Sweet Review #8: Starmix and Minstrels

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About damn time for another Sweet Review! Unfortunately I only have pictures for one of them but that’s okay.

I went to the movies to see Doctor Strange yesterday, and even though I stuffed some chocolates in my purse, of course I wanted to try everything. First was Galaxy’s “Minstrels,” which my friends thought was really weird; they weren’t sure what to make of it. They were just large milk chocolate drops covered in a chocolatey candy coating, but there was something slightly off about the flavor. Maybe a little overpoweringly sweet? I’m not sure myself. But they were just okay.

Also, are they called minstrels because they’re brown, and “minstrel shows” were blackface performances? Yikes.

I also tried Starmix, which was just a jumble of gummies. The heart tastes like cleaning fluid smells in a good way, if you feel me. Like tasty artificial sweetness.

People were always hyping up the gummi eggs talking about how weird they were, but they were very underwhelming– just a lemony yolk and a marshmallow-like white. I guess people find them weird because they’re eggs. As Brian put it later that day, “Chill fam.”

The gummi bears were gummi bears and the rings were rings, aka just fruity chews. And the ever-classic Coke bottles tasted nice and cola-ish.

I’m pretty sure none of these were vegetarian (probably had animal gelatin) but if no one warns me to my face beforehand, I sort of just go for it. 😐

 

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Day 61

No sensory summary today because I think there’s enough sensory detail in the rest of the post.

Today was Laura’s birthday celebration, which effectively went for 14 hours! We left the apartment building at about half nine to go currach rowing. Currachs are the traditional canvas-bottomed Irish fishing rowboats, and there’s a Cork Currach Club that lets you row as a guest for ten euro. I liked it so much, I think I may become a member so I can row much more often for free.

The setup (and maybe breakdown) of the currachs probably took up half of the time actually spent out there. I estimate that we took out maybe ten? boats. Each has four rowers, and since we had plenty of guests (Laura and her eight members of the birthday crew) we had a passengers in each too.

I started out as a passenger, which was a nice way to see some of the city. It reminded me of sailing on the Baltimore Inner Harbor or taking a boat tour in Amsterdam. That made me feel at home– maybe part of what made me want to return. The people in the club were so kind too, another thing that made me feel so welcome.

Once I got the oars in my hand, I had a bit of a difficult time– hitting other people’s oars, hitting my own hands, coming close to hitting other boats and stuff. But as soon as I got the hang of it, it was over and time to dock to get coffee at a hotel nearby. I ordered a “popcorn hot chocolate,” which didn’t seem to actually have any popcorn in it but somehow tasted vaguely like it. But I drank it way too fast and of course ended up burning my tongue over and over. Yikes, I really need to let it recover.

We rowed back to the club, this time with me on the oars for much more, and I actually got well into the rhythm! But the distance from the hotel to the club felt quite short, and soon it was time to put away the boats. There’s a kind of dance that goes into setting up/breaking down the boats– gathering under the hull, simultaneous lifting, coordinating the flipping over, gathering the right set of oars.

Oh, and there were some lovely dogs there. Some of them actually went in the boat. I had the heartbreaking realization upon leaving the club (and a wiry black-and-white hound with beautiful amber eyes named Finnegan) that you can’t add dogs on Facebook and keep in touch with them over distance.

We tried calling certain restaurants for reservations for Laura’s birthday, and everything was booked up. I mean, with nine people on Jazz weekend calling the day of, it was a long shot. But luckily once we returned, we got a reservation at a pizzeria.

Erin and I made a caramel sauce to drown my chocolate-crusted apple pie in, but it was a recipe that neither of us were very used to and it required a lot of prodding and cajoling and editing before we got something vaguely resembling a sauce. And it still turned out more candy-ish than I would have preferred. I was feeling a little shoddy about this cake– the crust was cookie-ish and hard and neither flaky nor biscuity, the apples were chewier than I wanted them, and the sauce wasn’t creamy. But I was relieved when people said that they liked it; they even liked how the apples turned out. I have decided that pies will be my thing this year, even if it takes a damn lot of practice. Lack of food processor be damned! (“Aren’t we all food processors?” –Laura)

I actually got a good chunk of studying in, and a nice (although brief) chat with my friend Isabella. Then we met outside again to hit up dinner and jazz. The pizza place was fun and delicious, and I ended up being the pescetarian garbage disposal for leftovers.

