Claddagh Cottage

Written by Scott Joseph on .

Claddagh exterior

Was it ever really gone?

Any out-of-towners wandering into Claddagh Cottage Irish Pub in the last few weeks might be surprised to learn that it has been away for close to a year and a half. It thrums with the laughter and chatter of a full house, background to the lilt of traditional music, sometimes recorded, sometimes live. Despite its relative newness, it feels comfortably worn, familiar.

We in-towners know that this is a new location for Claddagh, which was forced out of its small strip mall spot to make way for a new Walgreens. (You can blame us aging Baby Boomers and our need to have a pharmacy close enough get to using a walker.) The original closed its door after a last New Year's Eve celebration Dec. 31, 2016.

Since then, owners Scott Vocca and Vicki Gish searched for a new location that wouldn't leave a loyal customer base behind, struggled with construction and permitting setbacks, and fought to get the taps flowing again.

They may not think it was worth it. I would guess if they could go back to that last New Year's Eve and were given the option to stay they would. But for all the woes and tribulations of moving and restarting, the new Claddagh Cottage, just a hair over a mile from the old spot, is better than the one it replaced.

Raglan Road Caps Off 10 Years with a Memorable Dinner

Written by Scott Joseph on .

Raglan Anniversary table

I got to go back to Ireland the other day, just for a few hours.

The occasion was the 10th anniversary dinner at Raglan Road, the denouement of a months long journey that included an actual trip to Ireland. The dinner at Raglan Road, which recently changed its address to Disney Springs without having to actually move, was prepared by the winners of a contest the restaurant had as part of the celebration. They included Central Floridians Aaron Van Swearingen, Colleen Kerney and Janice Epaillard, and Heather McBroom Walker of Scottsdale, Ariz. Linda Rohr of Darien, Conn., was unable to attend the dinner.

Contestants had submitted YouTube videos telling Raglan’s chef/partner Kevin Dundon what they would prepare for a 10th anniversary dinner. From those videos, Dundon selected the five winners, then flew them to Ireland and his Dunbrody Country House where he also has a cooking school.

Dublin Dinner Redux: Irish Mist, Courgettes, and a Most Memorable Meal

Written by Scott Joseph on .

Dublin menu

With the exception of an uncooperative cloud overhead, our first International Scott Joseph's Supper Club featuring celebrity chef Kevin Dundon in Dublin was a big success. We convened at Morgans Wine Merchants on Pembroke Road (not to be confused with Pembroke Street or Pembroke Lane, although it inevitably was) on Friday, August 29, the night before the UCF/Penn State football game at Croke Park.

Morgans occupies a space that previously was one of the city's premier restaurant, Le Coq Hardi, and which, apparently, was before that an elegant townhouse. A townhouse with a gorgeous garden out back. When I stopped by Morgans earlier in the day to meet owner Andrew Keaveney and look over the facilities, we agreed that the garden was the perfect place to hold the pre-dinner reception. After all, it was gorgeous outside — the Irish skies were smiling.

And then, just before guests were scheduled to arrive, those skies started weeping. Raining, actually. So instead we moved the reception to the bar and lounge in the basement, next to the gravel-floored rooms of the wine cellar.

Dundon served samples of his Arthurstown Porter Storm Ale, which is brewed at Dunbrody, his place in Wexford. Supper Club guests were the first to sample the dark and full-bodied ale, and everyone liked it so much that no one made any cracks about it being called Storm.

The chef also served his house-cured salmon, which should be called "Oh My God, Did You Taste That Salmon?" So rich, the flavors filled the mouth.

Dublin dining 1

Dublin dining 2

The maitre d', who led a very abled serving staff, announced that dinner was served and we all trundled up to the tables that had been set up in what was likely the home's living and dining rooms. We were at full capacity at 54 guests, and everyone quickly settled.

Raglan Road co-owner Paul Nolan was to greet the guests and give a little background about the relationship with Dundon and the Downtown Disney restaurant. (Speaking of Disney, one of the guests was Dick Nunis, who had flown in for the game and regaled his tablemates with stories about finding a European location for a Disney park. As we all know, Paris was eventually selected, but Nunis had his mind set on Spain.)

Dundon ran through the menu (I had to remind him that Americans might not know what a courgette is) and Keavening announced the wine pairings. He had given me a tasting when I stopped in earlier and I couldn't wait to try them with the chef's food.

Dublin foie gras

We started with a foie gras mousse served in a small latch-lid jar and topped with natural yogurt foam, served with a slice of soda bread. It was paired with Champagne de Canteneur, whose bubbles made the first course extra celebratory.

