Shandon Sweets

Shandon Sweets

In the previous two times that I’d visited Cork Ireland, I had never properly meandered around Shandon, a historic hilltop neighborhood of Cork City. This breezy, chilly September day I had been determined to climb the magnificent alleyway staircase and have a proper poke around.

My friend Evin tipped me off to Shandon Sweets, owned and operated by the Linehan family since 1928, where old fashioned boiled candy is made. Those silver circles framing the door aren’t there purely for decoration; they’re awards acknowledging the continued excellence of these simple and popular sweets.

I arrived at Shandon Sweets a bit early; it was still lunch time and the shop was closed. Ireland, like most of Europe, takes lunch time very seriously. I bummed around the neighborhood, snapping a few photos here and there, trying not to look suspicious to the theater company next door as people gathered for what I can only assume was a rehearsal or class. Finally, a vehicle pulled alongside the shop front and a man in his sixties came out and opened the sweet shop.

The man in question was Danny Linehan, whose father established the confectionery shop. He chatted pleasantly with me as he told me all about the business and how the candy is made, even confessing his favorite is honeycomb rather than the boiled candy “drops” he produces. As we chatted, Danny began to set up for another boiled candy batch. You can check out the step by step process at Roger’s blog, Cork Foodie.

Typical of many fathers, Danny began to turn the tables and ask me about myself and my trip, curious as to why and how a rainbow-haired American woman found his shop. He was impressed with my journeys and the amount of time I’d been away from home, and still had yet to go.

Taking comfort in his instinctive paternal concern, I admitted that I was beginning to miss my mother, to which he remarked that my mother must miss me terribly. I said no, she doesn’t miss me in the least. He was quick to correct me, insisting she definitely missed me and doesn’t say so because she wants me to focus on having a good time.

Normally, I’d be irked that someone was correcting me on my life, but there was something about Danny and talking to him about my insecurities that made me feel at ease. So I bought four bags of candy. The strawberry drops are my favorite.

Shandon Sweets

Brunch at Electric (Cork)

Farewell Brunch at Electric - Cork, Ireland


My last day in Cork was bittersweet; I didn’t want to go home, but I was grateful for all of the new friendships and opportunities this last-minute solo trip garnered. From my gracious hosts Naomi, Csaba and Seb, to new friends Evin, Fiona, Kate & Stephan, to new sights in the form of West Cork and The Ring of Kerry, to new sounds via Funeral Suits and John Spillane, and of course, new eats like Fenns Quay, The Fish Hatch, Hassett’s, Nash 19, Market Lane, Fresco Bistro and Electric, this holiday was my favorite time of 2012. It was a welcome change of scenery after being so very ill for five months.

Overall, my holiday reenforced the reasons why I love Cork, igniting the fire to return as soon as fiscally possible.

I held out on brunch at Electric, reserving it for my last Sunday before I left, and sent an open invitation across the Twitter waves for anyone who would like to join me. I wound up dining with my dear host brother Csabi, his friend S-, and Fiona. We started off with some beverages.

Farewell Brunch at Electric - Cork, Ireland
Macchiato

Look at that fancy-pants coffee beverage! I don’t know the first thing about coffee, but Csaba seemed to enjoy this.


Farewell Brunch at Electric - Cork, Ireland
Kir Royale (€6.9)

I actually ordered a bellini, but was given this instead. I just thought it was a funny looking bellimi, so I drank it. Sure didn’t taste like a bellini, but it was boozy and bubbly, so of course I continued to drink it. The server eventually realized his mistake and redacted this drink from our bill.

Ha ha – okay, enough drinking, time for some food.

Farewell Brunch at Electric - Cork, Ireland
Free Range Omelette (€9)
Filling: bacon, mushroom, spinach or cheese served with dressed leaves & brioche

Both Csaba and his pal S- ordered an omelette, which they customized according to their personal tastes. They were both pretty impressed by the quality and freshness.


Farewell Brunch at Electric - Cork, Ireland
Eggs Benedict (€9)
free range poached eggs and bacon on brioche with hollandaise

I can’t recall if I’ve ever eaten Eggs Benny with a thick piece of toast (brioche or otherwise), but it worked. The Hollandaise was light and perfectly executed; adding just the right balance to cut the salty savoriness of the bacon. Keep in mind, Americans, this bacon is not our thin “streaky” bacon, but hearty Irish bacon, which is thicker and an ideal candidate for Eggs Benny. It can be a pleasant change up. Though I wouldn’t ever say no to crab cakes Eggs Benny. Denis.


