Maybe we are still recovering, but 2023 was a curiously quiet year, Gone is the over-the-top culinary exuberance of the pre-COVID era. The tasting menu parades of precious little plates are falling out of favor. Welcome back fewer courses and larger portions of satisfying food!
This year’s Top 10 list reflects the modern mood with some lovably low-key dishes.
Here’s the countdown!
No. 10 Crabmeat Tian from Glenmar Shellfish, Co. Cork
This elegant tower of solid crabmeat topped with jellied cream sauce was served at the Irish Food Writing Awards Dinner. Glenmar Shellfish is a sponsor of the event. The large lump, superior quality crabmeat was packed at their cooked seafood processing plant which has been operating in the small village of Curraglass in East Cork for over 60 years. You can order top quality seafood products from this major Irish fishing concern online.
No. 9 Seared Scallops with Girolles and Peas, Falls Dining Room, Kenmare
Lightly seared scallops in bacon sauce with exotic mushrooms and fresh peas made a delightful starter for a springtime supper at Sheen Falls Lodge in lovely County Kerry,
No.8 Falafel Sandwich from Moonbear Food Company, Killaloe
Crispy hot falafels squished into a roll with hummus, baba ganoush, seasoned yogurt, leaves and a big squirt of Sriracha sauce is my favorite lunch at the Ennis Farmers Market. The Moonbear folks show up at lots of local markets with their vegetarian, Middle Eastern fare. They are also are available for catering–check their facebook page for details.
No. 7 Dashburger, Dublin
This gorgeous creation features two crispy-edged meat patties fried well-done with lots of onions inside and topped with American cheese, lettuce, tomato, pickles, more raw diced onions and served on a potato bread bun.
There’s a satisfying crunch when you bite in. This burger has made such an impact on the Irish burger scene that “smash burgers” are popping up on menus all over the island.
No.6 Black Pudding and Chutney Sandwich at SIAR, Kinvara
SIAR is a quirky coffee shop on Kinvara’s Main Street, right across from the harborfront. I like to sit at one of the outdoor tables and sip on a locally-roasted ANAM flat white. Food specials rotate with lots of soups and sandwiches appearing. This black pudding sandwich was especially tasty.
No. 5 Doro Wat at Gursha Ethiopian Supper Club, Dublin
Loved the “Mix Dish” with Doro Wat (chicken and hard-boiled egg in a spicy sauce), greens, lentils, potato and cabbage, and injeera bread at the best Ethiopian Restaurant in Dublin. (Okay its the only Ethiopian restaurant in Dublin!) Located on Poolbeg St. Gursha Ethiopian Supper Club is open for lunch and dinner. Ask about their Coffee Ceremony!
No. 4 Tacos al Pastor at Salsa Mexican Food, Galway
Juicy pork on Mexican street food-style tacos with tart salsa verde was a too-good-to-be-true discovery right on my front doorstep at a little restaurant called Salsa Mexican Food in Galway‘s Latin Quarter. Barbacoa and crispy, crunchy Tacos Dorados were also on the menu. Holiday tamales were also a rare treat.
No, 3 Native Oysters at Moran’s Oyster Cottage, Kilcolgan
To have one of the greatest oyster bars on earth a few miles from my house is an awesome privilege. I drive through Kilcolgan on the way to Galway several days a week–and I think about taking the turn-off at Moran’s on the Weir for some oysters every time. At Moran’s, the edulis oysters are always fat, the brown bread is always hot out of the oven and the Guinness is always just a little bit colder and creamier than anywhere else.
New Year’s resolution: Eat more oysters!
No. 2 Duck Breast and Blackberries at The Falls restaurant, Kenmare
The Sheen Falls Lodge in Kenmare has gone sporty–The Falls restaurant, once a bastion of formal fine dining, its now domimated by bicyclists in brightly-colored attire accompanied by small children. The menu is still upscale and expensive, but the atmosphere has come unstuffed.
No. 1 Barbecued Sardine Salad at Homestead Cottage, Doolin
Chef Robbie McCauley’s new restaurant on the road to the Cliffs of Moher brings fine dining to a cozy casual space. Lauded by the Irish Times as the best new restaurant of the year and already noticed by the Michelin Guide, Homestead Cottage looks like a landmark in the making.
Vegetarian Sausage Rolls, Moonbear Food Co., Killaloe
Commercial sausage rolls are filled with flavorless white muck. These vegetarian sausage rolls, on the other hand, are just terrific. They’re filled with sun-dried tomatoes, potatoes, chick peas feta and pesto, and they hit the spot with a cup of coffee. I buy them at the Ennis Farmers Market at Roselvan Shopping Centre on the Tulla Road, Ennis.
Christmas Cake, Bernie’s Bakery, Navan
Thanks to Bernadette Kennelly Wedding Cakes for the gorgeous chocolate biscuit Christmas Cakes she gave as gifts the lucky ocean swimmers at the Flaggy Shore. A decorative addition to any holiday table! Take a look at some of the amazing wedding cake creations Bernie is turning out at her bakery in Navan!