Bio: I now live in Clearwater, FL and from here the food shall be reviewed.
Posts by Twin:
Sometimes I’m a shithead and don’t write anything for a while. If I was smarter, I would’ve written about my trip to Dublin shortly after getting back (or during my stay) while my impressions were fresh in my mind. I however am a lazy shit. With that Catholic release of guilt out of my system I think I can now appropriately convey my thoughts.
Our first night out was enacted in a jet lagged, lack-of-sleep-hangover. Neither of us had slept much on our overnight flights on our way to Dublin. So, despite the morning Irish sun pouring upon our backs as we ambled into Tim’s apartment I knew I needed to score a nap. Being the erstwhile pragmatist that I am, I first sought out Tim’s bed to work at adjusting my body’s clock to that of my new locale. After my brief respite I awoke to laughter, cigarette smoke, and a couple slices of pizza. Phil was soon to follow me in search of some shut eye. While Phil succumbed to the rigors of international travel, I got better acquainted with Tim, Mo, and Gavin with the help of beer and my exceptionally charming use of swear words. Some hours later, Phil awoke and Tim took us out on the town to see a portion of Dublin. He acquainted us with the Ha’penny Bridge (so named because William Walsh, who built the bridge, was granted the right to extract half a pence from those who needed to cross which was the price of using the ferries that were replaced by the bridge), as well as The Liffey (a river that splits Dublin, is quite murky and when Prince Phillip inquired whether Guinness was made from water from it royally pissed off some Irish folks) and more interesting things that my addled brain cannot recall. After a bit of walking, we were all famished and found ourselves at an Irish Burger King which purports to only use 100% Irish Beef! I’d much prefer to spend my money at a local business but we all had to piss and it was right there. I can also report that an Irish Whopper tastes like an American Whopper. After satiating our needs, we were in search of more satiation and found ourselves at the local pub Whelans, somewhere we would find ourselves many more nights during our stay.
The thing I noticed on our bus trip from the airport into downtown Dublin is the actual density of the city. When you start really getting into Dublin proper, it is block after block of flats and shops, and flats on shops, next to flats, next to shops, next to pubs, next to more shops, and more pubs and flats. That first sleep-deprived ride really made it apparent to me that I was in a different country. When you travel in America, you can lose the sense of being in a different place. Every town seemingly has a Best Buy, Walmart, Applebees, etc. There are certainly cities that have their own unique traditions but our culture nationally is roughly the same throughout the US (despite each state or city’s local peccadilloes).
I was thoroughly impressed with the bus drivers while I was in Ireland. They do not have an easy job navigating a huge vehicle through extremely narrow streets that were initially built in the mind of being a concourse for horse led traffic. In the pictures above, you should note that the traffic through those streets allow for two way traffic (buses did not go down that street).
Above you can see where Phil and I slept for 9 days. Phil got the couch and I got the futon mattress.
See Floyd and Mo. Imitate Floyd, Mo. Sleep Floyd, Sleep.
Above you can see a typical evening of soccer. Above that’s Gavin telling Mo something (and Keith’s butt, and Sam’s knees). Quite a few evenings were spent with a couple Carlsberg or Bavaria brews, playing music for each other and arguing about sports and life. I was thoroughly surprised to find that Gav and Mo had introduced Tim to MF Doom. Something can certainly be said for globalized culture (due to the internet) when a couple of Irish lads need to school a guy from the Detroit area on rap.
Halfton may not be the most relevant site to detail my trip to Ireland, but I did eat quite a bit of food while abroad and I will touch briefly on the things I ate here and there. I thought about using another medium like Facebook, but I feel that Facebook is lacking for laying this out in any rational way (other than seeing all the pictures in a photo album).
