Nude Food at Dungarvan

Herbs to hand at Nude Food cafe, deli and bakery in Dungarvan

Herbs to hand at Nude Food cafe, deli and bakery in Dungarvan

Food heaven is where you have a choice of wonderful cafés, chippers, cookery schools, and fab family hotels that’ll give the kids the familiar chicken nuggets and cereals you’ve to shovel into them when they’re worn out from three or four action-packed days at the seaside.

You’ll find all of that in a weekend break in Dungarvan, a seaside town on the south coast of Ireland that kicks off its tourist season with a celebration of food in all its guises every year in April with the West Waterford Festival of Food.

There are food trails for cake lovers, seaweed fans, flash barbecue beasties (like seafood or veg-based instead of just prime meat skewers); there are craft beer and burger joints; chippers for the bag in your hand (s’worth two in the bush, I’m told) and as home to Flahavans porridge oats, even the cereals round here are ‘slow-food, eco-friendly, locally-sourced’ ingredients for your delectation. For instance, I stayed at the family-run Lawlor’s Hotel that’s a couple minutes’ walk from the harbor with its ethnic-themed restaurants (Indian, Chinese), public park, tennis club, a marina for pleasure boats and SuperValu grocery store for daytime self-caterers,  and its kitchen caters for everything from grand banquets to bar food. Dungarvan has bric à brac stores for bargain hunters of vintage homewares, an Irish institution in its Shaws (almost nationwide) department store, and novelty shops with cute, lightweight and cheap mementoes for the people back home who expect more than a postcard. It’s also got an arts centre, a lovely cookery school and charity tea dances from now till the autumn every Saturday afternoon. But an experience you shouldn’t miss is anything from snacks to dinner at Nude Food.

Its proprietor is a dynamo called Louise Clarke whose wit and warmth is part of every element of her café, deli and bakery just off the town square. I gush. It’s an expected part of my persona now when I come across something delightful. But her coffee and carrot cake were reason enough to leave Dublin. Then there’s the outdoor dining room where she grows her herbs. Then there’s a proper kitchen garden for salad leaves and other greens, her polytunnel for stage one of her other summer ‘fork to fork’ ingredients. Then there’s the treats (coffee and walnut and carrot cakes, in-house ice-cream) she dreams up like magic and a selection of teas she carries to help you do the ‘healthy, mindful, refreshing, and low-calorie’ thing we all do when we’ve travelled two and a half hours just to get to her luscious cakes.

There are farmers markets on Thursday mornings in the square, and a country market on Friday morning in the tennis club, but there’s also a feast for the eyes in the physical shape of the town from its mediaeval castles and fortifications, to its streets and lane ways to the sea, and it’s also on the map because of its gaelteacht connections – next year’s Celtic Media Festival will be held here because of Dungarvan’s position in a Gaelic-speaking community.

Tá orm rud éigin a rá anois as gaeilge mar duirt mé sa ‘tags’ go mbeidh cupla focail agam ar an tábhair a thabhairt díobh mar baoite nó bréige go dtí an baile cois farraige i gCo Phóirt Láirge. An oíche a chuaigh mé ag ithe sa dteach Louise bhí barbecue mór ar cúl an ostán agus deirtear go bhfuil siad beile a dheanamh uair eile bfheidir, mar tá ceoil agus craic ar fáil ann. Teastaigh mé freisin go raibh an ostán Lawlors ach nóiméad ag súil ón buníochtaí eile mar bialannaí ag glacadh sa fleadh.

J’espère que ces mots vous donnerez un goût 🙂 de la ville Dungarvan, la fête Celtique serait ici l’année prochaine pendant la mois d’avril aussi, donc vous pouvez trouver deux chances de la voir pendant le printemps: la fête de la nourriture tombe pendant le weekend deuxième normalement, et le rendez-vous pour les travailleurs du monde film et music Celtique un peu plus tard.

