Saint Patrick’s Festival
Dr. Nestor Alonso ll (The Freeman) - April 13, 2018 - 12:00am

CEBU, Philippines — The Feast of Saint Patrick, the Patron Saint of Ireland, is celebrated every March 17. The observance marks the arrival of Christianity in Ireland, where it is a public holiday. They day is a public holiday in Ireland, Northern Ireland and Canadian provinces of Newfoundland and Labrador. There are festivals, or cèilidhs, where guests wear green attire (shamrocks) and dine on traditional Irish dishes and drinks.

Marco Polo Plaza Cebu GM Brian Connelly, an American with Irish ancestry decided to include Saint Patrick’s Festival as the latest in the series of Culinary Journeys at Café Marco.

Irish cuisine is unfamiliar to me, with the exception of Irish whisky, Irish coffee and Guinness. I can recall only a single invitation to a Saint Patrick’s Festival in my 15 years as a food writer.

The development of a country’s cuisine is linked to its history, geography, natural resources and its neighbors. The growth of Irish cuisine was hampered by the conquest of its territory by England in the 17th century that made the country bankrupt. In 1845, the poor became poorer with the “potato famine,” when its crops were infected by a mold called potato blight. The experience triggered a wave of migration to the United States, and this was how the Connellys came to America.

Today, Irish cuisine had flourished and traditional food like Irish Stew (lamb or goat), Coddle (sausage, bacon & potato), Colcannon (mashed potato, kale, cabbage & butter), Boxty (Potato Pancake), Shepherd’s Pie (meat and veggies topped with potatoes) and Bacon & Cabbage Soup (with potatoes) were served at the Café Marco. I chose to skip the soup and went for the dishes I had not tasted before.

I tried the Irish Stew Recipe Lamb with Guinness and found that the sauce had a more delicious taste than the meat itself but you have to swipe the sauce with a piece of bread. I also tasted the Sticky Irish Glazed Short Ribs and the Irish Whisky Roasted Salmon, and found that the fishy oily taste of the salmon was restrained by the whiskey. I had a slice of Beef and Mushroom Pie (Shepherd’s Pie?), a tablespoon of traditional Colcannon and the Dublin Coddle and two small jars of Prawn Cocktail with Avocado & Cocktail Sauce. The taste of the prawns reigned supreme over the meats.

I thought I had too much potato in one setting, and so I went for the Corned Beef and Cabbage in Dark Beer, Country Style Pork Ribs with Apple & Cranberry and was attracted to the beautiful presentation of the Irish Pub salad. One bite of the corned beef, excuse me, awakened memories of the dish prepared by American businessman Eddie Woolbright in Eddie’s Log Cabin some four decades ago. (At that time I thought that corned beef only came in cans.) It was delicious but I had to pair it with more potatoes. I took small portions of the salad since the dishes I had tasted earlier was quite filling.

It was time for desserts and I took really tiny slices of the Bossy Cheese Cake, Whisky Cake, Chocolate Guinness Cake, Cappuccino Irish Coffee Cream Chocolate Cake, Creamy and one Green Velvet Cupcake. The Whisky Cake was quite irresistible and I completed my “culinary journey to Ireland” with one more slice.

PATRON SAINT
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