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October 2, 2009

Thanks be to cod

FishChips.jpgI have to say this excellent guest post by Robert of Cross Keys gave me a pang of guilt. My poor abandoned husband is probably having a Nathan's hot dog with a stale potato roll for dinner tonight. Here's RoCK. EL

Last week my wife went to New York to share a few meals with her friend and noted food writer David Rosengarten, which she wrote about in her blog.

Not to be outdone, I set out to create my own New York experience. I stayed home with Mr. Jefferson, and we ate Nathan’s hot dogs.  The hot dogs were not bad.  The same could not be said for the potato rolls I pulled out of the back of my freezer. ...

Fortunately, hot dog night was not the high point of my week.  After the wife returned, the three of us went to down to Alexandria, Va. to spend the day.  Alexandria is a dog-friendly city with many restaurants welcoming four-legged guests to their sidewalk tables, so we had quite a few dining options to choose from. I knew, however, what I wanted.  The reason I drove down to Alexandria was to try the fish and chips at Eamonn’s a Dublin Chipper, which is operated by the same people who run Alexandria’s best restaurant, Eve. (The reason the wife wanted to go to Alexandria was to have Mr. Jefferson make a visit to Mount Vernon, which I’m not even going to try and explain.)

It wasn’t too long ago that I wouldn’t have gone out of my way to eat fish.  In fact, I used to hate fish. As a kid I dreaded fishstick day at the cafeteria, which was only surpassed by the animosity I had for fishstick’s evil school lunch cousin, the fishwich.  I remember my dad going to McDonald’s and ordering a Filet-o-Fish and a coffee, and wondering what would compel someone to choose that awful combination over a double cheeseburger and milkshake.

Well, I have not come around to eating sticks, wiches, or Filet-o’s; however, fish and chips have become one of my favorites; and the fish and chips at Eamonn’s are some of the best, if not the best, I have ever had.

Eamonn’s offers cod, grouper, skate and a fish of the day. I went with the large cod. The wife ordered the grouper.  

Both had the same great batter that was crunchy and substantial.  This is not a tempura texture. This is batter that stands up to a dousing of malt vinegar.  Most importantly, the batter was cooked all the way through.  Too often there is that layer of raw batter that surrounds the fish like an unappetizing membrane.    

As for the fish, the cod was mild, flaky and moist.  It almost had a creamy feel to it.  The grouper was also mild, but it was a little sweeter and had a firmer texture.  In some ways it reminded me of crab or lobster.   Neither fish had any of those nasty, dark spots that bring an unwelcome fishy flavor.  I’m not saying that I want my fish to taste like chicken.  I just don’t want it to taste like fishy fish.
The fish came with a choice of a sauce.  I went with the traditional tartar, which was very fresh tasting.   She went with the Kitty O’Shea, a tartar sauce with almonds and olives.  I liked it by itself, but I just couldn’t embrace it with the fish and chips.  It just didn’t seem right.

For sides we split chips, coleslaw and mushy peas. The chips were outstanding, thick cut with a crispy outside and a creamy inside. The coleslaw had nice flavor, but was a little too laden with mayo.  The mushy peas, one of the few things not made in house, were OK.  I guess for mushy peas, unless you grew up with them, OK is probably the best they will ever be.  Once you get beyond the novelty of the bright green color, you realize you are eating something that could have come out of a Gerber’s jar.

Drinks were limited to non-alcoholic beverages, as Eamonn’s liquor license only allows adult beverages to be consumed inside. Since we had the dog we were outside. This meant no Guinness. I had a Lemon Club, an Irish soda with bits of lemon that ended up being a great pairing with my deep fried and mayo-based lunch.  The wife had an Irish sparkling water, which was OK.   Its best attribute was that it was the one thing we had that didn’t add any extra calories.

Whatever calories we saved from our beverage selections were more than offset by dessert.  They had deep-fried candy bars, and I never had one before.  Well, I can’t believe I waited almost 35 years to try one of these.  

