Monday, October 8, 2012

Ireland ! Killarney & Galway !!

The third and final installment of our Ireland travels takes us by way of Killarney.  One of the topmost tourist attractions in Ireland is the Ring of Kerry, a scenic 179km circular drive along the coast. Although our original intention was to see the western side of the Ring of Kerry, I had sprinkled an idea of maybe going east bound along the ring so that we can eat pancakes at The Strawberry Field.  

There was something about this place self-described as a "pancake cottage," hidden along somewhere on this beautiful route, that called to us, and soon, we were all consumed with eating here, trusting a smattering of reviews I had read on TripAdvisor.  And thus, we adjusted our itinerary, and made way to what may be the most charming place I have eaten at to date. 

I mean, look at this golden beauty, beckoning from behind these glossy wrought-iron gates.

Look at the view from the outdoor seating, the wide blue skies soaring out ahead.

Look at the ripped statuettes rocking six-packs sprinkled throughout the meticulously manicured premises.  Suggesting, if I ate here, I could look like this.  Well guess what?  I totally do !  (I'm going to write that in my Tripadvisor review.  Eat pancakes, wash clothes on your new washboard abs !)

Okay,  enough of that.  Let's get down to business.
I drank a hot chocolate.  I liked it.  It went down too easy.

The menu features both savory and sweet pancake options with just about every combination of protein, cheese, vegetable, fruit, dessert topping, available.  We all decided on regular, 'adult-sized' savory pancakes and kid-sized dessert pancakes.  

Here's the merry bunch looking at our first course !

 I had the Boughhil Mountain, combining mozzarella, sundried tomato and fresh basil pancake.

We quickly discovered that pancake means a thin crepe.  They can call it whatever they want.  It's fantastic.  Super, paper thin, and so simple, but the ingredients sang individually and in perfect harmony together - tangy sundried tomatoes, freshly cracked pepper, and lovely cuts of basil.  Hea-ven ! ! 

Greeshma ordered the Lough Brin pancake with cheddar, tomato and bacon that proved to be the cheesiest of the bunch !

Stefanie opted for the Barfinnihy featuring lovely pats of goat cheese, honey and dill.

And Belmund ordered the Kenmare, uniting smoked salmon, fresh spinach and sour cream. 

And soon after we swooned through the savory, we continued our euphoria through the sweet pancakes.

The Blackwater pancake with grated apple and chocolate chips.

Caha Mountains were represented as a pancake topped only with sweet maple syrup (of course ordered by our beloved Canuck, Stefanie!).

Belly went for a unique combination of kiwi, pineapple and maple syrup. 

And I went for the motherload ! Strawberryfield pancake with strawberries, chocolate sauce and ice cream.  (Naturally.)

HelloOoOo, gorgeous ! The sweet pancakes were slightly thicker than the savory pancakes, the soft base eagerly drinking the melting ice cream and warm chocolate sauce.

After, we visited the small shop inside, thanked our hostess graciously and made our merry way to the Dingle Peninsula, the northernmost peninsula in the southwest tip of Ireland, that contains prehistoric beehive huts, the Gallerus Oratory and other unique artifacts stemming from the early middle ages.

The Dingle drive was beautiful and peaceful.  The peace only disrupted by the rumbles of my stomach in anticipation for our seafood feast at Out of the Blue, a charming restaurant specializing in only locally sourced seafood.

The menu changes daily, with available catches, and is presented tableside as a propped chalkboard.

We gazed at the board while noshing on delicious, nutty brown breads and quarters of butter.

We shared a plate of flash fried squid, and I could not imagine a dish I regretted sharing more than this one.  The plate had a strong Asian influence, the delectably tender squid was caramelized with ginger, chili and coriander.

Stefanie ordered hake medallions with red pepper sauce and asparagus.  The fish was fresh and buttery.

Belmund went big with a whole fish sole topped with scallops and plenty of almond butter.  He kept going on and on about how he has never heard about almond butter before and how he will not be able to go on living without it from now on.  I tasted his almond butter and completely agreed.

Greesh and I ordered pan-seared scallops flambeed in apple brandy and topped with a beurre blanc sauce.  As you can see with the previous two plates, each entree is circled by a random assortment of salads / sides which  reminded me of Korean banchan, little clusters of randomness.

