and imagining all the different flavours; the top floor is the restaurant where we have dined a couple years ago; and in the basement is the wine cellar. So, then, when I extended my trip to stay in Ireland for the rest of the summer, I had to leave for a week as my parents had invited guests to stay at our house for a week. I wrote to a couple farms to see if I could gain some work experience learning about their cheeses - cheese making season was, obviously, I should've known if I love cheese, over. So when a friend told me he'd be in Dublin for his 30th birthday during that same week I had to be out of the house, I decided to go to Dublin to gain some work experience. I wrote to Fallon & Byrne and they were more than happy to let me come and work there for a couple days. The first day worked in the food hall, helping out at the tills and learning how the store runs. The next two days worked downstairs in the wine cellar. It's a beautiful room with a gorgeous selection of wines and a menu of small plates but working behind the bar was not really the experience I, or my aching-standing-for-eight-hours-legs, was looking for. it was well run and everyone was extremely nice and very knowledgeable about the wines so I still really enjoyed it, but over the next two days, I fell in love. At the cheese counter. They have an impressive selection of cheeses and the people that worked there knew all about the cheeses: the way they're made, the history of the farms, the pairings with foods and for cheese platters, the different knives and ways to handle the cheeses....I did my best to serve the customers (trying to cut a wedge of Parmesan Reserve for John Rocha nearly broke my arm and thought the cheese cutting wire would snap into my face) and ask questions about the cheeses in between. I loved it. 

A stop by Temple Bar farmer's market led me to the Sheridan's Cheesemonger stall where I asked the guy if I could come into the shop one afternoon and learn about the cheeses. He knew about UNISG and has even dined with Christian de Riccardis! He said, call up K. Sheridan and tell him Christiano sent you. Again, I fell in love. Sheridan's is a small, well known shop off of Grafton street that is as cold as a fridge since all the cheeses sit out on the counter. They have a wide variety of mostly-Irish farmhouse cheeses, as well as some favorite European cheeses, olives, meats, sandwiches, and handpicked artisan products and wines. The staff were incredibly informative and talked to me non-stop about the cheeses and offering me samples to taste as they chatted with curious customers. I don't know where they learned to retain all that information but I was most impressed. They took such good care of the cheeses too, keeping the store tidy and the cheeses' moisture in tack - I'm sure the cling film company loves them! Even though Comte was their biggest seller, and I doubt if the Swiss, French or the Italians would agree, but Irish cheeses can definitely give them a run for their money. 
Ireland, the luscious land of grazing sheep, goats and cows, definitely has an abundance of milk. They used to use it mainly it to make a lot of butter and had a huge butter exporting industry, but making cheese out of the milk has extra added value into the pocket's of the farmers. I was told that in the 1970's, one woman, Veronica Steele, tried this crumbly cheddar cheese that she loved so much she wanted to recreate it herself back in Ireland. She tried and tried but the cheese didn't come out the way she wanted like the one she tried so the husband suggested to her to try making a soft cheese. A soft cheese? she thought. So she experimented some more and created Milleens cheese, considered to be the first Irish Farmhouse Cheese. A couple neighbouring farms in Co Cork followed her footsteps, she may or may not have taught them, and they make Gubbeen and Durrus cheeses. Adrahan is also a well known soft cheese from the area. Even though they all come from the same part of the country, the cheeses are distinct and unique, but it is definitely the humid air conditions of the area that the soft cheeses require that makes them so good. The sea air and the humidity can all be smelt on the rind of the cheeses and the earthy green grass in the taste of the paste. If you eat it without the washed rind, the taste will be completely different. Ireland, with it's clean and salty-sea air, subtle constant rain and damp temperate climate characterize these distinguished cheeses. Talk about terroir

Also, since Ireland's climate is pretty constant, cheese is seasonal and it depends on the quality of the grass that the animals eat - if they are grain fed during the winter, the milk and hence cheese will not be as flavourful.

Most Irish cheeses have names that are like trademarks and each farm makes their own cheese, not like some larger "cheese makers" aka co-ops like Comte where the farmers of the area bring the milk to the cheese producer. They also don't have affineur's - who are cheese agers, typical in France. Every part of the production is done by themselves. F&B and Sheridan's both knew the specific names of the farmers, their towns, and the history of those who make the Irish farmhouse cheeses, and in this way, because they are coming directly from the farm, they are able to have direct relationships with them. It not only cuts out the middle man, but allows direct communication about the artisinal cheeses, the seasonal changes or anything that might affect the cheeses' variability since they are handmade.
Made in Kanturk, Co Cork by Eugen and Mary Burns. A semi-soft cheese handmade with pasteurized cows milk with a washed pinky-beige rind. The rind is yeast and bacteria mixed with water and then rubbed onto the cheese - the conditions of the area are perfect for the growth. It has a vegetable rennet. They have the oldest registered herd of Friesian cows in Ireland. It has a buttery texture and a honey colour and persistent nutty flavour. 
Made in Co. Cork by Jane and Gerard Murphy. They had a goat farm and learned that goats milk is good for sufferers from eczema, like their daughter. And me!
Made in Co Clare by Ben Johnson. It is made from raw milk and is similar to Gouda. It is waxed by hand. 
Made in Co Tipperary by Louis and Jane Grubb. It is a full fat blue Frisian cows milk. P. Roqueforti is added to create the blue moulds and then it is wrapped in foil to protect it. It is rich and smooth, not gritty moulds, nutty but sweet - the blue moulds are not too overwhelming. 

