Easter, PM

May 24th, 2017 by glenemy

After a wet, wet, walk to Connolly Station in Dublin — it was pouring rain, we walked because the post-parade traffic was absolute gridlock, and Google Maps failed miserably and directed us to the employee parking lot instead of the station entrance — we settled into train life and headed north to Belfast. Well, after kicking people out of our reserved seats, because apparently attendants were telling people to sit anywhere without a name, totally ignoring the fact that you can opt to have your ticket number instead of your name indicate your seat.

Belfast Central Station was just a short distance from the hotel, so we walked over and checked in.

We had a great view from our room, and the weather had cleared up.

One of the perks with our reservation at the Hilton Belfast was access to the Executive Lounge, with free drinks, newspapers, wi-fi, breakfast, and happy hour canapés every evening.

It was a nice surprise and a great bonus — a relaxing place to hang out and recharge between events.

The clouds started rolling through again, but the sunny spells held off any rain.

You could see Black Mountain towering over the city from our room as well, and just make out the different messages that appeared each morning. They’re still pretty controversial, a vestige of the city not too many years ago. The one in the photo above reads “Honour Ireland’s Dead.”

It was Easter, so most places closed early, but there were a few open until 10pm, including the beautiful hotel bar at Malmaison just down the street. It’s close to the waterfront, and the prices are reasonable, so we may try out the hotel next time.

The food was quality as well: upgraded pub food like the Asian-inspired wings and tempura battered onion rings.

They also had an inventive cocktail program, something I didn’t expect to see. The whiskey sour above was really interesting.

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A glance and a nod, and what must come to be

March 21st, 2017 by glenemy

The only time I ever met Martin McGuinness, if you want to call a quick glance and nod “meeting” someone, was at a NORAID Prisoners’ Wives fundraiser in San Francisco, a few years before the Good Friday Agreement. They gave him the key to the city, he gave a predictably good speech to a predictably supportive crowd, and that was that. I remember feeling, then, that this was a special time in history, and this was a special human being, and his vision of what the future could hold might maybe, just maybe, actually come to be. It’s heartbreaking to think that he never witnessed a free and united Ireland before he passed, but when I look back at that glance and nod some twenty years ago, I know in my heart that I’m wrong. He did see it, and he did feel it, well before almost anyone even believed it was possible. It’s up to us, now. If we believe in ourselves as much as he believed we should, and work even harder, we can make the future he saw so many years ago a reality in our lifetime.

Requiescat in pace.

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Steak (R)Evolution

A friend of mine (tag yourself if you like, I won’t compromise your confidentiality) recently recommended a film called STEAK (R)EVOLUTION that those of us in North America (at least) can watch on Netflix. It’s a quirky documentary constructed around the premise of finding the world’s best steak. It’s not a life-changing film, suffers from a bit too measured pace at times, as well as the occasional slip into vanity, but it is interesting and presents a picture of quality over quantity, small producers, the importance of humane treatment of livestock to quality, and the difference in beef preferences around the world.

It even has an interview with an equally intoxicated and arrogant Brooklyn (where else?) butcher ranting about the evils of mass production and how we all just better get used to his vision of the future, all while casually tossing back a can of Coors, before informing the viewer that he and his friends all have “college” degrees. But I digress …

It begins with a restaurant that sadly I have yet to visit: Peter Luger Steak House. Luger isn’t known for reasonably healthy portions of lean meat, that’s for sure, but the film does justice to their focus on the quality of the beef and the dry-aging process. Strangely, I don’t recall a mention of Chicago, despite its unique steakhouse culture and the history of the Union Stock Yards.

Butcher Shop in Paris, France

As the film progresses, there’s plenty of flim-flam (cows prefer Mozart), but also a serious treatment of different breeds of cows. One of the breeds they focused on was the Aubrac, a high quality beef cattle originating in France, but now available world-wide, including the US. As it happens, this brought back some fond memories of eating it both raw and cooked at a restaurant in Paris that specializes in the breed: La Maison de L’Aubrac. Video screens showing Aubrac cows out to pasture played in the dining room, inspiring thoughts of whether one of the cows shown on the screen also happened to be on the plate in front of you. That’s how it works, really, though.

