Author Archives: Kevin

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Culinary Class, If It Swims, Oceania, Riviera


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Making Gravlax

Gravlax is actually pretty easy to make. The basic recipe includes applying a dry brine with herbal elements to some fish protein. In this case, salmon, but it could just as well be another firm, meaty fish such as haddock or halibut. Most brines are made of some combination of salt and sugar rubbed on the flesh, put in a sealable bag or wrapped tightly in cling wrap and refrigerated for at least 24 hours. The recipe below is a spin off Oceania's Culinary Center 'If it Swims' on-board course.


Cured Salmon Gravlax

A simple take on an Eastern European classic. Enjoy for holidays or anytime.
Course Appetizer, Breakfast, Brunch, Gravlax, Hors d’Oeuvres
Cuisine Eastern European, Scandavian
Keyword brine, curing, gravlax, Keto, salmon
Prep Time 20 minutes
Curing Time 1 day
Servings 1 Pound
Author Kevin


The Protein

  • 1 lbs boneless, skinless, salmon fillet

The Cure

  • 1/2 cup kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup monk fruit sweetener Same amount of sugar, but won't be keto
  • 1 tbsp pink peppercorns
  • 4 juniper berries
  • 4 allspice berries
  • 1 bunch fresh dill
  • 3 tbsp Ouzo Aquavit is a good substitute, or vodka


Dealing with the Salmon

  • From your fishmonger, if you're lucky enough to live by a lake or ocean, get the center portion of the fish. Salmon from this section is typically 1" thick or more. If you're adventuresome, or have skills, you can de-skin the fish yourself. If you're new to this, have the grocer do it for you. 
  • Run your hand over the length of the fillet feeling for bones. There is usually a line of thin bones near the thickest part running down the length of the fish. Pull out the bones with a pair of long, needle-nosed pliers. You can just pick up a pair at the hardware store, making sure they stay for kitchen use only! Be careful not to damage the flesh too much. Practice makes perfect.
  • Pat the fillet dry and place on a double layer of cling wrap, enough to completely wrap up the fish like you would a present.

Mixing the cure

  • This is the easiest part. Just thoroughly combine the salt and 'sugar' in a small bowl. 
  • Place the double layer of cling wrap - about three times the size of the fillet - on a flat surface. Again, think of wrapping a present. Place half the salt & sweetener on the center of the wrap. Spread it out to the size of the fillet. Pour about half the remaining cure ingredients on top of the salt and sweetener. Place the fillet on the cure. Cover the top of the fillet with the remaining salt and sweetener, followed by scattering the rest of the cure on top. Wrap the fillet, but not too tightly. You want some of the water to get out of the wrapping during the cure.
  • Place the wrapped fillet on a baking sheet and place in the refrigerator for 24 to 26 hours, turning over every 12 hours.
  • When the gravlax is ready, remove from the wrap and gently wash off the cure in cool water. Be gentle. Pat dry with paper towels and place on a cutting board of your choice. Thinly slice at a steep angle and you're ready to serve.

Serving up the Gravlax

  • Presentation depends on your style and occasion. I like a simple presentation. A few lemon wedges and capers, perhaps some sour cream on the side. Toast rounds or unseasoned crackers are also good to have near.

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Snowy Day Chuck Roast


Snowy Day Chuck Roast Sous Vide Style

What’s better than a slow cooked beef roast packed with flavor? Have this on a wintry day, or any day, you’re craving comfort food without the fuss.
Course Main Course
Cuisine American
Keyword beef, chuck roast, Keto, sous vide, Sunday dinner
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 1 day
Total Time 1 day 15 minutes
Servings 4 People
Author Kevin


For the Roast

  • 3-4 Lbs Beef boneless chuck roast Bone-in would be great too.
  • 2 Sprigs Fresh rosemary Leave whole
  • 6 Cloves Peeled, fresh garlic, smashed
  • Salt & pepper Be generous
  • 1 Carrot, peeled and diced
  • 1 Stalk Celery, diced Make dice similar size to carrot
  • 2 Bay leaf
  • 3 Tbsp Avocado oil Don’t use olive oil, smoke point is too low.

For the Sauce

  • Contents from cooking bag
  • 1 Tbsp Tomato paste
  • 1 Cup Rustic red wine
  • 2 Tbsp Chilled butter Optional



  • Using your sous vide, ours is the Joule from Chef Steps, set the cambro 3/4 way filled with water on a heat resistant pad to protect your countertops from the long cook this will need. Choose your temp. Here we’re going for that traditional roast look and taste, so we chose 136F. For more info on cooking this beast go to
  • Preheat a large, flatbottomed saute or frying pan on high until smoking hot. Thoroughly season your roast after patting it dry. You need to have the meat surface as dry as possible. Season all sides of the roast.
    Turn on the exhaust fan!
    Add the oil, swirl around to cover the surface of the pan. As soon as little whisks of smoke appear, slap down that roast in the pan. Use tongs to push down the roast so all parts are in contact with the pan. Give it a minute or two, depending on your heat source. Flip and do same on all sides.
    Just before removing, put in the garlic cloves and fresh veg & herbs (rosemary, carrot, celery, and bay in this case) giving them a little heat. Remove everything from pan, set aside.
    You can stop here, get a glass of wine, and get ready to bag this bad boy.

Bag It & Cook

  • Double up two freezer gallon plastic bags. Put in a small amount of oil (EVOO is good) into the inner bag. This is where you’ll put the roast and surround it with the veg evenly on both sides. Put one bay on one side of the roast the other on the other side. Easy!
    Slowly submerge the bagged roast into the heated sous vide bath. You want to get as much air out as possible from the outer and inner bags. I use the blunt end of a long wooden chopstick to push the roast down, sealing the inner bag first, then the outer. It might still bob up a little. If that’s the case, try placing a heavy spoon in the bottom of the out bag and resubmerge. 
    Hook the bags to the side if you like, or let them free-float as I’ve done here. 
    Since this is a long cook (24 hours!), you’ll need to watch the water level. It’s best to cover the opening of your pot with plastic wrap. We have these nifty white plastic pearls that float on the top to help reduce water loss.
  • Get another glass of wine, and return in 24 hours!
  • Removing Roast - Gently remove your bagged roast. I hold a towel in one hand to place under the roast as I move it to the cutting board. Take out the roast and set aside for a moment, cover. A souse vide roast doesn’t need to rest technically. You’re going to put that roast back in the water to stay nice and warm while you make a luscious sauce.

Making that Sauce

  • The key to making a great sauce is to reduce and strain...strain multiple times! We learned this from watching a few Thomas Keller video’s on sauces. Thank’s Mr. Keller. 
    At this point, dump the contents of the bag into a Windsor pan, or suitable sauce pan along with the tomato paste.
    Put the roast back into the bags...yes, back into the same bags, and reimmerse into the heated water. Don’t worry, it can’t over cook, but WILL keep your roast perfectly warm until eating time.
  • Add 1 cup of earthy red wine. Let it boil away, reducing by half until the liquid coats the back of a spoon. I don’t strain the sauce at this point because I want to get as much flavor out of the veg and herbs as possible. Plus, as they break down, they’ll thicken the sauce.
  • Strain the sauce. A good fine-meshed strainer works well here. We add a layer or two of cheese cloth to get the smoothest of sauces.
  • Return to the boil. At this point, it’s a matter of time tuning your sauce. Do the following as is your whim:
    1. Reduce further for a thicker sauce.
    2. Enhance sauce with store bought Demi glacé- we use veal Demi.
    3. Further gild the Lilly with more fat! Just before serving, pull off heat and add in a couple of tablespooons of choice butter. Think Kerry Gold! Whisk until combined.

