Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Mo and O'Malley's

Heading for a workshop in Chesapeake tomorrow, I stopped into the only local I could find in Norfolk, VA. It's a friendly little place downtown called Mo and O'Malleys with live Irish music five nights a week. Tonight was singer Don Bunch's birthday, so he had a pretty good crowd, mostly friends and family, but nothing wrong with that. The stew was the bovine variety, so I opted for the bangers and mash, which was satisfying if not extraordinary. Washed down with a few pints of the brown, it served nicely to fill the void left from the drive down from DC. I stayed through the first set, then took my leave for an early night. Good times!

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

A week in the West of Ireland -- more or less

Saturday 21 April 2007 -- If the e-ticket says, "seat assigned at the airport", it doesn't mean that your arse is going to be in one of them. As the aircraft door closes at JFK, Seamus and the missus are seething at the counter, while the hapless gate agent tries to explain what Delta means by "confirmed". It seems that when they overbook the flight -- which they regularly do -- they ask for volunteers to give up their seat for a travel voucher. If they don't get enough volunteers, then they bump some passengers involuntarily. For your trouble, they book you on the next flight, offer you a $400 travel voucher, put you up in style at the JFK Ramada, and provide generous $7 food vouchers for dinner and breakfast. You have to wonder if they ever tried to get breakfast or dinner in New York for $7. I can't imagine why they have trouble finding enough volunteers. Oh, and did I mention, the next flight is 24 hours later.
"So let me get this right," offers Seamus. "For us to benefit, we have to fly your airline again. Right now, I don't see this happening." So far, the vacation in Ireland isn't off to a great start.

Seamus_yo: "Tell you what! Why don't you upgrade us to First Class on tomorrow's flight?"

Hapless Agent: "But then I couldn't offer you the $400 voucher."

S_yo: "I'll try to hide my dismay."

Hapless: "I guess we can do that."

Things are looking up. First class was almost worth the lost day. But we missed our day on Inishmore (Aran Islands).

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Perfect pints in Portland

Say that three times fast! Three days in Portland (Oregon) shooting videos for the new website means I'm going to have to try something other than the lamb stew. Quite a few locals listed, but most are out in the burbs. Only a couple are convenient to the downtown hotel I picked. Fortune has it that one is Kells, the Portland location of an old favorite from San Fran and Seattle. We finished taping early in the day. But breakfast was a long time ago in Maryland, so it looks like the lamb stew is a late lunch -- and maybe I'll get back later for the live Irish entertainment.

The young waiter is the same lad Britney-yo tried to hire back to Maryland as a marketing assistant a year ago. He's still here, so I guess he's committed to the West Coast. The menu includes Ulster Champ as a side, so I give it a go with a Guinness and the stew. No disappointments here! The pint is creamy, the stew is near perfect, and the champ is a delight. For those unfamiliar with Irish recipes, champ is a traditional mash of potatoes with butter and scallions. At Kells of Portland, they serve it with a demi-glace sauce using a red-wine reduction that gives a traditional dish a little energy.

Next morning, I'm out early to another taping at a newly-built hospital in Newburg, maybe 20 miles south of the city. We finished up interviews before lunch, so I head back into town. The Guinness sensor must be working today, because the sign for "Historic Old Sherwood" catches my eye and I detour. A quick spin around the little town and begorrah, "Clancy's" jumps right out to meet me. Nothing special here, unless you love great little out-of-the-way corner bars in small towns with Guinness and Harp on tap, and a regular lunch crowd. The owner stops by the table to chat a minute and I learn that he is celebrating 19 years running his little pub in Sherwood this week. I ask him if he's "Clancy", but he tells me that he named it after his friend who helped him get the place going. Works for me! No lamb stew on the menu and it isn't today's special, so I opt for the fresh Pacific halibut and chips. I end up having a second pint of Guinness with lunch, so I have to pass on the bread pudding today. The owner seems to know about everybody who comes in, but I might fit in that group the next time. And there will be a next time!

Next week, Missus Seamus-yo and himself are traveling to find a few pubs, some traditional music, and the object of my obsession on the Emerald Isle. So we'll be posting a few from Galway, Killarney and Bantry Bay.


