Ard Bia at Nimmos - The One Place You Must Eat in Galway




After a unhurried drive from Dublin to the county Galway, we were looking forward to reservations at a restaurant that we had been eyeing for months. I had heard about Ard Bia at Nimmos from another travel blogger, and it was love at first sight.

There were four of us, and after mastering the art of driving a car on the wrong side of the road--on the wrong side of the car--we made it to Galway unscathed by the many winding roads and roundabouts that blanket the Emerald Isle. The trip had been nothing but enjoyable. After all, it's hard to be anything but elated when traveling the Irish countryside. Even the weather couldn't deter us from accepting the cheerful, friendly demeanor of the locals.

As the sky drizzled and umbrellas sprung up, the streets remained covered with pub-goers, tourists and the occasional street performer. The yeast from local bars wafted into the air as we made our way down the narrow cobblestone streets to our foodie destination.

Ard Bia at Nimmos is one of Galway's most iconic restaurants. As we toured the cluttered stores, killing time before our dinner, we were asked by several shopkeepers about our next meal. When we mentioned Ard Bia, their faces immediately lit up with approval. "Yes! You are in for a real treat," said the Irish stranger with a thick accent. "That's the place to be."

With even more encouragement than before, we arrived at our reservation a half hour early. The doors hadn't been opened, but we could hear the muffled clinks of pots and pans behind the windows of the restaurant. Less modern than many shops on the main strip, Ard Bia looked far more classical. The stone walls and brilliant red door were adorned with awards, as if to shout the excellence of the food to anyone who approached. We looked at our watches and decided that we had some time to complete a walk--the Long Walk.

As we proceeded down the famous path, I couldn't help but sing to myself.

"The Galway Girl"

Well, I took a stroll on the old long walk
Of a day -I-ay-I-ay
I met a little girl and we stopped to talk
Of a fine soft day -I-ay-I-ay
And I ask you, friend, what's a fella to do
'Cause her hair was black and her eyes were blue
And I knew right then I'd be takin' a whirl
'Round the Salthill Prom with a Galway girl...
The air smelled of fish, and the grass enveloping the water was sprinkled with couples holding hands and students from the local university strumming on their guitars. After a leisurely jaunt, we made our way back to the stone walls of Ard Bia.

The interior was nothing like the outside. Everything was warm and inviting--it was like visiting a sweet smelling bed and breakfast. The walls were white and dusted with antique trinkets like candle holders, old books and dusty bottles. Tables were set to perfection with delicate napkins, wine glasses, and silver cutlery. We were quickly seated and began selecting our meals for the evening.

Cauliflower risotto, cavolo nero, picada, Cais na Tire hard cheese 
Morgan’s rib eye, lemon crushed potato, Galway greens, chimichurri 
Pan roasted Atlantic hake, roast garlic + lovage gnocchi, chard, thyme butter and clams
Everything on the menu was incredible. Of course, we passed around our selections so everyone could sample the different flavors. The steak was juicy, the fish was fresh, and the risotto was creamy and satisfying. It was impossible to pick a favorite. The menu changes seasonally, so the selections are always made with the freshest ingredients Ireland has to offer. The Summer Menu was exceptional. Even the bread and butter that comes with the meal was delightful. The bread was warm, and the butter had herbs that gave a kick on the first bite. Ard Bia was living up to the hype.

They also offered an array of local wines and beers. Several of the boys on the trip went for The White Stag Irish IPA, which they said was very crisp and paired wonderfully with the meal. I was able to get a glass of white wine to go with mine.

If being voted the friendliest city in the world by Travel and Leisure isn't enough to bring you to Galway, the food, culture and many pubs are sure to do the trick.

Be sure to make reservations if you plan on eating at Ard Bia. They open for select times of the day, and serve different menus for lunch and dinner. The lunch menu also includes a few breakfast items. If you want a more extensive menu, visit for supper. It's a culinary experience that is a little more high-end (and slightly more expensive), but worth every Euro!

With bellies full, we did what anyone in Ireland would do...we headed straight to the pubs. And we spent the rest of the evening enjoying the sites and sounds of beautiful Galway.



One Week in Ireland: My Photo Album


There are few places on earth more beautiful than the Emerald Isle. Two weeks ago, I was traipsing through the country discovering cathedrals, castles, breathtaking scenery and delicious Irish food. We managed to see many of the hotspots on our trip. If you're planning on going, here is what you can accomplish with a week in Ireland.  

