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

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

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