Serving it Up

  • Remove the roast from the sous vide to a platter if you’re serving family option for photo ops too.
    Get as crazy and creative as you like. 
    Add a couple of your favorite veggies to the platter, and pour on a little of that sauce you made over the meat. 
    Garnish with some fresh chopped parsley if you like..or not. Your choice, go wild.
    Bring to table and watch their faces beam.
    Plate & Serve


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Albondigas (Spanish Meatballs)

Our Superbowl Snacks

February 3, 2019


Our God Daughter, Megan, came over during the Superbowl so we needed a few snacks to have on-hand. Still being inspired by our trip to Spain, we decided to stick with the tapas style goodies. However, not ones to be confined to convention, we've adapted and combined several versions to come up with a more "keto friendly" recipe. Not that we're totally about keto (Hello, wine!) but we are trying to avoid most carbs including bread, which is generally found in meatballs.

Here's what we came up with.


Print Pin
5 from 1 vote

Game Day Tapas: Keto Albondigas in Tomato Sauce

These Spanish inspired meatballs are made without fillers such as bread and are Keto friendly. To combat dryness, we’ve added shredded zucchini and Manchego to the meatballs. Delish.
Course Appetizer, Hors d’Oeuvres, Side Dish, Snack
Cuisine Spanish
Keyword Keto, Pintxo, Spanish, tapas
Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 1 hour 30 minutes
Total Time 2 hours
Servings 8
Author Kevin Krycka


For the Meatballs

  • 1 1/2 Tbsp Spanish Olive Oil, divided EVOO is good
  • 1/2 Med Spanish Onion Minced
  • 2 Cloves Garlic Minced
  • 1 Tsp Smoked Paprika Sweet is okay
  • 1 Tbsp Aleppo Pepper Flakes Substitute or leave out
  • 1 Tbsp Cumin, ground
  • 1 Lbs Ground Turkey Organic
  • 1 Link Spicy Sausage Organic, local
  • 2 Tbsp Manchego, grated
  • 1 Lrg Egg Organic, local
  • 2 Tbsp Cilantro, chopped
  • 2 Tbsp Parsley, chopped
  • 2 Tsp Kosher Salt, divided If using table salt, cut amount in half
  • 1 Tsp Pepper, coarsly ground, divided

For the Tomato Sauce

  • 2 Tbsp Spanish Olive Oil
  • 1 Med Spanish Onion
  • 1 Tbsp Smoked Paprika
  • 1 Tbsp Cumin, ground
  • 6 Oz Red Wine Spanish origin if possible, like a rioja or Navarro



  • Heat olive oil in skillet on med-low heat until shimmering. Add paprika, cumin, and pepper flakes to bloom. Stir frequently. Dump onion and garlic all at once with salt and pepper to taste. Sauté until onion is translucent. Set aside to cool.
    !Food, Albondigas
  • In a large bowl combine remaining indredients along with cooled onion mixture. Mix thoroughly with a fork making sure pork and turkey are evenly incorporated. Form into 1” balls by hand, or using a small ice cream scoop. Use some olive oil on your hands to prevent sticking. Place on parchment paper lined baking sheet into a 450 degree preheated oven for 15 minutes. Remove and set aside. You’ll add these to the sauce later.
    !Food, Albondigas

Tomato Sauce

  • !Food, Albondigas
  • Heat olive oil in large sauce pan on medium low heat until shimmering. Add onion, paprika, and cumin. Stir frequently to toast the spices. Add garlic, saute for 1 minute. Next pour the red wine into the skillet, stir to scrape up any bits stuck to the bottom of the skillet. Cook for a few minutes. Add the tomato, stir to combine. Raise heat to medium and add chopped basil. Season to taste. Immediately add meatballs to sauce, rolling them around to get coated. Place lid on sauce pan, lower heat to simmer for 1 hour. 

Plate and Finish

  • Place meatballs on a serving platter and cover with the sauce. Sprinkle with ribbons of manchego cheese. Drizzle a little EVOO on top to make it a little prettier. Take it one step further and add some chiffonade of basil.


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Barcelona, Europe, Hotel Casa Fuster, Spain

Barcelona – Hotel Casa Fuster


November 9 - 13th, 2018

Casa Fuster

Hotel Casa Fuster recommended to us by Aurelio Giordano, of Ace World Travel, turned out to be the exact right fit for Steven and I. You can Google the Hotel Casa Fuster for a load of details, but what impressed us from the start was location and history. Aurelio asked us what was important to us when we traveled and built us a few options, Hotel Casa Fuster being top on his list for accommodations in Barcelona.

He understood that we loved modernist architecture, even though we didn’t really appreciate the differences between ‘modern’ and Catalan Modernist art and design. Hotel Casa Fuster is perhaps one of the rare accommodations that started as a private residence and morphed into the amazing hotel that it is today

The hotel is in the toney Eixmapler neighborhood. There is no end to modernist architecture in the area. Hotel Casa Fuster, designed by Lluís Domènech i Montanern was built in 1908 and completely renovated in 2004 – it is as many websites proclaim, ‘the symbol of the greatest period of splendor and prosperity Barcelona has experienced during the past hundred years.’

Our experience of Hotel Casa Fuster was nothing but amazing – except perhaps the first suite we were assigned that sat just above the bar, which turns into a jazz bar on the night we arrived. After a few hours of listening to marvelous jazz reverberating into our room, we went down to as ask for another room. The good team at Hotel Casa Fuster immediately reassigned us to the 3rd floor, same side. A slightly differently configured suite, but nonetheless, beautiful.

Please accept that the hotel itself is luxurious and well-maintained. It is the staff that sets it above many we’ve been to. In particular the door staff, especially David (pronounced Daveed), who always seemed to be exactly where and when we needed him. David, and the other staff, were always there to assist as we needed. They helped us with cabs and directions and suggestions for late night snacks. The main desk staff were equally as helpful when requesting dinner reservations at the last minute, or as in our case, cancelling a reservation at the last minute.

Just look at the interior photos blow show, the spaces have been artfully returned to the glory of the original design. Several nights, we sheltered on the duvets and plush couches with substantial pillows with ample cocktails in hand, well into the night.

To sum up, book the Hotel Casa Fuster if you want to be immersed into Catalan Modernist architecture in the heart of vibrant Barcelona.

The lobby. Horses and carriages passed through here originally

Enjoying a nice local Vermouth at Café Vienés

View Terrassa Mirador Blue View bar

Double Superior Room - with our favorite Bellman, David

Café Vienés

Guadi's Casa Milà (aka La Pedrera) down the street

Just saw a Heineken commercial with race car drive Nico Rosberg. This video, beginning at 0:19 is shot at Hotel Casa Fuster. 



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Castlemartyr, Castlemartyr Resort, Europe, Hotels, Ireland

Ireland 2017 Hotel Highlights – Part 2

Places We’ve Stayed at in Ireland


Dublin, Ireland - July 14 & 15, 2017

The Merrion

21-24 Upper Merrion Street

Belfast, Northern Ireland - July 16, 2017

The Merchant Hotel

16 Skipper Street

Donegal, Ireland – July 17, 2017

The Sandhouse Hotel

Rossnowlagh Beach, Co. Donegal

Cong, Ireland – July 18-21, 2017

The Lodge at Ashford Castle

Lislaughrea, Co. Mayo

Castlemartyr, Ireland – July 22-24, 2017

Castlemartyr Resort

Castlemartyr, Co. Cork

Dublin, Ireland – July 25, 2017

Maldron Hotel Dublin Airport


The Lodge at Ashford Castle, Cong

Cong, Europe, Hotels, Ireland, Lodge at Ashford Castle

The first thing you notice when approaching The Lodge are the vast parklands surrounding the property, which includes the lux Ashford Castle. Both are members of the Red Carnation and Leading hotel and resort groups. We came from the north skimming Lough Mask on our way south, which gave us great views on what was another sunny, pleasant day in Ireland.

