Tuesday, January 1, 2008

a new year's in killarney

New Year's Eve 2007 Killarney

Dear Mouse,

Let me just say I am not one of those NYE hooligans who believes you absolutely MUST "party down" in some big way, a la Times Square or hotel "black tie" events with strangers who are all uneasily nursing the feeling they've been had. But one year I went to my friend's house for an antiparty where we all sat and watched 80s movies for about 6 hours, and I learned that I'm also not the kind of person who says, a la the B's brother, "It's just New Year's, like." I want, as I said to the B, to do something.

The Boyfriend was meant to orchestrae something but did not as he became paralyzed with indecision. So there we were around Dec 27, in Cork, me thinking i was really going to spend NYE in the house watching them play video soccer. Enter this brilliant web site.

We got a last-minute room at The Malton which is sort of ridiculous but between us it wouldn't be too bad ($220 for the stay and a giant, sumptuous breakfast in the main hall).

On to the next important item. The B and brother looked on in slight puzzlement as I began searching online for an NYE dinner reservation at the 11th hour, a nearly impossible task. I withheld the impulse to shout "Dont you get it?? WHERE will we EAT?" No ham & cheese sandwiches on 12/31 for this girl. NYE is one of those times where it just feels imperative to sit down to something festive and sparkling and relaxed... it's like Christmas without Family obligations.

Also, it was our First New Years Eve Ever Together, in the same country, so there was that. I wanted a Date, for pete's sake.

I called the hotel and was told the main dining room would be closed (black tie ball) but "Peppers", the "more casual dining setting" would be open. Oy Vey (Isheen).

Crestfallen, I watched images of Bennigan's and TGI Friday's pass before my eyes.I was just consoling myself that a New Year's Bacon Cheeseburger might still be fun ("Maybe they'll have a fireplace"), when it got worse: the only time they could take us was 630PM.

I saw us eating in a desolate, cold pub with paper napkins while the daylight spilled through the windows and posh people looked in on us curiously. I saw us finishing dinner and then wandering around the hotel glancing at our watches and waiting for midnight.

I said yes and the B said we could shop for snacks to put in the room for later.

We got to Killarney around 3pm and undaunted by the grey sky and chill wind (you cant afford to get daunted if you ever want to go outside in Ireland) visited the National Park, where I hadn't been since childhood. We walked in the gardens of Muckross House, visited Torc waterfall, and hiked to the Meeting of the Waters, where the three Lakes of Killarney meet in one lagoon. We got caught in the rain. It was beautiful.

At this point, knowing we were going to eat early, we'd had nothing since breakfast. Starving and wet, we were ready to hit the off-license and the grocery store, where we went a little nuts.

They say don't shop when you're hungry. We arrived at the sumptuous, elegant, still-in-Christmas finery hotel hiding a bag from Tesco's carrying warm french loaves, salsa, plain potato crisps (i've had to explain that it is not ok to eat salsa with cool ranch doritos!!!), hummus, soft cheese, smoked salmon, olives & feta, brownies, a bottle of champagne and a bottle of red wine. All riiiight.

We showered and dressed and in finery headed to "Peppers".

GORGEOUS restaurant. Old world, high-ceilings, yellow walls. Not the sad empty pub of my nightmares. Granted, at the start we were the only people there. But it was romantic, not depressing. They turned on the Bing Crosby. We pulled our Christmas Cracker and won a set of measuring spoons. They brought a complimentary champagne which was tasty, a garlicky amuse bouche (salmon crostini of some kind), and a menu. Prix Fixe with five courses. Gorgeous. We ordered a half bottle of cabernet for after we finished the champagne and then they left us pretty well alone to eat and stare into each other's eyes and say witty things. The dining room started to fill up and it was lovely and christmasy and tinselled and candlelit. Kindly and proper waiter. All kinds of silverware I had to remember how to use. Here's what we had.

brown soda bread with butter from basket
Amuse-bouche: tiny garlic crostini with herb/salmon chopped pate whatever
glass champagne
1st course: smoked salmon & prawn thingy (B), goat cheese & red-pepper spring roll with tomato relish (me). It was the only wrong note in the meal. But I actually felt I couldn't eat anymore smoked salmon.
2nd course: carrot & ginger soup for both of us
Snowy, delicate champagne sorbet for each, in a cut-glass dish. Decorated with a single gooseberry. Beautiful.
Mains: prime rib of beef (B), rack of local Kerry roasted lamb w/mint sauce, mashed celeriac and roasted garlic cloves (me!! lucky, lucky me!)

The Mint sauce, far from the weird green jelly you get in the store, was tart and sour like a pistou kind of, with a bite, and the surprising freshness of mint coming through. DIVINE. I ate it medium,off the bone. My advice: if in Kerry, or anywhere in Ireland really, eat local meat.

Dessert: we were flagging at this point so decided to share (my decision, B's acquiesence) a beautiful, delicate, light grand marnier-laced creme brulee with fresh cream on the side. And coffee. Really good coffee in a silver pot, enough for two cups each.

Best New Years Eve Meal Ever. Peppers, my apologies for doubting you.

We then had to walk it off a bit ( we did, after all,have a bottle of champagne and a tray of insane snacks waiting upstairs with no refrigerator) so we went on a mini-pub crawl to work up an appetite.

Courtney's on Main Street seemed to be the place to go if you knew what was up. Crowd was young-ish but not students. There was live music - a trio of guys in cowboy hats playing ACDC and counting crows - but not deafening. Low light, great beers, a picture of Yeats on the wall under which we sat, drank Bulmer's and Guiness, texted all our friends, and noticed it was 11pm.

Back at the hotel we popped the champagne, set up our snack tray, and determinedly ate olives and feta and hummus and salsa with potato chips as we coasted into 20o08 on a cloud of gold bubbles and contentment.

No joke- RTE was broadcasting a retrospective of "the LOWs of 2007".Gotta love the Irish.

Winner : best new years ever.

The Boo