Wednesday, June 25, 2014

All the Food in Ireland...

... And England, Wales, and France too... :)

First dinner in Ireland, at Glena House in Killarney, Ireland.  We stayed just down the street at the Rivermere Inn, which is a partner property to this one.  Dinner was Irish Stew, and tasted EXACTLY like the beef stew I grew up with.  Therefore, I loved it.  :) They even gave us ice cream for dessert.  

Breakfast at the Rivermere the next two mornings was wonderful, too.  Eggs, bacon, breakfast sausage, juice, coffee, tea, toast, cereal.  They had to tell me how to eat Weetabix, which utterly confused me when I picked it up.  Lol. But it was tasty once I understood to put it in a bowl and pour milk on.

The Vixens Den at the Bog Village Museum, Ring of Kerry - I had my second Irish Coffee of the day here.  :). I was finally feeling good and warm on a chilly, wet, windy June morning.  The first Irish coffee at the other place was a bit meh, but it was a free hot drink so I tried it.  This one was made with Bailey's...  I have found a new favorite. :).  

To answer the unasked question: I never saw a single drunk Irish person.  I think that's just a foul stereotype.  They were really polite and friendly everywhere we went.  

Cahersiveen, Ireland. I think this was the Kerry Coast hotel.  Potato and Leek Soup with brown bread. Very tasty and filling.... This one was a lunch stop on tour, not one of the included meals, so we were free to choose our own food, aaaand this is another dish I'm going to learn to make. :)  

Glena House, Killarney, Ireland - Turkey and veggies with potatoes two ways.  The crispy potatoes were delicious... The whole potatoes were just potatoes.  Lol. Raspberry Ripple Ice cream for dessert.  Mmm!  

Takeaway breakfast leaving Dublin - cereal with "long life milk". It actually tasted just fine. Lol. Don't get me wrong - there were other things in the breakfast box. I was pretty surprised.  Milk and cereal, a lemon & sultana (golden raisin) muffin, orange juice, and a Nutri-Grain bar.  

The day before, when we had time for a sit-down breakfast, there were pancakes, cereal, eggs, juice, toast, coffee, and breakfast sausage.

The Irish seem to really support the idea that a good breakfast is important.  I concur.  

Cottage Pie and chips at Hand Hotel in Llangollen, Wales. They gave us breeeeeeadddd with dinner!  :). And dessert, too, which was some kind of custard thing, I believe?  (I suppose I could admit that the custard dessert was forgettable to me because I think of homemade boiled custard at Christmas  when I hear the word.  It's very sweet, and this dessert.... Wasn't.  Sorry, I'm a sugar addict.  Still, I was pleased with a real dessert.). 

Breakfast was pretty good here too, though it was obvious that the eggs were powdered.  Lol. Still, there WERE eggs, plus cereal and toast, juice, tea, and coffee.

Lol Saw these in the gift shop at Beaumaris Castle, Wales.  See? They've got rednecks in Wales, too. Oh, but those toffee waffles behind them?  Yeah, I should have gotten some just for the sake of research. 

"Beef Stew" gruel at Taylor's Three Rock in Dublin.  I'm not impressed with their "world famous" fare. They gave us jello with fruit cocktail for dessert.  Really kinda lame.  

Our guide kept telling us on the way there that we were having beef stew made with ground beef rather than chunks if beef.  Okay, I thought, until the plate arrived.  

It tells me that they saw their contract with EF tours as a way to be cheap and get paid well before their real customers came at the dinner hour. They rushed us out before I had time to come back from the bathroom.  

Notice that's a flat plate, and the potato, about the size of that teaspoon, is the biggest piece of food in my whole dinner.  Lol. If I ever go back to Dublin, I have to assume this is what Taylor's thinks of as high quality food, and bypass the place entirely.  Their thatched roof isn't enough of a reason to return. Thumbs down.  

Our guide (who was wonderful) kept emphasizing that this meal would probably be a bit different than what we were used to, and it sounded almost like an apology.  There really wasn't a meal's worth of food there.  The picture shows what it looked like before I took a bite.  It tasted good, though it was a bit greasy.  (Which is why most beef stew isn't made with greasy ground beef.) It might have helped if there had been any bread.  

