If you had a name like Sean Fitzgerald and owned a bar called The Wobbly Olive, you might plan a hearty party with plenty of Irish food and special cocktails for St. Patrick's Day. But Fitzgerald is so passionate about the holiday, he usually holds a weeklong party at his bar.
"St. Patrick's Day is a good excuse to drink," he said. "For us Irishmen, this is like our Mardi Gras. Our carnival. And it's absolutely about the food."
This year, though, the party will be slightly modified due to construction obligations at his sister restaurant, Wobbly Olive West.
"I want to give the chefs a break," he said. "They are training for opening the new place (Wobbly Olive West) and getting ready to roll out new menus here and at our other place, The Collective."
Not to worry though. From March 11-17, the Wobbly Olive will feature two or three Irish dishes and some drinks starring Irish spirits.
Irish coffee will flow. Fitzgerald loves to serve it for dessert, and he's a stickler about its preparation.
"The drink never has Baileys Irish Cream in it and does not have a huge puff of whipped cream on top," he said. "You need to shake heavy cream with just a little sugar until the cream thickens, not whipped. You can hear the sugar when the cream is being shaken. That's what thickens the cream and makes it firm enough to float on top of strong coffee, which has Irish whiskey in it, of course."
The drink is refreshing with the steaming hot boozy coffee seeping though the thick chilled cream.
"I use Jameson Cooper's Croze whiskey," he said.
Fitzgerald credits much of his Irish food inspiration to the Rí Rá Irish Pub in Las Vegas' Mandalay Bay resort. He considers it the perfect example of an Irish eating experience.
"My wife and I have been known to go there on a spur-of-the-moment weekend escape, just for the Irish breakfast," he said. "They make the best grilled sausage with baked tomatoes and steel-cut oats with Jameson (whiskey). All the employees are from Ireland, which adds to the experience."
Mari Younkin, a personal chef and culinary consultant, isn't throwing a party this year, but she loves talking about her Irish ties. And she shared some bread and cake recipes for those inclined to celebrate at home.
"My father and his parents were from Northern Ireland," she said. "For me growing up, St. Pat's Day was a day we attended Mass. And that was the day of the year we enjoyed my dad's favorites - Irish soda bread, corned beef and cabbage and yummy apple cake. There was always a lot of drinking between the families. My dad's favorite was a nice cold beer and Irish whiskey when available."
With her children grown, her March 17 celebration is not expansive, but she still bakes a few traditional dishes.
"The favorites are the Irish tea barmbrack bread, Irish soda bread and the Dublin apple cake with warm custard sauce," she said. The barmbrack bread is "a yeast bread studded with raisins and currants. The key ingredient in the bread is Irish black tea. It adds moisture and a beautiful dark color. The Irish bake small treasures into the bread to create a game of fortune-telling."
She uses Harney & Sons tea blend, which is available at Barnes & Noble bookstores and online.
Younkin's recipes have been well tested for altitude. But if you're not into baking, and want to celebrate the Irish, head to The Wobbly Olive to raise a mug of your favorite brew.