A New Dublin

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I was well aware that my life would change dramatically when I had a baby. I was not prepared for how much my view of Dublin would change. Walking around the city with a buggy full of human flesh that could explode in a desire for food or a splash of yellow poo at any moment turns Dublin a new color. Not necessarily yellow poo color, but it’s a completely different city I have to navigate now.

The idea of popping into get a coffee at Clement and Pekoe is a thing of the past. There are five steep stone steps leading up to it. Deciding to go to lunch at the Pepper Pot caused my brain to do a Mission Impossible-style run down of entrance and exits points into Powers Court. Then I realized I didn’t even know where the lifts were in the building.

Lifts. I never would have concerned myself with them in any shop in Dublin. Now they are a number one necessity that decides whether or not I can enter a store.

Did you know Brown Thomas has an incredibly nice changing/breastfeeding room in the men’s swim suit and underwear section? Unclear if the designers of the store thought about what a nursing mother wants to see just before she breast feeds.

Arnotts is another store on the pro-mama, pro-babe, pro-breastfeeding train. Arnotts is not a store I would have frequented in my pre baby days, but I’ve been twice since my Seedling arrived. My mother was the one who pointed out that it’s perfect for mom’s: there are wide aisles for buggies, spacious lifts, easy street access with wide ramps, and always a good sale somewhere in the building. Not to mention a very nice breastfeeding area in the baby section by the café. It comes complete with rocking chairs, sheep skins, and a water dispenser.

I sat there the other day and fed the babe while my mother and her friend walked around and brought me items to look at and decide if I wanted to purchase. I just sat in my rocker and watched the Olympics on my phone.* This is the BEST way to shop. I will never go alone into a department store again.

Being out in a city with a new babe is challenging, but it’s fun to see this whole new side of Dublin uncovered. And my husband might be the recipient of a few new pairs of underwear because of it.

 

*Shout out to the RTE Olympics App which made this possible.

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A New Dublin

Dublin Cookie Co.

I’ve been away from this blog for a while and here’s why: I had a baby. And here’s what I’ve discovered are the things I want most in my first month of motherhood: extra sleep, lots of lanolin, and comfort food. Extra sleep is a dream not to be realized any time soon, lanolin is a non-glamourous fact of my life now, but comfort food I can certainly have some fun with.

Another fact about new motherhood is the constant questions over how my newborn is doing. Is he thriving? Is he sleeping enough? Too much? Is he too hot or too cold? Is he eating enough? I don’t think these questions will cease to be a part of my life in the same way a good night’s sleep might not happen for a while. However, one way to ease the worry of some of these questions is to go once a week to the community health clinic to get the baby weighed, to meet other breastfeeding mothers, and to talk to a nurse about each little worry I have. This nurse looks at the mothers with a kind eye as she repeats to every single one of us: THIS IS NORMAL.

NORMAL is what you want to hear. And when I do hear it, I want to celebrate. With comfort food.

As well as having a baby, I have also just moved house. The classic combination. We’ve left Rathmines and are now happily set up in Dublin 8. This means my community health clinic is in a part of town I don’t know very well. The very good news is that it is right around the corner from the Dublin Cookie Company.

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I’ve been hearing about the Dublin Cookie Company for some time but never had the motivation to get to Thomas Street and see what it’s about. I also didn’t feel that I needed that kind of addiction while I was pregnant. Now that there is literally NO excuse not to go once a week, addiction will be hard to avoid. I’m feeding a child eight times a day, after all.

Dublin Cookie Co is a small shop front on Thomas Street. The smell of Guinness hops hangs heavy outside, but it’s all butter and sugar once you cross the threshold. It’s white and bright and a selection of cookies greets you in the case as you step in. There are plenty of flavours to choose from. You can buy them as single cookies or in boxes of 6 or 13. There are two types of Whoopie Pie cookies, an American classic I was eager to test drive here. I can report that DCC has #nailedit.

I’m a cookie fan to be sure. The sea salt caramel cookies were outstanding. However. My favourite fact about the DCC is the flavoured milks available to go with your cookie. What is a cookie without milk? There’s normal milk, chocolate milk, coffee milk and cookie milk. Coffee milk is a favourite of mine from WAY back. In fact, the last time I had coffee milk I was about twelve years younger. The combination of the coffee milk and the peanut butter and chocolate whoopie pie was, in the parlance of the over dramatic, To Die For.

No, I didn’t try the cookie milk, but the baby is getting weighed again this week and you’d better believe it will happen. Cookies will forever now be associated with my son’s first few weeks. I can’t think of a better start to life.

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Dublin Cookie Co.

Alan Hanna’s Bookshop and Bark Coffee

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In keeping with the theme of trying places I’ve walked past for years and never ventured into, here’s some good advice: a place doesn’t have to be new and hip and full of men in beards to warrant a visit. In fact, when a place has been there for a while (long enough for me to walk past it for years), I’ve found some little gems of Dublin. And this is another one!

