my favorite butter

i have a problem with peanut butter. a huge problem. and i feel like i need to talk about it. literally, i'm addicted. i try to go off the butter, but every time i'm in a supermarket i hear the preserves aisle calling my name. and then it's in my cart. i don't even know how it got there.

the first time i allowed myself to dip my toe in the european peanut butter pond (not literally), i was in amsterdam. leaving the comfort of my hostel's free breakfasts (which also often served as lunches), i was forced to buy groceries to live on while staying with my couch surfing host. as she was pretty fussy about random things, i used the excuse that i needed to get food that did not require refrigeration and didn't take up space. rice cakes and dutch peanut butter it is!

there are generally a few types of pb anywhere you go (light, smooth, extra crunchy) but there were several types of dutch peanut butter. like at least seven. not knowing the language, i had no idea what i was picking, so i tried to do the responsible thing and pick the one with the least amount of calories per 100g. when i couldn't figure out the nutrition label, i turned to the only other source of information at hand, and picked the one with the most attractive label. it was delicious. very creamy, and tasted almost like almond butter or a slightly sweeter version of actual peanut butter. it was gone in a matter of days, until i was left basically licking the jar at the bus station.

next it was on to france, where i actually skipped the pb all together. i know, so healthy right? wrong. i went straight for the nutella. it goes better with baguettes/croissants anyway. i did the same in spain actually, where nutella is much cheaper and easier to come by. those are my excuses and i'm standing by them.

in london, being without for about a month, i was planning to go off the peanut butter all together and be healthy. london knew i didn't really want to do that though, so when i showed up at the local sainsburys of course a pot of pb was on special for 65p. oh, london. you know me so well. how was i to resist?! plus, it was crunchy which is obviously the best kind of peanut butter in the world. i'm not embarrassed that i went through a jar a week. ok, maybe i'm a little embarrassed.

in ireland, the most frequently found brand of peanut butter is panda and features an incredibly ridiculous looking bear. an obvious choice for branding? the only unfortunate thing was the price. one of the reasons peanut butter is a great food for travelers is the low cost per meal it affords. in ireland, however, a jar will set you back 4+ €, maybe 3€ if it's on special. this meant that my only brush with peanut butter in ireland was a sketchy jar on the "free food" shelf in my hostel that i didn't dare taste. even if i am 2/3 done with my rabies vaccination series.

while i'm sure this isn't the last of my "experimentation" in different countries and their peanut butter, i'm also sure that the entertainment value of this post for you isn't worth a follow up post. besides, what would i name it? "peanut butter, the sequel?" "pb2?" give me some credit, i'd obviously name it something much more creative that i won't share here. you know. so you don't steal the name. for your peanut butter blog. (buying it? no?)

temple bar

to be honest, i'm not really sure why i started a blog post on temple bar, a section of town in dublin. the only reason i can really think of is that it's listed as a "must see" by many guidebooks and previous tourists of dublin. that and it has cobblestone streets, and we all know how much travelers/tourists love cobblestone streets. the disappointing news is i learned from takin a free walking tour that the apparent authenticity from the presence of cobblestone streets is actually slightly less "genuinely old fashioned" than one might think.

once upon a time, temple bar was actually a rather run down or derelict part of dublin. the area was one of those typical bohemian artistic centers, and i'm having a really hard time dealing with the fact that i used the word "derelict" without some reference to zoolander. anyway, it was the center for these people to move to, mostly because it was affordable under the often limited budget of an artist. as the story goes in other cities, however, this of course eventually turned temple bar into a "trendy" area, which increased the rent, and drove out the bohemians.

today temple bar is still the home to many different artistic venues like photography exhibits, street performers, and even an independent film theater (where i made sure to catch the least indie film available starring seth rogan and michelle williams). the area is one of the main attractions for tourists, and i spent a decent amount of pub time in the many different venues available. the cobblestones, though seeming to fit the mold of appearing in an old "artistic" part of town unfortunately are new and were moved from another part of town to temple bar to give tourists the authentic vibe they crave when visiting this part of town.

so, i guess temple bar is just another bit of the infamous irish humor, and we're all just a bunch of suckers. i was anyway.



as most people go to amsterdam for the drugs, it seems most people also go to dublin for the pubs. much like in the case with my trip to amsterdam, however, i had a few other reasons for visiting dublin up my sleeve. and no, it has nothing to do with "being irish." (isn't almost everyone in america at least a little irish?) while i did a little pubbing of my own, one of the greater pulls for my visit to dublin was my bookworm side.

