Tag Archives: fish and chips

Merlin’s Rest

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You don’t know how long we’ve been meaning to get ourselves to Merlin’s Rest, a British-style pub located in Minneapolis on East Lake Street. We had heard all about their trivia nights and their crazy-huge whiskey menu, as well as how busy it can get on holidays and when there is entertainment.

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But we ventured there for a Sunday lunch so that we would be guaranteed to have a seat at the bar. And because it was lunch, we did not ask to see the big book on whiskeys and scotch. But those Cadbury Concoctions on the menu might have been fit for dessert!

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The wine list was reasonably priced for a restaurant; so I’d feel comfortable bringing a friend who doesn’t love beer to this pub.  Plus, there are some unique and appropriately-themed cocktails:
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That Islay Martini has me intrigued. But I’d save that for a before-dinner drink another day. For lunch, I was looking for something a little less boozy. I really wanted to try the draft ciders, but $12 just seemed like so much!

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Then I thought about all of the cocktail bars I’ve been to where I’ve spent that much on something much less than 20 ounces. I surely won’t pass up one of those ciders next time. It’s not common to see English cider on tap. I also like that they list the half-and-half beer concoctions you see above. I always forget about those until I see them on a menu!

In the end, I went with a Fuller’s London Porter. Have you ever had a British Porter before? It’s very different from our American craft-beer styles. It had been so long since I’d had one and it really hit the spot. It sort of made me feel like I was back in London.

The lunch menu is a bit different than you’ll find on the web, so I’m posting it here. I’m guessing it changes, though, since it’s just printed on a piece o’ paper.

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I was debating between the British Fish & Chips and the Piri Piri Chicken Wrap. This was the first time I’ve seen anything “piri-piri” in the U.S. So there was that. And I really hate to compare fish and chips with my fave at Anchor. But I couldn’t help myself with the ambiance and beer I was drinking…

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British Fish & Chipssalted, malted and wrapped in newsprint paper – $8

When I ordered “the fish and chips”, I was asked if I wanted them British or Yankee style. British-style Fish & Chips are malted before serving. You malt them yourself if you order them Yankee-style. To get to the fried goodness, one must flip over the package and open it up.

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The pre-malting makes the fries a big soggier. I do like malt vinegar; but I think I’d prefer to malt them myself next time. The fish was very, very good and I’d highly recommend this if you are looking for some British-Pub fare. Great price, too!

Rob’s choice was a bit different:

a bowl of the soup of the day {some cabbage-vegetable-beef sort, I believe} with…

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RHP Croquettes red headed piper beer cheese, mash, cajun aioli – $5

Those were the biggest croquettes we’ve ever seen! They were crazy-delicious; but Rob could only put away two of them after his soup. If you are looking for a filling, tasty and inexpensive bite in town, this is the one! But after all that heavy, fried food, we were in no shape for dessert. But in case you were wondering what’s available….

 

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Okay, so now we need to go back to Merlin’s Rest to play some trivia sometime. Who wants to join us?

Do you like pub food?

If so, what’s your go-to?

Cheers~
Carrie

 

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Eating & Drinking in St. Augustine

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Yes we did make it to the Old Town on the days that we didn’t golf while we were vacationing in St. Augustine.  Those were some chilly and cloudy days for Florida. Take a look!

And just like when we were in Las Vegas and Kaua’i, I didn’t snap photos at every place where we ate or imbibed. But I’ll list some of the places we tried anyway. When we go back one day, we’ll have an account of where we’d like to return {and what to order!} and where we can skip.

A1A Rail Works

A1A – Beach Front Avenue!” Did I just do that? Oh, yes, I did! And we did it all trip, too. I mentioned that the only real craft brewery in St. Augustine is the one we visited – Mile Marker. However, when Rob inquired about places with lots of tap brews at check-in, A1A was mentioned. It’s actually a brewpub and they do brew their own beer. But they do not distribute. Think Rock Bottom Brewery, or for those of you in the TC Metro, Town Hall Brewery. It was late afternoon of the day of our arrival. And it was chilly.

We settled in for some of the best beer cheese soup we’ve tasted: A1A Ale & Cheese Soup – Red Brick Ale blended with aged cheddar and pepper jack cheeses, caramelized onions and roasted barley.

And these didn’t suck either. {Actually, rather addicting!}–>: Blue Cheese Chips – Fresh, housemade chips and blue cheese cream sauce topped with scallions, smoked bacon and blue cheese crumbles.

The beer was good, but not outstanding. It’s what we expected. But I’d like to give a shout out to Terri’s Skinny Cocktail {under 125 calories}: Strawberry Soda – Cruzan strawberry rum, sugar-free triple sec, fresh-muddled mint and strawberry topped with soda. Mmmm…
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JP Henley’s

Just behind A1A is JP Henley’s, which boasts over 70 beers and many wines by the glass. We loved the selection and ordered a couple of apps. We were served plastic forks and knives, so I felt like we were in an airport. And the food wasn’t anything special. If I were to visit JP Henley’s again, I’d go for the beer and then head over to A1A for the food! It’s smallish inside, so I can only imagine what it’d be like when it’s packed.

