11 April 2013

Edina: The Good Earth

So Matt, as usual, did absolutely nothing wrong.  To make up for it, he took me out for lunch.

The Good Earth
3460 W 70th St
Edina, MN 55435
(952) 925-1001

The Good Earth is the most fancy-pants organic restaurant that could possibly exist.  This makes sense, considering that it's located in the heart of fancy-pants Edina: The Galleria.  Oh, could I have an amuse bouche with my farm-fresh 3-course meal, please?

Before you do anything, you get bread.  It's free bread.

Bread helps you think.  It's all good.  (My blood sugar may or may not have been ridiculously low.)  Ask your server which ones are vegan, and dip into the hummus.  It's spicy and creamy.  You'll love it.

The menu has no special denotation for vegan or vegetarian dishes, but you're smart.  You did eat bread, after all, so you can think.  You'll figure it out.  And you can always ask your server.

I got the Waiki Kiwi smoothie for $5.50, which comes with kiwi, pineapple, banana, apple juice, and ice.  I requested mine with no honey, since all the smoothies on the menu come with that stuff.

In the background you can see Matt's - he got the Peach Mango Spinach smoothie off the special menu.  Both smoothies are great!  You can't really go wrong when you throw fruit in a blender and hit buzz.  Mine was fresh and zesty, on the line between too sour and just sour enough.

Then I ordered the Good Earth® Grilled Veggie Sandwich for 12 bucks.  (I'm not kidding about this sandwich being copyrighted.  Neither is the sandwich.)

I got a side salad instead of chips, and made sure the feta was removed from the sandwich equation.  Happily, this caused zero copyright issues.  The mixed greens with vinaigrette were pleasantly bright and citrusy.  The sandwich kind of surprised me - I honestly didn't think it would be so good.  The focaccia was super crispy and moist; the veggies varied in texture, temperature, and prep style, but they all worked so well together.  The hummus and vinaigrette added a lovely flavor to the base of spinach, tomato, cukes, grilled portobello, "purple" onions, zucchini, and red pepper.

Do you think the purple onions are the reason the sandwich is copyrighted?  'Cause... I'm pretty sure they're called red onions.  Just sayin'.  Unless Good Earth made a whole new type of onion called purple onion.  In which case I fully understand the copyright thing.

If not I'm totally copyrighting the quinoa tomato tofu dish I made yesterday and calling the onions "off-white" onions.

Aer Lingus

Oh boy!  Air plane food!  Isn't it just so exciting?  I might explode.

Aer Lingus

This airline is just for Ireland.  You can tell.  Want to know how you can tell?

That's how.

So like always, when booking the flight I selected the vegan option from the drop-down special meals menu. I think this time the wording was something like "Strict Vegetarian, no ovo/lacto."  On the flight out from Chicago to Dublin, here's what I got:

In general, it was very meh.  The salad had cucumbers, tomatoes, greens, olives, and hints of parsley and lemon.  It was fresh, so that's something.  The bread was inoffensive and easy to eat, but the butter wasn't vegan.  The crackers did seem to be vegan - and delicious and buttery, actually!  The fruit, which seemed to be mostly melons, I pointedly ignored.  Melons are the worst.  I tucked into the hot dish to  find a pretty yummy curry consisting of steamed spinach, green beans, carrots, peas, and taters on rice.  It was a little bland - surprise, surprise - but salt improved it, and it was nice and hot.  Wasn't hard to clean the disposable plastic plate.

Later, for breakfast, I was too groggy to photograph or take notes on the plain bagel and Minute Maid OJ.  No big deal.

Eventually we had to fly home for some reason.  Matt and I watched Django Unchained to ease the blow.  The D is silent.

I got this pasta thing & co.:

The salad had no dressing, but felt pretty fresh.  Likewise, the fruit wasn't bad.  Bread was okay.  The margarine had no ingredients listed, so I didn't chance it.  Then the pasta was so meh.  Overwhelmingly meh.  It had zucchini, tomatoes, onions, and artichoke hearts.  But even with salt and pepper.  I tried so hard to care about it, you guys.  Yet the only emotion I could conjure was utter apathy.

So then I watched a couple episodes of Girls.  That helped.  In-flight entertainment is the best.

Now we're like home or whatever.  Who even.  Yeah.

09 April 2013

Kilronan: Tí Joe Watty's

Step one: take a bus out of Dublin at 6:45a, a different bus out of Galway at 9:30a, a ferry out of Rossaveal at 10:30a, and a bike out of Kilronan whenever you feel like it.

Step two: bike up to Dun Aengus.