Monday, March 26, 2007

Irish Legends Are Made of This

She came over to the table where Missus Seamus_Yo and himself were enjoying repast, having tired of the crowds at the Philadelphia Flower Show. Theme of "Legends of Ireland" had drawn us 140 miles north on the Saturday before the holiday. McGillins Ale House flowed with Bud Light in a shade of green unknown to the Emerald Isle. Why do wannabe pubs think they need to color beer for the occasion? Scares the hell out of you next morning.

"Izzat a Deefty?", she inquired.

Seamus-yo is no shrinking violet, but his auditory acuity is perhaps a bit less than at its peak. He glibly replies, "Huh?"

"The Nikon -- is it a D-50?"

"Oh, the camera. Right!"

"I had a D-50, actually it was my boyfriend's, but he let me use it all the time. It was a great camera. It's gone now. We broke up."

"Oh, that's too bad!"

"Yeah. I sure miss that camera."

Sunday, February 04, 2007

The stew's second rate, but the rolls are hot!!

Brit-yo, Bailey-yo, Pappy and I bailed early from the reception on the beach. Might have been the 50 degree weather--or perchance the gale. Scuttled the idea of the Rum Happy Hour in Pappy's room, what with no ice, electric, or wide-screen. We actually had all the amenities until the major electrical fire and evacuation earlier in the day. So, we made our way to McCabes in downtown Naples, a friendly watering hole for which I had fond memories. Last year at this time, McCabes was hopping on a Thursday night, and the two Irish entertainers had the crowd buying them rounds and heartily (sometimes lustily) singing along.

This year, the northern climes have been mild and the crowds are staying away in droves. McCabes is quiet, no music on a Monday night, and the cold weather seems to discouraged even the stalwarts among the snowbirds. OK, at least a chance to try out the lamb stew. The Irish waiter appears for our drink order; he turns out to be from Rumania. Nice enough lad, hopes to stay but misses the seasons. Not long for Florida, I fear.

The lamb stew turns out to be a disappointment, but Pappy (the Russdog) orders a round of Patrone Silver shots and subsequently notices that the accompanying rolls have a distinct character all their own.

Hard to fault Pappy for his highly-developed power of observation. Presents an opportunity for Seamus-yo to throw a little fear into Brit-yo and Bailey-yo, "Do you know what I can do with this in Photoshop?"

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Beantown Musings

Boston offers a target-rich environment for the pub addict. The organization that funds my obsession through regular deposits on the 15th and 30th held its annual convention and tradeshow in Boston in early October and offered us another opportunity to explore the entry port of a extraordinary number of Irish immigrants during the latter half of the 19th century and the first part of the 20th. A few of the more entrepreneurial among the oft-maligned Irish-Americans established public houses that rival the best they had left behind. While few of the earliest establishments remain, their legacy is celebrated by scores of pubs scattered throughout the city. Purely in the interest of historic preservation, we patronized a few in the short week we were in town.

Sólás, a lively Back Bay pub whose name means “comfort” in Irish, is nested along Boylston Street within a couple blocks of the Copley Square hotels. Since several of our affiliated organizations hold meetings here from time to time, I’ve adopted Sólás as kind of a home base when in Boston. On arriving in Boston early Friday afternoon, we dropped our bags in the room and headed over for a quick pint and a bite to eat. Sólás lives up to its name; the first floor pub is laid out like your family room, with fireplaces and cozy nooks. Sólás has been said to be a place that invites you in and asks you to stay. The staff is warm and friendly, and the drink menu is extensive. Food quality is excellent, although the service is -- at the same time -- prompt and slow. Don’t mistake the attention from the wait staff to mean that you will be getting something to eat soon. Not the place to come if you are in a rush, so get your order in and relax awhile. You’ll feel welcome and never feel rushed. I can recommend the Shepherd’s Pie. Herself leans toward the Ham & Cheese Toasties.

The Black Rose
On my first trip to Boston in the late ‘70s, I discovered the Black Rose and was introduced to draft Guinness for the first time. J,M&J, we created a monster. I started out with Black and Tans, but quickly asked to have the training wheels removed!

Veronica, yo , who hails from the Pacific Northwest, and Seamus, yo shared some calimari here in March and even got Britney, yo to try her first squid at that time. For an OSU Buckeye, she’s got spunk! This trip we stopped in for dinner on the one free night we had. This is one of the partiest pubs in Boston. Good Irish music, food, and Guinness! You can’t go wrong at the Black Rose.