 My favorite was this fun little vegetable couscous dome that had juicy sultanas hidden within it.  I think I need to start eating more couscous.  Fun to say and eat !

The scallops are served whole, complete with roe (the orange claw thing shown below), which is a first for me to eat (a nice meaty scallop extension!); the scallops themselves were just awesome, little bundles of seafood succulence.

We all cleaned up our plates to earn our desserts, which appeared on a mini little board.

Les flottant, or floating island, was a square of meringue floating in a creme anglaise sauce, topped with toasted almonds.  The airy dessert bobbed up and down with each spoonful - utterly light.

The french apple tart was tangy, with added raspberry sauce, and a nice little way to end our fantastic meal.

The next morning, we grabbed coffees and toasties from Lir Cafe, near our hotel in Killarney, before heading out to the Cliffs of Moher.  Toasties is a great way to describe a grilled cheese sandwich.  I got one with ham.  It was pretty good !

We spent an hour taking pictures of the Cliffs of Moher, including several of Belmund with his beige trench coat billowing behind him in dramatic fashion, and had a quick lunch at the Cliffs View Cafe, located upstairs from the visitor's center.  You can eat a variety of paninis, soups and pasta while enjoying a view of the cliffs.

The pasta bolognese was surprisingly satisfying.

As was the Bundaberg ginger beer - a nice, solid ginger ale from Australia.

The almond chocolate Magnum bar rounded out our lunch !

Later that evening, we made our way to Galway, a quaint, adorable little town whose city inhabits only three streets in the city center.  By this point, the three Asians in the group were ready for some Asian cuisine.  And so we found ourselves sitting at Tamarind, overlooking the Spanish Arch, being served Thai cusine by a staff with full Irish accents.  Such an interesting combination !

Some of the tasted dishes included crispy goat cheese wontons, served with a cup of ketchup.

Green curry with prawns - spicy and sweet with balanced coconut flavor.

And sizzling platters of lamb and beef.  I don't know if it was because we all craved rice, or if the food was actually good, but we wolfed everything down.  The green curry was surprisingly delicious.

We finished our nights with a dessert nightcap, of course (could you see a pattern generating?).  We popped into a local cafe with its doors wide open for some...

Snickers ice cream,

Snicker's pie (that tasted eerily similar to Ikea's daim cake),

a scone with sultanas and butter,

a Snickers crepe,

and a Caribbean crepe that was fat with Nutella and bananas.

The desserts were just okay.  (I personally enjoy the IKEA daim cake more.)

The next morning, we toured a few city sights, did souvenir shopping and grabbed some lunch as a takeaway from The Pie Maker, a newish spot on the Galway scene specializing in handpies.

This bloke that runs the spot is an interesting chap, not the most friendly, or efficient, but manages to pull off wearing a hat pretty well. 

There are a couple of sweet pie options, including an apple pie and a Napoleon of sorts.

And a handful of savory pies, made as long handpies and single-serving round ones.

Cool industrial pie making machine in the shop
The Gruyere, pancetta and tomato was oily, slightly flaky, and cheesy.

The pancetta had a strange aftertaste, and with the undercooked tomatoes, this pie was my least favorite, but the Gruyere cheese flavor was strong and nice.

I did enjoy the chorizo though.

Less cheesy, more flaky, and just as oily.  These were fancy Hot Pockets, and made decent lunchfare.

The apple pie was a crumbly mess, the base made of sweet apple bits, and the top a thick layer of uncooked cinnamon sugar streusel.

My description sounds like crap, but this thing was pretty good !  I got it all over the car and myself, eating it in the car, but sometimes food just tastes better when you are also wearing it.

And with that concludes our culinary love affair with Ireland !  My next mission now is to find some Irish butter in New York !

Sweet creams!

The Strawberry Field
Moll's Gap-Sneem road (R568) Blackwater, Killarney, co. Kerry

Out of the Blue
Dingle Co. Kerry, Ireland

Lir Cafe
Kenmare Pl Killarney, Co. Kerry, Ireland

Spanish Arch Hotel  Galway, Co. Galway, Ireland

Sorry, I don't remember the location for The Pie Maker, but since Galway is a stone's throw wide, I am pretty  sure you will happen upon it!