Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Weird Food Wednesdays: Black Pudding

As a weird food enthusiast, I couldn’t leave Dublin without trying some
black pudding, a variety of blood sausage made by cooking pig’s blood with some type of filler ingredient (onions, barley, oatmeal and/or suet).

I know what you’re thinking. But there are probably scarier ingredients inside a hot dog.

Hubby Kris and I first tried black pudding as part of a traditional Irish breakfast at
Bewley’s Café on Grafton Street. The black pudding was nothing more than a harmless looking sausage patty (but our server still asked me whether I was ‘frightened by it’- LOL!) It also tasted pretty harmless – the flavor was like country sausage with a hint of offal, reminding me of scrapple but with a firmer grainy texture.

Later in our trip we tried a fabulous artisan version of black pudding at The Winding Stair restaurant. The sausage had been removed from its casing, crumbled and fried until nicely charred in some areas (we ended up fighting over those crispy charred bits). When I asked hubby what he thought about the flavor, he replied, “It tastes like blood.” (When asked to describe his food, Hubby Kris is often a man of few words, which is why he is no longer writing guest posts for me). I found the flavor really complex – rich, savory, slightly spicy, and earthy. There were a couple moments where the deep purplish color and the crumbly dense texture would remind me that I was eating blood and only then would I detect a slight iron/liver aftertaste. But hubby and I had no trouble polishing off the entire dish; we left nothing on the plate.

So if you are a fan of offal and dishes like foie gras or chicken livers, I bet you’ll like black pudding. And if you like your meat extremely rare and bloody, there’s no excuse not to try this!

Bewley’s Cafe
78/79 Grafton Street, Dublin 2

After fighting our way through busy Grafton Street the night before, we found Bewley’s Café surprisingly quiet and relaxing at 7:30 the following morning. Bewley’s Café has been a beloved institution for over 80 years and was the perfect spot to have breakfast on our first morning in Dublin.

I ordered the full Irish breakfast and hubby had pancakes. The food was delicious and the portions were perfect- just enough to fill our tummies without weighing us down. And the total bill was only € 15! If you don’t have time to sit down for breakfast in the beautiful Harry Clarke room, make sure you stop by for a pastry and coffee at their take-out counter. But prepare to wait – by the time we left that morning, the lineup for coffee was out the door.

full Irish breakfast (€ 9.95)
potato farl, grilled bacon, sausage, tomato, black and white pudding, mushrooms, poached egg, toast (came with freshly squeezed orange juice and tea or coffee)

sweet pancakes (€ 4.50)
choice of 2 toppings – hubby chose blueberries and bananas and asked for a side of maple syrup

The Winding Stair Restaurant + Bookshop
40, Ormond Quay, Dublin 1

Another cherished Dublin landmark, opened in the 70s as a bookstore and café, reborn in 2005 with a full-service restaurant re-inventing traditional Irish cuisine with local organic ingredients. I made sure that we’d packed some dressier outfits since we were having our anniversary dinner (8 years – woohoo!) at the Winding Stair. But when we stopped by to confirm our reservation at lunchtime, they told us we looked perfectly fine in our rumpled tourist clothes/jeans, so we never bothered going back to our hotel to change and spent the time sightseeing instead.

Reservations are a must at this place. Our reservation was for 7pm but we were told that we could show up anytime as long as we were out by 9pm. The small dining space was flooded with gorgeous natural light. We also loved the distressed wide-planked wood floors. If you’re really lucky, you’ll get a window seat overlooking the Liffey river and the famous Ha’Penny bridge.

The tables were quite close together and I would have preferred a bit more room to stretch my tired legs, but our friendly and attentive server made us feel very much at home. Despite the busy dinner service, our meal was served at a leisurely pace. And no one kicked us out at 9pm – we were still waiting for our dessert!

Kris ordered a Young’s double chocolate stout (chocolaty and very filling):

For our appetizer, O’ Doherty’s black pudding, Fingal Ferguson’s chorizo and new organic potato salad with homemade rye toast (€ 11.95). An amazing combination of ingredients – loved it!

For his entree, Kris chose the Irish spring lamb chops with minted peas, cheesy bake with gravy (€ 26.50). I’m not a huge fan of lamb, but hubby loved this dish so much he insisted on cutting me a piece to try. Hmmm…not bad, maybe I do like lamb. The ‘gravy’ was to die for – super rich flavor like a demi-glace. The ‘cheesy bake’ was yummy as well (but who doesn’t like a potato gratin?)

I decided to go vegetarian that night and try Ian’s Gabriel cheese potato cake with fried shallots and oyster mushrooms, organic greens, and crème fraiche (€ 22.95).

This potato cake was HUGE, a perfect crispy crust around velvety mashed potatoes. Here’s the inside of it:

Gabriel cheese (similar in taste to grana padano or parmesan) gave the potatoes an addictive flavor. Perfect with the lightly sautéed oyster mushrooms and greens (spinach?). And the crème fraiche – amazing! (forget sour cream, I’m only buying crème fraiche from now on)

For dessert, we shared a sticky pear and ginger cake (€ 6.95). I don’t usually like ginger in my dessert but this was fabulous- warm, moist, and surprisingly not too sweet with only a hint of ginger. We managed to scrape every bit of toffee sauce off that plate! And our dessert ended up being free because our server felt bad that we waited so long when the kitchen got backed up.

