Kerrygold Ballymaloe Literary Festival of Food & Wine

Rhubarb

As I stumble through figuring out how to use the new features after the site upgrade, I’ve got a backlog of posts and pictures that I’ve been anxious to share. It also has taken me a week to recover from my weekend in Cork, Ireland, as a guest at the Kerrygold Ballymaloe Litfest, where I was a speaker in this year’s line-up. I’d only been to Ireland once before and was immediately taken with the country; the terrain is beautiful, the drizzly weather means large expanses of green grass and you’ll find cows grazing just off the side of winding roads. I learned how to make a real Irish Coffee, and best of all, I ate remarkably well with most foods coming from local farms and producers who had just pulled their vegetables from their gardens, which appeared on their dinner tables just a few hours later. When you mention you like a “brand” of something in the area, such as Gubbeen sausage, people will invariably respond – “Oh, yes – Fingal (Ferguson)…he does make a fine sausage, doesn’t he?”

beets

Ballymaloe is the famed cookery school started by Darina Allen in 1983, who wanted to showcase the bounty of Ireland to the world. And what a bounty it is! I arrived a day before the festival started to get settled in, and even before I sat down for the first meal, food started showing up everywhere, including platters of foods yanked from their gardens for visitors to nibble on. I think during the weekend I ate at least three dozen radishes. Come to think of it, make that about three dozen per day.

Kerrygold Ballymaloe Literary Festival in Cork, Ireland-35

I couldn’t help but take a gazillion photos and as I mentioned before, it’s impossible to take a bad picture in Cork. The fruits and vegetables are stellar, the people are super generous about letting you come in and show you around (and to let you take photos!), and they’re happy to lop off a piece of cheese for you to taste just because they’re proud of what they make and want to share.

Irishman cheesemaker

When I’d arrived on the short flight from Paris, Eamon, a volunteer from the community, met me at the airport and offered to take me anywhere I wanted to go for the entire weekend, along with a small team of other locals who’d volunteered their time for the weekend to make sure we were well taken care of. One thing I forgot about Ireland is how friendly everybody is. Hmm, I could get used to this!

The festival is a community effort and I went thinking there would be a few hundred people coming. When they told me they expected up to 8000 people, I then envisioned myself hiding for most of the weekend in my room, as I’m not fond of large crowds. (Especially when there is food offered as that can bring out something in people who I’m not happy to be a part of.)

Irish cheesemaker

But that wasn’t the case at the festival and this cheesemaker calmly fashioned a makeshift table out of a cutting board, and his chest, then sliced cheese for people who patiently waited for a taste while bantering with them. A far cry from the sample stations at Costco.

Irish cheese

Although I didn’t catch the names of his cheeses, I brought back some Kerrygold cheddar that had been made with a bit o’ Irish whiskey in it, thinking it’d be a fun novelty to take back to Paris for some French friends to try. (You can sometimes find good English cheddar and Stilton in cheese shops in Paris, but I’ve not seen Irish cheese.) I am not really a fan of cheese with “things” in it. I like gouda with cumin, and once had a cheese with nettles in it that I liked a lot, but I tend to avoid novelty cheeses. Yet the whiskey blended in was just enough to provide a smooth, barely perceptible smoky background flavor, and it got eaten faster than the Neufchâtel from Normandy that I’d served alongside. Touché!

raw milk

The first time I visited Ireland, on Day #1 I was handed me a pair of Wellies (tall green rubber boots) for walking through the fields, which at first I didn’t quite get. Then I learned rather quickly while walking through farms and fields that you need to step carefully to avoid piles of cow patties. I’ve gotten pretty good at that living in Paris (along they’re much smaller), but those boots are essential as no matter how experienced of a pile-jumper you are. (I may start wearing them in Paris.) The reward for all that doody-dodging is the stellar milk the Jersey cows produce and at Ballymaloe, there are raw milk dispensers set up in a couple of places. The one above was in the kitchen of the cookery school, filled with ice-cold raw milk, ready for cooking and drinking.

Stephen Pearce pottery in Ireland

I was put up in a room at Ballymaloe House, the hotel that is a short Eamon-ride from the actual school, which is a mile or so away. They have bikes to use, but Irish roads are really narrow and the idea of dodging cars driving on the reverse side of the road made me nervous. So I took the safe route. Ballymaloe House is old stone building transformed into guest rooms with a restaurant and a shop next to it and I was happy to call it home for a few days.

