Cornucopia: Another Love Story

Orange rectangle with the white fist-shaped Vegan MoFo logo and the text "Vegan Month of Food 2012."

Ah, travel recaps. Somehow they always get away from me, and by the time I finish posting them I’ve been back home for months and the finer details are rapidly escaping me. So it goes with the remainder of my Ireland/Scotland recap. When last I left you, S and I had just returned from a day trip touring the stunning Scottish highlands, and we wrapped up our day with another meal at Henderson’s. The very next day, we hopped a flight back to Ireland for the remaining couple days of our overseas adventure.

I’ve already talked a bit about some Dublin eats, but I’ve held off on sharing my absolute favorite restaurant in dear dirty Dublin. In fact, it was my favorite eatery on the entire trip, edging out even Henderson’s. Shocking! But for its variety, atmosphere, and general delightfulness, Cornucopia takes the vegan cake. It also, coincidentally, serves vegan cake.

Big slice of double-layer chocolate cake on a plate, with a thick chocolate frosting between the layers and on top.

Chocolate heaven.

With its cheerful red storefront and pleasing, almost tea-room-like interior, Cornucopia is the perfect mix of homey and elegant. Dim (but not dark!) lighting keeps things cozy, and a variety of seating arrangements (benches, chairs, booths, bar stools, tables of assorted sizes) ensure that you’re comfortable while you chow down. As with most other places we ate on our trip, patrons select and pay for their meals at the front counter. I’m pretty sold on this arrangement – it lets you preview your food and see what looks the most scrumptious rather than order off a menu with limited, if any, photos. How could I resist ordering something this appealing?

In the foreground is a large triangular phyllo dough packet, stuffed quite full. In the background is a raw cabbage and carrot slaw and a green salad.

Moar phyllo!

Unlike Henderson’s, Cornucopia also features a full staff of friendly folks who are happy to take from-the-table orders if you want dessert or a post-dinner espresso. This saves you from interrupting your meal to wait in line for a hot tea or a slice of a fruity tart:

Thin slice of a creamy tart.

Yes please.

And beyond all those perks, the food is just plain good. Cornucopia uses many locally grown and organic ingredients, and although it’s a vegetarian restaurant, each day it features a variety of vegan, gluten-free, sugar-free, and raw foods. Everything’s made in-house for ultimate freshness. S and I dined here three times, and each experience was as pleasant as the last. Cornucopia is often pretty crowded, so we made reservations for two of our visits. Even though it wasn’t full when we arrived, we were happy to have reserved spots as we watched the lines get longer and folks filter in.

If you’re wondering why I’ve just half-heartedly inserted photos among the text, it’s because I’m a bad, bad blogger and I can’t remember everything we ate. I need to start taking notes! For example, I can’t with certainty tell you what this meal was, although I know that the basil scone was lovely and that S enjoyed that bowl of a raw, chilled avocado-based soup on two of our dining occasions:

A plateful of cauliflower, potatoes, and other veggies with a scone. In the background is a bowl of soup.

Messy deliciousness.

I think it was a potato-cauliflower casserole or gratin-type dish, but I’m not totally sure. I am, however, sure that it was delicious. We did, after all, eat three of our four Dublin dinners at Cornucopia. :)

To make up for my shoddy food bloggery, let me share a photo that I think captures much of what you’ll see if you do a tour of Ireland’s historical sites. This was taken at Glendalough, a monastic settlement founded in the 6th (!) century.

Gorgeous clear blue sky and very green trees. In the foreground are various gravestones and crosses; in the background is a tall stone round tower, jutting far above the ground.

Round towers.

Ah, Ireland.

What’re your tips for remembering meals you ate on vacation? Have you ever been to Ireland?

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Dublin: Blazing Salads and a Lone Gnome

For our two two-day, two-night stints in Dublin (they were the bread around a four-day Edinburgh sandwich), S and I found places to stay via AirBnB. During our first stay in Dublin, we rented a room with a truly lovely older Irish couple. They were the epitome of hospitality, despite Hans’ slight mockery of “céad mile fáilte and all that bullshit.” Every morning we broke our fast at their table; they served up bread, jam, berries, and a host of un-vegan things as well, and they doled out site-seeing advice galore. With their house as a conveniently located home base, we explored the city in comfort.

