Sometimes I’m a shithead and don’t write anything for a while. If I was smarter, I would’ve written about my trip to Dublin shortly after getting back (or during my stay) while my impressions were fresh in my mind. I however am a lazy shit. With that Catholic release of guilt out of my system I think I can now appropriately convey my thoughts.
Our first night out was enacted in a jet lagged, lack-of-sleep-hangover. Neither of us had slept much on our overnight flights on our way to Dublin. So, despite the morning Irish sun pouring upon our backs as we ambled into Tim’s apartment I knew I needed to score a nap. Being the erstwhile pragmatist that I am, I first sought out Tim’s bed to work at adjusting my body’s clock to that of my new locale. After my brief respite I awoke to laughter, cigarette smoke, and a couple slices of pizza. Phil was soon to follow me in search of some shut eye. While Phil succumbed to the rigors of international travel, I got better acquainted with Tim, Mo, and Gavin with the help of beer and my exceptionally charming use of swear words. Some hours later, Phil awoke and Tim took us out on the town to see a portion of Dublin. He acquainted us with the Ha’penny Bridge (so named because William Walsh, who built the bridge, was granted the right to extract half a pence from those who needed to cross which was the price of using the ferries that were replaced by the bridge), as well as The Liffey (a river that splits Dublin, is quite murky and when Prince Phillip inquired whether Guinness was made from water from it royally pissed off some Irish folks) and more interesting things that my addled brain cannot recall. After a bit of walking, we were all famished and found ourselves at an Irish Burger King which purports to only use 100% Irish Beef! I’d much prefer to spend my money at a local business but we all had to piss and it was right there. I can also report that an Irish Whopper tastes like an American Whopper. After satiating our needs, we were in search of more satiation and found ourselves at the local pub Whelans, somewhere we would find ourselves many more nights during our stay.
Building with a flag (involved in the struggle somehow?)
A big building with dope columns
Captain America in Neon
Dope ass Irish street art
Epicures only #foodlife
My terrible job at posing just like the famous guitarist of Tin Lizzy
THE MIGHTY LIFFEY (with the Ha’penny Bridge over it)
The thing I noticed on our bus trip from the airport into downtown Dublin is the actual density of the city. When you start really getting into Dublin proper, it is block after block of flats and shops, and flats on shops, next to flats, next to shops, next to pubs, next to more shops, and more pubs and flats. That first sleep-deprived ride really made it apparent to me that I was in a different country. When you travel in America, you can lose the sense of being in a different place. Every town seemingly has a Best Buy, Walmart, Applebees, etc. There are certainly cities that have their own unique traditions but our culture nationally is roughly the same throughout the US (despite each state or city’s local peccadilloes).
I was thoroughly impressed with the bus drivers while I was in Ireland. They do not have an easy job navigating a huge vehicle through extremely narrow streets that were initially built in the mind of being a concourse for horse led traffic. In the pictures above, you should note that the traffic through those streets allow for two way traffic (buses did not go down that street).
Above you can see where Phil and I slept for 9 days. Phil got the couch and I got the futon mattress.
See Floyd and Mo. Imitate Floyd, Mo. Sleep Floyd, Sleep.
Above you can see a typical evening of soccer. Above that’s Gavin telling Mo something (and Keith’s butt, and Sam’s knees). Quite a few evenings were spent with a couple Carlsberg or Bavaria brews, playing music for each other and arguing about sports and life. I was thoroughly surprised to find that Gav and Mo had introduced Tim to MF Doom. Something can certainly be said for globalized culture (due to the internet) when a couple of Irish lads need to school a guy from the Detroit area on rap.
Halfton may not be the most relevant site to detail my trip to Ireland, but I did eat quite a bit of food while abroad and I will touch briefly on the things I ate here and there. I thought about using another medium like Facebook, but I feel that Facebook is lacking for laying this out in any rational way (other than seeing all the pictures in a photo album).
