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Archive for September, 2011

Today’s post is by the one and only Mountaineering Man, who has recently found himself in charge of the cooking at Casa la MM and An American in Ireland.

MM Cooking Between the living room and the hallway, in our apartment, there is a small, clean but intimidating room. Intimidating in parts, mind you. Not the bins or the dishwasher. Or the fridge.

But our kitchen is full of cupboards, cubby holes crammed with pots, strainer things, many, many bowls (large and small, and in between). Sharp knives abound.

And that’s before I get to the entire drawer full of exotic mashers and dicers, prong-type things and ladles. Way, way too much stuff for me to ever use, even in a lifetime of cooking. That’s about as much as I knew about our kitchen.

Until this week.

Clare is working a new contract at present, so our previous dinner arrangement has been turned on its head. Instead of dutifully turning up each evening to some seriously good  dishes – listed here in other posts – circumstances have now pushed me in front of the cooker.

A declaration – I used to cook before.

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Moving to Ireland Raheny 3 Moving to Ireland Raheny 4

Back in May I left my humble little apartment in Drogheda and moved into Mountaineering Man’s humble little apartment in The Coombe. And then a couple of months ago we moved into a bigger apartment, a place that we can truly call our own.

We spent several weeks looking around at various Dublin neighborhoods, which I will admit was quite frustrating for me as I was still unfamiliar with many areas of the city. MM patiently drove me around Blackrock, Sandymount, Ballsbridge – all desirable areas on the south side – and then to a few of his favourite north side areas including Clontarf, where he once lived while still in college.

Moving to Ireland Raheny 6

And then one day MM slipped in another neighborhood on our Daft.ie search list: Raheny. “Where is that??” I inquired, admittedly a bit annoyed. He explained that it was just north of Clontarf, on the DART line and close to the sea. Sounded nice enough, but I was exhausted from trying to educate myself on the 6-8 areas we’d already chosen and wasn’t keen to add another to my to-do list.

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tomato corn tart

What does Irish food look like?

That was the question on everyone’s mind at the 2nd annual (hopefully!) foodie photo workshop hosted by Bord Bia last week in Dublin. After viewing the Google images results from an “Irish food” search, we were appalled at what the rest of the world is seeing of our beloved fare.

Unfortunately the websites coming up tops on the image searches are old and therefore enjoy a high ranking; photos of gray, unappetizing Irish stews and painfully plain-looking roasts take up the first page. But the food bloggers in Ireland know better: Irish food is now about artisan producers and organic meats and beautiful fruit and vegetables. It’s about handcrafted cheeses and luscious cakes and biscuits. This is what the world needs exposure to when it comes to Irish food.

irish foodies bord bia

We gathered to get some pointers on how we can make our food photos look even better so that we – as the food bloggers of Ireland – can pull together and get the word out. The always enthusiastic and tireless Donal Skehan went over how to use props, interesting backgrounds and perfect lighting to make our food look as appealing as possible; the wonderfully talented food stylist Sharon Hearne Smith (who worked on one of my favourite cookery shows, Barefoot Contessa) showed us how to position and work with our dishes to bring out the best colours and angles. Food photographer extraordinaire Jocosta Clarke reviewed camera settings and photo setups that will guarantee a professional-looking result.

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Clare and Cormac To say a lot has happened over the last 12 months is an understatement, because one year ago today I had my first date with Mountaineering Man and life has been a wonderful whirlwind ever since. There have been many firsts since meeting him, from climbing a mountain (remember the snowy trek up Croagh Patrick?) to cohabitation. It’s been one great adventure after another.

Strangely enough it’s the small stuff, like perusing books together at Chapters or watching a movie at home, that hold the most significance for me. I think the Knight in Shining Armor is the easy bit; any guy can buy roses and do the whole candlelit dinner scenario (and to be fair any woman can do the I-wake-up-looking-this-perfect act, at least in the beginning!). It’s harder to find someone who, despite seeing all your imperfections, still thinks you’re pretty damn perfect – and vice versa.

