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 Best Shortbread Cookies Ever

Pinnies and Poppyseeds in Edinburgh, ScotlandShortbread was invented in Scotland, so you’d think there’d be a bunch of bakeries in Edinburgh specializing in the stuff; that’s sadly not the case.  But with a bakery called Pinnies and Poppyseeds weaving their magic, that’s really all you need.  I mean, you’ve read the title of this post.  You know what’s up.  They’re the best ever.

Pinnies and Poppyseeds in Edinburgh, Scotland

They’re just so buttery and amazing.  They have a few different flavours — I got a pack of four that came with traditional all butter (i.e. classic shortbread), cinnamon and sugar, earl gray, and fennel & dark chocolate. I figured I’d have one or two right away, and then save the rest for later.

Yeah, right.

Literally after one bite of the first one, I knew I was eating them all immediately.  Just picture the best shortbread you’ve ever had and then multiply it by a thousand, and you’ve got a good idea of what to expect here.  I was afraid that the funky flavours might just get in the way of the shortbready goodness, but nope — they all worked so well.  Perfection.

The Next Best Thing

Though I would have liked to go eat at St. John — a restaurant that’s pretty famous for helping to popularize nose-to-tail eating in London (and the world) — it’s a bit out of my price range. You know what is in my price range? A restaurant called Hereford Road that was opened by a chef who worked at St. John.

Hey, when you’re on a budget, you take what you can get.

Liver at Hereford Road in London, England

They have a set menu at lunch where you can get an appetizer, a main, and a dessert for £15.50.

It’s a pretty amazing deal, though aside from the dessert, nothing was particularly great. There was a starter of liver on toast and a main of bubble and squeak (which is kind of like a meatless hash) which comes topped with thickly-cut pieces of pork belly. Everything was a little bit too greasy; I don’t know if you can really tell from the photos, but there was oil leaking out on the plate on both of those dishes. And while the pork belly tasted okay, the skin was so tough I couldn’t cut through it even with a steak knife.

Rice pudding at Hereford Road in London, England

The rice pudding for dessert, on the other hand, was pretty magnificent. I don’t think I’ve ever had rice pudding that didn’t come out of a can or a cup, so my standards probably aren’t super high, but it had a deliciously rich custardy flavour, and the rice had the perfect texture — soft, but not too soft.

Thanksgiving in London

Maple Leaf Pub in London, EnglandThanksgiving was last week, and thankfully there’s one Canadian pub in town that saved me from going sad and turkeyless (and considering that it’s called the Maple Leaf and it’s absolutely festooned with Canadian flags, there’s no mistaking it for anything but a Canadian pub).

They served a traditional turkey dinner with pumpkin pie for dessert, and it was actually pretty awful, but hey — it saved me from spending Thanksgiving without eating turkey like some kind of maniac, so I can’t complain too much.

Turkey dinner at the Maple Leaf Pub in London, England

I will say, though, that the whole thing tasted like it was prepared by someone who knew what a Thanksgiving dinner is supposed to be in theory, but who had never actually tasted one.  The gravy was all wrong, the turkey was insanely dry, and though the stuffing was actually not bad, they only give you two golf-ball-sized portions of it, so there isn’t nearly enough.

Pumpkin pie at the Maple Leaf Pub in London, England

As for the pumpkin pie, aside from the fact that it had raisins in it (no dessert in the history of desserts has ever been improved by adding raisins), the crust was mushy and it was served piping hot, which was just bizarre.

I’m sorry, did I say I couldn’t complain too much?  Yeah, clearly I was wrong about that.

Sometimes the Simplest Things are the Best

Ham and butter baguetteI was trying to go to a bistro called Le Comptoir du Relais; it was completely full (it almost never occurs to me to make reservations, so this actually happens a lot).  They do, however, have a small take-out window with sandwiches and pastries.  I figured this was a pretty good opportunity to try a ham and butter sandwich, which is supposedly the second most popular sandwich in France.

(The first?  Burgers.  Everyone loves burgers.)

It was so good.  The crispy (but not overly crunchy) exterior of the baguette combined with the pleasantly chewy interior makes this the perfect bread for a sandwich like this.  Combined with the really good quality ham, a very generous slathering of salted butter, and a few slightly sweet cornichons to add some crunch and balance out the rich butter and the fatty ham, it was close to sandwich perfection.  It was maybe the best ham sandwich I’ve ever had.

Crepe with butter and sugar

For dessert?  The butter theme continued with a beurre-sucre crepe (butter and sugar).  This is exactly what it sounds like — it’s a crepe, brushed with melted butter and sprinkled with sugar.  It doesn’t sound like much, but the slightly buttery flavour combined with the slight crunch you get from the sugar works shockingly well on the freshly-made crepe.

Ice Cream Perfection in Paris

Berthillon in Paris, FranceOf all of the food you expect to be mind-blowing in Paris, ice cream is probably not particularly high on that list.  And yet!  Berthillon, my friends.  Berthillon.  It’s a place that’s famous enough that I had heard about it even before I started preparing for this trip, so obviously a visit was absolutely mandatory.

The ice cream they serve here is what we’d call frozen custard back home — it’s like typical ice cream, but with the addition of egg yolks to add creaminess and a custardy flavour.  And holy crap, that creaminess.  That custardy flavour.  It’s mind-blowing.

Ice cream from Berthillon in Paris, France

I had the vanilla and the salted caramel, and both flavours were outstanding.  The custardy flavour is particularly pronounced in the vanilla; it was almost certainly the best vanilla ice cream I’ve ever had.  And it was so creamy.

