Category Archives: soup

Best bites – Ireland, 2019

People say all kinds of negative things about Irish food – it’s bland or all fried or what in God’s name is black pudding?, but I’m here to tell you there is some excellent food to be had on the Emerald Isle. While my first day of eating was a disaster with two subpar meals, it’s all been good since then. Here’s a round up of my favorite places to get a good quality meal.

Dublin proper

Vintage Kitchen. Apologies in advance for not having photos of my fantastic dinner, but it’s hard to snap pics when your hands are full of wine glasses! This established and highly regarded spot, near Tara Station, is a tough table to get and had been booked a full 6 months prior to our Saturday night reservation. My lamb shank was divine, but following the starter course of a potato gratin with crab (served in an adorable mini copper skillet), I was hopeless to finish it. This place rocks.

Italian food in Ireland can be dodgy, but Ciao Bella Roma, excruciatingly slow service aside, does a good job with a fairly broad menu. Our table of five enjoyed an array of items including pizza, a calzone, three pasta variations and a couple of salads and everything was surprisingly tasty. Was my cacio e pepe as memorable as what I had in Rome? No, but it was really good and the portion was tremendous. Desserts and a cappuccino rounded out the meal and all were thoroughly enjoyed.

Searsons Pub – This large, popular pub serves a terrific pint as well as a full menu of delights. I had the seafood chowder and found it excellent, chocked with fresh fish and a touch of cream. Very nice and social spot.

Outside of Dublin

Tranquil Tearooms in Deansgrange Cemetery. After a drenching walk trying to locate my father’s resting spot, this cafe was like a welcome mirage promising warmth and coziness. I had no expectation for the high quality of the offerings and I only wish I could have justified ordering a slice of any of the cakes on display, following my sweet potato soup with a slice of brown bread. Wholesome, fresh and precisely what my chilled self needed prior to making my way back outside again on a damp day.

Octopussy’s in Howth. Get on the Dart to Howth and make your way to this small tapas place. If you’re lucky, they’ll find a table to tuck you into, but if you need to wait for availability (reservations not taken), settle in. It’s worth waiting for oysters like the 1/2 dozen I enjoyed. Rounds things out with another plate or two – I went with the scallops and patatas brava. Solid selections. Bonus – great music and very capable service.

Galway

Quay Street Kitchen on the lower part of Quay Street, is a wonderful spot to enjoy a meal while watching the crowds make their way up and down the busy pedestrian street. This was probably my favorite chowder of the trip and it’ll be hard for anyone to exceed the quality and freshness of the ingredients prepared with a respectful and light hand. Absolutely delicious and served with warmth and hospitality.

Oslo Bar  in Salthill, luckily for me just a few minutes walk from my Airbnb, is a place that takes it beers quite seriously. Fortunately, their menu rises to the occasion and I thoroughly enjoyed lunch of broccoli salad with a side of the best polenta fries I’ve ever had. The service was a bit distant, but the food hit the mark.

Cava Bodega, a wine bar and tapas spot, made my last evening in Galway a sensory delight. After a bit of negotiating between sitting indoors and out, my server found me a lovely high top table and I settled myself indoors with a view of the street and dining room. My glass of cava came from a fresh bottle and the anchovies with peppers paired beautifully with the dry bubbles. I enjoyed the evening’s special preparation of local mussels in white wine and garlic and despite the loudness of the nearby Americans, I thoroughly enjoyed my time in this well lit and cozy nook slightly off Quay Street. Find it.

Maybe you have some recommendations to add to my certainly incomplete list?

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Filed under Dinner, drinking, Eating, Europe, favorites, Food, ideas, Ireland, Recommendations, Restaurants, soup, Spring, travel, vacation, Wine

More carbs, please

I don’t know what it is, but I can’t stop eating. Carbs are my thing and recently I have been going to town cooking, and eating, pasta. It’s a little too soon to be officially “carb loading” for either of the 1/2 marathons for which I’ve already registered, so I have no excuse other than it tastes good. And I like it.

