Sunday, 17 July 2016

Side notes, Taste in Dublin + Balfes and Dilllingers...

*Side note* 

It's been a while right since I have blogged....and I did think I was going to do more writing once my teaching work died down, but I think I have just been enjoying my time off. Doing absolutely nothing. Serious slothness. But again my laziness didn't last for long, as I usually get itchy feet and urge to do something with my 'me' time (we have a love/hate relationship!- I love the idea of relaxing but then feel totally guilty when I engage in it!), and was blessed with four weeks of camps that will keep me going till my Summer holidays in Morocco in August.  Yippee!


Myself and Ev did a whole vlog of our weekend- so if your more of a visual person then see our youtube video here (click please!). 

Taste of Dublin (located in the Iveagh Gardens- see here)

What a load of horse sh***e! I've been wanting to do it for years- it was my idea of heaven. Trying out tapas style meals from places all around Dublin in one venue. Drool! We received complimentary tickets (I think the value of them was €15!) so saw this as a saving and it meant more money towards buying food.... but the weekend's weather (it's currently Summer in Ireland!) was possibly the worst it could be for an outdoor venue situation- and this definitely affected the experience. We were advised to buy florins (a booklet of tickets that you exchange for food at each vendor so there is a cashless environment!). We bought a booklet worth €50. An amount we would usually spend on a brunch sitting. Excuse my french- but we literally pissed through the booklet, I was still starving and that was without having drinks. And I wanted alcohol. We spent another €20 on three drinks with about €3 left over and you couldn't really buy much for €3. Most of the vendor stalls we had tried were places we had yet to go to eat in Dublin- Pichet, Klaw, Amuse to name a few...and we were so excited about the idea of a new place- but what they served didn't necessarily entice me to go book a meal there.  Wouldn't that be the whole purpose? There was a lot of dishes that were served purely for convenience- I swear i'd seen brisket about five times over! Boo! The concept is a great idea- but it just cements rip off Ireland and it could be so much more.

Balfes (located just off Grafton Street- see here)

Balfes actually happened on the same day as Taste in Dublin...purely because we were still so hungry and I was dying to try out the Instagram-worthy eatery I heard so much about. Balfes is located just under the Westbury. Think marble tables, chic Parisienne style outdoor tables and a simple (and health conscious too!) menu. We had oysters on the brain, so went for a plate of Carlingford Oysters, the Tuna Tartare and bread basket with dips. Desserts were a parmesan and fig cheesecake (yes you read that right and it was so good!) and a pepper grilled pineapple with vanilla ice-cream. Now that's food. And good food too! We will be back. 



Dillingers (located on the main street in Ranelagh- see here

It's become a tradition within my family that we all go out once my stage schools conclude. I decided to try Dillingers. It was my first time going- well it actually should have been my second (I won their #Brunchtastic competition which was a free meal including drinks for two- but was busy so I gave it to my parents instead and they didn't stop raving about it...kudos to a brilliant twitter competition!). The food and drinks were amazing- we went for steak and eggs, the nachos, the Scandinavian, the chicken and waffles, a cheeseburger and brioche soft roll filled with Shrimp. All mains came with a generous side of fries, potatoes or greens. The drinks were good and strong too- check out the breakfast stick on the Bloody Mary. We shared dessert amongst the seven of us- creme brulee with clementines, a chocolate mousse with almond ice cream and a baked New York cheesecake. Special highlights were the steak (smokey and juicy!), my Mimosa (I love bubbles obviously!), the Nachos and the chocolate mousse. If I was to be a bit picky, I'd stay away from the  chicken + waffles- the southern fried chicken was quite dry- purely because I think they chose fillet pieces as oppose to a piece on a bone (maybe to cater for the majority of people, I'm not too sure!). We will be back- if not for their brunch, then for their steak Wednesday's which sound super. Ps- Ranelagh is one of my favourite places in Dublin- maybe because my mum's childhood home is there, or I love...ok, dream about owning a terrace house there one day!



