We have never been to Ireland, despite the proximity to Boston...We had a great time last week and the food was surprisingly good! Acquaintances had warned us about the food (overcooked meat and veggies) but we're more prepared than they, I guess. We like to do some research!
Started off in Zurich last Saturday for an overnight layover. Had buffet lunch at vegetarian stalwart Hiltl - fantastic for this pescatarian but mostly veg-head. It was big, hopping and cheerful. I filled up on Indian curries...A theme of this trip, though, was I wanted a bit more heat and spice. Still, not complaining! B grabbed one brat at Sternan's. Beer, wine, not very good french fries, but we were happy - the weather was glorious! Great way to end our first day of vacation.
Most of our breakfasts were in our B&Bs....they all hit the spot! Really over-the-top in terms of quantity (bread baskets, muesli, cereals, yogurts, fruits, then comes the hot breakfast part...oy!). I describe here only interesting meals.
Dublin - weather was glorious almost the whole time we were there!
-Lunch at Winding Stair. Soup and bread brown is so very soothing, and this will be something I order over and over again during the course of the week - it is always filling and nice. I order haddock, unknowingly, it is fish and chips, but a really delicious, happy accident. (I just expected a different preparation.) Beautiful fish. B gets the lamb Sunday roast...yum he says! There's a table of motorcyclists, a big table of one family supping together...love this place. Too full for dinner...
-Late breakfast/early lunch at Soup Dragon...The curry soup with rice hits the spot for me (I love soup for b'fast). B has the porridge with honey and small sweet Maine-like blueberries and a scone. Good coffee, lots of sun, cute space, great music.
-Lunch at Green 19 - Tofu curry for me (good, but again, I want more heat!), B has the burrito which is filled with bean chili. He likes it!
-Lunch at Ard Bia at Nimmos was probably my favorite of the trip. What a fab little spot! Veggie soup and the dal curry for me, a fantastic open-faced crab sandwich for B. The soundtrack is great - I hear one of my fave Supergrass songs! YAY!
-Doolin was an interesting town...rather manufactured. We hadn't planned on staying here but that's what happened. B'fast at Chervil is delicious. Good scones, brown bread, local cheeses, yogurt, nuts, scrambled eggs and smoked salmon for B.
-John Benny in Dingle seems to be suffering from Lonely Planet-induced success....We were both disappointed by the crowds and the lack of charm. The sea trout was pretty good, nice mashed, yucky cafeteria-style veggies. We should have tried Global Village or Out of the Blue. B'fast at Bambury's is good.
-O'Carroll's Beach Bar ("Ireland's only beachside bar!") in Caherdaniel was a guilty pleasure. We hadn't planned on stopping in this town, but the vistas were glorious...watching the pea soup fog roll in and blanket the entire countryside was a treat! The food is in HUGE quantity and it's quite good, too. My mild and soothing veggie soup and bread and 1/2 dozen oysters hit the spot. The local oysters were clean and fresh...less briny than most I have tasted back home in the States. B's seafood chowder is VERY rich - he scarfs it down. And his open-faced seafood sandwich made with brown bread (1/2 shrimp, 1/2 smoked salmon) is overflowing with seafood. The shrimp were fantastic - reminding me of the small Maine sweet shrimp that makes a short appearance once a year. We then head to Blind Piper for a terrific local pub experience (we tried to make it there for dinner, but we were going to cut it close for the kitchen closing and we were starving, so O'Carroll's it was since we were staying nearby). I immediately fell in love with that place. If we ever go back, I'll head straight there for a meal.
-Pay As You Please pizza in tourist-ridden Killarney was the big surprise of the trip. We initially sat down at some pub, found out that they didn't serve food, and were immediately directed by both the bartender and the few local patrons sitting at the bar to this place. OMG. Talk about love at first sight. You really pay what you think the meal was worth. We get a 10 euro ($13 USD) bottle of Tempranillo that you pay for separately from the food, Bob Dylan on the sound system, cute and earnest guys waiting and cooking, outdoor patio and a cool industrial but cozy open air interior, propaganda posters on the wall....sigh. An asparagus salad is well-composed, fresh, and lovely. Tomato mozzarella pizza is not the best we've ever had, but it's lovingly made with a decent crust. We tell our waiter this place could never exist in the States...they've been open for 17 months and it's been a good run thus far. For the most part, people are not taking advantage of the pay-as-you-please system. We stay for quite some time, loving the music, vibe and free WiFi. We stuff the "donation" box on our way out.
-Smokehouse in Killarney. Once again, great music (it seems one can really tell a place by the music they play!). Once again, delicious veggie soup and bread to start. My veggie couscous cooked in a tagine had so many wonderful flavors - a tiny bit sweet from golden raisins and nuts (I usually veer away from sweet entrees) and roasted veggies. B's burger is not so good. It's overcooked and too lean - no juiciness whatsoever.
-Back in Dublin for our last night...Against the Grain is another nice meal! My chickpea curry is exactly the type of food I crave in a pub and B's Moroccan chicken sandwich hits the spot for him. The accompanying chunky potato wedges are delicious. The housemade (?) hot sauce is fantastic on them and in the curry. Lots of craft beers - he gets O'Hara's amd then Galway Full Sail Ale. Yum.
-Guinness at Pavillion Bar at Trinity U, overlooking the cricket was a real treat. 70F and full-on sun...what a glorious experience!
-Somehow we end up at Black Sheep, sister bar to Against the Grain. Same menu. We should have moved, but it was getting late. Fun space and same nice beers as at ATG. We both get the breaded fish, sweet potato salad and chunky chips...guess we were both craving fish and chips. Fish was ok - it was a bit too wet.
Thanks Ireland (and Zurich) - we had a great time!