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In a Bar with Irish Spring at Hand

Irish Winter is the best season for sitting in pubs and complaining about the weather (while eating oysters and drinking Guinness). I can hold my own at this sport.

At the beginning of winter, I went and visited Joe Shea, my best friend from Trumbull High School, who has been living in Ireland for decades. We hadn’t seen each other in 40 years.

Joe is a beekeeper in the Mourne Mountains and just contributed an article on the subject to the blog.

Joe joined us for Thanksgiving in Clare.

In January, my wife, Ph.D candidate Kelly Klaasmeyer, started her 2nd year at Burren College of Art and Ava and Joe went back to elementary school.


Spring is upon us now.

I know it seems early to declare the end of winter in February, but the Irish have a different system of marking the seasons. Whereas Americans rely on complicated computations based on the dates of solstices and equinoxes, here in Ireland they simply divide the 12 months of the year by 4 seasons and assign 3 months to each.

Springtime is February, March and April. Summer is May, June and July. Autumn is August, September and October. And Winter is November, December and January.

Never mind that August is the hottest month of the year in Texas (except when it’s even hotter in September). And in Pennsylvania, Punxsutawney Phil determines the start of American winter on Groundhog’s Day. But weather and burrowing animals be damned, February is Irish Spring.

This year it’s hard to argue. The winter was pretty mild and in the middle of February, the roadsides are already decorated with yellow and white daffodils. The wild garlic, a Springtime forager’s treat, is popping up early and (thanks to Dave Donohue) I’ve got a jar of wild garlic pesto in the fridge already.

Every time we have a sunny afternoon, the Spring Gardening bug starts biting me.

I installed a polytunnel (we call them hoophouses in Texas) back in January. It’s a metal frame wrapped in plastic and you can’t grow tomatoes or chile peppers without one here in Ireland–summers are too cold and too windy.

The bad news is that even in a polytunnel, tomato vines don’t start fruiting until July–the good news is you can keep harvesting tomatoes until Halloween.

Ed at the Gort Garden Center introduced me to the Irish Seedsavers organization, a group that preserves heirloom varieties and sells seeds to the public. I bought several packets, but Ed cautions it’s still a little too early.

If you plant them now, they will probably get killed by a late frost, Ed warns. After all, the first week of March last year, we had a blizzard named “The Beast from the East.”

Ignoring sage advice, I went ahead and planted mizuna, mustard greens, heirloom lettuces, radishes and dill seeds in my new “polytunnel” anyway. They are starting to sprout. If they get killed by a frost, I’ll just fork over more of my hard-earned Euros to Ed for more seeds.

Looking forward to baseball season! Go Astros!

Chili, Oysters and Our Irish Cottage on Pouldoody Bay

As the fall semester begins, our Irish adventure continues. I am writing about cooking in Ireland for and getting together with Ten Speed Press for a Chili Cookbook promotion. For 2 weeks in September, from 9/3 to 9/14, the ebook version of The Chili Cookbook will be on sale for $1.99 at all online retailers.

August is the start of autumn in Ireland. Temperatures are in the 50s and 60s and its raining a little every day. Friends and family from Texas are visiting to avoid the ungodly heat.

Come November, we will move into a cozy Irish cottage we just purchased in the charming village of New Quay. As you can see, our neighbors are cows. (That’s me in the blue shirt on the back porch, flying the drone.) The lease on our current place runs another few months, hence the delay moving in. Meanwhile we are renting the place out on Airbnb. (Search New Quay Cottage to find it.)

Village life revolves around the quay (pronounced key) which is the home of Linnane’s Lobster Bar, Burren Seafood Store and Red Bank Oyster Company as well as the berth of several fishing boats. Burrin was the original name of the town until the pier was built there in 1837. The New Quay name stuck, despite the fact that a pier built in 1837 isn’t exactly new any more. Kids come here at high tide to go pier jumping. 

Ava will attend sixth grade at New Quay school, which has 18 students, counting her. The school is well known for art and drama programs and she is excited to get started. Joe will stick with Dooris where he has lots of friends. He would be the only male in the 4th grade at New Quay school, and that makes it pretty difficult to have a good game of football, rounders, hurling, or whatever. Besides, he plays for the Kinvara Hurling team and Dooris is in Kinvara.

