I’ve never had that much occasion to visit Louth.
Not that it’s far away or anything – it’s only just north of Dublin, after all – but I’ve rarely had any particular reason to go. Until last Saturday, that is, when the day was spent experiencing just some of what Ireland’s smallest county has to offer, food-wise.
Louth is not only home to Bellingham Blue and Glebe Brethan, two of our finest farmhouse cheeses, but it boasts the much-awarded Cooley Distillery, excellent Carlingford oysters and the surprise and delight that are the Eastern Seaboard Bar & Grill and the Brown Hound Bakery in Drogheda. Several reasons to visit the place, right there.
First stop of the day with my fellow food-trippers, Aoife from I Can Has Cook and Joanna from Smörgåsblog, was the picturesque coastal village of Carlingford and its annual Oyster Festival. Though the festival oyster tent turned out to be a very small affair, it boasted the freshest of oysters, shucked for us by Kian Louet-Feisser of The Carlingford Oyster Company, who was joined by some young, but very able, assistants.
Right alongside were the folks from The Cooley Distillery, makers of some very fine Irish whiskeys, including the wonderful Connemara Peated Single Malt. We chatted with the founder, John Teeling, and of course had a few nips of whiskey (well, it would have been positively rude not to). Though we weren’t in the village for much more than two hours, we also managed to be interviewed for local radio, have lunch in PJ O’Hare’s and score some excellent raspberry jam from Daisy’s Pantry. Pretty good going, all in all.
After that it was off to Drogheda, and a quick coffee-and-cake-stop at the lovely Trader’s café, before our rendezvous with a host of other bloggers – including Dinner du Jour, Gunternation, Caryna’s Cakes, Kuchennie, Gracie Bakes and Katz Miaow – for a tour of the newly opened Brown Hound Bakery, followed by dinner at the Eastern Seaboard Bar & Grill.
I’d heard a lot about the restaurant from Clare of An American in Ireland, who had organised the trip. Having spent a year living in Drogheda when she moved here from L.A., Eastern Seaboard, run by Jeni and Reuven Diaz, came as an unexpected and welcome find.
Positioned at the end of a small strip of shops in a Drogheda housing estate, it’s an unlikely location for top-quality dining. Yet that is exactly what you’ll get, and at reasonable prices too.
The large, high-ceilinged and tastefully designed dining room, meanwhile, would not look remotely out of place in Paris or Manhattan, while the same can be said for The Brown Hound Bakery, which Jeni and Reuven have opened just down the way, alongside their take on the takeaway, Mo’s To Go.
I would actually go as far as to say that the bakery, with its large glassed displays of cakes and tarts, and cookies piled under glass domes, is not like any I’ve seen in Ireland. Many of the recipes come from New York-based baker Craig Thompson, owner of Shandaken Bake in the Catskills Mountains, who came out to Drogheda for three months to train the bakery staff. Each of us bloggers having been sent home with a goody box from the bakery, I can confirm that, just as with the restaurant next door, taste-wise, the Brown Hound does not disappoint. In fact it would not, I think, be extreme of me to make a special trip back just for their chocolate banana bread. That, truth be told, strikes me as a particularly good reason to visit.