The week that was featuring Ugly Duckling Dublin and Bison Bar

Something i’ve always thought, the days that are totally unplanned, are usually by and large the best days. I hope i’m not the only person to think this.

It was a long week, but a work mate of mine and I decided to call into the lads @Uglyducklingdub Cafe in the Epicurean Food Hall on Abbey St for lunch on Thursday – now we’d both been fortunate enough to win a free lunch from the lads. Day before pay day it was only natural to use this up.

Darragh, Derek and John are the team behind it, a lot of you would know Darragh from his days up running against the grain. 

For those that don’t know the Epicurean Food Hall, its one of those gems in the city where you can choose from many national cuisines, even Leo Burdocks, and eat in a communal environment. Its great. And the Ugly Duckling is the latest addition to this culinary mecca. They’ve only just celebrated their four week anniversary.

Now, the first thing that I see on the menu, is its good food done well. Having gotten to know one another we decided what we wanted, me being a stickler for wings went for the wings and chips, which would have cost me €7.95, and Andy went for the Homemade Beef Burger. While chatting away Derek said he was going to give us a taster of a few things. 

First up, Roasted Tomato Soup, it was served in a cappuccino cup with a sprinkling of cheese, and slice of granary bread. The flavours were really vibrant and the cheese topped it off nicely. A nice sampler to get the juices flowing. But they weren’t stopped there. Next up was a half a hot meal roll each, this with turkey breast, honey glazed bacon, cranberry relish and salad, but the crowning piece for me was the addition of gravy to the roll. Good lord. Fantastic. At only €6.45 this item represents to me fantastic value. The meat changes on a daily basis also.

From Top Left: Hot Meat Roll, Wings, Wings and Burgers, and Soup – Credit to Andy @Bakingbatchelor for the photo.

Then our food came. My wings were refreshingly not made with the Franks Hot Sauce style sauce, but a sweet chilli sauce based one, the wings were lovely and crispy, and smothered in a vibrant sauce, woken up by the addition of fresh coriander, with nice chunky chips and a dip. Andy’s homemade burgers looked great too. Just like Mammy used to make, two nice patty’s smothered in gravy with mushrooms and onion. The lads promised we’d leave full, I couldn’t finish my portion of wings but Derek gladly wrapped em up for me to go and that was Mrs IBS’ supper sorted. The guys are offering some really nice food for a really keen price. Definitely check them out.

I was texting a buddy of mine who mentioned that he was up in Dublin for the day on Saturday and would we be round for a scoop and catch up. Looked at the calendar and said sure why not. Having grabbed a delicious Two Spots Coffee we met up in the Grand Central Pub on O’Connell St, no point asking for craft beer here, they’d give you a Caledonian Smooth and you’d be lucky. Usually I revert to Guinness in these places and it didn’t disappoint.

Soon bellies started to rumble, and decided to use the opportunity to grab some food at Bison Bar (Wellington Quay next to the clarence, next to the Millenium Walkway). Our group was all confirmed carnivores so what better place to go. A bit of a walk down the quays avoiding the pondlife that plagues our streets at times, we got there. Instantly as you walk in the waft of charcoal smoke mixed with cooking meat hits you. We grabbed some menus and had a look. 

They have a lunch special which runs from 12-5pm for 7.95 (5 quid if you take away) you get a Brisket or Pull Pork Sandwich with one side. I opted for Brisket, and Mrs IBS for the Pork. The lads then went for chicken, ribs, and brisket as mains with 2 sides for 13.95. There is a sampler option available for 14.95 also. You order at the bar and sit down.

Loads of crazy americana on the walls, kind of reminded me of Uncle Moes in the simpsons but in a good way, but most importantly the food was of fantastic quality. Washed down with a pint and a whiskey sour I can’t believe I waited so long to visit. Make no mistake this is genuine Texas BBQ – mouthwatering Texas BBQ, oh and I would swim in the Mustard BBQ Sauce!

My only quibble was the poor selection of craft beers, they had some Williams Brothers from Scotland, but lads would it be too much to ask for one or two local choices. Something like Blacks Kinsale Pale Ale would go really well here. 

With that we moved on to have another few drinks. Later that evening we went to Probus, but that is deserving of a post of its own. Stay tuned for that. 

Chicken Wings – nom nom nom

In keeping with one post a week minimum, i’ve decided this week to share my recipe for making homemade chicken wings. Buffalo Style.

The humble Buffalo Wing – its origins from upstate NY – is a world renowned snack, and synonymous with Beer. Infact these things are fantastic with a few cold ones, watching the match with the guys, or a film. I love these things. I very much judge a place sometimes by its chicken wings.

Now, its not some KFC secret blend of herbs n spices, or the special sauce that goes on a Bigmac. The key here is Frank’s Red Hot Sauce. Not the Franks Red Hot Wing Sauce, the original. The wing sauce has an artificial butter flavour in there. Like this;

This is the one, in Ireland we only get this, the wing one, and sometimes the extra hot one.
Our lucky American cousins get more flavours naturally.

Now i’m going to talk about wings, but this also works very well with thighs and drumsticks also. The chicken wing, often a by product from whole chickens that are butchered into convenient portions. You should be able to pick them up prepacked in your local supermarket for appx €3 per kilo. 

So what do we need?

  1. Chicken Wings
  2. Bottle of Franks Hot Sauce
  3. Plain White Flour (1 1/2 Tbsp)
  4. Seasoning for the Flour (Salt,Pepper,Paprika, Cayenne)
  5. Nob of Butter
  6. Optional for the Sauce (Sriracha Hot Sauce, Minced Garlic)
Ok, so to prepare the wings, cut off the little tips, and half the wings, seperating into the Drumette, and other wing. 

Season the flour, obviously only add cayenne if you like it hot. Mix it all around and now to keep things clean, put flour into a tupperware dish or ziploc bag. Introduce a few wings at a time, shake em around to coat in flour. Get an even coating, and tap off any excess flour.

Put the wings in the fridge for 30 mins or so to help prime the flour to the wings.

Now, you can if you want deep fry these if you like, pre heat the oil to the desired temperature, and fry in batches for 12-15 minutes until golden brown and crispy. When done, hold in the oven, this will help the grease drain, and crisp up a little further. I usually cook em in the oven. Personally, just as tasty to me anyway, I bake them in the oven. Pre heat the oven to 200C and place on bottom shelf of oven. Cook for 45-50 mins total, turning half way through. Another reason I like the oven method, is all in one. Unless you have a professional size fryer its going to be difficult to do a batch up.

Now the sauce. In a sauce pan pour in a good glug of sauce, and slowly heat, add the nob of butter, you’ll notice the sauce goes from red to orange in colour. Now if you want to cool it down more, add more butter. Add the minced clove of garlic, to add more overall flavour. If you like em hot, add a squirt of Sriracha. Let the sauce come to a simmer. Simmer for a minute or two and take off the heat and let cool down.

Once the wings are cooked, put into a bowl and toss with the sauce til the wings are nicely cover.

Go great with a blue cheese dip, or ranch style dip. I made a blue cheese dip using Boyne Valley Blue Cheese, Sour Cream, Garlic, Lemon Juice, and little bit of milk. 

I enjoyed mine with Flying Dog Doggy Style Pale Ale

Yum, enjoy!

That Friday Feeling – A Visit to the Harbourmaster

So Friday comes around last week, and since it was the end of our first week back after our holidays, myself and Mrs Irish Beer Snob decided some after work libation was in order.

It was a glorious Friday evening and we settled upon revisiting an old favourite, The Harbourmaster Bar, in the IFSC ( / Twitter @HarbourMBar) it had been many moons since I was a regular patron, back in the good old days when I worked on Lwr Abbey St. The last time I was in there I think was a Friday night after a Prodigy gig at the o2 in 2009. My wife was a more recent visitor with her work Christmas Party in 2012. Open Monday to Saturday, closed Sundays except for Private Functions.

As a hardened commuter, its convenient location to BusAras, is very appealing (not too far to stumble for that last bus home) however its also very convenient for those folks who use Connolly, and indeed as a Pitstop to the o2, given its proximity to the Luas Line.

There is no doubt, the building is a wonderfully restored historical building, one of many dotted around the IFSC in among all the modern office structures. Other examples would include the CHQ Building in close proximity. Anyway, i’m nowhere near qualified enough to talk about the architecture etc, but I will say its a nice building. 

The Harbour Master Bar, IFSC, Dublin 1. The blue sky is not photoshopped.

In these austere times, patrons are looking for value for money, no more so than in the hospitality game. But can you still get value without sacrificing quality or standards, that is the question. 