Our GPS took us to Ashford Castle Drive and what looked like an original entrance to the property, but the signs kept point us around its edges until we finally came to a small gate and signage pointing us up a slight hill from Lough Corrib to The Lodge. We learned later, that there is normally a gatekeeper at the grand entrance who would let us pass through. I suggest you hang out until someone comes to let you through, the drive to the Lodge or Castle from that route is worth it and most likely how the landscaper intended you first see the fairytale castle once owned by the Guinness family.

As you can see from this Google Maps image, The Lodge is close to Ashford Castle but requires a short walk downhill through a small wood to reach it. At first, we were a bit nervous to take that route as property Range Rovers and guests’ cars regularly careened along the narrow roadway up and back from the Castle and town of Cong. We took our chances, figuring no one would run us down, though we looked over our shoulders often.

Before we get to talking about The Lodge, note a few other landmarks on the map. Of course there is Ashford Castle. The golf course, a summer restaurant – Cullen’s at the Cottage, and publicly accessible gardens surround it. You can reach any point by foot, or by car. Note that if you are not staying on property there is a fee to enter the park. Far left is the School of Falconry and just above this are more woods that hold an equestrian centre (center if you prefer US spelling), archery field and clay pigeon shooting range. In another post, we’ll talk about our archery and shooting lessons. You could walk to any of these, or grab one of the bikes for let. We chose to have the driver take us and pick us up – the weather had turned by then.

The Lodge is a courtyard design with a wide-open terrace facing the lough where cocktails and snacks are served. The centre courtyard has seating and pleasant fountain, which happened to be drained for repair most of our visit. Apparently, children drop the loose pebbles from the landscaping into the fountain clogging it up regularly. Hum. The building itself is noteworthy because of its former resident, one William Wilde, father of, you guessed it Oscar Wilde. Incidentally, the Wilde restaurant is named after Oscar and his family, holding some memorabilia of the family’s time there.

Cong, Europe, Hotels, Ireland, Lodge at Ashford Castle

Check-in went smoothly. We were oriented to the Lodge and property amenities and rules, including mention that we couldn’t just walk over the turreted bridge to the Castle without showing our room key or being escorted. Off the main entrance hall, a modest space with a broad central staircase, to the right is the Quay Bar and Brasserie. This became our resting place and got to know some of the wait staff during our stay. Through the main hall, we entered a transom hall with grand piano and plenty of overstuffed chairs and couches, suitable for lounging, cocktailing, taking a tea and biscuit…you get the picture. Passing through to the courtyard, our room was located about in the middle of the north wing.

Cong, Europe, Hotels, Ireland, Lodge at Ashford Castle Cong, Europe, Hotels, Ireland, Lodge at Ashford Castle

The Room  We took a Duplex Suite for our stay. As you can guess, the first floor is for lounging and the second is where the king-sized bed and master bathroom are. We were on the ground floor and had double-doors leading to a small private patio with two lounge chairs waiting. We had free internet access, an LCD TV, pillow topped mattress, down duvet, a rainforest shower, wonderful robes, and breakfast included. The bathroom was certainly nicely appointed, but very long and very narrow with the large shower at the far end. The room, once again, was decorated in a mild art déco scheme. I’m not sure what the trend with all the art deco is about, but it was very common in the places we stayed. All in all, a very nice place to spend a few days relaxing and to which to return after a day of exploring.

Cong, Europe, Hotels, Ireland, Lodge at Ashford Castle

Downstairs living room - upstairs was difficult to photo with the equipment Steven had.

The Food   The Quay Bar and Brasserie had just undergone a face lift and menu renovation is where we spent our first evening sipping cocktails and having some snacks. The Quay’s new menu showed an experimental side of what you might otherwise expect of typical Irish pub food. The tone is definitely brasserie out on the terrace outside the bar. All the dishes were crafted to highlight some local or noted Irish product. The charcuterie for instance, came with selected cured Irish meats, one type hanging off a wire surrounded by small pots of pickeled onions with carrots another with stone ground mustard. We stifled a giggle at this presentation style, but thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. We’d return many times over our stay to sample the new menu. It was all delicious.

Cong, Europe, Hotels, Ireland, Lodge at Ashford Castle

Cong, Europe, Hotels, Ireland, Lodge at Ashford Castle

Fish & Chips

Cong, Europe, Hotels, Ireland, Lodge at Ashford Castle

Mushroom Soup en Crue

Cong, Europe, Hotels, Ireland, Lodge at Ashford Castle

Duck breast with house-canned foie gras

Breakfasts were served in The Wilde’s at the Lodge restaurant.  Breakfasts are hearty and include made-to-order hot items if you wished. The spread on the buffet held many common items, including bangers, fresh breads, sweets, carved meats, prepared fish that changed daily, porridge, juices, and of course tea and coffee. We typically ordered a hot meal from the menu, enough food to set you up properly for the day’s outings.

Cong, Europe, Hotels, Ireland, Lodge at Ashford Castle

Fritata for breakfast

We decided to take one dinner at The Castle’s George V Dining Room, which will be written about separately, and one evening at The Wilde’s.  At Wilde’s we were seated at a corner table, the one pictured on the restaurants website. Like many chef’s in Ireland today, Chef Jonathan Keane takes his lead from local livestock, game, fish, and produce – creating dishes with few ingredients, expertly presented, and with full flavors. As you would expect, the menus are seasonal and depend upon what can be sourced for that evenings meal. I chose the Menu of Discovery that highlighted the best of what the day had had to offer; scallop, foie gras, duck, lamb, turnip and peas. Oh, and not to forget the evening potato served in its own copper pot.

The whole meal, including a very accommodating dining room manager who packed up our remaining meal and promptly delivered it to our room when Steven’s cold got the best of him that evening, was quite memorable. They even brought a surprise desert later. I don’t recall which wines we sampled, but the food was clearly the highlight. You don’t have to be staying at The Lodge to enjoy this food. If you’re near, I highly recommend making a reservation. And at 60 Euros for the tasting menu, not bad pricing either.

Here are some of the dishes starting with freshed baked breads. We didn't keep a copy of the menu, so not sure exactly what each is. Sorry, we didn't get shots of everything.

Hotels, Lodge at Ashford Castle, Restaurants, Wilde's Hotels, Lodge at Ashford Castle, Restaurants, Wilde's Hotels, Lodge at Ashford Castle, Restaurants, Wilde's
Cong, Europe, Hotels, Ireland, Lodge at Ashford Castle Cong, Europe, Hotels, Ireland, Lodge at Ashford Castle
Cong, Europe, Hotels, Ireland, Lodge at Ashford Castle

The inspiration for the water feature we'll build into our deck at home. We'll have to work on a much smaller scale, however.

Castlemartyr Resort, Castlemartyr

Castlemartyr, Castlemartyr Resort, Europe, Hotels, Ireland

Once again, Steven located a great place to stay for a few days near the end of our trip. As I mentioned above, Steven wasn’t feeling all that well, so rather than push it to make it to the Dingle for our dinner reservations there, we cancelled and were luckily able to add a night onto our original booking. Once we got there, we realized just how lucky we were to get that extra night – the hotel was nearly fully booked with a wedding party. In fact, we walked into the main entrance hall to be engulfed in the formal champagne reception prior to the ceremony and feast. The happy couple, clearly what we refer to as the A-Gay crowd, had their own website, with friends posting pictures as the evening progressed. No, we don’t stalk our own. They were just hard to miss with the URL being posted on signs around the hall.