Z is for zephyr lilies and zinnias

Zed. Hallelujah.

Allelu. Pwilllaloo. Agus anois, níl an poc ar buile, mar tá a chuid oibre criochnaithe.*

Zephyr Lilies from

Zephyr Lilies from


Zephyr lilies and zinnias from Dave’s Garden for American readers, gardeners and fellow April Challengers. I’ve just sent a note to the good people at asking if they don’t mind that I link to them for my project. Obviously, I’m hoping they say yes. Even if they say no, I’m still going to link to them. Why? Because they’ve got this gardening thing down to a fine art, but they’ve also got this internet thing, down to a fine art. Have a wee look at the screenshot below: it’s got the name of the family your flower is in, along with a pronunciation (and in this esperanto world, Lord knows, we all need help sounding out words), but JOY OF JOYS, it’s a very friendly forum, it tells you where you can buy what you need, AND if there’s anyone willing to trade that item at the moment.


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That’s it folks. I hope you enjoyed the April Challenge as much as I did.

And so we have time for a little song…..



N is for nasturtium, nepeta and never again :-)

Screen Shot 2015-03-04 at 08.30.52The trouble is, I only half-listen. Partly because I’m actually half-deaf. Partly because I’m half-gobdaw. For the uninitiated, a gobdaw is a polite term of reference to a gobshite, which in turn is a reference to a gob (mouth) caic (shite). Sorry folks, but sometimes crude and guttural cuts to the chase. So as someone who has only half an ear out for false talk and plausible white noise, this thread of gardening posts has its inbuilt fault lines. My all-time favorite Denis Leary vehicle is Rescue Me and given how cool he is, there’s a wide choice of top D. Leary esq moments that are memorable. But I digress from my point: Bodhair Uí Laoghaire, Leary’s Deafness, is gaelic shorthand for hearing what you want to hear. Then there’s the english meaning of leery: loud cackling of disbelief accompanied by a skeptical shaking of the head. (Okay, okay, Google’s definition is ‘cautious’ or ‘wary’ and I’ve somehow turned it into the Haka.) So, because I’m a glass half-full kind of person, both versions of the gallic or gaelic, amount to a better understanding of the origins of the word than one side alone.

And so to N for nasturtium, nepeta and nicotine. I’m not quite yet at the ‘never again’ stage of nicotine use (I think the Mars landing is closer), but I am on the 5:2 diet and aiming to replace chewing it more often than smoking it and as a confirmed flake am now moving swiftly along to the joys of nasturtium and nepeta. Nasturtium grows very fast. That’s that done.

Nepeta is catmint, and is thriving in the front bed nearest the house. Ours is the one with mauve flowers, and according to, we’re very lucky that our stray cat Noodles is so odd, he’s not fallen for it and seems to be keeping all the other neighborhood cats in line, (cos they haven’t either). The link to (above) gives you its properties and uses. Of course, the other possibility is that it isn’t nepeta at all, but sage.

The picture today is a screenshot from the Irish Examiner, about Padraig Harrington’s win. It was my touchstone yesterday when I went for a job interview. His win after a seven-year drought steadied my anxieties and gave me courage. It worked. Thank you Mr Harrington. 🙂

Okay, some more on the stamina stuff. N is for noxious, nasty, NO GOOD for your heart, gums, bones, teeth, not to mention your lungs.


H is for heather, hellebore and hosta

Hellebores and heather

Hellebores and heather

Tough and resilient, heathers are a good choice for the part-time gardener who wants color, ground cover and an undemanding companion plant for the showstoppers. It’s hardy enough to forgive most kinds of abuse. I’ve torn it apart in a hurry and in curiosity (can it possibly survive…..THIS….?), winding the roots I sawed into a tight knot and shoving them unceremoniously into a pot with minimal compost, and it still took. The plant has to be divided as it’s been there for 10 years and needs cutting back, like all the perennials, at least once a year. By periodically chopping some for vases and giving them as gifts instead of bought bouquets, I’ve recovered the cash the heather’s density cost me. (It stopped rainwater and light getting through to the first batch of tissue-like tulips I planted beside it.)

