28 November 2007

Tapas for Tenner in Wales.

Our lovely hosts at the Ty Rosa B&B in Cardiff suggested an all you can eat tapas place in the distillery section of downtown Cardiff. We arrived in the land of Dr. Who by train and ferry from Dublin, and by the time we rolled into our b&b, G and I were extremely hungry and ready for some good food and drink!

So Tapas for a Tenner at La Tasca in Cardiff. What a treat!

We sat down and the place is all themed out, but pleasant. Our delight escalated when we saw that there was sangria on the menu. Always a favorite! So we ordered a pitcher to share and made our selections. With the Tapas for a Tenner, you choose from a set list of tapas, and you eat all you want.

We started garlic bread because we were starving. It arrived before I had even taken out my camera! No photo!

The waitress encouraged us to order about 5 things each, and for all you can eat, why not oblige?! We ordered a whole whack of things, and the food started rolling in...

The first, er, second arrival was a lovely bowl of olives to accompany our tangy and very boozy sangria.

I think the camera was boozy, too, though G's hand firmly on her drink came in crystal clear.

From there came our paella. Yummy! We ordered one with shrimp (which I don't like) and one vegetarian. They were really good, but incredibly salty. Thinking it may just us, we said something in passing to our waitress who said, 'Oh yeah, I find it really salty, too!' Okayyyy.

Lovely all the same. And honestly, how cute are the little bowls? In the top left corner you can see a little bit of sausage... it was a bit of a meat platter, and tasty. Next came these amazing sauteed mushrooms. Really lightly seasoned, but perfectly cooked. I honestly could eat these mushrooms alllll day.

Oh no. The plates are starting to look empty! Wait until you see the next one... it was a lentil dish...and there's not much left of it by the time I stopped stuffing my face and picked up my camera...

If G were here, she could tell me the proper name, but noooo, she's out at some swishy work function while I am here on the couch watching the Packers/Cowboy game. No weird cable issues here, it's on regular cable in Canada...

Anyway! Our next dish was Potatoes cooked in a Tomato sauce. This was actually very simple, but really delicious...The sauce was really fresh, and the potatoes had crispish edges and really soggy centers from the sauce, which may sound gross to you, but for those of who dream about the delicious textures in food, this one hit the spot.

Seriously, it doesn't look good, but I assure you it was. TRUST ME!

Then came the tortilla...

Do you see how I tried to turn it around so it wouldn't look so much like I had already taken a big bite out of it??? Listen, I am only human. Between my excitement about being in the land of Dr. Who and Torchwood and the delicious food for a relatively reasonable price after the crazy expensiveness in Ireland, I was all over it.

So please excuse the missing albondigas. Yes, if there are meatballs on a menu, G and I have to snag them.

We ordered more of these (if you can imagine). Really tast in that lovely sauce. Hey, maybe this where that lentil dish came in, it kind of looks like there are lentils in that sauce. Who can say? You weren't there and I have the memory of a sieve. (Except for '80's movie lines. I am all over that.)

Then, we started to draw the meal to a close with amazing paella croquettes. Oh. My. Goodness.

See, brand spanking new. (It's because it's the second helping, and I was taking pictures to try and trick my stomach into wanting more food. It worked. We ate them.)

The next night, after a Dr. Who day of joy at the Doctor Who Experience or whatever it's called, G and I knew we had to have some local favourite Brains beer.

How cute is this overpass? (Is it an underpass if we are not on top of it?) Anyway, we knew we had to have it, and what better way to have Brains then with hamburgers and french fries. So off we went to this great looking restaurant we saw near the tapas place.

Boy it was a weird hamburger. I mean, really weird. (and I live in Canada, so I know from strange hamburgers!)

This one had a really nice tomato onion chutney on it, which was really nice. And it was a welsh rarebit burger, so you can see the cheesey beery goodness oozing out. But the patty....


It was so strange. It was really compact, much like the aforementioned Canadian hamburger. But this one was strangely crispy on the outside, providing a weird texture of crazy firmness with the sweet from the chutney and rarebit, down into this meaty patty, back out into goodness and bread.