Step three: Stare.

Congratulations!  Now you're starving.

Tí Joe Watty's
Inishmore, Co. Galway
(353) 99-20892

We biked back down to the little village of Kilronan after checking out Dun Aengus so we could eat at this highly-rated traditional Irish Pub: Ti Joe Watty's.  My Lonely Planet said it'd have a vegetarian option, and there weren't many other places to try, so - we checked it out.

Apsemenoja, Panoramio

My well-trained eyeballs fell directly onto the vegetarian option: Tagliatelle with broccoli, parm, and garlic cream sauce for €11.50 ($15.06).  Well, okay.  There was another veg item, but I didn't think mozzarella and onion was gonna help me out much.  I nabbed the tagliatelle and specifically requested that it come without the garlic cream sauce - in fact, no dairy at all.  Maybe some olive oil drenching would be in order.

That was a mistake.  I should have singled out not only the cream sauce, but the parm as well.  Because...

Only once I scraped most of the massive pile of cheese off the top was I able to achieve this.  But there were little bits of parm everywhere; there had been too much at the beginning to do a complete job.  Oh well!  It was actually SUPER fab.  There was a ton of delish olive oil coating everything, and garlic made the pasta and broccoli taste like magic.

Matt kindly ate some of my contaminated cheese-pasta.  In return, I got to dig into his chips.

They tasted just how they look: perfect.  Like McDonald's, if McDonald's fries weren't made out of garbage and fat.  These were made of potatoes and magic.

Then guess what we did.  Just guess.

Here's a hint:

I would live on a European train, if that were ever an option.  Is it an option?  I would endure a certain amount of heckling to achieve this.

Dublin: The Cedar Tree

So I wrote this:

Guess who's on a nice relaxing train after another long day of amazing things!  I even have my tea cooling here in front of this ancient stone wall-filled countryside again.  Do you hate me?  I'd hate me.

That's a lie.  I'd love me.  I mean.

Then I took this picture:

THEEEENNNN I got motion sickness and had to stop writing.  Oh, karma.  You so silly.

The Cedar Tree
11 St. Andrews St.
Dublin 2
(353) (01) 677-2121

Once again, we have stumbled upon a Dublin restaurant that marks its vegetarian menu items with a nice green V.  It doesn't necessarily mean vegan though, so check with your server.  You'll still have boatloads of choices.

Matt and I had a freaking feast.  They've got this early bird special menu - like happy hour - and we grabbed this Vegetarian Mezze for €17 ($22.27) per person.

Our eyeballs popped out of our heads.  The server knew I couldn't eat dairy, so he pointed out all the dishes I shouldn't tuck into, which are the ones not pictured here: Shanklish, Fatayer Spinach, Fatayer Veg, Falafel, and Sambousek Cheese.  But the others were fair game: Hummus, Baba Ganouj, Mouhamarra, Tabouleh, Garlic Mushrooms, Spiced Potatoes, Maghmour, and Pickles.

I couldn't be bothered with things like manners or hand-washing; I grabbed a piece of pita and dove into the hummus, below.

And oh!  How pure it was!  The tahini tastes so fresh that you can tell they make it in-house.  The hint of lemon isn't strong, but suits the dip well.  Don't even get me started on how extraordinary the olive oil was.  The Baba Ganouj at the top tasted smokey and roasted in a very enticing way.  The flavor was lovely.  It also was drenched in this magical olive oil.  Perhaps one day I can be drenched in this magical olive oil.

Actually, no.

The Tabouleh at the top of the picture was a little unexpected - it's rare to see this dish without bulgar wheat, but this stuff worked.  Fresh, crispy, lemony, and unique; I shoveled it down.  The Mouhammara below had that beautiful orange color from the walnuts and red peppers pureed into it.  It tasted thick and faintly nutty, but man was it filling and rich.  Absolutely delicious.

The word "Pickles" may be slightly misleading. 

Do you see those stuffed beauties?  They're crammed full of goodies, like mushrooms and tomatoes!  All of it had this really great, sour, pickled taste.  They made me think of super dense, chewy dolmades.  Above is the Maghmour - a tomato-based chickpea dish - and the chickpeas and eggplants melted in my mouth.  The fresh, herbed tomato flavor permeated through everything.

Then came the Garlic Mushrooms and Spiced Potatoes.

The mushrooms, to be honest, did not impress me.  I'm very picky about my mushrooms, and these had too much of that mushroomy texture.  Nothing wrong with the flavor.  Just gross-feeling.  (Am I a grown-up?  Jury's still out.)  Matt couldn't get enough of the potatoes, which had exquisitely salted, garlicked, herbed, and crisped outsides.  If all fries tasted like this, the world would be a fatter place.