The salted caramel was just as good.  Salted caramel is one of those flavours that can trip people up; it’s amazing if done right, but if the balance of flavours are off, you can wind up with something that’s unpleasantly salty.  At Berthillon, however, they add just enough salt to cut the sweetness of the caramel, but not enough to stand out at all.

And did I mention how creamy this ice cream was?  Because god damn.

I’ve eaten a lot of ice cream in my life. I spend more time thinking about ice cream than any reasonable person should.  Which is to say that I don’t make this statement lightly: this might have been the best ice cream I’ve ever had.

Getting the Authentic Ikea Experience

Swedish meatballs from Meatballs for the PeopleIf there’s one thing Ikea is known for (aside from vaguely flimsy but very affordable furniture), it’s the Swedish meatballs.  They’re cheap, satisfying, and pretty tasty.

I’m in Sweden now, so obviously meatballs were very high on my to-do list.

I went to a restaurant called Meatballs for the People, which is acclaimed for their classic take on this dish.

And yeah, if you’ve been to Ikea, everything here is going to seem very familiar: the gravy-topped meatballs, the mashed potato, and of course, the lingonberry sauce (the only thing here that you won’t find at Ikea is the addition of thinly-sliced pickles).

The thing that really surprised me is how close Ikea gets it.  All of the flavours were very, very familiar.

The meatballs themselves, however, were clearly superior here — no contest.  It’s really not even a fair comparison; the meatballs at Ikea are from a freezer and taste like it.  The ones here are moist, meaty, and just a little bit crispy on the outside.  They’re great.

Princess cake from Vete-Katten in Stockholm, Sweden

The princess cake — which consists of sponge cake layered with raspberry jam and cream, which is topped with marzipan — is clearly the best dessert at Ikea.  Here in Stockholm, the most popular version is served at a bakery called Vete-Katten.

Again, I was struck by how close Ikea gets it.  There was no contest, though — the version here was so much better.  It was just so light and creamy and perfect.  And like a lot of desserts here versus the ones back home, the sweetness was much more subtle.  The cream wasn’t sweetened at all, which tempers the sweetness from the jam and the cake and the marzipan.  It was so good.

McDonald’s Around the World: Germany Edition

McDonald's in Berlin, GermanySo the McRib is just on the regular menu at McDonald’s in Germany, and it has been for a while.  Here we are in North America waiting for it to come back once every few years like chumps, and the Germans can just mosey into a McDonald’s and order it whenever they want.  Like kings.

Obviously that’s what I got.


Let’s face it though: the McRib isn’t as good as you remember.  At least, that was my experience the last couple of times that they brought it back, and that was definitely my experience here.  Aside from the fact that the meat was rubbery and dry, I’m pretty positive that they’re not using the same BBQ sauce they use back home — and since that sweet, smoky sauce is pretty much the only thing that making a McRib edible, that’s kind of a problem (the sauce here has a much more subtle flavour).

McDonald's in Berlin, Germany

I also got something called Frühlingsrollen, which are basically bite-sized versions of the cheap frozen spring rolls you can get in the freezer section of your local supermarket.  These probably would have been okay if they were fresh; alas, they were lukewarm and chewy.  Still, they were decent enough when dipped in the provided sweet chili sauce.


For dessert I got the Caramel Nuggets, which kind of tasted like fried balls of raw pancake batter injected with caramel.  I don’t know if they were supposed to be like that or if they were just undercooked, but either way they weren’t bad.  They were obviously fresh from the fryer — it’s hard to go wrong with anything that’s sweet and freshly fried.  Plus they come with a tasty berry dipping sauce, so there’s that.

Regular Pancakes are for Jerks

Pancake perfectionHey, you know the pancakes that you grew up loving? Yeah, they’re trash.  The Austrians have perfected the pancake; we all need to get with the program and follow their lead.

There’s a restaurant here in Vienna called Heindls Schmarren & Palatschinkenkuchl that serves a dish called kaiserschmarren, which, I’m pretty sure, is the best version of pancakes that I’ve ever had.

It’s kind of like a traditional pancake, only more dense and rich, with an eggy, almost custard-like flavour.  A big part of its appeal is the way they serve it; they cut it up and then put it in the oven just long enough for the edges to crisp up.  The contrast between the lightly crispy exterior and the moist, cakey interior is the stuff dreams are made of.  Sprinkled with icing sugar, topped with cooked raisins, and served with a tart cherry compote, it’s pretty much pancake perfection.

Eating Sacher Torte at its Birthplace

Sacher HotelGetting a sacher torte from the Hotel Sacher — where it was invented back in 1832 — is one of those things you kind of have to do as a tourist in Vienna.

For the uninitiated, a sacher torte is a chocolate cake that’s layered with apricot jam, covered in ganache-esque icing, and served with whipped cream.

While doing research on what to eat in this city, I’ve seen a lot of people say that the sacher torte actually isn’t that great — that it’s too rich.

A dessert that’s too rich? Is that even a thing?

Not a lie

Whether or not it is (and let’s face it; it isn’t), that’s definitely not the case here. The cake itself is actually pretty light, and the slight tartness of the apricot jam balances out its chocolatey sweetness.

It’s actually quite good, though the icing is a little bit grainy, and I agree that it’s nothing too mind-blowing (and at €6.90 for one small slice of cake — over ten bucks Canadian! — it’s almost comically over-priced).