Assassination Custard

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Firstly, Happy 2017.

Secondly, I would like to apologize for not having gone to and written about Assassination Custard until now. My lack of knowledge about what might be the cutest, most intensely delicious lunch spot in Dublin shocks me. The good news is I’ve found it.

My aunt always told me I would meet some of my best friends through my children. It’s too soon to say whether I have met any new best friends, but a few new mothers in my local breastfeeding group mentioned Assassination Custard  to me and so that bodes well. These women know a good thing when they eat it. I didn’t go to Assassination Custard when it was first recommended, however. I thought I had more important things to do. I was wrong. An American friend was the one who finally made it happen for me last week.

The Little Café, as the sign on the road reads, is on a very busy, very unattractive bustling intersection in Dublin 8. Just behind St. Patricks, sandwiched between Camden Street and Clanbrassil, buses whizz by, taxis honk horns, bikers flock, and I never would stop to take in my surroundings or notice this little place. Well, I’ve learned my lesson. This little café packs a HUGE punch.

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Run by friendly, welcoming husband and wife team Ken and Gwen (I mean . . . ), it opens at 12 five days a week. It can seat a maximum, like, really maximum of twelve people at any given time. There were six when I was there and it felt tight. There are two tables, mis-matched chairs and the kitchen takes up half of the space. It’s divided from the eating area buy a coffee bar. It’s not open weekends. They do private dinners if requested. I shall be requesting.

The menu changes daily based on what Ken, the chef, has found at markets, what’s in season and what he feels like making. There were about eight items on the menu, none over eight euro. The choices were mostly vegetarian and and flavours traveled from the Middle East to India. We had homemade pickles, radicchio salad with lablah, a beet salad-type dish that was actually more of a stew (a crunchy stew?) with chickpea fritters. The latte’s we ordered to go with it all were yummy, the food was spicy , sweet, tangy, comforting and an all around revelation. HOW did I not know this was there?

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Assassination Custard

Jolin’s Vietnamese Coffee House

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I don’t get too far from the house these days and when I do manage to venture out I tend to go back to places I know I will get a good coffee/lunch/piece of cake. Imagine my delight, then, when a new place came to ME.

Ok, Jolin’s Vietnamese Coffee House did not open in my living room, but it opened up close enough to my living room that nipping out for a bowl of Pho feels like an entirely do-able adventure. Even with a four month old strapped to my chest.

Jolin’s occupies a café space on the top of Clanbrassil Street, just before the Herald’s Cross Bridge. The space has changed hands many times in the past few years. Coffee shops have never really managed to make it work. Konkaan, the excellent Indian a few doors up, is a  huge success, so I am hoping another proper restaurant will have more staying power.

I’m a Pho fan from way back. More accurately, I’m a noodle soup fan from way back, and Pho fits that bill. We didn’t know it when we set out for a crisp autumn walk a few weekends ago but Pho was EXACTLY what we were looking for for lunch that day.

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The shop has been painted colorfully and decorated with a few Vietnamese accents. The tables have Siracha and plenty of napkins on them. The menu is larger than I thought it would be, full of stir fries and rice dishes as well as the Pho. There were also spring rolls and crispy calamari; menu items you’d find on any Asian menu around Dublin.

Don’t order the spring rolls and crispy calamari or any of the items you would find on any Aisan menu in Dublin. Stick to the Pho and the stir fries and what can be made fresh in the tiny kitchen at Jolin’s. The Pho is generous, rich and full of noodles. The stir fries looked pretty good (from across the room) as well, and we could see the fresh veggies going into the dishes as we peered into the kitchen from our table.

Jolin’s is a little bit rough around the edges but I hope it will get enough business to smooth those edges out. Because we are getting deep into noodle soup weather and it would be greta if Jolin’s stayed in the ‘hood.

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Baby’s First Vietnamese Coffee
Jolin’s Vietnamese Coffee House

Herb Street Café

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Here’s a little secret for you non-Dubliners: autumn in Dublin is magical. The weather tends to be better than in the summer, the sun is still warm the air is brisk. We had a practically perfect October day over the weekend and I walked all the way down the Grand Canal to Grand Canal Dock for brunch with friends.

I didn’t know that Herb Street existed. It turns out I might be only one of a handful of Dubliners in my demographic who was not informed of it’s presence next to Ely HQ on the north side of GCD. My walk along the canal was peaceful; a few runners, some dogs and their humans, and pockets of activity at Grove Road and again at Baggot Street. But all in all it was a sleepy Saturday morning. Until I hit GCD and Herb Street. “Here are the people.”

We waited for twenty minutes for a table, but waiting in the sunshine is easier. We were seated inside, but the glass wall of the restaurant folds up on nice days which allowed for the buggy to sit outside and our happy party to feel like we were outside without being in direct sunlight.

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There was a dog bowl next to the table and hot sauce on the table. I didn’t even need to taste the food, I already liked this place. I don’t know if it’s Beyoncé’s (hot sauce) influence, but I’m ok with it. Swag. Etc.