In a 'u' shape from the top left hand corner: Fatsia, erysimum Bowles Mauve, hosta, pansy, cordyline.

In a ‘u’ shape from the top left hand corner: Fatsia, erysimum Bowles Mauve, hosta, pansy, cordyline.

Hellebores are spring-flowering, slattern-like plants (flopsy stems and no regard for perfume – they’ve not invested evolution time in producing a discernible fragrance nor the good grace to feign an upright disposition). But, on the positive side, they come back year after year, and produce blossoms around Easter, hence their other name of ‘pasque roses’. We’ve pinkish ones (that’re usually called mauve 🙂 ) that can be seen with the roses in the first picture and whitish ones (that’re usually called green).


I love Hostas. So do slugs. I’d been expecting three specimen plants about three feet in diameter and height by now but the slugs have won this one.  I’m too traumatized to talk about it.


D is for daffs, dahlias and daisies

Gerbera Daisy

Gerbera Daisy

We’ve only two kinds of daffs, because I went to town buying various kinds of tulips. The kinds we have are some at about two feet high, plus a clump of sweet little narcissi (the dwarf ones) that peep out from under the acer. The dwarf ones have taken, and have clumped into bright highlights of color dotted around the beds. My friend Adie has a glorious display of dahlias every year: Hers are the ones that look like chrysanthemums, and they’re self-sufficient enough to almost change my mind about the type of dahlia I’ve always loved: cactus dahlias. Hers have formed huge ‘bushes’ that offer a spectacular feast of blooms and greenery, are easy to tame when you’ve to tidy up for winter (their stems don’t turn woody like a real bush would) and I’ve never had a potted cactus dahlia long enough to catch its ‘perennial’ qualities. If anybody who isn’t a klutz gardener happens to know if cactus dahlias grow into a similar shape and size over a few years, I’d be grateful for the info. (To store somewhere in my mind for the next time I’ve a new planting budget.) We’ve African daisies, osteospernum, that didn’t like their position or the clay soil. Where I first planted them was in a raised bed in a very enclosed small garden; that flowerbed got full sun for most of the day and daily watering. I’ve tried to maintain gerbera daisies from potted gifts I’ve been given in the past, but they invariably died, so I’ve sworn off floral abuse. Gerberas are one of my favorite flowers though, and one of the simplest, yet most effective displays of them I’ve seen lately is the brainchild of Clare Flower, a florist in Enniskillen, Co Fermanagh. This company does the flowers for Lusty Beg Island Resort and Spa (and the weddings there), and the charming treatment was simply to put one bright orange gerbera in a very modern glass cube. I kept the buttonhole we were given during our stay there, (mind you, it now looks like something from a ghoulishly macabre Mexican Day of the Dead celebration) but it was an impressively sturdy little creation, mixing something like a slice of a banana leaf or camellia leaf to provide the glossy bottle-green background for a posy of yellow carnation and berries.

March and those Ides

Crosspatch on gardening leave :-)

Crosspatch on gardening leave 🙂

St Patrick’s Day traditionally marks the start of the gardening season here, just a couple of days after the erstwhile Ides of March (15th, was an old Roman religious festival and this year coincides with Mother’s Day). It’s still February, so there’s more talk being done about the garden than actual graft. The camellia is valiantly pushing out blooms, but the daffs, hyacinths and grape hyacinths are being laggardly.

But mustn’t grumble, eh? Inherited assets include a six-foot deep and high laurel hedge that shields us from the bulk of the dust and grime from the busy road we’re on. Mixed into it is a fuchsia Daddy slipped and left in the new planting as it’s pure Kerry stock (from a roadside ditch) that’s got a matching successful slip (at well over 10-ft high, it’s a tree now), out the back. For the past couple of years I was equally admiring and sentimental about the understory along Kerry roadsides: the grassy foliage and delicate orange flowers of the crocosmia. But now that it’s overtaken the parsley and mint in one of the front beds, half the short orange stuff has to come out.