there is so much history to this city and so many great authors lived there. james joyce, oscar wilde, bram stoker, george bernard shaw, jonathan swift. and those are just the safe names that most average people are familiar with. i won't dare list some of the others that made me excited. there were so many places that carried inspiration for some of the great stories these authors had written and so many pubs and cafes they previously visited. it was cool for a nerd like me to have a chance to walk in their shoes.

it's not all history and nerdy bookish tourism stops in dublin as you might imagine. the city definitely has a bit of a hard edge to it. the first hint i got of this was the hostel pub crawl. while most of the hostels i've stayed in run a pub crawl, dublin is the only place i have been so far that the pub crawl goes every night including sunday. i myself chose to have more of a casual sunday (i'm a nana, what can i say?), but roaming around the streets at night i noticed that every pub i passed was packed. sunday funday to the fullest. which begs the question, is new york really deserving of the title "the city that never sleeps?"

back to my point about being irish, i guess i did care a little bit that i was visiting the land of my ancestors. or at least i thought i was. you definitely feel irish with a name like Quigley, until you're standing in front of the standard coat of arms key ring stand in a dublin tourist shop and Quigley is no where to be found. so maybe i'm not as irish as i thought, but i'll continue to maintain my heritage. at least on march 17th.



by now you know that i have been spending a lot of meal times in grocery stores and dairies. or with my face buried in a roll of digestives. since i'm traveling on a budget with no immediate plans for additional funding (unless of course anyone would like to donate to the cause), this has been a really cost effective way of preventing starvation and a great way to try a lot of the local foods. that makes it sound like i'm delving into local markets in the tropics, which isn't exactly the same but kind of is at the same time if you think about it.

when one of my close friends from college got engaged (yay!) and told me she was scheduled to be in london during my last few nights in town (YAY!), it was time to take a break from coupon cutting and head out for a night on the town. another friend who used to live in london recently and who is a supreme foodie gave us a few recommendations, so we combed through the list and decided to go out to dinner at a place called elliot's cafe near london bridge.

elliot's was located near one of the larger markets in london called borough market. the whole idea is that elliot's takes whatever is available and fresh at the market, and creates a menu based on what is available. i'm not sure how often the menu changes. it probably changes seasonally, but it would be SO cool if it changed daily. so let's pretend a little guy named elliot combs the market daily for the best of the best and prepares the menu shortly after gathering ingredients. this theory also makes for a good reason to have a photo i took of the menu included in this post, so we're going with it.

i don't mean to sound like i'm auditioning as a writer for michelin guides, but this place was a total five-starrer. we put ourselves (or at least our stomachs) in the hands of the waitress and allowed her to pick out pretty much our entire meal from wine to dessert (yes, DESSERT!!). everything was incredible and fresh and delicious.

thanks SO much, libby, for the amazing recommendation! and of course thanks to lauren for the good company!


the united kingdom of snacks

back at home in the US, we have a pretty good range of snack time food available in our local supermarkets. though not always the best foods for you and sometimes infamously processed (i.e. twinkies or pretty much anything made by hostess), if hunger strikes you know you've always or a friend in the confectionary/chips aisle. i'm pretty patriotic in this sense and until recently believed the US dominated the on-the-go snack category. recently being when i arrived in the UK.

maybe it had to do with being in love with london and thus blurring any potential imperfections, but almost every snack i ate ended with me stating "this is my new favorite snack." i left the UK with a lot of "new favorite" snacks, but there were definitely some that stood out among the others. and some that have developed into addictions worthy of a rehabilitation program.

my parents traveled a lot when i was younger and frequently brought back treats from europe, asia, and the uk, so when i arrived i was knowledgable enough to head straight for the cadbury racks at the supermarket. cadbury fruit and nut bars were always a favorite of my mom and step dad, but of course i wanted nothing to do with anything that didn't at least involve some caramel when i was younger. now that i've matured and developed a more refined taste necessary to truly appreciate a candy bar, however, i decided to give these chocolate bars another go. what a great/terrible decision. they were nothing like what i remembered, and were completely and utterly delicious. and on special in sainsburys offering 4 bars for 1£. so, at least i was getting my "5 a day" one way or another.

