I’m writing this post from Dublin, where I’m finishing up another great visit to Ireland. You know what that means? I’ve had potatoes [nearly] for breakfast, lunch, and dinner in as many shapes and textures as one can imagine: fried potatoes for breakfast, chips to go with fish at lunch, and boiled or creamed potatoes to go with just about anything at dinner.
I’ve come to the conclusion that they really are the stuff of greatness and no more so than in a potato cake, to which any number of other ingredients can be added. These potato cake recipes have appeared in a number of my cookbooks, including Favorite Flavors of Ireland. To order a signed copy, visit www.irishcook.com
People have been celebrating their Irish heritage by taking in The Philadelphia Irish Festival at Penns Landing for more than 20 years. That translates to thousands of Irish or those who just want to be Irish for the day. You can add to those impressive stats. The festival is coming up again on June 2. Best of all—it’s free.
Part of the PECO Multicultural Series, the festival offers a day of great Irish tunes, dance, food and drink, vendors, and plenty of activities for the kiddies.
“It’s a family-friendly event,” says organizer Michael Bradley. “It attracts everybody from newborns to people in their 90s. Everybody’s welcome. It’s a nice way to get your family out and to keep the Irish tradition alive, at a beautiful location along the river. It’s just a really neat place to be.”
Free admission means people who might be struggling financially can come out and enjoy the music, the vendors and all the rest. “It’s not a price-conscious thing,” Bradley says. “You don’t see free admission too much anymore.”
Yes, there are kilts—in at least one case, obligatory. Sure, there’s ax throwing, bagpipes, a kilted fun run, and highland games. But Kilt Fest, coming to Bucks County June 7 and 8, is really a mishmash of all Celtic culture.
Kilt Fest on the Pennsylvania side of the Delaware is an offshoot of a festival by the same name held in New Jersey. This will be the first year here in the Philadelphia suburbs, at the Trifecta Sporting Club, 4666 East Bristol Road, Feasterville-Trevose.
“Ours is more of a Celtic festival. We have Irish and Scots,” says organizer Chris Beyer, owner of American Highlander Kilts. “A lot of it is Irish. It’s easier to get Irish involved in these things. We try to keep it where it’s a little more all-inclusive.”
Patrons of Moriarty’s in Center City can thank their lucky stars that Jennifer Richart Michaels found the 9-to-5 grind so restrictive.
“I tried working in an office, and it was horrifying every minute for me. I did it for two years and I couldn’t wait to get out of it,” she says. “I felt like I was locked in a cage. Every minute, every day. I would get up in the morning and I would think of 20 reasons not to go in. I would make the turn into the parking lot and it felt like somebody had hit me with a two-by-four.”
For the last 15 years, she’s been the day bartender at Moriarty’s, 1116 Walnut Street. Before that, she tended bar at Havana and the Logan Inn in New Hope—she’s from that area—before deciding to give Center City a try. Michaels had been working at a bar that closed when they expanded the Convention Center. That’s when she applied at Moriarty’s.
MAKES 1 DOZEN
Marmalade made with Seville oranges is often preferred in Ireland because these oranges are higher in pectin and give a slightly bitter taste. In this recipe, thick-cut marmalade adds both flavor and texture.
To keep the muffins light and fluffy, fold the wet and dry ingredients together as briefly as possible until just combined; not to worry if the mixture is a bit lumpy.
You’ll find recipes like this in my cookbook Favorite Flavors of Ireland. To order signed copies, visit www.irishcook.com
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 tablespoons baking powder
- 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
- Pinch of salt
- 1/4 cup coarse whole wheat flour
- 2 tablespoon granulated sugar
- 1/2 cup milk
- 5 tablespoons plain or vanilla yogurt
- 2 large eggs, beaten
- Grated zest of 1 orange
- 4 tablespoons butter, melted
- 1/2 cup thick-cut orange marmalade
- Softened butter, for spreading
Hanrahan’s bartender Bobby Callan has lived in the Drexel Hill area all of his 30 years. He has a house in Clifton Heights now, but he grew up three blocks from this bustling Irish bar on Burmont Road, catty-corner from the Aronimink Avenue SEPTA station.
Callan got into the bar business a few years ago when one of his best friends suggested that he join him in working at a dive bar. “He said to me, ‘This is easy. It’s great. You get to meet new people.” He took to bartending, but after a while he tired of the dive bar scene. Fortuitously, he played on a local softball team, and a Hanrahan’s employee who was on the team recruited him.
If it’s March, then it’s time to start thinking of soda bread, one of Ireland’s most iconic foods.
It’s safe to say that every Irish cook has a recipe for it that’s been personalized by families either by name, ingredients, or method of baking. A few decades ago, I judged an Irish cooking contest and nearly one quarter of all the recipes submitted were for soda bread—Aunt Eileen’s, Grandma O’Hara’s, Auntie Maura’s, Cousin Terry’s—and not one was the same!
Two or three recipes were for the sweet white version that calls for raisins and caraway seeds and even these varied: one recipe suggested soaking the raisins in water or whiskey to plump up the fruit. Another one or two insisted kneading was essential. One added sour cream; another buttermilk.
I enjoyed them all, but this one—a brown bread flavored with Guinness—has become my favorite. It might become yours, too! If you can, use an Irish brand of coarse whole meal flour; if not, mix Irish oatmeal and oat or wheat bran. You’ll fine recipes like this in my cookbook Favorite Flavors of Ireland; signed copies available at www.irishcook.com.
You want to go where everybody knows your name. True. But McGillin’s bartender Tammy Rhodes got to know one patron so well, that she took his name.
Tammy met her future husband, construction worker Dusty Rhodes, in the bar about 17 years ago.
“He was a regular on the floor,” Tammy recalls, “but I got him to come up to the bar. He always sat at a table. One of his friends always used to mess around with me, joking, and one day he said to him, you should get her away from her boyfriend. He’s mean to her. Once he came up to the bar, we started talking.”
They haven’t stopped talking since. Three years ago, they were married at City Hall. “January was actually our third anniversary,” Tammy says. “We got married right around the corner, and after that we came back to McGillin’s. When we walked in, my bosses had given all my customers champagne. They were all cheering us. It was really nice.”