After a week of antics across the pond I am officially back in the USofA. Although in general the food in Ireland (which happens to consist of potatoes, beef, potatoes, chicken, cabbage, potatoes, and did I mention the Irish LOVE potatoes!) was not my ideal, I can’t deny that we had some seriously good meals this week. And in the potato’s defense, I did find out where the obsession stems from…they’re cheap. Seriously cheap. Inexpensive to grow and you don’t have to dig that deep to plant them. By the 19th century over a third of Ireland’s population was entirely dependent on the spud, which didn’t fare well for the Irish when the Great Famine came through and destroyed most of the potato crops throughout the 1840’s. (Just a little history fact for you if I may, which I just so happened to learn while I was in prison. Yes I went to Irish prison for a day, but I’ll get to that later.)
Apparently the Irish got right back to potato planting as soon as the disease stopped destroying all the crops. Hense why it was not uncommon for my dinner to come with lots of potato. Like the one I had at The Queys in Galway, which came with three sides of potato… all in different forms of course.
But on to the good stuff. Now I know the focus of this blog is food, and trust me I plan to talk about A LOT of it, but I also wanted to highlight some other parts of my trip. Overall Ireland exceeded my expectations, and I truly had an amazing time. I got to see some really cool places, and although not all food related, I feel like it would be wrong of me not to share them with you. I have a lot to sum up from the past few days, so I’ll keep the descriptions brief and to the point. No matter what you’re into, Ireland definitely has a little something for everyone, and that’s exactly what I discovered on this trip. Below are my top pics from the week (in no particular order). Enjoy!
1. The Guinness Factory: Now I know you don’t need me to tell you to go to the Guinness Factory. If you’re in Dublin, you’re going. It’s their number one attraction, and its literally a playland/funhouse for adults who like Guinness. Actually you don’t even have to like Guinness, you don’t even have to like beer. The technique for making Guinness is interesting and so is the company’s history in advertising; I guess I had never really registered how iconic the dark stout really is. The pure excitement of the factory combined with the gorgeous 360° view from the Gravity Bar on the top floor was enough to cure my hangover from the night before. Which is quite the feat if you ask me.
2. Green Nineteen | Camden Street: On Sunday, a day where everything seems to be closed (or closing early) in Dublin, we happened to find a restaurant nearby that happened to still be open: Green Nineteen. It was small, casual, and had quite an interesting menu. Although I wasn’t that impressed with my Chicken sandwich, the Rasberry Goat-Cheese salad was delicious as was the Roasted Chicken. The cocktail menu was also pretty interesting. After trying a few different drinks, I ultimately decided that the Mexican Green was my favorite, made with Tequila, Maraschino Liquor, Grapefruit Juice, Fresh Chili and Bitters.
3. Avoca Cafe | Suffolk Street: Hidden on the top floor of what can only be described as the “Anthropologie of Ireland” you will find the most adorable cafe: Avoca Cafe. Going off a few different recommendations (guide books, concierge, and friends-of-friends) we decided to check out this lunch spot, conveniently located right off of Grafton Street. When we first arrived, we walked into a store filled with clothing, home decorations, kitchen aids, trinkets, and more, but no food… until we noticed the sign that read “Cafe” followed by an arrow pointing upward. Three flights of stairs later we walked into an open room, filled with tiny wooden tables and bustling with casual diners eating scones while the waiters whirled about the room dressed in white.
Naturally the first thing I noticed was the window at the front filled with pastries, but after eating a years worth of potato’s over the past few days, I felt guilty and quickly averted my eyes. Within moments we were seated, and I immediately started looking over the award winning menu which sent me into food ADD mode (this is the moment right after I look at a menu and begin freaking out because there are WAY to many things on it that I want). First things first, we ordered a jug of fresh squeezed lemonade. Which we finished before I had a chance to photograph it. This is something I have found to be common at meals where I am borderline starving and/or extremely parched. My apologies, I have no documentation of the pitcher but it was lovely and equally as delicious. It also had a hint of mint, which I thoroughly appreciated.
When it came time to make a decision on food it was tough. The Field Mushroom Soup sounded amazing, especially because it was raining out and approximately 50º, but then I noticed the salad section. Pancetta and Avocado? Sold! But as soon as I thought I had it figured out, the semi-gorgeous waiter came by and mentioned the pasta special: Homemade Ravioli filled with Ricotta, covered in Pesto and topped with Arugula, Asparagus and Parmesan. Oh My God!!! Good thing my sister was easily convinced and so we shared the two. My mom opted for the classic Chicken Caesar which I must say I couldn’t stop stealing bites of either. It was the perfect lunch and exactly what we were looking for. If you’re in Dublin, or in any of the other cities this chain is located, I highly recommend stopping in. I will note that Avoca is quite popular, and although we didn’t have to wait for a table at 2 o’clock, its recommended you make a reservation or show up early during busier hours.
