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March 6, 2009

Your restaurant critic needs your help



I'm sitting here brooding about not next Tuesday's Top 10 but the following Tuesday's Top 10. I kind of liked the idea of Top 10 Caesar Salads in honor of the Ides of March, and I'm definitely going to do a post, although not a Top 10, along those lines on Sunday, March 15.

But, much as I would like to, I can't ignore the fact that Tuesday week is March 17, the actual St. Patrick's Day.

Top 10 Irish Pubs? Too obvious. Top 10 Places to Get Corned Beef and Cabbage? Didn't we just do that? Top 10 Anti-St. Patrick's Day Restaurants? Too mean.

I went back to see what we did last year, but that was no help. I wrote about the Irish food I ate when we were in Ireland, something of a cop out. 


(Glenn Fawcett/Sun photographer)

Posted by Elizabeth Large at 3:59 PM | | Comments (46)


Top ten green foods (not "greeny", green). That should take some creativity.

Top Ten St. Patrick's Day Traditions that You or Your Family Observe?

Baltimore has a pretty fair number of Irish folk, perhaps there are traditions families observe. Yes, you'll get a lot of corned beef and cabbage posts, and maybe some soda bread, but perhaps there are others out there?
I don't know.
They don't do anything here for St. Paddy's Day, yet they have a huge Scottish Festival just a couple weeks later. (Willie the Groundskeeper would be in heaven.)

I feel your pain EL. This is a tough one.

Top Ten Irish Whiskeys? Uh, that would be two, Jameson and Bushmills.

Top 10 places to watch amateur drinkers?

How about Top Ten places to get Irish food, then divide it by region. A restaurant may not be Irish per se, but may have some Irish food on the menu. If the list is divided by region, then people who want to go out that night can find a place near where they live or work.

Do you have a recipe for soda bread? Know where one can find it? Suggest what to eat with/on it? I've had some, a long while back; it's not salt-rising bread, but it's not bad.

Hmmm... since "Saint" Patrick was a mass murdering Englishman who burned the Irish alive unless they bowed to the will of the Roman Empire and converted to the state religion maybe barbeque would be appropriate. Slainte!

How about Irish foods that are NOT corned beef and cabbage? There's that potato/butter thing with the single name (had it at the Irish Festival one year, squiggle?, but can't remember the name.) Or shepherds' pie and why it does not include beef. (I'm sure Bucky's friends would love to be called shepherd, if their animals are used in shepherds' pie.)

As a member of the Daughters of Scotia, I am duty-bound to suggest the top 10 places to get haggis.

(Yes, I know that the Scots originally came from Ireland, but neither the Scots nor the Irish are happy about that.)

Lissa -- legend has it that the Irish gave the bagpipes to the Scots, who did not get the joke.

hmpstd, it is amazing how widespread the bagpipes are. There are Turkish versions, all the different Slavs have their own pipes, Moroccan pipes, Breton pipes, Sweden has a set and they've spread to places like Pakistan, which just adores the Highland great pipes.

What were you saying about jokes?

M. McIntyre asked:

Do you have a recipe for soda bread?

According to the Joy of Cooking:

The American idea of Irish soda bread looks like a giant brown scone studded with raisins and caraway seeds. It is richer, sweeter, and more cakelike than authentic Irish soda bread, which we are assured never made the acquaintance of a raisin or a caraway seed either.

I can supply recipes of either type if you let me know which you are looking for.

the Irish gave the bagpipes to the Scots

Maybe that's why they have to wear kilts.


RTSO- I believe they serve Champ at the Irish Festival, though I haven't been for several years. Champ is taters with green onions and colcannon (sp?) I believe has cabbage in it. I prefer Champ.

Bailey's Irish Cream & coffee - that's what I'm talkin 'bout!

Hal - an old friend of mine always called St Patrick's Day and New Years Eve annual amateur drinking events.

BTW, even the orthodox Jews are in on having an annual drinking event. They get totally toasted on Purim, to the point where some Jewish publications now have ads saying "friends don't let friends drink irresponsibly on Purim".

No Guru,
No Method,
No Teacher

Champ, yea. Thanks. I didn't get the great appeal, but ...

How about Top 10 Lamb Dishes. You could include an Irish stew or two (Atwater's makes a good one) but other lamb dishes as well.

I agree that a food (as opposed to restaurant) list is probably the way to go. You do something like: Top 10 Beef Stews, Top 10 Shepherd Pies, etc. That way you could include more places than just Irish and give some variety.

Top Ten Potato Dishes or Potatoe for Dan Quayle fans.

