Irish Cuisine - an oxymoron??
Now that I have your attention. . . I would love to read the opinions of my fellow chowhounders regarding Irish food, inside or outside the pub, inside or outside of Ireland. My experience ends at corned beef and cabbage, Guinness beer and boiled potatoes, not a bad place to end . . but I need to know more, more, MORE!
As a semi-frequent visitor to Ireland (and especially Galway), I can tell you that the cuisine has made leaps and bounds in the last five+ years. They've FINALLY realized that their fresh, seasonal cuisine stacks up against the best anywhere. And newly-trained chefs from France to the U.S. are going there to take advantage of those ingredients. It's only going to get better, and it's already pretty damn good.
That said, it'll take Irish pubs in the U.S. twenty years to catch up to the trend.
Forget trendy Frenchy chefs -- my DH and I were first in Ireland on our honeymoon 30 years ago, and we ate salmon, salmon, salmon! I've never found another cuisine that has understood this fish as well. Other wonderful things: oysters, lamb, breakfast. Ireland has nothing to apologize for in its cuisine!
Oh, I agree. The problem was that for too long, the chefs in Ireland treated those unbelievable ingredients like so much flotsum (with, I must admit, the possible exception of salmon).
One of my fav restaurants in all the wor;ld, Drimcong House just outside Galway, grows their own organic herbs and veggies, uses the local seafood purveyors, sources their own lamb...It all seems so obvious, but until relatively recently, that fresh, incredible lamb would be cubed, boiled and put in a pot pie.
Saints be praised, not anymore.
Millions of one-day-a-year Irish-Americans just gave you the two fingers for that, you know...
...but you're right.
I will say this for the Irish: they make the best tea in Europe. England has this whole ceremony round the teapot; go to any farmhouse in Eire and it's guaranteed there'll be a pot of the best tea you've ever drunk in your life on the hob, and they drink more of it than I ever thought possible.
I had to convince friends of ours that we really do ice our tea in the U.S. (I was living in the South at the time -- you can imagine the warring accents between southern Georgia and southern Sligo). "Ice in yer tea? But it's meant to keep the (expletive) cold OUT of yer!"
"It was in the late 19th century that it began to take root. When the Irish emigrated to America and Canada, where both salt and meat were cheaper, they treated beef the same way they would have treated a "bacon joint" at home in Ireland: they soaked it to draw off the excess salt, then braised or boiled it with cabbage, and served it in its own juices with only minimal spicing - may be a bay leaf or so, and some pepper.
This dish, which still turns up on some Irish tables at Easter, has become familiar to people of Irish descent as the traditional favorite to serve on Saint Patrick’s Day. Certainly, there will be many restaurants in Ireland that will be serving Corned Beef and Cabbage on March 17th , but most of them will be doing so just to please the tourists.
The truth is, that for many Irish people, Corned Beef is too "poor" or plain to eat on a holiday: they'd sooner make something more festive."
But the best response to the question as to what the Irish eat on St. Patrick's Day is:
"So what will people in Ireland be eating on St. Patrick's Day? The question was put to listeners of South East Radio which reaches south Wicklow and parts of Wexford and Kilkenny. Said one respondent: "Eat? I eat pints."Another referred to the pint of Guinness as a "shamrock sandwich" "
I had some of the best meals while touring in Ireland about 5 years ago. Anything from an excellent sandwich on farm-fresh crusty bread at a local shop in the Galway area, to a drop-dead great dinner (service, food, atmosphere) at the Cashel House in the Connemara area. Lamb and salmon were my two "go to" choices for dinner. But OH! The prawns at Cashel House's restaurant were some of the best I've ever had.
The one thing I craved after about 6-7 days was rice, which I got once - not very good, but it wasn't potatoes! :-) The ubiquitous potatoes (unfortunately, sometimes very gluey potatoes ) got to me, and I didn't have them for at least a month when I returned to the States.
OMG. Irish cuisine has been advancing for quite some time. Back in the late 1980s, when I visited for a couple of weeks at a time, I had strings of wonderful meals (Ireland was soooo much better than the UK in this regard), based on the freshest fish and lamb, fine dairy, wonderful cottage garden vegetables, and fine baking traditions. It was wonderful. I can only recall one bad meal in all of my travels to Ireland at that time. And things have continued to improve by all accounts.
Here's a wonderful book on Irish traditional cooking that's very worth having in one's ethnic cookbook collection: