baa, baa, brown sheep

As an aficionado of livestock, I naturally took great interest in the local Iona sheep. They have massive, deep-pile coats – the kind into which you just want to dig your fingers – and seem to roam unrestrained, though the greatest concentration of the wooly beasts are to be found at the northern tip of the island, where the turf – and the view – are more agreeable. There they also do something really curious: they burrow into cutouts between the grass and the sand, as though seeking shelter from the wind. The sight of it only serves to reinforce the anomaly of today’s calm skies and bright sunshine. It must be a wildly inhospitable environment when even the sheep are seen ducking for cover.

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live blog: chow(der) hound

Local fish supplier Charlie Sexton has fished the waters off the coast of the village of Doonbeg for the past 25 years. The Atlantic coast is home to hake, cod, monkfish, and tiny prawns – all of which he catches to end up in the seafood chowder of Chef Wade Murphy, seen here teaching me how to do it properly, with the addition of clams, mussels, and salmon, in Darby’s at The Lodge at Doonbeg.

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live blog: cheese, please

Anyone who loves to eat will be quick to notice that the artisanal food movement has taken quick and firm root in Ireland. Perhaps it started as a reaction to the mad cow blow up a number of years ago, but now coupled with the current angst over genetically modified products entering the food chain you can’t hardly throw a rock in the countryside without hitting a small purveyor of singular handmade, hand reared, hand farmed, or hand grown accountable-to-the-consumer food. Suffused with a history of dairy-farming, the first great agricultural idea to prove itself in Ireland was cheese and today Irish Farmhouse Cheese is practically an appellation or D.O.C unto itself – traceable not just to a region, but to a small valley, even to the slopes of a mountain. That unique character – plus a distinctive flavor – is what has brought such acclaim to St. Tola, Siobhan Ni Ghairbhith’s award-winning small-batch goat cheese made in Inagh, near Co. Clare’s wild Atlantic coast. As the only organic goat farm in Ireland, the cheese produced here reflects the clean environment. From a young, fresh Crottin sprinkled with salt to a creamy, mature log coated in ash, the curds are imbued with suggestive flavors of the sea and undertones of peat. In short, this is cheese that tastes gloriously of its terroir.

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