Not certain who these attractive folks are, but they appear to be enjoying the craic at the Black Rose.

My first visit to Hennessy’s was six months prior to the Boston convention, when national and chapter staff come in ahead for a “look-see” – and some ostensible staff education. A group of our natstaff dined at Mamma Maria in the North End on the last night in town. Bailey, yo (see Alligators on a Party Barge under links) was severely under the weather, so she and the natstaff lightweights caught a cab back to the hotel. Not that B’yo can’t hold her own. She subsequently gave up a kidney, so we’ll cut her some slack on that trip. Veronica, yo, Britney, yo and Seamus, yo accompanied by the Russdog decided to extend the evening, so we stopped into Hennessy’s for a nightcap. The Russdog is constantly amazed at Seamus, yo’s uncanny knack for quickly zeroing in on the best pub around. What can I say? It’s a gift! The entertainment on the evening was a solitary folk-rocker, who covered a nice mix of Bob Dylan, Van Morrison, the Beatles, and Tiny Tim. With a few drinks, our group is pretty much self-entertained, so I think we enjoyed O’Whatshisname. As one thing frequently leads to another, the nightcap had a few friends, and we may have closed the place. On this occasion, herself and I decided that we hadn’t really had much of a chance to kick around Boston on our own. So with convention ended and no one else to tend to, we opted for a later shuttle back to DC and set off to walk part of the Freedom Trail. Full knowing we would pass at least a few pubs on the way, I promised her lunch in my favorite Boston pub. She knows by now that my favorite pub is the next one! We ended up walking by several pubs on our way, but I held off for Hennessy’s. Try the Traditional Irish Mixed Grill, a combination of Guinness-marinated steak tips, Irish sausages, Irish bacon, with baked beans thrown in to make it Boston.

The Kinsale Restaurant & Pub
The Kinsale is a recent addition to the Government Center complex. It sounded like it had possibilities when I searched online, but in person, it appeared like too many other formula Irish restaurants. We took a quick peek, but moved on. I’m put off by nouveau gourmet Irish dishes that look like a Jenga tournament winner.

Kennedy’s Irish Pub & Restaurant
When queried by herself how I even saw a pub that was two blocks off our path and over our left shoulder, I reassured her that I was a Guinness-seeking missile operating on autopilot. We only dropped in for a quick look around, as we had just finished off a hearty lunch at Hennessy’s and were heading back to the hotel to pick up our bags to return home. This one will have to wait for the next trip.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

The Firkin & Fox--In Concourse C

I have to raise a glass the genius who decided to build a pub--even an English one--near the United gates in Washington Dulles Airport. For those of us who travel on business, lunch and dinner are too often airport fast food (even worse than regular fast food) eaten in the waiting area next to the departure gate for our next flight. Having returned from Memphis late the previous evening, The Missus Seamus, yo and I were heading back to Nashville for the weekend. Fearing long lines at security on a Friday evening, we passed up the few dinner choices available on the back route from Fredneck, hustled through check-in, breezed through security -- love those premium security lines -- and endured the people-crawlers out to the C-gates. At this point, we still had a hour before boarding, but I figured we were destined for the epicurean delights of McNasty's or Nate's Pizza Express.
Begorrah!! Guess it had been a few months since I departed from the mid-section of C Concourse. In their entrepreneurial foresight, someone finally figured out that they could make a bit of dosh by offering some only moderately overpriced pub grub and real beer -- you know, the kind you can chew -- between the TSA and the jetway. Bless their capitalist hearts!

The Firkin & Fox is a right lovely pub sandwiched in among the vendor carts and fast food stand-me-ups. Not only do they offer a place to sit down to a bite and a beer, the food is tasty and the atmosphere is, well, pub-like. M'lady ordered the fish'n'chips, and m'self settled on the bangers and mash, both washed down with a smitticks. For an English pub, the Smithwyck's ale was almost creamy, and the fare was the best I've had in an airport in over a hundred thousand miles.
So to the people who have created Firkin & Fox and improved Dulles International many times over, "Cead Mille Failte", a 100,000 welcomes!