Another amateur drinking night would be the night before Thanksgiving. That night seems to draw them out in droves. I guess because the holiday the next day involves nothing but gorging on food someone else prepares.

How about Irish Coffee, the official drink of San Francisco! It helps ward off the chill of all that fog.

The odd thing about Irish Coffee is that alot of the recipes call for Kahlua. How multi-cultural.

I recommend you forget St. Patty's Day and do "Favorite Top 10 Restaurants of Jon Parker's Girlfriend" on March 17, since that's her birthday.

I like it. Er...what are they? EL

RoCK -- believe it or not, Kahlua is generally used in Irish coffee as a sweetening agent. Whipped cream cools the coffee and keeps sugar from dissolving. Kahlua cuts down on the grittiness and mess, which is especially important when you're making mass quantities of Irish coffees. (The added alcohol in the Kahlua doesn't hurt, either.)

Not multi-cultuiral, lazy bartenders. In Baltimore it has become more and more common for an Irish coffee to be Baileys and coffee and maybe some whiskey.

café carajillo!

I use exclamation points sparingly so I just noticed this: if you don't hit shift properly you get a 1 instead of a !. That seems to explain skinny pete's inexplicably numeric suffixing ... and maybe SPRINGS1 whose lazy thumb won't let her just be Springs!.

OMG – Punctuation Therapist

Etymology: German or French; German Picknick, from French pique-nique

Well that didn't help.

Fl Rob, You're right with the Thanksgiving eve annual amatuer drunkeness, and I thought of one more. The Saturday night before Easter. And, yes Irish coffee is great, no matter how it's made.

Owl, I don't know that it's so much "lazy" bartenders as "inexperiened" bartenders. When we go to any old time dive bar in Baltimore city, we get better mixed drinks than in the fancy (more expensive) county bars. I believe it's because the fancy bars don't have bartenders of the age and experience that the dives have.

Regareding the sweetness of Kahlua, Wikipedia alleges that besides coffee, "Kahlua also contains sugar, corn syrup and vanilla bean." Well, so much for the theory that all sweetened Mexican beverages avoid the dreaded HFCS.

The Saturday night before Easter.

Y'all go out and get liquored up on Easter Eve?

Bucky -- the eve of Easter Sunday is still a Saturday night, at least on the East Coast.

The best recipe for Irish Soda Bread I have found is in The Fannie Farmer Baking Book:

4 cups flour
1.5 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
2 cups buttermilk

Mix, form into big round shaggy ball of dough. Bake @ 375 for 45-50 mins.

Oh ... I usually throw about a cup of currents or yellow raisins into the flour.

I've used this recipe for probably 20 years. Good stuff!

Some follow-up on soda bread:

No caraway.

Yes to heretical raisins (although, I guess to her credit, Ms Farmer doesn't call for them).

Never slice or serve soda bread hot or warm.

Big thick slices of soda bread, slathered with soft butter and/or raspberry jam.....yum!

In response to Mr. McIntyre's request for an Irish soda bread recipe, this is maybe an unorthodox version, from the March 2009 issue of Martha Stewart Living magazine. I won't test it until next week, but in 22 years, I haven't found a substandard or dysfunctional Martha Stewart recipe.

Irish Soda Bread


4 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 tablespoons caraway seeds
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, cold
2 cups golden or dark raisins
1 1/2 scant cups buttermilk
1 large egg
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 large egg yolk
1 tablespoon heavy cream
Heat oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper; set aside. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, salt, baking powder, and caraway seeds until well combined.
Using a pastry cutter or two knives in scissor fashion, cut in butter until the mixture feels like coarse meal. Stir in raisins until evenly distributed.
In a small bowl, whisk together buttermilk, egg, and baking soda until well combined. Pour buttermilk mixture into the flour-and-butter mixture all at once, and stir with a fork until all the liquid is absorbed and the mixture begins to hold together. It should resemble a rough biscuit dough. Using your hands, press the dough into a round, dome-shaped loaf about 8 inches in diameter. Lift the loaf from the bowl, and transfer it to the prepared baking sheet.
In a small bowl, mix the egg yolk and cream together. With a pastry brush, brush the egg wash over the loaf. With a sharp knife or razor, incise a cross, about 1/2 inch deep, into the top of the loaf. Transfer to the oven. Bake, rotating halfway through, until it is deep golden brown and a wooden skewer comes out clean when inserted into the center, about 70 minutes. Remove from oven, and transfer bread from the baking sheet to a wire rack to cool.

The Canon comes from good Polish stock and has nothing to contribute to this string.