I frankly did not take enough pictures while in Ireland despite trying my hardest to just take pictures at random times. Generally when I travel I try to enjoy my experience and live in the moment without cataloguing each moment. Attempting to document an experience versus simply having the experience colors your interaction with those moments. I can’t say definitively that the experience is colored negatively or positively by this cataloguing, but I can say that it is nice to be able to vividly share some of my trip in several formats with my friends and family. All of the Irish people I met and befriended were incredibly gracious and forgiving of my ignorance of Irish culture and history. I can easily say, I want to go back to Dublin. If you’re on the fence about going to Ireland, get off that fucking fence and go already!
This is the song I had in my head on the way to Dublin (just swap ‘America’ with ‘Ireland’):
Okay, okay, I admit it, I didn’t actually think of this song while I was on my way to the Emerald Isle.
This was my first long flight in a while and I was a bit freaked out about it. Perhaps that’s why I got to the Detroit airport 3 hours early so I could sit and twiddle my thumbs (aka play some Bubble Shooter):
Apparently AirCanada/UnitedAir doesn’t have a huge call to fly people from Detroit to Toronto as we flew there on a 27-seater puddle jumper. I wound up in the last row which was more like a bus as the entire back row had seats, so I was positioned with my feet in the aisle.
The Toronto airport was a bit of a cluster-fuck. Whoever designed it apparently never:
1. Envisioned large amounts of people trying to go from point A to point B quickly.
2. Imagined people would want to sit before their flight.
3. Thought about crowd cross-traffic.
I was a bit of an asshole and didn’t know if we were going to be served dinner on the flight (I believe that information was printed on the flight itinerary, but I of course didn’t read through all of that) so I hurried into a restaurant to try and grab a bite before the flight. I had brought CLIF Bars but I was craving some hot food. The restaurant was not full or particularly busy, but it took roughly 15 minutes for someone to come offering some water and take my order. 30 minutes later my BLT and cup of soup arrived. I had about 5 minutes to wolf down my cold, soggy BLT and take a sip of bad Beef and Barley soup and I was on my way. Worst $20 dinner ever. From what I can see on the menu (had to look at the high-res copy I have), you shouldn’t go to Casey’s Bar and Grill in the Toronto airport.
Oh yeah, they also served dinner on the flight (I got the ‘beef’ meal which was basically a hot beef stroganoff, a roll with butter, a delicious/zesty corn slaw, red wine, and a little brownie/cake dessert), I could’ve totally kept that $20. On this particular flight (Air Canada, operating for United Airlines) offered free wine, beer, and liquor. I had two little Canadian Club shooters, popped two melatonins, and hoped for some sleep. I dozed for about 10 minutes and watched movies and Cowboy Bebop the rest of my time on the flight. If you have the dough, I would suggest upgrading your seats to First or Business class for an overnight flight.
After a bit over 7 hours in the air we arrived in Dublin. This particular section of the airport was being renovated and reminded me of nothing other than the Catholic K-8 School I attended, needing repairs and all. I unfortunately did not take more pictures of this section of the airport, but it was an absolutely odd experience. Oh, also, the ceilings were roughly 7 feet high, and the doorways were perhaps 6 and a half feet high in this section of the airport. Likewise, there were several sections where there were only stairs and no elevators. Good thing there were not any handicapped folks on this particular flight, they would’ve been fucked. On my return flight, I didn’t see this odd little, munchkin-ready section of the Dublin airport again. Here’s a quick shot of the Irish customs line:
I wandered out of the airport to find Phil (who instigated this trip to Ireland) and our friend Tim who would be our gracious host and tour guide for the entire trip. Some expatriates quickly assimilate the local accent, and as Tim has been in Ireland for 5 years or more I readily expected to be greeted in a thick Irish brogue. I was slightly surprised to hear Tim, more or less, speak in the same manner as he had when he lived in the US (later, I had pinpointed perhaps the only Irish manner of speech that Tim adopted, and that is how questions are asked. Generally, for an Irish speaker I heard the inflection for a question rise, and then drop on the last several syllables of the question. The result is a somewhat subtle difference in speech between an Irish speaker and an American speaker). Due to his altogether American accent, he is sometimes treated as a tourist despite living in Ireland for roughly half a decade. So, when he asked one of the airport folks where he could find the 16 line for the bus into Dublin, the young lady told him where and then proceeded to describe the color of the bus… never minding the fact that he knew the exact line he needed, was wearing a Manchester City hoodie (premier league soccer team), and when he heard in which direction the buses were, immediately started walking in that direction (also, they’re public city buses, they have generally looked the same wherever I have gone). Until he learns Irish or speaks with a spot on Irish accent, I imagine these kinds of minor mistakes will continue to happen (a minor gaffe of being overly helpful, what a burden to bear, right?).