My penchant for oysters on the half shell will be easy to satisfy here. Our living room window overlooks Pouldoody Bay, Ireland’s most famous oyster appellation in years gone by. James Joyce mentioned “puldudy” oysters in Finnegan’s Wake. Fergal Langley maintains an oyster farm in the bay these days, I have been buying his Pouldoody gigas oysters at the market since we have lived here. Not exactly Galveston Bay virginicas, but they have their own charm.

Interesting that Galveston Bay and Galway Bay were both featured in Sex, Death & Oysters. I was in Galway for the oyster festival in 2004, a mere 14 years ago. Amazingly, the book is still in print.

Kelly loves her studio and her painting is going strong. She is scheduled to have an exhibition at the Burren College of Art Gallery in December.

And I am attempting to purchase an NCAA College Football package on my Smart TV so I can watch my beloved Longhorns this fall.

Hook ’em!


St. John’s Eve: An Old Irish BBQ Tradition

Looks like I got signed up to cook the barbecue at this event at Kelly’s school. I’ll be grilling Irish pork and apple sausages and serving them on buns with mustard, red cabbage and apple chutney.

St John’s Eve is an ancient Irish fire festival celebrated at sunset on June 23rd, the night before the feast day of St. John the Baptist. Read more about the old rites.

Texas Joe’s London Tex-Mex Fiesta

It’s great to be back in London!

Texas Joe invited me to sign books and give a Tex-Mex talk for a big Cinco de Mayo fiesta at his BBQ joint.

The Uber drive from London’s Gatwick airport to the South Bank neighborhood where we rented an Airbnb apartment took longer (a hour and 45 minutes) than the flight from Ireland to London (one hour and ten minutes).

The weather was outstanding–bright, sunny and mild. The event drew a large crowd of London Longhorns, Aggies, and a lone Baylor Bear for a fabulous lunch.

There were sighs of nostalgia all around as the margaritas, chips and salsa, nachos and flautas were passed around. The main course was a Tampiqueño Plate–steak and a cheese enchilada with beans and rice.

The Feast

The Drink: Cadillac Margarita

To Start

Nopales Quesadilla- Smoked cactus and oaxaca cheese with tomato, green onion and jalepeno

Smoked Brisket Nachos- Texas style individual nachos topped with refried beans, USDA brisket, jalepeno and cheese

The Main Attraction

Smoked Chicken Flautas

Tampiqueño – Grilled skirt steak with grilled onions served with a cheese enchilada topped with chili con carne, rice and refried beans.

Tacos al Carbon – rolled soft tacos served with pico de gallo and guacamole, smoked fajita chicken.


Milkshake “No Minors” Brandy & Kahlua kick your milkshake up a notch.

Many thanks to Texas Joe and his hardworking crew for the Party Party weekend,



Cinco de Mayo in London!


We are pleased to welcome fellow Texan Robb Walsh to Texas Joe’s on Cinco De Mayo this year for a proper Tex Mex food feast and discussion of the history of Tex Mex and the Mexican influence on Texas BBQ.

Tex Mex is a dirty word in the UK as it was used as a catch all term for the distinctly non Mexican variety of food that was being passed as such. The real history of Tex Mex is cuisine is a story as old as Texas itself. We are here to give you a taste of what we have back home. Specifically the home of Robb Walsh, the El Real Tex Mex Cafe in Houston, TX.

 The Feast

The Drink: Cadillac Margarita

To Start

Nopales Quesadilla- Smoked cactus and oaxaca cheese with tomato, green onion and jalepeno

Smoked Brisket Nachos- Texas style individual nachos topped with refried beans, USDA brisket, jalepeno and cheese

The Main Attraction

Smoked Chicken Flautas

Tampiqueño – Grilled skirt steak with grilled onions served with a cheese enchilada topped with chili con carne, rice and refried beans.

Tacos al Carbon – rolled soft tacos served with pico de gallo and guacamole, smoked fajita chicken.


Milkshake “No Minors” Brandy & Kahlua kick your milkshake up a notch



Houston: The New Creole City of the South

Shrimp & Grit, the 2018 Foodways Texas Symposium, has concluded.

I had a grand time!

The World Premiere of Donut People, a short food film by Keeley Steensen & I on Friday afternoon was the high point for me. I will post the film here as soon as it is released publicly.

The movie offers a glimpse into Houston’s Cambodian culture. Through chain migration and family business building, Cambodian immigrants and their offspring have come to own some 95 percent of Houston’s donut shops. Keeley and I interviewed several donut shop owners and went to a Cambodian karoake party. Few people in our audience realized that neighborhood donut shops, all over Texas, are Cambodian-owned.

I think its fair to say that the Cambodians have been flying under the radar.

I was the moderator of a Cast & Crew Q & A following the film with panelists (from left) Sam Phan, Keeley Steensen and David Buehrer.

On Saturday morning I did a talk about the curiously creolized breakfast: Boudin Kolaches.

Gumbo, with its African, French, Spanish and American Indian ingredients is often used as a symbol of New Orleans Creole. In my talk, I contended that jalapeño boudin kolaches, with French, Cajun, Czech, Texas-Czech, and Mexican ingredients are an icon of Houston creolization.

We had Roth Ouch at Donald’s Donuts in Webster bake up a large batch and we passed them out to the audience so everybody could eat some boudin kolaches while we talked about them.

Did I mention that boudin kolaches were invented by Cambodian donut shops?

(Photos by Kelly Yandell)

Foodways Texas Symposium in Houston

Shrimp and Grit: A Foodways Texas Symposium

April 12-14
Houston, TX

The 2018 Foodways Texas symposium, “Shrimp and Grit: Food and Community Along the Texas Gulf Coast,” focuses on the joys and struggles of life on the Texas Gulf Coast as seen through its foodways. From Port Isabel to Orange, Gulf Coast Texans fish, farm, ranch, eat, celebrate, and regularly rebuild. With “Shrimp and Grit,” we will explore the effects of hurricanes and other natural calamities on the food supply chain and the communities along the coast, we will note the histories of prominent and hidden food industries, and meet folks who make food and feeding communities their life in the region.

Join us April 12-14 in Houston, where we will hear talks about Cambodian donut shops, boudin kolaches, and the role of food in disaster response. We will enjoy meals from Hugo Ortega (Hugo’s), Bryan Caswell (Reef), and Rebecca Masson (Fluff Bake Bar), among others. Meal and talk locations include the Windburn Mess Hall, the Armadillo Palace, and OKRA Charity Hall, and more! We look foward to seeing y’all there!

Get Tickets Now!
We have also secured a hotel block, for our guests from out of town. See below for details. Please note: the last day for booking at the guest rate is Wednesday, March 28.

Houston Marriott Medical Center/Museum District
6580 Fannin Street
Houston, TX 77030
Phone: 713-796-0080
Booking Line: 1-800-228-9290
Go here to reserve your room: Booking Link
Rate: $99 per night

Starting Over: An East Texan in Western Ireland

Storm Fion, the third named storm of the season is hitting the West Coast of Ireland at the moment. (And we thought we were getting away from Galveston’s tropical storms!) Temperatures are near freezing and the wind is howling like a choir of banshees. We can’t light a peat fire in the stove because the wind is so strong it blows the smoke back down the chimney and into the living room!

We are under a Yellow Snow alert, which my wife finds hilarious.

A Status Yellow snow and ice warning for the entire country remains in place until 9am on Wednesday morning.

A Status Orange wind warning for Donegal, Galway, Leitrim, Mayo, Sligo, Clare, Cork and Kerry is in place until 3am as Storm Fionn will bring wind speeds of 65 to 80 km/h and gusts of up to 120 km/hr.

The move from Texas to Ireland hasn’t been an entirely smooth transition for the family. There’s the weather, there’s the television withdrawal (we don’t have a TV set in our rent house), and there’s the lack of hot and spicy food. Worst of all there was the Basset affair.

After asking for an insane amount of paperwork and charging us a hefty fee to transport Frances, the family Basset, Air France personnel in Paris suddenly announced that, no, Air France doesn’t fly dogs. My darling wife had to stay behind while the rest of us flew to Dublin.

Her hair-raising account of that adventure and her feelings about Air France can be found here.


Finally, Frances arrived via cargo flight last weekend. We drove to Dublin airport to pick her up, and we are now joyfully reunited and living in 200 year-old stone cottage on the foothills of The Burren.

Yes, we have snow, sleet, hail, driving rain and wind for the last few days, but then it will inexplicably turn sunny and beautiful for a few minutes. Schizophrenic weather, Kelly calls it.