Between their recommendations and my memories from studying in Ireland five years ago, we were pretty set with ideas for things to do. When it came to eating, we needed a little help. I downloaded the HappyCow app on my iPad and used it before we set out for the day to find vegan eateries that were nearby, and this approach worked wonderfully.

After arriving in Dublin and resting up, we needed sustenance. HappyCow told me that a vegetarian food bar (delightfully called Blazing Salads!) was but a ten or fifteen minute walk away, so we set out. We found Blazing Salads in the middle of a bustling shopping area, and we knew we’d struck gold when we entered the small shop and saw their signage:

Three big chalkboard-y signs that describe Blazing Salads' philosophy.

Healthy food and whole, seasonal ingredients! Yes please!

The center of the shop features a salad bar with various varieties of salads and hot bar type items. There’s also a refrigerated section with juices and pre-made sandwiches, a pantry-like area with staples and freshly baked breads, and a counter at the front with other freshly made savory items. I chose from that section, ordering a vegetable and samosa spring roll to share and a brown rice ball stuffed with aduki bean and vegetables for myself. S chose a cold tofu, veggie, and sprout sandwich. While we waited for my selections to be heated, we nabbed a spot at the window bar (there’s no indoor seating) and I sipped on a bottled juice.

A small bottle of very orange juice and a small paper bag with a carrot pattern printed on it.

So much orange!

Strictly speaking, we didn’t need that to-go bag since we ended up eating in the shop. But the cashier gave it to us, and it was so cute that I just had to keep it! The colors complemented my juice nicely, too.

Soon, our hot foods were heated and ready for the munching.

Foods!

That spring roll was filled to bursting with veggies, and my brown rice ball was a scrumptious, savory blend of beans and veggies. We had a couple of soy-based dips, and although I liked how they kept my rice from getting dry, their added salt made both the roll and the ball a bit too salty – umami overload! Even though I only ate the rice ball and half the roll, I was quite full when I finished. I wish I’d snagged a bite of S’s pita sandwich, though – it looked so yummy!

A pita stuffed with tofu, veggies, and sprouts.

Sprout overload!

Actually, who am I kidding – if I’d had any room in my belly, I would’ve gone for one of Blazing Salads’ desserts – their front case had lots of creative treats, many of them raw. Alas, I did not have room in my belly.

During that first two-day stint in Dublin, we also ate at Diwali, an Indian and Nepalese establishment not far from Blazing Salads. With many vegetarian and vegan options on the menu, S and I had a hard time choosing what we wanted. I opted for the veggie Karahi curry, while S chose a veggie vindaloo that he described as “the hottest I’ve ever had, by far.” Neither of us could finish our meals, so they returned with us to Hans’ and Deirdre’s house. Alas, they were also forgotten there when we left Dublin.

Before we left, though, we grabbed snacks at a health food shop called Nourish. Actually, to be honest, I’m not 100% sure that was the place we stopped, but I think it was. We stocked up on flapjacks (oh how I love European flapjacks!), a delicious peppermint-filled chocolate bar that filled the spot that Junior Mints used to occupy in my heart, and various other vegan bars. I kept them stashed in my purse for times of hunger… as one does. ;)

The other place we dined was Cornucopia, but I’m saving my review till later. As you’ll hear, this joint quickly became our most-frequented eatery in Dublin. ;)

Other than eating, we also toured Trinity College, saw the Book of Kells, checked out the (overpriced) Guinness Storehouse (the Foreign Extra is vegan, so make sure to ask for that as your free pint!), and took a themed walking tour. We also spent a lot of time just wandering around and familiarizing ourselves with the city, something I always enjoy doing (as long as I have a map!). And we hung out at St. Patrick’s Cathedral with this guy:

Close-up of a little gnome statue in the foreground with the cathedral in the background.

Hmm…

Heh heh. Up next in my travel tales: Edinburgh!