Last week, I made a spicy bolognese sauce that I thought was delicious, albeit a little meaty. I will definitely riff on that recipe in the future because it was hearty, simple and really easy to put together in a single pan. I love that!

Over the weekend I made a lentil and butternut squash soup that ticked all my current boxes – lentils and orange vegetables. Again, the list of ingredients was reasonable and the prep practically effortless, an ideal combination of circumstances when one is planning lunches for the week. I mean, come on, how great is it to pull out a pint of homemade soup for lunch on a cold day? With a little forethought, you could be living the high lunch life

The more labor intensive culinary project of the weekend turned out to be gnudi. Have you had them before? I think the first ones I ever had were made by Nick Ruscitto and they were delightful. Lighter than gnocchi with a softness that proves the delicacy of their maker’s hands, these ricotta cheese dumplings are pillows of tenderness perfectly finished with the most simple of sauces. I had to make them.

I found a recipe and got busy, draining the ricotta and exploring methods for how to eventually form and cut the gnudi. After chilling the dough, I opted for the long log technique, slicing the log into .75” pieces which I then gently placed in boiling water. Like many Italian recipes I’ve prepared, the challenge is the amount of time required, not necessarily the level of skill of the cook.

I cooked the gnudi in batches, resting uncooked ones on a plastic wrap covered baking sheet and cooling the cooked ones off under in a colander. Eventually I placed all the gnudi into a plastic container and drizzled them with olive oil. I was saving them for Monday’s “meatless” dinner when I planned to sauté them in olive oil and a dollop of bacon fat with mushrooms, onions, garlic and roasted cauliflower.

Mondays can be rough after a busy weekend, but when dinner and multiple lunches are prepared before Sunday officially ends, they’re not so bad at all.

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Filed under Cooking, Dinner, Eating, favorites, Food, ideas, Observations, Recipes, Recommendations, soup, winter

DelSo fever

Jeter cuddles help.

I don’t get sick very often, (despite not ever getting a flu shot again after a bad experience back in the 90s), but this week something got me. It started the other afternoon with some achiness and a general sense of feeling unnaturally tired. I initially wrote it off as residual exhaustion from a week that included some fun social events, 26 miles of running and a couple of yoga classes. My symptoms expanded to hot and cold extremes not easily explained by mere menopause, a dry nighttime cough and a complete lack of motivation to do much of anything other than eat and sit on the couch. Yuck, I think I’m sick.

My usual “medicine” – tea with honey, lemon and a glug of bourbon or rum.

Checking in around my sweet neighborhood, I’ve come to learn that at least 4 other DelSo-ites are (or recently have been) feeling the same way. So today, from my perch in the sun on my back deck, I’m warning you to resist the urge to come hang out on our block. Unless, of course, you’re bringing soup and hot toddy fixings. If that’s the case, swing on by. We’re all home from work today.

Do you get a flu shot? What are your tips to stay healthy? What helps you get better?

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Filed under Albany, DelSo, Local, medical, sick, soup

May’s best bites

  • Presenting, in no particular order, the 5 best things I ate in the 5th month of the year…IMG_9002
  • Softshell crabs at New World Bistro Bar. It might be the fleeting availability of this spring delicacy that makes them so damn special, but the capable hands of the kitchen at NWBB elevated them to a new level of awesomeness. The Asian noodle pancake, viet slaw and tamarind peanut sauce accompanying the crabs provided the perfect foil for the sweetness of the meat. I housed the entire plate.
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  • Gnocchi with a gorgonzola cream at Lark + Lily. What can I say? Chef John Futia used the ultimate light hand with both the pasta and the sauce to create a dish that was delicate and satisfying without being weighty or overly rich. A heavenly pillow of deliciousness.
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  • Ceviche at Rosa Mexicano, NYC. Firm shrimp and pungent onions joined together with tomatoes, cucumbers and avocado served appropriately chilled made for a wonderful light lunch course. The pomegranate margarita wasn’t bad either.
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  • French Onion soup at La Bonne Soupe, NYC.  This crock of goodness provided the ultimate example of French Onion soup – a strong beef stock, tender and sweet onions, gooey strings of cheese… Not my usual pick on a hot late May evening, but I am so happy to have not missed this wonderful representation of a classic dish. C’est bon!
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  • Kurver Kreme Sundae – Soft serve vanilla ice cream, chunks of toffee, hot fudge and butterscotch sauce with whipped cream and a cherry made for the perfect treat on a cool Sunday afternoon following a run. Dessert before dinner may be the ultimate perk of adulthood.