Remembering La Maison brought up some other great restaurants I’ve had quality beef at: huge feasts at Carnevino and Craftsteak in Las Vegas, great steaks at Marco Pierre White and Fade Street Social in Dublin, Ireland, and variants of surf and turf from Porter & Rye  and Cail Bruich in Glasgow, Scotland. Even now, though, I couldn’t pick a favorite among them.

I guess I better get that reservation at Peter Luger sorted …

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Easter, AM

img_0220Easter Sunday started with a full breakfast at Searson’s, before we took a walk down the Grand Canal on the way to the official state parade commemorating the centenary of the Easter Rising. First stop, though, was a quick literary side trip over to Raglan Road.

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img_0215-1 img_0215Then it was down the canal and up to the parade.

imgp1736 imgp1739 imgp1740 imgp1746 imgp1748imgp1750 imgp1755 img_0232The Barge was closed and we still had a couple hours before our reservation at Marco Pierre White, so we walked around Dublin a bit.

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Not exactly what it seems … http://ibcenglish.com/

imgp1742 imgp1756 imgp1761 imgp1764 imgp1768 imgp1770We met S and MD at MPW for lunch, and I talked about statistics, to everyone’s fascination I’m sure.

imgp1762 imgp1771After lunch it was back to the apartment to pick up our gear, then a long walk (post-parade traffic was insane) through the rain to get to the train station and head up to Belfast.

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Holy Saturday, PM

So what’s the point of staying in a place with a huge kitchen if you don’t use it? We took a break from restaurants and pubs Saturday night and I made chicken with roasted broccoli, mushrooms, and garlic (and of course bread, cheese, decent butter, and wine).

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It was Italian night, apparently.

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Sadly, these models aren’t available here from what I can tell, unless you want to bring it over yourself.

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Organize your workspace before you even start. No, these aren’t my tools, this is what was there.

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I’m a big “no truss” fan these days, and I haven’t noticed a difference in the finished product. Coat with olive oil, season heavily with salt and pepper, stuff and tuck with rosemary and thyme, and then gas 7 (425F) for about an hour (check your internal thigh temperature, of course). Let it rest for at least half an hour.

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I would never typically cook without shoes, but this wasn’t my place and the shoes were dirty, so I threw caution to the wind.

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Dress the veg with salt, pepper, chili flakes, and olive oil. Start these about half and hour after the chicken goes in, at gas 4 (350F). Chop off the top of the garlic heads and drizzle some olive oil over them before wrapping in foil.

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They had a pretty cool atmosphere in the dining room.

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Holy Saturday, AM

Saturday morning’s first stop: the GPO, where Patrick Pearse read the Proclamation of the Irish Republic, kicking off the Easter Rising.

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Inside the GPO

Inside the GPO

O'Connell Street sidewalk

O’Connell Street from inside the GPO

We walked around Dublin a bit, before heading to the National Museum to see a 1916 exhibit.

An Túr Solais, AKA The Spire, on the former site of Nelson's Pillar

An Túr Solais, AKA The Spire, on the former site of Nelson’s Pillar

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The Snug in Temple Bar

The Snug in Temple Bar

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Proclaiming a Republic exhibition at the National Museum

 

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Yes, one would expect.

Yes, one would expect.

This is what is called a missed opportunity. How do you close your gift shop on one of the busiest days of all time?

This is what is called a missed opportunity. How do you close your gift shop on one of the busiest days of all time?

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Good Friday, PM edition

pano

The Aviva from our seats.

Following the early dinner at Fire, the three of us (M, S, and myself) headed down to the Aviva to watch Ireland and Switzerland play a friendly. S, despite my protestations to the contrary, insisted this was clear evidence of the trip being my agenda, and not M’s. Sure, on the surface it may seem that way, at least so far, but we’ve only 36 hours in.

hats

Plenty of these were noted in the crowd of 35,000.

Us

M and I

M and S

M and S

 

 

 

 

 

 

not bad seats

We had some halfway decent seats.