We only really got to see one live jazz band– The Blues Brothers Banned at the Old Oak. They were quite the showmen, very fun to watch. They seemed to be all covers, some of which were phenomenal (like “Sell Out”) but some (like the medley at the end) were a little lukewarm. I saw two guys there in the audience with “Eendracht Crew” on their t-shirts, and I tapped one of the guys on the shoulder to tell them I had seen their ship earlier that day on the water. I’m not sure how much he understood (both because of noise level and possible language/dialect barriers), but it was cool and he responded with smiling.

After they left, we couldn’t really get in anywhere where there was still performers. I guess that’s the thing about a jazz festival– when there’s so much, there’s hardly any.

Day 61

Smelling: woodsmoke, candied citrus peel in black tea, chocolate/apple pie
Seeing: the gym relatively quiet, the inside of the gym showers, blacklights in the restrooms, the just-okay motion picture Doctor Strange
Tasting: gummi candies, pumpkin curry tofu, hot chocolate at the perfect temperature
Hearing: three Dutch brass bands play on the street together
Feeling: sweat run down my face, very hungry, clothing on my slightly damp skin

I was surprised when I woke up at 6:40 and felt completely awake. When I saw my that my phone’s side-by-side “roaming” and “home” times were only four instead of five hours apart, I remembered that daylight savings had occurred.

I ate the rest of my practice brack with peanut butter (a flavor that was very nostalgic for  me) baked another barmbrack, this time with a different recipe (by the lovely Donal Skehan!) and including a ring, and I think this one will turn out better. I can’t wait to bring it to the party tomorrow so someone can get the ring in their slice, but I will almost certainly be eating some for breakfast.

I went to the practice room, and met one of my friends at a spin class– only the second one I’ve ever taken. It wasn’t my favorite form of group exercise, but I think I might try to do it more regularly so I can stay in shape for when I can actually go cycling again.

It was my first time showering at the gym (and at any gym since I was like, six), and the facilities ain’t bad. Awkward thing was that as I was trying to get to my locker, someone decided to sit right in front of my locker, read some kind of paper document, and not move even as I was trying to get into my locker.

We made a pit stop at our apartment to put our stuff away and stuff as much foodstuff as we could into our mouths and purses before heading to the movie. I brought the rest of my Irish chocolate treats, and gobbled up various soy and grain products (I know, sounds delicious).

The cinema was small, but impressive. Like the bathrooms have blue light in them and there’s a huge pick-n-mix selection, which reminds me of the cinemas in Belgium. Oh, and the tickets were very inexpensive.

After the movie I went by myself over to a bar where I thought I would see a certain band at four, since none of the people I’d seen the movie with were up to staying out more. But after ordering a pint I asked a bartender where the band would play and she told me it wasn’t showtime until 10:30 that night. And the Facebook event said 9:30, so who even knows.

I got some Japanese takeaway (pumpkin tofu curry, oh my gosh so good) from a place I had wanted to try. On the way back I did get to see some music– three Dutch brass bands who performed outside of Cork Opera House! And it was still worth it to go out on my own, as I saw that Loudon Wainwright was playing tomorrow night and I just had this sense that I would be able to get a ticket. Which I did.

I bought some hot chocolate from USAC friends for their business class project, then devoured my curry and talked with Brian and here I am and Halloween is tomorrow and it was a good day.

Day 60

Seeing: a crowded bar, photos of my Halloween outfit, a pale blue pumpkin
Feeling:
a bit of a sting in my eye, sore calves
Smelling: good things baking
Tasting: leftover dumplings
Hearing: a cover band do Prince’s “Kiss,” Erin shouting at me in the courtyard from the balcony

Since my only lecture that day was cancelled, I decided that Friday was going to be my lazy day. Maybe I could have gone to the gym or practice room, but no, it was hardly even that kind of routine-upholding lazy day. This was a I’m-still-tired-no-matter-what-so-I’m-going-to-spend-all-morning-in-bed kind of lazy day. So I got up, had breakfast, and crawled back into bed to watch The Last Shadow Puppet’s concert from a couple weeks ago. I love that video so much. I had a tab with it open for what might be a week before I actually watched it, because I didn’t want to forget to watch. And holy cow was it worth it.