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Filed under Albany, Dinner, Eating, favorites, Food, Local, NYC, Recommendations, Restaurants, soup, Uncategorized

Schooled in cheese.

DSC_0006Over the years, I’ve learned a lot about cheese.  My earliest cheese memories center around my regular lunch order – Muenster on white with mayo.  Simple, a bit tangy and the perfect balance to my other standard sandwich option, liverwurst.  What can I say?  I was raised by a German mother.

As I aged, I expanded my cheese horizons…there was cheddar and provolone, an array of blue-veined beauties, soft delights like Brie, preferably served warm and oozing.  Cheese would most certainly prevent me from being a vegan.  Ever.

While most of my cheesy memories are positive ones, there is one incident which will forever stand out in my memory for both the icky taste and the laughter it ultimately inspired. Many years ago, while visiting Alsace, we lost track of time and missed our opportunity to catch lunch service in the small French town we found ourselves in.  Using my best parlez vous Francais, I asked if perhaps we might have some fruit, cheese and bread to tide us over until dinner could be had.

We were graciously indulged with a lovely plate of local specialties, including a couple of new to us cheeses.  As we dug in, we shared our impressions of the fromage.  One sample stumped my husband and as he struggled to find the words to describe it, I impatiently grabbed a (blessedly) small piece and shoved it into my mouth.  What followed next was a comical series of sputtering, spitting and cursing as I exclaimed “You couldn’t simply say it tastes the way I imagine dog shit might taste?!?”  Bad cheese, but great story.
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Locally, the cheese universe has evolved tremendously over the years.  From Cowen and Lobel to Old Chatham to the Honest Weight, cheese has grown into a specialized niche with plenty of devotees.  When The Cheese Traveler moved into the DelSo bringing his enthusiasm and knowledge with him, I knew I would never again inadvertently place a crappy tasting cheese in my mouth again.

I have to confess, that I find myself gravitating to creamiest of Gorgonzola more often than not, but it is so good to know that I can surrender myself to Eric’s wisdom and explore other cheesy delights.  Last week’s Soup and Grilled Cheese Tasting party was a fun way to sample some flavors which were new to me, including the killer combination of Flying Pigs ham, Fourme d’Ambert and Mingle’s kimchi – an explosion of tastes that I’m still thinking about days later.  Here are a couple of terrific write ups from the event (or shop, in general) which go into far more detail about the grilled cheese offerings.  There are a few upcoming Cheese Traveler events which look both delicious and educational, including Cheese School which begins in April and the fundraiser advertised below which is tonight.  Follow him on Twitter to keep up with how to be your cheesiest best.

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TONIGHT!!!

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Filed under Albany, Delaware Avenue, DelSo, Eating, Events, favorites, Food, Local, soup

Saratoga bites

A few months back I bought a Living Social deal for Javier’s in Saratoga. My motivation was to enjoy a night out and sample some of Brian Bowden’s food. Well, you know how that worked out. Nonetheless, Thursday night we hit the Northway and arrived promptly for our 6:45 reservation.

While the downstairs bar was completely empty, the upstairs dining room was close to full. We were shown to a nice table and looked over the recently updated menu. Eventually we decided to start with fried oysters and a pear salad, followed by the duck breast and monkfish entrees. I settled back contentedly with my glass of bubbles and my favorite fellow, prepared for an indulgent meal.