Hubby and I had a wonderful experience at the The Winding Stair, probably our favorite meal in Dublin. Dinner didn’t break the bank either, coming in at less than €70. They definitely deserve their 2009 Michelin Bib Gourmand status!



Chow and Chatter said...

I wrote a post on black pudding also big in Scotland where I grew up your trip looks like so much fun lol

Heavenly Housewife said...

Wow, this looks so cool. I totally hate any kind of offal, so i'm not into any of the puddings. I know the Irish use a lot of unusual cuts of meat because a long time ago, people who lived there couldn't afford much. What did u think of farls? I love them. So good toasted with butter. They r so dense, and u know how i love my bread! And that potatoe thing, I could go to ireland just for that! It looked amazing.
Love creme fraiche, but my thighs don't :(. Its great with any kind of potato thingys and cooked fruit deserts.

OysterCulture said...

Woohoo - I am so excited to get a glimpse of what my mom and I have to look forward to and we, or at least I, love black pudding. I am going to forward her this post. The pictures are wonderful, and the smiling faces of you and Chris show just how much fun you had! Look forward to more details!

Maybe you could do a WFW on Jagermeister? =)

Anonymous said...

We also dried the black pudding sausage at one of the full Irish breakfasts we had. I can't say that I would eat it every day, but I did enjoy the taste :)

We passed the Winding Stair restaurant but didn't get to eat there. I think my husband had on one or more of his business trips. The food looks great there! I want to go back!

I didn't have a blog back when we went to Ireland, but I do have the reviews of the two best meals (Thornton's and the Tea Room) we had under Culinary Destinations of my site. Do check them out when you have some free time!

Justin said...

i'm totally scared of that black pudding

Jenn said...

I don't know if I'll ever set myself up to eat black pudding. I wouldn't mind trying it to say at least I gave it a shot. Someone's gotta get worked up first. haha...

Phyllis said...

Chow and Chatter: I just read your post about the black pudding and those were some juicy looking patties in the photo! And then I couldn't help looking at the photos of balut on peachkitchen - yikes!

Heavenly Housewife: I only got to try potato farl that one time. The name made it sound like it was going to be huge but then it showed up flat and lifeless on the plate. It tasted OK, but nothing spectacular. I wish I'd had the time to try more versions of it. Maybe I'll look up a recipe for it. The potato cake was unbelievable - can you believe I only could finish half?!

OysterCulture: LOL - there are no photos of the jagermeister debacle. At least not any that I know about! And I think you'll love the black pudding at the Winding Stair :)

5 Star Foodie: I totally agree with you - I enjoyed the taste but it's not something I could eat everyday. I just read your reviews on the Tea Room and Thornton's - fabulous! Also really loved your daughter's review on Thornton's - a mini 5 star foodie in training!

Justin: I think you said the same thing about black grass jelly - LOL! (what's with the aversion to black foods?!)

KennyT said...

Phyllis, I love having black pudding with sweet and sour red cabbage.

I wonder if this post of your has freaked some of your readers out? hahahaha.

Everything served in this restaurant looks delicious, I think I'd also go for the potato, lol.

Plus a dessert for FREE, I'd be a very diner there.

Phyllis said...

Kenny: Yes, I think I've freaked some people out with this one! Maybe I shouldn't have shared Kris' comment about the taste. And I think sweet and sour red cabbage would cut the richness of the black pudding very nicely - you always know all the best combinations of food, Kenny!

Phyllis said...

Jenn: Hmmm...what if I were to double dare you? Does that get you worked up enough?! LOL

Teanna said...

Hahahah there probably ARE Scarier ingredients inside of a hot dog! It looks like you are having a great trip!

Phyllis said...

Teanna: It's always fun when we are stuffing our faces :)

Daily Spud said...

Ah, the Winding Stair is indeed fab. As for black pudding, I haven't had it in years but it is something I grew up eating - it's a very traditional part of an Irish fry-up - and lots of people hereabouts rave about Clonakilty black pudding as being one of the best you can get.

Phyllis said...

Daily Spud: I wish we'd had more time in Dublin, would have loved to try some Clonakilty black pudding. I just checked out their website and they had some great recipes and serving suggestions.

Tangled Noodle said...

I. Love. Black. Pudding! Real Irish black pudding is hard to find here (some local Irish shops do carry it but at exorbitant prices) so we sate our blood sausage craving with Eastern European kishka. Yum! And of course, I have finally mastered the making of Filipino dinuguan (blood stew).

I eat offal and I'm proud of it!! 8-D

Phyllis said...

Tangled Noodle: Hey TN! I'm impressed (but not surprised) at how well-versed you are in international varieties of blood sausage :) This was my first time tasting blood sausage of any kind but the Eastern European kishka and Filipino dinuguan sound delish. YAY to girls who eat offal!

Sildenafil said...

I've eaten weird food but any like this pudding that's disgusting it seems like someone had digestive problems and he did that over the plate.