The hotel itself is an 17th century manor house reborn into a sprawling complex of rooms, golf course, equestrian centre, a beautifully modern spa and pool area with upstairs gym, formal gardens, and an 13th century Knights Templar castle ruin. The décor of the hotel is warm and comforting throughout, even into the more recently added sections where we were lodged. Exploring the ground floor after the wedding party cleared out, we found a bar, The Knights Bar, where we had a pretty good cocktail overlooking the formal gardens. The poor staff were clearly trying to recover from the wedding reception, so even though they were a bit slow, we’ll give them a pass. Further down the center hall we passed The Bell Tower, where we’d have breakfasts, and into the original house that held meeting rooms and some of the posher accommodations on the second floor. Heading in the opposite direction toward our room, we passed what looked like a very nice traditional living room, or lounge. Settings of couches and stuffed chairs provided plenty of space to have a more secluded meal with the kids or just to have tea.

Castlemartyr, Castlemartyr Resort, Europe, Hotels, Ireland

Entry Hall

Castlemartyr, Castlemartyr Resort, Europe, Hotels, Ireland

The Knights Bar

Castlemartyr, Castlemartyr Resort, Europe, Hotels, Ireland

Bell Tower Restaurant

The grounds are splendid. As you drive onto the property from its newly relocated entrance (the original manor house gate is now for pedestrian use only), you come upon out buildings, ruins, a glade with a slowly moving creek, fowl, and paths. After we settle into the room, we explored more of the property, taking walks and many pictures of the horses galloping in a wide-open pasture across from the main house. We almost managed to get ourselves lost on a longer walk circumnavigating the entire property. Luckily, we met an Irish couple on holiday who gave us directions out of the seemingly endless woodland paths, past a ruined abbey and nunnery I swear was still inhabited, if you get my meaning. We emerged, marked by cuts from mistakenly climbing a over fence and onto a fairway with golfers playing through, not on our own exactly, but by following the nice couple at a discrete distance.

Castlemartyr, Castlemartyr Resort, Europe, Hotels, Ireland Castlemartyr, Castlemartyr Resort, Europe, Hotels, Ireland

Castlemartyr, Castlemartyr Resort, Europe, Hotels, Ireland

Castlemartyr, Castlemartyr Resort, Europe, Hotels, Ireland
Castlemartyr, Castlemartyr Resort, Europe, Hotels, Ireland Castlemartyr, Castlemartyr Resort, Europe, Hotels, Ireland Castlemartyr, Castlemartyr Resort, Europe, Hotels, Ireland Castlemartyr, Castlemartyr Resort, Europe, Hotels, Ireland
Castlemartyr, Castlemartyr Resort, Europe, Hotels, Ireland

I can see why this is a destination for the Irish and foreigners alike. If you don’t ride or play golf, there is plenty to do, or not, as you please.

The Room  We booked a double deluxe room, Castlemartyr’s most basic room category.  The long haul to the room might have first disappointed us, but entering the room we breathed a sigh of thankfulness and relief. Remember, Steven still wasn’t well, the simple but beautifully appointed room was a welcome sight for the both of us. Because of our last minute add-on of an early arrival, we had to take a double room for the first night. The next night we moved to a king room. The "king bed" was simply configured from two twins pushed together, and made up without there being a crevasse between the joined beds!

Our room overlooked the golf course and small clubhouse restaurant, The Pod. It had everything you’d need for a long stay. It was large, even by US traveler standards, held a desk, a lounging chair with ottoman, a spacious bathroom, and plenty of closet space to store your things. The room came with no tea/coffee maker, something I really would appreciate as the first one up every morning, but that wasn’t too much to suffer given the splendid room and resort.

Castlemartyr, Castlemartyr Resort, Europe, Hotels, Ireland Castlemartyr, Castlemartyr Resort, Europe, Hotels, Ireland

Castlemartyr, Castlemartyr Resort, Europe, Hotels, Ireland

The Food  Since we stayed at Castlemartyr several days, we ate at all the dining options. As I mentioned, The Knight’s Bar is for a drink and perhaps a quick meal. Be aware that the menu cuts off at 6:30pm, but cocktails flow well into the night. The second night we ate at the Italian restaurant, Franchini’s. We were lead to believe you couldn’t get a reservation, but we had no problem. The service was very good. We found out that our server was actually the son of the owner, who had brought the family over from Italy a generation ago. The son certainly knew his menu. We felt confident we’d not go wrong with anything we’d order. And we were right. In any case, we ordered a…guess what, charcuterie plate and some soup. We both had a pasta course, Kevin had the Pork and Beef Meatballs with Spaghetti, Steven having the Porcini Ravioli, for our main that evening, not something we typically do. The pasta for the ravioli was certainly fresh but fairly certain the spaghetti were dried. Both were quite good, well-seasoned, not overly sauced, and a reasonable portion…by which I mean just over a good handful.

Castlemartyr, Castlemartyr Resort, Europe, Hotels, Ireland Castlemartyr, Castlemartyr Resort, Europe, Hotels, Ireland

Our breakfasts were taken in The Bell Tower on the main floor. They also offered hot items ordered from a daily changing menu as well as a completely serviceable buffet with all the expected items. We tended to order from the menu AND get some selections (mostly charcuterie) from the buffet. Personally, I love fish, so I indulged in any offering of kippered, poached, or raw goodness from the sea. The setting is lovely, especially if you snag a table at the windows, which we did on our final morning. A good way to start the day in every way. One thing that should be mentioned. At check out, we discovered that our room rate did not include breakfast. Gulp. Check your room type. The breakfasts aren’t cheap.

Castlemartyr, Castlemartyr Resort, Europe, Hotels, Ireland

Finally, after surviving (just kidding) our walk around the property we were quite hungry and decided on stopping at The Pod, just at the 18th hole. Steven had a very well-prepared burger and I the daily fish. Except for the pesky bees buzzing around, the food was more than serviceable and the beers cold. Plus, what’s not to like about a lazy afternoon people watching?

Castlemartyr, Castlemartyr Resort, Europe, Hotels, Ireland

The Maldron Hotel, Dublin Airport

We were bound to hit a dud at some point on this trip, and this was it. Frankly, I doubt much could have matched the experiences we’d had thus far, so I’ll be kind. Maldron is a chain of modestly priced hotels, in this case catering to the business traveler rather than families as some of their other hotels do. The hotel website boasts having ‘an airport perfect location’, but it didn’t exactly. You’d definitely need a car or cab to get there. The hotel is basic, clean, and is a fine place to rest your head for a night. Given it’s not near anything of interest, it wouldn’t be a good choice for longer stays. The staff were pleasant enough too, offering us a shuttle which worked out just fine for us. We had already dropped off the rental car the night before and the rental agency shuttle dropped us off near the hotel.

The Room We chose a basic room with single full-sized bed. We had to be careful where we put our luggage so as not to trip over it during the night on the way to the bathroom. The room was fine, spartan, with a thin mattress and blanket. The bathroom, again serviceable. Not much to say about it. In all, worth one night, but not more if you care for your back health.

The Food There are several options for food; The Apron Restaurant, the Red Bean Roastery, and The Sky Bar. We looked at the Apron, decided against it as the menu looked too substantial and we just wanted something small. We settled on The Sky Bar, just behind the coffee/pastry bar in the main lobby. We were pretty tired from a long day traveling from Co. Cork to the Wicklow mountains, and around Dublin, so we ordered small plates. These were just enough, and hit the spot. The food wasn’t memorable, but we weren’t expecting it to be. Not insignificantly, it was the warm smile of our server that I remember most. In the morning we were off to our flight to London, so I ran down to the Bean and grabbed us some muffins, juice, and coffee. Sustenance only and perfectly fine. We’d eat more later.

