Monday, December 28, 2009

More Würzburg

Sunday November 8 was our second day in Würzburg, Germany. A gray day, but not horribly cold. We walked along the River Main, enjoying the scenic spot at the 18th C Alter Kranen (Old Crane--used to load boats on the river), with views of the Marienberg fortress and the Old Main Bridge.

We proceeded to The Residence, a Baroque palace of the Prince-Bishops of Würzburg. The construction and decoration of the palace, beginning in 1720, spanned five Prince-Bishops with varying priorities for completion of the palace, which occurred finally in 1781. Napoleon apparently called the Residence "the nicest parsonage in Europe." The residence was heavily damaged in a bombing raid in March 1945, an event obliquely referred to on info placards as "the fire." Restoration of the palace began soon after the war and lasted until the 1980s. The palace rooms range from grand to spectacular with Bossi's intricate stucco of the White Hall, the gilded Imperial Hall with striking murals whose characters seem to step into the room, and the beautiful frescoed ceilings of the staircase landing. In addition to the grandiose ornamentation, I particularly loved the lovely patterns in the parquet flooring in many of the apartments.

After touring the residence and grounds we walked back to the Marktplatz and popped into Café Schönborn for lunch. We then visited Würzburg Cathedral, a Romanesque cathedral dedicated in 1188.

For dinner we decided to stick close to our hotel, visiting a cafe/bar two doors down. Bill had read Pleicher Hof was a college hangout, and indeed I believe the combined age at our table equaled all the other customers. Pleicher Hof's website had said that a viewing party for Polizeiruf 110 would start at 8:15, and sure enough at 8:15 every table had filled and the room fell silent as the show began. We had no choice but to watch this police procedural in German, and wait for our schnitzel, which was the only item still available from the menu. We gathered that there had been a murder, which somehow involved a young cop. And a hedgehog. The case led an older, one-armed detective to quit the force, and then it was Christmas. Our schnitzel expectations were low, but unfounded--our dinners were delicious. I had jaegerschnitzel with spaetzle. A terrific plate of food, and a fun evening.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

'nduja like sobrassada?

Just read about the "sausage of the moment" at the NYT: 'nduja (pronounced en-DOO-ya). It's a spicy, cured, soft sausage from Calabria likened to "'flaming liquid salami,' 'spicy pork butter' and, from one heartfelt fan, 'the spreadable Italian love child of pepperoni and French rillettes.'" Sounds great, but it made me think of a similar sausage we discovered in Malaga called sobrassada. It's actually native to Majorca, but has spread all over the Spanish coast. It's also soft and spreadable like 'nduja, but made with pimentón instead of chiles. They must be related, right? Turns out, the (reportedly) best sobrassada comes from the Soller valley in Majorca, and some of its original inhabitants (15th century) were from Calabria. Since chiles weren't discovered by the Europeans until they found the New World in the late 15th century, the sausages in their current form couldn't have existed when the Calabrian colonists arrived in Majorca. However, there is most likely a connection. I love discovering stuff like this.

Sunday, December 20, 2009


We left Dublin early on Saturday, November 7, arriving in Frankfurt at 10:00 AM. We hopped in the car and drove through the misty, russet and yellow countryside to Würzburg. After checking into our hotel we walked to the market square where we immediately sought out a bratwurst stand. And there would be many more brats in the following days. Yes, we came for the sausage.

We spent the afternoon wandering the market, drinking Glühwein, buying baked goods and photographing ourselves in front of interesting-looking buildings. There was a moment or two of line dancing, but not as much as Dad would have preferred.

That evening we dined at a huge but cozy, candle-lit restaurant called Das Backöfele. The standout dish for me was scallops with pumpkin risotto and Bill loved his pumpkin soup. (The pumpkin oil reminded him of Slovenia.) A great first day.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Out and about in Dublin

I took a day off from work on Tuesday, October 27 and Mom, Dad and I spent the afternoon in City Centre. We ate lunch at the Silk Road Cafe at the Chester Beatty Library and then visited the Beatty's collection of religious manuscripts. We also visited an exhibit at the Gallery of Photography, stopped for coffee and wound up drinking champagne at the Westbury.

