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The Passionate Pursuit of Delight

Category: Travel

What to Eat (and Drink) When Visiting Seattle

Seattle Travel and Dining Guide | Food | Drinks | Happy Hour | Oysters

When you are visiting the Pacific Northwest you must eat all the seafood. I adore oysters but they are a bit on the pricy side so I love to hunt down bars and restaurants that offer happy hour specials on their oysters. I found two winners this trip to Seattle.

Oyster Happy Hours

Seattle | Local 360 | Oysters | Happy Hour

Local 360

This Belltown restaurant is a find and if I had a few more days in town I would have gone back for a second visit. The vibe was casual and hip. People who say hip probably aren’t to be trusted determining what is hip. Am I right? We tried a few items off the happy hour menu including oysters on the half shell dressed with pickled mustard seed vinaigrette and deviled eggs. We also ordered a steamed mussels and clams dish from the regular menu and they were all divine.

Taylor Shellfish

Our server at Local 360 mentioned that the restaurant got their oysters from the local purveyors Taylor Shellfish and that they have several oyster bars around Seattle where you can try a bunch of different types of oysters. So, the next night we headed up to their Capitol Hill site for oyster sampling. We ordered the ‘shucker’s dozen oyster special’ which features two oysters of six different kinds of oysters including the teensiest little oysters that I have ever seen.

Seattle | Taylor Shellfish | Geoduck Clams

They also served geoduck clams. Have you guys seen these? Have you eaten one? Taylor Shellfish has them and you can order one. I didn’t. I mean, seriously, whoa.

Downtown

Sam Choy’s Poke Food to the Max

It was one of those crisp, clear sunny days in autumn that makes being indoors feel like torture. As I was walking around looking for a quick lunch I discovered Westgate Park with a bunch of food trucks parked in it. Pro tip: look for food trucks with long lines. The lines are often a clue on which food trucks have delicious food. That is how I found myself in line at Sam Choy’s Poke to the Max food truck. My instincts paid off and I enjoyed fresh, delicious poke with rice and seaweed salad for $12. Sam Choy also has brick and mortar Poke shops in Seattle if you aren’t feeling the food truck love.

Capitol Hill

Seattle | Starbucks | Roastery & Tasting Room | Coffee

Starbuck’s Reserve Roastery and Tasting Room

Don’t bother stopping at the very first Starbuck’s coffee shop near Pike Place Market. Most often there is a line out the door and the shop is like every other Starbuck’s that you have been into before. Instead, head over to the Capitol Hill area and visit the Starbuck’s Reserve Roastery and Tasting Room.

Seattle | Starbucks | Roastery & Tasting Room | Coffee

You will be bowled over by the smell of the coffee beans roasting. The evening that we stopped by it was pouring rain outside and entering into the roastery felt like a warm, delicious-smelling hug. You will find menu items here that you won’t find on any other Starbuck’s menu. Plus, there are many Starbuck’s related items for sale so you can pick up gifts for the Starbuck’s lover in your life (or yourself!)

Serious Pie

Serious Pie is the place to go if you like your pizza cooked in a wood-fired oven and the crust to be crispy and a little bit charred. There are several locations of Serious Pie around Seattle but we visited the cozy Capitol Hill location which is located right next to the Starbuck’s Reserve Roastery. Serious Pie is one of the many restaurants by Seattle chef, Tom Douglas and definitely worth visiting.

 

Waterfront

Seattle | Pike Place Market |

Pike Place Market

If you have been to Seattle you surely have been to Pike Place Market. If you haven’t been, do plan on spending a few hours there when you visit. A few of the highlights are the seafood market where showmen/fishmongers will answer your seafood questions, give you samples, and throw fish around like jugglers. It’s entertaining and delicious. The fresh flower shop is always a highlight too. Grab yourself a bunch of those beauties to dress up your hotel room or Airbnb. Finally, you will want to pick up some fresh produce from the market. Pick produce that is in season and ask for recommendations while you are browsing.

Beecher’s Handmade Cheese

If you have picked up some fresh produce from Pike Place Market you might as well head down the street to Beecher’s Handmade Cheese shop and pick up a few locally made cheeses. If this sounds like the makings of an excellent picnic or happy hour then head to the bakery a few doors down from Beecher’s to pick up a baguette. There is also a wine shop right there too so you can finish up your meal preparation right.

Do you have favorite places to eat and drink in Seattle? If so, I would love it if you would leave them in the comments. I can resist checking out new places when I travel.

