For the month of September, on top of their regular farmers’ market at Dublin’s Temple Bar, Sarah and Patrick take the Gallic Kitchen market trailer to the Farmleigh farmer’s market located in Phoenix Park in Dublin.
In 1662, when Ireland still officially belonged to England, the 1752 acres of land, now called Phoenix Park, was purchased to house the royal Viceroy of Ireland. Its expansive grounds, enclosed within a stone wall, originally functioned as the royal deer park. The single largest enclosed park of any European capital city, Phoenix Park is now a national landmark containing the residences of the President of Ireland and the United States Ambassador, among other historic monuments, and remains a lush sanctuary to many birds and animals.
Anyway, as a designated driver, one of Jonathan’s duties was to transport Sarah’s freshly made wares the hour and a half drive up to Dublin for the Farmleigh Farmers’ Market; no need to work the market as Patrick’s nephew, Anthony, had that under control. The market started at 10:00 a.m. and finished at 5:00 p.m., which gave us a good seven hours to kill in Dublin; a real hardship, let me tell ya.
Being the whiskey girl that I am, I insisted that our first outing in Dublin be to the old Jameson Distillary, established in 1780 but now only an historic venue as the actual whiskey is now distilled at the Midleton Distillary in County Cork. Even though the tour was a little pricy at €13 a pop, we still signed up knowing that at least we would get a “free” shot of Jameson at the end of the tour. Ignonore the fact that it was only 11:00 a.m., we’re on vacation! While we waited for the tour to begin, we browsed the gift shop, almost buying expensive Jameson chocolates, a Jameson flask, a classy set of leather Jameson coasters, among other over priced items before settling on a €5 deck of Jameson cards.
On to the tour itself. It began with a hokey ten minute video about a reporter who is late for his interview with Mr. Jameson. In trying to find Mr. Jameson, the reporter is consequentially led on a tour of the distillary as every scene finds him to be just one step behind Mr. Jameson. At the end of the “tour“, he finally finds Mr. Jameson who offers him a shot of the famous triple distilled whiskey. Upon sipping the magical liquid, the reporter hears music from the heavens and for a moment thinks that he sees an angel surrounded by a bright glowing light. Like I said, hokey.
Our overly excited guide then led us on our own tour of the “distillary“, rooms designed to replicate the steps of the whiskey making process. I knew it was going to be a long day when in the first room, which displayed the barley store rooms, the guide pointed at a stuffed cat that looked like the work of a blind taxidermist on LSD and enthusiastically told the story of the “legendary” cat who was rumored to have been the factory’s record mice catcher. Good lord. The actual process was quite interesting (sprouting the grains, drying them over hot coals, adding yeast and water before triple distilling the liquid to make a smooth finished product); however the overall experience was killed by the ridiculously camp delivery and nice but very unfunny guide. No wonder they give you a shot of whiskey at the end; trust me, you need a little pick me up just to forget the last half hour and feel normal again. My advice? Save your €13, go buy a 350ml bottle of Jameson, and drink a glass or two while you read about whiskey making on Wikipedia. I’m just sayin’.
As the tour came to a close and the time for our free shot arrived, the guide asked if there was anyone out there who would like to participate in a demonstration and drink more than their allotted shot. PigWizard and Baby Bird’s hands shot up, duh. We first chose our preferred poison along with the others, Jameson straight up for me and Jameson & ginger ale for Jonathan, before being seated at a banquet table with the 6 or so other demonstration volunteers.
Arranged on a place mat in front of each person was a glass of water and three plastic shot glasses filled with about a half ounce of brown liquid. Clearly a whiskey tasting was in order. During the tour, the guide had talked about crowd pleasing smoothness of Jameson whiskey which is a direct result of the triple distillation process through which each drop of Jameson passes. She also explained that due to amount of smoke to which the barley is exposed during the drying process, Scotch whiskeys tend to have a smokier flavor than Irish whiskeys. American whiskeys are aged in casks made of young wood as opposed to the older casks used for Irish and Scotch whiskey, which of course affects the flavor of the finished product. Predictably, the glasses in front of us were a sample of each: the glass on the left was the most popular (i.e. best selling) Scotch whiskey, Johnny Walker Black Label, the glass on the right was the most popular American whiskey, Jack Daniels, and in the center was the most popular Irish whiskey, of course, Jameson.
We were instructed to smell the Jameson and take a small sip…smooth. Sip of water. Smell the Johnny Walker Black Label and take a small sip…stronger and quite smoky in comparison. Sip of water. Sip the Jameson…ahhhh, smooth. Sip of water. Smell and sip the Jack Daniels…bleh, too sweet (which is hilarious because not that many years ago, my drink of choice was Jack and Diet Coke, both of which are far to sweet for my taste buds of today). It was a fun little exercise, especially comparing the smokiness of the Scotch to the smoothness of the Jameson. I left the remaining bit of Jack Daniels and tossed back the rest of my Johnny Walker and the tour was complete.
On our way out of the factory, we stopped in the whiskey tasting room just to see what we could see. Jonathan’s buddy and the owner of The Cheese Shop in Carmel, Kent Torrey, had recommended that we sample Midleton Very Rare Irish whiskey. Heck, we’re in the whiskey tasting mood, why not? At €22.50 per glass, we shared one. Pricy, yes, but also incredibly mouth coatingly delicious. At €140 a bottle, and not available in most American liquor stores, Midleton definitely qualifies as a special occasion whiskey.
We chatted with the bartender, learning a little more about the differences in Irish whiskeys, before finally probing him for a restaurant recommendation, something a little special but not to hard on the old pocket book. As we exited the tasting room, heading to Mulligan’s, a shiny glass case caught my eye:
Complete Collection of Midleton Very Rare
“Ireland’s Most Exclusive Whiskey”
Dating From Its Creation in 1984 to The Current Vintage
With visions of Middleton Very Rare dancing in our heads, we went in search of Mulligan’s for a bite to eat. With Jonathan’s handy dandy iPhone, we did not have to search long; in fact the restaurant was only a few blocks from the Jameson Distillery. We walked into a dark pub with old wooden furniture and what looked like 75 different beers, a dozen or so on tap. Our waiter handed us our menus, two antique books with the printed menu wedged in the center. Unable to pass up the chance to choose from 75 beers, I forced myself to stray from my one and only (Guinness) and instead went for an O’Hara’s stout (it was just the once, Guinness, I promise!). Not as thick as Guinness but even deeper in flavor. Yum.
In perusing the culinary choices that Mulligan’s had to offer, I came across a Scotch Egg. What the heck is a Scotch egg? Never having experienced a soft boiled egg wrapped in sausage then breaded and deep fried, we ordered one as an appetizer. Served on a wooden board and perched on a bed of greens, the Scotch Egg looked beautiful! And I must say, taste-wise, I was not disappointed. Of course the mind started to run away…imagine breakfasting on a soft boiled egg wrapped in PigWizard’s chicken sausage with poppy seeds and candied orange rind!
For my main course I chose the vegetarian burger made of eggplant and garbanzo beans and topped with goat’s cheese and beet root slaw. It was not only large and in charge in its presence and beauty but also in its flavor. The “burger” was well seasoned and tasty, and I don’t mean tasty for a veg burger, I mean tasty, full stop. Beet root slaw, yummy, healthy and colorful…put that one in the bank. Also delicious was Jonathan’s pork belly with mashed potatoes, carrot puree and zucchini noodles.