It’s not too surprising that Michael Higgins is a bartender at one of Philadelphia’s favorite Irish pubs.
“My family owned a pub in Galway for probably seven years,” he says, “and the first time I poured a pint of any kind was the night we opened. That’s how I was thrust into the pub world, and I’ve been doing it ever since.”
After the pub sold, he moved to the United States. He’s been at Tir na nÓg for 10 years.
We caught up with him recently and asked him a few questions about his life behind the bar.
CREAMY CARROT-CLOVE SOUP
SERVES 6 TO 8
This is one of my all-time favorite soups, and with the chilly temperatures we’ve been having lately, it’s definitely time for another batch. The recipe has been in my soup repertoire since 1999 when it appeared in my first cookbook, “Irish Heritage Cookbook.” A few whole cloves add magic to it, and you can serve it “as is” or embellish it with Bacon Breadcrumbs (recipe follows), a later addition. For a thicker consistency add a chopped potato.
Mary Frances Fogg (a/k/a Frassee) tends bar at Paddy Whacks Irish Sports Pub, tucked away in a shopping center at Roosevelt Boulevard and Welsh Road in Northeast Philadelphia. She’s pretty much a fixture there at one of the best-known Irish pubs in the city, and she’s one of the most welcoming bartenders you’ll ever want to meet. She has a loyal clientele, and with her welcoming smile and gift for easy conversation, it’s easy to see why.
Frassee is also a member of the Philadelphia St. Patrick’s Day Parade Observance Association executive committee and a 2015 Delaware Valley Irish Hall of Fame honoree. It would be hard to think of anyone better known in the Philadelphia Irish community. When she’s not expertly pouring pint glasses of Guinness at Paddy Whacks, she also has a day job: director of Government Relations and Special Projects at the Philadelphia Redevelopment Authority.
We recently asked her a few questions about that bartending gig. Here’s what she had to say.
Often called “plum pudding”—despite the fact that it contains no plums whatsoever—steamed pudding was first recorded as “Christmas Pudding” in 1858 and later popularized in the carol “We Wish You a Merry Christmas.”
The name is probably derived from the substitution of raisins for dried plums as an ingredient in pies during medieval times. In the 16thand 17thcenturies, dishes made with raisins retained the term “plum,” and in the Victorian era, Christmas plum puddings became a well-loved dessert.
Curiously, plum pudding was a latecomer to Ireland, but it caught on quickly and replaced its plainer boiled pudding cousins; to this day it’s one of the most traditional of all Christmas dishes. Not to be confused with fruitcake, it’s actually more like a dense spice cake, and this recipe uses butter rather than the traditional suet.
Serve it warm with Brandy Hard Sauce. You’ll find more holiday recipes in my cookbook Christmas Flavors of Ireland; signed copies available on www.irishcook.com
If you’re still looking to add an Irish “touch” to your American Thanksgiving meal, look no further than this delicious starter featuring Cashel Blue, Ireland’s first (and most delicious) blue cheese. This recipe comes from award-winning chef Kevin Dundon, proprietor of Dunbrody House in County Wexford, and is part of a collection of Cashel Blue recipes from Kerrygold, who now imports the cheese.
You’ll find other recipes featuring this cheese in my cookbook Favorite Flavors of Ireland; signed copies available at www.irishcook.com
WILD MUSHROOM-BLUE CHEESE TOASTIES
Pears are one of the world’s most ancient cultivated fruits. There are over 3,000 known pear varieties grown around the world in temperate zones (peak season is July through January), each with a distinctive character, texture, and flavor.
The most popular and recognizable pears are the yellow Bartlett, with a true pear shape, followed by the elegant, egg-shaped Anjou, (also called d’Anjou), the graceful Bosc, pudgy Comice, and tiniest Forelle.
Pears poached in red wine or Port make an elegant-but-simple dessert, but this sweeter method of poaching in white wine is a pleasant alternative.
Serve the pears with Italian mascarpone, tangy crème fraîche, blue cheese, or lemon curd whipped cream. You’ll find recipes like this in my cookbook Favorite Flavors of Ireland; signed copies available at www.irishcook.com.
The Eagles are squaring off against the Jaguars at Wembley Stadium in London this Sunday. Here’s hoping the Birds warm to the challenge.
If you’re planning on watching the game in Delaware County when it airs at 9:30 a.m., you can catch the game, snag a great breakfast, and help keep some of the county’s neediest stay warm this winter in the process.
The Ancient Order of Hibernians Dennis Kelly Division No. 1 of Havertown is hosting a benefit for their home heating program at Hanrahan’s Irish Pub, 690 Burmont Road in Drexel Hill. Doors open at 8 a.m. There’s no charge to get into the pub, but there is a great breakfast buffet to be had for just $12, which includes your first Mimosa or Bloody Mary. The division gets a cut, which will be devoted to the home heating program, according to organizer and division board member Jim McCusker. Tickets for the buffet can be bought at the door.
The ancient Celtic harvest feast called Samhain (pronounced SAH-win) marks the end of the harvest season and the beginning of winter, the “darker half” of the year. It’s celebrated on October 31-November 1, which is nearly halfway between the autumn equinox and the winter solstice.
It was suggested in the late nineteenth century that it was the “Celtic New Year,” and over time, Samhain and All Saints’/All Souls’ Days merged to create our modern celebration of Halloween.
Several foods are traditionally eaten in Ireland at this time, especially Barmbrack, a yeast fruit bread. According to tradition, hidden in the Halloween Barmbrack were tokens to foretell the future — a ring for the bride-to- be, a thimble for the one who would never marry, and a small piece of cloth indicating the one who would be poor.