I’ll pick up in the next post where I’ve left off here. Each post will generally be centered around ‘events’ and not necessarily a day to day account of what we had done.
There are three videos, one of which is quite long. Enjoy
Failure to record properly:
Stouffer’s Farmer’s Harvest
Roasted Chicken & Bowtie Pasta (with a vegetable medley)
180 calories from fat
About 8 minutes cooking time
Stouffer’s has apparently caught wind of what other frozen meals have been doing lately regarding marketing. You can see on the front of the box they’re selling this frozen ‘delight’ as a healthy choice (note their billing of: 1.‘No Preservatives.’ 2. Olive Oil and Sea Salt. 3. A fresh Carrot on the box! My response: 1. It’s frozen. 2. Rachel Ray bandwagon. 3. That carrot looks nothing like what I got in my frozen meal.). While I laud making a healthier frozen meal, I think they’re going a little overboard with the “Farmers’ Harvest” tag. If you make something that’s good you don’t need hyperbolic packaging.
The chicken is pretty good despite not resembling what’s advertised on the box. No cartilage thus far (none of the chicken wound up with that Chicken McNugget “suprise” where you take a bite of what looks like normal chicken and you get a fist-sized chunk of gristle or cartilage. Definitely one of the most unappetizing aspects of reconstituted chicken, you know, aside from the whole process of reconstituting chicken parts into the proverbial ‘chicken boot’ [of course I couldn’t find a picture of the proverbial McNugget boot shape, but suffice it to say that McNuggets are shaped like little boots. Next time you have one, look for it.]), and it’s kind of moist. Their blend of herbs and spices, primarily parsley and sea salt, are satisfactory. You won’t be calling your mother telling her about your amazingly flavored frozen meal, but I have had far worse. The bowtie pasta is alright, nothing stands out positively or negatively. The vegetables (green beans, carrots, and red pepper) are actually some of the best I’ve had from a frozen meal. The veggies taste fairly fresh (considering their circumstances), retaining a bit of crispness and they’re a little bit buttery (I’d hazard to guess that’s the vegetable oil that the box lauds).
I tasted each component seperately for the purposes of this review, but as you can see above I like to get all of the pieces together in a war of textures and flavors. You can certainly eat this meal without adding anything to it, but I’m a fiend for hotsauce so after my initial impressions I added a little bit of Louisiana Hot Sauce on top. Considering this is a frozen meal, and not freshly prepared I would recommend this for anyone that needs an easy meal they can heat up in the microwave.
Stouffer’s you get a Rating: for this one (based on quality of components, flavors, and cost). Neither great nor bad, but totally edible.
-Matt in Tampa
IMPORTANT UPDATE! Here are the boot nuggets:http://www.flickr.com/photos/kingpowercinema/89053032/
Queen of Sheba
3636 Henderson Boulevard
Tampa, FL 33609
Queen of Sheba is celebrating their 4th Anniversary, November 11th and 12th. They are putting a full spread out each day, I would definitely suggest trying to visit during that time.
Before coming to Queen of Sheba I had never had Ethiopian food. Due to my friend Jacob’s, and my brother’s enthusiasm for Ethiopian cuisine we wound up hearing from a young lady about Queen of Sheba; in particular their beef tartar. I’m always up for trying something new (except for Balut… unless I am REALLY hungry), so off we went to try Queen of Sheba for lunch.