Ballymaloe House menu

Most of the ingredients served in their dining room are either grown there, fished from the waters nearby, or culled from local farms and producers. The food is basic, yet wholesome and good. Well-prepared without a lot of fuss. If you’re looking for scribbles of balsamic vinegar or plates whose edges are dusted with powder of some sort, you won’t find it there.

I am famous, or infamous, for being grumpy in the morning. I’m a people-person…but only after I’ve had my morning coffee, preferably alone. (Romain knows the drill, although I’ve learned to accept someone talking to me in the morning even though it’s not my preferred way to start the day.) However Irish breakfasts are legendary and even the crankiest morning person/me would bloom into a happy lad when faced with freshly baked soda bread, Irish scones, just-churned butter with big chunks of sea salt in it, fruit jams made from berries picked from the gardens, and free-range eggs laid in their hen-houses, which are also sold in their shop. They cost €2,75 for a half-dozen and when I posted a picture of them on social media, someone was shocked and remarked at how expensive they were.

True, 45¢ per egg might seem pricey to some people. But when you taste how good they are, and you know the chickens are well-treated, I don’t think 90¢ for a couple of great eggs that change a crabby fellow into a happy lad is such a bad price. Last time I was near the hen-house at the cookery school, the tiny chicks were running all over the place, including through the offices of the school and Darina said to us, “I know, I know, they shouldn’t be here. But I can’t help it. They’re so cute!” Cute always comes at a cost, and if you want me cute, not cranky at 8am, feed me a couple of good farm eggs – and Irish bacon. 

Kerrygold Ballymaloe Literary Festival in Cork, Ireland-22

Anyone who has known her knows that Darina is a hard person to argue with. In fact, I don’t think she knows the word “no” and every time I’ve seen her, she was always doing something. When she jumped into the kitchen to help serve lunch to festival participants and I snapped that shot, I jokingly said after I took it, “Wow. A rare picture of Darina serving food.” The rest of the staff, not used to my humor (or attempt at humor), were momentarily stunned. Then got the joke after I’d explained it.

Stephen Pearce Irish pottery dinnerware

After fortifying myself with coffee, it was hard not to give my full attention to the food served at the full Irish breakfast at Ballymaloe House, which more than one person has described as “legendary.” In addition to the breads baked that morning, and the eggs, jam, and butter, there was fresh-squeezed orange juice, an array of fruit compotes, porridge, and everything from blood sausage to Irish bacon, which I made sure to have every morning. My very first morning, I also fell in love with the pottery serving pieces that were on the tables, especially the little half-glazed pots filled with various jams.

Stephen Pearce pottery bowls

No sooner than right after I mentioned how much I loved them, the legendary server, Anne Mack, who’s been serving breakfast at Ballymaloe House for decades, said in her Irish voice, “Oh, they’re just down the road there a bit. You can go right after breakfast.” I asked how far was “a bit” was, and others in the dining room joined in and said it was just a few miles. But like everything in Cork, it was pas de problème and I was happy to get a lift with a new pal, natural wine expert Alice Feiring, to visit Stephen Pearce pottery.

Stephen Pearce Irish PotteryMr. Pearce was walking around the shop that was set in a little wooded area, and was the kind of person if he heard me call him “Mr.” would tell me to stop. The large, rough workshop was filled with shelves of beautiful Irish pottery, glazed simply, with gentle, pleasing forms and useful shapes.

Stephen Pearce pottery mugsI didn’t see my name on a mug, which was probably a good thing, but I saw a lot of other things I wanted and picked up several of the small jam/butter pots that I have no idea what I’m going to do with, but I couldn’t resist. I also spent more than a few moments rifling through the seconds room, too, and got some small bowls that had glaze flaws, which I find charming.

Stephen Pearce pottery jugs

I’m not on commission, and your wallet might not thank me, but they do sell mail-order, and I was happy to be able to stop in personally and add a few pieces to my pottery collection, which is starting to grow at and alarming rate. I’m not kidding – piled up in my office right where I’m typing are five various stacks of plates, bowls, gratin dishes, and whatever else you can think of, cluttered up on the shelves. I think it’s a sickness and someday I’ll stop.

Just not right now.

Stephen Pearce Irish pottery workshop

Although my stomach was, oddly, rumbling for more of those Irish scones that I remembered from that morning, when we got back to Ballymaloe it was – yup…almost time for lunch.

Irish scones unbaked

But since it wasn’t quite time, Alice and I stopped into the café where we had cups of the excellent coffee roasted just next door to the café at The Golden Bean, and pondered over – yup, a scone with butter and jam, or something else to eat.

