After a great sleep and another top quality gourmet breakfast with all locally sourced ingredients, and delicious bread and scones baked fresh by Brian every morning, I headed out to explore a little by myself. It was Friday so Artie was busy with the farmer’s market so I had some free time to explore and take some photos of Dingle. It is a small quaint village with a great vibe, a small picturesque port, and more pubs than you can shake a stick at.
But my first stop was the aquarium, which has been growing steadily in size and popularity since it was opened. The whole thing was very well done but the main highlights were the sharks, the giant tortoises and in keeping with the Tom Crean theme, penguins. There was also any number of exotic and colourful fish, lobsters, crabs, star fish and plenty more besides.
I wandered up to the Friday Farmer’s market. I could smell Artie’s lamb burgers before I could even see the market, and the length of the queue for them was not that surprising. The market was small but varied, interesting and full of passionate food producers – bakers, chocolate makers, pie makers, cheesemakers, farmers selling organic vegetables, pastry and cake makers, olive sellers, and makers of various takeaway products like hummus, pizza, teas, sausages and more. The location was perfect too, right in the middle of the town attracting both locals and curious tourists.
Across from the farmer’s market was a fish and chip shop called Reel Dingle Fish, selling the day’s fresh fish battered in award winning batter and made the traditional way without blanching the fish to ensure you taste the fish and not just the batter, and served in paper the old-fashioned way. Mark, the owner and founder, explained the process to me and the concept behind the shop and how the locals had quickly taken the place to their hearts. It is now the number one fish and chip shop in town. I sampled a mixed fish platter – hake, ray, monkfish, cod and with freshly cut potato chips - and I saw why. It was divine. The fish was flaky and full of flavour, melting in your mouth, the batter light and crispy with perfectly cut and fried chips. Great food doesn't have to be complicated.
Ann picked me up after I had eaten my fill and we drove out to An Riasc Brewery, a small scale brewery in the nearby village of Ballyferriter. Paul, the proprieter, showed us around and explained about the process of brewing and happily posed for me in the same spot the Irish Times asked him to sit he told me. I felt more like a professional photographer after hearing that! Finally he cracked open a bottle of stout and I got to try it - smooth but meaty, this was a beer you would describe as “a session beer”. It certainly tasted of more.
Ann dropped me back to Dingle and I wandered around its buzzing streets for a while before heading out to catch a little of the Dingle Races, an amateur horse race that certainly draws in the crowds. There was plenty of buzz down on the racetrack and there seemed to be more bookies than punters.
After watching a couple of races it was time to head out to An Riasc B&B in Ballydavid where I was met by the owner Denise with a glass of bubbly and a smile. After freshening up I was served dinner. For starter I had organic gem lettuce, roasted brie, toasted walnut and warm cherry tomatoes. Light and simply delicious.
For main I had fresh Dingle Bay hake and cod served on a bed of potato and chive mash with a vegetable cassolet. Heaven! I didn’t even recognise the courgette as the texture was so different to what I was familiar with, meatier and more solid. Denise put it down to the fact she had grabbed it from her garden only an hour previously. It certainly worked for me.
For dessert I managed a small bit of the rhubarb crumble with a hint of orange. I wouldn’t normally go for rhubarb but this was superb. Sticky, slightly crunchy and only slightly sweet with a very light cream that I knew couldn’t be good for me. Ah sure Id work it off when I got home! I chatted with Denise about the food scene in West Cork where she’s originally from and Dingle and how much things have changed over the last ten to fifteen years and even less before turning in for a badly needed early night. This was the right spot to relax alright.