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November 2017

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Crispygate Update

The Rolling Donut in Dublin, IrelandYou’ll recall that a few days ago, I posted about the doughnut I ate at Aungier Danger, which had a bizarrely crispy exterior.  I wondered: was that supposed to be crispy?  Was the oil just at the wrong temperature?  Or do Irish people like their doughnuts crispy?

Clearly, this could be my Watergate moment.  Are Irish doughnuts crispy?  The world needs to know about this.  I’ve gotta blow the lid off of this thing.

So I went and ate a couple more doughnuts, obviously.

The Rolling Donut in Dublin, Ireland

The first one was from a place called The Rolling Donut.  I got the salted caramel pistachio doughnut, which was pretty good — pistachios turn out to be a surprisingly good compliment to the slightly salty, sticky caramel.  The doughnut itself was a little bit too dense, but otherwise not bad.  More importantly: not crispy.  Not even a little bit.

Krust in Dublin, Ireland

On to the next one.  I got the Ferrero Rocher doughnut from a bakery called Krust, which was kind of ingenious in that it looks like a standard ring doughnut, but it’s been injected with Nutella at multiple points along the circle.

Krust in Dublin, Ireland

Like the other doughnut, it was good but not great, and like the other doughnut, it wasn’t crispy.

So there you have it: the Irish people don’t eat crispy doughnuts.  Aungier Danger just make them that way for some reason.  Case closed.

McDonald’s Around the World: Ireland Edition

McDonald's in Dublin, IrelandYou may have noticed that there was no McDonald’s Around the World for Scotland (what?  You didn’t notice?  And you’re baffled as to why I’m spending so much time and energy on McDonald’s?  Yeah.  Sounds about right).

Well, in case you did notice, the menu at McDonald’s in Scotland was identical to the one in England, so I didn’t bother.

The Ireland menu was pretty similar as well, but I did manage to find a couple of things interesting enough to post about.

(Also: the McDonald’s I went to had a microwave out that the customers could use, which is odd.)

McDonald's in Dublin, Ireland

The first was a veggie burger called the McVeggie — not to be confused with the McBean from Sweden, which was actually completely different.  This one was much less mushy and was quite falafel-esque both in its texture and flavour.  It wasn’t bad.

McDonald's in Dublin, Ireland

The next was fish fingers — these weren’t bad (and I actually think they were pieces of fish and not the reconstituted fish slurry that you might expect), but they really needed some kind of sauce.  They’re pretty plain.

McDonald's in Dublin, Ireland

Take a Hike

The Bog of the Frogs in Howth, Dublin, IrelandI don’t know that I’ve ever actually gone on a hike before.  Also: I’m honestly not entirely sure what differentiates hiking from walking.  I mean, is it basically just walking, but in nature? If so, maybe I have hiked?

I’m fairly certain that this is the first time I’ve been on a predefined hiking trail, so there’s that.

The Bog of the Frogs in Howth, Dublin, Ireland

There’s an area just outside of Dublin called Howth, and it features a lot of stunning cliffside vistas, and yes, a hiking trail.

The Bog of the Frogs in Howth, Dublin, Ireland

Four, actually.  The official map rates them from easy to hard, and I figured, hey, if I’m going to do this, I’m going to do this.  I went with the 10 kilometre “hard” trail, The Bog of the Frogs.

The Bog of the Frogs in Howth, Dublin, Ireland

I actually enjoyed it way more than I thought I would.  There was something oddly compelling and almost soothing about just trekking along in nature.  The scenic beauty of the area certainly didn’t hurt.

Plus, as someone who can barely even tell left from right without thinking about which arm my watch is on, I appreciated the frequent sign posts, which make it nearly impossible to get lost.

The Bog of the Frogs in Howth, Dublin, Ireland

And thanks to the sheer amount of time I’ve been spending walking around the last few months, the 10 kilometre hike wasn’t too exhausting (though it was quite a bit more strenuous than the city walking I’m used to).

So now I’m wondering if I really like hiking, or if that was just a particularly good hiking trail.  I guess I’ll just have to go on more hikes to find out?

Crispy Doughnuts? Yeah, I’m Into It

Aungier Danger in Dublin, IrelandThere’s a fairly well regarded doughnut joint in Dublin called Aungier Danger, and the doughnuts there aren’t quite like any other doughnut I’ve had — they’re crispy.

They have a bunch of really interesting looking flavours, but I went with the Dublin Death Trap, which is pretty straightforward: it’s filled with vanilla custard, and topped with a chocolate ganash.

Aungier Danger in Dublin, Ireland

The flavours were great — the filling was really rich and custardy, and the ganash was admirably restrained in its sweetness, with a very pronounced dark chocolate flavour.

But the doughnut itself was just odd.  The whole bottom was weirdly crispy, and as you can see from the picture below, there was a fairly thick layer of grease that soaked into the pastry.  I have no idea if this was intentional or if there was just an issue with the temperature of the oil, but it actually wasn’t bad.  It was a bit off-putting at first, but once you get used to it the crispy/chewy contrast is actually pretty satisfying.

Aungier Danger in Dublin, Ireland

I wonder if the crispy exterior is an Irish thing?  I guess I’ll just have to eat more doughnuts to find out.  Such is life.

The King of Full Breakfasts

Matt the Rashers in Dublin, IrelandThough both England and Scotland have their versions of the full breakfast, based on the version I had at Matt the Rashers in Dublin, Ireland can’t be beat.

The full breakfast at Matt the Rashers comes on a plate that has been precariously overloaded with: eggs, hash browns, bacon, tomato, liver, black pudding, white pudding, mushrooms, baked beans, and sausage.  It also comes with two slices of very hearty soda bread.  It’s the breakfastiest breakfast in the history of breakfast.  You can’t have more breakfast than that.  It’s physically impossible.

