Thu 2 May 2013
Clare, if you would like to talk to me about your recent visit my number is xxxxxxxxxx. Regards, Ross.
Gulp. It was a direct message to my Twitter account from Ross Lewis, exec chef and co-owner of Chapter One. I’d tweeted a few very positive messages about my recent (and first ever) dining experience at his renowned restaurant, plus one tweet expressing [slight] disappointment with my steak. Could he really be upset about an honest tweet regarding sinew?
Far from it. Ross was upset about my disappointment, not that I tweeted about it. He told me the particular cut of steak on the menu that night is a “heartbreak” for him because while it’s the most flavourful cut it has potential to have sinew hidden deep inside the meat. Upon delivery he can cut the meat to check for sinew and see nothing; but later a steak sliced from that bigger cut could have a bit of the stringy white tissue that’s not visible on the surface but reveals itself only when the diner cuts into it. So the majority of people who order it will get the most savoury, beautiful steak they’ve ever had but a few might get a bit of tough sinew in their meat.
I could hear his genuine frustration that I ended up being one of those few; for the next 20 minutes we talked candidly about food and cooking like two people who spend breakfast talking about lunch and who eat lunch whilst talking about what to cook for dinner (read: obsessed!). It was a proper chat between two food enthusiasts and for that 20 minutes I forgot I was talking to a Michelin-starred chef. He was down-to-earth and sincere, and his passion and dedication to his craft was obvious. This is one chef who doesn’t rest on his laurels.
Mon 29 Apr 2013
Even on the sunniest of days, when the sky and the ocean simultaneously reflect the most radiant shades of blue and the birds chirp away in the full, lush trees and everyone’s showing off their stems in rarely-worn shorts and exposing their bashful big toes in sandals; even on those rare, beautiful Spring days in Dublin, there’s something missing.
It was one of those days yesterday, and while Mountaineering Man toiled away at the office I decided to head out into town and get some much-needed Vitamin D, plus a few other things I’ve been meaning to purchase. My first stop was Fallon & Byrne, a place that has become almost a sacred place for me. Some people have churches; I have gourmet food shops and farmers’ markets. Even if I only need one item, I amble down every aisle and rest my eyes for at least a few seconds on every single item on every single shelf. From smoked salted almonds and squid ink lasagna sheets to sweet-smelling star fruit and whole wild rabbits, the selection is comprised of the most wonderful, mysterious things that never fail to inspire.
Sun 14 Apr 2013
For the first year after I moved to Ireland, I lived alone in a lovely upper-floor apartment in Drogheda. And for several years prior to my move to Ireland, I lived alone without any live-in beaus or roommates to speak of.
I don’t look back on this with any sadness or regret; in fact, when I finally decided to ditch the roommate situation and branch out on my own, I was beyond ready to go solo. My last roommate (in Los Angeles, where I lived at the time) was an actress who didn’t have a day-job, which meant she was in our apartment all the time. It got to the point where I’d pull into our driveway after a long day at work and groan when I saw her car there – just once I wanted it and her NOT to be there, laying about on the couch and nagging me about everything from whether I’d read her magazines without asking to when I’d planned to move the unwashed fork from the sink into the dishwasher.
Though for the first few weeks I was a bit chicken (one unfamiliar noise in the dark would almost make pine for the company of that lay-about actress) I settled into bachelorette living and embraced having my own space. It was nice to come home from work, fix myself dinner and not have to worry about whether someone else had already tuned the television to some stupid show I had no desire to watch. I could literally kick off my shoes, flip on the telly and eat cereal out of the box if I so pleased.
Sun 7 Apr 2013
When I first moved to Ireland just over three years ago, I was a wide-eyed American girl with sense of adventure and an open mind…or so I thought. After the initial excitement of living in a new country wore off, I started to realise that living in Ireland meant I would be getting a lot of practice working on something I wasn’t so good at: Patience.
I recall the first time I strolled down to the post office during lunch, just to find out many post offices are closed during the 1-2 PM lunch break. Seriously? How does this make any sense? Most people use their weekday lunch time to run errands, like go to the bank, drop off the dry cleaning and GO TO THE POST OFFICE. GROAN!
Particularly when I lived in Drogheda, a trip to the grocery store could take twice as long as planned thanks to the chatterboxes that work the cash registers. Oh Mary, you’re looking well! What are ye up to? Aw that’s a lovely restaurant, we love it. Make sure to get the steak and….oh sure treat yourself, you deserve it! This could go on for minutes…tens of minutes. Never mind there’s a half-dozen of us in line behind Mary, waiting to get back to work or back to the car that’s sitting in the pay-by-the-hour car park.
Sun 24 Mar 2013
As I sit here typing this blog post, I’m looking outside at the wind and rain and bracing myself for the sleet that is forecasted for this evening. If Irish people are buying that this is Spring, I’ve got a bridge in Brooklyn I’d like to sell you. The only thing that’s Spring-y about this weather is, well, nothing.
Still, it could be worse. And despite Mountaineering Man’s grumblings about the cruel and unrelenting Irish weather (and financial crisis and corrupt politicians), I still love it here. It’s funny how many times a day I get the OMG WHY DID YOU MOVE HERE FROM LOS ANGELES double-take from stunned Irish people. It’s typically followed by a statement about how bad things are here and how they can’t imagine why anyone would actually want to move to Ireland.
The sentiment I get from blog readers abroad is the complete opposite. I get a dozen emails every week from people all over the world who are dying to live here. They dream of the rolling green hills, the cosy pubs and great Irish craic and they ask me a lot of questions about how they can make that dream a reality. Their love and admiration for the country is palpable; they speak of Ireland with the kind of dreamy enthusiasm that many express about places like Paris, Tuscany and Manhattan.