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Murray Bros. Caddyshack

Yes, you guessed it. Bill Murray and his five brothers opened this place. And the location was perfect in that we had finished a day golfing and happened to be staying at the World Golf Village. But the food – not so much. Between our Cheeseburger Pizza, Pork Chops and Fiesta Salad, nothing was that great. There isn’t really a reason to go back when there’s so many other places to try in St. Augustine. However, if you are a Caddyshack fan, check it out. This place could be a museum with all of the memorabilia on the walls!

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Milltop Tavern

After our stops at Mile Marker Brewing and the San Sebastian Winery, we parked near the old town. As we were walking around, we stopped for a coffee to warm ourselves up. Were we really in Florida?

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Then we made our way down the pedestrian-only St. George Street.

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It was late afternoon and time for some food! We hadn’t had lunch so we w climbed the stairs of the Milltop Tavern to the second floor where live music was thriving. We found a seat at a little table top against the wall. The heaters were on, but this place has to be open to the outside in nicer weather. This is a great place for local music, but the food was so-so. I had some black bean nachos while Steve & Terri ordered the black bean soup. They must like their black beans there! {For the record, I do, too.}

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The Prince of Wales

We wandered off St. George Street hoping to explore further and maybe find another place to stop. And it was this “Taste of England” joint that was chosen. It’s basically a very small one-room restaurant with a handful of tables inside an old house. The bar seated maybe two people. When I walked through the door, my face felt instantly greasy. Maybe this is the British Equivalent to a greasy spoon? We stopped for a drink. Then Rob decided to order some onion rings, which the group seemed to love; but I was too full from my earlier nachos. The room was small enough that you could talk with everyone in it. And we kind of did… Someone was looking for prime rib in town for later that evening. We couldn’t give any advice, but the locals on the other side of the room overheard and offered theirs.

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Barley Republic

We found an Irish Pub! This is a tradition Rob and I have that my friend Jen and I started when we spent ten weeks backpacking Europe after college. We just had to stop. And we are so glad we did. They offer over 70 beers, ten of which are on tap.

Rob peruses the menu, while Steve checks out the malt vinegar while the musician sets up for set!

Rob peruses the menu, while Steve checks out the malt vinegar while the musician sets up for set!

But the best find? They had the Southern Tier Pumking on tap! Rob and I spotted it at the same time. But we were worried. How could they still have it on tap? Would it have gone bad? We decided to chance it. We were still teaching Terri about beer outside of the light stuff! A round was ordered. We found out later that they’ve had it for a while, but just tapped it the week prior for the first time.

With the Pumking, Irish music and good friends, we felt like we were home. Well, not at home, but relaxed and content. We stayed for quite a while, some of us enjoying Pumking after Pumking {10 ouncers were only $4.50!} But Steve was eyeing the Bangers and Mash that others tables were ordering. Let’s just say he ended up getting a to-go order. And he loved it. Good food, good beer and good times. Win-win-win.

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King’s Head British Pub

On our last day, after a long day golfing at King & Bear, we weren’t really up for going back to Old Town, so we did a little search for something not too far from the World Golf Village. We ended up at another pub! Who knew there were so many in St. Augustine? I was really not feeling like going for more greasy food, but I had no other options to offer.

Adorned with twinkle lights, it seemed to be in the middle of nowhere, except for the fact that it was right off of a highway.  When we walked in, it immediately felt like a traditional British Pub to me with its dark wood, patterned red carpeting and tap handles. And despite the fact that I was originally looking for something a lot healthier, I opted for the Fish and Chips. I know. Grease. What I said I Didn’t Want. But they were the best I’ve had since Anchor Fish & Chips in the Twin Cities. I was fulfilled. And the guys enjoyed the Pasties they ordered, too.

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It was kind of cool that we didn’t always have a real lunch so that we could jump around and have a few apps here and there to try a bunch of different places. Next time, I’d love to try some St. Augustine restaurants on this list and give the Savory Faire Food Tour a try…

What’s your favorite item on an Irish or British Pub menu?

Cheers~
Carrie

Republic

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Saturday night, Rob rounded up some friends and we went down to Republic, a craft beer bar and restaurant. Rob had almost chosen it for his birthday dinner this week, but decided it would be more fun to head there in a group.

It’s the second time we’d been to the Uptown location of this restaurant. But all it took was one visit to put Republic’s beer and burgers on Rob’s Top 10 lists.

