I recently completed a tour to Scotland and Ireland. Each day, we packed in a lot of sightseeing and traveling, so by the time dinner rolled around, we were ready to eat. Most people don’t really know what to expect with Scottish or Irish cuisine. Usually, what comes to mind are heavy and filling “meat and potatoes” type meals. Then there is also the mental repulsive “organ, head and toes” meals such as black pudding, haggis, liver, tongue, ears, and feet.
It was a bit funny that a few days before the tour I received an email from one of the tour members’ daughter. She told me that her parents were very picky eaters and probably would have a hard time adjusting to any food outside their comfort zone. Actually, I get that a lot from rookie travelers. Most have the same concept I had years ago, and that is you just cannot find good food in a
Consequently, my dining philosophy is centered on introducing my fellow travelers to an authentic and varied menu of fresh and locally prepared ingredients. Traditionally, that means we will eat fish along the coast, snails in Burgundy, mussels in Normandy, pesto in Liguria, beef in Tuscany, pizza and pasta in Italy, fish and chips in the UK, and lamb in Ireland. However, it does not end here; there are many “ethnic” restaurants scattered around the English speaking parts of Europe that provide an authentic taste of the homeland. Restaurants of this type along with pubs, bistros, and inns make traveling with me a culinary experience that’s hard to beat.
We began the tour early one morning in Glasgow, Scotland. By the early afternoon, we had toured the Scottish lowlands, Stirling, the Trossach’s and the Roy Roy and William Wallace historical sites. In Oban, I discovered THE TEMPLE RESTAURANT, quietly located away from town in a small bayside park. Luckily, I arrived by about 5:00 and made a reservation for 8:30; otherwise, we would not have gotten a table. While dining, we learned that the present owners had just taken over the restaurant two weeks before. The meal featured platters of what was fresh on the day’s catch. We ordered two of the platters featured above. Pam, on the right, was not a fan of shellfish or seafood, but this platter convinced her otherwise. All the ingredients were fresh from the sea, with such an amazing clean and sea-salty flavor. There was a lot of food, but yet none of us were uncomfortably stuffed upon leaving. As of this moment, THE TEMPLE RESTAURANT does not have a website. Eilidh (pronounced like Kaliegh) the proprietor, can be contacted by telephone at 01631 566000.
ENOTECA DIVINO is located three floors down in the wine cellar of a popular Italian restaurant in Edinburgh. I was lucky to find this place and even luckier to get a table. The “enoteca” (that’s Italian for wine merchant/bar) featured authentic food and wine in a high-tech environment, yet comfy cave atmosphere. We ordered a tasty “antipasti” mixture for our first course, that consisted of fresh mozzarella, crostini, pate, several cheeses, prosciutto, cured ham, salami, and bread. Everything tasted first quality, just like eating it in Tuscany. We all chose something different for our “secondi” and it must have been good, because by the time I got around to taking a photo of the food, it was all gone!
A few days later, we flew from Edinburgh to Dublin. For dinner, I booked us into my favorite French Restaurant outside of France. LA MERE ZOU is nicely tucked into a basement just across from Stephen’s Green, the huge city park. I found La Mere Zou many years ago and have been coming back ever since. Our starter consisted of succulent Duck Confit on a bed of fresh greens and topped off with a tangy vinaigrette; even the folks who had never tried duck were impressed and gobbled it all down. We continued with a roasted lamb shank cooked i n the style of “beef burgundy,” with plenty of juices. Finally, we finished off our dinner with a variety of desserts.
OLIVER ST. JOHN GOGERTY is a favorite pub on Fleet Street in the Temple Bar area of Dublin. We dined here twice, once for lunch and once for dinner. On our last evening in Dublin, I slid down a dozen raw oysters drizzled with a little red wine vinegar and lemon. Gogerty’s serves food all day and has music on all day as well. Go here for good food, good music and good craic!
Actually, this was the decanter for our “Vino Nobile de Montepulciano,” a masterly crafted Tuscan wine that is smooth as velvet on the taste buds. RISTORANTE RINUCCINI is without question, my best pick for Italian food outside of Italy! Like “La Mere Zou” in Dublin, I discovered Rinuccini some years ago and have been coming back ever since. I booked us a table for the “early-bird” menu offering three courses for about € 30. Again, I don’t have any pictures of the food because we all were too busy eating it! However, I do remember my menu: fresh Wexford mussels steamed in fresh tomato, garlic and white wine, fillet of chicken in a cream sauce of mushrooms, and pancetta and white wine and creamy Tiramisu for dessert.
Several years ago a friend recommended I dine at OUT OF THE BLUE the next time I was in Dingle. I did and have never had a better seafood experience! Consequently, I keep coming back! However, it is a small place so reservations are strongly advised. ”Out of the Blue” is only open when and if there is fresh fish brought in that morning. If there is no fishing, there is no food! This particular evening, we all decided to pick one item off the blackboard menu (they have nothing in print because the menu varies with the fresh fish caught that morning). I ordered the Monkfish (pictured above) which was fresh, clean and flakey, but firm enough to stand up to the pepper sauce. The other five plates were met with yummies and silence as we ate.
I did not think to take a photo of the fresh fish menu, but we did get our waiter to pose with the dessert menu.
I don’t want you to think we ate gourmet food every night. We mixed it up with a variety of exceptional “pub grub,” featuring this Irish filet of beef and onion ring, hambugers, beef and Guinness pie, mixed salads, fish and chips, and even some tasty black pudding with goat’s cheese!
Finally, we had the option to begin every morning with a full Irish or Scottish breakfast, as pictured above, or a more reserved menu featuring cereral, oatmeal, fruits, and cheeses. On the plate above (beginning clockwise from 12) Irish Bacon, Black Pudding, Fried Egg, Orange Wedge, Tomato, Sausage Link and White Pudding in the center.