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Food & Drink

Poach Pears for Lovely Seasonal Dessert

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

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Food & Drink, People

AOH Delco Division Eagles Fund-Raiser Goal: Keep Some Local Families Warm This Winter

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. Continue Reading

Food & Drink

Almost Time to Celebrate Samhain

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. Continue Reading

Food & Drink, Music, People, Photos

It’s All About the Lip Sync

Jimmy Fallon, eat your heart out! You may have made lip syncing cool, but last Friday night the Irish Immigration  Center of Philadelphia filled the ballroom of the Paxon Hollow Golf Club in Broomall with its Lip Sync Challenge.  Over 300 people turned out to cheer on the ten acts who performed like the entertainers they were channeling.

And the theme of the night was FUN.

One of the most important missions of the Immigration Center is its work with the seniors in the community,  including a monthly lunch at the Irish Center in Mt. Airy, so it was only fitting that two of the acts, The Jailbirds  and Seniors in Sync, were composed of seniors. Proving age has no season, they brought the house down with  their performances, including interpretations of Johnny Cash’s “Folsom Prison Blues” and Beyonce’s “Single  Ladies.” Continue Reading

Dance, Food & Drink, Music

Northeast Philly Irish Festival 2015

Organizer Bill Reid kept the rain out and the Irish in, all of them gathered under the big tent behind the Cannstatter Club in Northeast Philadelphia.

Deborah Streeter-Davitt of MacDougall's Irish Victory Cakes

Deborah Streeter-Davitt of MacDougall’s Irish Victory Cakes

Saturday was the first of two days celebrating all things Irish, with a raft of performers, including Deirdre Reilly,the Bogside Rogues, Belfast Connection, The Hooligans and the Fitzpatrick Dancers, plus lots of vendors hawking jewelry, T-shirts, whiskey cakes and scones.

There was a big dance floor in front of the stage, and although there weren’t a lot of dancers, those who stepped up did so with the enthusiasm dancers tend to have in buckets full.

We caught all of the action.

Food & Drink, People

A Garden Tea Party Fundraiser and a Community Coming Together

Tiernagh & Mia Moore and Meagan & Jenna Diver with Their Cards for Caolan & Conall

Tiernagh & Mia Moore and Meagan & Jenna Diver with their cards for Caolan & Conall

“It’s overwhelming how people just come together in situations like this. Situations that you don’t even think about before they happen.”

These are the words of Fidelma McGroary, and she knows what she’s talking about. Fidelma is one of five Delaware County women who organized last Sunday’s Garden Tea Party to raise money for two strong little boys who are fighting cancer.

Caolan Melaugh, the cousin of Fidelma’s sister-in-law in County Donegal, was diagnosed at four weeks with Neuroblastoma. Now four months old, Caolan is undergoing an 18 month protocol in Ireland to treat his cancer, but the best chance for a successful cure would mean treatment in either the U.S. or Europe. An expensive undertaking, the Caolan Melaugh Fund has been established online, and half of the money raised at Sunday’s Tea Party will be donated to Caolan.

Conall Harvey is much closer to home. The five year old, whose family is part of St. Denis Parish in Havertown and whose great-grandmother was the late Rosabelle Gifford, was diagnosed in March of this year with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia.  The Leukemia was discovered when Conall was admitted to the ER with what his parents thought was dehydration from a stomach virus.  But instead of a stomach virus, Conall’s body had gone into septic shock from a bacterial infection that his immune system was too weak to fight off. Doctors amputated both Conall’s legs at the knee and part of his hand to save his life; the other half of the money raised Sunday will go directly to Conall’s family as he undergoes chemotherapy and rehabilitation.

“These are two special little boys,” Fidelma said. “And we decided we weren’t going to let another day go by without doing something to help them. We’ve been talking about giving back and paying it forward for years. I wanted to do something for Caolan, and then we heard about Conall. That’s how it started.

“This could not have happened without Louise Moore, Sharon Doogan, Kathy McGuinness and Colette Gallagher-Mohan. And the people who donated raffle baskets and food and their time. Everybody lifted the phone and said ‘What can I bring?’ And then the word started to spread, that’s the people of the Irish Community.”

Another group that was instrumental in making the Garden Tea Party so successful was their children. “They did all the decor. They did everything, we couldn’t have done it without them,” Fidelma said. “It was important that the kids were a part of this. I wanted them to grow up realizing how blessed they are and to learn to give back. So when they grow up and we’re old and gone, they’ll carry on.”

The special guest of the day was Mairead Comaskey, the Philadelphia Rose of Tralee. Beautiful and gracious, Mairead could usually be found with a trail of young girls in her wake. In addition to judging the best-dressed contests, she happily posed for pictures and shared her sash and crown with the crowd. In a few weeks, Mairead is off to Tralee for the International Rose Pageant, but on Sunday her heart was with Caolan and Conall.

At the time of the fundraiser, Conall Harvey was still recovering at CHOP, but his aunt, Rose Harvey Kurtz, was at the event. “Conall is just a beautiful bright light, a beautiful spirit,” she said. “He’s a fighter. His school dedicated a day to him, and the motto was ‘Conall Strong.’ We do down to visit him to brighten his day, and instead he brightens ours.

“The outpouring of love and faith is keeping us going. There’s something about Conall’s spirit that is bringing out the love and goodness in people. People’s faith is coming back. The positive thing is the strength of the family and friends who are so supportive, and the beautiful people who do beautiful things like this. It’s overwhelming how good people are.”

You can see all the photos from the Garden Tea Party below.

Food & Drink, News

McKenna’s Kitchen and Market Opens

Mmmmm. . .shepherd's pie.