There are several things that I love about this place:

  • There are no televisions! – Thus, no distractions. Unless your mate is constantly on his/her SmartPhone, you should have his/her undivided attention!
  • The Simplicity – There is one menu with one side listing beers by category {Ales, Belgians, IPAs, Ciders, etc.} and the other side listing food by category {Daily, Vegetable, Beef, Cow, Pig, Bird}
  • Local Beer Selection – Of their 56 craft beers on tap, about of third of them are local – meaning within the Twin Cities metro. There are many more hailing from the entire Midwest.
  • The Beer Flights – They are exceptional here because there are no exceptions. You can choose any three beers in a flight of half-pints for $10.
  • Beer Feature – There is also one Beer Feature that is just $3 at any given time until it’s gone!
Republic Beer Flight - 8 oz pours of any three different beers

Republic Beer Flight – 8 oz pours of any three different beers

This is the route I like to go so that I can try a variety of beers. Jen and Kim did the same and each included a Cider in their lineups. Lately, mine have been consisting of the Porter and Stout varieties. But I did add the Steel Toe Imperial Red Ale to the mix this time.

The Food

I’d like to describe the food here as “Elevated Comfort Food.” I can almost guarantee you that I’ve heard that phrase somewhere else. So I can’t attest to its originality. But I do think it describes it well. Here are some examples:

Beer Battered Fish & Chips - Fulton Blonde beer batter, house-made tartar sauce

Beer Battered Fish & Chips – Fulton Blonde beer batter, house-made tartar sauce

When I asked Kim how her fish and chips chips was, she gave me the look and said, “It’s awesome.” You could see that there were spices in the batter. And that is not how she described the fish and chips at Pat’s Tap.

Sausages - roasted potatoes, mustard

Sausages – roasted potatoes, mustard

Even though this was so simply described, our friend Mike was intrigued. When it arrived, I asked what kind of sausage was in the dish. He said, “Kielbasa, I think.” Rob hates the word “hearty,” but if we had to describe any dish as such, this would be the one. There were a lot of potatoes! Purple, Yukon, baby reds… He had a pile leftover after eating half of them and all of the meat. His wife, Lisa, said that they’d take them home and she’d make some hash for breakfast.

Poached Eggs - grilled vegetables, roasted potatoes, chimichurri {add steak for $6 or sausage for $4}

Poached Eggs – grilled vegetables, roasted potatoes, chimichurri {add steak for $6 or sausage for $4}

I surprised myself by ordering poached eggs in a restaurant. But. It. Just. Sounded. Good. I added steak and was glad I did. The grass-fed beef was perfectly cooked and maybe even “made” the dish.

The poached eggs were a little overcooked, in my opinion. I like me a runny egg and they were barely so. Also, I took a big bite of one and found something crunchy. After a few bites, I realized it was an egg shell and it was all dispersed throughout my mouth. I have never experienced this before. How could it happen? I thought maybe I was imagining it, until I carefully forked up another bite and found another piece of shell in tact. When I showed the server and asked her to take away my napkin which contained the remains of the shell-bite, she apologized; but that was about it.

That being said, those roasted veggies were divine. And I ate every bite of potatoes. I don’t buy potatoes because I could eat them in quantity with no regard to portion. So, indulge I shall, when they are offered on my plate at dinner.

Angus Burger - carmelized onion, bacon, aged cheddar -or- blue cheese {burgers served with a mixed green salad, sub fries for $2}

Angus Burger – carmelized onion, bacon, aged cheddar -or- blue cheese {burgers served with a mixed green salad, sub fries for $2}

And then – The Burger. Lisa, Rob and Jen all ordered one. Jen said that there was a good amount of blue cheese on hers. Other places are a little skimpy on that. And she went on to explain how she never had any patience to cook up some carmelized onions herself, but how wonderful she forgot that they are! Rob confirmed that it is still one of the best burgers he’s had in the Twin Cities.

What is your favorite comfort food?

How would you kick it up a notch?

Cheers~
Carrie

From Pat’s Tap to…

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November Girls’ Night took place on a back-to-back weekend with last month’s Girls’ Night. Rob asked the girls if he could crash it. Not only did they happily oblige…

But Jen offered up her turn to choose the restaurant to Rob!

He was tickled. He threw out five options he was considering, just to make sure he wasn’t completely stepping on our toes.

It was narrowed down to Pat’s Tap.

I love this tradition of trying new restaurants with the girls every month. There are no rules, except that we each take turns choosing the location. We do tend to try new places, unless someone has a hankering for something they’ve loved before… 😉 One of the reasons dining with just the girls is fun for me is that we often get dine where Rob normally wouldn’t like to go, namely seafood joints. {I know, they usually have steak or a burger, but his choices are limited.}

For example, one month, we dined at Sea Change. I never posted on the restaurant, quite frankly, because I kept my iPhone in my purse, took no photos of the beautiful food and just spent time chatting and catching up with the girls. Because that is really the purpose of these dinner nights. And sometimes, that’s all I want to do!

All of that being said, it’s fun to add Rob to the mix sometimes, too. No matter the situation, his personality and sense of humor gets everyone laughing.