No pictures of the Moldron because, quite frankly, it wasn't worth the effort.

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!Nature, Donegal, Europe, Hotels, Ireland, Sandhouse Hotel, beach

Ireland 2017 Hotel Highlights

Places We’ve Stayed at in Ireland


Dublin, Ireland - July 14 & 15, 2017

The Merrion

21-24 Upper Merrion Street

Belfast, Northern Ireland - July 16, 2017

The Merchant Hotel

16 Skipper Street

Donegal, Ireland – July 17, 2017

The Sandhouse Hotel

Rossnowlagh Beach, Co. Donegal

Cong, Ireland – July 18-21, 2017

The Lodge at Ashford Castle

Lislaughrea, Co. Mayo

Castlemartyr, Ireland – July 22-24, 2017

Castlemartyr Resort

Castlemartyr, Co. Cork

Dublin, Ireland – July 25, 2017

Maldron Hotel Dublin Airport


The Merrion, Dublin

Dublin, Europe, Hotels, Ireland, The Merrion

Our first night in Ireland. After searching the web for countless hours, Kevin finally asked his friend, Mary, who lives in Ireland what she thought about The Merrion. She had nothing but good things to say. We booked it before the summer rates really kicked in; lucky for us because it’s not the least expensive place you could stay in Dublin.

Dublin in general, is NOT a bargain city, so don’t go there expecting huge deals, either in lodging, restaurants, or shopping. Of course every large metropolitan area has its ‘deals’. We wanted to stay central and within walking distance (that’s an American walking-distance mind you) of good places to eat and tour. The Merrion was just right for us.

The Merrion is billed as a 5-star luxury hotel located centrally in Dublin’s Georgian neighborhood, and we think it certainly deserves all its many accolades. The hotel was created from four Georgian townhouses and boasts 2 bars, 2 restaurants, a gym, a spa, a pool, a large art collection (they even have a guidebook and website of the art), and well, a lot of comfy furniture and quiet places to read, have a cocktail, or simply stare out at the gardens.

The Room  Our room was spacious and well-appointed. The king bed was dreamy; the bathroom gracious in every way. We were located in the garden wing, one of the townhomes adjacent to an outdoor dining area, which doubled as a venue for special events and served High Tea daily. The view was not spectacular, but that’s what you get when you book a basic room, even at a 5 star! Please don’t think we’re complaining, it was a perfect room for us to rest after a long day of travel and seeing the sights in Dublin.

Dublin, Europe, Hotels, Ireland, The Merrion Dublin, Europe, Hotels, Ireland, The Merrion

The Food  We had our breakfasts adjacent to The Cellar Room. As the name implies, if you’re not dining in your room, you need to take a couple of different paths – including elevators -  and down some stairs to get there. Breakfast was generous. A large assortment of goodies of every kind. We were eating less carbs, so we passed on most of the bread and sweet pastries, with the exception of the brown soda bread and Irish butter. Don’t skip these, you’re regret it. We could order an entree if we liked, or just cruise the buffet. The servers were very attentive, and by the 2nd day, they knew what beverages we wanted and seating preference.

Dublin, Europe, Hotels, Ireland, The Merrion

We didn’t indulge in the other dining choices at the hotel, as we wanted to hit the Dublin food scene and find our own way exploring. If you’re interested, The Merrion has Dublin’s only Two Micheline Star restaurants, the Restaurant Patrick Guilbaud. One note of caution even if you’re not hitting up this 2 star wonder; book your restaurant and High Tea well in advance. This is a popular place to stay and for locals to enjoy.

The Perks  Did I mention there was a spa and pool? Do not miss the pool. You can go even if you don’t purchase a spa treatment. What can I say? It’s worth the price of admission as they say. All you do is present your room key and you gain access to the amazing pool, steam room, and gym. You might notice that we try to stay at hotels with pools. We both deeply enjoy unwinding in the water and taking a steam or cold plunge. Pure relaxation.

We’ll definitely return.

Dublin, Europe, Hotels, Ireland, The Merrion

The Merchant Hotel, Belfast

Dublin, Europe, Hotels, Ireland, The Merchant

We searched long and hard to find something we thought we’d enjoy for our one night in Belfast. The Merchant is another centrally located hotel, earning a 5 Red Star designation – but without a pool, though it does have a really nice rooftop hot tub and sauna with a view.

Dublin, Europe, Hotels, Ireland, The Merchant, sauna

View from The Merchant sauna

It is, like many hotels in Europe, a collection of buildings that originally served other purposes. In the case of The Merchant, the stunning façade of one side of the hotel is a Grade A historic building that once was a fabulous bank. Looking at the carved ceilings of its main hall gives you some sense of its grandeur. This is where we had breakfast. Not bad, huh?

Dublin, Europe, Hotels, Ireland, The Merchant

But, this grandeur is not the main entrance. You actually enter around the corner in an unfortunate ‘Art Deco inspired’ addition.

The Room  Entering check-in on a side street was just fine. Though we did have to go around the block twice to find it. We were greeted and quickly on our way to our room, guided by a handsome Doorman/Concierge, Michael, with our luggage. The room was well, weird. Neither of us are huge fans of Art Deco to begin with, but this was just plain odd – a black and white palate with an overt emphasis on movie stars and women’s (bare-breasted) figures from the 1930’s I suppose. Still, the room and bath were big, and we had a very comfy bed with soft linens and plenty of blankets. It was cool in Belfast, so these came in handy. I learned later that they also have Victorian inspired rooms. You might want to check those out.

Dublin, Europe, Hotel Rooms, Hotels, Ireland, The Merchant Dublin, Europe, Hotel Rooms, Hotels, Ireland, The Merchant
Dublin, Europe, Hotel Rooms, Hotels, Ireland, The Merchant

The Food  Perhaps the most memorable moments of this stay were had, not in a hotel restaurant, but in the grand bar on the second level, next to the even grander hall where they served dinner and breakfasts, The Great Room Restaurant. Simply called The Cocktail Bar, the well-tailored, precise bartender served us a few yummy cocktails chilled by his very own ice cube creation – a hand carved, crystal clear block of ice. We chatted him up a bit and discovered he is known in the city for this talent. I wish I could remember his name to mention here, he deserves the shout out for this flawless cube. Plus, he is definitely a master craftsmen of cocktails. There are also an Art Deco jazz bar and Champagne Lounge, which we didn’t venture into.

Dublin, Europe, Hotels, Ireland, The Merchant

Breakfast was in The Great Room. The full breakfast is called the Merchant Breakfast and is also available to non-residents. Of course, we had to enjoy this treat. A small basket of fresh rolls came quickly as did our choice of beverage. I had tea and Steven had coffee. The breakfast was good, filling, and nicely presented – in all honest, the presentation was more memorable than the actual meal. From our trip to Scotland in 2015, I learned to appreciate the local variations of haggis and blood pudding. At the Merchant, the eggs nestled against two slices of these uniquely UK morsels. Unfortunately, these came a bit dry if you can believe that. Isn’t the hallmark of a good haggis its fat content? Oh well, at least the service and setting were worth it.

