Sunday, August 23, 2009

What We Did Last Summer

With schools starting back around the globe (or at least in the US and Ireland), the summer is quickly fading to wistful memory. Even though for me school starting just means no seats on the DART, I am aware that I haven't reported on any of our summer activities. So, in the grand tradition of school busywork, here is What We Did Last Summer:

After our return from Spain, we celebrated Bill's birthday with dinner at Carluccio's and a movie at the Savoy. Later in May we attended a couple of plays: a stage production of The Shawshank Redemption at the Gaiety and Miller's All My Sons at the Gate. The Shawshank production really just left us thinking about how great the movie is; the production of All My Sons was excellent. The visit to the Gate gave us an opportunity to try one of the Asian restaurants on Parnell. We visited the Hop House for some tasty Korean fare.

Laurel wreath at the statue of James Connolly to commemorate his execution on May 12, 1916 for his participation in the Easter Rising.

Over the June bank holiday (first weekend in June), we once again attended the Trinity Church weekend at Ovoca Manor in Avoca. Again this year we were blessed with splendid weather in which to enjoy the beautiful setting in Wicklow. It was nice to feel that a year later we're a bit more connected. Bill led worship for a couple sessions and we even performed in the talent show. Click here for more pictures from Ovoca.

Also in June we attended a dinner party at our friend Colin's in Laytown. I'm pictured with Colin's famous Bread and Butter pudding. We also attended the Taste of Dublin. We tried some bites from various restaurants in Dublin. The two highlights were fish with mushy peas from an Indian restaurant, Jaipur, and the burgers from Ely.

We hosted Bill's friend Sarah for a week before she left to spend four months volunteering in Nepal. She's French, and prepared us lovely omelets for dinner.

We took the last Friday in June off of work for a long weekend in Kinsale. We'd heard that Kinsale was a gourmet mecca, and we learned that Kinsale has long been in the food business. A busy harbor, Kinsale was a provisioning center for seagoing vessels. Its proximity to Great Britain also made Kinsale a hotly contested and heavily fortified port. Especially in the Battle of 1601, where some Irish Chieftains from the North joined forces with Spain to try to wrest control of the port from the English. The English defeated the Irish and Spanish forces, leading to a power gap in the North that made way for the Protestant Plantations to move in and create the Protestant/British connections in the Northern Counties which are now a part of the UK.

We had gorgeous weather in Kinsale, so much so that we came back sunburnt. Click here for more scenes from Kinsale. And here for spectacular views from our coastal drive on Saturday.

On Sunday we stopped by a huge SuperValu in Clonakilty and stocked up on local sausages and cheese. On our drive back through County Tipperary we stopped at Cahir Castle and the Rock of Cashel. Of the two sites, Cashel is definitely the more spectacular and interesting. Set imposingly upon a hill, the site was the traditional seat of the kings of Munster for several hundred years. The majority of extant structures date from the 12th and 13th C when Cashel was a religious center. My favorite part of Cashel was the 12th C Chapel. A uniquely sophisticated Romanesque structure, the chapel contains extremely rare examples of Irish frescoes.

We celebrated July 4th with some very tasty burgers (seriously, Bill had the mince ground fresh at the butcher!) with potato salad and coke floats for dessert.

We enjoyed the long days with walks along the coast. And basically, July slipped by pretty quietly.

Over the August Bank holiday we spent Saturday night at Mornington House in Multyfarnham, Co. Westmeath. We love staying in these manor houses, and the hosts and guests at Mornington house made for a fun stay and interesting conversation ranging from ghost sightings to Afghanistan. Plus we enjoyed a lovely dinner with many items fresh from the garden. Click here for more pics.

Other August activities included dinner guests for chilaquiles and tres leches cake and a visit to the food market in St. Anne's Park, after which Bill made blackcurrant and blueberry jam.

Our summer was light on guests, but that will soon change!

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Malaga: Sun, Sand and Various Goos

It's been three months since our trip to Southern Spain. Years ago, three months wouldn't be an unreasonable amount of time to wait for a written account of travels on The Continent, but in these times it's an almost unforgivable expanse. So imagine you're reading these words on onion skin air mail stationery and dreaming of the next time you'll hear my voice.

Spain has been a wonderful surprise for Bill and me. Back in the era before I traveled Europe freely, Spain was not on the short list of places I intended to visit if I ever lucked into 10 days across the sea. But this season, generous with sights and sounds and flavors, has taken us beyond all expectations, and now we know--we love Spain.

We're particularly drawn to the balance between food and drink embodied by the tapa. Little bites to accompany refreshing beverages. Compared to Ireland which, I'm afraid, loves its drink more than its food, Spain seems to love them equally, and better yet, doesn't ask you to choose.

I've already described some of the wonderful flavors we encountered in Granada, and we continued to eat well in Malaga. Our first night we wandered the entwined streets looking for seafood. Not a difficult hunt, we quickly found some calamari, fried shrimp and manchego.

Tuesday morning we had breakfast at Cafe Moka, adjacent to our hotel--cafe con leche and pitufo (small) sandwiches. I had sobrassada and cheese and Bill had Spanish tortilla (tortilla de patatas).

We then visited a market full of veggies and fruit and cured meat. We kept seeing bowls of orange goo labeled Lomo en Manteca--we would find out later what it was. We picked up a few snacks--skewers of marinated anchovies, pickled onions, olive and pickle (loved these in Barcelona), and some empanadas. We enjoyed these later on our balcony.

Later we walked down to the beach for lunch. We had some gazpacho--gazpacho originated in Andalusia--and I ordered grilled squid. I had been profoundly changed by the grilled squid I had in Barcelona; the grilled squid I had here was a bit bigger and filled with goo, but the non-goo parts where tasty and I could watch a guy stick the squid on the end of a pole and grill it over charcoal, so that was cool. We also had some tortillitas and Bill had gambas al pil pil (spicy shrimp).

After lunch we waded a bit in the Mediterranean and relaxed on the sand. We returned to our hotel for siesta--the air had been turned on and we napped in cool comfort. That evening we started dinner at Gorki, a wine bar which is a chain, but seemingly popular with the locals. We wrote some postcards and ate jamon iberica and a wonderful salad with blue cheese and wilted leeks.

Our next stage of dinner was at La Rabana where we dined on figs and more jamon iberica (it's so great!), a black pudding sandwich, and yes, Lomo en Manteca! Pork in lard--delicious!

Spain had been so kind to us with its gentle sun, fragrant orange blossoms, and marvelous flavors. We were really reluctant to leave and wished we had planned to stay for the whole week. I knew we'd be glad to have the days for a later trip (for oh, say, Slovenia), but it was hard to leave.

Wednesday morning we returned to Cafe Moka for a bittersweet cafe con leche and more of the amazing tortilla pitufo. Click here for more food pics.

And we did do a few things between meals, other than siesta. Click here for more scenes from Malaga.