I frankly did not take enough pictures while in Ireland despite trying my hardest to just take pictures at random times. Generally when I travel I try to enjoy my experience and live in the moment without cataloguing each moment. Attempting to document an experience versus simply having the experience colors your interaction with those moments. I can’t say definitively that the experience is colored negatively or positively by this cataloguing, but I can say that it is nice to be able to vividly share some of my trip in several formats with my friends and family. All of the Irish people I met and befriended were incredibly gracious and forgiving of my ignorance of Irish culture and history. I can easily say, I want to go back to Dublin. If you’re on the fence about going to Ireland, get off that fucking fence and go already!
This is the song I had in my head on the way to Dublin (just swap ‘America’ with ‘Ireland’):
Okay, okay, I admit it, I didn’t actually think of this song while I was on my way to the Emerald Isle.
This was my first long flight in a while and I was a bit freaked out about it. Perhaps that’s why I got to the Detroit airport 3 hours early so I could sit and twiddle my thumbs (aka play some Bubble Shooter):
(Champps are everywhere Lindsay!)
Apparently AirCanada/UnitedAir doesn’t have a huge call to fly people from Detroit to Toronto as we flew there on a 27-seater puddle jumper. I wound up in the last row which was more like a bus as the entire back row had seats, so I was positioned with my feet in the aisle.
The Toronto airport was a bit of a cluster-fuck. Whoever designed it apparently never:
1. Envisioned large amounts of people trying to go from point A to point B quickly.
2. Imagined people would want to sit before their flight.
3. Thought about crowd cross-traffic.
I was a bit of an asshole and didn’t know if we were going to be served dinner on the flight (I believe that information was printed on the flight itinerary, but I of course didn’t read through all of that) so I hurried into a restaurant to try and grab a bite before the flight. I had brought CLIF Bars but I was craving some hot food. The restaurant was not full or particularly busy, but it took roughly 15 minutes for someone to come offering some water and take my order. 30 minutes later my BLT and cup of soup arrived. I had about 5 minutes to wolf down my cold, soggy BLT and take a sip of bad Beef and Barley soup and I was on my way. Worst $20 dinner ever. From what I can see on the menu (had to look at the high-res copy I have), you shouldn’t go to Casey’s Bar and Grill in the Toronto airport.
Oh yeah, they also served dinner on the flight (I got the ‘beef’ meal which was basically a hot beef stroganoff, a roll with butter, a delicious/zesty corn slaw, red wine, and a little brownie/cake dessert), I could’ve totally kept that $20. On this particular flight (Air Canada, operating for United Airlines) offered free wine, beer, and liquor. I had two little Canadian Club shooters, popped two melatonins, and hoped for some sleep. I dozed for about 10 minutes and watched movies and Cowboy Bebop the rest of my time on the flight. If you have the dough, I would suggest upgrading your seats to First or Business class for an overnight flight.
After a bit over 7 hours in the air we arrived in Dublin. This particular section of the airport was being renovated and reminded me of nothing other than the Catholic K-8 School I attended, needing repairs and all. I unfortunately did not take more pictures of this section of the airport, but it was an absolutely odd experience. Oh, also, the ceilings were roughly 7 feet high, and the doorways were perhaps 6 and a half feet high in this section of the airport. Likewise, there were several sections where there were only stairs and no elevators. Good thing there were not any handicapped folks on this particular flight, they would’ve been fucked. On my return flight, I didn’t see this odd little, munchkin-ready section of the Dublin airport again. Here’s a quick shot of the Irish customs line:
I wandered out of the airport to find Phil (who instigated this trip to Ireland) and our friend Tim who would be our gracious host and tour guide for the entire trip. Some expatriates quickly assimilate the local accent, and as Tim has been in Ireland for 5 years or more I readily expected to be greeted in a thick Irish brogue. I was slightly surprised to hear Tim, more or less, speak in the same manner as he had when he lived in the US (later, I had pinpointed perhaps the only Irish manner of speech that Tim adopted, and that is how questions are asked. Generally, for an Irish speaker I heard the inflection for a question rise, and then drop on the last several syllables of the question. The result is a somewhat subtle difference in speech between an Irish speaker and an American speaker). Due to his altogether American accent, he is sometimes treated as a tourist despite living in Ireland for roughly half a decade. So, when he asked one of the airport folks where he could find the 16 line for the bus into Dublin, the young lady told him where and then proceeded to describe the color of the bus… never minding the fact that he knew the exact line he needed, was wearing a Manchester City hoodie (premier league soccer team), and when he heard in which direction the buses were, immediately started walking in that direction (also, they’re public city buses, they have generally looked the same wherever I have gone). Until he learns Irish or speaks with a spot on Irish accent, I imagine these kinds of minor mistakes will continue to happen (a minor gaffe of being overly helpful, what a burden to bear, right?).