Mmmmm. . .shepherd’s pie.

If you’re a fan of the Food Network, you’re going to love McKenna’s Kitchen and Market, the new endeavor of Pat and Nancy Durnin in Havertown.

When you walk in, just pull up a stool at the counter, which is made from a piece of wood from an old Norfolk, VA, shipwreck that the designer found abandoned in a barn.

From there you can watch Chef Lee McCarron from Derry City piping mashed potatoes laced with spinach on top of a shepherd’s pie before sliding it into the oven to brown, plating bangers and mash with a drizzle of carmelized onion gravy, and arranging the Irish fry like a fine artist.

But the real reason you’re going to love McKenna’s is because of the food, not the show going on in the open kitchen where it’s prepared.

McCarron, who was the chef at the late, lamented St. Declan’s Well in Philadelphia, has taken some old familiar Irish recipes of the stick-to-your-ribs variety and added a delicate touch. The shepherd’s pie ($11), for example, is filled with ground lamb whose taste is enhanced rather than muffled by a rich oniony gravy. For those who prefer the Americanized version, there’s also a beef-based cottage pie ($10) on the McKenna’s menu.

And the Irish fry ($10), a plate loaded with rashers (Irish bacon), bangers (Irish sausage), eggs, baked beans, grilled tomato, black and white pudding (also sausages, one made with blood, the other without), hand-cut fries, and brown bread, isn’t just a breakfast meal. It’s all your daily requirements for calories, fat, and many vitamins and minerals all on one plate. You won’t eat again until the next day, even if you do have it for breakfast.

The extensive menu also has burgers, sandwiches (including Irish toasties, $7), salads, soups, appetizers and kids’ meals.

All the food, except for the Irish imports, is locally sourced, says co-owner Pat “”Squee” Durnin. “It’s all from within 200 miles of here. Lee says that fresh isn’t necessarily more expensive. It takes more work and more organizing, but sometimes it can save money.”

If the name McKenna’s sounds familiar, it’s because it’s a reflection of his mother-in-law’s decades old endeavor, McKenna’s Irish Shop, which he and Nancy operated in the same location on Darby Road until it closed late last year.

Nancy’s mother, Anne Gallagher McKenna, a Donegal immigrant (Ardara) started selling her knitted mittens, scarves, and sweaters out of her living room and eventually built it into a network of Irish artisans whose woolen goods she sold out of her store, which carried everything from gold and silver jewelry to Barry’s Tea to crates of turf. McKenna’s Irish Shop had a good 35-year run before a changing market made gold too expensive and a 12-piece set of Beleek china something your mother handed down to you, but you didn’t buy for yourself.

When McKenna’s Irish Shop wrapped up its last Claddagh necklace right after Christmas last year, plans were already in the works for the BYOB restaurant and market–where you can still get your Barry’s and more. It’s a joint venture of the Durnins and a local couple, Brian and Jennifer Cleary. Many other Irish hands played a part too.

“A lot of the people here tonight are local Irish trades people and craftsmen who worked on the building,” said Durnin last Friday night during the restaurant’s invitation-only soft opening. (It opened officially last Saturday for breakfast and lunch, then all-day starting on Monday.)

The Durnins and Clearys hired a designer from Virginia to turn the shop into an upscale restaurant space and many of the unusual touches—the handmade wooden tables, tin ceiling, and counter—came from the south. “The tables are handmade from tobacco wood,” explained Brian Cleary. “The tin ceiling date from 1863 and comes from a plantation in Virginia.”

The chairs, however, are local. “They were a find,” he says, clearly delighted. “They were from the Crystal Tearoom at Wanamaker’s in Philadelphia.”

A double door that looks out onto the glassed-in porch room harkens back to old Ireland, when they were designed to keep the animals out and the breezes drifting through the house, explains Durnin. A red “armoire” in the main dining area does provide cabinet space for dishes, glasses and cups, but some of the drawers are shallow because “it’s actually hiding a set of stairs” that leads to an upstairs apartment, Durnin reveals.

And Mrs. McKenna is there too. Reconstructing the shop involved freeing a fireplace that was once in the parlor of the building, which started life as someone’s home. Nancy Durnin had an old platter that had been handed down to her from her mother who got it from her mother. She wanted it to be in the restaurant, but couldn’t find a place for it.

“We were struggling over what to put up over the mantle of the fireplace,” explains Cleary, “then my wife said, “Let’s put it over the fireplace.’ It was like it belonged there.”

Just like McKenna’s Kitchen and Market itself.

McKenna’s is at 1901 Darby Road, Havertown. It’s open from 7 AM to 10 PM. Tea and coffee–the meals as well as the drinks–are served all day. Bread is made daily by a local Irish baker. There’s on-street parking and parking available at the school next door when school isn’t in session. For weekend reservations, call 610-853-2202. BYOB


Food & Drink, News, People

The Brehons Celebrate St. Patrick’s Day at Tir na nOg

Patrick Murphy with Siobhan Sean Stevens

How do the judges, lawyers, law students (and their friends!) of Irish descent rejoice in the St. Patrick’s Day season in Philly? They gather their members of The Brehon Law Society together, get John Byrne & Maura Dwyer of The John Byrne Band to play some music and they meet at Tir na nOG in the city on March 11th. With a great turnout, and the food & drink superb, the craic was mighty.

And, with guests like Patrick Murphy, the former Pennsylvania Congressman and current host of MSNBC’s monthly program “Taking the Hill” (which is airing this Sunday, March 22, at 1PM Eastern Time), in attendance, you can always count on The Brehons to throw an exceptional shindig!

Check out our photos from the evening, and see who else showed up for the party.