All in all, it reminded me of a pre-made Easter basket.  It looks like it's full of goodies, being a deep basket, but the factory put in a cardboard shelf, so that there is just that one layer of goodies, and a huge disappointing cheating empty space.  What's a basket for, if not to fill for your little bunnies?  

If I'd had any little bunnies of my own, I would have pulled out the cardboard shelf and filled the basket properly, myself.  

Pier House Cafe and Bistro - Beaumaris, Isle of Anglesey, Wales - I really wanted that taffy apple cider they were out of. I don't care for Magners.  Lovely little restaurant on the bay in Wales.  :). Welsh cheddar and onion relish sandwich.  Very tasty but very messy. Lol. Lovely beachy atmosphere here.  I wish we'd had more time to scout around this town.

Note: I only had the cider because none of the students on the trip were around.  :). 

Half-pint of Guinness at the Hand Hotel.  First few sips - yuck.  But then it grew on me. Now I realize I just don't like light beer.  My dad put it this way, "Light beer isn't really beer."  Our carriage driver in 
Killarney, Mick, said that Guinness is good for you.  Enough of it and you'll be seeing double and thinking you're single. Haha.  I went to bed that night in the haunted hotel watching a scary movie on my iPhone, drinking the rest of my "ladylike" half pint.  There were a few strange noises here and there, probably due to the age and structure of the building.  Still, I slept well with no problems, other than just needing a few more hours of sleep.

At Anne Hathaway's Cottage in Stratford-Upon-Avon.  Once again, victims of "the tour group special contracted food". We had parsnip soup for lunch (not a fan... Parsnips want so desperately to be tasty potatoes, or carrots... But fail both ways... I suggest you add pepper!) with a few finger sandwiches: Branston pickle, ham and cheese, white and wheat.  I discovered that brown sauce does wonders for bland sandwiches.  This place wouldn't give us water for our meal.  We had to beg for it, because they gave us nothing to drink.  The other people eating regular lunches seemed to be pleased, though, so I imagine if you're a "real" customer, the food is quite different.  Maybe?

Again, thumbs up for our hotel meals in Ireland and Wales.  They were spot on.  (Except for Taylor's.  Yeah, I'm still beating that dead horse.)

Had a Belvoir Elderflower Pressé while I was in Stratford.  It tastes like flower blossom soda. Kinda weird at first, but bright and refreshing after that. :). Basically, I was drinking flower nectar and felt like a faerie.  Wheeee! Let's dance!

Traditional Cornish Pasty from The Original Cornish Pasty Company at Victoria Station. This was supposed to be a pre-dinner snack, and turned out to be my entire delicious dinner because this small one was HUGE and filling and I wasn't hungry a few hours later when the group stopped at... KFC.  *sigh* Think great beef stew / best beef pot pie ever / disguised in a giant hot pocket with amazingly flaky crust.  And because all fellow travelers are chicken to try it and head for McDonalds, it's ALL MINE.  

Seriously, I feel like they were completely short changed!  Mwahaaha!  I'm gonna learn to make these. If I had to use the Tube very often, I'm sure I would catch myself rerouting to the nearest franchise of TOCPC pretty often.

The next day we went to Windsor Castle and had lunch in the Windsor Royal Station at a place called Cinnamon Cafe.  They had massive cinnamon rolls and sandwiches. I had a decent bacon sandwich there, but it didn't really rate a photo. :). I wanted a cinnamon roll, but I was thinking about the nightmare all that yeast dough would be for my tummy.  :(. I had a sample, and found that it wasn't as good as the cinnamon rolls my high school used to make. Just really bread-y with a bit of icing.  The staff were very polite and friendly, though they were dealing with the lunch rush crowds.

Fish and chips at The Centre Page in London.  Well, the tail gave me pause.  And after the first six bones, I kinda lost my appetite and was wishing for some plain old Long John Silver's. I know, this is real fish, but everybody knows I have a serious issue with bones in my food.  It was tasty, but I'm squeamish about those bones.  Hardly anyone else had bones.  Darn freaky bones.