I’ll pick up in the next post where I’ve left off here. Each post will generally be centered around ‘events’ and not necessarily a day to day account of what we had done.
I don’t know why, but it seems like there weren’t that many places that did Philly Cheesesteaks when I lived in Michigan. I really started having cheesesteaks after I moved down here to Tampa. Apparently the cheesesteak is regular bar fare down here. Now whether it’s good or not… that’s the question. Most of the places that I’ve been to end up using provolone or other white cheeses that need to be melted. The downside to this, is that if the meat/cheese cool down you end up with a meaty cheese log. I’m big on texture, so a cheese log isn’t really palatable for me. So I’ve been in search of the cheez whiz Philly.
We were talking about this with one of our coworkers last week, and he mentioned EATS!. So I went over to their website to check out what they had to offer. He mentioned they were on the Food Network or some such. First thing I noticed was the Philly Cheesesteak with Cheez Whiz. FINALLY! Last week was a busy week though and we didn’t make it over until today. (Matt noticed something else on the menu…)
They serve you some freshly made chips with a dip. Very nice surprise, and delicious. I ordered my usual unsweet iced tea which, by the way, was good.
And now you get to feast your eyes on what Matt had been eyeing since last week:
They have a food challenge. 2lb burger 1lb of fries. Matt was feeling the hunger today and decided to go for it. Above you can see the chef and our waitress presenting the burger castle. Matt starts in on the first burger and demolishes that quickly. His comments “This is really really good burger”. The 3rd picture is him finishing up the first burger. 4th picture he’s halfway through the 2nd patty and still feeling pretty strong and still commenting on how good the burgers are. There are some rules to the challenge. Chief among them the 30 minute time limit and if you get up you forfeit.
The rest of the party’s food also arrived while Matt was working on downing his burgers. I really like banana peppers or pepperoncinis on my philly, but they didn’t have them so I opted for the jalapenos. Subbed my fries for onion rings as well. Our roommate Jacob ended up getting the special of the day which was the Bin on Weck and our other roommate Phil decided to go in on a Philly served straight up (onions and shaved rib eye topped with the cheez whiz).
The shaved rib eye was salty and had a little char from the flat top I think, really great texture. The amoroso roll was incredibly light and is the perfect vessel for a philly. The onion rings are heavily breaded and fried. I normally don’t like heavily breaded onion rings, but these were cooked perfectly and it was almost like a little onion donut. Went incredibly well with the spicy remoulade. Phil and Jake ended up dipping their fries in the remoulade because it was so delicious. Anyways, back to the challenge.
In the first picture Matt still fighting the good fight, but he’s starting to feel it on the 3rd patty. He’s grazing on some fries and gathering his will to finish the 3rd one. He does, and then throws in the towel.
The challenge beat Matt today, but there is the possibility of a rematch. I ended up having a lot of the last burger. Matt ordered it well done, and while I prefer a burger medium this was still excellent. I’ve been looking for a good black and bleu burger down here and I think I need to come back to find out if EATS! does it right.