Fresh Irish scones at Ballymaloe Cafe

Caramel cheesecake

Ballymaloe cafe in Cork, Ireland

We tried some of the cookies made from Irish oatmeal…

Kerrygold Ballymaloe Literary Festival in Cork, Ireland-42

…until, finally, it was lunchtime. (There was actually only a 25 minute gap between when we returned and when lunch was served. But that was enough time for a treat, right? And I had to spend a little extra time taking that young fellow’s picture a few times over and over again because his hair was so high, my lens couldn’t get it all in!) Lunch featured heaps of green salads – just the thing I love to eat, then me and Rebecca, another pal that I made that weekend, hit the kitchen to make bread with Darina’s husband, Tim. (Which I’m still testing in my home kitchen…I’ll post as soon as I get it right, I promise.) After he mixed up the brown bread, he grabbed a few jars of starter and effortlessly started mixing the dough for a few loaves of sourdough bread for the evening’s dinner.

Kerrygold Ballymaloe Literary Festival in Cork, Ireland-41Kerrygold Ballymaloe Literary Festival in Cork, Ireland-40

My jaw kind of dropped when we walked through the kitchen because I can’t imagine a better place to cook, overlooking the gardens and the farm, with bundles of fresh herbs, crates of vegetables, and yes – flats of free-range eggs – ready for crackin’.

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They were making a very green, young garlic pesto to jar up for the shop that smelled like exactly the kind of thing I’d want to have on hand in my pantry at all times, as well as bottling up sweet red chile sauce. Alas, neither would pass muster at the airport, as I was going carry-on only. (Nope. I wasn’t trusting my pottery to baggage handlers.)

Ballymaloe kitchen herbs

Sweet chile sauce

But lest you think it was all eating (it was Ireland, so I can let you use your imagination about the drinking – but since I wanted to blend in, so I thought it only polite if I occasionally took part), I was there primarily for the Litfest, which was just about to begin. So I headed back to the room to shower and shave before the guests arrived. All 8000 of them, give or take a few.

Homemade lavender soap

The good news is that they didn’t all come at once. Since the festival takes place over the weekend and there are lots of activities – talks, discussions, cooking demonstrations, and meals – it never felt crowded, frantic, and I wasn’t traumatized. In fact, it was great.

People were happy to stand and chat, drink a beer (or two), and all that gorgeous produce was put to very good use over the weekend. Stands set up by local businesses prepared ribs, falafels, blackcurrant cordials, grain salads, wood-fired pizzas, smoked salmon sandwiches, smeared Kerrygold Irish butter on scones (the one they gave me had a ratio of 2:1 butter to scone – and yes, the “2” was the butter), and crusty loaves of artisan bread.

Little Irish apple juiceFalafel maker at Kerrygold Ballymaloe Literary Festival in Cork, Ireland

The young people worked hard all weekend, setting up their stands and serving everyone, never getting flustered, even when the power went out in the whole “Big Shed” that held all the food stands, musicians, and bartenders, who in addition to pouring endless glasses of beer, poured a mean gin & tonic, too. All the twenty-somethings preparing food told me they were proud to serve local, fresh foods, and even the older folks said they like to get as much as they can from their neighbors, which is a sharp contrast to people who think that fresh, local foods are out-of-reach or upscale. (My copious falafel made to order by Jack of Rocket Man Food Co, above, cost about the same as a fast-food burger and fries, and was a heckuva lot better.) It can be done. And if you don’t believe me, move to Cork – like I am.

Kerrygold Ballymaloe Literary Festival in Cork, Ireland-2

There were a number of interesting panels at the festival, from foraging in the nearby sea for edible seaweed, which I missed because I didn’t bring my Wellie’s, a talk broaching the subject “Is wine going out of fashion?”, coffee cupping with Norwegian barista Nick Wendelboe, an amazing slide show about Chinese cuisine by Fuchsia Dunlop (my new dream is to go to China with her), to discussions on more serious topics, such as what’s happening to our soil and how do we feed our most vulnerable.

I went to a lively cocktail talk and tasting with Nick Strangeway and Oisin Davis, and one on Irish whiskey that was interesting but went a little over (and to) my head as I don’t have that much background in whiskies (although I do love them, which is what counts), as well as a tasting from master gin distiller Desmond Payne, where we learned about how gin is made. Some have all their flavors added during distillation, and others add them afterward, for example. And the only flavoring that gin has to have to be called “gin” is juniper.