 

 

Planning a Trip to Dublin

dublin-travel-guide

Everyone is Irish on St. Patrick’s Day, but, in truth, Ireland is a country that is full of warm and welcoming people who receive visitors to the Emerald Isle any day of the year. If the Irish people are the life blood of Ireland then Dublin is the heartbeat of the country. If you only have a few days to spend in Dublin I have put together a list of things you must do.

But first,  if you are traveling around Ireland here are links to posts on Galway and County Louth.

Temple Bar

ireland-dublin-temple-bar

The Temple Bar refers to both an area and a bar in Dublin. Temple Bar is located on the south bank of the River Liffey and is the cultural center of Dublin. Here you will find shops, restaurants, pubs, and shops. At night this area comes to life.

ireland-dublin-temple-bar-james-joyce

The Temple Bar drinking establishment is a likely stop for tourists in need of a pint. Inside the bar you will find statues of James Joyce and room after room of people enjoying the craic.  The night we were at the Temple Bar we were lucky enough to have family meet us from nearby County Louth for dinner and drinks. A rare and wonderful treat!

river-liffey-ireland-dublin-family

Guinness Storehouse

guinness-door-ireland-dublinIf you want to tour Guinness I recommend making reservations a few days prior so that you can reserve the time slot that you want. If you wait until the last minute you may end up touring at 10:30a like we did. There are floors of interesting exhibits and a nice café. We particularly enjoyed the exhibit on Guinness advertising through the years. The Whistling Oyster is pure genius.

whistling-oyster-guinness-ireland-dublin

The price of the tour includes a complimentary pint at the Gravity Bar. The Gravity Bar is located on the top floor which is the place to have Dublin’s most scenic pint as the bar has floor to ceiling glass walls for an unobstructed 360 degree view of the city. You will want to stop by the large gift shop to pick up some souvenirs for yourself and your friends and family back home.

Trinity College

ireland-dublin-trinity-college

Founded in 1592, Trinity College is Ireland’s oldest University. The campus is as lovely as you would imagine an old college made of stone buildings to be. There are treasures on Trinity Campus in the Old Library which includes the Long Room. The Long Room is one of Ireland’s most popular tourist attractions and holds millions of rare and ancient texts including the Book of Kells. If you want to visit the Long Room buy online fast track tickets to avoid standing in long lines.

Teeling Whiskey Tasting

ireland-dublin-teeling-whiskey

Most whiskey drinkers include a stop at the Jameson Distillery when they are in Dublin but from September 2016 until March 2017 the Jameson Distillery is closed for remodeling. Luckily, friends recommended that we do a tasting at the Teeling Whiskey Distillery instead. Irish whiskey was once the most popular spirit in the world dominating nearly 60% of the market until the 1920s at which time the market dwindled to almost nothing.

ireland-dublin-teeling-whiskey-tasting

There has been a recent surge in popularity of Irish whiskey but currently there are only about a dozen distilleries in Ireland. The tour guide mentioned that the whiskey was stored in a Nicaraguan road house. Are you still reading? Nicaraguan road house is what I thought the tour guide said. Apparently what she really said was the whiskey was stored in Nicaraguan rum casks. I guess that makes more sense.

Culture Night

In a serendipitous alignment of stars and the full harvest moon, our last night in Dublin just happened to be Ireland’s Culture Night. Culture Night is an annual event that began in Dublin but has spread around the country and celebrates culture, creativity, and the arts. The streets were teeming with people and even at six o’clock in the evening people spilled out of restaurants and bars into the streets. The city was so alive! We poked our heads into the Dublin Castle to see live music. Dublin Castle was founded in 1204. Twelve oh four! My mind was totally blown by how old things are in this part of the world.  After all that culture we found a rooftop patio bar and enjoyed one last drink in Dublin before our early morning flight the next day.

 

 

 

Galway Travel Guide

Galway Ireland

Are you planning a trip to Ireland? Maybe you are just dreaming about planning a trip to Ireland. Either way, if you aren’t sure which cities to visit, let me try to convince you to consider adding Galway to your itinerary.

the quays

My cousins who live in Ireland, not far from Dublin, recommended that we spend a few days in Galway during our trip to Ireland as they regularly take vacations or long weekends there and love it. Galway is on the west coast of Ireland about three hours west of Dublin. If you have a car it is a relatively easy drive on highway almost the whole way.

quay street

Galway is a charming as everyone says and is ridiculously photogenic. In your mind when you picture Ireland it probably looks a lot like Galway.

Dail Bar

Here are my recommendations of what to do, see, and eat while you are in Galway.

Eat

There are many excellent restaurants in Galway. Below are few of the places that we visited and loved.