Dublin soup

Next was a soup of espresso of courgette (zucchini) and almonds. (Sorry about the photo -- I couldn't stop eating it long enough to snap a picture.) It was served with a Meursault Domaine Regnard, which immediately became one of my tablemates' favorite wine of the evening. (And the servers were not shy about keeping everyone's wine glasses filled — no one was driving!)

Dublin beef

My favorite wine was the Margaux from Bordeaux Hauts de Tertre. Deep rich red color and wonderful black cherry notes, it was perfect with Dundon's filet of Irish beef with garlic mash, roasted garden beets and beet emulsion. The beef was terrific, but the beets were extra special, too.

Dublin dessert

Dessert was chocolate gateau with Storm Stout (again with the rain reference) topped with a bit of caramel popcorn, which Dundon said was a tip of the hat to American tastes. A 2009 Carmes de Riussec was the sweet accompaniment.

Everyone left quite happy, grabbing taxis that were rolling along Pembroke Road and heading back to their hotels.

I, personally, was grinning ear to ear. Putting this Supper Club together was just a dream I had when I first learned UCF would be playing in Dublin. I didn't quite know how to pull if off, but when I first said to Dundon, "I've got this idea; do you know anyone in Dublin I might talk to?" he said, "I'll do it with you." And he pretty much took care of all of the details. Many thanks to him, Nolan, Keavening, the servers, and several people back in Orlando who made it a reality.

I have no idea how I'm going to top this one.

Dublin dining 3

Dublin nunis

Claddagh Cottage Irish Pub

Written by Scott Joseph on .

To get myself primed for an upcoming trip to Dublin, I stopped by Claddagh Cottage Irish Pub for a bit of an immersive experience.

Claddagh has occupied a small storefront in a tiny strip mall on Curry Ford Road, nestled between a funeral home and beauty salon for almost 19 years. It's atmospheric inside, with plaster walls, wooden tables that have not seen any Lemon Pledge for ages, and the various pubby wall hangings and hand-written signs you'd expect to find in such a tavern. And make no mistake: This is a tavern first and foremost.

But it also serves a decent menu of Irish pub fare. On my visit I ordered the Irish stew — because how could I not? — and the cottage pie (after all, the place is called Claddagh Cottage).

The stew had lots of beef and carrots, plus onions and potatoes, enough to qualify as hearty in ingredients if not in the thinnish broth (which is just fine with an Irish stew). It was brought down a bit by the toughness of the meat and a too-heavy dose of thyme.

I much preferred the cottage pie, a one-dish casserole of ground beef with peas and some carrots in a rich gravy, topped by a mashed potato dome. A little dash of the bottled brown sauce — the Irish equivalent of A-1 — and it was just right.

And of course there are some native beers and ales to wash everything down.

The clientele is made up of people who seem to be regulars, but an outsider was welcomed, too.

Claddagh Cottage Irish Pub is at 4308 Curry Ford Road, Orlando. It is open for dinner Monday through Saturday. There is no website. The stew was $7.25 and the cottage pie $7.50, so consider it reasonably priced.

 

Raglan Road Rocked; Now on to Dublin

Written by Scott Joseph on .

Raglansc plated lamb

The first of a two-parter Supper Club took place August 14 at Raglan Road in Downtown Disney. The second part will occur on August 29 at Morgans Wine Merchants in Dublin as a celebration of the Croke Park Classic, which will pit the UCF Knights against Penn State. For Knights fans who aren't able to make the trip but would like to experience a bit of the Irish air while watching the game, there's a special showing of the CPC Saturday morning, August 30. I'll tell you about that below.

The Dublin dinner is sold out, and if it's anything like the Supper Club that celebrity chef Kevin Dundon and his Raglan Road crew put together, it's going to knock everyone's Irish woolen socks off.

RaglanSC tomatoes

The dinner began with a salad of heirloom tomatoes — golden, red, cherry — dotted with balsamic vinegar drops. It's been a long time since I've tasted tomatoes that luscious. And it included a tomato sorbet that tasted a little like a frozen bloody mary. It was paired with a Vocoret Chablis.

Raglan Road Sunday Brunch

Written by Scott Joseph on .

raglan dancers

I took a trip down to Raglan Road last Sunday to try the Irish restaurant’s new brunch menu, and I ended up enjoying some pretty tasty food and rousing live entertainment.

The brunch menu isn’t extensive by any means, and those of you who equate Sunday brunch with an all-you-can-eat glutfest buffet will be disappointed to know it’s an a la carte affair.

There are only about 10 items on the designated brunch menu, although the restaurant’s regular menu flows beneath those items, so there should be plenty to choose from. But I was there to try to the brunch, so I confined my attention to the 10.