I did take a couple of photos that night, but they aren’t very good ones. So I hope my words convey the character of this place more than anything else!

The Ambiance

Pat’s tap does not take reservations. I warned Rob of this because he doesn’t like to stand and wait – ever. The plan was to arrive around 6pm on a Saturday evening. Luckily, there was a table or two left and we didn’t have to wait at all, despite the fact of how busy it was. The bar was packed and people were standing.

I’d call this a quintessential neighborhood bar {and eatery}. It seems to be the hangout for people about 30 – 45. And there was Skee Ball! Seriously. However, I don’t think we were ever going to get in on that action with how busy it was. If you’ve been looking to join a Skee Ball legauge – they’ve got ’em here.

Skee ballThe Beer {and wine and cocktails}

The beer list is quite extensive! There are a couple of handfuls on tap and a gazillion more in the bottle. Whatever your taste, you’ll find something. The wine list is pretty decent, too. Not just the usual suspects. And the craft cocktails had me intrigued. I almost went in the that direction.

Instead, I went for the Deschutes Jubel Ale on Nitro. It’s a seasonal, festive beer that I’ve only seen on tap in these parts the past couple of years. Enjoying it on Nitro means it’s smooth and creamy. They also had the Deschutes Black Butte Porter on Nitro, which we recommended to Kim. The best part? These two Nitro taps are offered at Happy Hour prices – ALL MONTH LONG (any time of day).

An excellent beer, on Nitro, for just $3 per pint – YES, PLEASE!

The Food

We started with a couple of apps, of which I took no photos.

  • Kim and Jen split the Zucchini Cakes with Lemon Honey Aioli – I took a bite and loved the shredded zucchini texture. They were so good! My only complaint was that aioli was a little too lemony for me. And I like lemon.
  • Rob ordered the House Made “Cheese Its” – Everyone pretty much agreed that the real thing is better, but I applaud the effort. They tasted more like Goldfish and I didn’t have any problem eating them!

At this point, none of us were particularly famished. But I’d heard rave reviews of the burger here, so I was still hoping someone would split one with me! Rob said that he would and really wanted the Bacon Burger.

“That’s okay,” I said. “I’ll just take the bacon off and give it to you.”

“Uh, no,” he replied, as he pointed to the menu. “It says here that the bacon is in the burger.”

As being one of The Odd Ones who is not a bacon fan {I like it by itself, but not in or on my food}, I hemmed and hawed for a bit. Finally, I said that I’d just go with it because it was something I’d never had before.

But when it came time to order, Rob went with the Big Cheese Burger instead. Oh how I love that man!

I don’t think I mentioned how great the service was here! The only thing that took some time was getting our beers, but I can imagine that the bar was backed up at that hour. But the server brought out our dishes that we split on separate plates!

BIG CHEESE BURGER. . . . . . . 13 Cheddar, tomato, garlic dill pickles

BIG CHEESE BURGER – $13 (Half of a sandwich pictured)
Cheddar, tomato, garlic dill pickles

One thing that is really hard to tell in that photo {besides what the dish actually looks like} is that there is a big, thick slice of cheese that is FRIED. It’s all golden and carmelized on top.

Despite the fact that we talked about it with our server, Rob totally missed this. He thought that piece of cheesy goodness was the top bun. He gave me the tomato and ate the top bun by itself claiming that he thought it was a crouton. When it came time to eat the burger, he had a look of confusion on his face about his “top bun.” It was then that we explained the fried cheese concept to him all over again!

Here’s what we will tell you – This was an excellent burger! It does not make Rob’s Top 10 List, but will come pretty darn close. It is also one we’d order again. The fries were okay, but nothing to rave over. And a half burger was just enough food for me.

The girls also split an order:

FISH & CHIPS. . . . . . . . . . . . 14 Cornmeal breaded MN perch, remoulade

 FISH & CHIPS – $14 (Half an order pictured)
Cornmeal breaded MN perch, remoulade

I’m pretty sure neither Kim nor Jen had ever had perch as a fish fry before. However, that’s the name of the game on Fridays in Northeast Wisconsin where I grew up! One thing I don’t think any of us ever had, though, was fish with cornmeal breading.

I believe that they thought the fish was fine, but that the cornmeal made it taste dry. I think they’d try something else next time.

Also, when Jen dipped her fish into the tartar sauce, she said, “Whoa! That’s spicy!” She was expecting traditional tartar sauce.

But it wasn’t. We all tried it and Kim and I concluded that we thought it was raw garlic that was making the sauce spicy. But there was something in it that we couldn’t put our fingers on. We tasted lemon, garlic, and fresh herbs individually and we thought that there just had to be something else in there. We asked our server and she told us it was a remoulade, but wasn’t exactly sure what was in it.

