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21 November 2007

Eamon's Bridgestone Diary: On The Road

Saturday May 19th
After work we head for Richmond House in Cappoquin, one of our favourite places for a 'Dinner & Duvet' stay over. It's a lovely evening and the grounds are very restful. Since we're a little earlier than usual we bring a bottle of wine down to the conservatory and read the Saturday papers. Dinner is wonderful, as always, and service is efficient, gracious and very, very friendly.

Sunday May 20th
Home from Cappaquin it's off to Dunbrody Abbey Cookery Centre where Pierce & Valerie McAuliffe are hosting a Slow Food event. On a stunningly sunny day we spend the afternoon in their courtyard garden, meeting new people (check out Pierre and Ursula's new wine company at ), learning about the Wexford Organic Centre at Cushinstown, New Ross and tasting the great Tom Cleary's homemade sloe gin. On the way home we pop in to Roger & Terrie Pooley at Parkswood House in Passage East to ask whether they might host a Slow Food event.

Thursday May 24th
It's Election Day. We head to In A Nutshell in New Ross for lunch and then on to check out the Wexford Organic Centre outside New Ross. It's a low-key place but we are mighty impressed when our request for some mixed leaves and some rocket results in them being cut from the ground in front of us and bagged up. On the way home we call in to Tom Kearney's butchers in John St. Waterford and pick up some beef fillet. Using a recipe from Food & Wine magazine the beef is just seared on the pan, then cut really thinly and stuffed with the rocket leaves. Served with the salad leaves and some cherry tomatoes, it was delicious.

Monday May 28th
We drive out to Annestown to visit the little bistro at the Copper Coast Geopark centre. We limited ourselves to coffee with scones and jam but those scones were still warm from the oven, light as a feather, the coffee served in generous sized cafetieres. Prices are amazingly low.

Tuesday May 29th
After work we head for Flahavan's Oat mills in Kilmacthomas where Slow Food have arranged a tour of the facility. It's a really impressive place, certified organic, sourcing it's raw ingredient mostly from farmers within 30 miles of the factory. Some of the electricity for the place is generated from the original old millstream and the heating by burning off the waste husks from the oats in a boiler. John and Mary Flahavan were generous hosts. Porridge will never seem such a simple product again!

Thursday May 30th
On a trip through Bennettsbridge in Kilkenny we grab a quick lunch at the reliable café at the Nicholas Mosse pottery. Pork terrine with salad for me, goat's cheese and red onion tart for J. That night we head to my old school - De La Salle College - to catch the end of year student concert. Amazing musical talent on display.

Friday June 1st
Lunch at the Granary Café at Waterford Treasures Museum where I meet up with chef Martin Dwyer and Donal Lehane, convivium leader of the Four Rivers Slow Food group, to plan a Slow Food event for September.

Saturday June 2nd
Dinner at a restaurant that has to remain nameless. Foie gras with stewed rhubarb was not a match made in heaven. Lamb terrine was tasteless and a dessert of chocolate brownie with chocolate mousse served on a pile of chopped mango was dry and unsatisfying. Service was overpowering at the beginning of the evening and almost non-existent by the end. The bill was almost €150.00 with just two glasses of wine.

Sunday June 3rd
Dinner at Bassetts restaurant in Inistioge. From a really strong start this restaurant has just gotten better and better. The tasting menu now only takes place on Saturday evenings and the restaurant now rears its own pigs; you won't miss them out front. We had a super dinner and somehow managed to get back in the car without taking a little piglet home as a pet. Back home I finish off the last drop of sloe gin from a bottle that Martin Dwyer gave me.

Thursday June 7th
Over the years we have often undertaken long journeys in pursuit of good food. Today we leave Waterford on what will be a 600km round trip to visit Neven Maguire's MacNean House in Blacklion, Co. Cavan. Despite the fact that our car gave up the ghost just 100 yards short of the restaurant and had to make the journey back to Waterford on the back of an AA truck, we loved the restaurant and our - amazingly good value - room. Staff were really friendly and Neven Maguire seems to work incredibly hard; he's there for breakfast from first thing in the morning and he's there in the evening as we head for bed.

Friday June 8th
Having picked up a rental car in Cavan we head to Sligo. After a little retail therapy we end up in the amazing Kate's Kitchen on Castle St., an extraordinary shop. If we weren't so far from home we'd have brought a heap of things home with us. Back in MacNean House that night, the menu has changed completely since yesterday and the food has moved up to an even higher gear.

Throughout our two-night stay, the staff have been amongst the best we have encountered. In the guest book we wrote that it had been worth every one of the 600km!