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Clodagh McKenna, claiming jet-lag from a quick trip to New York City for the Rachel Ray show, got her perk back on when discussing the state of Irish food today. Ms. McKenna, variously called the “Irish Rachel Ray” and/or the “Irish Martha Stewart” (depending probably on which show she last appeared) said, “What we want to do is make food as Irish as possible, take a great cuisine and use great Irish ingredients.” This sentiment is happening across Ireland, with much of the activity focused in Dublin. How good is the food in Dublin? So good that six restaurants in Dublin, population 1.3 million, can flaunt Michelin stars. Compare that to Paris (with a population of 12 million) where only 10 restaurants boast the Michelin imprimatur. So good that Aoife Carrigy, chair of the Irish Food Writers' Guild, wrote, “Irish tourism authorities are realizing what a bounty we have in terms of the potential of making food central to our tourism offerings.” So good that favorites like Boxty and Dublin coddle are being joined by new ways with Irish food, such as Ms. McKenna’s “Wild Nettle Gnocchi with Cashel Blue Cheese.” Or, Ross Lewis’ “Game Terrine of Snipe and Wood Pigeon with Mustard Quince Puree.” Chef Lewis and partners Martin Corbett and Eamonn Walsh arguably changed the course of Dublin’s food scene with the opening of Chapter One in 1993. Michelin-starred since 2007, Chapter One is an expression of the Irish land and sea. The remarkable food, innovative, impeccably prepared and tasty, the people and the ambiance make for a perfect culinary experience. To see how modern Irish cuisine translates to Dublin’s cafes, markets and food stalls, we spent a morning on a “fabulous food trail” with Ms. Carrigy herself, all curls and smiles, as leader. The tour took us through the recently dubbed “ Creative Quarter,” an area between Grafton and Georges Streets, stuffed with food and history. Crossing the River Liffey on the Ha’Penney Bridge, and later over fresh-from-the oven scones, home-made jam and farm-churned butter at Woolen Mills Eating House, she talks about the dual paths that led to the high quality of Irish food today. She talked and we listened as the pile of scones transformed into a few crumbs. The annals show farm-to-table is not a new way of thinking about food, it’s been the Irish way of life for centuries. In the 11th century the Cistercian monks of St. Mary’s Abbey, who once reigned proudly over much of the Liffey and down to the sea, herded cattle into an herb-filled field for their diet. An unanticipated effect of the ugly Penal Laws was the creation of a world of small-holding farms. Farmers were forced to be self-sufficient in providing for their own needs, making their own cheeses and smokehouse meats, preserving fruits and vegetables and baking breads and cakes. Further, the lack of a real Industrial Revolution means that the land and waters remained unsullied. In more recent times immigration from Asia, South America and Eastern Europe added their flavors to the Irish diet. A walk down Grafton Street finds Thai, Chinese, Nepali, Polish, Spanish, and Italian restaurants cheek-by-jowl with Irish pubs and bistros. Another factor – Ryanair’s cheap flights– contributed to a broadening of the Irish palate. Woolen Mills Eating House is infused with the Ballymaloe, the famed cooking school outside of Cork, ethos. Owner Elaine Murphy said, “We have been championing local, small and artisan producers and using local produce from almost exclusively within the island since the restaurant opened.” The menu smacks of Ireland with classic Irish fry-ups and curries, and all manner of pork. The difference is that each is done up with the freshest of ingredients and big dollops of new flavors, such as squash and poached egg with onion bhajis, a fritterlike dish from India, and scallops on toast with samphire, a wild plant found along the rocky Atlantic shore. The next stop is the Saturday-only Temple Bar Food Market. Hidden away at Meeting House Square behind the National Photographic Archives, the jolly market contains booths of yeast bread bakers (still


19752BB
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