Vegans: the Baklava's all buttery.  Oh well.  You'll be so full and happy from your Mezze that you won't give a crap.  Go on.  I dare you.  You won't even give one crap.

If you do somehow care that you can't eat a butter-slathered monstrosity, go outside.  Look at this.  And then you will give even fewer craps.  Dublin!  It un-ruin your holiday.

03 April 2013

Cork: Cafe Paradiso

I am so content right now.  Matt and I had such a full, perfect day at Blarney Castle, discovering medieval secrets and stumbling upon beautiful glens.  I'm pretty sure we were abducted by forest sprites and magicked for 3 months because there's no WAY anything this gorgeous could exist in nature.


To top it all off, we had this fantastic fancy-pants meal and now I'm sitting on the train back to Dublin, relaxing across the table from my fantastic hubs, letting a cup of tea cool off and enjoying the sunset over rolling green hills.  I don't even care that I'm writing this on the hotel itinerary print-out instead of typing it.  I'm not sure what I've done in life that makes me this lucky.

Enough sentimentality.  We're here to discuss food!

Cafe Paradiso
16 Lancaster Quay
Cork, Ireland
(353) (021) 427-7939

Cafe Paradiso opens for dinner from Tuesday through Saturday at 5:30p.  (This caused a small hiccup for us that involved walking past 2 guys who became more boisterously drunk each of the 5 times we passed them on the street.)  The focus here is on vegetarian food prepared from locally grown, seasonal, fresh, organic ingredients.  Plus it's fancy.  Of course, by fancy I mean very high quality food that's so expensive it's a little silly.  Let your server know you're vegan before ordering; the vegan stuff isn't marked on the menu, and there are several items they can make vegan upon request.

This - what's the phrase - amuse bouche? - consists of seed crackers made with egg, fresh olives, and chili cashews.  (Told you it was fancy.)  All I picked off were the cashews: super good morsels with a little kick of flavor and a lot of addictive power.

My 2-course meal was a whopping €33 ($42.26).  (You can get 3 courses for €40 ($51.22).)  Meet my app: "Vegetable sushi with tempura of aubergine and carrot, picked ginger, wasabi, and a soy-ginger dipping sauce."

The tempura is just... I mean, wow.  Crispy and flavor-filled, the carrot and eggplant packing their own punch so the zing they pick up from the salty ginger sauce hits you with a bang.  Then the sushi - so unique and delicious!  The mushrooms have this absolutely spot-on umami taste, almost like that sour lemony flavor in Greek dolmades.  It's complemented expertly by the red pepper, slightly spicy chili sauce, and ginger soy.

My entree said dolmades in the title, so I was sold.  Plus it happened to be new today!  It was very exciting.

The cornmeal potato cake had big potato flavor with a moist, hot, yummy quality that went well with the heat of the saffron sauce.  These lovely dolmades were not traditional Greek food, but mmm!  Doesn't matter.  The chickpea mash wrapped in cabbage leaves burst with yumminess.  It was such a well-crafted, filling taste.  I scooped it up with bites of cake and edamame.  Heaven.

Then Matt's thing:  "Sweet chilli-glazed panfried tofu with choi, gingered coconut-tamarind sauce, rice noodles, and shiitake fritters."  (Don't eat the eggy mushroom fritters.)

Maybe my favorite dish of the night.  First of all, this spicy, creamy sauce gave every morsel a boost of unequivocal awesomesauce.  The bok choy that dripped with the stuff was at once chewy and soft; I couldn't imagine it tasting any better.  The noodles... meh.  But the tofu?  Shut the front door.  Somebody get me a room upstairs, because I need to eat this every day for the rest of my life.  Soft, hot, flavorful, and spicy.  In a word: ballsy.  God that was good.

Matt and I spent the meal planning our awesome adventures for tomorrow and playing the NERDIEST Star Trek word game we made up.  If I like you, I might explain the rules to you.

Actually... the opposite of that.

02 April 2013

Dublin: Delhi O'Deli

Holy hole in the wall, Batman.  This restaurant is half do-it-yourself, half extraordinary food, and everyone on Trip Advisor swears up and down that you gotta check this place out.  I happen to agree.

Delhi O'Deli
12 Moore St
Dublin, Ireland
(353) (01) 872-9129

When you walk in, sit down anywhere you like.  The counter may psych you into thinking it's counter service, but for dinner, at least, I can tell you it's a sit-down affair.  What you do need to get for yourself, however, are water glasses, a pitcher of water, silverware, and napkins.  No big deal.  You're a grown up.