So it wasn’t actually a tartar sauce at all. Still, I’m not sure that, by definition, a remoulade is meant to be spicy either. It’s a French word. And while classical French cooking has a lot of flavor, it’s not generally spicy. Rob loved it and stole a ramekin away from the girls in which to dip his fries!

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By splitting a burger and ordering $3 Nitro beers, Rob was surprised and please by our bill. One of the best values in town for the quality we were served!

By the end of the meal, we thought about going somewhere for dessert. But we were full and had no room! We checked our iPhone apps for nearby watering holes, but we weren’t yielding any intriguing results. Instead, we decided to drive around a bit…

Come back next week to find out where we went after Pat’s and why we had to Ring for Champagne…

Have you ever had bacon in a burger rather than on it?

Cheers~
Carrie

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Irish Food

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Nobody goes to Ireland for the food. That’s what Italy’s for, right?

People go to Ireland to see the beautiful countryside, to look up their Irish roots or to listen to traditional Irish music in the pubs while rubbing elbows with the locals {more coming on those things in future posts!}.

But just like anywhere else, there are establishments in Ireland that offer high-end, unique and satisfying cuisine. We just didn’t make an attempt to find them.

I remember when my friend Jen and I backpacked Europe in 2000, that our culinary experience in Ireland consisted mostly of fish and chips, Irish breakfasts {for dinner} and Beef/Guinness/Irish stew. I also remember that after spending time in England and Scotland, by the time we got to Ireland, all we wanted were some vegetables. An immense craving for a salad consumed both of us. To our surprise, we found “salad” listed as a side on a lunch menu one day. We were so grateful that we had finally found something! When it was delivered to our table, we were completely dismayed to find that this “salad” was coleslaw.

Before this trip, I told Rob that while I’d probably be trying a lot of fish and chips, he’d probably be safe with the Beef/Guinness/Irish stew. Furthermore, I warned him that the “chips” were thick cut, not the skinny fries he so adores.

Upon arrival, our very first lunch was at the hotel. I enjoyed my sandwich, just fine.

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Look! Coleslaw and a salad!

However, the rest of the crew didn’t like theirs as much.

Rob said the beef on this sandwich was tough and, of course, the chips just weren't his style.

Rob said the beef on this sandwich was tough and, of course, the chips just weren’t his style.

My Best Meal

The best meal that I had in Ireland this trip, was at Kennedy’s in Dublin. I believe it was even our very first night. I ordered a special on the menu that was some sort of chicken dish with tomato, avocado and a balsamic drizzle. Flippin’ out of this world. It was juicy and flavorful. In fact, it was the best chicken dish I had had in a long time anywhere.

I really wish I would have taken a picture. But I started to annoy Rob when I began snapping photos of our beverages that night. I think he wanted me to just relax and enjoy our trip. Understandably so, but taking pictures is soooo not stressful for me! I love capturing memories. And what’s the difference if my vacation photos are of food or the countryside? {As long as I have a little bit of both.} Still, after that, I stopped taking pictures for a while. But  if there is one meal that I should have photographed, this would have been it. Not only did it have fantastic flavors, it was beautifully presented. I nearly licked the plate clean.

Rob ordered the beef stew while his parents ordered burgers. My father-in-law had no problem with the burger there and happily finished it. However, Rob was grossed out by the meat in his stew. He said it was way too fatty. His mom wasn’t fond of her burger either. When Rob decided that he would finish her burger instead, he stopped after just one bite, describing the meat as “funky”.

Chicken

I quickly learned the food that was “safest” for me to order in Ireland chicken. I actually enjoyed nearly every chicken dish I ordered! On one occasion, nothing really sounded good to me on the menu, so I ordered a Caesar Salad. I wasn’t really in the mood for a Caesar Salad either, but everything else just seemed too filling and unappetizing. When it arrived, it was really nothing at all like a Caesar Salad as we know it. But I loved it anyway! The chicken was juicy, there were tomatoes and a creamy dressing. It was actually better than what I had been hoping for.

Tea

Did you know that more tea is consumed by the Irish than the British? That’s a little bit of trivia we learned on our trip. Every hotel and B & B where we stayed had teapots in the room along with an assortment of teas.

Breakfast

Included in our hotel stays was the morning buffet breakfast with toasts, jams, scones, juices, eggs, bacon, sausages, cereals, yogurts… You name it. I love breakfast, so this was great for me. And I quickly found out what I liked and didn’t like. {I was surprised that I didn’t like the sausage!}

My favorite breakfast was at the Radisson Blu in Galway. There were so many different cheeses and pastries and the quality was just much better there. Rob is not a big get-up-and-eat breakfast kind of guy, so he humored me with the whole ordeal of getting down to eat before departing. However, we came to learn that these breakfasts were not included in everyone’s stays. If the breakfast had not been part of our trip cost, it would have been 17 Euro at the Radisson. That’s about $23. I think that’s hefty if they aren’t serving Mimosas! 😉 Plus, Rob only nibbled a bit.

