This is not your usual St. Patrick’s Day food and drink review.
The beer, whisky and corned beef cabbage story has been done ad nauseam.
No one loves tradition more than this Examiner, but there is little for foodies to love about a “time-in-a-bottle” menu that frankly was more a creation than a reflection of national cuisine.
A salient point remains for foodies and locavores.
More than one-third of the Irish population in the 1840’s was entirely dependent on the potato.
A million or so died of starvation and an equal number emigrated following the potato blight. According to sources, “Implicated in Ireland's fate was the island's disproportionate dependency on a single variety of potato, the Irish Lumper. The lack of genetic variability created a susceptible host population for the organism.”
Today in America we too have a kind of monoculture.
Diversity is essential.
We rely too much on corn and soy. But that’s a story for another day.
Point here is that Irish cuisine is now just that.
It’s become, at long last, an internationally recognized culinary art form!
No longer ordinary and a way just to get through the day.
The island culture has embraced its unique affinity to its fish. And its produce. And its meat.
Did you know that according to IrelandBy.com, “the Irish diet remained the same until the arrival of the Normans in the 8th century after which the Irish no longer had free reign to hunt wherever they pleased?
Households began growing their own vegetables with this practice the standard of living improved and the wealth of new dishes increased greatly.
Livestock was the main currency of the times and in general the Irish dined well on meat and vegetables.
Astoundingly some claim that only in the last 50 years has the quality of the Irish diet has returned to what it was at the start of the eighth century!
It’s taken 13 centuries to get back to where the cultural cuisine was. It’s now 2013..
Let’s embrace that culinary heritage: Crusty soda bread, oysters, lamb, cheese and oh so much more.
So all those who love nothing more than beer and kilts and potatoes – go for it.
But if the site of too many leprechauns and suburban girls on subways with shamrock tattoos leave you wishing for more of a culture, then explore the Irish adventure.
Here is a menu that one can create and use not just on St. Patrick’s Day.
Here is this Examiner's curated Irish-inspired food recipes and ideas to enjoy on St. Patrick's Day and beyond.
Erin Go Braugh - or Long Live Ireland!
Mini Reuben Appetizers:
· Mini cocktail bread - Use the dark bread or rye mini loaf found in the deli section of the food store
· Corned beef
· Sauerkraut or cole slaw – store-bought or make your own
· Swiss Cheese
· Slice the corned beef into mini bread size pieces
· Preheat oven to 350 to 375 degrees
· Place the mini bread on a cookie sheet, (may want to coat with a non-stick spray) and top with corned beef slices
· Put a dollop of the sauerkraut or cole slaw on top of the bread and corned beef
· Top the bread layering with a cut piece of the cheese
· Pop the Mini Reubens in the pre-heated oven till the cheese melts – maybe 5 minutes
· Add a cornichon or small pickle garnish held in place with a toothpick – a shamrock cutie one, perhaps!
Rachel Allen’s Irish Stew from her cookbook, Rachel’s Irish Family Food (not Family Feud!)
Irish Stew Recipe as featured in Serious Eats:
Melissa Clark’s Irish Soda Buns!
These are so great as there is more crunchy and crispy. Clark
There are currants or raisins to add too.
This Examiner adores Melissa Clark and that cutie culinary way she has.
This recipe was titled, “ Sugar Added, Fairies Optional” How Sweet!
Clark recommends just slathering with Irish butter... Who can argue with that?
Plus the link below has a video to make the recipe all that much easier to do.
Not that long ago, this might have been a difficult recommendation. But today? Not so much. In fact, many of the Examiner’s chefs featured in The Hamptons & Long Island Homegrown Cookbook have created breathtaking Irish desserts.
Not just a romp, these Homegrown desserts are extraordinary – and inspired by Irish culture.
For example, Chef Joe Isidori’s newest restaurant venture: Arthur on Smith – named after his beloved father, is featuring a Flourless Chocolate Espresso Cake with Hazelnut, Amarena Cherry and Pistachio Ice Cream!
Chef Joe’s BKLYN Restaurant is located at 276 Smith Street, Brooklyn, NY
Another incredible Irish dessert inspiration from The Hamptons & Long Island Homegrown Cookbook is this scandalously, decadent treat from the North Fork’s The Frisky Oyster:
Guinness Dark Chocolate Cake with Absinthe Chocolate Chip Ice Cream
While they had me at Guinness and this treat alone deserves a visit to Chef Robbie Beaver and The Frisky Oyster https://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Frisky-Oyster/120651981293872
I read on their Facebook page that they are serving a Lamb Shepherd Pie with Garlic and Celery Root Puree.
Be still my heart..
Seriously, I do not think there is any need for recommending Irish beer or whiskey or Bailey’s or any of that.
