Archive for July, 2011

Galway 15

Two weeks ago a food blogger in Taiwan started serving a 30-day sentence for writing a critical review of a local noodle restaurant. Known only as Ms. Liu, the blogger wrote that the restaurant’s food was too salty, which led to the restaurant owner taking her to court for defamation. The judge sided with the owner and in addition to the jail time ordered Ms. Liu to pay NT$200,000 (4,900 Euros) in damages to the restaurant.

I imagine some restaurant chefs and owners are secretly celebrating this “victory.” The relationship between food bloggers – most of whom are amateur writers with little or no cookery school backgrounds – and restaurant owners has always been tenuous at best. Many chefs cite bloggers’ no-holds-barred critiques as nasty and irresponsible while bloggers say they’re merely doing the public a service by offering straightforward reviews. Both arguments are equally compelling.

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Even in Ireland, where the social norm would be to quietly accept mediocrity rather than complain, I’m seeing a real uprising among food bloggers who are fed up with lousy food and terrible customer service in restaurants. A local vegetarian food blogger relayed her disappointment at the “nasty” comments she received from her waiter – who clearly wasn’t interested in her vegetarian-related menu questions – at a popular Dublin café. “Next time you have a veggie customer, I hope you treat them better than you treated me,” she warned. Recently CheapEats.ie “named and shamed” a Dublin restaurant for “appalling” service and then launched a week-long series outing a variety of other offending eateries. The feedback from readers was generally positive; they, too, were fed up with the lack of good service and conceded that it was high time blogs called restaurants out for it.

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There’s been a lot of Los Angeles talk lately, mainly between myself and Mountaineering Man. We’re planning a trip for the autumn to visit my family and friends (for him it’ll be the big introduction!) and though it’s only mid-summer I’m guessing October will be here before we know it. Needless to say, the excitement is building.

Last week we had a little taste of LA here in Ireland, thanks to one of Southern California’s most revered bands: Weezer. Back in the ‘90s when I was a music journalist, I was lucky enough to interview the band a few times for various publications. And by sheer coincidence, my brother-in-law (a musician himself) is good friends with Weezer’s bassist, Scott Shriner and I know his wife (writer/author Jillian Lauren). Between all the connections, I’ve gotten to know the guys a little bit over the years.

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The band arrived in town the night before their Friday Oxegen set, and Scott had one request: really good fish ‘n chips. He mentioned that on a prior trip to Dublin he’d had a big, greasy version at a takeaway, but that it left him with lasting stomach pains (oh the day-after regret – we’ve all been there!). So we took Scott and guitarist Brian Bell to our favorite place for great, locally-sourced gastro pub eats – L Mulligan Grocer. The guys all ordered the same thing: a starter of L Mulligan’s famous Scotch egg, plus the fish ‘n chips (which is MM’s standard order every time we go there!). I went with their vegetarian Scotch egg and the moules frites, both excellent. They absolutely loved it, declaring it the best meal they’d had in the UK/Ireland in years. It really warmed my heart that they loved L Mulligans – one of our frequent haunts – as much as we do. Scott even Tweeted a picture of his meal, perhaps he’s a food blogger in the making?? :)

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It was just  regular-auld weekend here in Ireland but back home in Los Angeles my friends and family were barbequing and lighting fireworks and celebrating the Fourth of July – America’s birthday. My parents had a little shindig at their house where my dad made his famous smoked ribs and my mom prepared Japanese macaroni salad and my sister and her friend Miks kicked back, had a few drinks and enjoyed the grub!

Mountaineering Man and I spent the weekend doing what he loves best: climbing a mountain (duh!)! We hiked up Mount Leinster from the Ballycrystal side – meaning we opted to take the rougher, fern-covered terrain over the easier road access – and enjoyed the peace and quiet of nature. We didn’t come across a single person during our 4.5 hour trek, though we did run into a couple of mountain goats and several sheep along the way.

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We had our own little July 4th celebration of sorts at the summit, where we chomped down some classic American favorites that I made in honor of the holiday: Sloppy Joe’s, which is a mixture of beef mince and a tangy, spicy tomato sauce served up on a hamburger bun; and my mom’s famous potato salad. It was the perfect fuel for our hike and quite tasty as well. We were lucky enough to get spectacular weather up there that day. Sitting atop of Mount Leinster, eating our fab American lunch and enjoying the view – honestly couldn’t have asked for a better way to spend the holiday weekend.

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Med street

When I first moved into Mountaineering Man’s apartment, he was very forthcoming about the unfortunate realities of his neighborhood. He insisted I never go out on my own after dark – even to the corner shop – and be very aware of my surroundings when walking around during the day.

The area, known as The Coombe, does have its dodgy aspects. But lately I’ve really warmed to the neighborhood and its surrounding districts and have even discovered a few gems. About a month ago I started walking to my gym, which exposed me to a little nook in the area full of bustling shops and street vendors I’d never seen up close before. Now, instead of noticing the abandoned buildings and strung-out junkies I see the beautiful cakes in bakery windows and the sweet old Polish ladies who warm the shop stoops sharing gossip over tea.

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Walking down Meath Street is always a sensory delight; there are aproned butchers hauling whole carcasses on their shoulders, smells of fresh-baked bread wafting down the street and the sing-song sales calls of the ladies hawking a variety of cheap accessories at tables along the footpaths. Get your Flossies here, now half-price! they call out, referencing the colorful cotton shoes that are a hot item among the local street vendors right now. On the same table there is an odd variety of items including chocolates, candles, toothpaste and greeting cards – all at bargain prices.

The businesses here are all small mom-and-pop type places. There’s the Chinese hair salon, which is always packed with petite, lavender-haired grannies. There’s a Polish food shop that has a million types of pickled cucumbers and dry-cured sausages, and there are a few quirky clothing stores that specialise in cheap, frilly frocks – especially over-the-top sequined numbers. It’s fun to window shop and there’s always lots to see.

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