My Top 10 Irish Dishes of 2018 #4
Oyster on the half shell with sea lettuce and trout caviar at Tartare in Galway.
This gorgeous gigas oyster on the half shell was served with a drizzle of herbal oil, a leaf of sea lettuce and a dollop of sparkling trout caviar at J.P. McMahon's Tartare Cafe. The oyster was the star of a seaweed feast that also included a hearty bowl of potato leek soup sprinkled with dillisk, and a unique chocolate brownie sweetened with powdered sugar kelp. The tiny Tartare is located right across Dominick street from J.P. McMahon's other place, the Michelin-starred tasting menu restaurant, Aniar.
Oysters and seaweed are among Ireland's oldest food traditions. Legendary chef and Irish Times food columnist J.P. McMahon has been a torchbearer for the revival of these and other Irish foodways. Of course the opportunity to cook with seaweed takes a special sort of commitment. There's not much selection at the supermarket--and paying high prices for something that's lying around everywhere makes you feel sort of silly.
David Donohue, who leads food tours in the Burren, does seaweed foraging trips when the tides are right. With David pointing the way, I have collected pepper dillisk, carrageenan, sugar kelp, and sea lettuce in the intertidal flats near my home in New Quay. (Along with some periwinkles and the occasional razor clam.)
Every morning as I drive the kids to the Doorus school in Kinvara, I look down over Aughinish Bay as I come down the mountain to hit the N67. Archaeologist Michael Gibbons has pointed out Ireland's best preserved example of prehistoric seaweed farming here. At low tide, you can see the long rows of rocks with cart tracks where seaweed was cultivated some 7,000 years ago.
The Ancient Irish may have been as advanced as the Asians at seaweed farming in that distant era. Something to think about.