Thursday, March 21, 2013

A St. Patrick’s Day celebration wrapped in a birthday

I decided just one day to acknowledge my turning 70 was not enough, so I had two celebrations; an intimate one on the actual day and a party on St Pat’s Day. I’m certain St Patrick won’t mind sharing his day. I’m part Irish myself and have cycled a good portion of the Republic of Ireland, so combining the events seemed logical to me.

For my birthday, I prepared a Beef Wellington, which could have served twice our number, but then I do enjoy leftovers. I selected a bottle of Silverado Winery 2000 Cabernet Sauvignon from the Stags Leap district. There was spice, plum and red berry on the nose, with some tobacco and earth. I opened it two hours before serving to get all those ripe red and dark berry fruit flavors with hints of chocolate, earth and cloves and a wonderful finish.

This was my second Beef Wellington and much bigger than the one I did for my wife and me on Valentine’s Day. The pastry crust did separate a bit so I added aluminum foil. The pastry and pate coating – and we are not discussing fat content here – permits the internal steam to evenly and completely cook the meat to the proper temperature, which for me is medium rare. The entire tenderloin roast was done to a perfect medium rare and sensually tender.

My wife, Barbara, handled the Yorkshire pudding, which is a bit of a misnomer as far as pudding goes, but this is an English dish after all. Our good friends Don & Jan Swanson joined us and brought killer desserts and a bottle of Louis Roederer Premium Brut Champagne, which rocked with the supreme carrot cake.

Don and I finished with a glass of Black Bush Irish whiskey in traditional Claddagh glasses. The Claddagh symbol is two hands and a heart signaling eternal friendship and a perfect end to my birthday dinner.

St. Patrick’s Day

The Sunday dinner on March 17 required my wife and me to put in a lot of time to make a traditional Irish dinner such as my Grandmother used to make. Her recipes do require a bit of interpretation and a firm understanding of all things Irish to make them come out right. A pinch of this and a dash of that don’t quite cut it these days. I was also puzzled by a list of ingredients that included a box of raisons for the Irish soda bread. What size box did she have in mind?

Well, no matter, I added raisins and dried cranberries as if I was making Miss Fogarty’s Christmas cake. Check out the link if you’ve never heard the song. While I worked on the Irish stew, Barbara labored over the fadge. Fadge is sort of an Irish potato pancake, with day-old mashed potatoes, flour and a wee bit of grease to hold it together. Ironically, she used a star pattern, and Starr was my Grandmother Lizzy’s maiden name. I think that would keep her from rolling over in her grave in case we got the ratio of ingredients off a bit.

The salad had lots of mandarin orange slices in it as a nod to the Protestants of Northern Ireland where Miss Starr was born, but all of our guests turned out in lovely shades of green. I donned my World’s Tallest Leprechaun outfit to receive my guests and did create a stir. (See the picture below from 1998.) As it happens everyone showed up that said they would and everyone that wasn’t sure they could make it showed up too. That made it sixteen for dinner so I was glad we had plenty of everything, including wine.

No one wanted any green beer, which was a plus, but Keith Powell did gift me with a six-pack of assorted Irish beers and stouts. Being a somewhat non-traditional bunch, however, the sparkling wines and champagne headed the list. Some of those well-traveled sparklers did fizz over the top and I feared the place would rival a World Series winner’s locker room. It is usually a good idea to let sparkling wines rest up before opening, but everyone was ripe to party so we did.

I served a couple of bottles of Mark West 2011 Pinot Noir, an always dependable Pinot, and later a bottle of Mark West 2010 Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir, which was exquisite with the lamb stew. Some of our guests preferred bigger red wines, so we had a couple of Cabernet Sauvignon wines and heavy red blends.

We then launched into the Irish soda bread, my first at high altitude (5,100 feet), which needed extra moisture and came out grand, even if I guessed at the size of the raisin box. Barbara also made a carrot cake for me, and it was the best I’ve ever had, nicely spiced with a perfect cream cheese icing that did not require added sugar. That was probably the only concession to culinary sanity in the entire meal.

Just the same, next year I’m having the event catered.