I like gin but never really knew all that much how it’s made. But the most important thing about any drink is how it tastes. And taste we did! The gins we tried had everything from tea, elderflowers, hibiscus, and lemon verbena added. I loved discerning all the different nuances and flavors in the gins we tried, although wondered how pronounced they’d be in mixed into drinks since gin is rarely drunk straight  Clearly more experimentation was needed when I got home. Note to self: Stock up on gin for the summer.

Beefeater Gin tasting

My talk at the literary festival covered a lot of things. It was listed as a “fireside chat” so I chatted about how I began doing what I do, to what I’m doing now, with a few people asking about my future which I couldn’t answer. (Hey, if I could predict the future, I’d be buying lottery tickets.) As I usually do, I got teary-eyed twice during my talk – normally I only cry once, as I tend to get emotional when I speak in public, but I loved answering questions and talking to everyone at not just my talk, but during the entire event. So many conferences are about “getting” something. This one was different, and was about sharing and participating rather than bringing something tangible home. A suitcase full of pottery, notwithstanding.

Vintage croquet set

Part of my discussion was what brought me to where I am today, to Paris, and how I went from dishwasher, to cooking in restaurants, to being a pastry chef, to writing cookbooks and my blog. I noted how things have changed in the last decade in the world of cookbooks, as well as in blogging – and what the differences are and how I respond to each. I’ve written about it before, but the summation is that cookbooks these days need to be more than recipes since most of those can be found online. People are responding to books with a story behind it, or books that feature a single-subject and do a good job covering them.

Blogging has changed a lot since a lot of us started, especially in the last few years where things like social media, photography, some tech know-how, and new blogging platforms for publishing have made things better, but take up a lot more time and energy. It’s like telephones: We used to pick up the phone when someone called. We’d talk, then hang up when we were done. It was easy. Then we got message machines so that we wouldn’t miss a call. Then we got smartphones, which let us take our phones with us, customize ringtones, allow us to edit and send photos, send a text, listen to music, check our email, order a car, book a trip, find a place to have dinner, and basically always be connected. So while the telephone has been vastly improved, we’re all spending a lot more time doing things other than having a simple chat with a friend with what was once a simple device. And just getting the device to do all those things correctly can be a part-time job.

Irish flower arranging

We’re all constantly shifting and adapting to new ideas and technology, and the challenge is to find a way to balance it all and still have time for that simple chat with a friend. It’s gotten harder to stop and “smell the flowers” – to go for a walk or set up a picnic, read a book, have a nice (and phone-free) meal with others, and not try to “get” anything out of every experience, but just to be present and enjoy it. That’s something I’m working on myself these days.

Speaking of friends and family, finishing up the Litfest was a panel with Alice Waters, David Tanis, April Bloomfield, and me, about our experiences cooking at Chez Panisse. David was the café chef when I arrived, way back around 1983, and is now a popular New York Times columnist. April worked at the restaurant for several months before going on to open her own highly successful restaurants in New York and San Francisco. And Alice, of course, started Chez Panisse back in 1971 with the idea of having a local hangout where friends could gather for a simple meal and a glass of wine, and ended up changing the way America eats. (When I started cooking at the restaurant, few people in the U.S. knew what blood oranges, goat cheese, or arugula was.) You don’t often hear people say what an honor it is to use the ingredients we had access to, or to work in a restaurant kitchen, and it’s hard to sum up the experience in a few lines here. But we all expressed in our own way how working at Chez Panisse changed us, and the most interesting question posed by the moderator was – “What did you take away from working at Chez Panisse?”

Mine was that I taste things, which seems simple, but it drives me bonkers when I go out to eat and get presented with a plate of food that no one in the kitchen has tasted or thought about what it would be like to sit down and actually eat it. Sometimes it’s a mish-mash of flavors and ingredients that may have sounded interesting in someone’s head, but on the plate, makes no sense. I also learned that only very rarely is something complicated actually better. (Hmmm, like our smartphones – are we actually better off?) It’s of zero interest to me when I get a plate of overwrought, tortured food. That’s not what eating is about.

While cooking professionally is, indeed, work. The whole idea is cooking or baking up something that you, or someone else, will like to eat should be of utmost importance. I’m happiest with a plate of sticky ribs, a fried egg on buttered toast with black pepper and salt, vegetables sauteed in butter, a scoop of very good, dark chocolate ice cream (sometimes, with sprinkles…), or just an heaped up bowl of salad greens dressed with a garlic vinaigrette. In fact, I think I got my job at the restaurant when during my job interview with Alice, she asked what I liked to eat and a little flustered, I answered, “A big green salad.” And she said, “So do I.”