Aviva halftime photo

Halftime! M, S, and G.

By the way, the Aviva was given an exception to the Good Friday alcohol ban for the game, and Ireland won 1 – 0.

Only legal here

Photographic evidence.

Saturday’s up next, bringing some history and more great food, including dinner prepared by who other than me?

And of course, I brought the world famous card for the obligatory pic. Hail Hail!

And of course, I brought the world famous card for the obligatory pic. Hail Hail!

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Good Friday

Someone had a rough night

How drunk do you have to be to lose your damn teeth?

One thing you should know about Good Friday in Ireland: it’s dry, as in the pubs are shut and you can’t buy alcohol at an off-licence. Well, that’s not strictly true, as there are some exemptions, but in general you’re out of luck unless you’re staying in a hotel or at the races. The night before is typically pretty raucous, and people lose track of the strangest things. Unsurprisingly, this was across the street from Copper Face Jacks.

The morning agenda was straightforward: wander around Dublin a bit before heading out to Dundrum Town Centre to pick up groceries. Dundrum has a fantastic Nyhan Brothers Butchers and a Tesco for the essentials. Given the potential for the Luas strike to begin early, and my planning to cook dinner on Saturday, we thought it best to pick up supplies ASAP.

We met up with S for dinner at Fire, the fancy restaurant next to the Lord Mayor of Dublin’s residence. Since it was Good Friday, there were no cocktails, but they did a decent job with some special mocktails, and had a couple alcohol free wines that were much less like grape juice than I anticipated. Fire is an absolutely stunning space, and the food is top notch.

 

canal

An Chanáil Mhór

when you just gotta get it out

Truer words were never spray-painted.

Gracie Barra

Gracie Barra in Dub?

Fire

Fire pass

Fire

FISH CAKE!

Fire

Potato croquette with goat cheese and beets


Fire

Fire interior

shteak and spuds

Shteak and Spuds

Fire dessert

Cheesecakey thing

Fire cheese

How I do dessert.

Easter

Easter Lily

 

 

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Grilling with R

R decided to stream some cooking tonight. It’s probably the most honest depiction of what cooking at home is like I’ve seen.

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Off to Dublin

settling inWe left New York for Dublin Wednesday night, March 23rd, and arrived the next morning around 9am local time. I love the overnight flights; even though you’re not even in the air for 6 hours, you arrive in daylight, which perks you up enough to make it through lunch. After an afternoon nap, you’re wide awake and rested, and it feels like the right time of day.

I really only had one complaint about the flight: my screen kept rebooting so I couldn’t watch a film or listen to music. It’s not a big deal, since I’m typically armed with an iPad, Kindle, and Audible. I did learn that the Aer Lingus seatback entertainment screens run Linux, though.
reboot

 

 

But back to the plan. After arriving in Dublin, we headed to the apartment, dug the keys out from under the bin, and let ourselves in.

Welcome

 

 

One of the nicer features of the place, believe it or not, is the fireplace underneath the big flatscreen. OK, so it’s not an actual fire, it’s a high def video of fire reflected onto a glass screen. It even has crackling and popping sounds.Fire!

So, after unpacking, it was time to head out to lunch. Searson’s of Baggot Street, a pub mentioned in Patrick Kavanagh’s work (it seems he spent some time there drinking with Brendan Behan, and practically lived there in the 40’s and 50’s), was close, and casual was the mood of the day.

Searson's

Searson’s uses a bread originating in Waterford called the “blaa” — a soft, floury yeast bread. Searson’s developed the “blaaguette” for one of their sandwiches (chicken pesto); it’s essentially a blaa with a crunchier exterior shaped more like a traditional baguette.

sandwich on blaa (Google it)

Chicken Pesto “Blaaguette”

bisque and prawns with marie rose sauce

King prawn sandwich with Marie Rose sauce and bisque

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After lunch and an afternoon nap, it was a walk around Ballsbridge with a quick stop at Baggot Street Wines for a growler from their home brew, some wine for tomorrow, and some local craft beer for dinner.

chile stout

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