Thu 14 Mar 2013
Every once in a while I like to write a short post on what we’ve been eating lately. We’re always keen to cook our own food versus buying ready-made lunches and we reserve restaurant outings for the weekends, so our kitchen is always bustling with activity.
Though it’s not always easy, it’s worth the effort. We buy 90% of our weekly groceries at the farmers’ market and get staples like ketchup, mayo, etc. at Lidl or SuperValu. This means there’s a whole routine of packaging up our vegetables and bread and fish/chicken/meat when we get home from the farmers’ market, as most of it isn’t in any kind of container or wrapping.
Still, we wouldn’t have it any other way. We eat incredibly well and Sunday through Friday we eat three meals a day that we’ve made ourselves. Our average cost? About €3.80 per person, per meal. Of course we’re not factoring in the effort it takes, but as I love to cook (and as Mountaineering Man is starting to get into cooking himself), we don’t mind it at all.
So here’s a look into an average week for us, many of these dishes don’t have recipes as we kind of throw them together. We focus on using everything we have for the week (I even write a list of what we have in the fridge every Sunday so I can better plan our meals and curb any waste) and with the exception of the weekends cook relatively simple food.
Brown Bag Lunches
MM takes a couple of sandwiches, plus oatmeal with fruit plus an apple every day for his breakfasts and lunches at work. I try to make his sambos interesting, and always use meat from the butcher and fresh bread from either il Valentino or Arun Bakery plus a variety of condiments. Last week he took corned beef with pickles, Edam cheese and a homemade Thousand Island sauce. My breakfast usually consist of a huge Glowing Green Smoothie, which I make at home and bring to work, and lunches are usually vegan or vegetarian. Yesterday I brought some roasted cauliflower and sweet potato topped with baked beans. A bit odd, I know, but filling, easy and tasty.
Fri 22 Feb 2013
Editor’s note: Today’s post is written by my husband Cormac, better known to you blog readers as Mountaineering Man. For my birthday a couple weeks back, he offered to cook me a homemade meal, which was a bit of a surprise; though he has become really good at making baked fish, roasted potatoes and the like he’s never made an entire meal using recipes. Here is his story.
WHAT do you cook the girl who’s eaten everything?
At least that’s what Clare told me she’d happily have for her birthday meal.
It was a significant birthday so this was going to be a significant meal. So the amount of planning and prep was going to be – you guessed it – significant.
Now we live in a home filled with cook and food books. From the Larousse bible to Bourdain, from Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall to Julia Child, there was no shortage of ideas on the shelves.
This is the point where I would usually admit my shortcomings, go for the simplest thing possible and pray that enough butter (the chef’s ace in the hole) would carry me through.
Not this time.
Sun 17 Feb 2013
The west of Ireland – with all its wind and rain and general bi-polar weather – holds a special place in my heart. It’s where I had my first weekend getaway (a mini-break, as Bridget Jones would say) with Mountaineering Man and where he proposed to me in February of last year.
So to celebrate our engagement anniversary and both of our birthdays (he’s a Valentine’s baby, just like my mom!), we headed west. We first hit Galway, where we strolled around the cobblestone streets, caught an impromptu show by some talented buskers and then feasted on beautiful salads at Kai. MM had a smoked chicken salad, which came with rustic field greens, smoked almonds, red cabbage. I opted for the goat cheese curd salad with blood oranges, toasted hazelnuts and lots of lovely greens. Both came with Kai’s addictive moist-on-the-inside, crusty-on-the-outside brown bread. The food was fresh and innovative and the décor was rustic and charming. We’ll be back!
Wed 6 Feb 2013
Yep, you read that right – today, I’m officially 40 years old. (Took the pic this morning, the first of my 40s!).
In all honesty, I’m not embarrassed to admit it. In fact, I’m embracing it. While it would be great to shave a few years off that number for the sake of grey hairs and a few laugh lines, I like myself better now than I did in my 20s.
I feel better about the choices I make – there’s a certain confidence that comes with age and experience. The things I used to obsess over when I was younger don’t even occur to me anymore, maybe because there are a whole slew of NEW things to obsess over now (like grey hairs and laugh lines!).
I remember in my 20s and even into my 30s I spent a lot of energy worried I’d miss something. It was hard to say no to invitations – what if something amazing happened and I wasn’t there? It was very important to feel included, whether it be in a club or in the telling of a joke. I hated missing out. You know the saying, “She goes to the opening of an envelope…?” Well, that was me. These days, I miss a lot of things…on purpose. I leave the bar after a couple of drinks. I politely decline invitations on a regular basis; my favourite Friday nights are the ones I stay in with Mountaineering Man with a bottle of wine and some home-cooked food. If I walk into a room and have no idea what the conversation is about, I’ll leave it.
I’m much kinder to myself today than I was when I was younger; the constant self-loathing and beating myself up…what was that about? I was my own worst critic, even if I didn’t show it to the outside world. Too chubby, fat arms, not smart enough, not interested in the right things, not interesting to the right people, too mainstream…these phrases were a regular part of my internal monologue for many years. It was exhausting.
I was painfully insecure, though I often acted the opposite. When I think about how that lack of confidence manifested itself back then, I cringe. I used to manage a group of designers at a job I had in my late 20s and during my most insecure moments I pulled rank with them. I tried to prove my authority and demand respect rather than earn it, and needless to say it didn’t work. Now I see the people I manage as equals and we work together and help each other out. It’s more productive and frankly, a hell of a lot more fun.