Erin Go Bragh! 7 Delicious St. Patrick’s Day Celebrations

Forget mashed potatoes and watery boiled cabbage — Irish cuisine has gone upscale this March with mouthwatering menus featuring Gaelic steak with cream sauce, corned-beef arancini with whole-grain mustard sauce, and succulent Atlantic salmon. If that’s not enough to make you raise a glass of cheer, restaurants across the country are hosting a slew of musical acts, Irish trivia nights, and even sexy kilt contests for a sham-rocking time feting the Emerald Isle’s patron saint. Check out these seven not-to-be-missed St. Patrick’s Day celebrations.

O’Lunney’s Times Square Pub, New York, New York
St. Patrick’s Day at O’Lunney’s isn’t just about dinner; it’s about dinner and a show — with a full Irish breakfast to boot. The festivities start at 8AM, and the entertainment kicks off with Irish step dancers and bagpipers streaming through a jolly crowd enjoying the greatest amount of corned beef and cabbage that will be ordered all year. But besides the traditional, they like to add specials, such as a Gaelic steak topped with a whiskey cream sauce served with potatoes, potato and leek soup with bacon, onion soup, and a slew of Irish coffees, says Maureen O’Lunney, whose father Hugh opened the restaurant after moving to New York from County Cavan in 1968. “It’s just packed and so much fun,” she says. “St. Patrick’s Day here has a mighty history.” That included an annual visit from former NYC Mayor Ed Koch every March 17. Make a reservation at O’Lunney’s Times Square Pub.

St. Patrick's Day Celebrations

Fado Irish Pub, Seattle, Washington
With Seattle’s longest-running Irish tune session held every Sunday, Fado always has a bit of the ceoil agus craic (music and fun), but during March, it’s celebrated in spades. Featuring a full musical lineup on parade day on the 12th and also on the 17th, Fado encourages guests to “Paddy Hard,” starting in the morning with special brunch menus, and heartier fare like Guinness & cheddar bread and chicken and shrimp boxty, an Irish pancake made with grated and mashed potatoes. Those needing a time-out from the revelry can take a breather in “the confessional”; this special space in each of Fado’s 13 locations nationwide is dedicated to the father of owner Kieran McGill, whose dad owned The Confessional pub back in Dublin. Make a reservation at Fado Irish Pub.

St. Patrick's Day Celebrations

Mrs. Murphy & Sons Irish Bistro, Chicago, Illinois
Surely, Ireland’s patron saint deserves more than just one day, especially in a city so spirited as to dye the Chicago River green. For a full 17 days, Mrs. Murphy & Sons puts an upscale spin on such classic county fare as shepherd’s pie with ground domestic lamb and veal, carrots, leeks, pearl onions, and golden brown mashed potatoes, beer-battered Atlantic cod with homemade tartar sauce, curry ketchup, and hand cut chips, Guinness stew with braised Highland chuck, root vegetables, roasted barley, and mashed potatoes, and bread pudding featuring brioche, whiskey caramel sauce, cinnamon cream, and toasted walnuts. If the full schedule of Irish music isn’t enough to evoke the Emerald Isle, surely the surroundings — a painstakingly restored historic space with a bar built in Dublin and shipped across the pond — will. Make a reservation at Mrs. Murphy & Sons Irish Bistro.

St. Patrick's Day Celebrations

James Joyce Irish Pub and Restaurant, Baltimore, Maryland
Though literary scholars know James Joyce is more about reflection than revelry, anything but the opposite is true in Harbor East, where James Joyce Pub has helped revitalize the Baltimore landscape. March is the merriest of months, with music and special events nearly every night of the week, including burger day on Mondays with an Irish black pudding or Guinness burger and Whiskey Wednesdays. Those not ready to join the Guinness 100 Pint Club can get their fix with chef Pedro Flores’s award-winning Beer & Guinness Stew (crowned the best at the Maryland Irish Festival); or dig into Irish boiled bacon with crispy roasted potatoes, carrots, and whiskey mustard cream, bangers and mash, fish and chips, and for those watching their waistlines, grilled Atlantic salmon. Make a reservation at James Joyce Pub.

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Prost! 9 German Beer Halls for Celebrating Oktoberfest

October, Oktober, no matter how you spell it, it’s a great time of year for beer. The original German festival that began as a wedding celebration in Munich is now a global event and it marks the perfect time to get together with friends and family over a pint. So, find a table, order some wurst and pretzels, drink a boot full of beer, and get your oompah on at one of these 9 German beer halls for celebrating Oktoberfest.

Redlefsen’s Rotisserie & Grill, Bristol, Rhode Island
The Guertler family transforms Redlefsen’s into a proper German beer hall every year for music, food, dancing, and fun. A broad menu of German staples and eclectic world cuisine will help you maintain your balance while consuming a long list of German and Belgian beers.

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The Radler, Chicago, Illinois
Chicago’s preeminent German beer hall focuses on modernized, locally sourced German cuisine served in a traditional communal atmosphere. Check out their calendar of Oktoberfest events, including the “Wurst Dinner in Radler History.”

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Reichenbach Hall, New York, New York
Genuine German and Bavarian food and atmosphere are a daily affair at New York’s Reichenbach Hall, where the feeling of Oktoberfest carries throughout the year. The German beers on tap come in sizes from half a liter to das two-liter boot.

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Rhein Haus, Seattle, Washington
A Capitol Hill favorite, Rhein Haus serves up 24 beers on tap and a generous selection of local beers, then ups the ante with its five indoor bocce ball courts. This place is big and the competitive spirit is high. Don’t miss their inaugural Oktoberfest Food-feast Relay Race on September 26.

