Spending five days in the wild and beautiful Co Clare, simply is not enough. I arrived in Ennis on a wet Wednesday and left for Dublin on a sunny Sunday afternoon. Pardon the assonance and alliteration ! Neither wind nor rain can deter you from enjoying the magnificent splendor of this region. I left Ennis early on the Saturday morning and headed for the ‘Lodge at Doonbeg’. This 5 star resort is perched on the edge of the Atlantic, looming above the sand dunes, looking outwards to the United States of America. Before I arrived here I stopped in the town of Lisdoonvarna, famous for it’s annual matchmaking festival every September ! I was a few months too early for this but stopped to visit the ‘Burren Smokehouse’.
The ‘Burren Smokehouse’ is owned by Birgitta and Peter Curtin. Their famous smoked salmon is the reason for my visit. Located approximately 5 miles from the Burren, it is a travelers respite. The Curtin’s salmon is known all over Ireland, the UK, Europe and now the United States. In fact it is so well known that this was the salmon served to her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II recently in Ireland. Only 100% Irish fish is used , sourcing it from Lough Swilly in Co Donegal, wild salmon from the 3 sister rivers ‘Barrow, Nore and Suir ‘ and Blackwater.
When the salmon comes in , Peadar (master smoker) skillfully fillets the salmon then rinses thoroughly and salts using only pure Atlantic Sea Salt. Birgitta assures me that temperature is critical and being a baker I completely understand the variations on any given day ! They use oak chips and Birgitta mentioned one thing in passing that ultimately meant everything to me. She said “It CANNOT be rushed” Each salmon is like a baby, lovingly taken care of. By the way, I ate their wild salmon, and the proof was most certainly in the eating !
Never underestimate the power of social media, I am referring to Twitter here. Through this medium, I met Kate Sweeney and Aidan McGrath, owners of the ‘Wild Honey Inn’, located a stones throw from the ‘Burren Smokehouse’. It seemed only natural to pay a visit to my Twitter friends. Was I in for a surprise. Here is where I found the best bowl of soup in Ireland. We love our soup and it is all indeed very good, but I am still dreaming of theirs. In fact they have been kind enough to share their recipe with us. Just by eating the food, I knew instinctively what the chefs philosophy was. He allowed the ingredients to be the stars. I am not a chef. I am not a critic. I am not even formally trained but I do cook, I do shop and I do spend money on food and the Wild Honey Inn is worthy of anyone’s dollars or Euros. My friend Audrey and I sat by the window and each of us began to eat our bowl of ‘carrot and coriander’ soup. Silently we exchanged glances each knowing what the other felt about this soup. How can a bowl of soup glean such pleasure? Easy. It is made from the best ingredients. As if this was not enough, there was a surprise waiting at the bottom of the bowl. Shredded pickled carrot. Needless to say, we could not leave here without sampling dessert. I had apple crumble with home made vanilla ice cream and Audrey had a trifle made with white peaches and raspberries. Have you ever noticed how hard people try to impress you with their menus when a simple soup and crumble made with love and the best ingredients can leave you wanting more? As I travel and teach Irish Cooking classes around the USA people constantly ask me what I think makes Irish cooking so great? It is not the cooking, anyone can go to culinary school but in my opinion the ingredients in Ireland are the best in the world. Try for yourself and when next in Clare tell Birgitta, Kate & Aidan that Rachel Gaffney sent you.