Ok, my phone’s weather app tells me we are in for another five (at least! FIVE!) days of rain here in Dublin. It’s starting to feel oppressive. I wrote this years ago and I feel like it needs to be mentioned again: Galoshes are where it’s at.
But. If the sun is reading this and would like to come out, please, please do. Thank you.
I had a fashion issues last weekend. I don’t often have fashion issues. I consider myself a low maintenance kind of woman. But I do love shoes. Dublin is hard on shoes in general, and these past few weeks with the wind and the rain arriving on a moments notice at least once a day, it is really hard (and rather stupid) to risk any footwear but boots.
Last Friday I planned to wear a nice pair of shoes out to meet my friends for a glass of wine. I was taking the bus into town, which allows higher heels and more delicate shoes to be a part of the evening. But as I was leaving the house, a little black rain cloud descended over Dublin 6 and an icy, driving rain forced me back inside. Rather than risk any time in the wind and rain in those nice…
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.
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.
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.
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. ‘
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.
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.
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.
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!
I am back in the Land of My People for the rest of August. It is hot, sunny, and those old familiar feelings of sweat slowly dripping down the back of my legs as I wait for a subway and the smell of hot garbage along the streets of The Big Apple are making me feel right at home.
I will be heading to my “home” home this weekend where there is far less concrete, far fewer boats on buildings and more mosquitos.
I will try to write occasionally on these “pages” but it will be more of a holiday month, for those who are kindly following this blog.
It is not quite 8am, the temperature is a cozy 22C and I am off for an iced coffee. With lots of ice.
One of our favorite stories from a local pub last summer came from a pub in Kinvara, Co. Galway. A great friend of ours works behind the bar. A father and son come up to the bar after lunch. The son says “Can I have a pink snack please.” The father looks stricken, turns to his son and says, “say it right! Ask again.” The son, a bit sheepishly, says, “Can I have a pink schnack please?”
You know you are in the West of Ireland when “s”s turn into “sh”s in words.
With two good friends, C and I headed off to visit more good friends in Athenry last week. We are spoiled for good friends. Speaking of spoiled, all of us has jobs that allow us to be free mid-week, so we took advantage not only of our easy work schedules, but also of the less crowded roads and beaches down the Wild Atlantic Way.
We had a few passing showers (it is Ireland after all), but for most of the day Mother Nature was on our side. And glorious she was!
When the sun shines anywhere in Ireland, it is one of the best places in the world. There is certainly something magical and mystical and mysterious about The Burren. The granite rocks change color in the different light. At times it looks like giant elephants lying down; at other times it takes on a full pink Alpine glow.
The Cliffs of Moher look exactly like what you would expect, but being that close to the layers of rock, hearing the waves crashing below, and feeling the strong wind pushing directly up the cliffs from the sea are all things a postcard can’t capture.
I jumped in the sea at Liscannor, Co. Clare. Liscannor has my favorite kind of sea-swimming situation: flat rocks that warm in the sun that you can jump off into the sea. I am not a fan of sand or walking into the water. I like a sand-free plunge.
In Liscannor, the tide was coming in, the water was so clear and cold but felt fantastic. At 6pm the sun was still warm enough and high enough in the sky to warm us right up again.
As we drove back towards Athenry from Clare–after a wonderful dinner at Vaughn’s (watch this space!)–we were treated to the most beautiful sunset over the Atlantic. And just when we thought Mother Nature had treated us as much as she could for the day, we turned a corner and this incredible, massive, baby pink moon sat swollen and glowing the horizon. I’ve never seen a moon that big or pink. We all screamed. With Joy. No photo could do it justice.
I love Dublin, but I am delighted to live in a country where all these wonders are a mere two hour drive away.
If I see one more converted space with lots of light, cleaned up and decorated with naked light bulbs and hard wood floors, wooden tables with mis-matched chairs, and plenty of angled hair cuts, I might scream.
Dublin cafés–or the “cool” ones anyway–all have the same aesthetic. Dublin has found it’s look. The problem is that it’s the same look as cool cafés in Paris, Berlin or Amsterdam*. When I was first living in Ireland in 2001, the best thing you could say about a bar or restaurant was that it “is just like New York!” That compliment still works (see my post here), but now Dublin bar/café/restaurant design has settled into this one look.
Blas Café has opened on Kings Inn Street, a section of North Dublin I would not have ventured to before. It is just behind the Cineworld complex, and in the no-mans-land before you get up to Phibsboro. The café is part of The Chocolate Factory, a collective of art studios and other spaces.
The building is old and has it’s huge factory windows. The windows don’t keep the cold out much, but they let in lots of light and I like the look of them. The café occupies most of the ground floor; it is a sprawling space with high ceilings and cement blocks holding it up. There is a drum set in one corner and couches at one end. There are men with large glasses and clever facial hair at computers and girls with Louise Brooks haircuts. Certainly the “locals” of this area were not present in the café.
The menu doesn’t hold anything new or particularly interesting: sandwiches, three salads, a soup and a “bowl of the day”. I had the soup and it was very good. All my dates had sandwiches and were happy. Beverages include the necessary cold press juices, Roasted Brown coffee and Wall and Keogh teas. The treats are the same ones they serve at Grove Road in Rathmines and Roasted Brown in Filmbase. That doesn’t mean they are not totally delicious, they are, and the coffee and tea is good. It’s just not different.
I suppose if something is working–stripped floors, naked bulbs, Roasted Brown Coffee–why change? But it would be nice to have different cafés around town feel and look different. If I had someone visiting from out of town, I would not be able to visit Fumbally, Blas, Grove Road, or Roasted Brown all in the same weekend. They all serve the same food and have the same aesthetic.
But, all of those places are good! You can get good tea and coffee and a decent (sometimes fantastic) sandwich. So I’m not saying I’m bored, but I’m just kind of over the look of it; and I am clearly aware that this all falls happily into the “first world problems” category.
For the past year I have been co-hosting a weekly radio podcast with my good friend and improv group-mate, Mark Cantan. Late last year we switched the format to be a game that we play with a different guest each week. It’s called Trivial Cahoots, and we are live on Radiomade.ie every other Wednesday from 1-2pm. If you can’t listen live, you can find the podcast link here!: http://www.radiomade.ie/podcasts/220
We also record a podcast in our “off week” which you can find here: http://feeds.feedburner.com/TheGoosePodcast Same game, different guests.
It’s all a bit of fun. Let me know if you’d like to play!
Happy Friday the 13th and Valentine’s Day weekend.