Farewell Brunch at Electric - Cork, Ireland
Warm Chicken Salad
with toasted almond, pomegranate & a pear & ginger salsa

I though this was a Thai chicken salad…but this is the only chicken salad I found on the online menu. Either way, Fiona was especially pleased with this dish. Great choice for health-conscious or gluten-free folks.

But we can’t have none of that healthy green stuff mocking our table for long, could we? Oh, no. We were soon joined by Laura, a vivacious Sardinian woman I met through Csaba. That’s when things got crazy as we attacked the dessert menu.


Farewell Brunch at Electric - Cork, Ireland
Pear & Almond Tart (€6.5)
Custard & vanilla ice cream

Blood orange cheesecake & crackling praline at Electric - Cork, Ireland
Blood orange cheesecake (€6.5)
Crackling praline

Strawberry & lemon meringue roulade at Electric - Cork, Ireland
Strawberry & Lemon Meringue Roulade (€6.5)

Holy diabetic coma, Batman, that was a lot of sugar! I bet you know which one was mine (that I ordered with S- ) I don’t recall even bothering to try the first two; just this fluffy cloud of heaven. The meringue top was equally hard and soft, giving just the appropriate amount of texture to contrast the silky smooth center. Nmpf, it was glorious.

Oh, hey, and what do you know, my bellini showed up! Awesome.


Farewell Brunch at Electric - Cork, Ireland
Bellini (€6.9)


Besides being the home to #TweetMeetTuesday, Electric offers superb tea and scones, lunch, dinner and a eclectic atmosphere with friendly smiles. Where else can you enjoy outdoor brunch alongside the River Lee?



The view from Electric, Cork

ELECTRIC
41 SOUTH MALL
CORK, IRELAND
[T] +353 21 4222 990

http://www.electriccork.com

Market Lane (Cork, Ireland)

I wasn’t prepared to go to Market Lane, however I was also not prepared for the complete insanity of the Bank Holiday Monday, either. As I’d spent my last Bank Holiday Monday hitchhiking from a literary arts & music festival in Clones, I didn’t realize the rest of civilization in Ireland kind of goes bonkers with this extra day to play. In other words, none of the restaurants I had scheduled in for my Monday meals were open.

Even maneuvering around the city center was a chore because the Cork Marathon and some religious observation ceremony were simultaneously scheduled a stone’s throw away from one another. Sticking to the Oliver Plunkett side of St. Patrick’s Street, I meandered around until I found a restaurant that looked good to eat lunch at. Having spied Market Lane a couple of times before, I eventually caved in to curiosity and went in.

Whether it was due to the lack of restaurants open for business on a national day off, or it is genuinely that popular, Market Lane was jammed packed. The host was pleased I was flying solo as he only had one lonely little corner to stick me in. That’s okay; my camera is less conspicuous in lonely little corners!

My waitress was a stern Polish woman (a reoccurring motif in my dining out experiences, I’m looking at you, Nash 19) who knew what I wanted to eat well before I did. Though I was debating ordering the chicken liver pate with plum chutney and handmade linseed crackers, my eyes spied “French Onion Soup” which is my Kryptonite. Despite my brain warning me that it wasn’t worth the risk, I went for it.

Onion Soup - Market Place - Cork, Ireland
French Onion Soup (€4.80)

While this might work for some, I’m of the opinion that croutons need to be toasted before they are dunked into a bowl of piping hot liquid and sunk down with a sprinkling of cheese, making it soggy in texture and unpalatable. The cheese is also traditionally a bit crusty – either with the use of a quick broil or a kitchen torch. These crucial elements being ignored made this soup an unfortunate miss for me. I am also a little more than curious why the soup is marked with a “V” for vegetarian if, as tradition dictates, it is made with animal stock? If it was not made with animal stock, I definitely would have not ordered it. If it is, however, most vegetarians would argue that it is indeed not a vegetarian option.
Yes, I should have asked but some clarification on the menu might be helpful for actual vegetarians.