Made in west Cork by Helene and Dick Willims who are originally from Holland. It is a semi-hard unpasteurized full cream cows milk that follows and old Dutch Gouda recipe. It is sweet and dense like toffee. Sprayed with wax so there is no mould on the rind and it ripens internally. The minimum aging is 6 months but the longer the better. 
Made next door to Cashel Blue by the Grubb's nephew, Henry and Louis Clifton Browne. It is made of pasteurized Friesland sheep's milk. Smooth and gritty but sharper and drier than Roquefort. It has a sharper taste than Cashel Blue. Produced only seasonally as it is not available mid-winter to mid-spring. 
Handmade in Coomken in West Cork by Jeffa Gill. It is a semi-soft non-pasteurized cows milk cheese. it has a washed rind and vegetable rennet. The rind growth comes from b. linen cultures not the natural air borne flora. It is supple, mellow, and creamy that is delicious with fruits like pears or easily melts well like Raclette. 
Made in Schull of West Cork by Tom and Giana Ferguson. The name refers to the small bay where the farm is, in Irish meaning "small mouthful." It is a semi-soft unpasteurized cows milk with a washed rind and vegetable rennet. The rind has b. linen cultures and is wrinkly, a pinky-beige colouring with more creviced crosses than Durrus. It has a firm texture and herbal, grassy notes. 
Made in southwest Ireland in Beara Penninsula. It is a soft cow's milk with a pinky-orangey washed rind. Rich, floral and sweet that has a firm yet creamy consistency. 
Made in Co Cork by Gudrun and Frank Shinnick who are originally from Switzerland. It is made of unpasteurized skimmed cow milk and brine washed. It has a firm texture and Alpine-ish caramel and fruity flavours. 
Made near the west coast by Meg and Derrick Gordon in Inagh Co Clare. It is made of organic, unpasteurized Saanen white goats milk with a vegetable rennet. It is best eaten mid-spring to mid-winter. it is light, velvety and smooth - melts in your mouth. Although the peat and the sand in the soil are important for the goats' diets, you can almost taste the sea more than the goat. 
Many of these Irish farmhouse artisan cheeses have won numerous awards. Now I know Ireland has much more to offer than just Dubliner cheddar. 

Most of this I learned in the two stores but some of it read in Patricia Michelson's lovely Cheese book, which if I had any money i would have bought. 

these are the best crackers to go with cheese - I'm addicted:

Organic Cartoons II

Monday, August 23, 2010

"I like a cook who smiles out loud when he tastes his own work. Let God worry about your modesty; I want to see your enthusiasm." — Robert Farrar Capon

locally caught that day.
i'm quite handy with a hammer.
sheep culling check. we were supposed to see the cows being milked. we were supposed to see some bee hives in action - suits and all. we were supposed to chat with a guy who has an oyster farm. we were supposed to go out on the boat around horn head to catch some lobster and crab. 

it's good to know the locals in a small town where everyone knows everyone. 

however, we didn't do any of the above. luckily though, the fisherman had gone out that morning before the rain and had caught some lobster and crab which he cooked and shared. so, we had a feast. check.
 dilled courgette soup. just caught atlantic sea lobster and crab. melted kerry gold butter with tonsa herbs for dipping. buttload of organic garden vegetable salad. fluffy-floury irish potatoes from the farmer's market with capers and lil' red wine vinegar. 

Rutabaga Fries. Also known as Swede Chips.

what to do with a giant rutabaga? also known here as the swede. i had no idea. it’s supposed to be the low-carb version of the potato, so naturally i made one of my favourite foods: fries. also known here as chips. since they were baked instead of fried, they weren’t as crispy as a good french fry is, but it was still pretty tasty. 
preheat the oven to 200C. scrub and peel the swede/rutabaga with a sharp knife - carefully. cut it into 1/2 inch discs following the shape of the base. then cut those into fry-sized pieces. place in a roasting pan. coat with extra virgin olive oil dust with paprika and hot chili powder, then mix around to coat evenly. (throw in some whole unpeeled garlic cloves, because whenever something is roasting, it’s always a good chance to roast some garlic!) cook for about 15 minutes until starting to get crisp  and darker around the edges and give a good mix about with a spatula. then cook for another 5 minutes. but don’t forget to reset the timer before you go off and do something completely different like i did. otherwise they’ll be a little burnt - but still good! the smaller garlic cloves will probably be burnt to an solid-ash-charcoal crisp. peel two of the other larger garlic cloves and mash with a fork in a small dish. add some ketchup and some hot red chili pepper flakes and blend as a chip dip. maybe i just love eating hot food right out of the oven with my fingers, and finger foods with dips especially, but despite it being burnt, it was still good enough to try again!  