I put my laundry in the wash, went out to the co-op to buy a few things (mainly fine whole-wheat flour and a pumpkin), came back, put the laundry in the dryer, and went back out again to buy some cake from the Alternative Bread Company. It was a slice of three-layer fall cake– chocolate on top, pumpkin in the middle, and gingerbread on bottom, with a spiced and tangy cream cheese (?) frosting. I wanted to have it in my Portal photoshoot (because the cake is a lie), and I made my shopping trips extra inefficient as a way of getting myself to be even slightly active that day.

I baked some cookies in preparation to thank Kristen for the photoshoot she would do for my costume, and started on the pie for Laura’s birthday. I can write about the pie now because I’m writing this post belatedly, but Laura does follow this blog, so I can’t talk shit about her like I do all the time in real life.

Upon trying my costume on again, I realized that 1. the white tank top was too long and 2. I didn’t have the white wristband that Chell has. Easy solution: cut the bottom of the shirt off, and tie a strip of it around my wrist. The photoshoot with Kristen was so fun. I tried to look solemn and serious on camera sometimes but it was so hard not to laugh along with Kristen’s infectious laugh. Plus like, I did some pretty funny stuff on camera. It was also a riot to pose with a potato and a slice of cake while passersby shuffled along. Being in the courtyard where everyone could look in was probably fairly accurate to being in an Aperture Science test chamber.

Later that night I hung out with a few USAC pals before trying to go out to see some jazz, but they waited a little too long (against my constant nagging) and everything was either 21+ or not playing jazz anymore. Laura messaged me to remind me that we were going to go currach rowing the next morning, so I dipped early and crashed into bed (after chatting with Brian).

Day 59

Feeling: tapioca bubbles, steam burns, ice-cold smoothie
Seeing: the sun rise, the shine on some finished dumplings, one of my classmates eat an apple in class without a single f*** given
Hearing: the Spotify “This Is Ireland” playlist, the class tittering when the professor singled me out to ask about Fahrenheit
Smelling: Nutella on toast, a dank classroom
Tasting: scallion/ginger/tofu dumplings with a dipping sauce of random things we found in Laura’s kitchen, orange mango smoothie

I started the day off with an early-morning workout of my own– the first time doing plain ol’ squats for a while! I treated myself to a protein smoothie afterwards, which I drank on the way to class. Thankfully it wasn’t freezing outside, so I wasn’t an ice block inside and out.

I had talked to the lecturer in the morning, and later in the afternoon when he was talking about freezer temperatures he casually pointed to me to ask about Fahrenheit (a question I didn’t know how to answer), and now the whole class knows my secret. Side note, I realized today that even though food science was the main draw to UCC, the classes are the most boring and the classmates are the least friendly.

I finally booked my trip to Florence today! I’m so excited to go back and see Corrina and have

The evening was spent making tofu dumplings with Laura. We also made dessert dumplings of Nutella and raspberry jam with the two extra wrappers. And bubble tea with green tea and milk, a mix of rainbow and classic black bubbles. The meal and the company was absolutely wonderful. I tried to Skype with Nehuen but sadly the internet connection was too poor.

Day 58

Seeing: more building demolition, Shaun of the Dead
Tasting: Chemex, peanut butter and pumpkin spice on a sweet potato
Smelling: microwave popcorn, spiced fruit bread baking
Feeling: like I’m floating on air, scratchy stretchy fabric
Hearing: myself sounding pretty decent in jazz, the fire alarm

I used my class-free morning to bake barmbreac! Barmbreac, also known as the variations barn brack, or Irish tea loaf/bread, is a spiced quickbread with dried fruits soaked in tea (and sometimes whiskey). I didn’t add enough leavening, so it didn’t rise as much as I’d wanted it to. But it smelled great. I didn’t know how it tasted because you’re supposed to wait a few days before cutting it.