Liam Fitzpatrick's

Written by Scott Joseph on .

liam logoThe owners of Liam Fitzpatrick’s, an Irish pub in Lake Mary, went to great lengths to create an authentic atmosphere. It’s a little larger than most of the pubs you’ll encounter in Hibernia but most of the details are there, from the bar to the fireplace nook to the raised dining area. The only authentic touch that is missing is the beer-sodden, well-worn carpeting that seems to be in every pub, and for that I thank the owners of Liam Fitzpatrick’s.

There is authenticity in the menu, as well, and I wish the proprietors had the confidence to stick with them. It sends a wrong message, I think, when the server immediately recommends the nachos and announces the kitchen does a really good quesadilla.

Raglan Road

Written by Scott Joseph on .

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.

Paddy Murphy's

Written by SJO Staff on .

Paddy Murphy's in Baldwin Park

Boy, have my ears been ringing. And it's not because people have been talking about me. It's because I ate at Paddy Murphy's, a newish Irish pub in Baldwin Park, and they had a band that was so loud I couldn't hear myself chew.Paddy Murphy's
The hostess couldn't hear me ask for a table, either, so I motioned beyond the indoor seating toward the outside patio. Using sign language, my guest and I were able to communicate to her that we preferred a table as far away from the band as possible without having to pay an extra charge for delivery of the food.

Even outside the sound resonated, and was even worse whenever someone opened the door to the pub, which was often.

A pleasant young man greeted us and then brought us the wrong beers. Turns out the door had opened just as we placed our orders and the waiter didn't hear us correctly.

But from that point on everything mostly went fine.
I started out with a cup of the potato & leek soup ($2.50), which startled my by its thickness: I was able to stand a spoon up in it. The taste was OK, but I think all the cornstarch or whatever thickener was used started to blossom in my stomach as I sipped my pint of Guinness.

My friend had the Irish stew ($8.99), a big serving of beef with carrots, onions and potatoes in a nice gravylike broth tinged with Irish whiskey.
I had the shepherd's pie ($8.99), which was mostly mashed potatoes (but real mashed potatoes) piped over a brown gravy with ground beef and vegetables. On another visit I had the corned beef with colcannon. The corned beef was sufficiently chewy, as most corned beef is destined to be, but the flavor was good. So, too, the colcannon, a traditional dish of mashed potatoes blended with cabbage.

Paddy Murphy's is in a newly constructed building overlooking the lake. It's been designed to look like a tradtional Irish pub, but only as far as the walls. The high ceilings have the exposed ducts and beams of the structure, with some Tiffanylike chandeliers hanging down. So the effect is like being on a movie set for a film about an Irish pub.

I might watch the movie again, but I am definitely not buying the soundtrack.

Paddy Murphy's is at 4982 New Broad St. in Orlando's Baldwin Park. The phone number is 407-622-4700. For other information, visit the Web site.

Liam Fitzpatrick's Irish Pub

Written by SJO Staff on .

Liam Fitzpatrick's Irish pub in Lake Mary

Liam Fitzpatrick's Irish Pub

Liam Fitzpatrick's is a new Irish pub in Lake Mary's Colonial Town Park complex, just across from  Dexter's and Amura and almost next door to the restaurant space that has had at least three tenants in just a few short years. Lake Marians, it seems, will not suffer inferior restaurants gladly.

So it will be interesting to see how they accept this new business. On one hand, it's a beautiful pub, elaborately styled with painstaking details that call to mind a sort of upscale Dublin drinking house.

On the other hand there's the food.

The menu has all the traditional pub favorites. There's shepherd's pie, fish and chips, and, of course, herb-marinated Hawaiian sunfish.

Huh?

I stuck with the shepherd's pie, a dish that, frankly, one never expects too much from. It's really quite basic. But this one was particularly disappointing. The meat was meager and the mashed potatoes that topped the soupy gravy were too thin. However, I did like the fresh vegetables that were served on the side. There were zucchinis. yellow squash and carrots, all in big hunks and all al dente.

I also liked the practice of bringing a bowl of thick, kettle-cooked potato chips to the table. It reminded me a little of Gallagher's in New York.

My server made a couple of missteps, but overall she was good. When a guest left all his change in the check folder, the server returned after picking up the folder to make sure he had meant to leave all that change for a tip. (He hadn't.) You don't see too many waiters do that, so kudos to her.

With only a single visit, my assessment of Liam Fitzpatrick's is that it would be a fine place to go for a pint or three, but they need a little help with the food.

For more information, go to Liam Fitzpatrick's Web site.