Ard Bia at Nimmo’s

Ard Bia Exterior

I read about Ard Bia once in a travel article once and added it to ‘the places I want to eat in Galway someday’ list. We rolled into town around lunch time and went straight away to find Ard Bia. Inside we found a cozy space with tantalizing displays of fresh baked goods right inside the door. We were seated in a small nook of a room in an almost private space.  The menu was appealing and offered choices that suited the vegetarians and carnivores in our group alike.

Super salad

As we perused the menu the server brought us Irish brown bread and butter to start our meal. Brown bread is served everywhere in Ireland but Ard Bia’s brown bread is something special. In fact, we bought a loaf to take back to our Airbnb with us. I will definitely try to replicate their recipe at home.

Oscar’s Seafood Bistro

Oscar’s Seafood is a perfect spot for a quiet dinner for two. Since we were on the coast in a seafood restaurant we ordered both oysters on the half shell and prawns. The oysters in Ireland are saltier or brinier than what I am used to eating in the U.S. but still delicious. We both enjoyed our dinner and recommend stopping in for a meal.

Kai Café + Restaurant

Kai Cafe porkchop

Our Airbnb host and every other local that we asked recommended that we dine at Kai. Now I understand why. The food and atmosphere are outstanding. The restaurant is small though so reservations are recommended. I ordered a beautiful dish of black rice, Chanterelle mushrooms, buratta cheese and sage cream.  I can’t even! The flavors and presentation were outstanding. My partner had this pork chop which he raved about for days.

The Seafood Bar at Kirwin Lane

Seafood Bar at Kirwin

If you are lucky enough to have good weather while you are in Galway I recommend sitting outside on the patio of the Seafood Bar at Kirwin Lane. The patio is in a courtyard that is much quieter than many of the surrounding streets and provides a nice respite from the hustle and bustle of Galway. The special that day was salmon with pea and bacon risotto. It was my partner’s favorite meal of the trip.

Do

Quay Street

Be sure to walk the cobbled streets of the Quay Street area and enjoy the vibrant architecture with flower boxes blooming in riots of color then find a pub with outdoor seating, grab a pint, and people watch.

Sheridan Cheesemonger

sheridans cheese mongers

If you love cheese, and seriously, who doesn’t love cheese? You must visit the Sheridan Cheesemonger shop. It is both a feast for the eyes and the belly. The patient and knowledgeable woman behind the counter let us taste many cheeses most of which were made in Ireland.  We picked up a creamy mild cheese, sharp cheddar, and a pungent blue. We also bought a baguette and an assortment of olives. All we needed was a bottle of wine and our picnic was complete.

Salthill Promenade

Salthill promenade

Known locally as ‘the prom’ this area is right on Galway Bay. The weather was sunny and warm while we were visiting the Salthill Promenade but I was amazed to see people swimming in the bay. I walked down to the water’s edge and dipped my toes in the ice cold water. I later learned that many locals swim in the ocean year round. Brrr!

Swimming at Salthill promenade

Cliffs of Moher

Cliffs of Moher

You may know the Cliffs of Moher as the Cliffs of Insanity from the movie The Princess Bride or the place where Harry Potter was hunting horcruxes. Visiting the Cliffs of Moher is well worth the 1.5 hour drive from Galway. The sheer cliffs are breath-taking in both their height and magnificence. Parts of the trail are fenced off as the trail is eroding in places and it can be hazardous but that didn’t stop many tourists from venturing out there the day we visited. Loco! Driving the winding country roads from Galway to the Cliffs is also an experience itself.

Cliffs of Moher

If you can squeeze a meal into your day trip to the cliffs I recommend Monk’s. This quaint restaurant had surprisingly good food. I was a bit put off before we went because I read that the tour buses to the Cliffs stop at Monk’s and I was worried that the food wouldn’t be good. I was wrong. I had a warm prawn and potato salad seasoned with mustard vinaigrette that was interesting and delicious. The Guinness stew also got two thumbs up.  A word of warning though, if you are a vegetarian dining in restaurants outside of the cities can be hit or miss. The only vegetarian option at Monk’s was spaghetti from the children’s menu.

More

Depending on the number of days you plan to spend in Galway you may want to consider adding a day trip to Connemara too.

 

 

 

What to Do in Ireland: Watch a Gaelic Football Match

Gaelic Football

On Saturday night, our first night in Ireland, we slept like the dead. I did not wake up until 11:00a. Eleven o’clock! I have never in my entire life slept until 11:00a. My cousin Amanda invited us to the County Louth Gaelic Football championship game later that afternoon. Her brother and two nephews were playing in the match. We wrongfully assumed that this would be held at a school yard with a few family and friends watching from the sidelines. Crazy Americans!