Oxtail Pie - Market Place - Cork, Ireland
Oxtail Pie (€13.50/95 at dinner)

Oxtail Pie, innards - Market Place - Cork, Ireland
Oxtail Pie – Innards

Technically, this item is not on the menu until dinner time, but its lunch time counterpart, the oxtail cheek stew, was unavailable and my waitress talked this alternative up, saying it’s the same thing, just in pie format. As oxtail is one of my favorite hunks of meat, I don’t think I would have ordered anything else; oxtail is not unheard of here in the States, but it is usually a specialty seasonal item, or found in more Latino/Hispanic restaurants.
Gigantic, this oxtail pie was extraordinarily hearty, with tender pieces of slow cooked oxtail in every juicy bite. I could take or leave the pie shell; this dish was definitely all about the filling.
As I could only eat so much, I ended up taking half of this home, along with the Colcannon (which I had two bites of just to taste) and gave them to my host brother for his work day lunch. I was only a little sorry that I had shared!


Colcannon - Market Place - Cork, Ireland
Colcannon at Market Lane

Would I return to Market Lane? Yes; their menu intrigues me as it is varied and appealing. I wanted to go back but was never able to fit it into my schedule. Luckily, as it seems I have a rather soft spot for Cork, there will definitely be a next time.

Market Lane
5 Oliver Plunkett Street
Cork, Co. Cork
Ireland
021 427 4710

http://www.marketlane.ie

Gino’s Pizza and Ice Cream (Cork, Ireland)

Gino's Pizza and Gelato - Cork, Ireland


I have a deep fear of eating certain foods in regions not known for their open-palate mentality, and Ireland, much as I love and adore you and want to shout it to the world how delicious you can be, you generally fit this bill. Pizza in particular is something of a tender subject with me as I was spoiled with a rather excellent variety when I was a child living in a Philadelphia suburb. When Steffie and I landed in Cork in 2010 all we could find open at 10:30pm was a pizza carry-out across from our hostel. It was, to say the least, a lesson well learnt. Or so I thought…

Flash forward to May and while I am out and about on an urgent errand with my new pal, a lovely young lady from Spain, my hunger pangs start kicking in and I alert my friend that even though we have been invited to a potluck BBQ later on that evening, I must eat something soonish. She recommends Gino’s Pizza in the city centre, not far from where we have to walk to from UCC anyway. I am cautious, of course, but she insists an Italian girl even endorsed this place. She told me about the great €10 lunch deal that includes a small-ish pizza with two toppings and a generous scoop of gelato, something we could easily split.


Gino's Pizza and Gelato - Cork, Ireland
Chicken and Mushroom Pizza

I let my friend pick the protein because I didn’t care, but a pizza is just a sad savory pie without some mushrooms on it. I’ll not leave you in suspense: I disliked this very much. It tasted undercooked; chewy and doughy not in a good way. The chicken was spookily bland and I went for the pieces that had the least on them (which was difficult as the pizza was loaded up with chicken.) Bravely, I ate on because I did not want to disappoint my friend, who seemed perfectly happy with the pizza. Oh, dear. Perhaps it was me and my fussy taste buds?


Gino's Pizza and Gelato - Cork, Ireland
Mint Chip Ice Cream

The saving grace of Gino’s is their excellent ice cream. There are many flavors from which to choose from, and it was difficult as my friend left the choice up to me! I went with a safe bet, just in case it was as on par with the pizza. Creamy, smooth and utterly delicious, I will never hesitate to recommend the ice cream at Gino’s.

Doing a little online research, I have found Gino’s has a lot of mixed reviews, ranging from the devoutly gushing to hyperbolic “Worst Pizza Ever!” I do not doubt my friend’s endorsement through the Italian friend. Reading between the reviews, I can guess that the hit-and-miss fluctuation is due largely in part to a high turnover, as Gino’s seemed to be staffed by people of a certain young age when slinging pizza is a right of passage. My best guess is perhaps the occasional youthful impatience and a certain aloofness towards this temporary stepping stone job had a trickle-down effect to the quality of the food. In short, eat pizza at your own risk, but feel free to stop by for some lovely ice cream.