We arrived in an the bar was very busy, good to see, and it was a nice mix of workers from the local area, and there were a few tourists in aswell. Initially there wasn’t any space in the bar area, and we sat in the restaurant section. Only for Mrs IrishBeerSnob to see a lovely little table available on her way back from the ladies room. We let the waitress know we were moving and settled in.

Thursday and Fridays have a special offer, all mainstream pints, bottles, and spirits were €4.20. In D1? Surely not? In context, thats only 20c more expensive than my local at home for a pint of G, and 30c cheaper for a pint of Heineken et al. Fantastic! So we got a food menu, and Jasmine took our drinks order.

So we order a Guinness, and Coors. While we mulled over the menu. There really wasn’t any mulling except, what size portion of wings, or do we want fries? So in the end we plumped for the Wings & Fries Special for €11.00. I don’t know about you, if i’m having a few drinks I don’t want a massive feed to fill me, so this fit the bill perfectly.

As we nattered away people watching we discussed our impressions, and first impressions are good. High Ceilings allow plenty of air flow and not a claustrophobic feeling, and plenty of windows allow you to watch the world go by. A very pleasant and clearly has recently been given a facelift. At the time of writing there was only one set of toilets, but we were told new ones were nearing completion upstairs at the function rooms.

Our food arrived, a nice size portion. May be a bit much for one, but more than enough to share and not be full to burst. Or if you were greedy. 🙂

So we were coming to the end of our drinks, this time I opted for Smithwicks Pale Ale (Its been out a while, not had it yet, not overly terrible for a large brewer, but defo not the best i’ve ever had) and Mrs IrishBeerSnob, her Smithwicks with a Guinness. 

The wings were very tasty, the sauce had a really nice flavour, that is really familiar nowadays with the wider availability of Franks Sauce. The only slight niggle was maybe they just weren’t crispy enough, the could maybe have done with another minute or two. But they were wolfed down, and that is always a good sign. The chips were lovely and crispy in that thin French Fry style we know well from McDonalds, and overall we enjoyed our bite to eat. The dips were ketchup and garlic mayo. A choice between blue cheese dip and garlic would have been nice, needless to say there wasn’t any left!

Now to the recommended beer lists, pictured below. Choice is a great thing and it gives you an opportunity to try something you’ve not tried before. I was very happy to see some  beers there i’d not heard much about or had before on the list. I appreciate for publicans when they carry so many lines its impossible to stock everything, cos lets face it its a business and they stock what sells, but it was a little disappointing to not see any Irish Craft there. I think its very important to support the growing Irish Craft beer scene, as by and large these small companies are ran by enterprising individuals and the more local produce we buy, the more we help our economy directly.

Page 1 of the Beer Recommendations
Page 2 of the Beer Recommendations

Worthington’s White Knight IPA

All the same, I tried the Worthingtons IPA and Mrs IrishBeersnob had the Doombar by Sharps. I enjoyed mine, if a little underwhelmed. I expected more hoppy profile. Mrs IrishBeersnob loved hers and has tasked me to find a supply for her. She continually surprises me with her appetite for ales, especially English Ale. 

Sharp’s DoomBar

Have I found my new Friday watering hole? I think we may have. Whilst i love the absolutely barnstorming choice in the nearby Brewdock, which I have been a very regular customer of since they opened in 2012, the place has changed. The creeping prices of their product, the change in personnel, and perhaps most importantly its not as comfortable. With no air flow it can get very warm, i’d imagine today would be like an oven in there.

If CAMRA says so, scepticism removed

So all in all, Harbourmaster, we will see you again. I am happy to report that on this visit there was no signs of a trade off between a value  offering and a good customer experience. Keep it up. I suppose this is subjective, but we both felt it was good value, Great service accompanied with a good choice of beers (sadly no Irish Craft) and a vast menu, that does offer more than wings, but those who know me, know I love my wings. Couple of tweaks as mentioned earlier, and I won’t be looking at anything else on the menu.

We thoroughly enjoyed your hospitality, and we must give a special mention to our waitress, Jasmine from Derry. You were brilliant, and hope you continue to settle in. Oh and definitely bring the younger siblings to see Monsters University when it hits these shores in the very near future.

Thank you for reading, as always feel free to leave comments below, or contact me on twitter @irishbeersnob