Category Archives: Irish

Dublin : Blackboard Bistro

For my last Dublin post, I thought I’d talk a bit about my favourite Dublin restaurant. Like most major European cities, Dublin has a density of great eateries; from takeaway to sit-down-white-linen, its really a matter of desired atmosphere and budget.

In a pub one night I chatted with a group of 20-something Dubliners working for Google. The Googlites had several restaurant recommendations, all of which I tried but Blackboard Bistro was my favourite.

I was expecting Blackboard to be full with a waiting list but I discovered, much to my delight, it was only half full for the early lunch rush at noon. Located in the basement of a building off a main Dublin artery, it compensates for a lack of natural light with very well-thought out architecture, casually-sophisticated decor and music that walks the line between soothing and progressive.

Service here is top-notch in a city priding itself on personable interaction. The measure of good service, for myself, is accurately gauging the mood and pace of the patron. I was down-timing from a hectic morning rushing about the city centre and I was looking for a leisurely pace; I got it. Thanks Declan!

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So, the main focus is food and you could just randomly pick a few items, like I did, and I’m certain you will be thrilled.

Mushroom Soup
Mushrooms, varied, roasted, pureed, condensed, mixed and thickened with what I assume is potato. Put that in a bowl with something creamy. Anything else would not take the edge off of a Dublin damp-cold November day so effectively. Or so deliciously.

Grilled Hake
Locally-sourced and prepared with a bent toward the middle eastern with chili flake, cumin, coriander, saffron and lemon. Served atop baby potatoes mashed with baby spinach and probably just a wee bit of butter. The flavours burst forward from the fish and it’s accompanying spices just a vividly as the colors do in the photo.

Basil Panna Cotta
People who know me know I rarely eat sweets. However I could not resist a try of Basil Panna Cotta with Tomato Jam and Basil Seeds. Panna Cotta is just a step away from being ice cream or at least thickened yoghurt. The chiffonade of basil that found its way into mix gave the dessert a herbal and citrus note which paired extraordinarily well with the sweet but earthy flavours in the tomato jam. This is the most innovative spin on the traditional Italian sweet I’ve seen to date and it would be one of my first requests on a return trip to Dublin.

Price is nudging toward the high side however the quality, innovation and service is likewise high. Compared with the other high end lunch spot I visited, Pig’s Ear, which was certainly excellent, I preferred Blackboard Bistro for service, innovation and presentation.

Lunch: 30 Nov 2013

The Blackboard Bistro | 4 Claire St | Dublin 2

Ellsworth, Maine

I regretted not spending another day in Camden to walk other parts of the city but such are the liabilities of a sample tour. Onward to Mount Desert Island with a stop in Ellsworth for lunch. Ellsworth is another small, quaint village with spectacular scenery, architecture and food.  I only spent a few hours here but I will make Ellsworth an overnight stop on my next Maine tour – impressive.

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In preparation for Ireland trip, I took another seafood break to have Shepard’s Pie at Finn’s Irish Public House. While most people associate Shepard’s Pie with England, I’m certain the Irish will object.

Thick, garlicy mash atop mildly seasoned ground beef and fresh root vegetables; a good dose of savory brown gravy to boot  – delicious. It’s one of my favourite winter meals and since the overnight temps in Camden were in the 30’s, I felt justified in my selection.

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I had heard Maine does not like spicy food, so I came prepared with mini bottles of Tabasco. They were not necessary since Finn’s stocks hot sauces on every table. Ironically I was seated next to a 4-top of tourists from Georgia who were dosing their Shepard’s Pies with hot sauce. Turns out the tourists lived 50 miles from Parents and were familiar with their house, having walked past it to visit their friends who live several blocks away.

Disturbingly small world.

Lunch: 9 Oct 2013

Finn’s | 156 Main | Ellsworth ME 04843