St. Patrick's Day -- a Tuesday!? -- I'm predicting a really unproductive Wednesday this week. I'm thinking they should always hold St. Patrick's Day on the same day, so that it's always part of a three-day weekend, just like they do with other holidays. Except instead of a Monday it should be on a Friday every year. Let's work on that.
To help get myself in the mood for SPD, I attended a media dinner to launch a new cookbook by Raglan Road's chef partner Kevin Dundon titled Great Family Food. Raglan Road is not your typical Irish pub. For one thing, it's huge. You could probably fit the entire village of Bray, Ireland, under its roof. And it's also atypical for its food, which is a bit more stylized than your basic corned beef and cabbage and Irish stew.
For example, for our dinner Dundon started us out with a seared scallop on a mint and pea puree. Just saying the words mint and pea puree will get you thrown out of most pubs in Dublin. But it was tasty, as was the potato and asparagus soup, lighter and smoother than you'd expect.
The next course was shepherd's pie, but as I said before, things aren't done in a traditional way at Raglan Road, and this was certainly the oddest shepherd's pie I've seen. Here, the ground meat mixed with gravy was dolloped onto a large spoon with a little mashed potatoes piped on top. It was a little more than one should shove into one's mouth all at once, but there wasn't quite enough to reallly get a feel for the flavor.
The main course was quite impressive. It was a whole roasted pig complete with an apple in its mouth (a green apple, of course). Dundon sliced the meat off the pig for each guest and we quite literally ate high on the hog. The meat was succulent and the crackling, though not quite crispy, delicious.
The pig was paired with a crown of lamb, two racks of lamb tied together to resemble headgear. And each table had its own platter of root vegetables and roasted potatoes. The potatoes were seriously good -- they must have been soaked with fat. Yum. If an Irish restaurant doesn't have wonderful potatoes there's something wrong.
Dessert was a trifle, which is not to say it was insignificant. It was a preparation of sponge cake with fruits and cream. Dundon served the guests out of two large glass trifle dishes, and more than a few guests did not say no to seconds. (That oink oink noise wasn't coming from the pig on the platter.) The dessert was paired with a shot glass of honeyed mead, a delicious but not too sweet concoction.
And throughout, we were entertained by the house band, which, it should be mentioned, keeps the place raucously rowdy and makes conversation a chore.
At least there's something that's reliably traditional.
Raglan Road is at Downtown Disney. Information at Raglanroadirishpub.com. Phone number is 407-938-0300.
And here's a list of other Irish pubs that also serve food.
Liam Fitzpatrick's -- 951 Market Promenade Ave., Lake Mary; 407-936-3782. This beautiful pub pays more attention to its ales than its food. Best to stop in for a pint or two, then head elsewhere for grub.
Paddy Murphy's -- 4982 New Broad St., Orlando; 407-622-4700. Undoubtedly the rowdiest place in Baldwin Park, Paddy Murphy's often features live bands that crank the voume to the max. But the food, which consists of the basics, such as shepherd's pie and corned beef, is fairly good, and the service is pleasant.
Scruffy Murphy’s -- 2625 Edgewater Drive, Orlando; 407-835-7158. After leaving its downtown digs, Scruffy’s has taken over the space in College Park that was briefly Adair’s and even brieflier Gio’s. Despite some exterior decorating there isn’t a lot of Irishness in the ambience. (A granite bar? Well la-di-da.) But it has the requisite liquids and does a surprisingly good job with the food. I especially liked the scotch egg, a hard-boiled egg with a jacket of spicy ground sausage and bread crumbs deep-fried. If it was a prepackaged jobbie it sure didn’t taste like one. The shepherd’s pie was also good, with a rich gravy with lots of flavor and mashed potatoes lightly crusted under the broiler. Bartender was friendly and kept the glasses filled. The music when I visited tended toward rap, heavy metal and head-banger; I didn’t hear one tune by the Irish Rovers the whole night.
The Celt -- 25 S. Magnolia Ave., Orlando; 407-481-2928. Go through one door and you’re in the Harp, an Irish restaurant. Go through the other and you’re at the Celt, a pub, and a pleasant one at that. There’s more of a Gaelic vibe in the décor, and little touches like the wood and slate floor and hardwood tables make it seem like it’s been there for decades. When I visited for a recent lunch and asked for a table, a young woman told me I would have to sit at the bar because “all the tables are either full or dirty.” Couldn’t do anything about the people sitting at the other tables but why couldn’t someone clear the others? Turned out fine because the bartender was pleasant enough to make up for the young woman’s rudeness. I had a cup of potato and leek soup, which was a bit over thickened and under seasoned, and the cottage pie, which was an ample serving and a good enough rendition. There’s a nice Irish stew on the menu as well. No Irish music here, either. In fact, there was a VH-1 rock movie on two large televisions the whole time I was there.
Claddagh Cottage -- 4308 Curry Ford Road, Orlando; 407-895-1555. This little hole-in-the-wall near Conway Road just might be one of the most Irish of the area’s Irish pubs. It’s dark and rustic and sports the requisite memorabilia. It’s named for a fishing village near Galway and I wouldn’t be surprised if some of the regulars are from there too. It’s more about the drinking here, but there is good food, including cottage pie and Irish stew.
Fiddler’s Green: 544 Fairbanks Ave., Winter Park; 407-645-2050. situated at the confluence of Orange and Fairbanks Avenues, this big pub started out as the Prince of Wales, which is hardly Irish. But it converted over a decade ago and changed the menu to include all the basics. Pub games are a part of the draw.
No web site.
And for other Irish bar options, check out the Bars & Clubs column from Kelly Fitzpatrick in last Friday's Calendar section of the Orlando Sentinel. Hey, with a name like Kelly Fitzpatrick she has to know where the good Irish parties will be.