Alan Hanna’s Bookshop is a Rathmines stalwart, located on Upper Rathmines Road. They opened a little coffee  shop in the back and had an A-frame out front advertising this fact. This had never drawn me inside until the A-frame read: Kimchi Cuban! Special Sandwich of the day!

I like a Cuban Sandwich and I love Kimchi so this seemed a sign made especially for me. I ducked into the bookshop and headed to the back where the coffee shop is. It is larger and busier than I thought it would be back there. There were plenty of people sitting at tables enjoying their lunch and coffees.

There are no windows which I think can be tricky in a café. It’s nice to look out, even on a rainy day and I called in on a gorgeous sunny day. They make up for it here by putting up huge posters of penguin books to keep you in the book-ish cocoon. I still wanted to escape back to the sunshine, though, so I ordered my Kimchi Cuban to go.

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The other sandwiches on the menu are less adventurous and what you would expect in a café/sandwich shop. They are all made to order, so I am certain there is some personalization that you can do if you wish.

There are brownies and some other cakes, scones, packets of crisps and popcorn and some candy bars on offer. It’s simple but there is something for everyone.

The Kimchi Cuban was delicious. It was warm and tasty. The kimchi was homemade and not too strong. I could certainly have done with stronger, but I appreciate the fact that new comers to kimchi-land may like a lighter introduction.

Check out the A-frame outside the bookshop on Upper Rathmines Road and see if they can entice you in for a book, a coffee or a hefty sammy.

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Alan Hanna’s Bookshop and Bark Coffee

Simon’s Café (Or That Place In George’s Arcade That Smells Like Cinnamon)

 

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One of the best things about walking up George’s Street Arcade from the direction of Drury Street is the blast of sweet warm cinnamon that emanates from Simon’s café. If you don’t immediately want a cinnamon roll, you should worry about your inferior sense of smell.

I have resisted turning left into Simon’s for pretty much most of the time I have lived here. The smell of cinnamon has been enough; the idea of a gooey cinnamon roll propels me forward with a smile on my face. The truth is that I am always frightened of being disappointed by the cinnamon roll. How sad would it be to be drawn into a café by the delicious smell only to find the actual bun lacking?

I’ve had some good cinnamon rolls in my lifetime. I wasn’t really willing to risk the illusion of perfect cinnamon goodness at Simon’s. And then? I did.

I had a meeting and the suggested location was Simon’s. I arrived early determined to order a tea only. But there they were: a stack of fresh, homemade cinnamon rolls right on the counter. I defy anyone to not ask for one in that situation, let alone a six months pregnant person who has been drawn to mostly bread-based products for the length of the pregnancy.

It’s research anyway, I said. I’ll have one, I said.

Simon’s is a throw-back kind of place. It has been there forever and it feels like it. There is nothing fancy or hipster about it. Sandwiches are pre-made and wrapped in plastic and kept in the chilled case. Baked goods line the counter and there is not a gluten free or paleo option in the lot. You can get instant coffee. There is a special “tea bag” dump right on the counter in front of the till so that you can dunk and remove your bag before you head to your tables.

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The tables are communal, wooden and basic. The crowd is like a crowd at a good, local pub. It’s mostly men over forty who don’t take off their jackets, carry tiny note books, wear caps and may or may not have facial hair. The smoking seats out in front are always full. Your tea comes in a mug. The walls are lined with posters for upcoming gigs. The lighting is bad. I get the sense that many of the patrons don’t even have to order, they just get “my usual.”

And the question you’ve all continued reading this post to have answered? The cinnamon roll is fantastic. It tastes homemade, it’s not too sweet. It’s a bit crunchy on the outside and soft and chewy once you get to the centre. I told myself I didn’t need to eat all of it. My brain said, “nope. You do. Eat all of it.”

I enjoyed it with a mug of tea. My meeting partner arrived and went to order a tea as well. Came back with a tea and cinnamon roll. “How does anyone resist?” he asked. “Do you need to?” I asked back.

NO. You don’t need to resist. If you get pulled in by the smell, be confident that you are about to have a delicious cinnamon roll in a classic dublin café.

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Simon’s Café (Or That Place In George’s Arcade That Smells Like Cinnamon)

Taco Taco

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As I am sitting and writing this post, I have a half eaten piece of sourdough toast with almond butter and jam to my right and a nice cup of coffee to my left. With these flavours dancing on my tongue it is hard to write about tacos. That is not an excuse and I shall accept the challenge. I just thought I should be honest with where I am coming from.

Taco Taco is in the space the used to be called Odessa. The Odessa Club still exists upstairs, but Taco Taco now occupies the lower two floors.

The name Taco Taco immediately makes me think of a food truck on Venice Beach in LA. That’s a good thing. LA beach tacos are some of the finest in America. I didn’t have quite as high expectations for the Dublin version.

One of the reasons I was hesitant to put my expectations above “we’ll see” is because the menu is massive. It’s not just tacos. In fact, it’s not even just Mexican food. The menu includes items such as Poutine, the famous Québecois hang over cure of fries smothered in cheese curd and gravy, and Fried Chicken and Waffles, a dish hailing from America’s Deep South.

