I’m so blessed to live in San Francisco, a foodie’s paradise. No doubt San Francisco’s food scene is world-class as well as being just a stone’s throw away from Berkeley’s gourmet ghetto, and a hop-skip-jump from Napa Valley, you would be hard-pressed not to be a gastronome. Besides perfumes, I’m obsessed with food…really good food. I get excited when I discover a new restaurant with an amazing menu, I can’t wait to pass the word along to friends and family. Whenever I travel to a new place, I love to explore and learn about the culture through its local fare. I return home with photos of my travels and my friends notice that there are more food pics (what I like to call food porn) than scenery or people. I’m surprised that this blog hasn’t been rife with gratuitous food porn pics (until now). What does food have to do with fragrance, you ask? In essence, smell and taste are interdependent. Seventy-five percent of most flavors are smell (via):
So what is going on when you taste something? A mouth has a million taste receptor cells, which generate and mediate messages to the brain. Each receptor’s taste hair responds best to one of the basic tastes – sour, sweet, bitter, salty and unami (salts of certain acids). This is what science calls taste (although there is debate over whether there are five or seven basic tastes). What we would more commonly refer to as taste is really flavour perception – the summation of taste, aroma, texture and visual presentation.
The first thing I do when I visit Belfast is to acquaint myself with old and familiar haunts. My absolute favorite place to eat is Avoca Cafe nestled in the heart of Belfast city centre. Avoca is a charming boutique that sells unique Irish-made women’s apparel, bath & body, homeware, and gourmet foods. Think Anthroplogie with a country Irish twist and you’ve got Avoca. One thing that Anthropologie lacks that Avoca reigns supreme is the food. You walk into Avoca and ogle over floral crockery, woolen goods, handmade soaps, and quirky vintage inspired dresses. Upstairs is the cafe where you can hear a din over the chime of silverware against plates and the smell of mouthwatering aromas wafting from the kitchen. It won’t be long before your stomach grumbles from the cafe stealing your attention away from the store.
Ambience: Avoca Cafe isn’t a place to have a romantic intimate dinner. At first I wasn’t too thrilled about the ambience. You get the impression you’re in a cafeteria, with all the noise and the bustle but this goes to show how popular this place is among the locals. Where there is a lot of people, there is good food. There’s an energetic buzz about this place which I learned to appreciate. It is especially intriguing if that buzz is colored with the Northern Irish accent. It is casual but has an air of country cottage with its old tables and shabby chic decor. No pretension about this place. It’s down to earth like most eating establishments in Ireland. Avoca Cafe is all about the food.
Customer Service: Friendly, casual, professional, and unpretentious. We were seated right away and our food came promptly which was a surprise since the place was packed. We waited only 15 minutes for our food to arrive which was impressive. Staff are attentive.
Food: Wholesome rustic food using local Irish ingredients. Their menu is limited but ecclectic. Just simple good fare.
I ordered the Fresh Pasta of the Day — homemade ravioli stuffed with a mushroom & cheese pate in cream sauce topped with bitter peppery greens of rocket and watercress. This dish was decadent with its rich cream sauce, the mushrooms give the dish a bit of earthiness, and the bitter greens cut the creamy cardiac-inducing heaviness of the cream sauce adding a nice balance to the flavors. I cleared my plate in .05 seconds, it was orgasmically good!
My husband ordered the Spanish Meatball Casserole. When the waitress set his dish on the table we ooh’d and ahhh’d at the presentation. We were really impressed! The meatballs in a spicy tomato sauce were moist and melted in his mouth. Meatballs dipped into the sour cream was absolutely divine. The couscous was nice. My husband finds couscous quite dry, but this was moist and flavorful with chopped up bits of fresh herbs, onion, sun-dried tomato, and grilled eggplant. The homemade bread was warm and toasty with a crunchy outside and a soft interior. My husband said this dish was quite nice.
Pricepoint: It’s a bit on the pricey side but not over the top. I think it is worth the price since they use wholesome local ingredients and everything is made in-house. Our bill total £25. Not bad.
Would I Eat Here Again? Most definitely.
Final Verdict: Avoca is the perfect place to be when you need a break shopping downtown. Unique food with its Irish spin. Great buzzing atmosphere, down to earth and friendly service. Prices are reasonable. I wish I can pack Avoca into my suitcase and bring it with me to America. I can actually see Avoca become a popular venue in San Francisco and that’s saying a lot about this place!
If you’re ever in Belfast, check out Avoca Cafe in the City Centre!Avoca Belfast 41 Arthur Street Belfast BT1 4GB, Northern Ireland [Image 1] via www.gotobelfast.com [Image 2&3] via Olfactory Obsessed