Day 1-2: Dublin 





Day 3 - Cliffs of Moher/ Bishops Quarter Beach


Day 4 - Galway


Day 5 - Dingle


Day 6 - Carrick-a-Rede Island and Giant's Causeway


Day 7 - Wicklow County and Glendalough


 


Take a Pit Stop in Lynchburg, Tennessee


July 13, 2016

In the small southern-central city of Lynchburg, Tennessee, you'll find unique shops, restaurants and attractions that can't be found anywhere else in the world. If you're taking a road trip through the south, this is one spot that should be on your list.

Known as the home of Jack Daniel's whiskey, Lynchburg markets its famous product as the only world-famous beverage from a city with one traffic light. Now that I've been there, I'd say that's a pretty accurate claim. But its size only adds to its charm. The downtown area is compact, but chock-full of antique stores, historic sites, Jack Daniel's souvenir shops, and more. An 18th-century court house is situated in the center, surrounded by old-fashioned stops like the Lynchburg Pharmacy, Moon Pie General Store and others.

I was there for the day with my family. The plan was to eat at Miss Mary Bobo's Boarding House and Restaurant. But first, we had to explore the city.

Jack Daniel's Whiskey Distillery

Of course, most people travel to Lynchburg for one reasonthe Jack Daniel's Whiskey Distillery. Our trip didn't include it. Many of the people in our group had already visited before. But, should you want to tour the distillery, you can tag along on one of the daily tours. Just keep in mind that on weekends the wait time to get in can vary. Tours are offered on a first-come, first-serve basis.

The tour does include stairs and some portions take place outside. So if it's a particularly hot day, you might want to consider if you can handle the heat. For us, the day was simply too hot! Bags are not permitted on the tour, and you can only take pictures in certain areas.

Visitors can now take part in the "Flight of Jack Distillery Tour" that ends with a sampling of five Jack Daniel whiskeys: Jack Daniel's Tennessee Whiskey, Jack Daniel's Tennessee Fire, Jack Daniel's Tennessee Honey, Gentleman Jack and Jack Daniel's Single Barrel.

Finally, remember that Lynchburg is a dry county, and has been dry since the time of prohibition. It's technically not legal to buy Jack Daniel's in the city where it's made. You can taste it, and buy commemorative bottles at the local stores. But the product itself can't be purchased in Moore County.

Moore County Jail Museum 

This attraction was a working jail until 1990. Built in 1893, it offers an interesting look into the lives of small-town sheriffs back in the day. Andy Griffith, anyone? For $1, you can have a semi-guided tour of the building, and even walk into the cells where prisoners once stood.

What interested me the most was how the comfort of prisoners was entirely based on how the sheriff was feeling that day. Our tour guide said, "Depending on the prisoners' behavior, the sheriff might deliver their food on time, late or not at all. It really was up to him." It was clear that the prisoners and sheriffs got to know each other very well in the modest, homey jail.

The guide then explained to me that the sheriff's wife had the responsibility of feeding and tending to the prisoners. In the 1880's, it was common for women to have many children, so she was used to cooking for a lot of people. Asking her to cook for prisoners wasn't considered a big deal. She was also in charge of simple health care. It was much rarer back then for people to visit a hospital or call in a doctor. Many times, people took care of their own aliments.

I asked the guide if any famous criminals had spent time in the jail. "You can find Jesse James signature upstairs, but we have no idea whether or not it's authentic," she said.

"How many people can you fit in the cells?" I asked.

"The two cells that you will find upstairs used to have pull-out beds that have since been removed. Actually, they were able to fit 20 men upstairs, if needed."

We turned the corner and made our way up an old staircase that led to the main cells for male occupants. (Women had their own cells downstairs.) The paint was worn and the bars were rusty. It was hard to believe that the jail held prisoners only 30 years ago. The steps creaked as we entered into the well-worn room.

Just as I suspected, the cells looked very small. 20 men? How was this accomplished? My guess was that some people were sleeping standing up. But, comfort wasn't the main priority at Moore's Old County Jail.

To get inside the cells, you had to walk on a small platform with a toilet out in the open. Privacy obviously wasn't a concern either.

The remainder of the tour was mostly antiques that were left from the jail's past. Old radios, phones and booksit was actually really interesting. My favorite was an old tube radio, circa 1940. I could imagine the sounds of jazz and big band hits dancing out of its speakers.

The jail museum is definitely a stop you'll want to make on your visit to Lynchburg.