Dublin, Eggs Benedict, Europe, Food, Hotels, Ireland, The Merchant Dublin, Eggs Benedict, Europe, Food, Hotels, Ireland, The Merchant

Finally we come to The Cloth Ear. We booked this particular hotel because it claimed to server a traditional Sunday roast in its pub. Something told me to have the front desk check on our dinner reservation and our Sunday roast. It turned out that there was no indication of our reservation, but less any notation of wanting the Sunday roast with trimmings. We were disappointed to here that they may have run out of the roast, but could substitute another kind of roast if we’d liked. The waiter had a talk with the chef and eventually confirmed that there was definitely an order left. No one around us was eating anything remotely like dinner, only sandwiches and, well, lots of beers. We were noticed in our conspicuous attention to securing a damn Sunday roast. It was almost as if they didn’t want to serve it to us. We persisted, and ate. I can’t say it was particularly good, but we were starved and woofed it all down. We left quickly - we had enough of the old 1800's advertisement on the walls for women's undergarment.

Cloths Ear, Dublin, Europe, Hotels, Ireland, Restaurants, The Merchant

Cloths Ear, Dublin, Europe, Hotels, Ireland, Restaurants, The Merchant

The Sandhouse Hotel, Donegal

!Nature, Donegal, Europe, Hotels, Ireland, Sandhouse Hotel, beach

Steven took great pains to find us a place on the water to spend one night as we headed south to a several day stay at our next stop in Cong. We passed through Donegal city proper on our way, stopping to walk around the town square and find something to eat. It was after all, a very long day of travel, having left Belfast early and taking our time at the Giant’s Causeway and meandering down the coast.

The Sandhouse is out of town, about 10 miles south of Donegal. The website claims it is a 4-star, family-run hotel and marine spa. Not sure what the latter means exactly, but the hotel part is right. Not sure what 4-star rating system they use. If you’ve seen the British comedy, Fawlty Towers, you kind of get the picture of what we encountered. She looked to have been quite something in her day, with a large veranda and rocking chairs on which to while away the endless, quite hours on the bay. The hotel fronts a huge section of nearly flat, pure sand beaches shaped in a gentle arch bending nearly as far as the eye could see in either direction. The view was really sublime.

!Nature, Donegal, Europe, Hotels, Ireland, Sandhouse Hotel, beach

If you got the Fawlty Tower reference, then you can fill in the blanks and skip this part. For those of you not so into British telly, let me paint the picture. You enter the hotel through two sets of glass doors having seen better days, each up slightly from the next, and into a sloping rise toward the check-in desk, stuck under the main staircase. Walls and wallpaper everywhere in need of cleaning or replacement. We dared not look too closely. On our way to the elevator (a nicely generous one I might add) we passed a narrow bar just off the entrance hall, peopled by a few ladies and gentlemen nursing their beers. I imagine they were in those same seats with those same beers for hours. In all honestly, we were very tired, and probably a little too hungry to be fair at this point. We both made the effort to buck up and get to the room.

I have to mention all this detail, because it should have been noticed by us as a foreshadowing of what was to come. We might have been better prepared.

!Nature, Donegal, Europe, Hotels, Ireland, Sandhouse Hotel, beach

The Room Ah, now to our room. Off the elevator at the very top of the hotel, down a long, slopped, creaky hall with worn floral carpets, we found our room. No electronic keypad, just a key (on a ridiculously oversized key chain) away from getting us out of the pent-up, radiant heat trapped in that hall. No luck. The room was hotter as it faced the setting sun. Normally, a very good thing, but in this case, it was the heat that distracted from the spectacular view. We pried open the one small windows in the once-cheery yellow room to get some fresh in and discovered we had to prop open the door with a piece of luggage to get some circulation (which, as it turned out, also helped with the wifi connection). It didn’t matter. It was miserable. We were at seaside, so it shouldn’t have been surprising to also find sand in the room and those little, terrible flies coming in the open window. We left our clothes in our zippered luggage.

Hot and sweating, we decided to head to the beach just before sunset.  It was worth it all. Just spectacular.

!Nature, Donegal, Europe, Hotels, Ireland, Sandhouse Hotel, beach

The Food  On the way back from the beach we tried to get to a deck we noticed while on the shore. We scrambled up a little path only to find a service entrance to the kitchen and loading dock of some kind. Not to be deterred, we soldered on and pushed aside a wooden gate barely holding on by a couple of rusted screws and found the deck! A few folks were sitting at equally worn wooden picnic benches, looking up just briefly to notice the newcomers and return to their half-empty pints and overflowing cigarette ash trays. I couldn’t imagine staying here, so we ventured off to catch the sunset on another, small deck, this one at a half floor off the main staircase – sort of like finding platform 9 ¾ at Kings Cross. We found it and settled into the small, cozy space with a few others enjoying a couple of cocktails and light snacks for dinner. Nothing too bad to report; we made the best of it.

!Nature, Donegal, Europe, Hotels, Ireland, Sandhouse Hotel, beach

Breakfast was in the dining room, The Glasshouse Restaurant. Since we skimped on dinner the night before, we were ravenous and thoroughly delighted with our meal. I had the fresh kippers along with more traditional breakfast fare. Steven had the full Irish breakfast. We really did enjoy ourselves at our seaside table reading over the days itinerary and planning our route down to Cong and The Lodge at Ashford Castle. In retrospect, we should have explored the hotel more. It turns out there was a seaside bar, which we tried to find but couldn’t, the Seashell Restaurant, and a spa.

!Nature, Donegal, Europe, Hotels, Ireland, Sandhouse Hotel, beach !Nature, Donegal, Europe, Hotels, Ireland, Sandhouse Hotel, beach

A final note about The Glasshouse Restaurant. One reason we decided on skipping dinner here, aside from the price, was that it was quite the formal affair. Gentlemen were in ties and ladies in their finest dresses. The menu looked interesting but quite expensive. Apparently, this restaurant has won a number of accolades including awards from Lucinda O'Sullivan. These are quite prestigious honors within Ireland. By all appearances, The Glasshouse Restaurant is a destination in itself even if the hotel is a bit of a shambles.

!Nature, Donegal, Europe, Hotels, Ireland, Sandhouse Hotel, beach

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Four Seasons, Goldfinch Tavern, Hamburger, Restaurants

Goldfinch Tavern

December 16, 2016

Four Seasons Goldfinch Tavern

Steven and I met one day around lunch time to take in the SAM main museum’s exhibit on fashion designer Yves St. Lauren. Steven had to return to work but I wanted something to eat. Since I don't get a chance to come downtown very often, I wanted to find a place for lunch I'd never been to. After wandering around the SAM neighborhood a little, considering this and that restaurant, I remembered that some friends of ours always rave about the burger at the Four Seasons Goldfinch Tavern. Steven also mentioned he had heard the same. That tipped the scale for me. Goldfinch it would be. 

One thing about the Four Seasons, it’s classy. On entering the lobby, you immediately feel comfortable without being at all ‘fancy’ in that Georgian, pillared look of some classic hotels. No gilded trim, just simple treatment of wood and stone.

The Tavern is situated to take advantage of a nearly unobstructed view of Elliott Bay. The ‘nearly’ unobstructed part comes due to the presence of our Viaduct. Once it’s torn down, maybe in 2018, the expanse of waterfront and all the water traffic will be cleared for viewing. Like the lobby, the Tavern is simply designed and comfortable. The hostess was going to seat me in the main seating area, but I really didn’t want to take up a table by myself, so I took the only seat left at the bar.

Water was set down almost immediately by some swift and nearly invisible back waiter. Swoosh the water appears…swoosh the bar menu is set down in front of me in a ballet movement of the bar tender. Ah, I thought to myself…I’m off to a lovely lunch. And I was. Here’s the link to the full lunch menu: Goldfinch Tavern Lunch.

