Sat 18 Feb 2012
Though I eventually moved south to the Big Smoke, I left a part of my heart in Drogheda. In part it’s because my friends live in nearby Collon, but it’s also due to a few places I fell in love with during my year-long stay there. Thankfully for me MM also took a liking to these places during his many visits to me during our early dating days, so he’s always up for taking a quick drive up north to Co. Louth.
We recently spent a weekend visiting all of our favourite places and even added a new eatery to our must-go Drogheda stops. After arriving around mid-day on a Saturday, we visited Brown Hound Bakery, the gorgeous, glass-encased bakery owned by Jeni Glasgow & Reuven Diaz, the duo behind the Eastern Seaboard Bar & Grill next door. As you’ve read many times on this blog, we are HUGE fans of Eastern Seaboard. Jeni & Reuven just get food – it’s as simple as that.
After picking up some chocolate banana bread at the bakery, we ventured next door to the latest Glasgow/Diaz venture, Mo’s takeaway. Named after Jeni’s mum, this takeaway isn’t like any you’ve experienced in Ireland. It’s freshly made, locally-produced food that’s as good as what’s served in the Eastern Seaboard. Scanning the menu, we had a tough time narrowing down our choices so we over-ordered: Two corn dogs, one order of onion rings, a side of carrot salad and an order of popcorn shrimp.
Corn dogs, in case you’ve never heard of ‘em, are an American classic and a very popular childhood lunch item. It’s a hot dog encased in a cornmeal batter, then deep fried to a golden brown. Mo’s dog was perfect: the cornbread exterior was slightly sweet and crispy and the hotdog was savoury and had a nice bite. The onion rings and popcorn shrimp were light and crunchy and free of excess grease – honestly, we couldn’t get enough of either. But it was the carrot salad that surprised us; it was an absolute revelation. Thinly sliced carrots marinated in what tasted like rice wine vinegar, lemon juice and a bit of salt then topped with toasted black sesame seeds – DIVINE. It offered the perfect refreshing balance to the hearty fried fare.
After our lunch we checked into Scholar’s Townhouse Hotel, which sits very near Drogheda’s town centre. The hotel is quiet and cozy and though our room was small it was perfect for our one-night stay, and at €75 bed & breakfast plus free parking, it was easy on the wallet as well. We then took a stroll around town and got coffee at Traders’ Coffee Shop, where I used to sit and read back when I lived in town.
That evening we met up with friends Kristin and Matt, who happen to live about 20 minutes outside Drogheda. Together we embarked on our version of the perfect Drogheda evening itinerary: pre-dinner drinks at Clarke’s bar followed by pizza at La Pizzeria. Clarke’s is a wonderful old pub popular with writer/artist types and the atmosphere is always laid-back and relaxed. At La Pizzeria (home to Jian Carlo, aka the Grumpiest Pizza Chef in Ireland), we dined on fantastic thin-crusted pizzas followed by homemade tiramisus. We even ran into my old immigration officer, Dennis, who gave MM a once-over before giving me his wink of approval.
Though we considered heading back to the hotel after dinner, Kristin suggested we have one last drink at Ti Chairbre (Carberry’s Pub), a once-famous trad music pub in town that recently re-opened. I’m so grateful we did; it was unlike anything I’ve ever seen here or in the U.S. The pub was more like someone’s sitting room, and probably held a total of 30 people. Out of the blue, someone at one of the tables would start to sing and everyone else would go quiet. It was a spontaneous and random sing-fest; anyone who dared could simply start singing and the pub became his/her stage. We heard some incredible a cappella singing that night of very old, traditional Irish songs. I’ll never forget it.
Though Drogheda sometimes gets a bad rap, to me it will always be the town that welcomed me with open arms when I arrived nearly two years ago. As well, it’s a town with some real gems, and no matter where I live, I’ll always make it a point to get back there.
Asian Carrot Salad
So mad about Mo’s Carrot Salad were we that as soon as we got back to Dublin I tried to recreate it at home. It wasn’t exactly the same as Mo’s but pretty close, though I’d love to know how Reuven & Co gets their carrot threads so thin and so perfect. Apologies for the terrible pic, I rushed this one!
1 tablespoon sweet rice wine vinegar
2 teaspoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon caster sugar
Pinch of salt
2 medium carrots, peeled and shredded
2 teaspoons toasted sesame seeds
In in large bowl, whisk together the vinegar, lemon juice, caster sugar and pinch of salt until the sugar is dissolved. Now add in the shredded carrot and toss to coat. Taste and season with more salt if desired. Plate up and top with toasted sesame seeds!