Bought these at St. Pancras Station before boarding the Eurostar to Paris.  They must be filled with sleeping meds, because I passed out on the train and missed the Chunnel experience altogether.  I really wanted to see the decorations carved into the hills before you go into the Channel Tunnel, BUT we were facing backwards and I fell asleep hard and fast.  

Walker's had some interesting crisp flavors in the UK. I tried the roast chicken.  :). I should have tried more, but it probably wouldn't look good for a tourist to walk around eating crisps all the time.  

Dinner in Paris.... Crispy cracker-crust pizza with salad. Mmm... Dessert was Nutella Pizza. Well, at our table it was. :). The other tables got apple cinnamon pizza. Lol

Eggs Benedict for lunch at St. Regis on ile Saint Louis in Paris.  Oh so perfectly yummy.  My vegetarian roomie had crepes with chocolate, and everybody else had hamburgers... Which inexplicably came with a fried egg on top of each.  Ha ha ha! I'm not sure I get that...   However, my lunch was everything I had hoped for, and I even ate the beets and my salad.  

Chicken in mushroom sauce with rice at le Centre du Monde in Paris.  (In the vampire hangout basement lounge heavy with incense... I wonder...). Tasty food, more like home cooking than restaurant food.  Custardy dessert again.  Still not sweet enough for this sugar freak.  Ha ha ha. 

Speaking of sugar.... While we were in the Champs Élysées, we stopped by Ladurée, the pastry shop and tearoom.  They are reputed to sell the best macarons in Paris, and possibly all of the world.  I only have one regret about this place -- that I didn't buy more macarons at their airport shop.  (But honestly... I couldn't justify spending $50 on cookies.) Lol. They are crazy expensive, though, and are only good for about three days.  They're supposed to be kept in a bottom drawer of the refrigerator for that three days.  Obviously, this is their photo, not mine.  Do yourself a favor; use your Google-fu to look for pictures of "Ladurée macarons". I wasn't comfortable using someone else's image on this.  But I warn you -- they might make your mouth water.

Being such an expensive treat, my choice was limited to 8 macarons for somewhere around $25.  To be brief, I'll say that they tasted like two meringue cookies sandwiched with the most incredible light flavors of jam.  Well, if you ever have the chance, just splurge and buy them! They are wonderful!  Light, airy, delicate, and delicious...  No wonder people make such a huge deal about them.  

If you want to read a much better review of Ladurée, try here:
They have the delicious photos of the macarons. :). Another thing I may have to try making, but I don't think I can manage the rose petal flavored ones. *sigh*. They were my favorite. 

I tried these flavors: rose petal, strawberry and mint, lemon, chocolate, caramel with salted butter, raspberry, red fruits, and blackcurrant violet (because, you know, PURPLE!).  Gorgeous colors!  

I did buy a bag of salted caramels in Charles de Gaulle airport that I should have stayed away from.  No discernible saltiness, and they were so sticky that they yanked out one of my crowns.  Fortunately, that was here at home and my dentist was able to repair that horror by the following day.  I have a better tasting, non-sticky microwaveable sea salt caramel recipe from Pinterest that frankly tasted a lot better to me and didn't make me live in fear for my dental work.  Lol. I'll stick (eww bad pun) with that from now on.  

A final word on what to expect food wise on an EF Tour...  It was great, unless you have special dietary needs / preferences.  My roommate was a "picky" vegetarian (her words, I promise I'm not insulting her!) and a few times her needs were sort of accommodated, but I still don't understand how "vegetarian" means "cook me a plate of peppers" to a chef.  It seemed like the universal punishment for being a vegetarian.  *sigh*. But she never complained about it -- she just laughed and ate what she could stand.  

While we were in Blarney, we went looking for the deli that our guide, Katie, recommended, to buy lunch for the ride to Dublin. We ended up in a grocery store that had sandwiches (she had a box of fresh raspberries for lunch!), but on the way there we accidentally walked right into a good old butcher shop.  The air was full of the smell of raw meat, and I couldn't stay in there any longer than she could.  No offense to them, but it made me queasy enough to want to reconsider my status as a carnivore.  Gross.  

We had plenty of opportunities to buy more food wherever we went, so it wasn't like we would starve if a meal was served that we didn't like. The food was tasty for your average American palate. It's definitely worth going!

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