Now, when I say “One of those days”, I don’t mean one of those days when everything seems to go wrong and you justify your bad luck by saying “Hey, it’s just one of those days”. I mean one of those days when everything seems to go right; when the sun shines a little brighter and there’s an extra little spring in your step.
My gosh, I sound like a sappy love song…
Anyway, yesterday was one of those days. There was a Food and Drink Festival going in Midleton and it seemed to me like one of the best possible reasons for visiting a new city (or town). My day started a bit late, mostly because I went out partying the night before and was a little, well, hungover the next morning. It really wasn’t bad and besides it was a reminder of how much fun I’d had meeting my roommates classmates, a whole lot of which are Canadian!
So when I finally got outside and started my day, I was greeted by the kind of warm and sunny day I never would have expected to see in Ireland in September. It was one of those final summer days and it could not have been any more perfect for an outdoor-festival. The train ride to Midleton was only about 25 minutes long and when I got there I wasn’t quite sure where to go. True to all other Irish towns I’ve seen though, Midleton had an abundance of “Town Centre” signs to point me in the right direction. Eventually I found their Saturday Farmer’s Market, a bit like the English Market here in Cork but on a small scale and out in the sun. It was nice, but certainly not a food festival. Finally I walked a bit further and found Main Street which was literally crawling with people and full of all kinds of wonderful smells from an amazing variety of food stands.
My first thought was that I shouldn’t have had breakfast that morning and gone to Midleton so much earlier. There were so many things I wanted to try but I can only stuff myself so much. I would list all the stalls, but you might get bored. In a nutshell, there were every kind of bread imaginable (all hand-made and super fresh of course), all the pastries you’ve ever dreamed of, ice cream in endless supplies, crêpes in a variety of styles, gorgeous fresh fruits, all kinds of meat (including, strangely enough, kangaroo), vegetarian dishes, Mediterranean dishes, Asian dishes, traditional Irish dishes, and so on and so forth…
I decided the smartest thing for me to do would be to go through the street a first time, keeping in mind the places I really wanted to try and then on the way back pick out my favourites. It sounds great on paper, but in reality it was a lot harder to narrow down my options. Had I brought a bag with me I also could have started my grocery shopping, but I hadn’t expected that possibility. And so, faced with so many options, I decided I’d get an appetizer to somewhat calm my appetite a bit. It kind of worked.
And so I continued my journey into the depths of Main Street, passing by live performances by solo artists, small bands and a full size brass orchestra. I felt a little like a kid in a candy shop and it certainly didn’t help that every other stall had either pastries, candies, ice cream or a giant chocolate fountain.
What’s a poor girl to do? Ideally this kind of Festival would last for a whole week and that way you could actually try quite a bit. In the end I decided to buy one real “meal”. In other words, I forbade myself from just buying treats and pretending it was a nutritious day. I also decided I would have just one dessert, but there was the hardest part. My big debate was: ice cream or crêpe? I have a weakness for both and knew this would be a tough one. In the end, my kebab-pita-sandwhich (see description below) decided for me. There was a nice little chilli sauce in it which was spicier than I expected. The MythBusters have taught me that the best cure for spicy food is milk, so ice cream it was.
You would think that once I had decided I wanted ice cream, the rest would be easy. Not so, dear reader! There were at least 5 or 6 different stalls that sold ice cream, each with its own flavours. Once again I had a tough decision ahead of me. In the end, it was the people around who helped me decide. Around a particular corner store on the street, I noticed that 90% of the people exiting the store had bought ice cream there. Apparently this particular ice cream is extremely popular here and one of my French colleagues had told me it was the best ice cream he’d ever had. So I figured I’d give it a shot!
It wasn’t very different from the soft-serve ice creams we have back in Canada. However, I think the main variable and why my friend liked it so much is that it is obviously full-fat. It is almost ridiculously creamy and feels pretty much like really cold and really thick whipped cream. It was very good, but to me almost too much. Next time I’ll stick with gelato.
Now, while I was in Midleton, I couldn’t pass up the chance to visit the Jameson Experience where they tell you all bout how they make Irish whiskey. Normally, it costs something like 14 euros for an adult admission. However, since this was a special day, the distillery had a few events free of charge. The first was a whiskey tasting class where we got to try 4 different kinds of Irish whiskey; Redbreast, Green Spot, Powers and Midleton. To be honest, they all tasted pretty similar. Thank goodness our host, Master Distillery Barry Crockett, pointed out all the differences for us. I decided the last one, the Midleton, was my favourite. And by favourite I mean that if I was really desperate for a drink and could have a watered-down glass of ice-cold Midleton, that would be okay. That will probably never happen though, and here’s why:
So after that first demonstration, I’d had the equivalent of a whole shot of whiskey for no charge so I was feeling pretty good. The next event was a Cocktail Masterclass with Liam Sparks, master mixologist at Jameson for something like 10 years. I really wish I had brought a notebook or something with me that I could write on because all of the cocktails he prepared for us were crazy good. And the best part is that we got a free little sample of each one. As if I hadn’t already had enough to drink (my tolerance is quite pathetic), they handed us each a full-sized whiskey-ginger-and-lime. Basically, a shot of whiskey topped off with ginger ale or ginger beer and a squeeze of lime. It’s even better than it sounds and incredibly refreshing.
And so, with a whiskey-fueled spring in my step, I took the bus back to Cork and got ready for another night of festivities; this time with my colleagues. I was told about 2 days earlier that it was a costume party and really didn’t feel I had a lots of time to get ready. I didn’t bring much costume material with me from Canada, but did have a lovely little tuque that made it easy enough to find a character to go to the party as.