Soup of the Day

The Soup of the Day was always vegetable. It became a joke between my mother-in-law and me. After enjoying a filling breakfast that wasn’t too early in the am, we often didn’t eat lunch until 2pm. A little soup was just fine to tide us over until dinner. When inquiring about the “Soup of the Day”, we always got the response:

Vegetable

I’m not sure if it was just the time of the year or if it’s just the easiest, most economical thing to do with leftovers that made the vegetable the soup of the day nearly everywhere we went. But no matter what, I almost always loved the soup. However, my father-in-law didn’t like the fact that they “pulverized the heck out of it”. He wanted chunks of vegetables in his soup, damn it! 😉

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Vegetable Soup with Brown Bread

And, oh, how delicious was that brown bread with butter! Actually, I feel like I need to try making some soon. It’s winter and a little vegetable soup and brown bread sounds like a nice, comforting meal right now.

Portion Sizes

For lunch, Rob would often try something more familiar on the menu, but the portion sizes were much more manageable than they’d be in the U.S.:

nachos with a side salad

Nachos with – you guessed it – a side salad.

Portion sizes really did vary from place to place.  Here are some examples:

I have no ida

I have no idea what Rob had here, but it was the perfect size for lunch. {And came with a side salad!}

I loved this salmon dish I had at the Bunratty Castle Hotel. And it, too, came with a big side salad!

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Then there was a side order of mashed potatoes that came with a dinner my mother-in-law ordered. But doesn’t it really look like a big ol’ bowl of vanilla ice cream?!

A side of mashed potatoes

A side of mashed potatoes

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In Galway, many menus and signs were written in both English and Gaelic. I ordered this Warm Brie Salad. I devoured the breaded brie, but left the little side salad since I didn’t like the dressing.

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Fish & Chips

In Galway, I finally had some fish and chips, too! I remembered fish & chips being one of the meals I loved in Ireland back on my trip in 2000. I waited until Galway to have them because we were recommended by some Dubliners to get the fish and chips at McDonagh’s Fish and Chip Bar there. They said they were the best in Galway and probably the best in Ireland!

My thoughts were that they were pretty bland. But truthfully, I hadn’t had any fish and chips in a really long time. And those weren’t even in Ireland. My in-laws, who had had some fish and chips earlier in the trip, said that McDonagh’s fish and chips were better in that they weren’t as greasy.

Poor, poor Rob, though. After we looked at the menu and found that there was near to nothing rob could have , we asked him if he’d like to go somewhere else. He insisted we get our fish and chips and he would find something. He ordered some garlic or cheese bread of some sort, but it was the smallest portion size I’ve ever seen. Nothing that could fill anyone up by any means. But a true appetizer shouldn’t do that anyway. Still, Rob insisted that he was fine and we went on our merry way to listen to some traditional Irish music after enjoying our grub.

Beef

That night, after the pints of Guinness and hours of clapping and singing, and after his parents were long gone, Rob and I finally left the bar. On the walk back to our hotel, I noticed that Rob was more than just a bit tipsy after nearly nothing for dinner and drinking all through the festivities. Not wanting him to be sick, as we passed by a McDonald’s on that main street in Galway, I insisted that he get something to eat there. It was the only place open. I didn’t even a see a Spar open where we could grab some snacks.

He agreed to it and ordered some sort of specialty burger, with a smoky sauce.  After devouring it, he exclaimed: “I didn’t know beef could taste that good in Ireland!” Sad, isn’t it? After the first few days of having funky-tasting meat, he nearly had gone vegetarian and even “loved” the chips he would never eat at home.

Then, about a week ago, we read this article about horsemeat being found in “beef” burgers in Ireland. No wonder we saw these billboards all over the country:

Okay, that doesn’t even make sense on my part. This just says that the beef they use is 100% Irish/local, not that the burgers are 100% beef. Which is why my original thought that this was the reason Rob liked the burger at McDonald’s over the meat elsewhere throughout Ireland was wrong.

Instead, it might just be that McDonald’s has achieved its goal to make their burgers taste the same everywhere {regardless of the meat from which it is made}. Or it could be the fact that Irish burgers are made of local meat. We all know that when you eat foods that are local and/or in-season, they are usually fresher.  Finally, it could just be that Rob had too much to drink with no food in his stomach and anything tasted good at the moment. 😉

My advice – order chicken in Ireland. It just might surprise you, like it did me. No one thinks to do this in Ireland, because it’s not really considered “traditional”. But more times than not, I was pleased.

Final Meal

On our last night in Ireland, in the fair city of Dublin, Rob had had enough. We had our last pint of Guinness where it was supposed to taste best, checked out the Porterhouse {the halfway decent micro brew pub in Dublin} and then settled in for some Italian food. Yes. That’s right. We sold out. When traveling, you should try the food of the locals, right?

