Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Snow, Christmas shopping calamities and cake

We hadn't had any snow west of Dingle (until some started to fall this morning) so when we decided to go shopping in Killarney on Saturday afternoon, it was our first encounter with the fluffy white stuff that has been the main topic of conversation in Ireland for weeks.

Driving along, we couldn't help but marvel at how snow transforms the countryside and makes you look at familiar landscapes with newly appreciative eyes.

Who would have thought that Inch Beach could be covered in snow?

Or that we would witness this romantic scene in the fog at Keale?

We arrived in Killarney feeling exhilirated (partly from a child-like sense of joy at seeing the landscape transformed into a winter wonderland and partly from the relief of not having skidded on the dangerously icy roads).
We then set about doing some Christmas shopping. We must have gone into almost every shop in town but failed to find what we wanted. Hours later, we had only one measly DVD in our shopping bag and our initial sense of exhiliration had deflated.
We needed sustenance and decided to decamp to Miss Courtney's Tearooms on College Street in the hopes of finding it there...
We started to perk up as soon as we set foot inside. Who wouldn't when presented with a spread such as this?

There were mince pies. There were cupcakes. Lemon drizzle cake. Chocolate cake. Coffee cake. Blueberry slices. Chocolate and strawberry kisses (what looked like chocolate cake topped with strawberry cheesecake and chocolate icing). Homemade scones. Chocolate and brandy cake. And more. SO MUCH MORE.

I'd heard lots of good things about these tearooms and my expectations were high. Would they be met? And more importantly, would the cakes cure us of our despondent mood?

My first impressions were good. The décor is endearingly higgledy-piggledy with its mismatched chairs, vintage crockery and all sorts of personalised little touches such as this window seat:

And this adorable teacup chandelier:

Here's the honey pot, salt and pepper set and sugar bowl that was on our table:
And finally, here's what we ordered. My boyfriend had a traditional cream tea (he's a sucker for that classic combination of scones, jam and clotted cream). I had a slice of the flourless chocolate and brandy cake. We also shared a pot of lapsang souchong tea.
It sure looks great but did it meet our expectations?
The boyfriend thought the scones were warm and crumbly and he liked the clotted cream so much he had to ask for seconds.
And as for the chocolate cake... Anyone who knows me in real life will have realised that I have very (almost impossibly) high standards when it comes to chocolate cake. It has to be moist. It should have real chocolate in it (my preference would be for chocolate with a high cocoa content). And it has to have a balance between the sweetness of the sugar and the bitter hit of cocoa.
This cake had all of this as well as a drenching of brandy. I really couldn't have asked for more.
In fact, so delicious was this sweet treat that we both forgot all about our disastrous shopping trip (until today when we realised that we really had to do something about it. Only three days to go!)
Addendum 24/01/2011: I went to Miss Courtney's Tearooms for cake again this Saturday and though I hate to admit it, I was disappointed. There were no scones for the boyfriend (who had been drooling at the thoughts of a traditional afternoon tea). There were only four cakes to choose from (and my chocolate choice was overly sweet). The staff weren't very attentive. And our tablecloth was quite dirty and stained. I'm not saying that I won't go again (because I definitely will) but my impressions aren't as good as they were on my first visit.

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