Friday, February 20, 2015

Galway: Restaurant dining

Now that the newness of the first week has passed and the reality of being a working man in Galway rather than a tourist has settled in, the only thing that changes from day to day is where I have dinner. The pool has become a habit, the bus has become a habit, the hotel elevators have become a habit, and the hotel breakfast buffet has become a habit. The one good thing about the breakfast buffet having become a habit is that I no longer feel compelled to eat a full breakfast, i.e. eggs, bacon, hash browns, and some sort of bread. I am perfectly content to have a bowl of bran flakes. My one weakness, though, is the chocolate croissants. I have one every day. Just one. 

So, for dinner Tuesday, I went to Ard Bia near the Spanish Arch. (I don’t know why it is called the Spanish Arch. Neither does anyone in Galway.) This is a trendy place, very small, with only a few things on the menu—which changes every day based on what the chef finds in the market and what he feels like preparing. I start with a platter of spiced beetroot mezze (like humus), sumze (like goat cheese) coated in pistachio and sumac, a bit of spring mix and some pickled onions, all eaten on manoush flat bread. Wow! It was the best thing I have had in the city. I could have stopped there, but my main plate was Brady’s striploin steak (pas trop cruit), on a bed of paprika potatoes and kale, served with bacon and shallot jam. Dessert was nutty chocolate cake and ice cream. 

Wednesday, I went to Blake’s Brasserie on the corner. I had scallops with crab claws and a side of carrots and spinach. The seafood was only okay—the sauce was not great. But since there had been a definite vegetable deficiency in my diet, the perfectly steamed carrots and spinach were the best part of the meal. 

Thursday I returned to Cava Bodega, which thought was the best of the places I went last week. I had a canapĂ© of serrano ham, a bowl of lentils with organic vegetables, and a bowl of Catalán ratatouille.  Did I mention that I was feeling a vegetable deficiency? The meal wasn’t as spectacular as the one the previous week, but I did have enough to take for lunch the next day. 

I have to admit that by Friday, I was really getting tired of eating dinner in restaurants. I never thought I would hear myself say that, but it is true. Thursday night, I passed a place on a side street that looked sort of like Au Bon Pain, so I returned on Friday and had a very good bowl of vegetable soup—more like a potage—and a salad with beets and feta and almonds. I got a piece of carrot cake to take back to my hotel room. When I went to pay, the cashier told me that the credit card machine was down. I had no cash, so I picked up everything I had with me and went to an ATM down the street. It would have been easy to simply bail—but they and I knew that I would never do that. Even though it was raining and an inconvenience, I had to go back and pay for my meal.

Galway is a rugby town. I picked up on that enough to recognize a team staying in the hotel as a rugby team, especially since their jackets had IFRU written on them. I had also heard that the Irish national team had just beaten France in Six Nations, an international tournament that was going on this week. So when I was in the elevator with one of the guys in the IFRU jackets, I thought I'd strike up a conversation. "I suspect you are happy with the outcome of the game?" He looked at me with a sort of "I cannot believe you are asking me such a dumb question" look on his face, and said something like, "Well ... yes."

When I mentioned this to a couple of guys the next day at work, they told me that the team in my hotel was none other than the Irish national team, who were in town for some training. Of course they would be happy with the outcome of the game against France. The guy in the elevator probably wondered if I even knew what rugby is. I must admit that I tried watching a little on TV in a pub and was as lost as I am with cricket.

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