Although, thinking about that right now, there are not many restaurants in Minnesota that I can think of that serve lefse or a traditional hot dish. It would take a lot to seek them out. Creamy wild rice soup is sometimes hard to come by. {How many prepositions at the end of a sentence can I end with?} 😉

But it was so worth it. Sadly, Rob dubbed it as his best meal in Ireland. The staff there spoke Italian with each other and there were even some Italian teenagers causing a ruckus while waiting for their take-away pizzas. Maybe we could stretch it a little and say that we were in Europe, so we should eat European food. People order New York Cheesecake in California all the time, right? Yeah, I know, it’s a major stretch. Maybe even blasphemous.

 But in the end, it’s not only about the food when you are traveling. It’s the company, the landscapes, the culture, the people that make a trip more than memorable. I’ve yet to share all of those with you…

Want to learn more about our trip to Ireland this past fall? Check out these links:

Wine in Wine Countries, Guinness in Guinness Country

Ireland – Weather & What to Wear

The Beauty that is the Emerald Isle

Somewhere Over the Rainbow

Whiskey Wednesday – An Ireland Post

Irish Sport – Hurling

Celebrating Gaelic Football

Sláinte~
Carrie

O’Sullivan’s Pub – Gladwin, MI

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Yes, I’m almost finished with our Impressions of Restaurants from our Michigan summer vacation. Lucky for you, I’ve only been taking one day per week to subject you to them!

Speaking of luck…

We found an Irish Pub in Gladwin! I can’t quite remember how we found it. Maybe we drove by. Maybe we read about it in local brochure. Or maybe it was just a suggestion my in-laws gave us. In any case, the four of us piled into a van after deciding to go out for lunch one hot summer afternoon in July.

Rob and I thought that this was new, but apparently it has been open since 2007. And we’ve been missing out!

Located about six miles east of downtown Gladwin, O’Sullivan’s Pub is another one of those Michigan restaurants where I’ve yet to find the menu online. I think I’ve learned my lesson: Take photos of the menus in Gladwin on our next visit, not only at this establishment, but also here and here! The menu at O’Sullivan’s was quite extensive for a little pub. There was so much we wanted to try!

As every Irish Pub should have, there is Guinness on tap. That’s tough to come by in these parts. There was no cider, which is a fave of ours when visiting Irish Pubs throughout the world. However, we were quite surprised by both their tap and bottled beer selection. Our server told us that they are striving for a focus on local beers. YES! When in Michigan… Right?

One particular beer on tap that we savored was:

Dark Horse Brewing Company is out of Marshall, Michigan, and I salivate over their Crooked Tree IPA. It’s a go-to beer of mine if it’s ever on tap. In fact, a restaurant-bar in our neighborhood no longer carries it. Thus, we no longer frequent that watering hole! So Dark Horse’s Raspberry Ale was a fine choice! However, I’ve had a few just plain bad raspberry ales in my day; so it was still a gamble.

It was perfect!

Can that be said about a beer? This beer was fruity without being overly sweet. It still had an ale flavor, too. Overall, I’d call it well-balanced. I may have had a second pint… at lunchtime. And I may have had a nap that afternoon, too. 😉

We ordered an appetizer for the table:

Reuben Sliders

This was some of the best corned beef I’ve had in a very long time! It was agreed at the table that these could be ordered as a satisfying meal all by themselves.

Three of us ordered the fish and chips. Can you guess who didn’t? 😉

I think that those of us who did had a choice of coleslaw or cottage cheese. Always needing a little extra protein in my diet, I went with the cottage cheese:

Uh, no description needed, right?

I thought it was a little strange that the cottage cheese came out first instead of on the side. Maybe they knew our food would take a little longer? I didn’t mind at all, though!

Fish and Chips

The fish and chips were okay – a little too greasy for my taste. But I was getting full anyway. It’s a little difficult for me to enjoy fish and chips to the fullest now that I’ve had them at The Anchor Fish & Chips. I will have to really pay attention to the fish and chips while in Ireland this fall to see how everything stacks up. My friend Jen and I ate them extensively while traveling in England and Ireland while on a backpacking trip through Europe after college. We didn’t have any complaints! Well, not until later in the trip when we were craving real vegetables.

Rob ordered:

Reuben Pizza

Ha! Good thing we ordered the Reuben sliders as an appetizer!

He really did enjoy this pizza! It was huge and the leftovers did not go to waste. However, Roasted Pear’s Reuben Pizza is still his favorite. {I have yet to write about that!} I asked him if he’d get the O’Sullivan’s Reuben Pizza again and he said that he probably wouldn’t; but only because there are so many other things on the menu he’d like to try.

The décor of this restaurant includes walls lined with Irish collectibles for that authentic pub vibe. However, some of the chairs don’t quite seem to fit. They look like they once belonged to Buffalo Wild Wings, with that hole carved in the back in the shape of a buffalo.

