We arrive in the afternoon and check into the Gabrielle Guest House. Just a short walk into town.
I grab my laptop and hope to get a few hours of work in at a nearby coffee shop before it’s time for dinner.
Cork Coffee Roasters
Groovy spot for coffee, but no WIFI. In fact, I’m noticing that all of the coffee shops I’ve walked into in this country so far are WIFI free. Unfortunately this means one thing…..time to find a Starbucks. Ugh.
In the meantime, I enjoy a latte made with beans roasted in house they call their Rebel Blend.
I start cruising around looking for the Starbucks that is located next door to The English Market. I’m back in a city again. Feeling really good and re-energized.
This is the epicenter of local food for County Cork.
There are a variety of imports, but an even more impressive selection of local meat, fish, cheese, bread, jams, honey, chocolate, eggs, charcuterie and anything else you can think of sold by small, family owned operations.
I’ve been on the hunt for clotted cream and immediately find it at an organic health foods stall called The Good Food Shop.
I find a scone made with local berries to go with my clotted cream and so much more at Alternative Bread Company. This bakery prides itself on its extensive selection, carrying Burnt Bread and “Ducks” and “Skulls”––all traditional breads from Cork–– as well as dairy free Irish Soda Bread, gluten-free breads, organic sourdoughs and pastries.
The Chocolate Shop carries organic Wilkies Chocolate (made in Cork) and Skelligs Chocolate (made in Kerry) plus a wide variety of other high end bean-to-bar chocolate bars and house made truffles.
Toons Bridge Dairy, a buffalo, sheep and cow farm 45 miles from town, runs a stall called Real Olive Company, where they sell olives, cured meat and other Mediterranean provisions next to their farmstead cheeses and raw honey harvested from beehives on the farm.
The cheeses are exceptional. We try a tangy sheep’s milk Pecorino and smoky Scamorza while we wait for them to cut us off hunks of ‘Nduja and Caciocavallo.
Caciocavallo, which benefits from the probiotic bacteria of the cheesemaker’s hands, must be hand-stretched. It is made using a similar technique to mozzarella with raw cow’s milk cheese.
Toons Bridge Dairy makes three types of Caciocavallo all made with different types of rennet. This is “Dolce.” It is made with calf’s rennet and is aged 6-8 weeks. It’s sweet and nutty and is fabulous paired with the spicy ‘Nduja––a spreadable cured sausage made with smoked paprika, dried chilis and pork offal.
On the way to dinner later I walk down Oliver Plunkett Street by a couple of fun, novelty dessert shops.
The Shack sells elaborately decorated cake donuts and a few storefronts down from that a sidewalk explodes with brightly colored gelato. Gino’s Gelato, made on site daily, is swirled so luxuriously I just want to dive in head first.
The first thing I notice about Market Lane is that they use a wide variety of local ingredients on their menu, many coming from The English Market.
Mom orders an elegant craft cocktail called Autumn and Eve that comprises gin, apple cider, fresh apple and lemon juice, ginger beer and cinnamon.
I’m ready to try some Irish beef. I order a 10 ounce, local, grass-fed, 28-day aged sirloin steak. It arrives with typical Irish sides––chips (fries), roasted mushrooms and tomato. I choose the green peppercorn sauce for my steak and ask for a side of béarnaise to dip my chips in.
The steak is expectedly lean, but is cooked perfectly and is full of flavor thanks to the aging process.
Mom’s duck breast is cooked nicely as well and is served with a red currant jus, broccolini and a puree of roasted onion and parsnip scented with vanilla.
The only thing I want for dessert is to try Baldwin’s Farmhouse vanilla ice cream, which is made nearby in Waterford using non-pasteurized milk and cream from their farm. We talk our server into selling us a scoop with fresh local berries.
The evening was young and this neighborhood is ripe for pub hopping. At The Oliver Plunkett we giggle at the bartender who despises making Irish Coffee.
At Hi-B bar, known for grumpy regulars and an even grumpier owner, we learn that you will get kicked out if you are caught on your cell phone.
And at An Bodhran I discover that the locals don’t drink Guinness they drink Murphy’s––Cork’s version of Guinness that is less sweet and more coffee-like.
This restaurant contains three seafood concepts in one. Downstairs is a casual gastrobar with small plates. Upstairs you can choose between a high end dining room or raw bar.
We choose the raw bar, which reminds me of the oyster bars I’ve been to in Seattle. We settle into a counter overlooking the river and get a front row view of a beautiful rainbow and stunning sunset.
Mussels are steamed with smoked bacon and a puree of mint and English pea.
Tuna Crudo is served with teriyaki sauce, compressed watermelon and seaweed salad.
Smoked Mackerel and Hake Pate reminds me of the marlin dip I get back home on Oʻahu. It’s creamy and rich and served with a crusty, house made baguette.
Irish Scallops are seared and served with spicy chorizo, potato confit and a mustardy cream sauce.
For dessert we indulge in a caramel centered chocolate lava cake they call “baby cakes” with more of those amazing Irish berries and Irish Coffee made with Jameson.
This pub, located in the Victorian Quarter, is known for their extensive whiskey collection.
But, I’m drinking gin.
I sample two more local gins here: Blackwater and Method and Madness.
Blackwater is more juniper forward with a clean lemony finish.
Method and Madness is Jameson’s first gin made in their microbrewery in Midleton. It’s gorgeous, exploding with citrus and flowers upfront with sweet spices that linger on your tongue for several minutes afterward. One of the botanicals used for this gin is black lemon, or dried lime, which gives it an indescribable zesty punch.
Side note. I think I am slowly turning my mom into a gin drinker…
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.