We split a deep-fried Snickers bar.  The inside was melted perfectly, just on the verge of losing its form but not yet liquid. The outside was the big surprise for me.  I always figured the batter would be something like you would see on fried chicken or fish, heavy and crunchy.  Quite the opposite, it was light and airy.  It reminded me of a cinnamon twist, especially with the dusting of sugar crystals.      

A trip to Eamonn’s is in the worth-the-drive category, and it is so much better than any hot dog night at home or fish stick/wich day at the cafeteria.

(Photo courtesy of RoCK's iPhone)

Posted by Elizabeth Large at 10:19 AM | | Comments (12)


I work not to far from there (in fact there is a lunch loop shuttle that stops right at the corner). I guess I'll have to give it a try.

Thanks RoCK. When I go to Alexandria, I usually park around the waterfront area and tend to hang down there. Your review (especially the fried Snickers) sounds like it would be worth walking a few more blocks.

Some people dream of playing center field for the (fill in the blank), or quarterback for the (fill in the blank). My dream is to hang with David Rosengarten. His book "Red Wine with Fish" along with the Food TV show Taste definitely changed my life. I am now obsessed with searching for perfect food and beverage matches. I'll never forget the episode of Taste where he decided the perfect match for caviar is Bud Light. I wonder if Taste is available on DVD? I'll have to google it and see. I will be cooking something this weekend from the Dean & DeLuca cookbook in his honor. I would have gone for the fried chicken. I wonder what he would think of Mari Luna? Now I am rambling.

*drool* My husband and I make the drive from Columbia (usually with our 2 greyhounds in tow) just for lunch at Eamonn's. Indeed - thanks be to cod, but now I'm thinking of trying the grouper next time. I tell you, if I didn't already have plans this weekend, I know where we'd be heading...

RoCK - That really looks good! I don't get down that way too often, but that dish may make it worth the drive. But you left out one very important detail...What did Mr. Jefferson have?

Mr Jefferson had a pigs ear we purchased at a nearby dog store. We came very close to having an incident with two labs who were walking by our table.

I've eaten at Eamonn's with my wife and son. The fish is extraordinary.

Sounds delicious, RoCK. My Scots blood is now clamouring for fried things.

I've had Lemon Club. Very tasty. Not too sweet. It is adult bubbly stuff.

I do hope that Mr. Jefferson kept his pigs ear and was able to properly mark and sniff Mt. Vernon.

What breed is Mr. Jefferson?

I have a Chocolate Lab who is a direct descendent, as far as behavior goes, of Marley. She is the sweetest, most loving dog in the world, but would never make it in (or outside) a restaurant. She would be in the middle of everyone's table scarfing their food. LOL

Mr. Jefferson is a pound puppy, so I'm not sure what his lineage is.

He was wearing Martinsburg, West Virginia tags when he was left at the police station in Essex. He was then transferred to the Baltimore County pound in Baldwin where we adopted him.

He is clearly some form of a mixed terrier, but there are some other things floating around in his DNA that I'm not sure about.

It's such a great thing to rescue an unwanted dog or cat. Our Lab was about to be thrown out of her home when we took her in 7 years ago. She is a wonderful dog if not a bit energetic. A few months before that a little calico cat followed my wife home one night, walked right in the house. We've had her ever since. Of course she was pregnant, we kept one of her sons, found homes for her other offspring. Pets are wonderful.

Jack Ziegler, I couldn't agree with you more. Our rescue kitties (brother and sister) light up our lives.

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About this blog
Richard Gorelick was appointed The Baltimore Sun's restaurant critic in September 2010. Before joining the paper staff fulltime, he contributed freelance criticism and features articles about food to area and regional publications. Along the way, he dispatched for short-distance trucking companies, shilled for cultural non-profits, and assisted in cognitive neurology research – never the subject, always the control.

He takes restaurants seriously but not himself, and his favorite restaurant is the one you love, too.

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