The menu is marked with green Vs all over the place.  In fact, I would say there's more vegan food than vegetarian.  And not one lick of meat anywhere.  How neat is that?  That's pretty neat.

Matt and I were exhausted from our day and wanted to go to bed without that gross totally full feeling.  The following is what I'd call a light meal for two.

I got an order of plain Parantha for €2.49 ($3.20) while Matt had his own dairy-laden Naan.  The Parantha was nice and crispy.  An excellent vehicle for loading with curry and stuffing into my gullet.

 I did skip that white stuff.  Just, you know.  In case.

The Pindy Choley we got for our main course was €7.99 ($10.27), and I'm gonna go ahead and say it's pretty much chana masala.  Chickpeas with a tomato base.  Oh, my gosh, and it was fabulous!  The flavor is spicy and deep; it kept changing on my tongue.  This is why Trip Advisor wants you to come here.

Then we tried a new thing!  Apparently Pani Puri is a street food from Mumbai.  We grabbed it for €4.99 ($6.41).  You take one of these crispy little fried balls and put some of the potato-chickpea filling inside.

Then pour some of this green "spicy and sour tamarind water" in there, too.

And pop the whole thing in your mouth.  Then you're like, WOAH!  It's hot and cold, spicy and crispy, minty and savory, totally money.  So unique, in such a yummy way.

OH MY WORD, the sun is shining!  This place was great and stuff!  Bye, muffins!  I gotta go outside!

01 April 2013

Dublin: Cornucopia


I'm sorry, let me start over.

We love Dublin.  It's a fun, safe, charming, kind, beautiful city.  Everything we did tooling around in its City Centre today made us happy.  St. Stephan's Green?  Magical!  The Long Library at Trinity College?  I died and went to heaven.  This restaurant I'm about to write up?  A-MAZING!

But every time we were outside we wanted to die.  I'm just saying.

Needless to say, the lunch we spent mercifully indoors at Cornucopia was certainly a highlight.

19-20 Wicklow St
Dublin 2
(353) (01) 667-7583

This place opened as a measly hole of a health food store in 1986.  (Ha, I'm older by 2 years.  'Cause THAT matters.)  Since then it's started selling meals from behind a counter and expanded into the neighboring and d-stairs real estate.  Did I mention the food is mind-blowing?  And super, SOOPER (more serious with Os) vegan-friendly.  Look at this menu.  Just look.

There are little chalk Vs everywhere.  And the display case!

That's just one of 'em.

The soups, salads, entrees, and fresh baked breads shall proudly bear the label I have made up for them: British Isles comfort food... to the max!  (This, you have to read out loud and with that unidentifiable 90s commercial quality.)  Take one bite of any of this stuff and try to be grumpy.

Unless you're Grumpycat.  In which case, grumble on, Grumpycat.  I won't stand in the way of your hopes and dreams.

This bread.  €0.50 ($0.64) per slice.  Oh, how dense and moist it is with all that dark spelt and toothsome seedage!  If you say the magic V  word, your friendly employee at the register will even fetch you some vegan margarine.  Then dip your bread in your soup and achieve nirvana.

A small bowl of soup sets you back €3.45 ($4.43).  The carrot stuff was - most importantly, given the circumstances - piping hot, just like its celeriac fennel compatriot pictured further below.  The carrot taste was savory-sweet with hints of fall flavors and apple.  The celery concoction is even better: smooth, creamy, comforting and tasty.  It would be impossible not to like this.  Even for Grumpycat Sister.

The curry came at €9 ($11.56) with rice and a yellow slew of the sweet, anise-(I think?)-themed sauce on sweet potatoes, tofu, and broccoli.  We skipped the salads that usually come with the entrees in lieu of our much-needed life-sustaining soups - and that changes the price slightly, in case you were wondering.  Normally the entrees are €11-13.  Matt shoveled this curry down like Shakespeare killed people in Hamlet - with intensity, speed, and no regrets.  It was sweet with coconut milk and brought out the best of everything involved with its simple flavors and quality ingredients.

Finally, perhaps the most British of them all: the cauliflower lentil pie with mashed taters and dill for €8.55 ($10.98).  Mmmmm.  Again, the simple flavors of the veggies, a little salt, and fresh dill just gelled like Magellan.  Like I said: comfort food... to the max!

After this meal, we stepped out, blinking, into the cold, cruel weather.  The WIND.  But the hot food in our bellies made life much more bearable.  We frolicked on, to more adventure.