Thankfully, my  total immersion into the Irish food scene is keeping me entertained. More about that at — my new website for Irish food tourists.

Traveling Ireland as a tourist has a familiar feel about it. In the year 2000,  I took a job as the anonymous food critic at the Houston Press. I moved to Space City knowing nothing about the local food scene. What a joy it was to drive around and discover all all the innovative eateries, old barbecue and Tex-Mex joints, and mom and pop multicultural spots the city is famous for.

Today I am full of that same innocent enthusiasm as I travel around Ireland discovering all the cool things to eat. The lamb and pork here are amazing. I have never seen so many varieties of bacon in my life.

And then there’s the seafood! I went from the bounty of Galveston Bay to the riches of Galway Bay. Lucky me!

My new home in Western Ireland is famous for oysters (like these natives I got at Monk’s Seafood in Ballyvaughn) and lobster (like this one from Linnane’s Lobster Bar in New Quay, three miles from my house).  I am making a pig of myself in both of these categories. I am also eating a lot of seaweed! Much more about that later.

All in all, we are getting our new lives sorted out. Kelly and the kids are in school and I am doing a lot of cooking. There’s plenty of EU red tape to deal with, but the Irish people are so kind and friendly, you just don’t mind it much.

I will see ya’ll back in Houston for the 8th Annual Foodways Texas Symposium, April 12-14, where Keeley Steensen and I will be presenting our new short film Donut People, about the Cambodian community in East Texas and their ubiquitous donut shops.

Buy your tickets now!



Next Chapter: Moving to Ireland

Dear Friends:

I’ve been doing a lot of fishing lately. Spent three weekends in November on Galveston Bay, Matagorda Bay and the Lower Laguna Madre. I didn’t catch a lot of fish, but that’s okay. It was my way of saying goodbye to the Coastal Bend of Texas, my home for the last few years.

On November 15, we sold our lovely house in Galveston. (I will truly miss it along with lots of other things about the Texas Coast–including all our wonderful friends!)
I’ll celebrate my 65th birthday on December 11 in our temporary digs in Houston’s Historic Third Ward.

Then, on December 31, the adventure begins. The entire family (including Frances, the Basset Hound) will embark on a one-way flight to Europe. After toasting the “Happy New Year” aloft, we will land in Paris, hop a flight to Dublin, rent a van, and drive to Ballyvaughn on the West Coast of Ireland.


On January 8, 2018, my exceedingly talented wife, Kelly Klaasmeyer, will begin a 4-year PhD program in studio art at the Burren College of Art, which is affiliated with the National University of Ireland at Galway.

Abbey View House

For the first 6 months or so, we will live in Abbey View House, an 18th century stone dwelling in Oughtmama, a stone’s throw from the ruins of three old churches and an abbey from the 10th century.

The Burren in Springtime

The house backs up to a cliff of karst, part of the weird and wonderful geological formation and Irish National Park called The Burren. The karst formation of the Burren is connected to the karst outcroppings of the nearby Arran Islands at the mouth of Galway Bay.

Arran Islands

Hopefully, the kids will attend school in the charming fishing village of Kinvara. That’s where we may eventually end up living.

My cell phone number will change, so texts will be unanswered for a while. Email:
Please follow @robbwalsh on Twitter and Instagram.

And /robb.walsh on Facebook.

Forwarding address, should you wish to send Valentines or unmarked Euros:

Robb Walsh
1321 Upland Dr. #8928
Houston, Texas 77043

I’ll be returning to Texas frequently for gigs including my annual talk at BBQ Summer Camp at Texas A&M Meat Science Center. I will also be continuing my affiliation with El Real Tex-Mex Cafe, including some intensive recipe testing this summer.

Otherwise and for the most part during my time in Ireland, I intend to roam the island and the continent blogging about good things to eat and drink. (A surprise, I know.)


Philosophical musings and Tex-Mex stuff:

BBQ discoveries:

Tips for food tourists in Ireland:

Also, watch for my many upcoming articles in the world’s most prestigious newspapers, magazines and literary quarterlies. (Right?)

Above all: Don’t be a stranger!

Remembering Jon Rowley and Small Good Things

John Rowley, the man who taught me how to shuck oysters, passed away on October 4, 2017. I will always remember him. He forged his zeal for life out of an enormous sadness.