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

...follow up to previous post.

I thought it might have sounded a bit odd when I said previously that I was surprised that such an abundant array of vegetables could be grown in one garden in Ireland. I guess I assumed there was, but I was disappointingly surprised by the lack of local foods in the local store - yes, it is a chain and does have a good amount of Irish produce, but the more-organic store, The Green Man up the road doesn't have any fresh produce besides wild lettuce (but it does have some gorgeous Irish cheeses that I lustfully fancy). If there were such farms and gardens hidden in all these fields of green that not only characterize but cover the island, they should be for sale! Sharing my same thoughts, or at least confirming that my thoughts were not so odd, an article from the WSJ writes that chefs, particularly the ones voted best in the world, yay, are moving away from the molecular gastronomy trend and moving towards promoting the local movement - using more vegetables, less red meat, from the surrounding areas. WSJ writes, "Magnus Ek, 44 years old, the chef-proprietor of Oaxen Krog, believes the terroir approach to cuisine emerged after Scandinavian chefs worked and traveled abroad. "When we returned, we looked at our environment in a different way and suddenly discovered what we had on our doorstep, like fantastic wild berries and mushrooms," he says." 

If you could see all the beautiful produce that could be, and is, grown locally - why would you want to buy the rather tasteless tomatoes from Holland just for the sake of including a tomato in a salad? (sorry, Holland). 

and yes, the article uses the word terroir a lot, and in interesting ways - "terroiriste" - and after our terroir class, i will never be able to hear that word with a complex misunderstanding and slight distaste for the word. 
"There is great produce everywhere -- we have created a unique kitchen in the middle of nowhere, but if you just open your eyes and look, you can find local herbs, plants and berries," he says. "Every day there is something new popping up." Belgium chef Kobe Desramaults., WSJ.
Read also the WSJ interview with Michael Pollen, who understands that it's not so easy for everyone to eat locally given the changing seasons in different parts of the world. 
Two quotes to share:

WSJ: Does eating local, sustainable food have to be a lifestyle priority, or can people do it casually?
Mr. Pollan: People can do it casually. There are people who go [to a farmer's market] every week, and there are people who go when the mood strikes them. To eat well takes a little bit more time and effort and money. But so does reading well; so does watching television well. Doing anything with attention to quality takes effort. It's either rewarding to you or it's not. It happens to be very rewarding to me. But I understand people who can't be bothered, and they're going to eat with less care.

WSJ: What do you wish people here understood about their food that they don't now?
Mr. Pollan: We've been conditioned by artificially cheap food to be shocked when a box of strawberries costs $3.
But it's important to know that farmers aren't getting wealthy. When you see strawberries being sold for $1 a box, picture the kind of labor it takes to pick those strawberries and the kind of chemicals it takes to produce those kinds of strawberries without hand weeding.
Eight dollars for a dozen eggs sounds outrageous, but when you think that you can make a delicious meal from two eggs, that's $1.50. It's really not that much when we think of how we waste money in our lives.

A Quick Drive around Horn Head on a Beautiful Night.

doesn't even capture how breath-taking.
(click for larger view)

Horn Head.

Sheephaven Bay
View of Downings.
Killahoey Beach and Port na Blagh
cloud-covered Muckish Moutain overshadowing Dunfanaghy.

Fairway's Garden.

after seeing the Campbell's beautiful and abundant garden which proved to me that many vegetables and herbs could be grown and eaten locally in this rainy island - not just sheep and cows grazing on the lush green fields and after experiencing home grown carrots to be much more rewarding than a 1 euro bagful - i was inspired to see what we could grow in our own garden. a quick stop to the local florist in Creeslough, i rummaged around the pots and plants and couldn't help but smile at all the possibilities. luckily for the wallet, it's the end of the summer aka the end of the season so many of the pots were on sale. if my hands could've have carried more i would have, but i managed to pick up thyme, mint, rosemary and a gooseberry tree - much to my delight. i couldn't wait to get home to plant them! i needed, though, something that could be grown and pretty much looked after on it's own since we're only here maaayyybee twice a year, mum sometimes more. i would love to find some leveled land where i could actually cultivate a garden - would definitely require me to spend more time here (shucks) and maybe start up that B&B where i could cook with ingredients grown in the back yard. well, wishful thinking. maybe we will be back again in time to see the fruit of the gooseberry bush. maybe my 4 plants will survive until i'm back again. maybe i'll cook with them before they even get a chance to flourish...
rosemary, mint, and thyme.
my gooseberry tree!
they have a nice view.
and some company while i'm away.

and some encouraging flowery neighbours.

“A lot of people are wanting to see something done the old way,” Jere said. “They’re tired of plastic and modern things and modern food. People just want to taste what an old vegetable used to taste like when people developed them for flavor versus shipping.”

mum just sent me this nytimes mag article about a couple with a seed company of all sorts of wordly varieties who are trying to bring disappearing vegetables back to the table and encouraging people to eat non-modified foods. i'll see what has to offer for Fairway!