Upon entering the building, it smelled a little funky, kind of like a dirty dishrag. While that sounds like a complete turnoff, we only noticed it when we walked in, not while dining. I surely hope that it doesn’t smell that way everyday or they may be turning away customers with that first impression!

Finally, the women’s bathroom was just strange to me. It was just the one-person restroom, not the kind with stalls. It was very narrow, but had two toilets! I guess, ladies, if you are out at the pub drinking with friends, this is just plain efficient. 😉

But despite those little details, the corned beef and beer list alone make O’Sullivan’s Pub one little dive bar and restaurant where we’ll be back when we return to Michigan.

What’s your favorite dive bar and why do you love it?

Cheers~
Carrie

The Anchor Fish & Chips – Minneapolis

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My husband really wanted to try a place that was new to us.

He had heard it had one of the best burgers in all of the Twin Cities. As a burger aficionado, he just knew he had to try it out before he writes a guest post on burgers here at Season It Already! later this month..

For me, it was a surprise. He drove to Northeast Minneapolis {one my favorites parts of the Twin Cities}, so I wondered what was up his sleeve. And as we drove passed Anchor Fish & Chips, I knew that was where Rob wanted to go.

But there was a line of people trailing out the door.

AND

My husband does not like to wait!

{This is why we usually go out to eat earlier than most people our age. If not, we try to snag two seats together at the bar.}

He looked at the line and disappointment overcame him. I told him that we had no idea how fast that line went, so we had to at least go in to check it out. He obliged. We got in line and asked how long the wait would be. “Uh… Maybe about twenty-five minutes,” the gal said. I looked at Rob. He said, “Great. You can put our name down…”

WHAT?! Did I just hear what I think I did?

She told us we could get a drink at the bar if we’d like and either stand in the entryway or go outside in the back. Whew. Something to keep him occupied for a little while longer… 😉

The place was buzzing. Tables were full and although there were two seats in the bar area, we found out that people waiting would be seated there, too. We couldn’t snag a seat. A beer it was. I saw on the menu something I love to order whenever I’m at an English or Irish pub:

Cider

Drinks in hand, we headed through the restaurant out to the back parking lot. I saw people getting up from two or three different tables. It won’t be long now, I thought. Outside, the lot reminded me of a place where employees would go out for a smoke break. It wasn’t really meant to be set up for customers. {Maybe one of the guys out there smoking and on his cell phone was an employee?} We enjoyed the lovely late afternoon weather, but didn’t need to for too long…

In less than ten minutes, the woman came out to get us. We were seated and each opened a menu on the table. It was short and simple. To me, the menu items looked authentic from what I remember from my travels in England twelve years prior.

I ordered:

The Fish & Chips

How could I not!?

When a restaurant has the phrase “fish and chips” in it’s name, shouldn’t it be our duty to give their signature item a try? Yes, I am in the process of losing weight. No, I did not plan for these calories since it was a surprise night out. Yes, it was going to set me back. But honestly, I could not pass up this opportunity. {Call me weak, if you will, but I don’t look at it that way.} There was little to nothing of healthy value on the menu anyway. And instead of griping about Rob taking me to a place where he knew there were no healthy options, I decided to just indulge in the experience.

And it was worth every bite!

I was a little worried about how my body would handle all the grease. I hadn’t eaten anything deep fried in a long time {other than stealing a few fries from his plate here and there.} But I did just fine. Still, I know that I ate way too much. I should have practiced The 50% Solution. That is something that I would do differently if I could do it over again. But surprisingly, I didn’t feel stuffed. Maybe my long run after work had worked me up an appetite? Still, I do know that this was not the food to replenish my body. It’s not something I’d do every day. Knowing that, I enjoyed it and didn’t feel one bit guilty. 😉

I had heard that the fish and chips at Anchor were tops. However, I didn’t understand how fish and chips could really be different anywhere. Now I do! I really can’t explain it. The fish was flaky and not too greasy and the “chips” just like I remembered in England. You are going to have try them for yourself.

Since Rob is allergic to fish, he opted for:

The Helicopter Burger & Chips: Burger topped with Irish Cheddar, Fischer Farms Ham & a Fried Egg.

Actually, he opted for the burger because he had read somewhere that it was one of the best in the Twin Cities.

His verdict? Well, you will just have to wait to find that out on his guest post later this month!

My verdict: I bit into the burger and all I could taste was ham. Ham is fine on a burger, but I wanted to taste the burger, too. Maybe I got too much ham in my bite? Nevertheless, I loved my fish and chips more.

Would we return? Why yes, of course. It may be a while since I don’t need another 1000 calories for dinner anytime soon. 😉 But I did learn that if I’m going to have fish and chips in the Twin Cities, why go anywhere else?

The Anchor Fish and Chips will be launching a food truck at the end of May, too!

What is your favorite place to order fish and chips?

Do you make a healthier alternative at home?

Post your favorites in the comments!

Cheers~
Carrie