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!
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!