Wednesday, 8 June 2016

24 in Dublin: Union 8, 50 Shades of Gay and Slice

Yesterday was my first day off in a while, because of my job in the arts- this time of the year tends to be quite hectic until the the lazy Summer hits. I like to plan something on my day off otherwise I'll end up procrastinating and wasting the day away on meaningless activities. One of my good friends from the arts world had landed a solo gig and dying to see him in it, I booked 2 tickets to see him perform in the Smock Alley Theatre. Sticking to our plan of eating our way around Dublin- we booked Union 8, in Kilmainham for pre-theatre dinner and planned brunch for the following day in a little restaurant- Slice in Stoneybatter, that we had walked past a few weeks ago and that was buzzing and we were dying to try.


Union 8- self-labled as your neighbourhood eatery has been busy every time we passed it. Ev had heard great things about it, but we always booked something else in the past and so only got round to trying it out on the Monday. It was 5.30 on a bank holiday so we were offered the Early Bird Menu @ €23.50 for two course + tea/coffee. I went for the Seared scallops with Mc Carthy’s black pudding, Spring onion, Ponzu and Chicory for my starters and the special of Pan fried hake on a bed of tomatoes and squid. And Ev went for Wild garlic and nettle soup with Créme fraiche and Nduja  and for mains went for the Roast Duck breast, Blood orange, Potato rosti, Carrot and anise. To drink I chose a Passion fruit Margarita and Ev went for a Coconut Mojito. 

To be blunt- it was poor and we expected so much more. I don't know if we expected more because of the reviews, because it always looked busy or because we liked the idea of having a restaurant a stone's throw away from Ev's childhood neighbourhood. But it was so poor. Drinks were good, and so were my scallops. But everything else was just very mediocre. The soup had a domineering pea smell from it- even though peas weren't advertised in the title. My hake (which is a fish that I love!!!) was overcooked and also burnt on the outside and the bed of tomatoes ended up being a tomato cut in half with a few lack lustre pieces of squid. Nothing that made it a special. Ev's duck was cooked well- except that it was luke warm and the rosti seemed to miss seasoning. Don't get me started on the half piece of carrot on the plate. This wasn't a tasting menu, so don't serve food that way. 23.50 is fine for a two course, but our waiter seemed brand new, didn't know the menu and we waited 20 minutes for our drinks to come out. I hate not giving something another try but but I really don't think I would visit Union8 again. The brunch I'd try- but other restaurants nearby offer a far more attractive meal. Highly disappointed. 

50 Shades of Gay- on at the Smock Alley Theatre till Saturday 11th June

This is not a bias review simply because I know Rob Murphy personally. I've seen other friends in performances before and not necessarily blogged about it. I'm more writing a review because it actually far exceeded my expectations. It's a fantastic bit of theatre that everyone can relate too- gay or not! When I told Rob last week that I'd bought tickets for me and Ev- he rather politely went crazy and suggested that I should be going with a group of girls or some gay friends. Utter nonsense. While it is a rather overly stereotyped play on a gay men and his sexual conquests- Aiden (played by Rob Murphy) speaks about some of his 69 past boyfriends and we can't help but grasp on to a few familiar situations and just as we start to well up and reminisce, Aidan snaps us back to laughter with references on grocery items that will never set foot in my trolley again; sweetcorn and jelly tots are over for me!

The Smock Alley is a fantastically intimate theatre, just rather disappointingly, ticket sales were quiet (hey it was a bank holiday Monday and a lot of people had work the next day!) and I knew that it mean't Rob had to work ten times harder to get any audience interaction. So on that alone- I was blown away. His effort and passion for performing in a one-man show was brave and inspiring and  I highly recommend you visit this week before the run ends this Saturday. Hey, the weather is so beautiful in Ireland at the moment, it's perfectly acceptable to go for a drink or dinner, take a walk up the quays and stop for a bit of theater- c'est la vie non?! Tickets can be booked here.


Tuesday's brunch was at Slice. I walked past it a few weeks back and it looked charming. There was people sitting on the makeshift bench, it's located in the uber cool Stoneybatter area and I made mental note to come back and try it out in the future. We arrived around 11.30, so breakfast was still being served. And the lunch menu started at 12 which suited me fine. 