Full breakfast at Matt the Rashers in Dublin, Ireland

It’s amazing.  The white pudding and the liver are what differentiates this from the English and Scottish versions (though from what I can tell, the liver is more of a Matt the Rashers thing than an Irish thing).

White pudding is like black pudding, but without the blood.  It’s quite tasty, though it’s basically just a slightly blander version of the black.

Everything on the plate was super tasty, and the soda bread — which has a very dense, almost cakey texture — is a great accompaniment.

It’s not even close; I liked the other two full breakfasts a lot, but this one is hard to beat.

A Tour of the Country (and some Whisky)

Loch Lomond, Glasgow, ScotlandI’ve been almost entirely eschewing organized tours on this trip — partially because I like wandering around on my own, and partially because that stuff isn’t cheap.  If you’re only travelling for a week or two, it makes complete sense to pay for stuff like that, because why not?  You may as well cram as much as you can into the days that you have, and then worry about the money when you get home.

But when you’re travelling for several months, your budget is drastically different.  Every cent counts, and if you’re taking pricey tours everywhere you go, that’ll add up fast.

Still, exceptions have to be made, and in Scotland — which is known just as much for its scenic countryside as anything else — I figured I’d be remiss if I stayed entirely in the city.  Since renting a car was out of the question, a tour was really the only option.

Stirling Castle, Glasgow, Scotland

It was a fun day.  We visited Stirling Castle, which is possibly the most famous one in Scotland.

There were some great views from up there.

Stirling Castle, Glasgow, Scotland

We also went to Doune Castle, which has been featured in several movies and TV shows, most notably (to me at least) Monty Python and the Holy Grail.

Doune Castle, Glasgow, Scotland

We saw Loch Lomand.

Loch Lomond, Glasgow, Scotland

None of my photos were quite able to capture it, but this place was scenic AF.

Loch Lomond, Glasgow, Scotland

And finally, we visited the Glengoyne whisky distillery and got to see the whole scotch-making process, which was actually quite fascinating.

Glengoyne Whisky Distillery, Glasgow, Scotland

It’s kind of insane that a drink with so many complex flavours is made with just three ingredients: barley, water, and yeast.

Glengoyne Whisky Distillery, Glasgow, Scotland

Grilled Cheese with Haggis

Dean's in Glasgow, ScotlandI’m starting to think that you can add haggis to literally anything, and that thing will be improved.  Because so far I’ve had haggis with breakfast, haggis on a pork sandwich, haggis in puff pastry, and haggis in a burrito, and they’ve all been surprisingly delicious.

The latest haggis mashup?  Haggis with grilled cheese (or a toastie, as it’s known in the UK).

Grilled cheese from Dean's in Glasgow, Scotland

I had this at a place in Glasgow called Dean’s, and it comes with haggis, cheddar cheese, grainy mustard, and Branston Pickle (which is essentially a sweet British chutney).

This might have been my favourite of the various haggis dishes I’ve had so far.  The haggis adds a meaty substance to the delightfully gooey cheese, the mustard adds a nice zingy counterpoint, and the sweet Branston Pickle cuts through the richness.

Like the burrito, I sort of expected this to be a bit of a novelty, and was surprised at how much I enjoyed it.

A Couple of Interesting Museums in Glasgow

Kelvingrove Museum, Glasgow, ScotlandFree museums appears to be a UK thing, because all of the big museums in Scotland are free just like the ones in London.

So I’ve been to a ridiculous amount of of them over the last couple of weeks (I’m actually starting to get a bit museumed out).  Still, Glasgow has a couple of museums that are worth mentioning.

The Kelvingrove museum is enormous and impressive, with a really varied collection that includes paintings…

Kelvingrove Museum, Glasgow, Scotland

Sculptures…

Kelvingrove Museum, Glasgow, Scotland

Historical artifacts…

Kelvingrove Museum, Glasgow, Scotland

And more.

Kelvingrove Museum, Glasgow, Scotland

And it’s free!  I don’t know how they can afford to do that, but I’m certainly not complaining.

There was also the Riverside Museum, which has a much more single-minded focus (on transportation: mostly cars, trains, and boats), and a really interesting layout.

The Riverside Museum, Glasgow, Scotland

These look like model cars in this picture, but nope, they’re the real deal.

The Riverside Museum, Glasgow, Scotland

Plus, there’s a small recreation of a historical street, including stores you can actually walk into, that’s pretty fascinating.

The Riverside Museum, Glasgow, Scotland

Burger Disappointment in Glasgow

Bread Meats Bread in Glasgow, ScotlandHaving had surprisingly amazing burgers in Germany and England, I was ready for the burger at Bread Meats Bread to be similarly mind-blowing.  It’s one of those places that comes up regularly in “best of the city” lists, so I figured that I was in for a treat.

Yeah, not so much.

Bread Meats Bread in Glasgow, Scotland

Looks good, doesn’t it? If only it tasted even close to as good as it looked.

It was surprisingly lousy — the patties were rubbery and tough, with almost zero beefy flavour.  Aside from the fact that the grind was way too fine, I’m assuming they mixed salt directly into the ground beef, which transforms the texture of the meat into something closer to a sausage.

Bread Meats Bread in Glasgow, Scotland

I mean, look at the picture of the burger’s midsection.  Note how the patties are stiff as a board.  That’s just wrong.

If it weren’t for the other two burgers I’ve had on this trip, I’d write this off as “well, I guess Europeans just don’t understand hamburgers,” but clearly they do.  In particular, the cheeseburger I had in England would probably be in the top ten burgers I’ve had in my life.  So what’s the deal?