Our meal service began with dense and cheesy “muffins,” accompanied by softened butter garnished with roasted garlic. Nice. Our first course was served and I don’t know which one of us was more crestfallen by the size of the portion. You see, we’re good eaters and the salad, particularly, was shockingly paltry. Seriously – it was about a third of a pear. Maybe. The oysters appetizer was four morsels – a bit of a disappointment if you’re coming from the Rick Weber school of fried oysters, which is more than likely where this rendition originated.* The oysters were tasty but definitely would have benefitted from a touch of salt and a multiplication of two.

The entrees were far more impressive. Both of the portions were reasonable and the plates were nicely presented. The duck was perfectly medium rare, with a touch of sweetness to the sauce and nicely crisped skin. I don’t often eat monkfish, but I certainly would order it more frequently if I was assured it would be cooked as masterfully as the piece I enjoyed at Javier’s. My “poor man’s lobster” was mild, and moist and the accompaniments were a nice foil to the fish. Well done.  I didn’t take any photos of our meals, but you can see the salad and monkfish on this blog.

We had a dessert, some sort of something leche which was simply not my thing, but my dining companion made short work of it. Dinner, before discount, came to just over a $100, pre-tip. Service was capable, but not particularly personable. I’ve met Javier before (and his wife, following dinner) and they are both warm and social. It would be pleasing if the service reflected some of that.

Two days later, I was back in Saratoga to shoot some photos for the Times Union. The occasion? Chowderfest 2014. This was my first time attending this event and it is a huge deal. I believe there were 86 restaurants participating and, from what I understand, this annual celebration of chowder is second in popularity only to Travers Day. Props to Saratoga for hosting an event, in January, which literally fills their streets and sidewalks with folks willing to wait in line to sample minuscule “cups” of chowder. The crowd was enthusiastic, patient and seemingly appreciative of the offerings, as well as the relatively mild temperature.

My tight schedule prevented me from being able to invest time waiting on the sometimes formidable lines, but I would definitely consider participating in this fun event in the future. Truth be told, finding a reason to visit Saratoga, and a place to have a bite, is never a struggle.

*Brian Bowden worked with Andrew Plummer who worked with Rick Weber and those oysters had Rick Weber’s name all over them.

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Filed under Dinner, Eating, Events, Food, Restaurants, Saratoga, SEEN, soup, upstate New York

Duck, duck, soup

We like lots of noodles in our soup!

We like lots of noodles in our soup!

Recently, the boys and I had a hankering for Chinese food.  We were looking for takeout, which eliminated our usual spot, Emperor’s Palace, but I remembered Steve Barnes doing a review a couple of months ago for a spot on Central Avenue.  After a quick check on their menu and confirmation that they offered Peking Duck, I placed an order.  You remember how the Lilly boys like their Peking Duck, don’t you?  It’s kind of their go-to dish when ordering Chinese and at this point, they’ve sampled it in 4 states in 3 countries, which is pretty cool if you ask me. Despite all that experience, what we got from the new incarnation of Ocean Palace was a first…

When I arrived to pick up our meal, things weren’t quite ready.  As I waited for our order to be complete, I was asked a question I had never before been asked – “Would you like the bones from the duck?”  Hell, yes, I would!  I’m all about making stock and I immediately knew exactly what I would do with the carcass from our bird – duck noodle soup!  I tossed the bones in a pot and covered them with water and set them on a low temperature on the stove.  I usually put onions and carrots in my stock, but for this, I really wanted to extract as much pure duck flavor as possible, so I left it unadulterated.  After about 14 hours, I strained the stock and refrigerated it for another day.

On soup day I heated up the stock which, surprisingly enough, had very little visible fat and got busy slicing and chopping vegetables.  My veggie share this week contained some gorgeous shiitaki mushrooms and baby bok choy which were the perfect additions to my soup, along with a package of rice noodles.  I seasoned with soy sauce and, when my son demanded meat for the soup (as if the love I put in wasn’t enough?!) , I stir fried some thin slices of beef  in sesame oil to add to the pot.  I was a little nervous about how my half-assed version of hot-pot would be received, but the guys went gangbusters on it and I was rewarded for my efforts with a “it’s not bad, Mom” as they slurped it up.  Success!

As for the rest of the original meal, the food was terrific.  Looks like we have a new takeout spot.

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