There are so many stories that I could tell you about Dingle. I could tell about the first dinner that I cooked for over 22 people at the tender age of 22. 22 mainly random people, randomly decided, in a youth hostel in Dingle. My friend Emma and I made Mexican food using what we could get. We didn’t do too bad a job. More importantly, we had a great time. It was a significant moment and one that was instrumental in getting me here.
I could tell you about the time that same summer when we went to beautiful Slea Head nearby, and a local fisherman whose boat had just come back in, offered me a huge crab and a pike. I quickly readied myself and we carried the enormous fish & crab in a blue plastic bag and tried unsuccessfully to hitch a lift the 10 miles or so back.
One family from Northern Ireland stopped their car to enquire as to what was in the bag, and wished us luck. When they passed us on their way back later, they rolled down the window and roared “WHERE IS THE FASH?!” and delivered us back to our abode.
I could also tell you about the time, when diagnosed with anaemia and told to drink Guinness by my local GP, I ordered a Guinness shandy made with Guinness and Irish red lemonade in a Dingle pub and they almost threw me out. “It is bad enough that you ordered that in English and not Irish, I should throw you out for ordering it at all”. But I pleaded and they made me one. I remember thinking it was alright.
So many stories, let me start with something more recent, Dingle Food Festival last weekend.
I have an enormous affection for Dingle, a gorgeous seaside town on the west coast of Ireland, famously with over 52 pubs, one for each week of the year. So much so, when asked to write piece for National Geographic’s Food Journey’s of a Lifetime, I wrote a piece on Dingle pubs some years ago.
To their food festival then, now in its sixth year. A food trail meanders the narrow streets of Dingle and harbour offering tastes starting at €2 a pop. Free cooking demos all day Saturday and Sunday (Scandilicious and I did one) and very reasonable workshops too (I did a bacon workshop to initiate the west coast masses to the joy of bacon fudge and jam).
Lots of live traditional Irish music in pubs throughout the day that you can enjoy between tastes, and lively locals, give Dingle Food Festival the edge.
We stayed in a very sociable and spacious rented house over looking the town, harbour and hills. Two dining areas and a big island kitchen meant that we could cook dinner as well as eat out – my ideal balance, I love having people around. Crab and bacon carbonara was one feature at home, using local crab and McCarthy’s smoked streaky bacon, sliced very finely to provide a bass supporting note. I will publish the recipe soon, once I have tested it thoroughly with less wine in my system ;)
Our best meal was a great seafood dinner at Global Village, a name that somewhat disguises the great cooking inside. I was told it doesn’t matter, they are always busy. So, fair enough.
Pubs, we visited many, and lots of my old favourites too. A cosy afternoon hour in the snug in Curran’s, a swift pint at the bar at Foxy John’s, some traditional Irish music at tea time in The Courthouse and we finished the night with some more music at Flaherty’s. Who had been horrified at my Guinness shandy request many years later.
I will be back. I heart Dingle.