The Big Ireland Download
You knew this was coming. Welcome to the Big Ireland Download, featuring every recommendation I have for eating your way across the Emerald Isle that you never asked for but clicked on anyway! HAH.
Small town charm is an understatement here. Ireland's version of a beach town, Dingle was on the cusp of tourist season, which made it the perfect place to beat the crowds while driving around and exploring. Biggest recommendation here is to rent a car and check out Slea Head Drive. Apart from a few close calls on a one-lane road at the edge of the world, you won't regret it. We pulled over at a quaint cafe that I'm kicking myself for not remembering the name of and soaked in this amazing view over lunch. The tomato soup and scone was awesome and fresh, but I was a bit distracted with the front row seats to the island where they filmed Star Wars. No big deal.
People keep asking me what part of the trip was my favorite, and the answer, of course, is all of it, duh! But as the experience marinates like a fine piece of meat (ew, sorry), I'm realizing that maybe just maybe Galway was my favorite of the three places we spent our Ireland adventure. Small enough to ooze with charm, but big enough to hold a new surprise around every corner, Galway was where we walked 10 miles a day, ate one of the best meals we've ever had (which I pulled out in its own gallery), and heard our favorite music on the trip. Make this a stop if you're headed to Ireland for sure. It's a vibrant, beautiful, old town with a modern spirit and some amazing finds. Other shops / sites to check out while you're there: The Sheep, Charlie Byrne's Bookshop, and St. Nicholas's Collegiate Church, where Christopher Columbus prayed before his journey to the "New" World.
Kai Cafe & Restaurant
Easily the best dinner of the trip, quite possibly the best dinner I've ever had. Kai Cafe & Restaurant's menu was filled with fresh, local food in classic recipes with inspired twists (along with some banging cocktails). The bread they casually dropped on the table at the beginning of the meal was better than most bread I've paid for, and don't even get me started on that butter (LOOK AT IT. LOOK HOW YELLOW AND WONDERFUL IT IS.). We started with the ricotta and asparagus appetizer, which I ate before I could take a picture. I love cheese, and I love vegetables, but never before have two so beautifully co-existed on a plate. For dinner, I had the fried halloumi (a perfect example of how to make fried cheese taste and look like a million bucks) and Colin had the steak, which was so buttery and well-done that it melted on the plate. For dessert, we had the burnt meringue, which it is now my life goal to replicate. I died and went to heaven after this meal, and considered begging for them to adopt me so I could call their beautiful space my home.
The last time I was in Dublin, it was a whirlwind visit that left me with a bigger list of things I wanted to see / eat / tour than before I had even been. I don't think we had a disappointing meal -- including coffee and midday pastry stops because I have a problem -- while we were there, but highlights included The Winding Stair (above a bookstore, people, ABOVE A FREAKING BOOKSTORE), where I didn't take enough pictures and we had a glass of wine for lunch in #luxury, and Camerino Bakery + Cakery which is officially the cutest little bakery in the world. Also, Brother Hubbard, as detailed below. Other things not to miss: St. Stephen's Green, the Kilmainham Gaol, Dollard & Co., The Gutter Bookstore, and Phoenix Park.
In a bookstore in Dublin, Colin stumbled upon a cookbook from Brother Hubbard, a restaurant just around the corner. We decided to walk by and casually check it out like we wouldn't be absolutely taken with it and come back for dinner. The dinner was my favorite of our time in Dublin. The warm hummus was the best I've ever had: well-spiced, smooth, and served with warm pita (I mean, come on.). My appetizer wasn't the usual delicate vegetarian entree, but a generous, meaty serving of aubergine, zucchini, and chickpeas that left me perfectly full and just really impressed with the flavors that got stuck between my teeth. I'm not saying I'm definitely going to have to buy their cookbook, but I'm saying I'm definitely going to have to buy their cookbook.