After Mom and Dad returned from Cork, we came into City Centre again for the monthly combined service of our church's three congregations on November 1. I'm so glad Mom and Dad got to attend one of these celebration services and see the progress of the restoration of our Georgian church building. It was a cold but sunny Sunday. After the service we had lunch at one of our favorite spots, The Winding Stair. Our lovely lunch ended with a bit of excitement when the server spilled a bit of their fabulously tasty aioli on Mom's blouse. [Bill correctly guessed the secret of the aioli by the way--smoked paprika.] This mishap resulted in a free blackberry tarte, and the aioli left no stain on mom's blouse, so a very happy ending.

For dinner, Bill made use of a wondrous find at St. Anne's Market--tomatillos! I was very happy to enjoy a favorite Rick Bayless recipe--chorizo and potato tacos with tomatillo avocado salsa. I have no picture to showcase this terrific dish, so I'll show you one of the tortillas in the making. This is the best part when the tortilla begins to puff up.

Mom and Dad left on Tuesday for their Sligo trip, and on Saturday November 7 we began our trip to Germany.

Guest Blogger: More Mom

Here is a travelogue by Mom about their trip to Sligo.

November 3 – November 5, 2009

Charles and I traveled by train again. This time we went to Sligo. Actually we had to get off the train after a couple of hours and get on a bus for the rest of the way into Sligo. That gave us a view of the area we couldn’t have seen from the train. The countryside is beautiful with rolling hills and lakes. Sligo is a small, old city in the northwest part of Ireland. It was raining there also. But rain doesn’t stop us. We checked into Pearse B&B about noon and walked into the city center. We found a nice shop called The Cat and the Moon which sells Irish made goods.

That night we went to Hargadons Pub and enjoyed live music. Hargadons interior is unchanged since 1864. Since Sligo is known as W. B. Yeats country, we were interested in the Sligo city library exhibit on Yeats. His Nobel Prize for literature is housed there. Later we found the Yeats Memorial Building which is the headquarters of the Yeats Society and has a permanent exhibition of pictures from his life. We watched several videos explaining his politics, writings and personal life. We were there a couple of hours. It was a great place to get in out of the rain. The Garavogue River runs through Sligo. It is turbulent and beautiful. The swans which live on the river were not in sight while we were there. The train agent told us that they were hiding in the reeds while it was so rainy. We enjoyed our three days in Sligo and would love to go back in summer when there are coach tours of the surrounding area.

Guest Blogger: Mom

Here is a travelogue by Mom about their trip to Cork:

October 29 – October 31, 2009

Charles and I took the train from Dublin to Cork on Thursday, Oct 29th. It was a rainy day in Cork. When we checked in to our B&B, Garnish House, we were served a lovely tea with fresh baked scones, fruit cake, chocolate cake and brown bread, butter and jam -- delightful on a rainy afternoon. After tea we walked over to Cork University and went to the Glucksman Gallery which had an exhibit of modern works by Irish artists (see the chair with the cow’s udder seat). Later we walked to the city center and strolled around in the English Market (“There’s nothing English about it, apart from the fact that it’s covered with a roof which was a radical innovation from across the sea when it was built in the eighteenth century.” Pete McCarthy).

The next day we got on a city tour bus and got off at the Irish Butter Museum (Cork led the world in butter exports back then). It was interesting but we thought the 3 euro entry fee a bit high. The rain finally stopped and we walked to a nice café for dinner.

Saturday we walked to the quay area of Cork City. We found the Crawford Art Museum and enjoyed the beautiful paintings of Irish life. There were several paintings there by a man named Charles Lamb and we were particularly interested in them.

After a late lunch in the Crawford Café, we walked around the quay area. Lots of people were out on the Saturday afternoon and many of them were in costume. Halloween is celebrated in a huge way in Ireland. We left Cork on the late train and got back to Dublin after midnight and everything was closed down in Hueston Station. Thankfully a taxi came by and we flagged it down and got safely back to Bill and Sharon’s apartment. We did lots of walking in Cork and were glad we were somewhat “in shape” from the time spent at the gym in El Dorado.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

A Day of Ruins

On the October Bank Holiday Monday, we set out from Graignamanagh and drove a few miles to St. Mullins, a monastical site on the River Barrow founded in the 7th century by St. Moling. The lovely site includes a medieval church ruin, the base of a round tower, a former Church of Ireland church built in 1811 and a graveyard with both Protestant and Catholic graves.

