By Judy Enright
Special to the BIR
It’s an island country, so it should be no surprise that in Ireland there is a great focus on fish and its many excellent restaurants.
According to the Irish Sea Fisheries Board (Bord Iascaigh Mhara or BIM) there were 11,000 people involved in the Irish seafood industry in 2014, including 4,984 fishermen and 1,716 fish farmers. There were also 2,860 involved in processing and 1,140 in support jobs. The fishing industry contributes about 700 million euro annually to the Irish economy with the home market at 330 million euro and 520 million euro in exports.
Fish farming has been so successful on Clare Island for the past 25 years that there are now plans afoot by the Fisheries Board for two licenses to farm Atlantic salmon off the west coast of Ireland. The board’s aim is “to facilitate development of two deep sea organic salmon farms that can accommodate safe, efficient, and sustainable farming to meet market demand and create sustainable jobs in an area where they are much needed.”
Smoked salmon is one of my favorite foods in Ireland. Thankfully, you can find delicious smoked salmon across the country, produced by many different companies. Back in the 1970s when we visited, meals in Ireland often came with a complimentary side serving of salmon and brown bread, but that sure isn’t the case any more. Smoked salmon is now highly prized and can be expensive.
There are many producers of smoked fish in Ireland, as you might expect. The Fisheries Board lists 50 producers that specialize in smoking all kinds of fish. You can generally find products from these companies near where they’re produced. For instance, Burren Smokehouse salmon is sold in and around Lisdoonvarna, Co. Clare (and at nearby Shannon Duty Free), and Keem Bay Fish Products are sold primarily in Co. Mayo. We’ve bought smoked salmon from both and both were excellent.
See bim.ie for other producers of smoked fish in Ireland.
I just call it brown bread and can’t imagine smoked salmon without it. I’m referring to McCambridge’s Irish Stoneground Wholewheat brown bread, which is probably the best known of the many McCambridge products.
The company’s history stretches back to 1945 when Malcolm McCambridge moved from Shop Street, Galway, (where the family still has a store) to open a shop in Ranelagh in Dublin. Malcolm’s son, John, joined the business in the 1960s and Michael McCambridge joined in 1994.
This spring, we discovered several McCambridge’s products in the market that we hadn’t in before - Spelt Bread and Low-G.I. bread (with linseed jumbo oats, sunflower seeds and pumpkin seeds.) We haven’t tried Spelt but Low-G.I. is delicious, plain or toasted.
In March, I flew Aer Lingus to Ireland and two slices of pre-packaged McCambridge’s brown bread were served with the salmon dinner that I ordered when booking the flight. I later emailed McCambridge’s to say how happy I was to be served their brown bread on the flight and how much I miss it when I go home. Michael McCambridge replied saying, “Our bread is available in the U.S. through foodireland.com. In addition, we will be launching our easy-to-use bake-at-home kit over the summer and we hope to have it available in the US.”
So, for me – and for all those who pine for McCambridge’s when they’re not in Ireland – that’s very good news. By the way, McCambridge’s also makes a variety of specialty breads (available in Ireland) including walnut and raisin, apricot and raisin fruit bread, tomato and fennel and other artisan breads as well as a number of gluten-free breads and scones.
When you’re visiting, don’t forget to try products from the many small artisanal shops and larger bakeries around the country too. We recently read about a bakery that opened in Castlebar, Co. Mayo, called Breadski Brothers (Magic, Mark and Martin Chlebicki are actually brothers who are originally from Poland.)
The brothers have created a brand called “That Bread.” Three flavors are currently available: “The White One with the Sunny Sesame Seeds,” “The Brown One with the Toasted Pumpkin Seeds” and “The Rye One with Fresh Cranberries.” Each flavor is available in a sliced loaf or two-slice package - perfect for a taste test or snack.
So far, the bakery employs 43 and supplies a range of bread, cake and pastry products to some 240 stores across Ireland.
There are those who wrinkle up their noses at the mere mention of raw oysters but there are others – me included – who can’t get enough of them.
I’ve had oysters in Ireland accompanied by a small glass of Guinness, served with sauces of one sort or another or simply with lemon. When they’re served fresh and you can still taste the salty sea, there’s just nothing better.