Photo by Kate McDermott

Here’s a story about him:

Sex, Death & Oysters, Chapter Nine: Will Shuck for Food

…It was a chilly overcast day, and we hadn’t gone far before Rowley pointed out a two-story house built in the 1920s that was much fancier than any of the others in the neighborhood. “That’s Raymond Carver’s house,” he said.

I didn’t remember Raymond Carver’s short stories right away. But Rowley reminded me about Carver’s bleak strain of fiction and the spiritual emptiness of the people who inhabited it. After a miserable alcoholic life, Carver had spent his last ten years at the house in Port Angeles, staying sober and writing stories about the shabby lives of hopeless middle-class families in a semi-rural landscape not unlike Port Angeles, Washington.

Rowley identified with Carver. When I asked him about his ethnicity, he told me he didn’t have one. He grew up in Alaska and Oregon with two alcoholic parents, he said. When he left home, he became a commercial fisherman. For ten years, he spent summers fishing in Alaska and winters bumming around Europe, mostly France. He had bouts with depression and heavy drinking.

In the mid-1960s, Rowley’s first daughter was hit by a drunk driver and died a slow death. He and his wife moved to Portugal and had another daughter. But the marriage didn’t withstand the tragedy.

Rowley credits the passage about oysters from A Moveable Feast, Hemingway’s posthumously published memoir of 1920s Paris, with changing his life. He was intrigued by the idea that something you ate could give you a positive outlook.

Rowley told R.J. Apple Jr. that after reading the passage in his shabby Paris hotel room, he resolved to “eat lots of oysters, as many as I could afford, and make it my quest to learn about oysters and how they are cultivated, distributed and consumed.”

As I ate the oysters with their strong taste of the sea and their faint metallic taste that the cold white wine washed away, leaving only the sea taste and the succulent texture, and as I drank their liquid from each shell and washed it down with the crisp taste of the wine, I lost the empty feeling and began to be happy and to make plans.
— A Moveable Feast, Ernest Hemingway

He started by getting on the Metro and spending the last of his money on a feast of oysters and wine at Le Dome, he told me. When he returned in subsequent years, he educated himself, visiting oyster farms, oyster distributors and oyster restaurants all over France. Oysters gave his life a purpose.

When he started working with oyster marketers, Rowley was a purist who wouldn’t back down from his version of the gospel. When another Washington State oyster entrepreneur named Bill Webb started cultivating European flat (O. edulis) oysters and selling them as “Belons” in the early 1980s, Rowley was outraged. “I told him, you can’t call them Belons, because the Belon River is in France.”

The two men were asked to speak about oysters at various educational events, and their talks invariably ended up becoming debates. Eventually Bill Webb started calling his American-raised European flat (O. edulis) oysters “Westcott Bay Flats,” and the two became friends.

As a goodbye gift, Rowley gave me a copy of Where I’m Calling From, Selected Stories by Raymond Carver. Some time later, I picked up the book and read the story called “A Small Good Thing.” In the story, a mother goes to a bakery and orders a birthday cake for her son. The little boy is hit by a car on the way to school and is taken to the hospital, where he goes into a coma. The baker keeps calling, angry that no one picked up the cake. In the end, the boy’s mother and father go to the bakery in the middle of the night and confront the abusive baker. The man is chagrined and apologizes profusely. He sits the couple down and gives them hot cinnamon rolls and coffee.

“You probably need to eat something,” the baker said. “I hope you’ll eat some of my hot rolls. You have to eat and keep going. Eating is a small good thing in a time like this,” he said. The resemblance to Rowley’s tragedy was uncanny, and so was the small good thing of eating something as a way of coming back to life.

Just before I departed Port Angeles, Rowley took me for a ride in the car. We parked at Ocean View Cemetery, which is located on a grassy cliff high above the gray waters of the Strait of Juan De Fuca. We got out and walked around in the light drizzle. Over the cliff, I could see the shoreline of Vancouver Island in the distance.

In one of the rows of the cemetery, Rowley pointed out the low dark stone that marked Raymond Carver’s grave. While we stood there, he produced two oysters and a small bottle of Jack Daniels with an inch left in the bottom from the pockets of his Goretex coat. He spilled a little oyster liquor on Carver’s grave as he shucked. We toasted Carver with oysters and warming slug of whiskey. Then we set the oyster shells and the empty bottle on the grave beside Carver’s name and took a picture.