From St. Mullins, we drove to Jerpoint Abbey. Bill and I visited this terrific site last summer and wanted to bring Mom and Dad to see the excellent carvings and lovely courtyard. After roaming the Abbey grounds we stopped by Jerpoint Glass Studio and saw a bit of glass blowing in action. All Jerpoint glass is handmade and I own several pieces, including a vase with red and orange flame licks of color that called to me during this visit.

Our favorite stop of the day was Kells Priory, an Augustine priory founded on the King's River in the 12th Century. There's no visitor center here, and we even had to
climb a fence to enter the three acre site. Kells Priory includes both fortification features, including a wall of tower houses, and monastic ruins. Parts of the site are closed off by scaffolding, but there were plenty of places to explore in the misty dusk.

If you're wondering about the difference between a monastery, convent, abbey and priory, I have the answer: either a monastery or convent would be an abbey if lead by an abbot/abbess and likewise, a priory lead by a prior/prioress.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Autumn is When the Parents Come

My parents are are back in Eldo after their 35-day tour of Ireland and Germany. This was Mom and Dad's third annual visit to Ireland. They prefer to travel in the Autumn, as the days grow short and the leaves start to fall (along with travel prices). There is much to report from their visit, but I'll start at the beginning--with the loads of American goods they kindly brought to us.

Mom and Dad stuck close to Raheny for the first few days (as I recall--been a while now! checking my tweets to recreate chronology), but adjusted pretty well to the time change. On Sunday we drove to Freshford in County Kilkenny for a stop by the Irish Conker Championships. Bill and I attended this small fest two years ago and caught conker fever!

We spent the night in Graignamanagh at the Waterside Guesthouse and enjoyed a nice dinner at Boat's Bistro (located across the river in County Carlow). We spent most of our time being unable to pronounce the name of the town, but Bill mastered it and with some practice I got it too--Greg-na-man-ah. Graignamanagh is on the River Barrow which travels through some lovely Irish countryside. The bridge in Graignamanagh, built in 1765, was partially destroyed in 1798 by Crown Forces. (Pic by Dad.)

Monday morning (October 26) we visited a 13th century Cistercian abbey in Graignamanagh, Duiske Abbey. Still a working church, the abbey has a section where you can view the original painted tile floor.

But this was just the start to a day of ruins.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Another can of beans

Okay, now this is just getting weird. I was in the Tesco in Clare Hall last night (a miserable experience, btw, as only the self-checkout lanes were open and none of them worked properly) and they're selling Epicure organic mung beans for €10.30! I'm beginning to think this is not a simple data-entry error.

Regarding the previous cans of beans, they're still on the shelf at Omni Park. I'm going to check out the Tescos in Artane and Kilbarrack soon.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

A can of beans

I was in my local Tesco about a month ago looking for cannellini beans. They normally sell them, but with all the changes Tesco has been making lately you never know. Next to the Epicure pinto, garbanzo, and other beans I found them. Take a close look at the picture. Notice the price. Now, organic typically costs a bit more, but janey mack, €10.30?! I thought it had to be mistake, so I grabbed two cans and took them to the self-checkout. €20.60 for two cans of beans. I asked your one who minds the checkout about it. She was as shocked as I was. She asked someone else and the response was "If it says €10.30 it must cost €10.30." I told her I didn't need beans that badly and left.

I kept checking occasionally and the price never changed. Last week I emailed Tesco Customer Service about it; here is their response:

Thank you for your email querying the price of Epicure Cannellini beans

I have checked our customer service database and can confirm the current seling price is €10.30. I will check this with our Technical manager as it does seem very high.

I have also notified the store and they have agreed to clear the shelf of these beans until we can verify the price.

Thank you for making us aware of this.

It does indeed seem very high. How did this even happen? Did no one question the price when it was stocked? I've bought the same beans at the same Tesco for 1/10 the price. I'll check tomorrow if the beans are still on the shelf.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

What's for dinner: Potato & chorizo tacos

I've been lamenting the lack of Mexican chorizo in Ireland for two years. The only kind of chorizo you can get here is Spanish--tasty, but nothing like the Mexican kind. Even the chorizo molletes at Taco Taco in the Epicurean Food Hall are made with Spanish chorizo. Spanish chorizo is a cured, dry pork sausage seasoned with pimentón. Mexican chorizo is a fresh pork sausage seasoned with dried chiles, oregano and warm spices such as cloves and cinnamon. Vinegar is also added for tanginess.