 

A lot more was discussed and laughed about (and yup, I got a little teary during one of my responses here, too), but when I left Chez Panisse, I remember saying to Alice that after thirteen years of working with her, that I was still afraid of her, and she replied – “Good.” So every time I make something, or put out a plate of food, I taste it carefully, remembering how she would come by and taste with us at the restaurant, insisting that we let the ingredients shine and not to overcomplicate things. The focus should be on flavor and taste.

Kerrygold Ballymaloe Literary Festival in Cork, Ireland-13

Even though I had a few nice pieces of pottery, some streaky bacon, and plenty of great memories packed up to bring home with me, I made one last stop in the Ballymaloe gift shop as I couldn’t resist picking up a few pieces of Falcon bakeware, which cost more than a half-dozen eggs, but less than a falafel. I like the simple lines, the lack of pretension, and the sturdy utilitarianism of them. A lot of the young cooks manning the food stands were using them, as well as bowls of the locally made Stephen Pearce pottery, for mixing and serving food to the guests at the festival, and it was nice to take home a little reminder of what a great weekend it was in Ireland.

Carrots at Ballymaloe


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51 comments

  • Kit
    June 1, 2015 3:22pm

    Oh David, you’ve made my Monday morning and made up my mind for me – Ireland next! Absolutely! This is a lovely post, every bit of it.

  • June 1, 2015 3:57pm

    Indeed it was a wonderful weekend – the only problem now is you’ll want to come back every year (this was our second time). The weekend is such a great mix of cooking demos, talks, food and drink stalls, music – and of course the Irish hospitality.

    If you do go back and get time to go into Cork, try the vegetarian restaurant Cafe Paradiso – we had wonderful dinner there on the Saturday night.

  • June 1, 2015 5:06pm

    What a fabulous weekend! Everything looks and sounded like it was great!

    Kate

    I just made your most delicious French Apple Cake!

  • June 1, 2015 5:33pm

    What a wonderful read for a rainy Monday morning. Thank you so much for the words and the photos!

  • Danita
    June 1, 2015 5:55pm

    Sounds like a wonderful festival and lovely place to visit. I like that everything was simple and fresh. We will be in the Dublin area in a couple of weeks, but staying outside the city in Howth. It will be our first time visiting Ireland.

  • Teresa
    June 1, 2015 5:57pm

    Wonderful photos and words David! Will you post some recipes from Ballymaloe? I saw some amazing dishes in your instagram during your stay:)

  • bob raymond
    June 1, 2015 6:03pm

    I always love to read your blog but having grandparents (Keeffe, Leahy, Roche) from Cork/Waterford made this one especially delicious! Now I can’t wait to visit there.
    Thanks SO much!

  • June 1, 2015 6:07pm

    David, I’m from Scotland, but for years here on the Mendocino coast where everyone appreciates and cultivates exactly what you just wrote in the Irish post…..got to love those droves of hippies who settled here in the 60’s and 70’s!

  • Ronnie
    June 1, 2015 6:10pm

    Dear David,
    Among the deluge of e-mails and blogs of all kinds, yours is the one I always look forward to. As a San Franciscan Francophile with Paris dreams, I follow your adventures vicariously. Integral to the pleasure your recipes and ramblings bring is the beauty of your photos. Would you tell me what camera you use and, maybe, even your favorite food shot setting? Merci!

  • Mary
    June 1, 2015 6:13pm

    Ah what a pleasure to read your blog today. Ballymaloe is one of my favorite places in Ireland and the little cafe at the back of the shop is wonderful and they share recipes! I bought some of the Falcon pans and love them. They’re so functional. I think the food in Ireland is remarkable-one forgets what a fresh chicken tastes like or the taste of carrots and other veg that are so fresh. I’m so glad you liked it David. The whole country has remarkable food, dairy products and baked goods…and remarkable people who are so friendly and genuine….going over next month and cannot wait…love Shanagarry and the area around it…thanks for the great post.

  • Karhleen
    June 1, 2015 6:25pm

    How wonderful to take an excursion to Ireland with you! Your account was so detailed, I felt right beside you at that wonderful event. Great photos. And so much more reading as I follow all the links you provided, including the vinaigrette post. And an extra thank you for adapting to tablets. Your perfect blog is now even more perfect! (Does this sound like a love letter? It is :)

  • June 1, 2015 6:51pm

    What a beautiful time! I tried to go to Ballymaloe this past January but they were closed for renovations. To me, that (and this article!), simply mean I have to head back to Cork for another visit :)

  • Andrea
    June 1, 2015 7:17pm

    Oh, the weather in NYC today is making me think of hiking last year in Ireland. Cool, rainy, and I wish I was tramping after a nice Irish breakfast. But I’d settle for a lovely scone with Irish butter on it this afternoon….though I’d prefer one of those good-looking Irish gents serving me his cheese.

