I think all non-Irish folk have this idealized notion that the Irish country side is a beautiful green landscape filled with sheep, pubs, and quaint little inns. And guess what? It totally is! We spent the past weekend out at Longueville House in County Cork, a place which perfectly packages such Irish charm and serves it forth nary a drop of pretension.
The house was built in 1720, but the property itself has been owned by the O’Callaghan family since the tenth century (except for a brief period when the land was forfeited to that British militaristic bully Oliver Cromwell). Today, William O’Callaghan acts as proprietor and chef, along with his family and six of the most fulfilled dogs on the planet.
Upon our arrival, we took in the Victorian decor of the drawing room while making our way through a tower of tea-time treats. The scones–by far my favorite bite of the weekend–were warm, cream-topped bastions of butter. Smothered with jam from homegrown berries, they became veritable defenders of decadence.
We stuffed ourselves in the way only American’s can, then attempted to walk it off with a stroll around the sprawling property. Our new dog friend Sammy served as tour guide, leading us through the flower gardens, into the apple orchard, past the cider brewery, finally ending in the woods where he flushed out pheasants until his little legs grew so weary that only a dip in putrid trough water could restore him.
The following morning we rose early to go on a mushroom hunt. As you do.
We were given an introduction to the art of mushroom hunting and shown some examples of edible varieties. Our mushroom information man offered a lengthy list of things to look for and avoid, such as: anything that’s red, or has white gills, or is too small, too big, too old, or resembles the infamous Death Cap.
O.K. Got it.
Chris and I set off into the woods and immediately found dozens of mushrooms, all of which had white gills, were too old, too small or too big. But we didn’t care. We’d instituted a strict “pick all the shrooms” policy. Everything was going in the bag. Death Caps included.
When we returned, we dumped our bounty on a table and looked up at the mushroom information man like proud dogs laying a dead pigeon at their master’s feet. “This is awl shite,” he said, poking around the pile with the tip of his knife. “You wouldn’t eat moldy old meat, why would you eat moldy old mushrooms?”
Fortunately for us, the lovely Longueville staff hadn’t bet on our foraging prowess and already had a plentiful–and completely non-leathal–selection to cook of for lunch.
We settled in at a long dining table with our fellow hunters and tucked into a never-ending meal of meat and produce sourced from the property. While the days fungal find made an appearance, it was the fire-roasted leg of lamb that stole the show. If you think a real wood fire smells nice in the fall, try throwing a dead baby animal on it and stand back for miracles.
After lunch we headed back outside to soak up that last sun rays we’ll probably see for the year. We poured ourselves a glass of the Longueville House Cider while chatting with the mushroom man about his experiences of the more magical sort. A rainbow arched across the fields in Ireland’s signature beauty mark, presumably because the scene wasn’t perfect enough.
A little more love for the puppies, then it was back on the train to the Big Smoke.