EATS! gets a Rating: rating. Excellent service, excellent food, and a nice atmosphere.
Matt here, reporting in with the latest in stomach news. While still struggling, I can report that the challenge was indeed delicious. I certainly advise anyone in a mood for a burger to give EATS! a shot. One thing that Dan left out, the proprietor of the joint attended us frequently throughout the challenge to give me time updates, ensure that I was sticking to the rules (No getting up, no sharing food, if the food falls to the floor and you want to win then you’ve got to eat it) and to provide words of encouragement. I must say, we received great service from our waitress (and in general) as she was spot on with water refills as well as making sure the other guys got everything they needed while they chuckled at my self-appointed misfortune. While I did NOT finish the challenge (as you can see by my sad mug) I do have tips that may help you conquer the challenge and be the master of your own Burger-Destiny:
1. Eat large meals the day prior (if you can, do a couple of days).
2. Get a good workout in the evening prior to help pique your appetite (this is what helped me bring a hearty appetite).
3. Drink water during the challenge.
4. Don’t order the burger with extras. Only order Meat/Bread/Cheese and ask for sauces to dip on the side.
5. Start fast and finish early.
Post meal I’d suggest drinking a lot of water to help with digestion. If you have the cajones to give it a shot, then good luck to you Sir or Madame.
New World is one of those spots in Ybor that we’ve been going to for a long while now. Excellent beers on tap. Great selection on and off the tap. I kept hearing about the BBQ Buffet but just never managed to make it over. We work on the opposite side of Tampa and most of the time if I’m driving out that way I’d rather just eat at home. So, since we took a day off Matt, Phil and myself decided to head out to lunch somewhere. We were thinking about grabbing a Falafel sandwich from the new Greek restaurant in Ybor. We parked and started walking down there when I spotted New World and remembered that they just started the Monday through Friday BBQ Buffet. Fucking. Wicked.
It’s also kind of weird being in/around Ybor around lunch time. Normally we stop by for a bite to eat at night or for drinks.
Anyways, one of my favorite things about establishments in Florida are the open air layouts. New World is easily one of my favorite spots for this. There is the main bar area that opens up into an atrium with seating. They have bands playing almost every night. The paradigm seems kinda strange coming from Michigan, you go out to a place and in the winter they keep the doors open but they roll out the space heaters to keep you warm and enjoying the outside. Anyways, they have things hanging on the walls, like a horse riding a bike and a mounted marlin guarding the beers. The atmosphere is inviting, but it’s the food we’re interested in.
Now, it’s BBQ, but they’ve put their twist on all of it. You come in and grab a plate and load up. You pay by the pound, so you can grab as little or as much as you’d like. There is also a current reigning champion for who has eaten the most. Andre Jones is the current champ. I don’t know how but Andre has dominated a couple of the local eating challenges. He’s also on the wall at this local hotdog place, Frankie’s. Anyways, back to the food. The potato salad is a curry potato salad, just absolutely ridiculous. Curry really pops, but it marries really well with the dish. I would come back just for the potato salad. Coleslaw was fairly standard, but it’s freshly made and the slaw sauce is good. The corn salsa was good, although I can’t recall the flavor that well now. I skipped on the macaroni salad, but that’s probably pretty legit as well. The corn muffins were light and I really like the presentation. Bite size if you have a big mouth, but otherwise a 2 bite endeavor.
One of my biggest beefs with chain restaurants and mall restaurants (shit.. most restaurants) is how they treat vegetables. They’ll give you a big heap of steamed broccoli, but then they drench it in a tankard’s worth of butter. Just give me some fucking greens that haven’t been converted to a saturated fat. Anyways, New World Brewery doesn’t do this. The green beans are clean and fresh, with a hint of salt to help bring out flavor. It reminds me of my Grandma Michael’s freshly picked green beans from the garden. The collard greens were pretty good, I thought it could use a little vinegar but that’s all personal preference. The baked beans have some chunks of green pepper that still had some snap to it, which was nice. I’m not a huge fan of baked beans but these are good as far as that goes.
