On this leg of the trip we are visiting a famous crystal factory, a castle and more ancient ruins. Food isn’t front and center, but I do stumble on to a few typical Irish dishes to write home about.
At Geoff’s in Waterford we have a lunch of simple Irish fare: Fish chowder made with salmon, cod and smoked haddock and brown bread.
I also find a bakery for scones and a sweet little coffee stand called Arch that carries high quality, ethically sourced beans from places like Nicaragua, Costa Rica and Ethiopia.
And I am loving all the butcher shops. There is one on practically every corner!
The House of Waterford Crystal
Waterford Crystal, established 1783, was the very first product manufactured in Ireland. Next to streaky bacon and cow provisions of course.
Glassblowers have four minutes tops to expand and shape the crystal using the power of their lungs and the quickness of their hands before it cools and hardens. This coordination is where the real talent of the glassblower comes in.
The glass cutters use diamond wheels and the pressure from their hands to do their part.
Mike was 16 when he started cutting glass. He’s 63 now. When I ask him if he ever gets tired of his work he says, “On some days, but mostly no.”
“It’s like a hobby,” he says with a smile.
“So, you would do it even if you didn’t get paid?”
“Yes! But don’t tell them that,” he laughs darting his eyes in the direction of the main office.
After the glass is cut it gets sculpted and engraved.
Kenneth McEvoy is a cutter, master sculptor, engraver, painter and poet. He too has been working here since age 16.
Waterford is some of the finest crystal in the world. It makes the best glassware to enjoy fine wines and spirits out of.
The Miler Pub
We check into a B&B and the innkeeper recommends the local pub down the road.
We see him over there about two hours later.
I peruse the backbar.
“How is Thin Gin?” I ask.
“Oh, it’s very good! Made in Waterford!” our innkeeper recommends.
He laughs when I order it straight up on the rocks.
Most of the bartenders I’ve encountered in Ireland so far ask if I want tonic with my gin, or they try and throw fruit in my glass. I want to be able to smell and taste all of the nuances of each gin I’m trying. I order it straight to not make the flavors.
Thin Gin is crisp and clean.
I learn that it’s made with native botanicals like elderflower, hawthorne and tansy. The floral and citrus notes mingle beautifully with a faint hint of juniper berry.
On our way out we catch a beautiful sunset. Our innkeeper reminds us that it is unusually warm right now for Ireland.
“Enjoy the Irish heatwave!” he jokes.
The most popular tourist attraction in this town is Kilkenny Castle. Built in the 12 century and refurbished to reflect the way the castle appeared during Victorian times.
We hear screams and shouts.
A jubilant crowd is cheering on their favorite football (soccer) team from inside a nearby pub. We decide it looks like a decent place to grab lunch.
“We have a special today,” our server says.
“Roast beef with mashed potatoes and roasted vegetables.”
It sounds great. Already catching on to the portion sizes served in Ireland my mom and I order one to share.
“We have half portions,” the server says.
“Would you each like to order one of those?”
This is the half portion guys. A ten ounce slab of roast beef (well-done of course) with roasted carrots and parsnips, mashed potatoes and a whole boiled potato.
We laugh out loud when they appear. I am curious what the full portion looks like.
Lunch is warm and satisfying. It reminds me of having dinner at my Scottish step-mom’s house. And the gravy rocks.
The next day we visit the Rock of Cashell––a national monument of ruins dating back to the 4th century. The Cashell, which means stone court, is built on limestone rock. It has a royal history from the 4th to the 12th century until it was turned into a church.
We stay at Bailey’s B&B where we also have dinner. A brothy beef soup, spiced with a heavy hand of black pepper, a really good salad of baby greens that has delicate, crispy crumbles of bacon on top (seriously so good) and warm fresh baked brown bread (some of the best I’ve had so far).
After dinner we land at Billy Foley for a nightcap and chat with the locals.
Here I try Gunsmoke Gin from Drunshambo, Ireland and meet Jimmy.
I can hardly understand Jimmy, but he’s a sweet old man who sings my brother and I Irish limericks and tells me all about his recent trip to Cork, where we are headed next.
I take notes and enjoy his jokes. The ones I can understand anyway.
Gunsmoke Gin is distilled by hand in copper pots with botanicals like cardamom, coriander, caraway, star anise, three varieties of citrus and it’s namesake––gunpowder tea. It is a stunning gin.
After the bartender tosses a lemon wedge, lime wedge and two blueberries in my first drink I have to remind myself to order it without the training wheels on the second round.
One last interesting detail about Cashell….
According to our tour guide at The Rock of Cashell, the Palace of Cashell was where Guinness was actually first invented. Richard Guinness, Arthur Guinness’s godfather, was making beer here and instead of adding boiled barley he accidentally grabbed burnt hops. The rest is history…
Sarah Burchard is the author of The Healthy Locavore, a natural foods chef and experience host whose writing focuses on cooking, holistic health, supporting community and eating locally grown and made foods.