Weekly Dinners

I’m pretty sure one of the top tips for a successful blog is to be consistent. Well being that my mom and possibly my sister (when she isn’t too busy planning elaborate Halloween costumes with her sorority sisters or studying business-major-stuff) are my most devoted readers, I think I have been cut some slack in that department.

This is another catch-up post, ideally I could write this as a bunch of separate posts and link them all together under a cool tab page, but that would involve too much copy-and-pasting on my part and clicking around to find the posts on your part—so I’ll just keep it simple and in one long post. Plus, I like scrolling through the pictures and seeing them all in the same place!

A bit of background for this post:

This summer during my internship with Cook Medical I lived in Bloomington, Indiana. While it definitely isn’t a “big” city by any means, it is still a decently sized college-town and I think it’s fair to equate it to West Lafayette – however some Indiana University interns and avid Bloomington fans would beg to differ. Anyways, one of the perks of living in Bloomington was the numerous ethnic restaurants around town—ranging from Thai to Mexican to Turkish cuisine. A group of engineering interns (and a few non-nerdy interns too!) started visiting a different restaurant every Wednesday night after work. We would all make suggestions and then hammer out the final decision over email at the beginning of each week. It was a great way to get to know Bloomington, my fellow interns, and have food adventures (and we all know how much I love to eat!).

Since our weekly dinners were such a hit (and usually a success, except the time we went to a Thai place and the waitress had to give us picture menus to order from!), I decided to try to initiate the same tradition in Galway. Of course, the first invite only included a few students outside of our Purdue gaggle, but there have been many additions to the group along the way and it is definitely a night I look forward to every week!

The first dinner was a week or so before I committed (loosely of course…) to this whole blogging thing, so sadly there are no pictures! We went the The Oslo, a micro brewery on Salthill, super closer to where we live. Unfortunately, it was a few days before my half-marathon, so I didn’t try any of the beer, but my dinner was delicious.  I had the Salmon & Natural Smoked Haddock Fish Cakes with Pesto Dressed Salad & Tartar Sauce, the serving size was just right and since we are right on the Bay the fish was fresh and local. The Oslo was really chill inside, with big screen TVs showing the rugby and hurling matches and there were a bunch of people just hanging out, grabbing dinner with a friend or two or just reading the paper. I would definitely recommend it if you are in the Salthill area, if not, the same company runs the Salt House in downtown Galway and Against the Grain in Dublin.

The next dinner was sort of an impromptu crepe night at one of our neighbor’s apartments. Our friend goes to school in southern France and she and her boyfriend, who was visiting for a long weekend, made crepes for the gang (I heard he did most of the flipping!). They had a handful of toppings – tomato sauce and cheese for your “dinner crepe” and then honey, chocolate, strawberries, jams, and ice cream for your “dessert crepe.” I’m pretty sure that we all had at least twice as many dessert crepes, but they were soooo yummy – by far the best crepes I’ve ever had!

Crepe Night with our French NeighborCrepe Night!

After crepe night, we tried to brainstorm what a traditional “American” meal would be that we could make our new friends, but had a difficult time defining American cuisine (I’m pretty sure I just read a magazine article about how this is on of the many issues contributing to the obesity problems in the US). We threw the idea of Tex-Mex around for awhile, but a seeing as this is all in the “Ethnic Food” aisle at the grocery store, it is a bit pricey for the generic brand let alone for the Chi-Chi’s brand (out of all the brands we have who would have thought Chi-Chi’s would be sold in Ireland?). Sadly we haven’t done an American inspired dinner in our apartment yet, any suggestions as to an easy, traditional American dinner?

Our next dinner out was to a Galway staple, all the travel books and travel websites highly suggest that McDonagh’s is the place to go for authentic Irish fish-and-chips and  other “pub grub.”

McDonagh's Fish Seafood Bar in Galway

There are two sides to the restaurant – the take away side, where you can order off the a-la-carte menu like at a fast food place and then sit at a picnic table and enjoy your deep fried meal or the sit-down restaurant side, where a waitress will come and take your order and bring you your deep fried meal on a nice plate! We had some new people join our group this week so we went with the sit-down side so we could chat and get to know each other. The popular dish was, or course, the traditional fried cod and chips, served with mushy peas – yummmmm. The fish was extremely moist and delicious and the mushy peas were actually good (I know a lot of people are grossed out by the texture, or if you are like my roomies, by the fact that they are vegetables!).