On the way out of Avoca I snagged a gift for my favorite foodie Meesh. (If you’re reading this hope you like it!)
4. The Bernard Shaw | Richmond Street: Formerly a traditional Irish Pub, The Bernard Shaw opened in 1895 only to be taken over 111 years later by a group of DJs and promoters known as Bodytonic. Creating their own venue for parties and events, they revamped the inside of the bar with graffiti and wall art, and threw a double-decker tour bus in the back, which conveniently serves pizza out of it’s first floor while providing a hookah bar on the second level.
The music varied but a lot of it was techno and dub step, which is kind of a nice change from five days straight of the traditional Irish kind. The venue also doubles as an art gallery. In many of the rooms, unique and original art work is displayed on the walls, most of which comes from local artists and is conveniently for sale. Another highlight of the bar was that they didn’t measure out liquor when it came to making drinks. Previously, most of the bars I had been to in Ireland measured out a single shot for each drink they made, making it quite difficult to get a good buzz on mixed drinks alone, but at Bernard’s they made their drinks like a bar tender in the states. It was quite the pleasant surprise.
5. The Pig’s Ear | Nassau Street: And the winner for best meal in Ireland (By a landsliiiiiiiiiiiide) is The Pig’s Ear. Amazing, absolutely amazing. From ambiance, to décor, to presentation, to service, The Pig’s Ear has it all. Each table even comes equipped with its very own piggy bank, and no two tables are the same, I obviously found this to be ridiculously cute.
I ended up having the Goat Cheese and Tomato Crostini for an appetizer (yum) followed by the Rib-Eye steak and Potato Hash (yum yum). The Risotto, served with Asparagus, Mint, Pine Nuts and Edamame was a huge hit, as was the Salmon, but the real scene-stealer was the dessert. Everything on the menu looked delicious, but I found myself staring at the “Homemade Brown Bread Ice Cream topped with Crushed Yellow Man”. Yeah, no idea. I had never heard of Bread Ice Cream before and I definitely didn’t know what Yellow Man was, but I wanted to. Having no idea what to expect, I was blown away when the cutest little jar was placed in front of me. Inside this adorable jar was the most delicious ice-cream ever (almost a mix between a chocolate and vanilla, but more on the vanilla side) topped with little bits of crunchy deliciousness. These crunchy bits of deliciousness were the yellow man, which in Ireland refers to homemade honeycomb. Well hello homemade honeycomb, I’m Jacki and I love you!
6 & 7. The Cliffs of Moher and The Burren: Since I mentioned them earlier this week, I wont go into too much detail regarding the gorgeous and historic sites. Although they are located a seriously long bus ride away from anything, they are worth checking out if you’re going to be in or near Galway. I recommend visiting the Cliffs at sunset!
8. Kehoe’s Pub | South Anne Street: Located in the city center, right off of Grafton Street, Kehoe’s is popular amongst a younger, trendier crowd (if you will) while still remaining a traditional Irish pub. A little less touristy than the places you’ll find in Temple Bar, this place was perfect for a few pints of Guinness. And if for no other reason, you need to go just to see the vintage powder room they have for the ladies.
9. Kilmainham Goal | Prison: Kilmainham Goal is the old Irish Prison located in Kilmainham, Dublin. Now it operates as a museum and is well known throughout Irish history for housing some of the most infamous leaders of the Irish rebellions against the British throughout the 19th century. The museum itself is quite fascinating, filled with facts and props reflecting the political, social and economic history of the prison and the guided tour was equally is interesting.
10. Dandelion | St. Stephens Green: It was awarded the best nightclub of Dublin in 2010 and was located right next to our hotel. Naturally we ran into the issue of “too many places, too little time” and didn’t end up making it there until our last night, and I have to say it’s a good thing we didn’t go sooner, because it’s possible we wouldn’t have seen anything else in Dublin. With decor to die for, Dandelion’s interior looks like the inside of a swanky New York bar. What was more impressive was that their mixed drinks only cost 5 euro. This I found shocking considering almost everywhere else in Dublin charged 5 euro for a pint of beer while a mixed drinks could cost up to 20 euro (and no I’m not exaggerating, a cosmopolitan at the Fitz Patrick Hotel Bar cost 20 euro). All the specialty drinks at Dandelion tasted great, specifically the skittle infused vodka martini which was delish. Although I did hear the crowd can be a little pretentious on club nights, we went on a Sunday and enjoyed talking to the bar crowd which mostly consisted of friendly locals. I would say it’s definitely worth checking out!
Wheww. I know that was a lot to take in. Believe it or not I have even more on Ireland, but making this a top 20 list would just be ridiculous. However, if you’ve ever been to Ireland, are going to Ireland or just feel like talking about Ireland (or anything at all for that matter) let me know. I’d love to know your thoughts!