I went for the scrambled eggs on sourdough with avocado and chorizo and Ev went for the home made beans and sausages on Sourdough with Gubbeen cheese. He went for one of their teas, I went for their juice of the day- watermelon and apple and we got two coconut milk cappuccinos and a slice of coconut cake that was filled with the oozing jam. As far as breakfast goes- mine was lovely- decent portions, but most importantly good tastes. Loads of coriander + meaty chorizo in mine and simple homemade beans in Ev's were the highlights. And we really enjoyed the bread. I loved the juice so much- we stopped of in the supermarket on the way home and bought watermelon to use in Ev's juicer. And my coffee was good. Like real good. Cappuccinos made with coconut and almond milk are my new go too's. I'm really obsessed with them. I got chatting to who I think was the owner- and just the overall vibe of the place was my cup of tea. Me and Ev love Stoneybatter- just one of the terrace houses from the mortgage gods down the road and I'd be sorted. can dream right!

Wednesday, 11 May 2016

VISITING NEW YORK; Where we stayed, Eating in NYC, Things to do and my Top Tips

Part 3 of my Visiting New York post is Things to do and my Top Tips. If you have some tips of your own that aren't here, pop them on the comments page- hey, sharing is caring...

Things to do;

-Highline (free)- this was my Little Sister's suggestion, and what a fantastic place for being snap happy. The highline is an old railway line that has been refurbished into a safe walkway (totally kid friendly too- there is things for little ones to do whilst taking the route!) and you have several exits on the way where you can pop into neighbouring areas for a bite!

- One World Observatory (around $30 admission but they do family deals too!)- While my myself and my Mum visited the 9/11 memorial site + museum, my sister Grace and my Dad visited the world observatory. I was pretty jealous when she came back with these photos....

 - Street art- your spoiled for choice in New York with some of the most creative and interesting pieces around the city. Street art fanatics would have a field day- and I say you could base your entire stay around certain tags around the city. We just got snap happy when there was something we liked...

-2 day ticket for the Hop On Hop Off bus tour ($55)- I totally recommend it, it was the best way to get all the hotspots over and done with in one day. Tour guides obviously vary- the chap + lady we had on the first day was brilliant, super cool and gave you a heap of knowledge. The next days tour guide wasn't so much into it...but hey it's hit and miss! We got off at the main attractions- Grand Central station, Times Square, all the bridges linking to Manhattan, Fifth Avenue, Central Park etc in New York on each route and hopped back on when we were tired from walking.


-Broadway show (price range from anything like $40-$200+). We chose premium seats to see Matilda, but even at $135 each, we were three rows from the stage! The cast came up all around our seats and there was a really cool stunt scene with 'Lavender' literally a breathe away from me that I am still trying to work out. We spent the next few days belting our 'Revolting Children'...But if Matilda is not your cup of tea- there are soooo many Broadway shows, dance performances, operas, jazz shows really is a city of performance and your spoilt for choice.


- Central Park (free) We spent half a day strolling around the park. Blessed with such good weather, we were able to take in several of the street performers and have a mooch around a quarter of the park. Plan your trip there, there are so many entrances and scenic spots from movies/tv shows that you will want to see so plan plan plan. If I was back in the late spring/summer, I'd take a boat trip and pack a picnic! Also make sure to check out the loos (we had such much fun in them lol!)


-MOMA- an absolutely un-real museum with pieces I only dreamed of seeing. Some of my favourites were pieces by Andy Warhol, Helen Frankenthaler, Chagall, Umberto Boccioni, Picasso, Roy Litchenstein and Jackson Pollock. An adult ticket with MOMA costs $23 but you could easily spend the whole day there. I only managed to get through 2.5 floors and definitely missed out on some work that I regret. Download the app (they have free wifi in the museum and avail of the audio options!). The museum, the pieces and the supporting material are so educating- I felt like I was back taking an art history lesson!


-Brooklyn- we actually used one of the tour buses to take a trip to Brooklyn and I wanted to see how the neighbourhood varies from the concrete jungle of Manhattan. It does and it's still quite cool looking. Cue 'Jigga what...Jigga who' through the whole trip there! My parents previously took in a game in the Barclays Centre and they highly recommended it. Tickets were pricey- but it was a derby- Nets v Knicks and they said the atmosphere was priceless. For my trip- it was either a musical or a sports game. And I went for the musical.