Normally I write my reviews immediately after, or shortly after eating at the restaurant. In this case, I had eaten at Queen of Sheba and taken some notes on my phone… and then promptly became a lazy shit and didn’t write anything for months. I’ve since eaten there several times (most recently went for dinner with my roommates and one of my friends, Jamie, when she was in town this previous weekend). I’ve lost some steam from my original notes, so I’ll post what I had noted and let you suss out my experience from that (lazy, I know):
*2nd time here, had the buffet the first time, it was excellent. Costs around $10.
*Note the hand sanitizer, traditional Ethiopian eats with hands using “injera” as your fork, amd it’s a little plate basically.
*Harar beer is basic lager but good. The Hakim stout is delicious, recommend.
*Music is really laid back, and the setting as you can see is very casual. Fresh butcher paper goes down for each table and the proprietress, Seble Gizaw, works everything with a good word for all customers. She explains how to go about eating Ethiopian for any first timers.
*Ordered Queens Special (cook’s choice of items), Beef Tartar, and the Chefs Choice Veggie Combo Platter.
*Jake and Dan talking “shop”, discussing boring work nonsense.
*Food came out and impressive. Each time we come we enjoy the food thoroughly. The tartar was tender, spiced without a lot of heat in it. All of us thoroughly impressed but we all agreed that the veggie dishes are our favorite. Rich flavors, satisfying cravings for curry flavor. With the tartar you get an assortment of sauces and spices to add heat and we added those in providing an additional kick. Definitely advise coming back.
Synopsis: Definitely try something new and go to Queen of Sheba. Every trip has left me feeling contented and with a smile on my face. I give it a consistent Rating:
-Matt in Tampa
The Original Honey’s
Honey’s Family Sports Bar Restaurant
11115 North Dale Mabry Highway
Let me preface this review with: Holy shit, Honey’s chicken wings.
Other than Google confusing me on what I should list as the proper name of this restaurant, I couldn’t find anything wrong with my chicken wing crushin’ experience at Honey’s (caveat, their credit card machine was down and usually that’s a deal breaker as I am wont to never have cash in my pocket… except today I had some greenbacks in my wallet!). Honey’s was so good that it broke me out of my writing malaise. Before I ramble on about how much I liked the food, I’ll build out the atmosphere for you. Honey’s is a sports bar. When you step inside it’s fairly dark to give you a better shot at watching the game you want to see, without glare from the Florida sun. Honey’s has a fairly similar ‘feel’ to that of one of my old haunts in Lansing (see Bonnie’s Place), in that you can get a good bite to eat without a bunch of bullshit and maybe catch the game you wanted to see while you’re at it. Likewise the wait-staff aren’t scantily clad young ladies, serving you tender vittles with a side of silicone. Don’t get me wrong, I like the sight of pleasant looking young lasses as much as the next guy, but I don’t like feeling like a fucking creeper because my server is all T&A’d up so I wind up goggling at her while trying to mow down a burger. <insert stale ‘breast/chicken breast’ joke here>, yeah that’s not me.
One thing I find myself craving in Tampa are hole in the wall joints to grab a bite or a beer. Pyschoanalyzing this desire aside, finding these kinds of places in Tampa is fairly difficult. One reason Lansing may have a plethora of these kind of places could be due to the town’s blue collar residents. A city that was home to several GM plants and specifically to a large GM car assembly factory from 1901 until 2005, the longest operating factory in the US when it closed (all that remains are the gates and plots of land full of rubble); generations of line workers defining the culture in the Capitol City, subtly dictating the kinds of establishments that thrived and remained open throughout the years. For better or worse, the same culture that likely led to Lansing having more bars per capita than any other capital city in the United States. (This being a factoid I’d heard years ago and I can’t speak to the veracity of the previous statement, but suffice it to say that there are a shitload of bars in Lansing in comparison to the population density.) Another likely factor is the presence of Michigan State University. Cash strapped students are always looking for a good deal, and any joint with competitive prices that serves up a good dish can keep itself in business. While not all hole in the wall joints serve up the best experience (or the best of anything, sometimes they’re a hole in the wall because they just plain suck), there is something to be said for a place that must simply stand on its drink or food without reliance on being prettied up. My love of these places could be to due to being a general malcontent, or it could be the value of these places and the experiences I’ve had at them. You can only dine at an Applebee’s so often before wanting to kick and punch your way out of manufactured mediocrity.
