My love affair with Irish brown bread started in the fall of 2002, when I spent a semester in Cork, Ireland. I ate thick slices of the craggy-crusted, dense, coarse-crumbed loaf spread with salty butter daily since it was one of the few foodstuffs my student bank account could afford. The loaves were as prevalent as the white sandwich log is here, and even the pre-sliced supermarket and convenience store versions were terrific.
I didn't have brown bread that good again until I happened into Matt Murphy's, Brookline Village's excellent (and underrated) Irish pub that became a go-to spot for me almost as soon as I moved to the neighborhood after college. Every table gets a board laid with thick-cut slabs of the loaf, a very conventional and simple version made in-house according to owner Sibohan Carew's family recipe.
The hearty crust, which is almost crisp, protects the moister (but still appropriately coarse and dense) interior. It's tailor-made for a good slather of the accompanying soft butter, or, if you're ordering some food, the Cheese Plate ($12) or the Whipped Salt Cod Brandade ($13). In fact, Sibohan's daughter, Snowy, the manager, says with any luck there will soon be an open-faced smoked fish sandwich featuring the bread.
In the meantime, I'll be making open-faced sandwiches at home since the bread recipe is online and is incredibly easy.