I spent about an hour and 6.5 euros in one of my favorite coffeeshops so far, and I tried Chemex for the first time. It tasted good, and was very strong. The buzz lasted for a very long time.

And although I thought that buzz would be necessary for carrying me through my two lectures, but one of them was delayed by a fire drill and subsequently cancelled by nature of the professor (and most students) not showing up. So Sam and I went to go chill in the library until my next class.

Jazz ensemble went pretty well. I actually felt like I knew what I was doing, and I got to sing!

Then Laura, Malama, Maddy and I went to see a screening of Shaun of the Dead and got free pizza and popcorn. That was basically my dinner (plus leftover Chinese takeout that they kindly gave me), and I can’t tell if I’m proud of myself for not spending any money on dinner or scared for my cardiac health.

CaffiNative #3: Café Atrium

café atrium is the café in ucc’s rec center, the mardyke arena. unlike sneakers café back in umd’s eppley rec center, which is essentially just another college dining facility, this seems more like the full-fledged café. so, i figured it was worth a review.

the glug: your basic espresso choices. only, the menu gives you a choice between a single and double shot. i don’t believe a saw a mocha on there.

the grub: some premade sandwiches and pasta (which you can get toasted for an extra 50 cents), your basic pastry assortment (scones, croissants, mini custard tarts), faaaancy snack bars (including clif bars! which i don’t see often in this country), homemade protein balls. an ice cream chest. plus, they have an actual kitchen menu of irish café staples like baked potatoes and fresh sandwiches, and a breakfast menu with toast and egg items.

the service: order at the counter and take your order to your table. no need to bus your own table.

the sounds: typical coffeehouse acoustic indie-pop, the noises of weights clashing a few rooms over

the aesthetic: like a cafeteria but nice and cozy. sleek perforated lamps and your choice of leather armchairs or plastic.

the vessels: classic ceramic for drinks, wax paper bags for pastries, a plastic cafeteria tray to carry things to your table.

the baristas: there was a pair of nice young women working both in the morning and afternoon when I went.

the clientele: ironically, it seems like most of the people who go to café atrium and most of the people who go to the mardyke don’t entirely match up. that is to say, café atrium patrons tend to be older, probably retirees.

accept card: no

the weaknesses: even if you curl up in the booth in the corner, it still feels like you’re in a gym. not the worst, but it’s a little institutional-feeling and chaotic. weak eduroam connection.

the strengths: it’s certainly convenient to caffeinate before a workout to reduce fatigue, or after so you can carry on with your work after exercise, or if you’re waiting for someone in the gym you have a nice place to hang. also when i left my laptop there, they kept it behind the counter.

price range: seems pretty reasonable to me.

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a single macchiato and a dark chocolate protein ball

Day 57

Feeling: oh so tired, pissed off in general, sore calves and glutes, endlessly hungry
Tasting: ice cream sandwich (Digestive biscuits, dairy-free vanilla ice cream, gooseberry jam), sips of macchiato alternated with cacao balls
Smelling: something smoky near the hospital
Seeing: the barista’s smile when she told me they had my laptop, my hair flopping over my forehead in a more flattering way than it used to, the sun rise
Hearing: Arctic Monkeys’ Acoustic 15, a lecture hall go silent after the fan stopped, the sounds of CAVE

Today was kinda odd. It started off feeling hecka productive, and then disintegrated. I got to a fitness class, had a cuppa in the gym café (which I will review for ye). Had a nice solid hour of uninterrupted piano practice, and went straight to my drama class, which was in the music building. We had a guest speaker who taught us about Cork Audio-Visual Ensemble, which is a performance group for electronic audio-video performances. It looks dope. As. F.

On the way back I thought I’d stop by my jazz teacher’s shop and get that thread he said he could give me, but found that his shop had closed half an hour ago. He hadn’t posted his hours before, and they were now seemingly a lot more limited and irregular.

I was ravenous, and starting to feel a little on edge. But when my tofu cabbage noodles and pickled pear slices didn’t soften the mood, and salsa with blue corn chips didn’t either, it became a little concerning. I figured I should kick back in bed with some cooking videos to take the edge off and look over some lecture slides before my exam, and then I saw that my laptop was neither in my backpack or on my desk.