Yeah, so I ate the whole thing. It wasn't that bad!

A few things about Cardiff... It rules. If you like the Doctor and Torchwood, you'll swoon. If you just love pretty cities, you'll swoon. I mean, look at these cute trashcan signs!

26 November 2007

A Morning at the Borough Market

The bunnies were dead at the market.

It's certainly a bit shocking to turn a corner run eye to eye with a bunch of doomed bunnies. But G, showing far more fortitude than little ol' me whipped out the camera and started asking those bunnies to show their good sides!

The Borough Market, in jolly London, is a foodie paradise, though honestly, a little bit overwhelming. There are lots of booths and different types of foods, and it's great to try them all. We got there with belly's rumbling, so it was a lovely venison hamburger freshly made that first caught my eye!

It was lovely. Very rich, with a really nice housemade sauce of something or other that I totally don't remember a month later. Nice one, dynagrrl, nice one.

The immediate threat of hunger satisfied, we began the slow walk through all the stalls to sample and enjoy all that was on offer. The next scream of joy came from the tart booth...

I had the roast cherry tomato, pesto and mascarpone tart. No, wait. I INHALED that tart. They heated it on a panini press, so it was toasty on the bottom, and melty in the center. I really enjoyed this tart.

From there, we walked towards the spelt booth. Ah, spelt.

While on vacation, I read a great number of food magazines, and had read about the Organic Pearled Spelt. I was very keen to try it, and so I bought a bag. I will now likely never eat it, but that's another post for another day. (Gotta keep you coming back somehow!)

We tried some Spelt Flour pie and bread and they were amazing. As the sign says, spelt is reported to help people who suffer from IBS, so I imagine it is really becoming popular. I know several places around where I live that now serve spelt pizza crust.

Then we decided to have some sugar. From Burnt Sugar.

They had the most amazing Chili Chocolate Fudge. It really had that last kick of heat on the final note as you swallowed it. And the best thing was, you could buy just a couple of pieces!!! We bought two and ate them slowly as we moved on to the best part....

THE CHEESE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

No trip to the Borough Market is complete without a trip to Neal's Yard Dairy. And look at these beautiful cheeses! I find the market very intimidating in that stupid way that I do, so I was too shy to ask about the cheeses, but fortunately, the counter guy gave us some cheese anyway. Beautiful. And next time, I won't be shy. I promise

Ascot and other sundry items.

First, let me say a thank you for those who left comments and sent me emails about Sasha's passing. It was a very difficult time, and led to my having a massive two week flu... call the wambulance.

Today I am feeling much much better. Two weeks of going to work and coming home and going to bed at 8pm had to pass at some point, so tonight's the night (whoa oh). I still have some vacation photos to get through, so let's start with our very proper trip to Ascot.

Prior to our leaving for our trip, G and I decided that we wanted to think of something unusual to get for our friends as a thank you. Often, we take them out to dinner, or something along those lines. But this year, we just wanted to show them our appreciation on a grander scale. (They are such generous folks when we stay with them, we wanted to be able to return the kindness somehow!)

G has always talked about wanting to go the races in England, and it just so happened that on our final weekend, Ascot was having racing. Ascot is located near Windsor Castle, about 1.5 hours away from our friends house. All in all, pretty close. G spoke with our friends, suggested a day at the races, and they were quite keen.

We began looking at the different price plans and what not, and stumbled across the "Premiere Ticket" which essentially meant you dressed up and stayed away from the riff-raff. (Ha ha) We quickly booked those tickets, and I began dreaming of having high tea at the races with the Queen. It just so happened that it was not Royal Ascot, and the Queen was not in attendance, but we shouldered on, planning our day.

Once the day arrived, we all dressed up, and headed out to the races. Our Premiere tickets got us a nice little stretch of yard to sit in and watch the races. I even made a bet!

Oh yes, I am chuffed!

So after some betting and hanging about we made our way up for high tea. And it was lovely!!!