if my roommate in college (yes, roommate is both versions of english since we did live in the same bedroom) taught me one thing, it was that you always need a little salty with your sweet. that's a joke that almost no one but her will find funny, but if it made her do an embarrassing snorting noise reading this in her office, then it was worth it. taking this "advice" into consideration, i sought out a little salty to go with all that chocolate and discovered the wonderful world of english crisps. ok, i'm not really a huge chip eater in general and with flavor offerings like "cheese and bacon," i didn't really have anything tempting me to jump on the wagon, but i did find a few crisp alternatives that became fast favorites.

while in NZ there seemed to be a divide between vegemite and marmite, due to the number of marmite products and sheer availability of the spread versus vegemite, the preference was made perfectly clear in the UK. among these snacks were some marmite flavored rice cakes which peaked my interest. don't even TRY to make fun of me for enjoying rice cakes either. it's just about my one redeeming quality as far as my health is concerned. they might not necessarily be a snack enjoyed by all, but it was a nice little twist on one if my staple snacks.

my favorite by far was sweet and salty popcorn. so maybe this was a bit of a two in one deal as far as "a little salty with my sweet" goes, but trust me the quality was far from most botched combination efforts (i'm thinking of shampoo + conditioners of course). i assumed this was a simpler title for what we call "kettle corn" in the US, and i honestly can't outline the difference to you, but trust me it's different. whatever that secret difference ingredient is makes sweet and salty popcorn awesome and it's likely i'll never be able to have kettle corn again without facing disappointment.

last but not least, of course, were the infamous and addictive mcvities digestives. i'm sure most of you don't need me to describe these graham cracker-like biscuits that come plain, topped with milk or dark chocolate, or even topped with chocolate AND files with caramel these days. these biscuits are a british classic and for good reason. if my country made these cookies, i'd make sure the whole world knew they were american. i'd probably even pretend to be related to whoever created the recipe. depends how many glasses of wine i've had really.

i won't go into how many rolls of these i ate my way through while i was in the UK. it's embarrassing. i mean but if they didn't WANT you to eat the entire roll in one sitting, they wouldn't make a package that isn't resealable. right?


you can find me in da pub

i came back to london a day earlier than my friend i was staying with to make an immunization appointment i had scheduled, so instead of staying at her place in streatham (and probably over OVER staying my welcome), i booked a hostel for my last week in london. since it wasn't the height of olympic activity, the prices were much more reasonable and it was kind of nice to have the opportunity to stay in the city so my schedule wasn't dictated by a train schedule. plus, like many of the hostels in london, mine was located above a pub, which sounded to me like just about the coolest most london-y (that's a word - i just made it) thing i could do for my last week in this fabulous city.

unfortunately, staying above a pub actually ended up being a bit more romanticized in my head than how it actually was. walking up the staircase in the back of the pub covered in old english printed carpets didn't help to immediately erase the notion that this was going to be a "cool" experience. my rose colored glasses were not smashed right away due to any lack of cleanliness or decor, and it took a few hours for them to adjust to the harsh light of reality. (oooooh! ahhhh! metaphors!)

it started to hit me when i walked into my room. i knew i was staying in a "mixed 15 person" room, to which i was no stranger. instead of the double bunk beds i had been accustomed to in previous hostels, however, here i was faced with a triple bunk - three people sleeping on top of each other. not so bad, until you realize the beds are made with support similar to that offered from a metal clothes hanger and that every time anyone moves the entire bed shakes enough to register on the richter scale. guess who had top bunk...

also, i'm not sure what "mixed" means in UK english, because i was the only female sleeping in my room. i know some of you are thinking about my awesome odds in this situation, but my company consisted of two old smelly men who snored, one hippie potentially american guy and his tiny sidekick who only spoke spanish, and four italian guys who didn't look a day over 14 and didn't talk to each other a decibel below screaming 24/7. so, no thanks. this made already complicated hostel behavior like changing your clothes quite difficult. i was watched even once when i was putting leggings on underneath a dress i was wearing. and trust me, with my balance i was in no way making this act sexy.

all in all, i've stayed in much worse before. like much worse only a couple of weeks prior in barcelona. so i really can't complain. i had good wifi, hot showers, and was near a park so i could go on morning runs.

apart from this blog entry, i'm still willing to blur some of the details to continue romanticizing the idea of staying above a pub in london. at least to anyone i talk to who hasn't read this, and if you have and i start telling you how "amaaaazing" it was, do me the favor of simply nodding and smiling.