Potatoes and Ireland are synonymous. So, when I learned that Cork County's award-winning Diva Boutique Bakery & Café, in the little town of Ballinspittle, made something called Golden Potato Bread, I knew I had to check it out.
Four miles from the seaside tourist town of Kinsale, the wee two-block downtown of Ballinspittle is home to not one, but two Diva establishments; a café and a bakery. My first stop was the Diva Boutique Café & Coffeehouse, a charming spot where I was greeted by the heady scent of freshly baked sweets, strong espresso, and malty tea. That greeting was soon paired by a joyful welcome from owner Shannen Keane, the redheaded "diva" herself, whom I learned was actually a transplant from Seattle.
Had I really traveled all this way in pursuit of a loaf made by an American? Apparently...yes.
It was love that brought Shannen to Ireland, who fell for an Irish gent while working an Alaskan commercial fishing vessel. The relationship didn't work out, but Shannen decided to make a go of it in Cork County, and opened a coffeehouse in homage to her favorite caffeine-fueled haunt in Seattle, called Diva. Her pastry chef brother Taylor Nelson soon emigrated as well, and they expanded efforts, opening a bakery and takeaway store celebrated for its homemade breads—including the Golden Potato, renowned for a unique recipe that marries mashed potatoes with wheat flour.
Dense, with flecks of garnet colored Irish Rooster potato skin dotting the loaf, it was gorgeously rich. One thick slice, dipped into a locally made deep green parsley and sea purslane pesto, was a filling, delightfully starchy meal unto itself.
One visitor would be hard pressed to find appetite for all of their yummy breads, including the yeasty Spelt and buttermilk-enriched Brown loaf, as well as the Toasted Walnut, Rustic Rye, Wheaten and Seeded breads.
Unsurprisingly, considering that Cork County is farm country, the potatoes in the bread were grown in Carrigane, just 10 miles away. A delivery of free-range eggs arrived while I was there, and sure enough they were from Beechwood Farms, only five miles from the bakery. Even the buffalo mozzarella that they sell is from a herd of water buffalo that graze at the nearby Toons Bridge Dairy farm in Macroom.
This pair of storefronts is not only the home to the Golden Potato Bread of my Irish dreams, but also serves as a locavore haven—ironically enough, built by a set of American transplants. Shannen and Taylor's appreciation of Irish food, alongside their Yankee hospitality and culinary ingenuity, made this potato bread better than a pot of gold.
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