Gino’s Pizza
7 Winthrop Street
Cork, Ireland

Brunch at Fresco Bistro (Cork)

Fresco Bistro - Cork, Ireland

There are approximately four restaurants opened for brunch on Sundays in Cork, Ireland. I can name them: Electric, Bodega, The Castle Cafe and Fresco Bistro. Didn’t even need to look that up because it astounded me so profoundly that I instantly committed them to memory.
With Sundays still being the day of rest for the majority of the restaurants, I focused on Fresco Bistro for my first meal during my actual stay in the city centre. Having talked up Cork to entice a young American man I’d met on my Ring of Kerry tour to leave his Dublin digs for the rest of the weekend, I shot him an email, letting him know the day and time I planned to be at Fresco Bistro.
I say planned because, well, mornings have become a bit of an issue with me. We’re agreeing to disagree, really, but I try, I really do try…but when the weather is as moody as it is in Ireland, I am constantly second-guessing what to wear from head to toe. Added to that it was windy far more than it was wet, and I was walking to the restaurant, going on memory alone, battling with the wind for control over my umbrella, scowling at lecherous honks made by young men from their vehicles, well, let us just say I was happy to see my friend Dan already tucking in to his brunch by the time I blustered in close to 13:00.

From my first glance at the menu I noticed “one of these things are not like the others”, as the song goes. I was surprised at the bold Southeast Asian and Creole influences to Fresco Bistro’s menu; never have I come across such proud, exotic flavors in Ireland. It was a delight, and a testimony to Cork’s place as the culinary innovators of the Republic. It is fitting that the bistro is situated at University College Cork campus, where open minds flock for new ideas and open palates for new flavors.

Pork Belly and Sweet Potato Hash - Fresco Bistro - Cork, Ireland
Pork Belly and Sweet Potato Hash (€7.90)
poached eggs | Hollandaise

Pork Belly and Sweet Potato Hash Eggs Benny - Fresco Bistro - Cork, Ireland

I attempted to resist this seemingly diabolical concoction; fearing the Eggs Benny love reached a level of fanaticism from which there would be no manner returning from. However, my eyes kept falling back upon it and truth be told, if it weren’t for Dan to sing its praises, I probably would have forced myself to order something else. Fortune favors the bold, and that applies to both chef and patron in this case as the pork belly & sweet potato hash was unlike anything I’ve ever tasted before. Understated pork mixed with the natural sweetness of sweet potatoes was just the ideal pairing to take away the heaviness I was dreading. Add two of the most perfectly poached eggs, topped with an extremely light Hollandaise and it was a cacophony of traditional fare with adventurous flavors.


Moroccan Lamb Stew - Fresco Bistro - Cork, Ireland
Harira Lamb Soup (€5)
chickpeas | tender lamb pieces | coriander | mint | lemon

Dan ordered this soup as a second course to his hash and eggs, still itching to try something new and get his fill on something warm as it was colder than annual average for the bank holiday weekend. Slurping down every last savory, lemony spoonful, Dan found this to be light enough not to overwhelm his rapidly diminishing appetite, yet hearty enough to hit the exact spot he’d hoped it would.


Dessert Sampler Trio - Fresco Bistro - Cork, Ireland
Dessert Sampler (complimentary)
raspberry coulis | raspberry tart | chocolate flourless cake | brownie with walnuts

Dessert Sampler - Fresco Bistro - Cork, Ireland

Someone from the kitchen spied my camera and sent two dessert samplers out for Dan and I to squeeze into our already full stomachs. By far and wide, the flourless cake was our favorite (and we were very pleased we did not have to share!). The brownie was too dense for my liking, and fruit tarts are not my cup of tea in general, but that flourless chocolate cake was unlike anything I’ve ever tasted. Smooth, silky and light as a cloud, it favored more of a thicker mousse-like texture than the dry morsels I normally associate with flourless cakes. The coulis was my second favorite, adding a delicate zip to the sampler.

Fresco Bistro set the tone for my week in the city, which was a continuing rotation of one amazing meal after the next. Clearly, our feelings for one another are mutual as I was invited back to Fresco Bistro to sample their summer menu not three days later. It is an affair I look forward to picking up next time I’m east of the Pond.