I looked over the wine and cocktail list, deciding on a red, a Pinot. They listed a red wine from Stoller Family Estates, one of our wine club memberships. Unfortunately the list just said Stoller Pinot Noir not very helpful. I asked the bar tender to say a bit more about the bottle, but he didn’t seem to know that much other than it was a Pinot. In fairness, he wasn’t probably ready for too deep of a conversation about Stoller, so I’ll give him a pass. It turned out we have that one in the cellar already. I went for something new: Gloria Ferrer, Carneros Pinot Noir and the Goldfinch Burger.

The Carneros is a beautiful wine from a winemaker I hadn’t paid much attention to in the past. I will now. Like most Pinots, they are light on the tongue but leave different impressions. This one was balanced, a bit toward the fruity side. VERY easy to drink. I should mention that the bar tender was not shy about the pour. He filled my glass over half way. I’m guessing it was 8-10 oz.

The Goldfinch Burger was not as much of a success as the wine. Swift service didn’t outweigh the fact that my medium rare burger arrived medium. The saving grace were the fries with dill aioli and the fact that the burger was made from Waygu beef. Unlike Aqua’s burger, this one tried too hard to be a success with having too many toppings: Beecher’s cheese, fennel aioli, house made pickle (yum) and smoke onion marmalade. It was not a failure by any means, just not as good as Aqua's and it cost $4 more. Next time, I’m trying the Lobster Roll.

Four Seasons, Goldfinch Tavern, Restaurants

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Prime Rib, Sous Vide

Prime Rib 2 – Sous Vide Style

Christmas Day dinner with friends began the day before with the arrival of a hefty 3-rib prime rib roast. We knew that to sous vide a roast this size would take many, many hours, so it was necessary to have it handy Christmas morning to start the sous vide process.

It's gotten to be our tradition to have Christmas dinner with our friend David (ever since Steven had foot surgery Christmas Eve a few years back). In exchange for us cooking dinner, David provides the most wonderful prime rib roasts. He gets them at Metropolitan Market in West Seattle. This year's roast is from the blade end so it has a little more marbling - perfect! See our earlier post for tips on buying your rib roasts:

We consulted two websites for information and recipes on all-things sous vide: ChefSteps and Anova Culinary. We bought the Joule sold by ChefSteps, and that gave us access to their Premium area that contains extensive resources and training videos as well as other opportunities the Joule team dreams of. Plus we just like that ChefSteps is local, located in our very own Pike Place Market.

Shop our other recommendations here.

From a web search for sous vide prime rib recipes, we landed back at ChefSteps. Here’s the link to their  herb crusted (prime) rib roast recipe, which they say was inspired by their own traditional rib roast recipe. At this writing, we’re having difficulty accessing the link on the iPad, but it works just fine on the iPhone, Samsung Galaxy, and MacBook Air. Hey Joule Team, you might want to look into this.


From ChefSteps:

ChefSteps Variation Temp & Time
-1 Prime rib (rib roast), about 3 ribs Ours was a “chuck” or blade end roast with 3 ribs, but the butcher cut it close to the 4th rib giving us more meaty goodness. Complete with herb crust. 128F, 7 hours. ChefSteps meat guide places this in the Medium Rare category, just as we like it.

Timing was a bit longer than ChefSteps says (their’s puts it between 3 and 5 hours). We were having too much pre-dinner fun and just that puppy sit in the water, knowing it wouldn’t over cook.

Love this about sous vide!

The prep time takes a lot longer that you might think. That’s why we opted for a pre-prepped roast, saving us probably an hour or so. Remember, we’re novices at preparing such a large roast, it might take you a lot less time.

Before going into the sous vide, ChefSteps recommends browning it on all sides. This just takes maybe 3 minutes on each side – about 10-12 minutes total.

Be careful not to burn the roast so use a lower temp than we would in searing fish for instance.

-Rosemary-garlic (3 cloves crushed)
-No variation
-No variation
-One sprig, cut in two pieces
-4 cloves crushed
For herb crust:
-Herbs (fresh such as rosemary and thyme)
-Black pepercorns, whole
-Salt, Maldonado flake
-1 egg white
-Stock, beef
-We skipped this entirely as our roast was pre-herbed from the butcher.  
-To french or not? Nope, no Frenching for us.  
-Scoring sides Nope, didn’t do this either. Sounded too complicated, plus we didn’t French it so we thought to skip this.  
-Separating Bones Once again, we didn’t need this step as our butcher already took the rib bones off the roast and tied the roast back together.  
-Removing membrane We seriously thought about this step, and…yep, decided to skip it. No particular reason expect we were not feeling too motivated Christmas morning what with all the presents to open and such.  
- Salt & pepper
- Rosemary
- garlic
- cooking oil
After seasoning roast on all sides, sear in pan over medium heat. We used a cast iron pan, which heats evenly and keep the heat longer than other pans we have.

This smokes up the house, so turn up the exhaust fan to high!

Bag it and get it going We don’t have sous vide bags, so we doubled bagged it in oven roasting bags. ChefSteps cautions against using regular zip close freezer bags for longer cooking as the seams my give out.

Otherwise, we followed their guidelines and placed the roast in the inner bag along with the rosemary springs and crushed garlic.

We used the water seal method since we don’t have a sealer (submerge the bag in water to force the air out then fold and clip to seal). This works just fine.

- 4-6 hours
7 hours was our total time in the sous vide. Even at this length of time, the roast felt a little too squishy. We feared it would be European rare, which is cool…not something we like.

- 475F oven for 5-15 minutes

Oven sear for 10 minutes. Our roast was PERFECTLY cooked, but we wanted a little extra crisp, so we put the roast in the oven as ChefSteps suggested
Sauce This got a little interesting. We kept the juices from the roasting bag and used it as the base for our sauce.

I had a little kitchen accident – knocking the sauce pan off the stove. Maybe it was being bowled over by the beauty of the roast, or it could have been due to the glasses of wine consumed during oysters and our first course.

Luckily I had a back-up sauce from another meal and just enhanced it with what was salvaged from the spill.

The roast ready to start in the sous vide bath:

Prime Rib, Sous Vide

This was probably the most delicious, tender, perfectly cooked rib roast we’ve ever cooked or had at a restaurant. Honestly, it was. We’re not kidding.

We had plenty of left overs from the four of us, and that was with a couple of people going back for seconds. Alas, my sauce didn’t last.

Accompanying our Christmas Day meal was a potato-noodle savory kugel and roasted carrots and green beans seasoned with garlic, salt, pepper and Harissa.

We can’t recommend sous vide cooking enough. Since getting our Joule a month or so ago, we’ve experimented with several meals, most turned out exceptionally well. Go get yourself one of these, it’s not just kitchen toy, it’s really very useful as an all-around tool for the home cook.

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Bully's, California, Del Mar, Dining, Prime Rib, Steak

Bully’s Del Mar


1404 Camino Del Mar (Hwy 101)

Del Mar CA 92014



Sept. 3, 2016


Open since 1967, Bully’s is one of those hometown classics before cuisine got all fancy. I grew up with such a place in my hometown called Skips and another not far away called Heston’s back in the day, and now renamed as  Heston’s Supper Club.  What these all have in common is being a meeting place for locals. A place you’d feel comfortable in no matter who was there. That’s the kind of atmosphere you find at Bully’s in Del Mar, California.


You can’t honestly describe Bully’s as trendy, or even catering to the current rage of naming which farm, butcher, baker, or cheese monger provided the ingredients for your meal. This is not that kind of place…thank goodness. Located on west side of  the upscale main drag in Del Mar, at 1404 Camino Del Mar (better known as Highway 101), Bully’s pulls in a decidedly local crowd – a crowd full of ‘characters’, old timers, and family’s out for a good, simple meal.