When this gets trimmed, the mulch is bright green.

When this gets trimmed, the mulch is bright green.

At the time the wooden elements (one table platform and another table, the gate to hide the boiler and the one to shield the new kerria and its companion shrubs, the pagoda-style fence to join the front wall to the driveway, and the semi-circular beds) were being put in, I wasn’t thinking things through properly. Forgetting that it would be me, moi, mé féin, now doing the needful (I hadn’t met Himself then) of cutting the lawn, trimming that magnificent laurel hedge and tackling the pyracantha and fuchsia blobs in it, chasing down the dandelions, nasturtium (I no longer care about it’s Victorian symbolism of I vanquish my enemies: on a good day it’s a salad dressing, on a bad day it’s a pernicious weed), not to mention the ash tree seedlings that fall in from across the road. Nope, I wasn’t thinking about any of that when I dug up the grass/moss/buttercup ‘lawn’, covered it in Mypex and gravel and swapped one set of time-consuming chores for a much worse set.

Companion for the Kerria pompoms, does anyone know what it is? I'd be grateful for a comment if you do, thanks :-)

Companion for the Kerria pompoms, does anyone know what it is? I’d be grateful for a comment if you do, thanks 🙂

The previous owners had spent over 40 years cutting that lawn, chasing those weeds, trying to keep the color in the flower beds only and had given up entirely on growing their own food. The town was less than five minutes’ walk away. Loadsa carrots. Gazillions of spuds. More parsley, mint, coriander and chives than you could need in 20 lifetimes was being grown in the market garden of Ireland that surrounded us. But I being young and foolish….okay, so just foolish…. thought gravel needed less attention than grass, and that the rest of the stuff I was doing would somehow look after itself. Oh yes, the previous owners are grinning over their vodka cocktail and pint of stout now.

It’s still February, so there’s more talk being done about it than actual graft. So I’ll shut up here now, and go talk about it some more with just Himself.

Roll on April, never mind March

We got so much rhubarb last year from the garden that I froze a lot of it for use during the winter. And despite using it with porridge in the mornings and custards for desserts, it’s the rhubarb and ginger jam that really does it for me.

At other odd times, the chopped frozen raw stems have been pressed into service as ice-cubes for cocktails when we’ve run out of ice, but this morning I stewed some with Crabbies Ginger Wine, some sugar, about a half-an-inch of squeezy ginger from a tube and a packet of powdered jelly for a jam with a kick. After much experimenting with ingredients I settled on a gingery version without fortified wine.

Cherry blossom tree bought in Newry c. 2006. Tulips, hyacinths, Crocosmia Red Devil (the cultivated one that's taller than the orange-flowered version) were bought in Jones' Nursery, Hearse Road (Swords /Donabate junction of M1). The rope was found on a Co Louth beach and hauled home as a pretty disguise for…...

Cherry blossom tree bought in Newry c. 2006. Tulips, hyacinths, Crocosmia Red Devil (the cultivated one that’s taller than the orange-flowered version) were bought in Jones’ Nursery, Hearse Road (Swords /Donabate junction of M1). The rope was found on a Co Louth beach and hauled home as a pretty disguise for……

……the borders of the ill-conceived semi-circular flower/fruit/herb beds. Rhubarb was bought in Jones' Nursery, and like the flower bulbs were a wedding present from our nearest neighbor.

……the borders of the ill-conceived semi-circular flower/fruit/herb beds. Rhubarb was bought in Jones’ Nursery, and like the flower bulbs were a wedding present from our nearest neighbors, John and Nell. It’s a prolific producer of the tart stems, which along with some ginger and our ‘secret’ ingredient, makes lovely jam.