We walked into the restaurant, G and I, our friends (J and C) and their beautiful baby. I walked into one of the restaurants and asked if they had room, as it looked quite full. The man said that they did, and they promptly seated us. Let the tea begin!

As you can see, we were given finger sandwiches (a set each), lovely little carrot cakes and chocolate brownie things, and scones pre-spread with jam and cream. And tea. Delivered in a beautiful leisurely way, just inviting you to go make a bet, watch a race, come back and drink some tea and eat some more.

It was very proper, and extremely filling! The sandwiches were egg, roast beef, cucumber and cress, and a tuna (I think). They were nice, savory and hitting all the high notes. But the carrot cakes were crying out to me, and I had to partake. Due to a counting error by the kitchen, we ultimately ended up with 7 little carrot cakes, and not wanting to let them go to waste, I ate my fill. I didn't try the chocolate brownie things, but I am sure they were good, as well!

Then came the scones. The scones. Oh scones. Oh beautiful British scones. They were crumbly, light, sweet and savory all at the same time, and smothered in jam and cream. And over far far too soon.

And yes... there were horses.

12 November 2007

Sasha -- Rest in Peace.

It is with a heavy heart that I post tonight. Unfortunately, Sasha became much worse very quickly, and we had no choice but to have her put to sleep. She will be sorely missed.

11 November 2007

Ireland -- the Bad.

I have narrowed 'the bad' down to only two spots. And in reality, neither was truly hideous, but neither was it lovely.

The first was in Doolin. Doolin is a small town with very little going on except that it's near the Cliffs of Moher, is a traditional music hub, and wildly relaxing. It has a good vibe, and no one is going to argue with that.

At one of the three pubs, I ordered vegetable lasagna. Sounds innocent enough. And it could have been.

Okay. Lasagna. Chips. Salad. Let's go back to the chips. CHIPS. Excellent.

Let's go back to the lasagna now. So it looks pretty normal. But when I cut into it, it had vegetables, as advertised. Cheese, as expected. Noodles, also to spec. But the vegetables were in this sort of odd brown gravy sauce, not really tomato-ish, but not totally not tomato. Very weird. But the chips were great.

The next day we were in the town of Lisdoovarna, which I believe was the inspiration for the movie 'the Matchmaker' and I was trying to sort out my credit card being turned off by the fraud squad at my bank on a pay phone. We walked across the street to this pub and asked if there was an ATM in the town. No. There's not. And there's not one any closer than like 30 km's away. But, we were told that there was a traveling bank where we could get some cash later. We decided to eat in the pub.

I ordered the chicken sandwich. With chips. Chips were a very big part of this trip!!! The sandwich wasn't bad, but, well, it wasn't good either.

I do have to say that I love the array of condiments with every meal. See what I mean???

It's all good when there are cute condiments.

10 November 2007

Ireland -- The Good Part Two.

After Galway, we headed to Athlone. We'd read about a restaurant called 'the Left Bank' online and decided we would go and have a nice dinner. It was really lovely, and despite not having a reservation, they accommodated us and made us feel very welcome!!!

We started with a pirri pirri zuke soup. The pirri pirri added a very spicy end note, but the first taste was like, ahhhh this just tastes like really good zuke soup. Then, as it rolled back and down, you began to feel the burn.

As G and I are both fans of the soup, we both had this as our started. G makes soup at home quite frequently, and she manages to get it so smooth and creamy, that when it's a little "not as smooth" I really notice it.

For the main course, I ordered pork tenderloin. G being Jewish and all, we don't do pork at home. And for some reason, I don't often order it in restaurants. I think it's usually paired with something I am not fond of. For instance, pork in restaurants tend to comes with fruit of some sort, in a sauce, as a side, something. And I am not crazy about fruit and meat. Anyway...

I ordered the pork. It came with potatoes and this beautiful basil pesto sauce.

The stuff that looks like chocolate sauce was a balsamic reduction that was quite lovely.

G ordered the steak. When she cut into it, it was glorious. Perfectly cooked and gorgeously tender.

G's had some sort of cream whiskey sauce, and this beautiful mushroom reduction underneath. All in all, the food was amazing. It came with a side of veg... but the pic is pretty bad, so I am skipping it.

