Tune into WMFE at 5:45 p.m. Friday as Scott talks with 90.7’s Nicole Creston about St. Patrick’s Day in Orlando.
I was at Raglan Road in what is still named Downtown Disney last night as they geared up for the weekend’s festivities. You know, the big holiday on Sunday to honor Maewyn Succat. More about that in a moment.
Raglan’s celebrity chef, Kevin Dundon, was in town from Dublin and he brought along Derry Clarke, a Michelin-starred chef from Dublin’s l’Ecrivain restaurant. They did not make corned beef and cabbage, nor would you likely find corned beef and cabbage if you were to visit most any pub in their hometown on this or any other weekend. More on that, too, in a moment.
Instead, they prepared langoustine wrapped in kaffir pastry with tomato jelly and chili jam; potato salad with garden herb foam; sweet pea soup with a pea panna cotta; rack of spring lamb and braised cottage lamb pie with twice-cooked potato; and layered chocolate indulgence infused with coffee with an Irish twist. (Note that I did not say Irish coffee, which is not Irish. Uh-huh, more on that ahead.)
Raglan Road has always served a fancier style of food, not at all what anyone might call pub grub, although certainly that is the ambience. It’s always a treat to taste Dundon’s food, and just about everything from last night’s meal was terrific, with the exception of the pea panna cotta — just didn’t taste like anything to me. The pea soup, however, was outstanding. The dinner also featured Ommegang Witte Craft Wheat Ale paired with the langoustine (I’m not a fan of wheat beers in general, and this one didn’t do anything to sway me, although I must say it was a good accompaniment to the shellfish).
Cloudy Bay sauvignon blanc was meant to boost the panna cotta and BV Beaurouge did nicely with the lamb. I found the Rosenblum Cellars Kathy’s Cuvee viognier a bit too mild against the rich chocolate of the dessert.
In the massive other room there wasn’t an empty table or barstool, and everyone was eating, drinking and singing to the live music, practicing, I presume, for Sunday.
So then let’s talk about St. Patrick’s Day.
Just as with Cinco de Mayo, St. Patrick’s Day is a much bigger holiday in this country than in the country of origin. It’s just another holiday that we’ve co-opted and adopted as our own in order to have another excuse to eat and drink too much.
I’ve never felt like I needed an excuse to eat and drink too much, but if that’s your thing, then you have my blessings.
I’m not sure you’d have the blessings of Maewyn Succat, which is the real name of the person who is known today as St. Patrick. He was indeed a priest in Ireland, but he was not born there. Historians figure he was born in Roman England, Scotland or Wales. March 17 commemorates his death in 461. People did not start drinking green beer in his name for another 1500 years.
And they did not do it in Ireland. In fact, until the 1970s, you couldn’t even get a drink in a pub on March 17. They were all closed because it was observed as a holy day. (Some clever Ireland tourism marketer finally convinced the government to allow pubs to stay open to capitalize on American travelers.) The first St. Patrick’s Day parade, such as it was, was held in New York City in 1762 when Irish members of the English military marched through the streets to Irish music to reconnect with their homeland. Note the date — it isn’t likely that throngs lined the streets to cheer them on.
As for the corned beef and cabbage thing, well, that just wasn’t something that Irish people ate back home. That, too, was likely a New York City invention. There are different theories, but the most popular one is that taverns in the city offered the relatively cheap corned beef and cabbage as a free lunch to entice the laborers who were building the skyscrapers to come in on the noontime break. And because there is no such thing as a free lunch, those workers were obliged to buy a drink or two. Because a large number of the laborers were Irish immigrants, the meal became associated with them.
(Irish coffee, too, is an American invention, and is derogatory stereotyping when you really think about it.)
Green is an Irish thing. It’s meant to signify the spring and renewal. Promise me you’ll think of that as you’re retching an emerald ale outside your favorite tavern Sunday night. And the shamrock is something that can definitely be tied to St. Patrick himself. The priest used its three leaves — not four — to teach the Holy Trinity.
But that thing about St. Patrick driving all the snakes out of Ireland? Didn’t happen. In truth, Ireland never had snakes.
But don’t let me rain on your St. Patrick’s Day parade. By all means, go out, have a wonderful time, eat and drink whatever you want. On St. Patrick’s Day, everyone is Irish.
Except Maewyn Succat.
Raglan Road is at Downtown Disney. It’s open for lunch and dinner.
Some other places you might like include:
Scruffy Murphy’s: 2625 Edgewater Drive, Orlando; 407-835-7158.
The Celt: 25 S. Magnolia Ave., Orlando; 407-481-2928.
Claddagh Cottage: 4308 Curry Ford Road, Orlando; 407-895-1555.
Fiddler’s Green: 544 Fairbanks Ave., Winter Park; 407-645-2050.