Bully’s prides itself on serving the ‘finest Prime Rib in San Diego since 1967,’ Montana raised, corn fed Angus beef  using no antibiotics or hormones. You can get a lot more than prime rib at Bully’s but this is what they are known for and it’s what we ordered.


Bully’s doesn’t take reservations for party’s under 6, but you are encouraged to call about ½ hour before you want to arrive so they will have a table for you. We wanted to enjoy the Pacific sunset before having dinner, so we called a little before 7pm, enjoyed a cocktail at the condo, then headed down to Del Mar.


Two things you should know about this part of Del Mar. There is the  L’ Auberge Del Mar, a 4-Star destination luxury hotel just down the street from Bully’s, along with quite a few upscale eateries, bars, and café’s. Second, it’s in the middle of the block with little on-street parking, but a good amount of parking adjacent to the building which you get to by going down an ally just west of 101.


Bully’s is showing it’s age for sure, but not decrepit, just showing the signs of having been loved…a lot. We came in, were greeted promptly and seated by the hostess at a booth made for many more than two. The main room wasn’t jammed but the bar area was hopping. The interior is a funny mix of red leatherette banquettes, thick timbers framing distinct parts of the room with their own roofs, and heavy wooden, low-backed club chairs. It reminded me of the Con Tiki Lounge in Chicago where each seating area had it’s own thatched roof. Okay, not quite the Kon Tiki, but a western style cowboy esthetic. You get the picture.


A basket of warm breads were on our table before we settled in to our banquette. Kelly, our waitress, came right over to take drink orders. We ordered a pre-dinner cocktail. For me a Manhattan and for Steven a Bombay Safire Martini up with olives, very dry. It turns out Kelly has been working in the restaurant business for many years, and is herself seen by some patrons as a familiar pal…sometime the consequences of which are a bit, shall we say, too familiar? Kelly is a good soul, taking her work seriously and with professional curtesy.


The menu has a good range of offerings, but you’d clearly be in the minority if you didn’t order some cut of beef. We chose The Man O’ War cut, a whopping 40 oz Bully cut of prime rib. If you want to learn about it’s namesake, visit Wikipedia’s link on this legend of a horse. When sharing for two you aren’t penalized like some restaurants who add a split-plate charge. Bully’s embraces sharing…again, this is a restaurant keyed into community, friends, and family – so no surprises there. Included in the price ($76.00) we got an additional soup or salad plus another side dish. We bot chose soups, Steven had the French Onion and I had the Albondigas. For our sides, Steven chose the baked potato (no sour cream for him, just butter and chives) and I had the grilled asparagus.


The French Onion soup was very tasty and  loaded with melted cheese, but could have stayed under the broiler a little longer. My Albondigas hit the spot, though I have to say it did remind me vaguely of Campbell’s Vegetable Beef Soup. I doubt very much it was canned – the veg was too crunchy and the cilantro too fresh.

Bully's, California, Del Mar, Dining, Prime Rib, Steak

Next came the star attraction, the 40 oz of beef! As you can tell, it was pretty big and perfectly medium rare and served with house-made horseradish cream and a jus. We started our attack by cutting off the cap and sharing it. Then we went for the center, the prize to many, the eye. It practically cut with your fork it was so tender. With little fat in this part of the steak I used some of the horseradish to give it a little kick. We took our time working around the beast, but couldn’t finish. We ended up taking about ¼ home, including the bone. We both think the bone is the best part so we wouldn’t have left it behind in any case.


To accompany all this richness Kelly suggested we shared a bottle of a 2013 Russian River Pinot Noir from Rodney Strong Estate Vineyards.  She likes Pinot’s as do we so no arm twisting needed. The wine is not as full as we are used to from Oregon, not like the Stoller Pinot’s we love, but it was pretty good. The finish was weak, but it did hold up well to the richness of the meat and sides. You should know, Bully’s is more about the cocktails than the wine list. Go with an open mind and you’ll be happy.

Bully's North, California, Del Mar, Dining, Restaurants


Bully's North, California, Del Mar, Dining, Restaurants


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La Sirena, NYC, New York, New York City, Restaurants

La Sirena – New York

Dinner for our night in New York before once again boarding the Queen Mary 2 (see our last trip) was at La Sirena, a Mario Batali venture just in its 5th month. It’s a large, open space, so different than the current trend toward ‘micro’ restaurants. Of course, it’s a gamble to produce the high quality dishes typical out of a smaller kitchen, where attention to detail is a trademark.

La Sirena, New York, North America, Restaurants, USA

We had an early seating, mostly due to wanting to have time for cocktails on the Viceroy’s The Roof terrace later and be ready for bed early.

The staff was prompt, generous with their time in explaining the menu. I questioned portion sizes because American pasta portions are just huge, and if you want a multi-course meal it’s just ridiculous to be served an Olive Garden-sized plate of noodles and then have room to enjoy an entrée.

Our waiter said the kitchen would create the meal as we wished. If we wanted to share antipasti and salad courses, but wanted to selfishly have our own Secundi and Primi courses, so be it…which is precisely what we did.

We weren’t in any hurry, so we asked the Sommelier, Michelle, to offer up suggestions for champagne to start us out. She suggested a wonderful Champagne from Bordeaux.  It was just what we wanted at a good price too, given how restaurants mark up their liquor. We sipped and talked for quite awhile, the wait staff watching our pace from behind the scenes. Michelle needs a shout out here. She was not only knowledgeable, but kind enough to lead us to just the right red wine with dinner; ‘a Rina 2014 Etna Rosso Girolamo Russo, a Pinot Noir from Mt. Etna. Being from the Pacific Northwest, I wanted to particularly try a Pinot with the minerality forwarding the volcanic notes we’re used to. You could really taste the new earth of Mt. Etna but not in a slap ‘yo Mamma kind of way, but a robust, unashamed vintage.

Drinks, La Sirena, New York, North America, Restaurants, USA, Wine

Given all the various courses and combinations of proteins and sauces, this was no easy feat…but not a challenge for Michelle. She was just great on all accounts.

In short, the meal stood up to our strange ordering pattern and food requirements. This is what our table ordered:


  • Soft Shelled Crab with rossato and fresh herbs, two orders thank you very much
  • Barrolo fresh mozzarella, English Pea purée
Food, La Sirena, New York, North America, Restaurants, USA Food, La Sirena, New York, North America, Restaurants, USA

I am crazy for soft-shelled crab and cannot find it easily in Seattle. I guess the local purveyors and restaurateurs just haven’t caught on to the love of soft-shelled crab. Seattle is Dungeness land, so no surprise.  Our server explained they were cooked in the traditional way, just dredged in seasoned flour and fried up. Perfection. No messing with it, straight forward and delicious. We had two orders of the crab and I think I ate most of them.


  • Frisée Salad with soft poached egg, pepperoni lardon and potato

Food, La Sirena, New York, North America, Restaurants, USA


  • Tortellini stuffed with cheeses, in a brown butter gremolatta
  • Black Squid ink pasta with local lobster (NO one touch my pasta course!…okay, I did share, but just a little)
Food, La Sirena, New York, North America, Restaurants, USA Food, La Sirena, New York, North America, Restaurants, USA


  • Pork Loin Chop, rib-in, garbanzo purée and shaved fennel

Food, La Sirena, New York, North America, Restaurants, USA


  • Chocolate Brownie with wonderful Grenache  and soft ice cream
  • Doppio Espresso and Americano finished out our meal.

Food, La Sirena, New York, North America, Restaurants, USA


Food, La Sirena, New York, North America, Restaurants, USA

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