- 9/11 Memorial site- We visited the memorial site and museum on our last day in New York. It was right in front of our Hotel so we didn't have far to travel, but queuing happens from early on, so get there first if you don't want to be waiting. Strict security measures in place, so be sensible too! The museum itself is tastefully done- we all remember where we were the day the 9/11 terrorist attacks happened, I was in London on my way to a ballet class, when my friend shouted from her flat for us to run up and look at the news. We stood transfixed on the terrifying images that flood the screens. The museum paints a picture of being there in that moment. The lives that changed. The lives lost. I highly recommend the site- even just for reflection.

- What I would like to do should I get the opportunity to visit New York again- Metropolitan Museum of Art (met museum!), take in a game/concert at either Madison Square Garden or the Barclays Centre and Brunch on one of the rooftops during the Summer- our hotel rooftop only opened up in the warm season- but check out the Loopy Doopy rooftop bar and it's insane cocktail menu here!

Top Tips;

- Comfortable shoes- I'm a trainers type of lady anyway, but my Air Max Flyknits were my saviour. You want to look stylish but also be able to belt down the subway stairs...If AM's aren't your cup of tea; these Nikes, these Reeboks or these Adidas bad boys will always pair well with your exploring outfit.

- Subway pass is $32 for a 7 day pass- it's the cheapest city I have been to for a while with regards to public transport. Working out at just over $4 a day for unlimited metro travel- it's by far cheaper then travelling in London (which I have found to be way too expensive now!) and the subway system is so simple to use. It would be nearly impossible to get lost!

- Walk! The layout of Manhattan all together is so well designed, streets are perpendicular to avenues, and we saved so many locations on google maps so that it was simply easy to get from place to place by foot! If you are a geographical nightmare though- so many subway stations have wifi hotspots, so simply nip down, load your maps feed and then set back on foot again.

- Haggle for tour buses- we got ours cheaper then advertised. What's the worst that could happen? They just say no!

- Plan. Plan and Plan. Everyone I have talked to about New York says it! You can get lost in the all hype and spend your entire time walking around places like the M and M factory in Times Square- which might be appealing to some people but isn't really my cup of tea.

- Research;

Research your shopping- The exchange rate is so poor at the minute for the dollar that you don't necessarily save big. I instead bought items I couldn't get back at home (my April bill from Sephora was not pleasant!) or that were cheaper- I teach 6/7 days a week so bought new work gear from Nike that costs me a fortune back home.

Research your eating places- if your a fussy eater and fast food is your cup of tea your fine- NYC is full of junk food! But if not, and you like expanding the palette- research Yelp reviews, ask friends who have similar tastes and experiment. It's such an international city!

Research you sightseeing places- we tried to match our sightseeing places with where we were going to eat- sort of like killing two birds with one stone. Ok, so I know people will be like hey your on a holiday, so quit planning and go with the flow, and sometimes that happened- we stumbled upon streets we liked and places that looked interesting and got off stops earlier then we were supposed to but New York has so much to do, and it's not cheap to fly to or stay at. It's certainly not a 48hr trip to a European city with Ryanair so the way I see it- you want to make the most of every part of it.

- Take some 'me' time. Every day spent in New York, we would give an hour or so to chill back in the hotel rom before changing and getting ready for dinner that night. Whether it was having a Nespresso and something sweet you had picked up that day, or sprawling on the bed and reading- 'Me' time abroad is so important for you mentally and also who is travelling with you.

What would you recommend to do in New York? What are your top tips?

Monday, 4 April 2016

Visiting New York Part 2: Eating in NYC

Part 2

It's quite clear from my past posts, that food is a major feature of my day- my families stance on the subject is even greater. With Dad being a chef in the past, no lie, our entire itinerary was planned around food- we had two planned places each day and made it our business to plan things to do around these joints. Some were recommendations from friends, some were places my parents had already been to in their last trip and some were brand new places we had read about- apart from Street food- Food and Drink and tipping service is a lot more expensive in New York. Some of our meals varied from as little as $50 for six people to $500+ for a boozy night. It totally depends on what you are in to, but as advised, we did our research and planned ahead.