Moon Pie General Store

In 1917, the famous Moon Pie was a popular snack for coal workers to bring in their lunch pails. Today, the tradition lives on as a sweet, filling snack that's produced in Chattanooga, Tennessee. It's a southern staple. Pair with an RC Cola and you're in business. Downtown Lynchburg has its own Moon Pie monument in the form of an quaint general store.
You think you know everything about Moon Pies, but here you can find different varieties, sizes and flavors. There's even t-shirts, magnetseverything a true Moon Pie fan could desire. 

Miss Mary Bobo's Boarding House Restaurant

We heard the lunch bell ring and quickly walked back to the pristine, white boarding house. My stomach started to growl as we walked inside.

The boarding house has been open since 1908, and Miss Mary Bobo served patrons at her boarding house until she was just shy of 102 years old. It's a well-known establishment to the locals, and most months the boarding house has visitors from every state in the U.S. In June 2016, I heard they had guests from 41 statesa little less than normal, according to our host. With all of the incoming traffic, guests should call for reservations well before their visit, if possible.


The restaurant is still set up to treat guests like they are "boarders." In fact, just walking into the house feels like you are there to meet with your grandmother for a Sunday afternoon lunch. It isn't until you notice the large gift shop to the right that things seem out of place.

Speaking of the gift shop, it's a lovely room that has shelves full of fun trinkets and southern-themed steals. One of the most popular items, of course, is the Miss Mary Bobo official cookbook. The menu items that are served to guests still maintain her original recipes, making the eatery even more genuine.

When the bell is rung, guests are told to join a host and gather in an assigned boarding room. We had over 12 guests, so some of us were separated from the group into another room. This is something to consider if you plan on taking a large party for a meal. To add to the experience, each group gets its own host for the table. That's rightsomeone from the Mary Bobo staff sits at your table with you to tell you about the history behind the restaurant and fun facts about Miss Mary.

Our lunch was already on the table as we entered the room. The food is served by simply passing a plate to the left. The menu varies, but holds on to a few favorites that you are sure to get when you book a reservation. The menu for that day included:

  • Fried chicken
  • Green beans
  • Rolls
  • Potatoes
  • Macaroni and cheese
  • Shredded pork 
  • Fried apples infused with "local product" 

It was home-cooking at its finest. The apples with Jack Daniel's was especially delicious. But don't expect to feel healthy after an afternoon of eating with Miss Mary. I was informed that the fried apple recipe included 1 cup of butter and 4 cups of sugar. Trust me, it's worth the calories!

Just when we thought we couldn't eat anything else, servers went around the table and asked who wanted coffee with their dessert. Dessert?! Somehow, I had to manage it. It was a thick chocolate pie topped with whipped cream that had a little more of the local product dashed inside. There was even a small topper on the pie to celebrate Jack Daniel's 150th anniversary. 

I highly recommend Miss Mary Bobo's not only for a great meal, but for its history and authenticity, as well. It's a unique experience that the whole family is sure to enjoy. Call ahead of time to make reservations and inquire about the menu.

295 Main St. Lynchburg, TN 37352
Reservations:  (931) 759-7394

Lynchburg Winery

Did you know that in the dry county of Lynchburg there is now a place you can visit for local wine tastings? And yes, you can purchase it too! I wondered how all of this worked. Turns out, all Tennessee wineries are exempt from Dry County Statutes because of the Wine and Grape Law that was passed 40 years ago. The Lynchburg Winery is situated in the heart of the downtown square and has been in business since last year.

I knew I had to try some of the local wines before I left. The winery itself has one of the largest wine tasting rooms in the state, and the wine is pretty darn good. The tasting costs a little over $4 for five winesnot a bad price at all. Here are the ones I tried. (Descriptions provided by the Lynchburg Winery tasting menu.)

  • Pinot Grigio – A dry white wine with a fruity aroma and a crisp silky finish.
  • Merlot - Dry, with a bouquet of black cherry and currants. Medium-bodied with a hint of herbs.
  • Southern Tradition - We have a 100% Tennessee white and red Muscadine like grandpa made! 13.5% so it has a kick!
  • Serendipity - Our Signature Southern Wine!  A very fragrant sweet white Muscadine with a fizz.  Fragrant Traditional Muscadine. Best served chilled. Add a few frozen fruits into this party favorite. 
  • Blackberry – This one was not on the menu. It had a rich blackberry aroma and was very sweetalmost juice like. 

Out of all the wines, Serendipity was my favorite. But you can go by and sip the samples for yourself. 

A Worthy Pit Stop

With a little over 6,000 people that make up its population, Lynchburg is a taste of the old south and southern hospitality. There are also a few accommodations nearby if you choose to make a day of it. From Moon Pies for the kids to sophisticated wine tastings, this Tennessee town is a fun, educational and tasty stop on your southern road trip.