Before meeting MM it was difficult for me to imagine meeting an extraordinary guy to do ordinary things with, if that makes any sense. It wasn’t a decision I’d made consciously or even something I’d acknowledged to myself, but looking back I was definitely at a place where it just didn’t matter anymore. I was relatively happy but exhausted with dating; perhaps I was simply resigned to living on my own and didn’t have the energy to really try and change what I thought was my inevitable future. In retrospect it makes me sad that I didn’t care, though at the time I felt fine with it. Despite knowing a good number of couples, at times it was hard to fathom how two people ever got together – with so many variables in the equation, it felt impossible. I used to joke to friends that I’d better start collecting cats so that I could live out that age-old cliché of the Crazy Cat Lady later in my life.

Turns out I was wrong, which in this case I’m more than happy to admit. In MM I’ve found a partner and best friend, someone I can be myself with and who gives me a sense of peace. He puts up with my love of Food Network (though he’s recently admitted to becoming a fan of Barefoot Contessa) and I tolerate his croaky Tom Waits impersonations (it’s enough to make dogs howl with pain!); I pretend not to notice that he always puts the cutlery back in the wrong drawer and he accepts that I cannot follow a map no matter how many times he reviews it with me. It’s a happy yin and yang, the two of us.

In a few weeks I’ll be taking MM home to meet my family and friends in Los Angeles, yet another big step in our story. Honestly, I can’t wait.

Happy Anniversary, Mountaineering Man. :) xo

pain perdu 2

Fabulous Pain Perdu

When I mentioned earlier that MM has become a Barefoot Contessa fan, I wasn’t joking. Though he makes fun of Ina Garten’s at-times comical television life – the fabulous gay friends like model T.R., florist Michael and decorator/photographer Miguel; her husband Jeffrey’s obsession with chicken; everyone’s overuse of the word “fabulous!” – he’s always asking me to make dishes he sees on the show. [Editor’s note: Personally I’d give anything to lunch with Ina and her gay posse. Ina, if you’re reading this CALL ME!] He recently became obsessed with Ina’s pain perdu, which she made for her fabulous friends in one episode. I made an adapted version of it a couple of weeks ago and ended up making it for FOUR days in a row as MM just couldn’t get enough of the stuff. (I should note that we had an entire loaf of brioche bread to use up so it was no bother). It’s the perfect sweet-treat brunch dish!

(Serves 2)

1 egg

2 tablespoons heavy cream

5 tablespoons milk

Juice from half an orange

Zest from half an orange

1 teaspoon honey

1 teaspoon caster sugar

4 slices of brioche bread

Couple of handfuls of slivered almonds

Butter

Strawberries or whatever fruit you like for topping

Icing sugar

In large shallow dish, whisk together the egg, heavy cream, milk, orange juice, zest, honey and sugar until thoroughly mixed together. In another shallow dish, add the silvered almonds and set aside.

Now you’re ready to make the pain perdu. Melt a couple of teaspoons of butter into a large sauté pan over medium heat. Take a slice of brioche, dip both sides into the liquid mixture and then dip one side into the silvered almonds. Place the bread almond side down in the hot pan and cook for a few minutes or until the almonds start to turn golden. Flip and cook for another few minutes on the other side. Depending on the size of your pan, you can do 2-3 or even four slices at once. If you’re doing them one by one, simply place in a warm oven (100 C) while you’re finishing the rest.

To plate: Put two slices on plate, top with strawberries (I macerated mine in some orange juice and a bit of sugar) or whatever fruit you like, then sprinkle with icing sugar. Serve immediately.

bagles

I feel incredibly lucky and grateful when I receive comments and emails from readers of this blog. When I started the blog 18 months ago I never thought the readership would extend beyond friends and family back home, so it’s always a thrill to get emails written by complete strangers from all over the world.

I get a lot of emails from Americans who have recently moved here and are looking for advice on how to adjust to their new lives in Ireland. They range from super excited to completely freaked out (“I just realized I don’t know ANYONE here!?” wrote one) and they always remind me of what I went through when I first landed in Ireland. Recently a DCU graduate student wrote to ask me where she could buy basic things like towels, bedding and a few kitchen items. Having only been here a few days, she realized she had no idea where to go for such items. It made me recall a time where I, too, was  utterly clueless about where to shop and how to get there and how to go about paying for it once all of the above was accomplished.

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