I will say that some year’s ago I was honored to have written the speech for the New York St. Patrick’s Day Parade’s Grand Marshall and he was the senior executive from Guinness.
In researching the speech material, I learned so very much about the Irish diaspora, the history, the culture and pride of the Irish …
That sense of discovery and joy left an abiding respect and curiosity.
This Examiner listened to a refreshing NPR feature with Leonard Lopate and Irish cookbook author and chef Rachel Allen.
Here you can read the overview and link to the audio:
And if you want to pursue fun Irish cuisine, look no further than a friend's portfolio of Irish-themed, family restaurants. The restaurant names derive from their parents or places they love. The images on the walls are real family photos (framed by yet another friend from City Frame: http://www.cityframe.com)
To name a few of the family's Irish restaurants:
And what is Irish Food & Drink without great Irish Gardens?
Irish Garden Book Review
Spring is almost here and that means the cool, sweet, hopeful green season is back.
“Green” seems to be everywhere.
You can’t help but register that everybody – from corporations to government to media – are keen to profess their new green initiatives.
This green style sparked a green review on my part - -when I think green – real honest-to-goodness, wearin’ of the green – I think of Ireland.
So the books for this garden visit will demonstrate why this island is truly a gardener’s green paradise.
Gardens of Ireland, by Marianne Heron and photography by Seven Wooster takes the reader on a garden tour organized by region: The South and South East; Central, South West, and the North, followed by a two-page index of “Where to Visit,” that includes the hours of visitation, travel directions, and contact information.
Ireland’s rain and temperate climate is ideal for growing the widest range of plants in its latitude -- not to mention the Gulf Stream that allows sub-tropical plants to thrive along the coasts. And you thought the Irish green thumb was the magic sprinkled in the garden by all those fairies and leprechauns!
Ireland boasts many private gardens whose owners are happy to show off their horticulture triumphs.
Today there are also more than 100 gardens that are open the public.
The book is richly illustrated with luscious photographs – some are full-page illustrations of the gardens that are punctuated with bright, sharp colors or misty landscapes along with the home, folly, or castle. Others are whimsical notations that truly provide a sense of place such as the willow dragon of Ballymaloe or the flock of hens there, or the peacocks at Kilmokea, or the feline-looking stone creature on the Dodo Terrace at the Mount Stewart garden.
The text is just the right mix of garden history and a description or inventory of the plants in the garden – it reads as if you are walking through the site. The author writes, “Drifts of white willow herb waving beyond precision-clipped box hedges…” or “Bonet’s plan features two long ponds stretching a dramatic 550 feet towards a distant avenue of limes, beyond them are the Cascades, a series of tumbling water features or stops, hidden by a ha-ha…” You get the idea of how intriguing and fun this is to read! The famous Irish sense of humor that is everywhere evident. The overview of Larchhill reads, “A rural Arcadia where extraordinary follies and rare pigs in palaces feature in Ireland’s only ferme ornee or ornamental farm: a unique survivor of gardening history.” How can you not be taken in by that?
Down to Earth with Helen Dillon is a little over 200 pages and is chock full of sage wisdom about how to achieve magnificent gardens.
This is a beautifully illustrated full color photographs gardener’s “how-to” written in a witty, practical – and well, down to earth prose that supports the cover jacket’s “Advice and inspiration from one of the world’s great gardeners.” You’ll be hooked by Dillon from the start. The Introduction begins with the heading: “Shouldn’t Have.” And she begins her frothy tirade confessing bad gardening decisions from wrong plants to tacky garden accessories like the loopy swan fountain. Right off the bat, you can relate. Helen is determined that we can all learn from her mistakes. She triumphed through the evolution of her Irish gardens and the book guides us through the journey. The chapter headings tell us this will be a process – a fun one too—from Part 1 Beginners Stuff (sub heads include Why did it die, Collapse of the late summer garden, to Ten trees for a small garden, and The one-hour a week garden. Part 2 is the Middle Ground and includes “Hiding the neighbors,” Five shrubs with good leaves,” and “Questionable plants.” And who could resist Part 3 Fancy Stuff?
Helen concludes the garden journey with topics such as “No plants,” “Unsettling remarks,” “As light as air,” and “Dog in the garden.” (she advises to get a short dog like a daschund who can’t lift their legs high!)
The writing is witty, if not hilarious. We will all recognize ourselves in the humble pursuit of producing a fabulous garden. Beautiful gardens take a lot of work and no small amount of some magic.
The speciallness of this book is that while we can see ourselves in the garden foibles the author describes, she provides more than a lucky charm or horticulture hocus-pocus. This is a fun, helpful garden guide that you will turn to over and over for a been-there/done that experienced gardener.