  • TiM Brennan
    June 1, 2015 7:18pm

    you brought back great memories of my graduate school stint in Dublin back in the late 70’s & the humble beginnings that resulted in my pastry business ( now a catering company & weekend restaurant) in St Louis.
    Thirty one years into it & I love it even more today than when I began.
    Over the years I’ve been awarded 2 James Beards ( Midwest) awards in pastry & have become good friends with Nick Malgieri.
    Thanks for your well wrought blog!
    I’ll now dream about ballymaloe lit fest.

  • Bill Flodin
    June 1, 2015 7:20pm

    Divid:

    I very much enjoy for postings.

    Please, could/would you post a recipe
    for Irish scones. I would indeed be
    grateful.

    ;;Thanks in advance

  • Susan Allen
    June 1, 2015 7:40pm

    What a great price for rhubarb. Free range eggs are $6/doz at my local Providence farmers’ market. I will definitely be trying to get some Falcon enamelware. I use old and new pieces regularly, some from West Elm, but they are also traditional in Cairo for street food.

  • Cat F.
    June 1, 2015 8:16pm

    Thank you for once again reminding me why I cook and share my food, and that I shouldn’t force a memory out of every situation. When I’m old I think I’ll far prefer vague, fuzzy, happy memories over saved Facebook posts.

  • Peter Longenecker
    June 1, 2015 8:17pm

    David, David, David . . .

    Loved this post, might have to change travel plans for this year.

    BUT, what’s this: “. . . . move to Cork — like I am.” ???

  • Marsha
    June 1, 2015 8:17pm

    What a great blog today! And your pictures, as always, are beautiful! It was almost like being there. Thank you.

  • Monika
    June 1, 2015 8:21pm

    Thank you for this! My first Irish cookery book was Darina’s, and my proudest day was when she had bought a box of cupcakes – ahem, fairy cakes – in the cafe where I work as a pastry chef. That woman is a legend.

    Please do come back, there are so many other places to visit with fabulous food…

  • Lynn Callahan
    June 1, 2015 8:22pm

    I stayed at the inn and sat in on a morning class at the cookery school a couple of days prior to the lit festival. I am happy to be reassured that I’m not the only person on the planet swept away by the inn and the school and that dynamo Darina. Thank you for these fabulous Ballymaloe posts and, well, for all your posts!

  • Ellen McCarthy
    June 1, 2015 8:47pm

    Thank you for bringing back enjoyable memories of Ireland. Regarding your comments about tasting food before it is served: Just returned from Chicago where I had 2 memorable dinners at the Purple Pig (it was so good I went back!) and noted that the kitchen staff tasted almost everything before it went out. That’s why I love to sit at the bar and watch kitchen staff-you learn a lot!

  • June 1, 2015 8:58pm
    David Lebovitz

    Cat F: A couple of people asked me about some recent brou-ha-ha over a “50 Best” restaurant list that just came out that was controversial for whatever reason. I was thinking that that’s something that I don’t have any interest in. Most of the places are very expensive (which is fine, but if you’re “the best” price should be no object and their should be all levels of places), but I never think of cooking as a competition where there are “the best.” It’s nice to honor and recognize people doing a good job, but I don’t know if it merits so much press.

    Karhleen: Thanks! I’m glad you’re enjoying the new mobile-friendly site. And glad you are enjoying the links as well : )

    Mary: One does forget what food tastes like. When I was in New York City this winter, I bought a small bag of lettuce from the farmers’ market, which cost something like $9. It was enough for 2-3 salads, but when we ate it, it was so good – I hadn’t had lettuce like that since I stayed with a friend in the French countryside that grew her own. Need to get out of the city more!

    Ellen: I had dinner last night at a nice restaurant in Paris, that used very good quality, well-sourced ingredients. And the cooking was fine, but everything needed seasoning – it was sort of flat. I always wonder if the cooks taste food, then think, “What it is like to sit down and eat this?”

    • Qwendy
      June 6, 2015 11:09pm

      David, I have been a fan forever …. what do you make of the No Salt trend??? I live in Brittany — land of salted butter! — and even here sometimes food isn’t salted as it is cooking! I consider it to be a bad habit picked up from “health conscious” America, what do you think?

