Thursday, July 25, 2013

Ireland 2013: Eating Away from Home

While Tim attended the Linaro Connect 2013 Conference in Dublin, the kids (Miriam and Brahms) and I went around the city just being tourists.  Sight-seeing, shopping, eating and just observing what people did.  Dublin is a very cosmopolitan city that thrives on tourism.  Everything significant catered to tourists.  Shops that sell t-shirts, mugs, tea towels with green-shamrock prints, mugs and sweatshirts with Guinness labels, Ireland baseball caps (as if they played baseball in Ireland), cheap jewelry pieces that bear the markings found in one of the many ruined monuments, and little tiny woolen-sheep toys are everywhere.  But I was looking for something Irish - something that the nationals like more than what tourists like.   

Without prior information, the only way to tell that a restaurant is good is the busyness of the place.  People always swarm around places that serve good food at a reasonable price. That was the basis of our choice of places to eat.  When it comes to eating it appears that my kids and I are more adventurous when their father is not with us.  Tim always stick to those that are "proven and tried" but we are more willing to discover new ones.  It is those that we try for the first time that will linger in our memories and which will always give depth to the experience of a given culture.  Last year when we went to Taipei, my kids and I found this family-run restaurant in a corner of a street.  We could not read the menu nor the people in the restaurant understood English but we ordered based on the pictures of food on the wall.  It turned out we had the best food and cultural experience there.  We will always remember how the owners of the restaurant had us sit next to the table where they were eating.  

During our time in Dublin one of the places we tried is Zaytoon, a Persian restaurant located on Parliament Street.  The food we had brought back memories of Turkey.  On another night, we had Greek food at Corfu Greek Restaurant.  This was recommended by my former hall mate, Thomae Kakouli-Duarte.  The Kleftiko - lamb that was wrapped in foil was so tender and delicious.  Brahms had Greek Burger -Bifteki, Miriam tried the Souvlaki chicken kabobs while Tim had a Mixed Grilled Platter.  It was like experiencing Greece in Ireland!

Since we stayed in a self-catering apartment we had the opportunity to try what Dublin folks eat on a regular basis.  Lewis tradition says that the grocery store tells a lot about a certain culture. I cannot name a country that we've visited where we did not go to the local grocery store.  We had a several types of the Irish sausages made of real Irish beef.  I was tempted to buy blood pudding but I resisted, maintaining the sanity of my family.  We deliberately chose those that occupied large spaces on the shelves and are not common in US grocery stores.  Between restaurant food and those we prepared, we ate a lot of lamb.  

The kids never got tired of Fish and Chips. On the tour to the Cliffs of Moher, they both had Fish and Chips (for the last time on this trip) at the Monks Seafood and Restaurant Bar.  Tim and I both had a bowl of their famous Fish Chowder with freshly baked bread.  It might sound weird to most people but I had to have some Irish oysters.  They are really good.  

Every night in Dublin, we watched Murdoch Mysteries while we ate Jaffa Cakes.  Tim and I drank more tea than coffee although every morning Tim would walk to the place called "The Art of Coffee" to buy us some latte.  My coffee experience in Ireland made me appreciate our own espresso maker at home.  During the course of the week, the kids and I, when we were feeling tired of the food we were eating, went back to something familiar to remind us of home - Burger King!  In Limerick, we tried the Irish version of McDonald's which is the Super Mac.  The significant difference is fried chicken.  Not only do they serve hamburgers made of Irish beef, they also have Irish fried chicken served with lots and lots of chips (French fries).

When it comes to sweets, there was always a new type of cookie to try.  We were even pleasantly surprised to find this British delicacy (which we love) so common in the grocery stores.  Ice cream places that are marked by a huge ice cream cone are prevalent in Ireland - it was hard to miss their existence. It was comforting to see the sign at the end of every tour we took.  There was even one at the Hill of Tara!  We also sampled Tesco's Tiramisu and Creme Brulee making some of evenings in Limerick memorable.  When we traveled to Adare, we got fancy desserts at the Adare Manor.

Almost every time you say Ireland, people think of beer.  Unfortunately, we are not a beer-drinking family.  Tim, along with all the participants of the conference, even had a tour of the Guinness Storehouse where they had a dinner.  But he skipped his pint.  :)

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