It finally occurred to me last week that I could make my own chorizo. Our food mules (thanks Charles and Celia!) were kind enough to bring us some guajillo, pequin and ancho (16 oz!) chile powders, so I was all set. Here's my recipe:
  • 1 kg pork mince
  • 1/2 cup of ancho
  • 1/4 cup of guajillo
  • 5 or 6 pressed cloves of garlic
  • 2 tsp ground cloves
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • 1 tbsp oregano
  • 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
  • a bit of water
  • salt (not sure how much, I was adding it and testing the chorizo by frying as I went along)
I kept some out for the tacos and froze the rest. For the tacos I browned some chorizo with a minced white onion. To this I added some cubed boiled potato and fried it until browned and crispy. Very tasty on its own, but the key to these tacos is the avocado-tomatillo salsa. Tomatillos are another Mexican ingredient I've been unable to find, but last week the organic veg vendor at the St. Anne's Saturday market had a whole crate of them! He let me have some more this week gratis because there's just not much of a market for them. The salsa is really simple, just a few tomatillos, a chile, a clove of garlic and an avocado whizzed up in the food processor with a bit of salt. Slathered on homemade corn tortillas with the chorizo-potato filling it's just amazing. We have my Mexican food muse, Rick Bayless, to thank for these.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Road Trip continues

On Monday, September 14 Bill and I were in County Donegal with my Aunt Gay and Uncle Larry. After breakfast at our hotel, Coxtown Manor, we wandered through some shops in Donegal Town.

We then drove along the N56 and then the R263, stopping at this lovely spot near Kilcar before making our way to Slieve League on the West coast.

Slieve League are Ireland's second-highest sea cliffs. At 601 meters they are almost three times as high as the Cliffs of Moher. Our host at Frewin House had expressed a little consternation that Moher gets so much more attention. I did enjoy Slieve League, but they don't eclipse Moher's sheer outcroppings for grandeur. Ah well, surely we have room on our island and in our hearts for all the wonderful cliffs.

After the cliffs we had a bite of lunch and started our journey back to Dublin.

Two botanical sights worth mentioning: I'd never seen fuchsia grow so large; it formed 10 foot hedges along the roads. And the hydrangeas reach dark hues of maroon and burgundy. I didn't get a great photo, but this shot shows a bit of the darker colors.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Road Trip

Bill and I took a Monday off while Aunt Gay and Uncle Larry were here in mid-September for a 3-day road trip. We were able to hit two places on their list: Newgrange and Donegal.

We set out at an impressive 9:20 on Saturday morning, arriving at Newgrange an hour later. On our third visit we still find this neolithic structure impressive. After a bit in the cafeteria (not part of the original Newgrange site) we set out for Donegal. We were welcomed back to the Frewin House in Ramelton and found everything as delightful as our first visit, plus an amazing mushroom.

Gay and Larry had been enticed by pics from our previous trip to Donegal, so on Sunday we retraced our steps to Fanad Head--officially one of my favorite places on earth.

As we continued West we encountered more stunning views.

Much of County Donegal is Gaeltacht, an Irish-speaking region, complete with Irish road signs.

We stayed near Donegal Town on Sunday night and had dinner at The Olde Castle Bar--some of the best pub grub ever! I'm still thinking about the fish pie, and the Guinness brown bread ice cream was pretty tasty as well.

Monday we would head farther West.

Rainbows Have Nothing to Hide

A recent tweet response to our 116 things from a British friend: "Quite a few resonated with me. #74 stood out. I say that a lot. Different to England despite being next door." #74 is Rainbows! To that point, some rainbows.

Taken from the car driving up the M1 in June.

We frequently see rainbows toward the East behind our apartment. This one was on July 17.

And this double rainbow from August 23.

Waiting for the bus on September 1.

Waiting for the bus last week.

We were greeted by this one last Saturday in Freshford, Country Kilkenny.

And I spotted this excellent example recently on Twitter (click for the full pic):

Dublin on Twitpic