What else do you like about Lynchburg? 

How to Get the Best Photos of Rome - Advice from a Local


July 6, 2016

It's all about the light. 

Pietro, my charming Airbnb host, was scanning a map of Rome and giving me expert advice on how to experience the city "the right way."

"There is a certain way to see it," he smiled. "Romait changes with the light. Some places are better in the morning, while others you want to see at sunset. Your eyes will be opened to an entirely different city, depending on when you look at it. I can show you how to get the best photos."

I went on to tell him all of the places that I wanted to visit during my stay in The Eternal City. He would quickly interrupt me after every site I mentioned, divulging more insider info for gathering worthy photos. Carefully, I wrote copious notes in my journal and made plans to see Italy as I was told. He assured me that I would be able to capture the best photos by knowing how the light affects certain sights.

"So, St. Peter's Square in the morning and the Roman Forum at sunset?" I asked as I walked to the balcony to gaze at the basilica in the distance.

"Yes, that should be good," he gestured to the plate of hot pizza and supplì on the dining table. "Enjoy the food. I will leave you now to get your rest."

MORNING: Visit St. Peter's Basilica.

We rushed down the empty streets of Rome on a race with the sunrise to see St. Peter's Basilica. The city was still asleep, and we were one of the only groups headed to the square. Our running came to a halt as we stepped into the column-encircled Vatican City. Before us, a giant obelisk acted like a sundial, politely telling us that we were almost late. The line to get into the basilica had already started forming.

Below me, the ground began to change colors. We had reached the front of the line, only proceeded by a few loyal nuns who were attending Friday morning mass. The statues that lined the tall columns and walkways watched me as I inched closer to entrance. One by one, each saint's silhouette was framed by the golden morning sunlight until their faces became visible. We were able to get into the basilica before the crowds arrived. I wandered the grounds without any pushing and shoving to get a great picture.

Being in the nearly empty cathedral brought tears to my eyes. As I stood before the tomb of St. Peter, a haunting sound seeped from the ground below me. I could hear morning prayers being sung to Peter, praising him in all his glory. There was no one around me but the worn effigy of the saint himself. His foot was missing toes, which was the consequence of countless pilgrims touching and kissing it in hopes of blessings. It was an unscheduled and welcomed moment alone with God.

If you plan on going inside St. Peter's Basilica, do as Pietro told me. Wake up early for your own spectacular sunrise and unforgettable experience.

AFTERNOON: Explore the Pantheon.

The second spot on Pietro's list was the Pantheon, a famous temple located in Piazza della Rotonda. The Pantheon translates to mean "temple of every god," and has been in existence since around 126 AD. When the sun is high in the sky, it shines directly into the building's concrete domeacting as a spotlight for the precious assets tucked inside.

The interior of the dome was meant to represent an arched vault to the heavens. The light inside moves around as a reverse sundial. In the middle of the day, the room was filled with natural lightinggreat for photos.

This is one of the only sights in Rome that you don't need an advance ticket for. The line is always moving, and tourists can come and go as they please. As I moved closer to the center of the room, I noticed that the floor was slightly curved. Another visitor informed me that it acts as a natural drainage system when it rains. Around the edge of the Pantheon, Roman government and history was honored with carefully placed displays. It's all wonderfully lit for your photographing pleasure.

SUNSET: Wander the Roman Forum.

"The Forum looks its best at sunset." That's what Pietro had told me. What used to be a buzzing metropolis of Roman government and business has been reduced to beautiful ruins, and I was about to uncover its stories.

A place that once thrived with power and influence was nothing but a memory, and that struck a nerve for me. It had left a legacyone that echoed with the far-off cries of Julius Cesar and Marc Antony. It was Roman life as it once was, and as it would never be again.

I could see why he suggested sunset, it was perfect for photography. Each layer of historyyears, decades, centurieswas softly unveiled by the late afternoon light. Shadows were cast from one ruin to the next, revealing the sites depth and poetic desperation.

NIGHT: See St. Peter's Square or the Spanish Steps.

When a Roman day comes to an end, there are still plenty of places to see and explore. Pietro suggested a night walk through St. Peter's Square or the Spanish Steps. Both of these places are magnificent under a starry sky, and will allow you to take some artistic and inspired photos.

Because my Airbnb was closer to the square, I opted to visit it on my way back. It was still fairly busy with people at 10 p.m. The fountain was glowing from far away and the statues that watched over the cathedral each had their own light to guide weary travelers home. The warm light spilled from window to window on the cathedral, making it the perfect moment to capture.