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Hofbrauhaus, Las Vegas, Nevada
Can’t get to Munich? How about Las Vegas where Hofbrauhaus replicates the world’s most famous beer hall in every way? Every day is Oktoberfest in this grand gathering place where the beer is brewed in Munich under the 400-year-old purity law and shipped in fresh. Eat, drink, and be merry!

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Happy St. Patrick’s Day: 15 Different Ways to Get Your Guinness On!

GuinnessGuinness has become synonymous with St. Patrick’s Day — so synonymous that the company hopes to sell 7.5 million pints of it on March 17th, according to an article in The Economist. Founded in Dublin by Arthur Guinness in 1759, Guinness Brewery is most famous for its Extra Stout. With its signature dark hue and notes of roasted barley and hints of hops, Guinness’s Extra Stout isn’t just for drinking. It’s become a common ingredient for braising, baking, and more — in everything from beef short ribs and burgers to cakes, cheeses, and beyond. So, even if you’re not a Guinness sipper, you can still be a Guinness eater! Whet your appetite for tonight (or today, if you’re playing hooky) with delicious dishes made with Ireland’s most popular brew. PS: If you’re raising a glass of Guinness, be sure it’s poured with care (and that you have for more than two minutes to spare before you quaff it).

* Bar Boulud, Boston, Massachusetts: “The best French onion soup broth I’d ever tasted (with a unique blend of oxtail broth, oxtail, and barley, topped with Guinness cheddar cheese — made custom, without the crostini).”

* BLD, Los Angeles, California: “The Guinness ice cream terrine was flavorful with a hint of Guinness and Jameson fudge.”

* Blokes & Birds, Chicago, Illinois: “The three cheese and Guinness fondue = delicious, as was the ‘cheesy peavey’ = baked apple with brie in the center.”

* Connor O’Neill’s, Ann Arbor, Michigan: “We had the big house burger, chicken wings, Guinness and Jameson pulled pork, and fish. All four meals were amazing, well prepared, cooked properly, and extremely tasty.”

* e11even, Toronto, Ontario: “Great restaurant steps from ACC. Pretty fast in getting food out. Upscale menu. Had the gourmet Guinness burger on list. Homemade.”

* fado Irish pub, Chicago, Illinois: “We had the salmon bites, pork belly tacos, and Guinness BBQ wings to start. All hits with this group.”

* M Restaurant at The Morris House, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: “My ‘M treat’ included velvety butternut squash soup, perfectly seared scallops, yummy Guinness-braised short ribs, and then a creamy mocha cheesecake! What more could I ask for?”

* McHale’s Bar and Grill, New York, New York: “Great service and food — the curry was delicious and the Irish stew was in deep brown Guinness gravy (yum).”

* Miller Tavern, Toronto, Ontario: “The sticky Guinness chocolate pudding was amazing!”

* Muldoon’s Irish Pub, Newport Beach, California: “Tried the combination drink of Champagne and Guinness, two of my favorites. Very tasty and interesting. Cuts the earthiness of the Guinness with the effervescence of the Champagne. Would be interested to learn what the proportions of each are used for this drink.” [Ed. note: Yes, it’s a drink and not a dish, but we couldn’t resist including this unique cocktail.]Continue Reading

Happy Birthday, Belga Café: DC Chef Bart Vandaele on 8 Years, Top Chef + B Too

With a father who was a chef, Bart Vandaele literally grew up in the kitchen and chose his profession at the tender age of 12!

This past summer, while preparing for a series of eight-year anniversary festivities for Belga Café, Washington D.C.’s first Belgian restaurant, planning the opening of a second restaurant, B Too, and acting as national brand ambassador for Stella Artois, Hoegaarden, and Leffe, Chef Bart Vandaele quietly slipped away for several weeks to compete on Top Chef Seattle, which premieres November 7, 2012, on Bravo.

Why take on this challenge in the midst of one of the busiest times in his life? Vandaele reflects, “It comes at the best and the worst time in my life. Everything in life goes like this. It cannot be better — and worse — at the same time.” Why television and why now? “It’s the next level, the next step, an honor. Plus, I am the first Belgian chef to be on!” He was able to pull off his disappearing act during this hectic time only with the help of those around him. “You prepare and hope that every team member that has been with you does their job. And they did! I have good people around me. My chef and sous chef have been with me for seven and a half years. I have cleaning and prep staff that have been with me from day one.”

Returning from filming, Vandaele hasn’t missed a beat. In fact, he may have added one. Even though he and his staff celebrate each of Belga Café‘s milestones, this year’s festivities are particularly, well, festive. “It’s a big year for me, so why not celebrate? I’m very proud of it!” A pioneer of sorts, not just in serving Belgian cuisine, but also in opening his flagship restaurant in the Barracks Row neighborhood eight years ago, Vandaele says of Belga Café‘s 8th Street location, “I was, in a way, the godfather of that street. In the beginning, everyone thought we were crazy, but it was all I could afford at the time. Now, there are many new restaurants coming to my street. And, so we are always evolving, always upgrading.”

As the neighborhood has changed, so has diners’ appreciation for quality beer. Almost a decade ago, beer played a distant second fiddle to wine at most restaurants. Not at Belga Café, which has always boasted a lengthy and unique beer list, however. “We are the first ones to embrace that, but I think beer is more accessible and has more flavor facets than wine. Wine is very fragile. With beer, there’s a little bit less mistakes you can make and, at the same time, you have more possibilities. You can cook a dish with a sweet beer and then pair it with a sour beer.”

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