The Winding Stair is worth the climb

The Winding Stair restaurant is a quaint little bistro on Bachelor’s Walk looking out at the Ha’penny Bridge over River Liffey in Dublin.

20110912-101042.jpgThe name is taken, perhaps obviously, from the entry which is a stair that twists back upon itself before lead to the dining room.

Decor is like something out of a Bogart and Bacall movie but on a smaller scale. The bar is dark heavy oak and a large espresso machine.

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On the opposite wall is a chalkboard listing the rather lovely wine list and featuring bookshelves containing the kind of odd assortment of titles a decorator would choose for the broken clothbound and gilded spines. There was Albert Schweitzer in the original German alongside Coleridge. See what mean?

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The emphasis of the kitchen clearly was organic and local food though. In other words, exactly what I hoped to find.

There is an early bird menu at 5 p.m., as well as daily specials but, after a quick scan of the main menu, I wanted only the mussels and chips (pomme frite) served with a gorgeous paprika enhanced aioli.

The mussels were harvested on the west coast of Ireland and were generally quite fine– flavorful in an onion and white wine broth. A few were gritty however and several had not opened.

Nevertheless, I was served so so many, the dish was still more than enough for one. The broth certainly enhanced the already tasty mussels but it was a bit too salty to sip afterward.

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The chips were thickly cut and crispy. No oil was evident and their flavor was fabulous, especially when paired with the smoked paprika aoili. Mmmmmm. The Portuguese Syrah I drank was also really nice.

The service was also helpful and attentive, although the dining room admittedly was sparsely populated when I was eating at a little before 5 p.m.

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Overall, this was a very enjoyable meal and the sort of place that should be supported as Ireland earns it’s place at the big-people table in European cuisine.

Rawr!

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Overall:
Four Bones

Food:
Four Bones

Ambiance:
Five Bones

The Old Jameson Distillery–The Early Bird gets the extra whiskey!

Time for me in Dublin being fairly limited, I decided to skip the Guiness tour and hit the bottle instead. Sadly, the working Jameson Distillery has long since moved out of Dublin the result of space limitations and to be closer to their barley producers. What remains of the old site however is a rockin’ good time for the Irish whiskey lover, like me.

First off in the tour is a short film explaining the history of Jameson and a revelation of its shameful secret–it was founded by a Scotsman. That’s okay, though, as the whiskey he produced put a lot of Irish barley farmers, distillers, coopers, warehousemen, etc., to work, and it’s also awfully good.

Now at the end of the tour awaits your choice of three cocktails featuring Jameson or one straight up. It doesn’t matter which one you choose, but if your Irish, you’ll drink it like me–nekked.

The trick to getting extra whiskey is a move I invented called the “buzzer beater.” The very second the word volunteer leaves your tour guide’s lips, raise your hand. (This really works well for women, as your counterparts will still be trying to decide what everyone else will think of them.)

What you are volunteering for is a taste test. Jameson versus an American whiskey and a Scotch. Here, they don’t go for comparisons with quality opponents, like Makers Mark or Laphroig. Instead, they beat up on the highly beatable yet commercially successful Jack Daniels and Johnnie Walker Black. Here’s another clue: if you still have the ability to smell, Jameson will beat the panties off the competition.

In my not-at-all-humble opinion, Tennessee sour mash tastes like razor blades, and Johnnie Walker is better as an aftertaste as it’s a bit too hot going down for me. But hey, didn’t I tell you? Extra whiskey.

The tour is fantastically interesting too. And not too long. Our tour guide was extremely interesting and pleasant. There is a bit of pressure (I felt) to hurry along after the tasting, so I gave up the rest of mine as shooting liquor is against my religion. After all, I explained to the Aussie next to me, “I’d better quit. I have to be able to walk.”

Rawr!

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Murphy’s Ice Cream has changed what I mean when I say “creamy”

Finding Murphy’s Ice Cream meant crossing the Liffey River from the suits and order of downtown straight into throngs of foreign tourists, religious figures, pan handlers, gypsies (pardon me: Romani), and hawkers of goods and services appealing to all of the aforementioned–then hanging a right.

Along a relatively quiet side street is a small shop serving ice cream that would change the way I defined several terms I thought I knew the meaning of. Terms like creamy, fresh, smooth, and satisfying.

An Irish food blogger, I can has cook recommended the brown bread flavor, so I had a small cup of it to start. He wasn’t wrong.

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The cream comes from Dingle, I was later told, as I’m sure, did all the dairy. That local sourcing showed in the indescribably fabulous flavor range and mouth feel of this magical stuff.