Follow the light. 

Next time you head to Rome, remember to harmonize your photos with the ever-changing light. Be present in the moment and take Pietro's advice: "Don't just look at Rome. You have to feel it."

Swedish Meatball Recipe with Try the World



July 1, 2016

Remember the famous episode of Friends when Rachel tries to cook a trifle and accidentally puts beef in it? Sounds like a pretty horrible kitchen faux pas. But tried-and-true Joey inhales the "dessert" as the others watch in disgust. He takes a breath long enough to say, "I mean, what's not to like? Custard, good. Jam, good. Meat, good!" After sampling this recipe, you might find you have more in common with Joey than you thought.

I have to say, I was a little skeptical of putting cream sauce and jam on meatballs. But, oh, how wrong I was! Sweden has dominated the meatball market, as far as I'm concerned.

This month's Try the World subscription box delivered a symphony of Swedish goods that could be used in several recipes. I made sure to sample it all individually before combining them into a dish.


Double Chocolate Crisps by Gille - These cookies were delicious and light. The cookie itself was crispy and crumbly, while the chocolate filling wasn't overly sweet. It pairs very well with another item in the boxcoffee!

Kharisma Coffee by Löfbergs - I brewed this the night I opened the box. To me, the coffee tasted fairly mild but still flavorful. I tried it with cream too. Perfect for Fika (Swedish coffee break)!

Lingonberry Preserves by Hafi - This was my first time sampling LingonberryI'm sold! This jam was very tasty and beat traditional strawberry jam with its hint of chipotle kick.

Original Flatbread Crisps by Mörsjö Deli - Thin and crispy, these tasty snacks were the vehicle I used to sample the Lingonberry and Honey Mustard sauces. It went well with both! They would also be tasty with hummus.

Rosehip Fudge by Nordic Fudge - Not your traditional fudge, these melt-in-your-mouth goodies have a buttery, almost caramel taste to them. The texture is not as creamy as caramel, however. You won't have to worry about these getting caught in your teeth.

Sweet Licorice by Lakritsfabriken - Admittedly, I don't like licorice. But I had to give this a try anyway. It wasn't as terrible as others I have sampled, but it's still not my favorite.

Elderflower Saft Syrup by Tillmans - This is the only item I haven't tried. I'm waiting on a good cocktail recipe to make use of the syrup.

Sweet and Hot Mustard by Liss Ellas - This was my favorite of the box! Wow! It was the perfect balance of spicy and sweet, and I found myself wanting to put it on everything. Sandwiches, crackers...but I had to leave enough for the meatball recipe.

The recipe called for three items in the box:

Original Flatbread Crisps - These can be substituted with Panko crispy bread crumbs.

Lingonberry Preserves - Lingonberry jam can be found in most grocery stores, but it can also be purchased on IKEA's website.

Sweet and Hot Mustard - Again, find your favorite sweet and spicy mustard at your local store.
INGREDIENTS

¼ cup Mörsjö Deli flatbread crisps, crumbled
4 Tbsp. heavy cream
2 Tbsp. Liss Ellas sweet and hot mustard
2 Tbsp. milk
1 egg
¼ tsp. allspice
¼ tsp. black pepper
¼ tsp. salt
1 lb. ground beef
1 lb. ground pork
4 Tbsp. butter
Boiled potatoes, for serving
Cream Sauce, for serving (recipe below)
One 3 oz. jar Hafi lingonberry jam, for serving

DIRECTIONS

1. In a large bowl, combine the flatbread crisp crumbs, heavy cream, mustard, milk, egg, allspice, black pepper, and salt. Let rest 10 minutes.

2. Add the ground beef and pork and mix well.

3. Using your hands, roll the mixture into small balls (about the size of a ping pong ball) and distribute onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Cover with plastic wrap and chill in the refrigerator for 1 hour.

4. Heat a heavy skillet over moderate heat. Add the butter. Once it sizzles, add the meatballs and sear until browned on all sides and cooked through, about 8 minutes. Serve immediately with boiled potatoes, cream sauce, and lingonberry jam.

CREAM SAUCE

INGREDIENTS

1qt. beef stock
1qt. heavy cream
2 Tbsp. Hafi lingonberry jam
Salt
Pepper

DIRECTIONS

1. In a large pot, bring the beef stock to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and allow to reduce by half. Stir in the heavy cream and reduce to a third. Add the lingonberry jam and reduce 15 minutes more, until thick.

2. Strain through a fine mesh sieve and season with salt and pepper.
Njuta av! (Enjoy!)