I had a bit of a panic. I knew it was almost certainly in the gym café, but I just Didn’t Want To get out and get it. But I did, and they had it, thank goodness. I finished my exam in half an hour (having fifty minutes to complete it) and was the first one out, which made me a little concerned that I forgot something important.

I wanted to back to my room, but Sara needed someone to accompany her shopping for an electric blanket since her apartment heat wasn’t being that good. So I waited for her at the co-op, where I munched on some takeaway salad.

I know, maybe you could be thinking, “IJ, why are you so angry today? Are you mad at me?” The answers to those are that it’s just that kind of mood today–probably because of sleep debt, and no. But you could also be thinking, why are you writing about your emotions here?! And I say to that, I feel that I should be a little more casually honest and open about my emotions and mental illness. I have my first therapy appointment since arriving in Ireland tomorrow,

Last night I thought I might back go to the jazz club tonight, but tonight is for doing nothing and going to bed early.

Day 56

Feeling: pleasantly crisp, clear weather, warm hands, sweaty face
Tasting: chocolate berry overnight oatmeal
Hearing: pop song remixes from 2010
Smelling: spices frying in the skillet
Seeing: ending credits of Portal 2

Somehow, it felt like a very long day. I went to an early fitness class, came back and had tea and a scone and wrote a post Even though I was all prepped and ready to go to my ten a.m., I kept going back inside to get something that I’d forgotten, so I made myself very late. I figured, screw it, this is the class where the lecturer just reads off the document that we all have. Might as well stay in and be productive and get to the music building even sooner. So I wrote another post and went up to practice.

Practice is going better than it was before. I mean, there are still people trying to walk in on me, and teachers having rooms reserved even though it doesn’t say so on the timetable, but I’m getting the hang of what I need to do again.

I ate my packed lunch in the canteen, and went to my one p.m. For some reason I did the thing that I did last week, where I think that my class is in the West Wing instead of in Kane, and wait in the cool stone halls of WW before realizing I’ve been barking up the wrong tree, but not regretting it because I would rather be spending thirty seconds in WW for every minute in Kane.

The rest of the day I spent in that sort of half-productive, half-chill state. I went over some information for my first exam tomorrow (!) and got some Drama work done.

I made a pretty good dinner and a lunch for tomorrow and the next few days that I bet will be fantastic. Also, Brian and I finished Portal 2 co-op! I did not expect that ending. It was kinda fucked up.

I really need to get to bed earlier.

CaffiNative #2: The White Rabbit

the white rabbit is mostly a bar, but i’m reviewing its café aspects because that’s the only way i’ve experienced it so far.

the glug: your basic assortments of espresso and milk. apparently double shots.

the grub: plenty of bbq meat and some small southern american sides (some of which are vegan and vegetarian). but what we came here for was brunch. the brunch menu, on weekend mornings, has three choices of pancakes, three grilled cheeses, and two skillets. a short stack of pancakes is three small ones. instead of a “tall stack,” they say “long stack.” lost in translation, or do some parts of the south say that?

the service: typical irish casual sit-down, it seems: order at your table, they’ll take your empty cups away from you and check in on you but mostly leave you be. pay at the bar.

the sounds: really good soul

the aesthetic: unfinished corrugated metal walls, spray-painted murals, worn-down hardwood tables, colorful modern art canvasses, a bar covered in enameled comic book pages

the vessels: tall white cappuccino cups with matching saucers and the maher’s logo

the baristas: friendly young women with cool outfits and body mods

the clientele: it was pretty empty when we went, but there were plenty of late 20’s-30’s couples, and probably tourists (especially americans)

accept card: yes, 10 euro minimum

the weaknesses: they took a little while with the pancakes, but that was probably because we got there right as they opened.

the strengths: great vibes, made me feel at home, probably also a great bar (specializing in bourbon)

price range: not cheap, but fair for what you get

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cappuccino. rich and mild espresso with the freshest steamed milk.
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short stack of blueberry pancakes. tender and salty-sweet, but don’t waste so much time photographing it like i did– the maple syrup has been cooked with the blueberries so intensely that it’ll stiffen up fast.