The menu was full of classic brunch options. Most dishes are egg based if they’re not pancakes. There is the Dublin special “mexican eggs” which on this menu were “eggos mexicanos.” I am fairly certain that is a slightly racist way to pretend you don’t have Juevos Rancheros like everyone else.  I ended up ordering them–without saying “eggos mexicanos”–because they had the addition of slow cooked pork which tugged at my appetite more than Florentine’s hollandaise did.

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I was almost fully derailed in my ordering by the vision of a beautiful stack of pancakes placed on a table near us. I knew I could not do without tasting the fluffy, American-style tall stack. I hid my total Hungry Larry pancake freakout by suggesting that the table might all share a stack of pancakes? Wouldn’t that be FUN? My dining colleagues agreed without even questioning my motivation. #success.

The food arrived quickly. Mexican style eggs plus pulled pork for the ladies, and Full Irishes for the lads. I don’t know why most restaurants insist on re-naming the Full Irish other things like The House Grill, or The Big Breakfast. Call it what it is. Herb Street’s House Grill (Full Irish) arrived with a hockey puck sized black pudding. Extra points. It also had a plateau of corned beef hash. Double those extra points.

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My egg dish was very tasty and I was able to eat it with one hand while my kid ate his second breakfast of the day on me. The pancakes tasted fine but looked fantastic. They could have been tastier, and as usual the maple syrup wasn’t quite enough to satisfy my maple lovin’ buds. However, it IS pure maple syrup they are serving and the consistency of the pancakes was perfection. I would get blueberry on my next visit. I’m sure a side of bacon with those bad boys would make even the loneliest bruncher smile. Warning: if you are one person you do not need a tall stack, the small stack will be sufficient. In my opinion, sharing is caring and the tall stack is more fun.

All in all Herb Street is as good as any brunch venue closer to the centre of town. But on these golden autumnal days it might be just the thing you need to get you down to the water to enjoy the sunshine, the fresh air and some good old fashioned pancakes. ‘

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Herb Street Café

TEELINGS

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Dublin 8 has a new café that is also a distillery and is also a tourist trap.If it’s walkable and out of my house, what care I for packs of Americans in chinos and sensible walking shoes? Teelings would probably like it if I mentioned that it’s a distillery first a foremost, but it’s the café and clean baby changing facilities that has me excited.

A café that has three different sausage rolls on the menu also tickles my fancy. Sure, there are soups and three sandwich options as well as a hot pot that changes daily. There is coffee and tea and some fun soft drink options. Yes, there is whisky, but again, I was not there for that.

I will say that Teeling’s whisky is tasty. I am no whisky aficianado, so if you are, you’ll have to come and see for yourself.

I went for a sausage roll on my recent visit/esacpe from an unexpected rain shower.  (I still refer to any rain shower in Ireland as “unexpected” is simply a turn of phrase.) The space is open and modern. There was a mix of tourists and folks who work in offices locally. It was busy if not packed. There was ample room for buggy maneuvering.

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The sausage roll lacked heft, but then I’m hungrier than normal at this time in my life. In six-nine months the size of the Teeling’s sausage roll might be just right. It was, however, tasty.

Perhaps one day I will have a reason to take the Teeling’s distillery tour and form a more perfect opinion on the whisky. For now, it’s a great place to take refuge from Irish weather, change a diaper, have a coffee and check out all the different maps of Dublin tourists seem to carry these days.

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TEELINGS

Dalkey Adventuring

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Here’s what I know about Dalkey: if you’re driving, you should be in a Jaguar. As we sat on a corner eating our lunch in the sunshine I counted at least four in an hour period. That isn’t a ridiculous amount, true, but it still tipped the scales as the most common car that drove past us. So that’s the kind of place that it is. Dalkey is picturesque. There are huge flower baskets on every street light, it’s clean, it’s cute, it’s super fancy. It’s a nice stop for a “nice” lunch.

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After a trip down to the sea in Killiney, we found The Corner Note on a crossroads to sit and watch the world go by. And to eat our lunch. Inspired by our seaside adventure, C had mussels. They were delicious in a rich and tangy broth. I had a simple sandwich that was made much more exciting by the skinny sweet potato fries that came with it. The combination of the sweet potato fries in the mussel broth was actually the big win of the afternoon’s eating adventure.

I’m not going to say it was one of the best lunches of our lives, however Dalkey is a great place to walk around and to be in. It felt a little like we were on holiday; it certainly doesn’t feel like you’re near a city. And if you need some seafood or just a sandwich, the Corner Note will work. If you want to play “count the Jaguars”, even better.

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Killiney Beach Towards Bray Head
Dalkey Adventuring

Ice Cream News for the Last Weeks of Summer

School is back in session and that Labor Day in the States has come and gone. School uniforms are in and white shoes are out. Ice cream, however, needs not live by the calendar in the same manner as clothing and school supplies.

