Monahan's wake

Some alternatives for celebrating St. Paddy’s Day in true Irish fashion

By Erica Wayne 03/17/2011

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When I first got to Pasadena some 30 years back, St. Paddy’s Day was a no-brainer. As soon as we finished work, it was off to Monahan’s Steak House on South Lake Avenue for some green beer, corned beef and cabbage and an Irish coffee with emerald-tinted whipped cream for a final toast before heading home. There’d be lots of singing, laughter and recitation of naughty limericks with proprietor Peter Monahan and the celebrants packed five deep at the bar.
 
Since Peter’s place closed some two decades back, there’s no equal place in town for March 17 hi-jinks. The two Barney’s and the two Lucky Baldwin’s (one in Old Pasadena, the other in Sierra Madre), Brits (now beastly dead but resurrected as a third Lucky Baldwin’s), McMurphy’s (also beastly dead) and 38 Degrees Ale House in Alhambra were/are reasonable replacements with great brews and good eats, but none has the authentic Irish cheer of ol’ Peter’s place.
 
So, what to do on St. Patrick’s Day? I thought of Clancy’s in Glendale, but their menu is American seafood. Barragan’s, despite the name, is Tex-Mex. Matt Denny’s in Arcadia? The name is right. But the menu’s anything but. I could have called around to locate restaurants with corned beef on their menus. But I prefer my corned beef with Swiss and sauerkraut on good corn rye with about a half-jar of Gulden’s. (Besides, the Irish didn’t even eat the stuff until they got to America.)
 
What they did eat, however, was oats, barley, potatoes and pork, with a little cheese, milk and mutton if they could afford it. What they drank was porter, stout, ale and an occasional tot of whiskey. So, with those ingredients in mind, I headed out to create my own St. Patrick’s Day celebratory meal.
 
The most important stop was the Great Harvest Bread Co. in South Pasadena for its special holiday offerings: Irish soda bread, an appealingly rustic round loaf fashioned from wheat flour, baking soda, salt and buttermilk and studded with raisins; and an oblong gouda and stout loaf (brown bread with actual hunks of cheese baked in). We sampled them both and were pleased, although the choice of mild Dutch cheese (over Dubliner or Irish cheddar with porter) seemed odd.
 
I bought two huge oatmeal cookies (one raisin, the other a less traditional chocolate chip), an Irish coffee cake muffin; and a “blarney scone,” which did not render me more eloquent in describing its charms of a hint of orange, plump raisins and crunchy walnuts. Perhaps I should have kissed it instead of nibbling around its edges. 
 
After that, a quick trip to Trader Joe’s and Vons was all it took. Ignoring the old joke about a potato and a six-pack, I picked up lots of spuds, thick-cut bacon, pork sausages, barley, onion, cabbage, butter, milk, cream, lager, stout and a large bottle of Irish whiskey. Then I followed two easy traditional recipes to create our entrees, Dublin coddle and colcannon. Coddle is a steamed, layered concoction of sliced potato, barley, sausage, fatty bacon and onion with an optional soupcon of Guinness. Colcannon is a mixture of mashed potatoes with steamed cabbage and/or kale with bacon or ham.
 
I don’t know where you’re heading, but our St. Patrick’s Day dinner will be a carb-laden feast chez nous. We’ll eat ourselves silly, drink to the Irish (and to Great Harvest) and share some R-rated limericks like this one:

On the t*ts of a barmaid named Gayle, 
Were tattooed price of beer, stout and ale, 
And on her behind, 
For the sake of the blind, 
Was precisely the same, but in Braille
 
Then, we’ll drink to the Irish again and share some disparaging ethnic jokes, such as the following:

Two women were sitting next to each other at a bar.
After a while, one says, “I can’t help but think, from listening, that you’re from Ireland.”
The other woman responds proudly, “Yes, I am!”
The first one says, “So am I!  And where about in Ireland are ya from?”
The other answers, “I’m from Dublin.”
The first responds, “Why, so am I!!  And where did you live in Dublin?”
The other says, “Warbury Street in the old central part of town.”
The first one says, “Faith, it’s a small world. So did I!  And what school did ya go to?”
The other answers, “Well now, I went to Holy Heart of Mary, of course.”
The first gets really excited and says, “And so did I! Tell me, what year did you graduate?”
The other woman answers, “Well, now, let’s see.  I graduated in 1964.”
The first exclaims, “The Good Lord must be smiling down upon us! I can hardly believe our luck winding up in the same pub tonight! Can you believe it?  I graduated from Holy Heart of Mary in 1964 meself!”
About this time, Michael walks into the bar, sits down and orders a beer.
Brian, the bartender, walks over to him, shaking his head, and mutters, “It’s going to be a long night tonight.”
Michael asks, “Why do you say that, Brian?”
Brian answers, “The Murphy twins are drunk again.”
 
And finally, after drinking to the health of the Irish once more, we’ll raise a last glass to St. Patrick, thanking him for ridding the Emerald Isle of snakes but leaving plenty of potatoes and grains, and one to you all, in hopes your St. Paddy’s Day evening was half and much fun as ours. 

 

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