Ballymaloe – Weekend Two

It was another great weekend down in Shanagarry, Ireland. Most of us were pretty beat after a traumatic Friday of cooking (glad that I wasn’t the only one). After crashing out for a couple of hours, a bunch of us gathered in the sitting room with multiple bottles of wine…which, naturally, led to an evening in The Blackbird Pub (how does that always seem to happen?). Since most of us were getting up early on Saturday morning for an all-day demonstration with Chef Mickael Viljanen from Gregans Castle in Ballyvaughan, County Clare, we booked our return taxi in advance, so it wasn’t a very late night for us.

Saturday turned out to be a great day. Chef Viljanen was just amazing, and it was so interesting to watch him prepare a myriad of dishes from his restaurant (which, I would love to go to one of these days…hint, hint). He also dabbles in molecular gastronomy and used a sous vide, dehydrator, and a CO2 siphon bottle during his demonstration. Highlights of his demonstrated dishes included a wakame (a.k.a. seaweed), rosemary, and brown butter focaccia, savoury meringues made with beetroot juice and sandwiched with a bit of pate (or fois gras, whatever you fancy), Jerusalem artichoke soup, sous vide veal cheeks, roast chicken with lentils and bacon stew, and a bitter chocolate tart with glacage, avocado, lime, and honeycomb.

On Saturday evening, Jenn, Kat, Oisín, Matthew and I ended up going down to fellow student Jamie’s cottage for a lovely dinner. Jamie is a fantastic host, and the dinner started with an incredible beetroot soup made by Jack, another student on the course. Then Jamie presented us with a gorgeous pork belly served with a side of mashed potatoes and carrots cooked in apple juice. Dessert was a traditional rice pudding made by Jack’s housemate John. It was great to be sitting around a table surrounded by such nice company, eating amazing food, drinking good wine, and just completely enjoying myself. I feel so fortunate that I am getting to do things like this every weekend here. I am now inspired to do lots of dinner parties when I move to San Francisco!

Sunday came and went with a lot of laughs. Housemate and newly deemed legend Matthew had stuck around after the guest chef demonstration on Saturday and convinced the Ballymaloe staff to give him all of the leftovers that Chef Viljanen had prepared. As a result, we ended up enjoying a four-course meal of the best leftovers I think that I have ever eaten in my life. Afterwards, we decided the best course of action to work off such a gluttonous lunch would be to take a walk on the beach, so off we went down to the Shanagarry Strand. High tide was in full effect, and there was less beach to walk on this time around. There may or may not have been a small incident involving Matthew and Oisín imitating a flailing sea creature and a very soggy walk/cab ride back to the school. I’ll never tell…

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