I am a fan of both Poutine and Chicken and Waffles having had the good fortune to eat both in their native lands. Having them on this menu, however, seemed like something of a food nightmare. There are lots of Mexican food establishments in Dublin, so perhaps the owners/chefs wanted to stick a few unexpected items on their menu. Like an assortment of burgers. I’m just not sure that was the right way to go.

Needless to say, C and I did not order the Poutine or the Chicken and Waffles or a burger. We stuck to Tacos. Because if Taco Taco can’t do tacos right, what’s the point?

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Fish

I ordered the fish tacos (a perennial fav of mine) and C had the chicken. Both came with sweet potato fries. I am a sweet potato fries fan, and these were good, but with tacos? That was unexpected. And heavy. A bit too heavy. Dublin restaurants seem to throw sweet potato fries on menus almost as often as the avocado gets a starring role.

The tacos came as a threesome of corn tortillas (extra points! Tacos should always be on corn tortillas) heaped with veg and fish/chicken. There was coriander/cilantro, lime wedges, spicy sauce and the veg was befitting each of our individual protein choices. They were tasty, and the portion seemed fair.

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Chicken. I swear it’s in there. 

We ordered guacamole and chips because any Mexican restaurant can be and should be judged on it’s guac. This guac. was fine. It was nothing special. And there wasn’t a lot of it. But that’s a classic move and I won’t deduct points for that quantity.

C had a margarita and I was jealous. It was very tasty, and I the lime salted rim was a nice touch.

The room is dark and the music is thrumming. The staff is wearing skinny jeans and hoodies which can make them hard to distinguish from the customers. Food is served on plates that look like they’ve been rescued from a Chinese restaurant which is both amusing and totally disconcerting. It’s full of people in their late 20s to early 30s out with groups of friends or on dates. It’s not a family place, and it’s not really a place I’ll bring parents or family friends for a nice Dublin dinner. For my money, there are plenty of better options around town.

Yes, the food is good, the margarita is tasty, the guacamole is fine. But the bill came to just over forty euro per person which seems like too much for  what we got. Especially considering there was only one margarita between us and not quite enough guacamole to make us feel loved. If I am spending that kind of cash, I want to go to a place where it feels a bit more special, where the service is a bit more on point and the music isn’t quite so loud. And where the restaurant has a clearer idea of what exactly it is. Taco Taco is suffering a bit of personality failure. But if you’re feeling flush, want a classic ‘rita and some tacos, Taco Taco is your new City Centre joint.

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Taco Taco

Meet Me In The Morning! Or Afternoon!

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Meet Me in the Morning is a new café just off Camden Street. It is so new  that when I was there decaf coffee wasn’t an option. Neither was herbal tea. I was assured, however, that non-caffeine drinkers will have some options very soon. They’re still getting supplies in.

I was offered, in the most polite way possible, either of the two coffee bean options they do have, complete with a description about why they are distinct and delicious. I myself was too polite to interrupt this monologue knowing I would just order a tea.

The space is light and full of light wood and wild flowers. I loved the wood-topped tables. I want one for my own home. It’s comfortable and minimal. The food looks simple and delicious, and yes, don’t worry, there is avocado on this menu. Eggs too. We are still in Dublin, after all. Salads, soups, etc all make an appearance. All the food is local and prepared on the day.

MMITM is a very nice spot just off the main drag to sit and have a bite or sip some (caffeinated. For now) warm drinks. I’d say it will be worth popping in a few times to see how the menu changes throughout the summer. Not to mention trying all the different delicious coffee beans.

 

Meet Me In The Morning! Or Afternoon!

Dolce Sicily

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This week is Italian Week! I did not set out to do that, it’s totally subconscious. I’m reading the Elena Ferrante Neapolitan books at the moment and obviously it’s having an effect.

Dolce Sicily occupies the location once inhabited by Staple Foods, before their move to Grattan Street. Specifically, you’ll find it in Crow Bar in Temple Bar, and much of the furniture and decor is the same as when it was Staple Foods.

The issue with this space is the fact that it smells a bit like a nightclub. It’s got that “nightclub in the daytime” stench that no amount of Italian food can hide. Staple Foods had the same issue.

The majority of the menu belongs to paninis and salads. Perfect quick lunch fair. The paninis are slightly outside of the “normal” parma ham and mozzarella and include items like smoked kippers and egg, or sun-dried tomato and anchovy pesto. There are a variety of breads to choose from in case you are anti-ciabatta. However, if you are really anti-ciabatta there are other non-Italian delis and cafés to visit in Dublin, so maybe try those first?

The cake list is impressive and many of the offerings sit proudly on the bar near the coffee maker. They also sit next to the beer taps. Again, the Pistachio Nutella cake might be more appetizing if you weren’t also forced to wonder if you might like a pint of Tiger beer.

The bar vibe did not stop many people from enjoying lunch, coffees and cakes. In fact, the majority of the clientele was, in fact, Italian. That is always a good sign. The staff is also all Italian. The food is tasty. I hope that all of those big pluses keep Dolce Sicily alive despite the stale beer smell.

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Dolce Sicily