Group Dinner (9/29)Take-away A-la-Carte Menu

First (and only!) Fish and Chips ...o and the mushy peas!Fish and Chips in Ireland (Note the “salad” on the right)

Dinner was great, if you are looking for a traditional Irish Fish and Chips dish. Fried food isn’t really my favorite, but the restaurant was lively with all the customers ordering take-away coming in and out and all the tables on the serviced side were also full—guess it is a popular place!

All of this was sooo long ago and honestly I’m just going chronologically by the order the pictures were in my iPhone! The next big outing wasn’t a dinner out but a night at the pub with the International Student Society. They have an event at a local bar every week complete with appetizers, drink tickets, and nametags! I went to one of their first events (before engineering took over my life again) at Skeff Bar right on Eyre Square in the heart of downtown Galway. The bar is huge, it has multiple rooms and bars downstairs, a dance floor of sorts, and then more rooms and tables upstairs.

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I ran into an Irish student who was in my yoga class and a few international students I recently met, it was great to see some familiar faces and to meet some new international students as well. I recently found out from some of the engineers that Skeff is a popular hang out spot for students, particularly the older (over 21) crowd. O, in case you didn’t know, in Ireland the legal drinking age is 18, and freshman are usually close to 18 when they enter college. However, 21 is still a big birthday, people will rent out bars and invite crowds of their friends for a huge party and at midnight the birthday boy or girl gets 21 kisses! Most students turn 21 sometime in the senior year of college, unlike in the US where we turn 21 in our junior year (usually). I’m going to guess that this plays a part in the differences between our college experiences, social interactions, and probably our prospective on the “real world.”

Back to our group dinners! I had been craving ethnic food since being surrounding by traditional Irish fare (heavy stews, random curry dishes, fried ….everything, and of course potatoes). Luckily, Shishir agreed and he picked Kashmir, and Indian restaurant downtown (we took turns picking the restaurants because we knew group consensus wasn’t going to happen).

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DSCN1702Inside of Kashmir

Kashmir had a great Early Bird Special deal – a starter, a main dish and glass of wine for 19.95euro! I enjoyed my glass of red wine, vegetable pakoras as a starter and chicken korma as my entree.

DSCN1703Vegetable Pakoras: An assortment of mixed vegetable fritters friend in gram flour batter

DSCN1704Chicken Korma with Naan

The waitress was super patient with our horrible Indian pronunciations of our dishes and the service was super speedy. Dinner was delicious, I could have eaten 3 whole baskets of the naan! The only downside was that there weren’t too many other people dining in, most were ordering take-away, which made the place a little less friendly. But, I’m putting this on my list of potential take-away places for study and finals week when I won’t want to cook.

Mohit was up next to pick the place for dinner. He is at NUI Galway on a Mitchell Scholarship and so he has had the opportunity to meet a ton of influential professionals within Ireland and in Galway. His choice was the Galway Bakery Company, apparently a favorite of Martin Sheen when he studied at NUI Galway for a semester 2006. Yes I go to the same school that the President Bartlet went too (be jealous Clare…) [Random fact: apparently his mother is originally from Galway and that is why he choose this university].

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This was during the period where my iPhone was MIA (long story involving dead iPhone, lots of emails to my tech-savvy dad, and mailing iPhones across international borders), so I don’t have a picture of my entrée. I had vegetable fajitas. They were good, lots of veggies (duh!), but nothing special. We sat upstairs in the dining room, however, there is a cute deli/café downstairs that is open for breakfast and lunch. I’ve walked by a few times since going to dinner there and it is always packed in the middle of the day – sounds like I need to pop in for a pastry!

Cooke’s Restaurant was up next (Kara’s choice). It was a bit pricey, but completely worth it. Our waitress was super friendly, and I have really learned to appreciate how much of an impact that can have on the “dining experience”. The restaurant was cute, it had very traditional furniture and décor, giving it a cozy, home-like feel.

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They already had the interior all decked out for Halloween!

I had Vegetable Satay with Market Root Vegetable Cooked in Peanut and Curry Spices & Served with Rice as my entrée. Kara shared her mussels and a few bites of her strawberry meringue cream sundae too. My dinner was super flavorful and I loved all the vegetables. Everyone was happy and full after this dinner!

