You don’t have to be Irish to enjoy this St. Patrick’s Day

As they prepare for their third annual St. Patrick’s Day celebration, 250 pounds of corned beef is being brined at Feile Restaurant.

Andrew Robar, owner and executive chef, said preparing for their annual celebration is an almost two-week long process that starts with the brining, or marinating, of the corned beef.

Feile Restaurant, an Irish-American pub located on Post Road in Wells, has become a community staple for serving up fresh Irish dishes and a warm, inviting atmosphere year-round.

“I wanted to open up an Irish pub because it’s a big part of my family heritage and it’s a fun place to hang out,” Robar said. “It’s a fun atmosphere. People come here and have a good time.”

With one of the most widely celebrated Irish holidays just around the corner, Robar also expects to prepare more than 30 pounds of haddock throughout Saturday in addition to preparing specialty menu items including a lamb stew.

At Ryan’s Corner House, “where everybody is a wee bit of a leprechaun,” owners Joe and Tracy Ryan will be serving up a traditional Irish corned beef and cabbage dinner, as well as Irish stew, shepherd’s pie, bangers and mash, according to a Facebook page. The Irish restaurant and pub has been closed since fall — nobody answered the phone for several days — but a sign there says they will open their doors Friday.

For those who haven’t been exposed to Irish cuisine, Robar said there’s a whole lot more than shepherd’s pie and potatoes.

“There’s a lot of depth to it and we don’t even come close to scratching the surface,” Robar said. “People think Irish food is just potatoes but there’s a lot of seafood, fresh produce, curries, and things you wouldn’t necessarily think about.”

There’s also plenty of Irish-inspired beverages to wash it all down.

Over at Bintliff’s in Ogunquit, Chef/Owner Norm Hebert will be serving up an Irish whiskey dinner on Friday, which features Jameson whiskey paired with food served in four courses. Special offerings include bangers and mash, split pea soup, shepherd’s pie, and lamb, all served alongside a different vintage of the whiskey.

Hebert said he researched Irish dishes to come up with a menu that’s both authentic and delicious for his guests.

“We’re doing a split pea soup with a 12-year-old whiskey,” Hebert said of just one example of the offered courses.

Every year Bintliff’s celebrates St. Patrick’s Day a little differently, Hebert added, saying that last year there was live music and Irish menu specials. This year, with the holiday landing on a weekend, was a perfect opportunity for an Irish whiskey dinner.

“If we can help to educate people in different wines and spirits, it’s worth it. We’re a foodie type of society, people are interested in learning different things,” Hebert said.

As for his favorite way to celebrate the spirit of St. Patrick’s Day, Hebert said he enjoys having some fun.

“I like to play it low key and celebrate but I’m usually at the restaurant so I’m hanging out with my customers and staff,” Hebert said.

At Duffy’s in Kennebunk, owner David Cluff promises plenty of Guinness, Harp, Smithwick’s and Jameson alongside their corned beef and cabbage, reubens and Guinness beef stew served all day. Special activities include an Irish breakfast served at 8 a.m., followed by live entertainment in the afternoon: Bagpipers at 4 p.m., three-piece Irish band at 5:30 p.m. and the Guinness girls at 6:30. At 8 p.m., they will host a Leprechaun look-alike contest.

“This is going to be our fourth year and it’s the biggest day of the year for us,” Cluff said.

With the morning starting with soda bread, home fries, corned beef and eggs for breakfast, among other selections, Cluff said he expects to see over 800 happy patrons throughout the day.

Although there’s plenty to do at Duffy’s throughout the day, and Cluff said he expects to see the most visitors for lunch and dinner, his favorite part of the day happens in the afternoon.

“My favorite piece of the day is the bagpipers. It’s just one of those things when they get those going, there’ just something about it.”

And with Duffy’s as the only place he said he wants to be on Saturday, Cluff said he’ll have the Guinness flowing by 8 a.m.

“It’s a really fun day, everyone comes out to have some great Irish fun,” Cluff said. “It’s a great energy from all of the people enjoying the day. It’s an electrifying day, everyone sets aside their worries and has a great day.”

At Feile, live Irish music will stream between 11 a.m. and 11 p.m., including a duo, trio, solo performer and there will be interactive games and activities for visitors of the pub.

They also expect to serve up traditional favorites such as bangers and mash, corned beef and cabbage, shepherd’s pie and fish and chips.

“We sell those every day of the year. They’re very popular. Fish and chips are one of our top three sellers,” Robar added. “It all has Irish roots.”

Caitlin Robar, Andrew’s wife and general manager, added that she often hears that the corned beef and cabbage is a favorite dinner for local residents.

But if the food and music isn’t enough to transport you to an Irish pub, Caitlin said there’s an appeal to the building which was built in 1799.

“There’s an authentic feeling like being in an Irish pub, this building lends itself well,” she said.

Robar added that the homey décor, low ceilings and exposed beams allow for a comfortable atmosphere.

“It’s like being in someone’s living room,” he said.

For Robar, and his family who are actively involved with the restaurant, being Irish is all about celebrating and spending time with family.

“Being Irish has an impact on our everyday lives, we really like trying to make people feel like they’re part of the family here,” Robar said.

Caitlin added that her Irish roots, especially her grandfather who wrote a memoir about his life as an Irish-American, has played a key role in shaping her identity.

“My grandfather was from Mayo, Ireland, he was a huge presence in my life growing up,” Caitlin said. “He had a lot of Irish pride and we grew up around that.”

But whether celebrating St. Patrick’s Day, or just any night of the week, both agree that being Irish is about being connected and celebrating heritage.

“It’s all about heritage and just being who you are as a family,” Robar said.

Source: Samantha Stephens, seacoastonline.com

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