Day 21 arrived, along with some stowaways from across the pond! I jumped out of bed, put on my hostess hat, and jetted off to the Cork Airport to meet two all-star friends who came all the way from New York for Columbus Day weekend. After some "typical American" hijinks at the arrivals gate, and a particularly embarrassing display of ditziness with the Avis Rent-a-Car personnel ("automatic is the one where there isn't a clutch, right?"), we embarked timidly on the left side of the road towards the English Market in Cork Center. Other stops in Cork ("must sees" from my limited experience) included the Farm Gate Cafe for lunch and O'Connaill's Chocolatier to satisfy my pathetic weekly hot chocolate fix.
Then off we were to the Ballymaloe House, our home for the next two days (it doesn't get any better than that). After checking in, we headed to the cooking school where I gave a quick tour of our "classrooms", the gardens, and the beach before returning to the House to prepare for our epic feast that evening. To clear up any confusion, the Ballymaloe House (www.ballymaloe.ie) is an award winning hotel and restaurant 2 miles away from the Ballymaloe Cookery School. The House has been run for over 40 years by Myrtle Allen, mother-in-law to our school's headmistress Darina Allen. If you are looking for a place to take your wife of 40 years, or to take your new bride, or to just take yourself, The Ballymaloe House will never disappoint. You feel as if you have just walked onto the set of Pride and Prejudice, only Mr. Darcy has been substituted for equally delicious food.
After a glass of Sancerre in the fireplace room, we were seated to enjoy a five course masterpiece. I ordered celeriac soup with hazelnut pesto to start, followed by a quail salad with fresh greens, chorizo, and sultanas, then a main course of roast beef with glazed carrots, mashed potatoes, and sauteed leeks. As if we needed more, they wheeled out a cheese course with various Irish farmhouse cheeses, a dessert course (a pick-whatever-you-like rolling cart carrying chocolate meringue, lemon souffle, poached pears, praline ice cream, and an apple tart) and finally coffee or tea with petit fours of caramel fudge and chocolate truffles. It goes without saying that all the ingredients were the freshest quality, locally produced, and at their peak of season. Everything from the first bite of bread to the last mouthful of truffle was homemade. I can confidently say it was the best restaurant meal I have ever had. If you are ever in Ireland, don't miss it!