Dublin in the Cold
3 days in Dublin, while they were coping with the worst cold in many (maybe 60) years. Dublin and Ireland is not equipped for 0C and and inch or so of snow. Combine with the 1st week in January (“always bad for business one maitre'D offered) and I suspect this doesn't completely reflect a typical day. Stayed at Bently's on St. Stephen's Green. Great location, nice view of the green (which was closed for snow). The front rooms were a bit loud, particularly Saturday night/Sunday morning.
I'll run through our experiences by meal
Breakfast: We were not interested in the “full Irish” though I picked up a reasonable bacon/egg and coffee for €5.50 at Brewbakers on South Frederick Street. We picked up scones from Keohes on Trinity street (a bit hard) and Avoca, a department store cafe just off Grafton street on Suffolk. The Avoca scones won- good selection (raison, berry, pear-almond and others), warm, with a quiet spot to stay for a cup of tea, butter, jam. I brought them back to the room.
We didn't push lunch very hard. Had a good pub lunch at O'neils (just down the street from Avoca, near the tourist info center). Solid Shephard's pie, Irish stew, roast's for those who want them. Pleasant staff. €30 for two. Had Fish and Chips at Leo Burdocks on Lower Rathmine street (where you can sit down). €32 for 3- get the haddock. Chips were boring but fish was excellent.
Plenty of competent capuccino makers including Butler's chocolate bars which are everywhere. There are a few tables at the one towards the Trinity end of Grafton. Terrific hot chocolate and truffles.
We had looked at a number of recommendations both from Chowhound and Irish newspaper reviews.Pitchet was closed the 5 times we walked by, Pigs Ear across from Trinity looked good, but was closed for the week. Shanahan's on the Green is a good steak/seafood house in an elegant townhouse across from the green. Nice roaring gas fire. Not cheap but terrific risotto appetizer, enormous pork shank and excellent desserts. The fish was rumored to be good. The scallops we're well seared and my wife missed that the monkfish had olive tepenade (good monkfish, but that's a bit of a strong combo). With wine, dessert (a great souffle and poached pears), €200.
Bently's on the Green gets terrific press (http://www.bentleysdublin.com) which seems appropriate. Like Shanahan's a nice room. Terrific oysters (which are ubiquitous, I just chose to get them there). Lori got an oyster “tempura” with an interesting melon pickle. My daughter dived into the risotto which was good. Entree's included a good seafood pie, venison and enough tasty mussels for the table (if we hadn't eaten dinner). Good selection of wines by the caraf helps keep things “reasonable” We skipped dessert until the next night- the stickey toffee pudding was great. The Baba Rhum fine. With dessert the prices are a bit less than Shanahan's.
Town is around the corner, looked good and just a hair less than the above. Here the scallops were perfectly seared, the venison as good as winter venison gets (nearly the same prep). My daughter had a pigeon appetizer which was full of wintery “oompf” Generous entrée mushroom risottos which should start her refrigerator.
While Cairns is fundamentally a nice tropical resort community, the restaurants don't forget that they are right on the great barrier reef and there is ample fresh reef fish: Barramundi, coral trout, grouper, emperor and snapper. There is a string of lovely al-fresco spots that ring the esplanade along the marina which have somewhat different mixes of meat (which we never tried) and price/preparations. At the far north/west end of the boardwalk is the Chart House (not the Chain)- more open then some and nice fish/etc, busy bar scene at night and a nice lunch. We tried several focusing on those that front the Shangri-La, with our favorite being Tha Fish- http://www.thafish.com.au/. Moving off the beach we were treated to a dinner at Tamarind in the Reef Casino Hotel. Nice asian infused Aussie food.
We had avoided the Atlantic Salmon figuring that the fish would be as jet lagged as we were (though our dining partners enjoyed it). We learned from Aussie friends that the “atlantic salmon” actually comes from Tasmania and is viewed as tastier than US farmed salmon. In the town there are ample “cheap eats”- which smelled terrific. We bought some nice take-away sandwiches at Beethoven cafe on Grafton. We stayed at the Hilton- nice view over Trinity inlet and a terrific European/Australian breakfast buffet that was included in our room. Room was serviceable, a tad “tired” but good bedding, nice staff.
6 days of biking: Pienza (2 nights), Montalcino, Siena, Castellina (2 nights). This will be our second trip to Tuscany, however more time focused in the triangle between Castellina, Pienza and Siena. Will not have a car but can manipulate our routes for better lunches. Last time had a magical night at Lamole di Lamole up from Greve, will need to return if only for the memories.
Lunch targets include:
Though we're happy to manipulate the rides to get to better chow.
They've recommended Cane e Gatto in Siena
We'll follow the thread for the last three days in Rome which was just posted.