Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Last Night

Last night, I spent the evening in an old pub nestled deep in the Irish countryside, well off the beaten path. There was a biting wind that was howling outside and seeping into the cracks of the old building. Inside, the coal-burning stove gave the room a welcoming glow and provided just enough heat. In front of it was an old rug so worn that its pattern was unrecognizable, and a chair with tattered upholstery. The stools and chairs in the pub were all mismatched. The bar itself was covered in knick-knacks and had an old broken TV. You could tell the walls housed a lot of memories and conversations and had seen a lot of laughter, definitely some brawls, and maybe some tears, too.

Last night, I spent the evening with four Irishmen and an Irishwoman—Jack, Brendan, Jim, Finbar, and Valerie. Brendan, the bartender, was quiet but polite, and a good listener. Jack, a mechanic, was downing pints impressively fast, and although he seemed jovial enough, I wouldn’t want to cross him. Jim was the most quiet of everyone, but as the night progressed, he opened up a bit. Finbar, in a white suit and pink dress shirt, stood apart from his simply-clothed friends, and his slickness made him a little more suspect than the rest of the lot. And Valerie…Valerie was a plainly pretty woman who just moved from Dublin to rent a house in the country, and the men took it upon themselves to put on airs and impress her with their ales and anecdotes.

Last night, profanity and fantastical ghost stories flowed freely, and as the evening went on, the men’s tales grew more exaggerated…and scary. Ireland is renowned for its ghost tales and folklore, and these men, like any respectable Irishmen, knew how to tell a story (the alcohol undoubtedly encouraged and inspired their dramatics). With their stories about fairies, ghosts, and unexplainable happenings, they each tried to top each other's tales, entertaining and frightening each other. I questioned their superstitions and honesty, not knowing what to believe. But it was quiet, unassuming Valerie, whose story about why she really left Dublin--a true ghost story--ended the unsettling evening and allowed the men to let their guard down.

Last night, I saw a play called The Weir at South Coast Repertory, and felt like I was in a pub experiencing an evening with real people. Never once did I not feel like I was really there with them, in the dark Irish countryside. And never did I fully believe any of their drunken ghost stories…until the end of the play.

The Weir runs through April 3rd. Get your tickets here, if you dare...

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Yummy Treats

My sweet tooth is the bane of my existence. Never is my self-control at its lowest than when I’m confronted with a box of Tagalongs (or whatever they’re called these days), taunted by a dessert menu that a server nonchalantly stands up on the table with the check, or seduced by the aroma of fresh-baked anything. It’s undeniable…I love dessert.

And these days I can’t seem to escape them! Here’s a rundown of some recent treats that I’ve been, uh, researching for blog purposes…

Casey’s Cupcakes
For those of you who watched MTV’s Laguna Beach (don’t be ashamed…there’s no judgment here), you might remember Casey Reinhardt from season two, a.k.a. “the new girl.” Well, the ever-ambitious Casey has recently opened up her own cupcake shop in Laguna Beach. But don’t let the overly decorated cakes, pink receipt paper, and cute bows in the employees’ hair woo you—these cupcakes are good (because, like, they’re cupcakes), but they’re not delicious. And if you’re paying $3.50 for a cupcake, it’s got to be delicious. Am I right? Stick with Sprinkles. I want the best for you.

Starbucks’ Petite Treats

To celebrate their 40th anniversary, Starbucks recently introduced a smattering of bite-size treats, including mini-cupcakes (delicious), cake pops (love!), lemon bars (boring), and other tiny treats, all under 200 calories and $1.50 each. The fact that this stuff is so stinkin cute and easy on the waistline and wallet make them very enjoyable. I mean…pink frosted cake on a lollipop stick? I love everything about these new diminutive delights.

Le Napoleon Patisserie

This little French cafĂ© at the Irvine Spectrum is outrageously overpriced, so sometimes I just walk in and stare at the pretty rows of macaroons and don’t buy anything (I told this to my boyfriend, and he said that was the saddest thing he’s ever heard and reminded him of A Little Princess. Haha.). Anyway, the focus here is on the macaroons. They are incredible. They are the prettiest bright colors and perfect delicate texture. My favorite flavors are earl grey, rose, and passion fruit. Eating a rose macaroon is like eating the most perfect, delicious flower your mind could ever imagine. Their $1.95 price tag encourages you to eat them slowly and savor every crumb. I really do feel like a little princess when I eat these…they are so frivolous and French and fancy.

“And it melts, God forgive me, it melts ever so slowly on your tongue, and tortures you with pleasure.” --Yvette from Chocolat

Now..make good dessert choices, and happy researching…