They have some curried rice with pineapple. Awesome. A little kick, and just delicious (you might have noticed that I enjoy curry). I also sampled the mac and cheese, which is pork mac and cheese. Personally, I would like just little bits of pork, this is more of a casserole sort of thing. It’s good, just not what I prefer. The mashed potatoes were good, but nothing really out of the ordinary.
Onward to proteins! The smoked chicken is amazing. Tender, delicious and smoky. The sausage was completely stand out, I was dipping it in the Carolina style BBQ. Mustard base sauce to go with some ridiculous sausage. The pork was good, tender but not too tender. If it’s overcooked it will tend to fall apart too much which I don’t really like. The Kansas City and Carolina were my favorite sauces, but you gotta drop by and pick your favorite some time. You just can’t go wrong here, everything is good.
I’d prefer to be more critical and I don’t like to give these out, but this is definitely worth the rating. Rating: experience.
J&j barbeque (http://www.jjbbqtogo.com/): got an extra rib! Vinegar heavy sauce, meat is best thus far, so juicy, very tender, reminds Phil of Michaels. Best meat so far, but mild sauce was far too vinegary, hot was good.
Camp 31 (http://www.camp31.com/): apparently defending champions, not sure of this or something else. Most expensive so far at $9 but got roughly 5 ribs. As tender as 1st vendor but juicy unlike 1st. Comes with sauce painted on, no additional sauce available but that’s kinda nice. Sweet tea good not cloying. Refills are $1 on the $2 orig cost, so that’s good.
AUSSOM AUSSIE (http://www.aussomaussie.com/): different look to the vendor, also has aussie accent, not sure if real as I didn’t hear him say fuck or cunt once… but maybe that’s for appearances for my american brethren. Got shrimp on stick. Nothing to call home about, don’t get skrimps here.
So, we ended up seeing some signs around town for something called Ribfest. I love some good bbq, so obviously I went home and shared the news of some sort of festival for delicious meats with the roommates. Looked up the information online about the shindig. We were all enthused about the prospect of a lot of different ribs. Unfortunately one of the roommates was heading out of town to visit a friend of ours in Cleveland. His loss.
The one downside is the car ride across the bay. I don’t know what it is about living in Tampa or St. Pete but it seems like everyone I talk to is loathe to cross the bay for events and stuff. It’s only a 30 minute or so car ride, but the bridges make it seem like it’s longer than that. Anyways, we knew we had to brave a 30 minute car ride for the prospect of ribs.
Expensive. I knew it wasn’t going to be cheap going into it but if you’re looking to sample a wide variety of ribs you will spend a pretty penny. Three of us went, and it was $20/each at the gate to get in. So that was $60 to start the day. Three bones were typically $7, so we hit up 7 different vendors and had ribs from 6 of them. The clear winner of the day was Carolina Rib King http://www.carolinaribking.com/. Even after being stuffed, they easily had the tastiest sauce and best texture for ribs. While I realize that what people want out of BBQ is variable, for me they were perfect. Tender, but still texture. A little kick in the sauce and not too smoky.
If I went again in the future I would definitely buy my ticket ahead of time. Preorder tickets were $10 or $13 or something, not too steep if you know you’re going. If you were looking to be there for a while/stick around for the concert stuff I’d suggest bringing some chairs and a blanket for the ground. The sound was kind of ridiculously loud, so if you’re really into your classic rock cover bands move right up to the speakers.. otherwise you might want to keep some distance.
It was a lot more county fair like than I expected, some activities for kids and a little car show with some bitchin’ restored/maintained old cars and trucks. Overall not a bad day.
The day was pretty fun walking around and people watching. The ribs ranged from Rating: stars to Rating: stars for the Carolina Rib King.