IMG_0374Vegetable Satay

A few Sundays ago I went to Dublin for a Saturday for a shopping spree! It was  great way to get out of Galway (escaping the rain!) and away from my schoolwork for a day. After taking a cab to the bus station, then the bus to Dublin (slept the entire way…oops, so much for reading review papers on bioreactors), I was ready to hit the shops. I stopped at Pennys, a lower end department store, a few athletic-ware shops and then finally found H&M. I spent forever in H&M looking for a winter coat, but only came out with two pairs of black leggings/jeans and a black zip-up sweatshirt (I’m really exciting shopper I know, that is why this isn’t a fashion blog!). I was exhausted and a little dis-heartened by the lack of any decently-priced, cute winter coats so I decided to break for lunch. I had heard about Boojum from a friend in Galway and was determined to find it. However, I didn’t have internet connection and McDonald’s was too busy to sign into their free Wifi (this was an odd day where I loved McDonald’s for their free restrooms and Wifi…o the little things). Boojum is basically a knock-off Chipotle, with essentially the same menu options – but definitely not the same ingredients!

After wandering around the main shopping street in Dublin (which I was pretty familiar with from my weekend there), I found it! I ordered my usual, a burrito bowl with guacamole.

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Inside Boojum

All I’m going to say about this experience is to underline what is in small print on that sign inside Boojum: “Fresh ingredients imported from Mexico”.

After lunch, I know you are super curious about my winter coat shopping, I hit the stores for another 45minutes before heading back to Galway. I found a great deal on a long (black of course) puffy winter coat at JD’s, a sports-ware store based in the UK. The coat was on sale for 60euro, which was a steal compared to what I had been finding the rest of the day! I was glad that I could end my shopping trip on a good note, I guess my persistence paid off, o and my great shopping skills, of course Smile.

The most recent group dinner was at the Asian Tea House, Lisa’s choice. I was craving Asian-inspired cuisine so I was really excited about this place.

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After we were seated, we all received a small cup of Jasmine tea, it is a Chinese tradition to have tea before a meal. I loved all that the place settings had both a fork/knife and chop sticks – in general why is there such a lack of diversity in eating utensils? We could come up with a fork/knife/spoon, chop sticks, and hands as examples from various cultures. I would think there would be more diversity considering the wide range of cuisines out there, but I guess the hands work well for mostly anything if you have to use them (sorry random ramblings….).

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I had such a hard time making a decision, everything looked great! The menu reminded me of my trip to China, I miss that type of travelling/tourism at times. The whole experience is unforgettable, I’m lucky that I had the opportunity to go when I did. After musing about this (and the utensils) for awhile, I finally decided to go with the Vietnamese Spring Rolls as a starter and the Jing Tu Chicken for my entrée.

IMG_0406Vietnamese Spring Rolls — Mixture of prawns, vegetables and ground peanuts
wrapped in Vietnamese rice pastry

IMG_0409Jing Tu Chicken: Fresh tender chicken fillet cooked in traditional
tangy ginger Jing tu

The Asian Tea House had a huge menu and also has a take-away service, I definitely want to go back and try the Pad Thai before I leave Galway!

Well now I’m all caught up on weekly dinners (and some other random food detours along the way)! Hope you enjoyed my (not so great) photos of all my meals thus far, I can just hear my mom saying to me over Skype: “why don’t you have any pictures of people?” – I guess I’ll keep that in mind for our dinner this week. It is my turn to pick, I don’t have any clue where I want to go….maybe an Italian Restaurant for pizza? I’ll keep you posted!

But since we are on the subject of Italian pizza….I have some exciting news — I booked my flight and hostel for a weekend in Rome in a couple weeks! I’m super excited, Rome has been on the top of my list since I got to Ireland, so I’m excited that it is finally all planned out! Taking suggestions for  my “must-see” list again. I’ll be there a full day longer than I was in London, so hopefully I’ll have plenty of time to take everything in.

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About ewittenberg

Senior biomedical engineering student at Purdue University studying abroad this semester at the National University of Ireland -- Galway.
This entry was posted in Day Trips, Dublin, Eats, Ireland, NUI Galway, Random Musings, Study Abroad, Weekly Dinners. Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to Weekly Dinners

  1. Clare says:

    Haha i hardly think Daphne is an elaborate Halloween costume…but I love this idea of exploring the city through food although I don’t think Akron Ohio would prove to be as exciting a place to eat as Galway!

  2. Mom says:

    ….and to think you spent the first 13 years of your life eating peanut butter, jelly. bananas, and pretzels…ha ha! Glad to see you’ve broadened your horizons….love you…miss you!

  3. Clare says:

    Does that mean there’s hope for Johnny? That seems highly unlikely haha

  4. Grandma says:

    Hi Ellen,

    I’m enjoying reading all about your exciting adventures. I feel like I’m there with you.
    Love you.
    Miss you.

    GM

  5. Mom says:

    Well, I’ve not been to Rome…but my ‘places to see’ list would include St. Peter’s Square and the Vatican and the Colliseum – wish I was going too!

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