From Athlone, we drove on to Dublin, our final Ireland stop. Dublin was great. We did one of those bus tours that drives you around the city and you can "hop on and off". Our tour guide was funny in a lame joke sort of way, and the city was beautiful, cool but no rain. We ended our day in Temple Bar, and had a lovely Italian dinner at a restaurant who's name I can't remember. It was Italian, and had a whack of Italians eating inside, so we figured it must be fairly good.

I was euphoric when I ordered one glass of wine (and then another!) because it was the fist time during our vacation where we weren't finishing dinner and driving back to our b&b! The very first thing I did when we hit Dublin was dump the rental car. I mean, I managed to drive on the other side of the road just fine, but I was quite ready to be done with the responsibility. It was nerve-wracking at night, and much nicer to just sit in the back of a cab with a warm wine glow.

This was one of those rare moments where G chose a better dinner. It happens so rarely that I am always shocked and really angry-jealous when it happens. The great thing about G? She shares. So in the end it was all good.

Anyway, the mystery Italian restaurant had a dinner special which was about 12EURO for a starter and main, which in Ireland, was about as cheap as they came. So for the starter we both (!) ordered the albondigas in tomato sauce.

The 'diggers (as we call the ones G makes) were really lovely and buried under all that cheese! It came with a small salad, and I promise the tomato wasn't that white. It was me playing around with the flash setting on my camera.

From there, I ordered a creamy pasta with chicken, mushroom and tomato. This is a pasta dish I should have loved. But it just wasn't working for me.

I think the big issue with this dish is that the pasta was fresh. And really fresh pasta with really creamy sauce is just way too much softness. So while it didn't make my year, I muddled through just fine.

Now what did G order that was so much better than what I had? The simple beautiful pizza.

Yeah. It speaks for itself. It kicked the arse of my pasta. Fortunaely, G is a light-weight eater, so I made short work of what was left.

Of the week spent in Ireland, this was without doubt the best of the meals. But since it's not all about the food, here's a few shots from our trip, since my brother has asked that I post a few...

This is the town of Dingle. It was our first day in Ireland, and I drove on the craziest twistiest most narrow road ever. The weather was crap on the way up, and then it cleared when we arrived. This town had the best shopping of anywhere else we went, but being our first stop, we didn't buy things thinking we would have ample opportunity later. Fools!

Further on in our trip, we stopped at a place just outside of Doolin that does walking tours of the Burren. During our walk, we had a chance to catch some beautiful views...

On the way to Athlone, we stopped at Bunratty castle and folk park. It was a great way to spend a day...

07 November 2007

Irish Food -- The Good

Not all the food in Ireland was bad.

Not all the food in Ireland was good, either. But there were some very memorable meals...

In Kinsale, on the Southern coast, we went to an excellent seafood restaurant called Fishy Fishy.

We'd read about Fishy Fishy previously. It's apparently one of the best seafood restaurants in Ireland, and we were keen to have well prepared seafood directly on the coast. Our guide led us a bit astray, as it has moved from a little shop in the centre of the town to a fancy pants location on the water.

But find it we did. G knew that she was going to have Fishy Fishy, and so Fishy Fishy she found!

We started with a shared dish of mussels. I am very very very new to the world of mussels. I have always felt that they are a little weird, and the entire process of eating them a bit to cavewomany, but, I have developed a slow appreciation for them.

Look at those mussels!!! They were put in an elevated circular ring to keep them off the table (why I don't know) and they were in a tasty local beer broth. I ate a few, and G ate the rest, and we were ready to go for our main courses!

G ordered the baked cod. It sounded good, but honestly, the menu was a tiny bit bizarre. Everything sounded good save for one item on the list, and as each one came with its own custom side dish, it wasn't possible to mix and match.

The cod was actually quite crispy and was served on a lovely bed of mashed potato. Yum. The fish was flaky, with a really nice crust outside and a lovely tomato relish on top.

But really, my dish took the cake. I had the lovely fish and chips.