Tuesday's Eats:

Landed in New York at around 7pm, so that was 11pm Irish time, not hugely late, but by the time we got into the city and checked in- all we wanted was something quick. Because of the location of our hotel we are spoilt for food- there was a Shake Shack, no lie- 50 meters from our hotel. So good. Milkshakes were delicious and it definitely lived up to its hype. I just wish I could have fitted in two visits (though my waistline is entirely grateful I didn't!)

*Go for the shake stack, crinkle fries and peanut butter milkshake.

Wednesday Eats:

-We had a Whole Foods right next to our hotel- a sort of upmarket supermarket selling organic and nearly every dietary friendly item conceivable! Whole foods was where we got breakfast every morning- fresh cold pressed juices, the most insane bakery selection (breakfast pretzel or a banana and walnut muffin anyone?!) and a huge deli selection of cold and hot foods- breakfast was always under $10 each day (per person!) and the choice was limitless.

-Lunch was at the famous Katz's Delicatessen (Lower East Side- 205 Houston(Lower East Side- 205 East Houston Street, corner of Ludlow St, New York City, 10002)- Katz has featured on almost every food programme in New York, so while yes it was quite a stereotypical tourist joint, I had never had a Pastrami sandwich before and was eager to try. Perfect for meat lovers. True New York experience, but be prepared with an empty stomach- the portions are huge and we had to cancel dinner plans that night and go for something smaller and low key because we were so full.

*Go for the classic Pastrami on Rye with a side of green tomatoes and pickles and load up on the mustard and wash it down with a can of soda.

-Dinner plans were changed because Katz was so filling, so late that night, we took a five minute walk from the hotel to a Chipotle. Basic, fresh and non GMO (which is a big deal in America- because you never know what your food actually is!) mexican- and sooooo cheap.

*Go for a salad/burrito bowl- with extra avocado and one of their house margarita's- our local Chipotle didn't skimp on the Tequila. Winning.

Thursday Eats:

- Lunch was in Brooklyn and unintentionally planned- we spent so long walking around the little streets that we actually lost track of time- we did pure American food at Buffalo Wild Wings. Again an utterly cheap lunch meal and it ticked of American fast food of the list...however, there is no way I could possibly eat that type of food every day. I don't know how people do it. Don't get me wrong though, my wings were demolished. 

*Go for their lunch menu deal- I went for the classic buffalo wings with blue cheese, crudités and fries and pick the smallest size plate- because it is literally the size of your head.

- Dinner was at the The Boil (Lower East Side- 139 Chrystie St, between Broome St & Delancey St, New York, NY 10002)- you CAN'T make reservations at the Boil and our waiting time for a table was for 1.5hours but I'd wait even longer for that food again- Absolutely unreal seafood, creole style served in giant bags- the whole family went for mixed dishes- but I have never had anything like this and only wished this was available in Dublin.

*Go for their combos, a little on the pricey side to most people for a main, but it's at least 2 pounds of shellfish. I went for the Crawfish and Shrimp combo and also try the Chili Margarita- they put fresh jalapeño's in the drink and mother divine they don't water down drinks at all. PS- If the queue is big for a table, put your name down and go for a drink at One Mile House (around the corner!).

Friday Eats:

-Because we visited Woodbury Common on Friday, lunch was in the food courts- the choice is immense. Anything you could want, they had. Again portions were ridiculous.

Nerai (55 East 54th Street, New YorkNY 10022) was Friday night's food. I went for dinner with a friend from Secondary School (thanks David Fitz!) on Friday night and he brought me to Nerai, a beautiful Greek seafood restaurant. We had Shrimp Loukoumades, Stuffed Calamari, Cretan spiced scallops and lemon potatoes. I also had the most delicious glasses of Malbec. Nerai is a higher end restaurant- and definitely one of the pricey meals during the week.

*Go for the stuffed Calamari. It was recommended in past reviews and it didn't disappoint. Dress wear is smart.


- Drinks at Beauty and Essex (146, Essex street, NYC 10002); I later took a cab to meet one of my sisters and my parents at the hip Beauty and Essex. Recommended by the fabulous Dearbhla (from the Belle Azure blog) who spent time living NYC and what a fabulous recommendation. Super funky, great music, I can't comment on the food because I didn't eat there, but my family loved it...and the drinks...don't get me started. The cocktail list was fab, but at $17 a pop, my poor dad (whose turn it was to pay the bill that night!) nearly had a heart attack lol!

