“If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world.”
- J.R.R. Tolkien
Monday evening, even though I still suffered from jet lag, despite bumbling through a horror sub job, I cooked. After halving a pint of cherry tomatoes, I brushed them in olive oil, salt, pepper, and a pinch of sugar. I tossed cauliflower florets with salt, pepper, and olive oil in a pan. Both dishes roasted in the oven. Next, I sautéed mushroom halves in salt, pepper, bacon fat, and butter. Lastly, I assembled a ground beef, potato, prosciutto, and mushroom gratin.
Eating new foods inspires me to cook. AND to EAT.
I started the trip with a traditional Irish breakfast at Bewley’s Café, complete with eggs, black and white "puddings", sausages, toast, sautéed mushrooms, and roasted tomatoes. Later, the rehearsal dinner at The Cellar at the Merrion Hotel was a wedding in itself. The meal was fabulous. Salmon tartar, potato soup, fish, and asparagus. And plenty of wine.
Afterwards at the bar, my daughter step danced to traditional Irish music. (How she figured it out, I have no idea. Genetics?)
My son sat amazed at the dexterity and speed of the bartenders. He had two Shirley Temples. Now I’m worried he’ll switch from wanting to be a chef to a bartender.
The Conrad Dublin has a wonderful breakfast buffet that was included in the cost of our hotel room. (And they have the best pillows and comforters. Really.) Each morning I ate fresh fruit, smoked salmon, cheeses, excellent breads (including one sprinkled with sunflower seeds), and those wonderful sautéed mushrooms. And lots of coffee.
The wedding took place at Powerscourt Estate House. They served pea soup with clotted cream, asparagus soup with truffle shavings, and an array of wonderful appetizers. Dinner was delicious. I had well-cooked salmon, my son raved about the tender lamb. Then came a cheese plate with an array of lovely breads, and cute butter florets:
The cake was too rich to eat after all that cheese. And the wine kept flowing. Good thing I danced a lot. Look how beautifully they lit the dance room:
The next day we attended a brunch. The bride’s aunt set up a fabulous spread of smoked salmon, Irish soda bread, two kinds of tarts, and a Cleopatra Salad (apparently the Irish are still hold a grudge against Caesar). She also made an orange dessert that was similar to key lime pie.
Monday night we ate at an Irish pub called Porterhouse. I ate fish and chips and drank a beer. But I cheated because it was a Lambic. I have to admit, I hate beer. Hate it. I guess that part of me isn’t Irish.
My husband and I wanted to eat at Mao’s (Vietnamese) like we did eleven-years-ago, but we ran out of time before we had to head to the airport. So we got gyros instead. (Ireland: so international.)
Every morning, we started with breads, cheeses, and pastries. Once we got food on the Rue de Rivoli to take to the Palais Royale. Two times we bought breakfast at The Louvre gardens. It was lovely until my daughter put her hand in a big wad of pigeon poop. A couple of times, we sat at a café with coffee or wine and people-watched. Ah, to be a Parisian who could afford to do this everyday…
Our first night, we walked around the Les Halles area, unsure of where to eat. We didn’t want to eat at a tourist trap, but how would we know which place was a tourist trap? My daughter started to cry over our inability to make a decision (and hunger). It was the Paradox of Choice*.
Finally, we settled on a place that wound up being very good. I got another plate of cheeses and bread. My husband ordered a chopped duck liver plate, which was the best chopped liver I’d ever had. I much preferred it to a slab of fois gras. We had a lot of problems ordering here because the waitress didn’t speak any English and the waiter only spoke son, but he was awfully nice. We fumbled through it together.
My daughter ordered steak, which came with a side of one of the most flavorful gravies I’d ever tasted. My son had veal with a mushroom au jus. My husband and I were pretty full, so we ordered a fancy salad that we saw at another table. Turns out it was “off menu” and it took us a long time to explain we wanted, “the salad that woman was eating earlier.” My daughter ordered tarte tatin, which she didn’t like, so she got my son to fork over half his crème brulee.
While they ate dessert, the waiter came out with a GIANT pot of goo. Each plate had a sausage. He went to the pot and sort of scooped and rolled the doughy substance around the spoon and onto the plate. What is that? Why didn’t we order that? Turns out that the white stuff was a mixture of cream, potatoes, and cheese. I tried to get my husband to agree to eat there another day, but he refused.
The next night, we met a friend’s girlfriend and her son at their place for dinner at the La Defense stop. The friend was on a business trip, which was a shame. They had been our hosts for our last trip to Paris. Still, my kids got a kick out of the twenty-month-old and taught him how to high five. We had Chinese food for dinner, which was less fast food takeout than in most of the places in America. And for our part, we brought Bordeaux and a box of the best macaroons on the planet from Laduree on Champs Elysées:
At the end of the meal, the girlfriend said she and her boyfriend are getting married in the South of France at the end of June next year. Would we like to come? !!!!!
Later, I told my husband if he’s remotely thinking about it we’ll have to go on austerity for the next year. We may even need to sell a child. Or two.
Our last night in Paris. Mon Dieu! I’d forgotten to look up how to say “bone marrow” in French, but the girlfriend told us. This was good because I couldn’t order it on my own. Waiters had no idea what I was talking about. Desperate, I asked a woman on the street, who, when I said, “beef” in French and pointed to my leg, tried to send me to a pharmacy. Luckily, my husband looked it up on the Internet and found a place a few blocks from our hotel, which was supposed to have the best bone marrow in Paris at Aux Bons Crux:
We sat right next to the chalkboard.
The last meal exceeded expectations. It began with bone marrow on toast. Shockingly, nobody in my family seemed as wowed about marrow as me. (And at only 6,50 euro.) My daughter ordered salmon tartar, my son had veal, my husband ate duck, and I devoured beef carpaccio. Each dish came with delicious roasted potatoes. More wine.
It’s a good thing we walked virtually every waking hour because I didn’t gain any weight. And now we need to lay off the butter, meat, and cheese for a little bit. Our arteries are still sluggish. At least in both places, all meals were served with seasonal fruits and vegetables, so we had plenty of asparagus and strawberries.
That night, we waited until 11 pm when the first flashing lights on the hour at the Eiffel Tower began:
Turn up the volume if you want to hear how "romantic" the viewing was with our children.
Sitting, still full from dinner, surrounded by my family, with people lined all along the bridge was a bittersweet moment. The trip neared its end.
I may not have had time to see everything I wanted in Dublin or Paris, but I ate and drank to my heart’s content, and had a wonderful time.
More on the paradox of choice: