My husband has been teasing me since we got married about Irish food vs Italian food. He clearly felt this his heritage had definitely come out on top in the food category. In the weeks leading up to our departure from Italy, he kept making jokes about his “last good supper.” I am happy to report, some of the best meals we have had in all of Europe have been on the Emerald Isle.
The night we arrived in Dublin, the rain was coming in sideways and many restaurants stopped serving dinner at 9:00 PM which is the time many restaurants in Italy start serving dinner. Skeptically, we covered the kids in Gortex and set out to find a hearty meal. We were drawn into a lively place with accordion music seeping through the fog-tinted window panes. We ordered a few beef and Guinness pies to share and we have never felt more nourished. The earthy brown gravy brought the crisp mashed potato base and the puff pastry cap together with perfection. The steak melted in our mouths and we slept through the night with the city of Dublin humming in every direction.
When we set out for Cork City the following morning, we didn’t have time to pack a lunch. After our time in Italy, we learned to try to find open markets if we want to get fresh food fast that will please everyone. With the luck of the Irish on our side, we found the English Market in Cork. Our son spotted the attic stairs and when we arrived, there was a narrow balcony all the way around the market, full of people squished into old wooden booths, laughing and drinking and dining.
We made our way through the line and bumped our way onto a bench only to sink our teeth into the best sandwiches we have ever tasted. The velvety goat cheese was topped with crisp arugula on soft, thick Irish seed bread. The relish was tangy and sweet and the perfect accompaniment. The strong Irish tea was served with dense carrot cake, topped with freshly whipped cream cheese icing. It was all I could do not to sing the “I told you so” song to my husband across the crowded table.
I hoped my lucky streak would continue when we were caught off guard by a massive rainstorm on a hike along the Wicklow Coast. We were in the seaside village of Dalkey as we ducked into The Queens Pub hoping for the best. They said they only had their bar menu available as it was in between lunch and dinner so we were not expecting much. After a feast of traditional beer-battered cod with home cut chips, we insured our warmth for the walk up the hill by ordering dessert. When the mixed berry bread and butter pudding with fresh cream and custard arrived, my husband put up his hands in surrender.
The best part about the meals was the gracious way they were presented. People asking us if we would like a “wee bit more of this or that,” while squeezing the kids’ cheeks. We shared bellies full of laughter over local lore and left completely nourished. As the plane took off, my husband said, “Italy still wins in the weather category!”