While the weather remains a bit balmy, and if the sun decides to show its face, there is no reason ice cream treats shouldn’t be enjoyed. Last week when it was still “technically” summer, and the sun and temperatures backed up the calendar, we made two trips to Dun Laoghaire’s seaside for two very different ice cream experiences.

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My Cousin Teddy at Teddy’s in May. All Teddys should get a free 99. Right?!

The classic Irish ice cream cone is the 99, and the best place to get it is Teddy’s in Dun Laoghaire. It’s simple, creamy, cool, and tastes, literally, like summer. The 99 always has a Cadbury’s flake stuck in one side and when and how a person decides to eat the flake and cone combo can tells a lot about their personality.

Queue’s for Teddy’s go up the road on most weekend afternoons, summer or not. The service is efficient and everyone comes away happy. There’s no flair. Teddy’s doesn’t need flair.

Flair is the order of the day at the newest Dun Laoghaire ice cream mecca, Scrumdiddly’s. Scrumdiddly’s also has queues out the door on most days. Allow me a digression: one of my favorite things about Irish people is their ability to eat ice cream no matter what the weather. Summer, of course, calls for it, but even on a rainy October Sunday afternoon by the sea there will be plenty of people with ice cream cones. These ice cream habits are another reason I fit in so well here.

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Irish Summer Classics: Ice Scream and Socks ‘n’ Shorts

Scrumdiddly’s is not so conveniently located for people traveling to DL in a car. Parking is harder to come by. C and I managed it on a Tuesday afternoon and though we found a spot for the car, the queue was still around the corner.

It’s more of a sweetshop than an ice cream place. The idea is that you get to put sweets of your choosing into a tub of ice cream. They are called “tubs”. It’s similar to the famous Blizzard at Dairy Queen in the States. There is nothing simple about it. You don’t come to Scrumdiddly’s for a vanilla cone.

C was sent in to do the ordering, and he felt slightly overwhelmed. He returned to me with two options: tubs of sticky sweet, gooey coldness. One was slightly coconut flavored, the other chocolate and cookies.

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There IS Ice Cream in There, I Promise

I’m nursing a baby up to eight times a day so most things taste amazing to me. I’m also an ice cream fan from way back. I mention these facts because I might not be the best judge of quality at the moment. Both tubs of goodness were tasty, to be sure, but both were a bit over-the-top. After a few bites both C and I felt we would have been happier with just a 99 from down the road. What it came down to (C noticed this, I did not, could not in my state, but I do agree) is the fact that the quality of the ice cream at Scrumdiddly’s does not come close to Teddy’s. But you don’t go to Scrumdiddly’s for the ice cream. You go for the ability to personalize your ice cream with your favorite sweets and creative culinary panache.

There is absolutely a place for both of these ice cream venues. Some days you feel like a simple 99, other days you need to add cookies, gummies, and fudge sauce. If you find yourself needing both on one day? It’s about a ten minute walk along the sea wall from one venue to the other. So treat yourself!

Ice Cream News for the Last Weeks of Summer

New House Cocktail. Or Mom-Tail.

IMAG6741_1I won’t fight in anymore. I will bore you with more new mom discoveries. This discovery will make anyone’s late summer afternoon or evening happier, whether you are a new mom or not. I promise.

I’m a gin lover from way back. Summer evenings at my grandparents’s house in Connecticut smelled like Ritz crackers, white cheddar cheese, and gin and tonic. Drinking a gin and tonic makes me feel warmer and sunnier even here in Dublin. The combination is one I rarely enjoy from October-May because it’s too summery. I’m a seasonal drinker. I like to look forward to a summer beverage.

Gin has obviously been off menu all summer for me this year. I am not overly strict with wine or beer intake, but I stayed away from the hard stuff. I miss gin. I miss it more now that the sun is out and the summer days are fading. The desire for gin has nothing to do with my lack of sleep. Then again, I wouldn’t swear to that.

I found some tonic in the ‘fridge left over from a house party a few weeks ago. I had two spare limes and one lemon that had seen better days. Waste not, want not. I had also just picked up one of those annoying mint pots from Lidl. Why can’t they sell mint as sprigs and not the full plant? I had all the pieces of a perfect gin and tonic puzzle.

However, I still feel that a full cocktail while I’m breastfeeding might be a bridge too far. So I challenged myself to see if I could trick myself into imagining that I was enjoying a delicious late summer gin and tonic.

I succeeded, and I didn’t even need to use my imagination that much. My new gin-free house cocktail is delicious. It’s too simple. Make one for yourself this afternoon!

MOM’S HOUSE COCKTAIL

Serves 1

Half a Lime, sliced in two.

Quarter of a Lemon.

Fresh Mint

Tonic

Ice

-Step One: squeeze all citrus and drop in a tall glass.

-Step Two: add mint

-Step Three: Muddle mint and citrus. A lot.

-Step Four: Pour tonic over. Muddle some more.

-Step Five: Add ice. And a straw if you’re feeling fancy.

ENJOY! Happy end of summer.

 

 

 

 

New House Cocktail. Or Mom-Tail.