Of course we have fabulous oysters in the States, too (especially on the East Coast) but, well, somehow they just taste extra delicious in Ireland - maybe it’s the surroundings?
DAN DOOLEY CAR RENTALS
Well done to Dan Dooley Car Rentals, recently named “Best in Class” in 17 out of 19 classifications in the 2014 Red C independent car rental poll undertaken by Dublin Airport Authority on behalf of airport customers.
Among the categories Dooley topped were “Overall Value for Money” and “Overall Satisfaction.”
I’ve rented Dooley cars (and always request a Skoda) for at least a decade and have always had top-notch cars and excellent service. Congratulations to all at the company.
WALK OFF STRESS
Okay, well it isn’t exactly Ireland but it could be. I love the recent story about a farm in Wales that offers “sheep-walking holidays” to help you relax from the stress of daily life.
At Aberhyddnant Farm in the Brecon Beacons, specially-trained Jacob sheep can be taken for long walks (on leashes, of course) through the countryside. The farm owners say the Jacob’s gentle nature is perfect for helping people unwind.
Maybe sometime in the future you will read about some Irish sheep farmers giving this idea a try? Sounds good to me.
Several groups in Drogheda, Co. Louth, have launched a program called “My Streets Drogheda” that employs homeless – or recently resettled – residents as tour guides. Similar projects have also been run in Prague, London, Barcelona, and Berlin where social agencies have worked to reintegrate the homeless back into society and also create employment.
The Drogheda guides have received special training for the past eight months in how to communicate what’s best about the town during their one-hour tour. Chosen participants not only designed their uniforms but also the tour, based on their experience, personal interests and what they want to share about Drogheda.
The program gives the homeless a voice, organizers say, to educate the public about their lives and foster empathy – all the while shining the light on Drogheda, a town not often on tourist routes.
Check out mystreetsdrogheda.com for information. Might be interesting to try something similar in Boston.
There’s lots going on in Ireland in June and this is just a brief summary. Be sure to check out Ireland.com for activities, festivals and lots of other happenings while you’re visiting.
• Get off your feet – and off the ground – at the Irish Aerial Dance Festival, June 6-20, in Letterkenny, Co. Donegal. Fidget Feet Aerial Dance Theatre runs the festival in conjunction with An Grianán Theatre and Letterkenny County Council. Fidget Feet is Ireland’s foremost aerial dance theatre company and has toured the world. See irishaerialdancefest.com
• Bloomsday in Dublin (June 16) brings out Edwardian costumes, straw boaters and striped jackets for readings, performances and re-enactments as the city celebrates Leopold Bloom, its favorite fictional son and the antihero of James Joyce’s Ulysses.
• Killarney Festival of Music and Food (killarneyfestival.ie) is June 27 and 28 and brings together eclectic music, comedy and gourmet food in Killarney town. Assorted acts will perform on seven stages and include more than 60 Irish and international musicians and bands. There will also be comedy acts and much more for the whole family to enjoy.
• Body and Soul is an arts/music festival, June 19-21, designed to “explore and discover new music, interact with visual and performance art outside a traditional setting, and celebrate life in all its shapes and colors.” Features include music-filled yurts, poetry by candlelight, starlit sessions and more at Ballinlough Castle in Clonmellon, Co. Westmeath. The festival has sold out for the past four years, so be sure to visit bodyandsoul.ie and book tickets if you’d like to attend.
• The inaugural Irish Famine Summer School, June 17-21 at the Irish National Famine Museum, Strokestown Park, Co. Roscommon, includes speakers, tours, exhibits and more. Scheduled speakers are from The Great Hunger Institute at Quinnipiac University in Connecticut, as well as University of Toronto, Mellon Centre for Migration in Omagh, Northern Ireland, University of New South Wales, Maynooth University, University College Cork, University College Dublin and NUI, Galway. For details or to book, visit irishfaminesummerschool.com
Enjoy Ireland whenever you visit and be sure to take advantage of the many opportunities there, including theatre, arts, music, festivals, sports and much more.