Hmmm. I would suggest "Top Ten Fake Plastic Paddy Pubs," but you were saying something about getting away from mean-spiritedness, or at least implying same.

How about Top Ten Irish/Celtic places to visit anytime BESIDES Amateur Drunken Irish-American Day or Amateur Drunken Irish-American Parade Day? (J. Patrick's in Locust Point, The Royal Mile in Wheaton, The Crown & Thistle Tea Room in Sparks/Glencoe, James Joyce in Inner Harbor East, Mick O'Shea's on Charles St. .......)

Generally speaking, the phrase "Irish cuisine" is an oxymoron (ditto Scottish), but I've found some wonderful dishes by digging into more obscure cookbooks--such things as cream of venison soup, wonderful seafood dishes, etc. Of course, no one will ever hear of the stuff over the high-volume marketing for Guinness and corned beef and cabbage......

As for bagpipe jokes, it's actually quite ironic that on a day that's supposed to be about Irishness, the parades are absolutely full of Scottish bagpipes...........

I recently saw Anthony Bourdain discussing the resurgence of Irish "cuisine" during his visit to Ireland. The food actually looked quite wonderful. But, like the rest of the world, Irelands financial bubble has burst leaving many homeless, jobless, etc. So, I think their brief period of reclaiming all things Irish, including their former emigres (sp?) may have ended with a thud.

As for bagpipes, they sound like cats being intimate. But so does the lead vocalist from Dengue Fever, who, as I've stated before, I'm quite intrigued with! After all, what's a St Patricks day event without bagpipes, Danny Boy, When Irish Eyes, etc...

How about the top ten places to get a boiled potato, Guiness, and then get in a fight.

Some Paddy Day Hukmorr
Walking into the bar, Mike said to Charlie the bartender, "Pour me a stiff one - just had another fight with the little woman."

"Oh yeah?" said Charlie, "And how did this one end?"

"When it was over," Mike replied, "She came to me on her hands and knees.

"Really," said Charles, "Now that's a switch! What did she say?"

She said, "Come out from under the bed, you little chicken."

I'm sure that everything associated with this fake holiday will further hone and help us to embrace our need to objectify, trivialize and generally piss on our ancestors. Without objectification there can be no domination of the intangible and we wouldn't be Americans if we left one aspect of history or reality un-Disneyfied.

“Do not wait to strike till the iron is hot; but make it hot by striking.”

“If suffering brings wisdom, I would wish to be less wise.”

– William Butler Yeats

"The Irish spirit doesn't come in a bottle, although it all too often leaves that way."
– Umberto Swarm

P-Rob wrote: "Top Ten Irish Whiskeys? Uh, that would be two, Jameson and Bushmills."

Ever try Tullamore Dew? It's smooth, and the aged stuff (10 years) is especially superb.

I could take or leave Bushmills.

What about top 10 potato dishes around town, from duck fat fries at Salt, to the mashed potatoes at Mama's on Half Shell, to the roasted garlic potatoes at Samos, to the dollar baked potato at Lexington Market, etc.

Or even better, top 10 food-related guilt trips.... no one can lay on a guilt trip like the Irish.... this would be from reader submissions, and could be quite funny... I have way more than ten just from my own family experiences.

LJ has a good suggestion, I think. On the other hand, there's a reason that my partner calls me "Spuds" sometimes as a nickname. I do love my taters.

Bourbon Girl,
I have never tried Tullamore Dew but I will. I have heard of it but the name escaped me when I wrote that comment.

I agree, I'm not much for Bushmills either.

I think I put it less eloquently with "taters, taters, taters" but potato dishes would actually honor the spirit of the Irish immigrants who built this country – they seem like nothing at first, but with a little creatvity they can be quite versaltile and deligthful.

“What I say is that, if a fellow really likes potatoes, he must be a pretty decent sort of fellow.”
– A. A. Milne

Potatoes were a very large part of the Irish diet. When the potato blight (and resulting famine) struck Ireland in the 1840s, it caused a million people to starve and about that many to flee Ireland. A good number of them came to the US.

So potato dishes would be a good way to honor the Irish spirit.

Of course, potatoes are Peruvian.

I have had Peruvian potatoes before, and they were purple. Tasted pretty much like a regular potato though.

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About this blog
Richard Gorelick was appointed The Baltimore Sun's restaurant critic in September 2010. Before joining the paper staff fulltime, he contributed freelance criticism and features articles about food to area and regional publications. Along the way, he dispatched for short-distance trucking companies, shilled for cultural non-profits, and assisted in cognitive neurology research – never the subject, always the control.

He takes restaurants seriously but not himself, and his favorite restaurant is the one you love, too.

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