Not all of us own a shamrock headband and a “Kiss Me I’m Irish” t-shirt, and not all restaurants want to cater to that crowd.
You don’t need to have green beer on tap to get into the spirit. Celebrate St. Patrick’s Day with some traditional Irish fare, or put your own twist on a classic. While beer and whiskey are natural pairings for Irish food, wine drinkers needn’t despair, there are lots of wine options that match well with Irish food, and opportunities for your servers to sell bottles of wine instead of pints of beer.
Here are four of my favorite Irish dishes, with some wine pairing suggestions.
1-Corned Beef and Cabbage
This boiled beef dish tends to be on the salty and fatty side. Even though it’s made with beef, this preparation yields a more delicate dish and big, bold red would overpower the flavors. Instead reach for a lighter weight red, such as a red Burgundy from France. Made with the Pinot Noir grape, this wine is complex and flavorful, without being heavy or strongly alcoholic. This dish would also work nicely with a white wine, such as a Pinot Blanc from the Alsace. This full bodied white usually has some light oak and would not be overpowered by the beef.
2-Fish and Chips
Traditionally a working class meal, fish and chips is now on menus in all different forms, from a traditional version served in newspaper, to upscale interpretations at high end restaurants. For a fried dish like fish and chips, you’ll want to pair it with a wine with some nice acidity. A classic pairing would be a sparkling wine. French Champagne would work well for its balance of acidity and subtle yeastiness. For those diners who don’t appreciates bubbles, suggest a Sancerre. Made in France from the Sauvignon Blanc grape, these wines offer a crisp acidity with a nice minerality.
This hearty dish, a meal unto itself, demands a hearty wine that can stand up to the mix of flavors. A perfect suggestion would be a red wine from the Northern Rhone in France. Made with mostly Syrah grapes, these red wines have bold flavors, but an earthiness that would work well with the meat and vegetables in Shepard’s Pie.
4-Irish Soda Bread
Irish soda bread is great as a side with a meal, or for breakfast with a cup of tea, and even as a dessert. If having it near the end of a meal, suggest pairing it with a dessert wine such as a glass of tawny port.
Looking for a good Irish soda bread recipe? Here’s the recipe my Irish grandmother passed along to me.
4 cups of all purpose flour
3 tbsp of sugar
1 tbsp of double-acting baking powder
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
6 tbsp of salted butter
1 1/2 cups buttermilk
1 1/2 cups of dark, seedless raisins
Preheat oven to 350º. Grease well a 1 1/2 quart round cassarole dish.
In a large bowl, mix flour and the next 4 ingredients.
Using a pastry blender, or 2 knives used scissor-fashion, cut in softened butter until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs.
In small bowl, beat eggs slightly, remove 1 tbsp and reserve.
Stir buttermilk, raisins, and remaining egg into flour mixture and mix just until flour is moistened. Dough will be sticky.
Turn dough onto well floured surface and with floured hands, knead about 10 strokes to mix thoroughly. Shape dough into a ball and place in cassarole dish.
Brush dough with reserved eggs and bake for 1 hour, 20 minutes.
Cheers to a Happy St. Patrick’s Day!