Restaurants and bars in Tampa generally lean away from the hole in the wall and tend toward a vibe of business casual lunches and dinners. While there is nothing wrong with going out and not having to put up with that drunk guy in the corner cursing like a well traveled sailor, I generally prefer not feeling like I’m underdressed when dining in a t-shirt and jeans. Tampa certainly had a blue collar grounding with its early 20th century cigar production (see: Cigar City), but that same hard working populace did not seem to have the same impact that Michigan autoworkers had on their area. I don’t know whether that’s due to the drastic differences in the locale or some other influences (differences: where Lansing is bathed in snow for a quarter of the year and shares lists with the likes of Seattle and Buffalo for being some of the most overcast cities in the US, whereas Tampa is continuously drenched in sunshine and heat and you’re never far from a beach). Honey’s did not disappoint regarding appropriate dress and vibe, we felt at home in our t-shirts and jeans.
I had heard from my neighbor Lindsay for months that Honey’s has the best wings in Tampa. While she has yet to steer us wrong in this respect, I can be stubborn in quick acceptance as I generally like to find things out on my own (like my father before me, you can tell me the stove is hot, but I don’t believe it until my hand is burnt). I usually grab lunch with my friends/coworkers and we generally like to try new things for lunch, but unfortunately Honey’s is just far enough from the office that it managed to stay off our list of restaurants to try. Due to the distance, you’re pretty much bound to take a lunch that is longer than an hour. While an occasional long lunch isn’t a problem at work, you don’t want to waste a long lunch on a crappy or mediocre restaurant. Due to the blue corn Moon aligning with the stars and other mystical forces and shit, we wound up taking a shot at Honey’s today.
While Honey’s has a large and delicious sounding menu, I had eyes only for chicken wings today. On the advice of my coworkers who had gone to Honey’s the week prior, I ordered 16 of the Spicy Garlic Parmesan wings with a side of Hot Sauce and I was not disappointed. I would prefer that they sold their wings in 5’s or 10’s as I think 10 chicken wings are generally the filling point when ordering wings. Despite this, I managed to house 14 of these bad boys (the other guys at the table polished off the other two) and crush some fries. I washed it all down with unsweetened iced tea. I ordered a large order of the homemade fries to share with the table; the fries come in half pound and pound orders. Honey’s doesn’t mess around.
I don’t think my words will do Honey’s wings the justice they deserve. The wings themselves were high quality, with the perfect ratio of sauce to meat and lacking the superfluous amount of skin and fat that some wings have. The wings were cooked exactly how I like them, where the skin winds up a bit crispy but not overcooked and dried out or inundated with oil. The sauce itself was fantastic, a bit of heat with a bold garlic flavor and dusted with the right amount of parmesan. I enjoy some spice with my food and their hot sauce was the perfect compliment to the wings’ base sauce. Dan ordered the Spicy Honey Garlic wings, and anyone with a bit of a sweet-tooth would appreciate this flavor. They were sweet, yet not cloyingly so. The fries appeared to be house cut, lightly salted, and fried to order. If you want to eat chicken wings, and eat the best chicken wings in Tampa then you need to go to Honey’s.
My friend Phil ordered the Beef and Cheddar Sandwich which looked delicious, and Jacob ordered the Chicken Sandwich (which in turn looked delicious):
Overall Honey’s earned a Rating: stars. That elusive 5 is reserved for those meals that are so good you can’t put a finger on it, and typically involves the company with you. The spectre of returning to work may have been that -.5, but either way Honey’s deserves a visit.
-Matt in Tampa