Fresco Bistro
Lewis Glucksman Gallery, UCC
000 Cork, Ireland
011 353 21 490 1848

Mon-Fri: 8:15a-5:00p
Sat-Sun: 12:00p-5:00p
Fresco Bistro on Facebook

What’s the Dish: Fenn’s Quay New ‘PuntSaver’ Taster Menu – Cork, Ireland



Did you know there are over 100 outlets of McDonald’s available in Ireland? One of the most disheartening sights to see in a small but mighty country like Ireland is vile globalization in the form of McDonald’s. I’m already plenty cheesed about fast food poisoning my own country, but stick a Big Mac in foreign lands and that’s just diabetic Imperialism as far as I’m concerned. Combating cheap, convenient eats is tough anywhere for independent restaurants that strive for quality over quantity, but one restaurant in Cork is going straight for the gut.

No. 5 Fenn’s Quay Restaurant Chefess Kate Lawlor, known for her unbridled passion for locally sourced ingredients, views the McDonald’s fattening EuroSaver Menu as a worthy opponent, and rises to the challenge with her own PuntSaver Menu. Available for lunch and dinner, these €2 ‘PuntSaver’ taster menu are “based on what is available fresh from the local producers. Taster items include: Rosscarbery white pudding & shellfish de la mer scallops, Goatsbridge trout caviar, Ardsallagh goats cheese & crispy wild rock samphire, or Ballyhora mushrooms with wild sea samphire.”

Initially this was offered in June alone but proved to be so popular that it has been extended through mid-September. So if you’re around Cork City and want a taste of real Irish food that won’t break your wallet, get over to Fenn’s Quay and give the PuntSaver Menu a go. Be sure and tell Chefess Kate that Rachael sent you!

No.5 Fenn’s Quay Restaurant
Sheares Street
Cork City
reservations: 021 4279527
http://www.fennsquay.com/




image and information courtesy of Evin O’Keeffe + Kate Lawlor

The Crawford Art Gallery – Cork City, Ireland

One of the joys of maturity is being able to enjoy and appreciate museums, specifically art museums, as I loathed them as a child. Whenever I travel I seek out a museum to go through, even if it’s an old standby to locals who haven’t gone since a mandatory school trip (hello, Franklin Institute of Philadelphia!). During our first visit to Ireland in 2010, Steffie and I managed to squeeze in visits to the Irish Museum of Modern Art (Dublin) and Crawford Art Gallery (Cork), but photos weren’t taken except for the garden of IMMA. I remember being impressed with Crawford Art Gallery and made a point to return to it this time around, camera in hand.

Last blog post I told you about The Fish Hatch – and this the Crawford Art Gallery is where I headed to directly after lunch. An integral structure to Cork since its position as the Cork Custom’s House in 1724, then as the forerunner to University College Cork in 1800s, to its eventual reshaping as Crawford Art Gallery in 1979, the museum/gallery is a must-see for visitors to Cork City. Here are some highlights:

Marie Rouget - Harry Clarke
Marie Rouget by Harry Clarke

The Goddess Concordia - close up
The Goddess Concordia by Antonio Canova

Minerva - 1820, wood, John Hogan
Minerva – John Hogan, 1820

The Goose Girl - Edith Sommerville
The Goose Girl – Edith Sommerville

Old Cork Glass Claret Jug circa 1820
Old Cork Glass Claret Jug – 1820

Hibernia and Brian Boru - John Hogan
Hibernia by John Hogan

Straight As Lemons Meet Fish - Maud Cotter
Straight as Lemons Meet Fish by Maud Cotter

Woman in Bomb Blast - bronze, 1974
Woman in Bomb Blast by F.E. McWilliam, 1974

Unknown Sculpture - Crawford Art Gallery, Cork
Unknown Sculpture

The Piping Faun - Canova
The Piping Faun by Antonio Canova

View my entire Crawford Art Gallery Set on Flickr

My first trip to The Crawford Art Gallery had a fantastic video installation/documentary that stuck with me even to this day, but the modern exhibits going on this last time failed to capture my attention. I was instead drawn into the permanent collection, my love for sculpture really making my inner shutterbug go wild. What I enjoy most about The Crawford Art Gallery is that Irish artists are prominently featured and through their art I learn socio-economical, political and personal history. That, and the museum is 100% free to the public!

Crawford Art Gallery
Emmet Place
Cork
Ireland
T +353 (0)21 490 7852
http://www.crawfordartgallery.ie
Monday-Wednesday: 10:00-17:00
Thursday: 10:00-20:00
Friday-Saturday: 10:00-17:00
Sunday: Closed
Admission: Free