  • Susan
    June 1, 2015 9:48pm

    OMG, now I want to EAT, EAT, EAT!!!
    Must find a recipe for that Ginger Cheesecake. Great post, thanks. I have lived there and yes, it’s all true :)

  • June 1, 2015 11:29pm

    It was truly a great weekend and your talk and Chez P panel were highlights. Thank you for sharing with us!

  • June 1, 2015 11:39pm

    My mother’s parents were from Cork and I’ve never been. You described it just how my mom has, people offering rides etc. If I wasn’t going back to France on my next adventure, probably I’d be making a stop in Cork. One can never have too many groovy things to cook and eat from, some times I’m led to just give away things that I think someone would like, leaving room to get more!

  • Bev
    June 2, 2015 1:23am

    Thank you David for your interesting and descriptive post. Just loved reading it all. Wouldn’t it be great if you could visit Denmark in Western Australia and be part of ‘Taste in the Great Southern’, and enjoy the experience of all the great fresh foods in our region!! Cheers

  • June 2, 2015 1:35am

    I kept an eye on the Lit Fest on social media, from Tasmania, wishing so badly that I could be there. Your marvellous post was the very next best thing to being there. Thank you so very much!

  • C Wilson
    June 2, 2015 2:09am

    You’ve whetted my appetite for Ireland in more ways than one, pardon the pun! Cheese, butter, beautiful veg, scones, pottery, scenery and did I mention butter and scones (ok and hunky Irish men)? Your heart is so evident in this post. Thanks for sharing and more importantly, inspiring. .

  • June 2, 2015 2:28am

    This was a lovely heartfelt post David! Good on you! I felt like I was there!

  • Suzan
    June 2, 2015 4:19am

    David, fantastic post! I have fond memories of Ballymaloe & the surrounding area. Did you know there is a glass blowing place in Quechee, Vt related to the Stephen Pearce family there?
    http://andrewpearcebowls.com/pages/our-story
    I agree that modern technology has made us crazy, but loved be able to read your post earlier on my I pad!

  • Terry Covington
    June 2, 2015 7:04am

    What you write about smart phones and how they actually complicate our lives articulates something I have been trying to put my finger on about them. Technology has brought a lot of advantages to us, but it has also caused us to lose some things, and there is a lot of wisdom in what you say about needing to work on what is important, and making time for picnics and chats. It is one of the great ironies that the more “connected” we are, the less connected we are. It is one of the reasons your writing about your travels is so engaging; you bring to life the people and the experiences. Your pictures are wonderful; but they enhance your writing, and not the other way around.

  • June 2, 2015 8:00am
    David Lebovitz

    Suzan: Yes, it looks like he is part of the same family. Glad you like reading the post on your tablet. As much as modern technology has caused a number of headaches, it’s also helpful in many respects. That’s the big conflict!

    Terry: We’ve changed the way we communicate which is great in so many ways. Yet it’s amazing how much time, and money, get spent on keeping up with it all. Just as soon as you get on top of things, something changes and you need to readjust (or download something new) and it doesn’t work, and you have to spent time figuring out or unraveling it. Whereas when we just had simple phones and magazines and newspapers, it was much easier – although somewhat less-effective.

    caherine: One thing I didn’t mention in the post was that during the festival, the person dealing with the Lost & Found said that two people turned in €20 bills that they found on the ground. A couple of Irish people around me said, “Only in Ireland!”

  • June 2, 2015 10:31am

    Your Blog is like a cup of steaming coffee in a cold morning. So refreshing with wonderful pictures. great job.

  • ron shapley(nyc)
    June 2, 2015 1:52pm

    Grand !!! Positively Grand !!!!!

  • June 2, 2015 3:16pm

    Ok, this post confirms that I have to go to Cork. Been on my bucket list but is now bumped up to my MUST GO now list. It’s surprises me how people complain about the “real” cost of food like the cost of free range eggs. I would rather not eat eggs unless they are of the best quality. Grocery store eggs just do not sound good except for the expensive ones from Whole Foods. I always have a local farmer who I get eggs from. Ingredients are the most important part of creating a good dish. The tasting part is just as important as well. In my kitchen I am always tasting.

  • Deborah Stratmann
    June 2, 2015 4:35pm

    Wow! Look at that pottery. It is all super. I especially love that small unglazed piece, off to the side, in the picture with Stephen Pearce’s sign. yummy!
    I bet you took some back to Paris.
    Good article.Thanks

  • Ginger
    June 2, 2015 7:35pm

    It is always great to read a piece and get caught up in the place and time of the story. You really sounded happy and appreciated all that was there for you to share, see and do.

