A travel recap for Cork and Kinsale, Ireland — where to go, what to see and what to eat and drink!
As I start this mini-series of posts about our recent trip to Ireland, I have to admit I typically don’t travel there with high expectations for food. That doesn’t mean that I don’t like Irish food. I do. There are also specific types of foods and drinks that I always look forward to having – scones with clotted cream, brown bread, Irish coffee, the perfectly poured pints of Guinness.
It’s just that we often find it difficult to get out of the touristy areas and find something truly outstanding. There have been exceptions, but in general I don’t view my own foodie travel to Ireland as a mission to find new, creative foods, but rather to enjoy some expertly made favorites.
I’m happy to say that my expectations were blown out of the water this trip. Among a growing number of restaurants using amazing Irish ingredients, we also stumbled upon food creativity that inspired me. This year we had some of the best food we’ve experienced during any of our trips to Ireland.
I have so much to tell you about that I thought it would be easiest to share our adventures separated by the different areas of the country we traveled to this time. We set out to explore a few new spots including Cork, Kilkenny and Belfast. In each place we found markets, delicious food and even new ales and stouts.
We arrived in Dublin on a Sunday and immediately hopped on the train to Cork. We stayed in a quaint little B&B there with the friendliest of hosts, the Fernroyd House. We don’t have much experience with B&Bs because we tend to enjoy the amenities of hotels, but we decided that it was a good time to try out this type of accommodation.
We were greeted with freshly baked scones which we also had each of our two mornings there. These are 100% worthy of all the compliments they receive by previous guests. I later learned they use the recipe from Ballymaloe Cookery School, a place I really wanted to visit, but it was just too far out to fit it in this trip. They also source their jams locally. One variety we got to try was Blackberry Apple.
I might also mention that the rest of our breakfasts were equally delicious – Savory French Toast, Poached Free Range Egg over brown bread with Ballymaloe tomato relish, Porridge with Irish Honey and Full Irish Breakfast. Unfortunately a photo of the scones was all I got. One morning we had a minor malfunction with the camera card and the next day I forgot to bring it down.
We had some great dining and sight seeing suggestions from the B&B owner, Tony. One of them being Scotts on Caroline Street which we found to serve wonderful, locally sourced food. We both enjoyed the Seafood Chowder which included local seafood and Cork salmon.
I’m pretty sure my talk about my next course didn’t stop for two days. I ordered the Bruschetta, but this was unlike any other I’ve had before. This version included toasted baguette with red onion marmalade and a large, slightly warm slice of local goat cheese. It was outstanding and I can’t wait to recreate it.
Irish coffees were on special the day we were there so it was impossible to pass one up for dessert. Not only is this one of my favorite drinks, but I always love how neat they look in the glass.
I knew that the English Market had to be a stop on our list and we made it there the next morning. It was full of so many beautiful foods – cheeses, fresh seafood with a special emphasis on Irish salmon, breads, marinated olives and meat, meat and more meat.
We didn’t get to eat at the well known Farm Gate restaurant at the market, but we did grab a bite at the café next door – a cheese sandwich (surprisingly tasty) and cappuccinos. There is just something about a good cappuccino in Europe. I have yet to have one as delicious, creamy and expertly made in the States at any location. We ordered many throughout our week, while also enjoying tea with milk and sugar from time to time.
We hadn’t researched much on what to do while in Cork and were surprised to learn we had so many options. We chose to head out to the coastal town of Kinsale (about a 30 min bus ride) to see Fort Charles and eat at the well known Fishy Fishy.
The Fort was beautiful and historically intriguing. In addition, it was a long and hilly hike up so we worked up an appetite for our meal at Fishy Fishy.
We ordered the seafood chowder to start. It was delicious and very different from our first version at Scott’s. This used a tomato stock and was flavored with tarragon and coriander.
We followed this up by sharing the Steamed Local Mussels with basil and lemon butter and the Warm Salad of Chili Seafood with monkfish, shellfish and salmon. The salad also had fried potatoes and homemade potato chips on top. The mussels were very good, but still didn’t beat the mussels we had in Howth on the east coast on a previous visit. I enjoyed the seafood salad, I just wish the chili dressing had more of a spicy kick to it.
After a great meal of seafood we just had to stop at a place advertising ice cream made with milk from an Irish dairy – Baldwin’s Farmhouse Ice Cream. We both settled on Caramel Fudge. As far as ice cream goes, it doesn’t get much more perfect than this.
Lastly, I can’t forget to tell you about the stout. We had never heard of Beamish until we arrived in Cork. Apparently it is the original Irish Stout for the area and it’s still brewed there. We both agreed that it doesn’t have the same distinct flavor as Guinness, but it was still a very good beer.
As our B&B owner pointed out, it was also 80 cents cheaper than Guinness which meant we would always find locals drinking it. We ended up finding a bar or two in Dublin City that carried it on tap, but there and Cork were the only places we saw it. It seemed to be very unique to that area of the country.