Ireland: More Than Just Potatoes (Or Is It?)

By Trevor Stinson

Top o’ the morning to everyone!

For those of you who don’t know, I recently just got back from my two week vacation to Ireland. Well, Northern Ireland if we want to be specific and, you know, not make anyone angry. Long story short: my mom lives there, I haven’t seen her in over two years, and I needed a vacation. So I went and frolicked in the lush green fields and ate some delicious food.

Truth be told, I had a hard time deciding what I should focus on for this blog. I wasn’t really a tourist per se — I was staying with my mom after all. So it’s not like I did a lot of eating out, most of the meals I ate were home cooked food, so I can’t speak too much about restaurants in Northern Ireland. My mom also didn’t cook a lot of what we might consider to be traditional Irish food, so I can’t really speak too much about traditional Irish meals. This leaves me in a bit of an interesting situation. So, much like the Las Vegas food blog I wrote back in March, I figure that I’ll just show you some of the interesting highlights of my time in (Northern) Ireland and call it good enough.

Potatoes + Ireland = 💕

To kick things off, let us talk about the elephant in the room: potatoes.

I ain’t playing around, the Irish love their potatoes. This isn’t me stereotyping, this is the truth. The very first meal that I ate in Ireland (which I didn’t take any pictures of because of how jet lagged I was) was a lovely Sunday dinner. It was a roast chicken breast served on a bed of mashed potatoes... with a side of mashed potatoes. I’m dead serious. I didn’t ask for a side of potatoes, the meal came with a side of mashed potatoes. For those of you interested, the side of mashed potatoes is called champ, which is a mixture of mashed potatoes, green onion, cheese, and cream.

Right, so, a side of mashed potatoes with mashed potatoes. What else? Chips. Chips everywhere. Curry? Have it with a side of chips. Chinese food? Side of chips. Chips? Have it with a side of chips! You literally can not get away from the chips.

 This lovely meal is courtesy of The Chip Basket in Omagh.

This lovely meal is courtesy of The Chip Basket in Omagh.

As a fun side note, chips are so pervasive in the Irish fast food takeout culture that most fast food places will probably be referred to as a “chippy”. Take, for example, the following conversation:

“Waddya want for dinner?”

“Let’s go to the Killyclogher chippy. Could use with a chicken curry and chip.”

This turns out to be a fantastic segue into what I am considering to be the pinnacle of Irish cuisine: the chip butty.

 He saw what he had made, and it was good.

He saw what he had made, and it was good.

Look at that monstrosity. People make fun of Canadians all the time for poutine. Why are we not talking about how the Irish will eat a FRENCH FRY SANDWICH? This shit is so delicious. Chips, bread, butter, what more could you want? How about bacon and cheese? Hell yeah.

Now that we’ve discussed the different ways in which the Irish potato stereotype holds up, let’s talk about some of the non-potato based foods I ate.

Restaurant Food

We’re going to kick this section off with the quintessential breakfast — the full Irish fry.

 Grease, grease, and more grease.

Grease, grease, and more grease.

Apparently this heart attack is the best way to start the day. Supposedly it’ll fill you right up and give you the energy to work the fields all day. For me, I just felt bloated and gross for the rest of the day. Notably missing from this traditional Irish fry up is the white and black pudding, which is probably for the best since blood sausage is most definitely not for me.

Next up is some pub food. The first is from the The Millstone Pub just outside of Omagh. It’s a neat little pub located in the Irish country-side.  

 Nothing to write home about, but not bad.

Nothing to write home about, but not bad.

It was nothing overly special, but that probably had more to do with the dish I ordered as opposed to pub itself.

The next pub we have is The Olde Castle Bar in Donegal. This place definitely had the Irish pub aesthetic down — stone flooring, musty wood. If you’re to picture an Irish pub, the image that you’re thinking of is probably The Olde Castle Bar. Notably, the food there is also pretty good. I mean, look at that attention to plating.

 Mmmm spicy.

Mmmm spicy.

I was a little worried about spice level when I went to Ireland, as I know from experience that spicy foods (like curry) tend to be spicy over there. Brittany can back me up on this one, we both went to England in high school and had an English curry while over there. My god was that spicy. Maybe it’s different in Ireland, or maybe my palate and spice tolerance has just increased, but I didn’t find that any of the spicy food was overly spicy.

Next up we have The Smuggler’s Inn located right by the Giant’s Causeway.

 This was hands down the fanciest and best tasting chicken caesar salad I’ve ever had.

This was hands down the fanciest and best tasting chicken caesar salad I’ve ever had.

So that pretty much sums up the restaurant food that I ate. Like I said before, I ate a lot of home cooking, so I didn’t take a lot of pictures. That being said, I did make donairs with my mom. She was craving a proper Canadian donair and since we have a whole post about donairs, I figured it’d be a good opportunity to make some with her. We even made our own pita bread, because Ireland’s pita bread game is weak as hell. Speaking of, I will never buy pita bread again — homemade pita bread is amazing.

 Canadian style donair son.

Canadian style donair son.

 Homemade pita bread courtesy of Chef John.

Homemade pita bread courtesy of Chef John.

Bonus Round: Iceland

So on my trip to Ireland I stopped over in Iceland for a few hours. I didn’t really have much of a chance to sample the cuisine, but I did have a chance to try Skyr — Icelandic yogurt more or less. Why was I so tempted to try it? Because I saw no less than three commercials for the stuff on the plane before we even started taxiing to the runway. So I had to try it. How was it? It was nice and thick. Try some if you ever find yourself in Iceland. Or if you see it in your grocery store because apparently Skyr is in North America and I never even noticed.

 Now, I can’t speak Icelandic, but I’m pretty sure this was blueberry flavoured.

Now, I can’t speak Icelandic, but I’m pretty sure this was blueberry flavoured.

So, in summary, this blog post was sort of all over the place, but hopefully it gives you a quick and dirty idea about the kind of food that you can expect while visiting Ireland.

Is there something quintessentially Irish that I should have tried? Was I wrong about something? Are you offended by the section on potatoes? Tweet at us or leave a comment and let me know how wrong I am.

Trevor StinsonComment