Now, let me preface this with saying, I have had me some fish and chips. I have eaten them in Maine, in Vermont, in Boston, in London, oh yeah, I know from fish and chips.

And whoa.

These fish and chips were, bar none, the best I have ever eaten. Every thing about them was fantastic. The fish was perfectly battered, with nice crispy bits. The fish was perfectly cooked, a little wet, flaky and full o' flavour. The chips were hot, the right size, and the right shade of brown. Really amazing. I was a bit embarrassed to order fish and chips in such a nice restaurant, but then I thought, it's on their menu, and it's not on their KIDS menu, so it's all good and grown-up.

Growing up, "pub food" was potato skins, hamburgers, fries, "pub grub". I guess this is a bit like the disney version of it, but I was really surprised when in Ireland that pub food was never hamburgers, potato skins, or the like. But it was widely mediocre. Except for one little pub in Doolin.

McGann's seemed a little rough from the outside. But it had the feel of the more "local" of the locals, so in we went. And boy were we surprised. See, Fishy Fishy was our second night. Our third night will be in another post, and the fourth night, well, I can't even say for sure that there are photos. But then there was this little jewel called McGann's.

G ordered the raost lamb shank, which seemed awfully ambitious for this rough and tumble pub. But here's what she was presented with...

Whoa. The mashed potato here was amazing, and the chopped veg were uniform and delightful. The sauce accompanying the lamb was top notch, and G is always thrilled to be able to suck some marrow from a bone. Blech.

I ordered the roast chicken, almost begrudgingly, as I was really hungry and tired and in the mood for a nice meal. I was also surprised when I was presented with this...

My oh my but that chicken was roasty toasty and lovely. It had the most amazing, rich, luscious gravy, and was also served with incredibel mashed potatoes. We must have sighed and carried on through the whole meal because the waitress gave us a huge smile when she picked up the plates!

That's a weird thing about Ireland. In the pubs, you order your food at the bar, and you pay at the bar. I guess it's not weird. Just different, and as different is the point of vacation, I will move on to Galway.

In Galway (a truly beautiful bay town), we stumbled across Ard Bia Cafe. And I am so glad we did.

I ordered a lentil, spinach and sweet potato curry, served with brown rice and tzatziki sauce that completely rocked this girls world. I don't know if it was because I had eaten so much bacon by this point, but this meal ruled it for me.

Look at that lovely carrot and beet strips. It was truly heavenly, and I enjoyed every single solitary mouthful.

But what about G? Never fear, she ordered the smoked haddock soup. Or fear. I don't know, the soup didn't sound good to me, though G said it was amazing. You could smell the smokey from across the table.

This was a great restaurant, actually. It was upstairs, in a weird little room. But the service was friendly and prompt, and no one snickered when we ordered water to drink. I'd whole heartedly recommend this to anyone in Galway.

More to come... it's late and I gotta go to sleep!!!

03 November 2007

Life keeps going...

I have had every intention of updating this blog... and unfortunately, life has gotten a little out of control. Our older cat, Sasha, has been incredibly sick, and the vet has discovered what appears to be a tumor in her stomach and smething that may be the same in her lung. She's not eating or drinking, but we decided to give her a chance at home, on medicine to shrink the tumor with the hopes that she will start eating and stop throwing up. The doctor says that while she likely has cancer, she's not dying from that, it's from not eating. It's really difficult. There have been many tears, as it looked like on Thursday that we were going to have to have her put to sleep. But she did well over night and the vet on duty said she'd give her the chance to respond and start eating...We're only on day two of her being home, so we are giving it a few days before we make the hard decision, but she's had a tiny bit of food and water today, and only a little vomiting, so if anyone has any ideas, email me or leave a comment.

But because of how sick Sasha is, and how crazy work has been, it's been really difficult to have any time to do anything, let alone update my blog. And, on top of it all, my Mom has been visiting from the States, and what a bad week for her to be here. I am sure she is ready to go home tomorrow since we've made numerous trips to the vet, cried buckets, and tried to sort out what is the most humane and loving thing to do. But it's been great having her here!!!


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