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You see, I hadn’t ever before experienced ice cream as refreshing. Cold, sure, but that’s not the same thing.

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The same with “creamy.” Apparently, I had confused that with a certain mouth coating quality. Not the same thing.

This stuff even had Haagen Das beaten, notwithstanding HD’s emphasis on simplicity and texture. As it turns out, nothing can beat Ireland at dairy. Nothing.

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As an added bonus, there was an audit going on while I was there. And audits mean free ice cream for the American blogger who chats up the corporate representative from Dingle itself.

In this instance, the young ice cream server was being tested on his ability to produce a peanut caramel sundae topped with whipped cream. OMG! I’d say he passed.

As delicious as the whole of the sundae was, this little (Read: huge) bonus also gave me the opportunity to analyze its components. The caramel was the most buttery and flavorful you can imagine; the whipped cream, light, and again, fresh.

Murphy’s Ice Cream taught me many things I never expected about how delightful dairy desserts can truly be. I may never eat American ice cream again! (Yeah, right.)

Rawr!

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Overall:
Five bones

Food:
Five bones

Ambiance:
Five bones

(Warning: little bones pics may be added later. I don’t know why that necessitates a warning but it seemed amusing at the time.)

Foodie Goes to Ireland–for Indian?

And before you ask, yes, there is a method to this madness. You see, I’ve heard good things about Indian food but living, as I do, in the American South haven’t yet experienced it in a restaurant.

So being jet-lagged, wet, and cold from my day’s travels, when my host gave me a list of nearby places including the Mint Leaf, I jumped on it! My convoluted reasoning went something like this: Ireland close to England; England former occupier of India and popularizer of all things Indian; therefore, Indian in Ireland would be better than Indian I normally ate. Turns out, I wasn’t far off–whatever the cause.

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I dined from the early bird menu and as it was lunch time back home, dinner at five o’clock seemed like a great idea. For €16.95, there were a choice of appetizers and entrees plus a beer or wine of your choice. I went with the samosas and chicken bhuna (I think) and house red wine. I have no way of knowing whether these were good examples of either dish as I’ve never eaten either before. All I can say is everything was delicious.

The wine was every bit as good or maybe a little better than a $20 bottle in the States. The meat samosas (they also come in veggie) reminded me of really good, Indian-spiced taco meat in the best kind of eggroll wrap, fried in triangle-shapes like spanakopita. There wasn’t a trace of oiliness, the spices gave the lamb stuffing a warmth without overpowering, and the chili sauce was fabulous.

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The chicken entree was served in a red curry slash brown onion reduction, medium-hot. Definitely a touch of turmeric was present, as it was in the basmati rice side, but other than that, my untrained palate was unable to discern.

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Beautiful dishes, well-prepared, good service, and decent-sized portions. I was not disappointed (which, sadly, cannot be said for my past encounters with this cuisine). My newly-informed opinion is we Americans in the South should demand more of our Indian restaurants. This is really great stuff it turns out!

Rawr!

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Overall:
Four bones

Food:
Four Bones

Ambiance:
Four bones

(I’ll insert little bone graphics when I get back home. Dammit.)

Big Announcement: Foodiesaurus is Taking You Along on Her European Food Vacation! (You’re welcome.)

Regular readers of this blog may have noticed a recent decrease in the frequency of posts hereto. And there’s a darn good reason for that–and it’s about to change!  The reason is, your favorite dinosaur and mine has been planning a food trip to Ireland and Italy, and she’s taking you along for the ride!

So buckle up ’cause next week we begin with two days in Dublin to find out whether Bobby Flay was really on to something when he suggested Irish food didn’t suck anymore in his Food TV special, “Bobby’s Ireland.”

From Dublin, we take a train to Waterford City to attend the final three days of the newest Irish food festival, the Waterford Harvest Festival. The festival features many Slow Food Ireland and Grow It Yourself Ireland (GIY) events, among others, all designed to increase awareness about locally-grown Irish food. While there, we will attend a tasting of Irish beer and cheese, the GIY street feast, and an open air harvest market.

After that, we travel to the heart of Tuscany: Florence, that is. There we will learn the subtle art of chilling out with locals who do it pro-style. And of course, we will eat. If we happen to trip over some art or architecture on the way to eating, we might even write about that too.

So join me on a food exploration of parts of two European countries beginning with the letter “I.” Oh, and I’ll be doing it all from my iPhone and any WiFi connections I happen to find along the way. Now THAT’S going to be an adventure!

Rawr!