mishdish at the mishnish

A contrast to the al fresco charms of the chippie is Mishdish, the local gastropub inside The Mishnish, a boutique Tobermory hotel. Situated as the far end of the harbor, Mishdish is fitted out in the contempo aesthetic of dark wood and crisp linens and is as inviting as it is mellifluous. It’s also as locavore a dining experience as one could hope for: locally caught, locally sourced, locally distilled, locally prepared, and locally served, the menu bursts with local pride. And rightfully so, I might add. (To save myself from excessive repetition, please assume the modifier “local” before all further nouns unless otherwise noted.) Fishcakes of salmon and haddock are lovely and light with mixed greens and a piquant splash of non-local chili. It’s about as far as you can get from the potato-laden belly bombers I remember as a child and I could easily takedown a second portion without blinking. A bowl of sweet langoustines brings out the skull-sucking carnivore in me. Split-grilled and drizzled in chive butter they come with a crusty hunk of baguette to soak up every last drop of buttery brine. My only regret is that I ordered an appetizer portion and not an entrée. There’s no getting away from Sticky Toffee Pudding, gluten be damned. Interestingly enough it’s square, not a dome, yet geometry does nothing to diminish the criminal pleasure of what is essentially a steamed piece of cake soaked through with buttery toffee and topped with vanilla ice cream. The coffee is good, too – if imported – and strong. It comes with a small chocolate bon-bon that’s as you’d expect, handmade just down the road.

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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: smoked out

The Burren Smokehouse is a family run business started by Birgitta and Peter Curtain to keep up with the demand which had built up around the house-smoked salmon served in the family’s Lisdoonvarna pub, The Roadside Tavern. Leaders in the local Slow Food movement, they carefully source quality raw materials like trout, mackerel, cheese, and salmon direct from the wild west coast of Ireland to produce award-winning specialties like Burren’s Hot Smoked Organic Salmon with Honey, Lemon and Dill, which won 2 gold medals at the Great Taste awards and was recently served to Queen Elizabeth II as part of a state dinner at Dublin Castle. While widely available via mail order now – as well as at Dean & Deluca – there are few locations as atmospheric in which to enjoy their ruby-red salmon than nearby Burren Wine and Food. The sign in the window promises home cooking and that’s exactly what you’ll find inside the century-old stone coach house. Nestled in the Burren hills, owner Cathleen Connole grows or sources most of the food she serves from local farmers and traders, including fish from the Burren Smokehouse and Liscannor crab. The only exception is the organic house wine. The Galway Bay label is produced in the Languedoc by her brother, Noel.

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amuse bouche

At the suggestion of a friend who also happens to double as a local San Francisco restaurant critic, I made it a point to visit Bouche in the gastronomic wasteland of Union Square. I’m very glad I did. Convenient to an evening’s theatre plans, Guillaume Issaverdens’ unassuming hidden California-French bistro proved a welcome surprise of seasonal food amid charming surroundings. Tucked into an upstairs corner with views through mullioned windows the restaurant has all the rustic allure of a Loire farmhouse. A bottle of one of those wines you almost never find on a domestic wine list only reinforces the illusion. (Domaine Auchere Sancerre Rouge, as refreshing a spring red as you’re likely to ever find) Expectations henceforth were felicitously met: a deliriously good duck confit with beet puree and walnuts arrived under a bouquet of radish and spring greens. Sauteed calamari lightly dressed with mushrooms and citrus made a refreshing, less intense companion and foil. Lamb shoulder balanced the difficult task of tasting earthy without being too fatty or filling an entrée. (chickpea puree instead of potato was a clever deception) And a Proustian nod to the marinated salmon; one of those dishes I will be able to recall years hence. Delicately smoked slices of ruby red salmon come coiled atop a bird’s nest of crispy egg noodle, floating on a bed of creme fraiche. Nestled inside the nest: a perfectly poached egg. Creamy, crunchy, salty, smoky, the liaison of flavors and textures is heady, if not downright erotic. After this, dessert seems altogether unnecessary – what I really want is a cigarette.

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