Saturday eats:

Luke's Lobster (THE PLAZA FOOD HALL1 W. 59th StreetNew York, NY) was Brunch for the day following time spent in Central Park. Luke's Lobster is a sustainable lobster shack/restaurant that offers the most insane Lobster maine sandwiches. They have several locations in New York- but because we were in Central Park, we popped into the Plaza Food Hall (sort of like the Harrods food hall except a lot smaller!) and had lunch. 

* Go for the Lobster Maine meal Combo- it comes with chips (crisps!) or pickles and a drink. And make sure you get the Ginger Beer- it's so spicy but nearly rivals the Old Jamaica Ginger Beer brand- and well that's a big deal for me to say!

- Plaza Food Hall- being the fat mess that I am- cake was the option after Lunch and we went for three slices of yumminess! There are so many little stalls in the Plaza Food Hall- that during the summer, it would be amazing to take a picnic of little bits and bobs from the food hall!

- Dinner was skipped/stopped for bagels from a 24hr joint on the way home from seeing Matilda on Broadway (my thoughts up on that in the next post!)- though the bagels!!! Lashings of Cream cheese and crispy bacon- drool!

Sunday eats:

The Halal Guys (West 53 ST. & 7 Ave New York, NY 10019We were told to stop at the Halal guys...and boy was that a recommendation (thanks Orla. T!). I LOVE street food and these guys have a super reputation for being clean and serving good food. They have several locations around NY, and most of them are fixed. We visited them after spending the day at MOMA- totally recommended for a cheap meal.

*I went for the Gyro bowl- full of beef, rice, spices, salad and a pitta and wash it down with a snapple- while sitting on the office steps of some skyscraper- tres New York right?!

Red Rooster in Harlem (310 Lennox Avenue, Harlem, NY 10027, Between 125th and 126th) was our soul food experience. I'm going to start of by saying the food was ok and fairly decent, but the service was absolutely appalling. We didn't have one complaint the whole holiday with service- Waiters really work for their tips (they have reduced wages lower then minimum wage, something like $4 dollars an hour- so service should and will always be top notch!)- but our lady was mean and rude. And I would suggest going to another local soul food place such as Sylvia's purely because of the service from our waitress. Also, the food wasn't hugely amazing, for 1 bottle of wine, 6 mains, 2 starters and 2 desserts, the bill was over $400, and I would have just expected way better. I was actually super disappointed because I really wanted a decent soul food experience- so should I be back to NYC- it'll be to this place instead- Sylvia's (see link!).

* Should you decide to go Red Rooster- out of all the dishes that we had I would recommend the Shrimp and Grits or the Fried Yardbird, or the Red Rooster doughnuts (filled with sweet potato cream).

Monday eats:

Sarabeth's (339 GREENWICH STREET, CORNER OF JAY STREET)for pancakes- Everybody recommended Sarabeth's for pancakes. I didn't want to go for the stodgy pancakes from a diner that stick to your pallet and these were the total opposite- fluffy and light and a stack of five. Oh-emm-gee! There are five Sarabeth's in NYC- we visited the one in Greenwich but that was because we could walk to there from our hotel. Some will be more busier then others, but totally recommend the one we went to as it was quiet and you can have a stroll also in chic Greenwich.

*Go for the lemon and ricotta pancake stack. Nom.

Nan Xiang Xiao Long Bao in Flushing, Queens (38-12 Prince St, Flushing, NY 11354, United States)- yes we took the subway all the way to the last stop in Queens but for a good reason. Dumplings! Holy moses. So good. Our last meal in NYC, and I felt like I was back in Beijing. If you have a bit of time, stroll around the area too, it's like a second china town and the visit then asian beauty + fashion shops- they have one of a kind items and totally worth rooting through.

*Go for the beef and spring onion pancakes, the steamed pork and crab meat dumplings and the crispy noodle seafood dish. Drooling. Again and again.

Tuesday eats:

- We had an early evening flight and loved Sarabeth's so much we went back for their Prix Fixe lunch menu. Totally recommended.

What are your recommendations for New York? 

Stay tuned for Part three of my New York blog soon!