  • Gavrielle
    June 3, 2015 12:52am

    I’m now about a thousand times more interested in visiting Ireland than I was before. Yum!

    I know what you mean about novelty cheeses, but I’ll make an exception where necessary, and our wonderful NZ cheesemakers Over The Moon make a brie with a layer of truffle that’s unbelievable.

    45c expensive for an egg? Hah! In NZ I pay around US72c per egg. But they are organic and genuinely free range, are not debeaked or anything gruesome like that, and you can watch the flock your eggs came from, happily wandering around, via a webcam. Like you say, good food isn’t cheap. I’m OK with that.

  • Oonagh
    June 3, 2015 4:18am

    Thank you for this, David. I was supposed to be there but didn’t make it – now I feel as though I did!
    The Andrew Pearce referred to by Suzan is Stephen Pearce’s nephew – his father, Simon Pearce, is also a glassblower based in Vermont
    http://www.simonpearce.com/pages/the-story-of-simon-pearce
    I think Stephen’s and his aesthetic are quite similar. Simon is also the father of Kevin Pearce, the snowboarder.

  • Amy
    June 3, 2015 4:27am

    Hi David…I’m a longtime follower of your blog and a fellow chocoholic. You have led me to some of my favorite sweets and chocolate shops in Paris through your app! I’m looking for a current update on Denise Acabo and her shop? I am coming back to Paris in September of this year and would love some Bernachon chocolate! I visited her shop in 2013 and just missed getting to meet her as she had stepped out of the shop. Can you give me (and/or your readers) another update? Thanks, amy

  • Kim B.
    June 3, 2015 6:57am

    Thank you for sharing about your time there. Gorgeous writing and photography as always. It sounds like a truly special place.

  • June 3, 2015 6:07pm

    It was a great pleasure to meet you at LitFest, David. It is a truly remarkable occasion every year, and your post captures so many elements of the weekend beautifully. I’m glad it wasn’t just me heading home with a case full of Stephen Pearce pottery! It is such a unique event; it is a great pleasure to be there and a huge privilege to be part of the speakers, too.

  • Mira
    June 3, 2015 6:16pm

    Another country to add to the (food) bucket list! What a great post. Thanks, David. I just arrived from Paris this afternoon and spent 3 too short days there. I am now enjoying a few caramels from Jean Paul Hevin while jet lag sets in and I catch up on your blog posts. The sugar won’t help that, I know.

  • June 4, 2015 7:05am

    I just really, really want to go to Ireland now. Thanks for sharing all of the beautiful pictures.

  • Peggy
    June 5, 2015 12:34am

    Ireland is my favorite country in Europe and I can’t wait to go back. To get my Irish fix in the meantime, I bake with Kerrygold butter, and if anyone I know is traveling to Ireland I make them bring me back Corleggy cheese.

  • June 5, 2015 3:44pm

    What a pleasurable read, mesmerizing, in fact. The only thing missing was the pitter-patter of rain upon my window.

    Food, glorious, food. It carries a heart and soul all its own, and when lovingly tended and shared amongst good company, nothing else can come close to revitalizing all of our senses.

    This was a beautiful post; I found my self sitting, vicariously at the table and listening to the flow of every aspect of it’s crafting. Farm-to-table, the staples of a countryside and the celebration of feast and the beauty of meeting and greeting with both old, and new friends.

    These pages are a lovely prologue to the book you will hopefully get around to writing about, sharing your travels, working in the trenches and offering all glorious edibles.

    Food is good, add in friendship and you will find yourself on the doorstep of heaven.

  • Lisa
    June 6, 2015 4:18pm

    Hi David, first time commenting on a blog and I have to say I love it. Just made the Chez Panisse Almond Tart this morning and turned out fabulous. Any way I can send a pic to you.

  • June 7, 2015 5:46pm

    What a lovely written piece which makes me feel like I was there. I also loved the Middleton Market post. As someone who has holidayed in Cork for many years you have summed up the pride in good food and local produce perfectly :)

  • Ann Stout
    June 26, 2015 9:37pm

    Bought your ice cream book and have enjoyed it. I bought the Lello 4080
    Musso Lussino ice cream maker. I need to replace the top metal sheet that has the bowl built into it. I am in Paris and thought you might be able to suggest somewhere that I could possibly buy a replacement. Have tried to find it in US but can’t.
    Thanks a lot.