We failed to realize what a big deal this match watch. As we approached the address Amanda had given us we began to see cars lining both sides of the street with team flags attached to the windows. We were directed into a field to park and there were easily hundred cars already parked in the lot.

If you are unfamiliar with Gaelic Football it can best be described as a mix of soccer, basketball, and rugby. Gaelic football is played primarily in Ireland and consists of teams of fifteen players. The goal resembles the goal in rugby but has a net attached like in soccer. The object is to kick or punch the round ball into the net (scoring three points) or over the crossbar (one point).

Here is a video that shows a Gaelic football match in action. Take note: the players do not wear pads or helmets.

As we entered the stadium, the crowd was thrumming with energy as we made our way in to meet up with our family. Despite everyone around us sporting their black and red for St. Kevin’s we easily spotted my Aunt Joan and Cousin Elaine.

St. Kevin's Super FanThere was little time for small talk though as the match was underway. We had a hard time following the action at first and had to resort to cheering when everyone around was cheering. But it didn’t take long for us to catch on to what was going on.

The match was incredibly close throughout and so fast paced that we found ourselves screaming and cheering along with the rest of the crowd. I feared that my poor Cousin Amanda was going to lose her mind! She was so nervous and rooting so hard for ‘the Kevins’ to earn the win. We learned a few new swears which was awesome too, ‘aw, c’mon, stop bullocking around’ is one of my favorites.

The score was tied at the end of time but there were a few minutes of extra time for injuries and thankfully St. Kevin’s scored in the last minute and won the title of County Louth champs! The crowd went mad and rushed the field. It was a joy to see my cousin Gerard and his family bursting with pride at the win.

St Kevin's Wins

My cousin Amanda rushing the field after the dramatic last minute win!

So, if you ever visit Ireland and love exciting sports I recommend finding a Gaelic football match to attend to get a real sense of Irish culture.

Joan and Gerard

Aunt Joan and Gerard after the win.

We left the match exhilarated and rushed back to our Airbnb to meet up with my father’s brother Teddy and his wife Carol. I hadn’t met them the last time I was in Ireland because they were living out of the country at the time. Teddy has a great sense of humor and shared many stories about my father both when they were young and would save their money for weekend carousing around Bray and later on the golf trips they took together and the ones that they had planned before he died.

teddy-and-kenneth

Teddy, Carol, Fiona, Darryl, Kenneth, Ryan, Lauren, and me.

My cousin Kenneth and his wife Fiona also stopped by to visit. Kenneth was ten years old the last time I saw him thirty-six years ago but the moment he walked in the room I recognized his face instantly. We had a lovely visit with them and caught up about his mother Sheila (my father’s sister) and his brothers Tony and Shane.

I can’t tell you how much it meant to me to sit down together and spend time with my family. I am grateful to them all for coming together to spend time with us.

Gaelic Football

Ireland: Going Home to County Louth, part one

We spent the first few days in Ireland visiting family in County Louth which is located 45 minutes north of Dublin. Louth is known as ‘the wee county’ as it is the smallest county by area.

Annotated Map of Ireland

My father was born and raised in County Louth in a town called Ardee. I visited Ireland only once before with my Dad when I was twelve years old. In adulthood, we had always planned  to come back to visit. But my father died four years ago before we made that return trip which feels sad, maybe even tragic in a way. So for me, this trip is, in part, a pilgrimage to say good-bye.

Bradleys and Brennens

My father was the only one of his siblings to move to the U.S. so while we were in Ireland we wanted to spend time with his two sisters and one surviving brother. I have more cousins than I can count here in Ireland too, many of whom were children when I was here the first time. A few of them hadn’t been born yet. Okay, since I was here, I figured I better count, seventeen, I have seventeen first cousins that live in Ireland. I was able to see most of them this trip and was able to spend time with them. The temperament, mannerisms, and familial resemblance are uncanny.

Joan Brennan, Lauren and me

Our first night in town our family met up in a pub in Drogheda called The Thatch. We took over the back room and over the course of the evening more and more family members streamed in. My father’s sister Joan walked in and we embraced and broke down in tears. The tears were tears of happiness at being together and sadness at missing my father.

I met Paul and Brian, two sons of my father’s brother, who I had never met before because they were living out of the county when I visited as child.

Paul Bradley and me

We took many priceless pictures and although the lighting was not great in the pub the memories will remain vivid and bright. I am so grateful for having the opportunity to spend the evening with family sharing stories and laughing ourselves silly.

County Louth blog post pin

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