Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Adventures Abroad: Leprechaun Gold

Lovely town of Kenmare, right on
the outer edges of the Ring of Kerry
I recently had the good fortune to be able to visit the magical island of Ireland, a destination I'd had on my list since I'd contemplated studying abroad there during college. The rolling, verdant pastures all sparkling in 40 shades of green; the colorful, jaunty villages painted in joyous hues as to defy the gray skies above; crumbling stone castles and manor homes covered in sheets of English ivy; the wilderness of the cragged shorelines as Atlantic waves pounded mercilessly against stoic limestone. These were all the things I'd envisioned when I'd pictured Ireland's treasures, and this country did not disappoint.

Cliffs of Moher. No photos can do
them justice.
A part of the magic of this land is in its virgin landscapes, a sense of ferality that lies as an undercurrent against the domesticity of black-faced sheep, patiently spray-painted blue, purple and red. For Boy, the spell of enchantment was woven most tightly around him in the exhilarating links golf courses, cleverly camouflaged between swells of ocean grass, rising above vertical-drop cliff faces as a comforting "thwack" marks a crisp morning.

However, even with all this, Ireland had dropped to a lower bracket on my bucket list due to its (undeserved) reputation for abysmal food. How could I justify a jaunt to Europe where the feast would be more for my eyes than my mouth? 

See? ADVENTURE! The so-called
"best" fish-and-chips in Ireland,
(I didn't agree) but all the fun was
in the field research and search.
Well, for $700 round-trip for a direct flight to Dublin, and great industry rates for a rental car and 4- and 5-star hotels, I justified it. With the Gathering and all, 2013 was a hot time for travel to the Emerald Isle, so the time was ripe and the deals were staggering. Boy wanted to play golf; I wanted to do something a bit different. I have grown tired and bored of all-inclusive, somewhat generic gluttony and after our cruise to the Western Mediterranean, I've discovered that there is joy in the hunt. I still research the crap out of places to make sure I'm going to the most notable restaurants, and that I don't miss any epicurean hubs, but the getting there and the getting -- that's what gets me going. 

I'd love to go on longer and talk in depth about my trip, but one singular thing from this vacation inspired this post: the gold at the end of an Irish rainbow.

Many say this is myth, fable, tall tale or what-have-you. But I just want to share that it's true. There are indeed pots of gold to be found in Ireland, in brown barrels, brown bread and everything in between.

I'm talking, my friend, about the BUTTER.

The glorious, unimaginably sweet, rich, bright gold butter of Ireland is a treasure against all of the land's wonderful, underrated treasures. The incredible difference grass-fed dairy presents! I'd known that Ireland's cheeses and milk would be exceptional, but the butter was an epic experience every time I had it.

Blueberry scone, with layers of sweet flavor
only quality butter can impart.
Boldly gold, its color was initially off-putting, as was the ease of which it transferred to my spreader. Soft, molten, I spread it on my first scone (another revelation--I'd go back just for the scones alone!), where it gave way like a docile maid and attached itself to the crumb of the pastry, yet taking nothing with it when I pulled the knife away. The lightness and lack of grease in taste and feel was startling, given the deep flavor of the butter. It was sweet, creamy and decadent, yet not heavy; it clung to your memory more than your tongue, leaving only a shadow of a pleasant sensation, like a dream in your mouth.

From first bite, I was obsessed. And although I generally eat very clean, I felt no guilt about indulging in this purest form of butter. It FELT clean. It TASTED clean. And as lactose-sensitive I may ethnically be prone to be, I felt like a million fucking bucks every goddamn day.

So this is what real butter is like. This is what it's supposed to be like, how it's supposed to feel. Free of chemicals, additives, preservatives, antibiotics from diseased teats and subsequent pasteurization, straight from the well cared-for udders of happy, free-roaming, grass-fed cows.

Naturally, upon my return stateside, I became a butter snob. No more Land O'Lakes or Breakstone's for me! It was Kerrygold imported FTW!

Unfortunately, it doesn't taste quite the same here as it did there, but it'll do for now. When you can't get 24 karat gold, you have to settle for 14, right? But until next time, because leprechaun gold be damned -- I found the real stuff and it is GLORIOUS.


Raspberry scones and raspberry meringues from one of my favorite places in
the world, Queen of Tarts. More on this place later!





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