March makes its way with a bit of green and a touch of magic. After a long, gray winter, it’s only fitting to kick up your heels—or leprechaun shoes—come St. Patrick’s Day. Lively Irish food and drink are a precursor to spring. You can’t help but be enchanted by coffee, burgers and breads inspired by the land of the limerick. Here in Edina, we have our own, albeit a bit more reserved, take on this Irish-American cultural celebration.
FREEHOUSE STOUT IRISH COFFEE
Irish coffee will put a Gaelic song in your heart and beat the chill of blustery March days.
Legend has it the hot, spirited blend soothed the strains of weary transatlantic travelers during World War II. While the origins of Irish coffee are murky, its lasting success blossomed on this side of the pond. The Edina Grill lives up to its innovative take on traditional fare with the Freehouse Stout Irish Coffee. Boozy, brash and brimming with a kick of caffeine, Irish coffee has all the bases covered. An ideal warmer-upper emerges from top-shelf whiskey and a pleasant stout surprise. Named after a sister restaurant and brewery in Minneapolis, the namesake drink uses a housemade beer- and sugar-infused simple syrup instead of brown sugar.
A jolly jig of whiskey and whiskey simple syrup seep into a hot brew fit for anyone whether Irish or not. Frothy with a kick of spirits and charge of caffeine, it’s all a St. Patrick’s Day drink should be. Irish coffee is fun and slightly naughty but passable as breakfast fare. “It’s kind of nice because we have breakfast all day. Why not perk up your coffee?” says Amy Truschenski, bartender. Because a jolt of java fuels the drink, people can have Irish coffee for breakfast without guilt.
“It’s a perfect drink for the time of year and warms you up!” says Truschenski. “It’s also Irish for St. Patrick’s Day.” While the Irish coffee is a March feature, you can request an Irish coffee any time of year—Edina Grill bartenders are happy to oblige.
With a little Irish spirit and a few other basic ingredients, you can put together your own creamy, cockle-warming beverage. Just substitute a couple tablespoons of brown sugar for the simple syrup. The leprechauns will never know. Cheers, and may the luck of the Irish be with you always!
IRISH SODA BREAD
Irish soda bread makes a triumphant return during March. But there was a time this quickbread was a staple on many a table all year long. A simple bread made without yeast rose from meager circumstances. Bicarbonate of soda (baking soda) was a cheaper leavening agent. Traditional Irish soda bread contains flour, baking soda, sour milk or buttermilk, salt, and nothing more. A needy nation relied on inexpensive foods to keep going. In the early 1800s, Irish soda bread kept a hungry family fed on a few shillings and a sixpence.
Today, the former peasant food has evolved into an American-style tea cake. Add raisins, dubbed “spots on the dog” in Ireland, for more flavor. Some sugar, butter, eggs or nuts could go into the mix, too. Irish soda bread has countless variations that build from a minimal recipe created nearly 200 years ago.
There’s even a Society for the Preservation of Irish Soda Bread, with authentic Old World recipes and helpful hints: “The best flour to use is ‘soft wheat’ which is called pastry flour or cake flour today in the U.S.”
In Edina, Irish soda bread is popular for St. Patrick’s Day and throughout March. You can find Irish soda bread at Breadsmith, Jerry’s Foods and Wuollet Bakery.
Breadsmith creates a tasty rendition from a slightly altered 20-year-old recipe. “We adapted a little bit with two kinds of raisins and whole wheat flour,” says owner David Wright. The cross-cut top gleams with a honey wash. Oats and a whole-grain flour mix make a healthy, tasty whole-grain snack option kids will love. “We’re trying to make it palatable – more than just an accompaniment to the meal,” says Wright. The enhanced recipe bakes into a loaf that’s ideal for breakfast or snacking any time. “You don’t have to be Irish to love soda bread,” says Wright. $6.95.
St. Patrick’s Day Celebration
Move over, St. Paul! The 50th and France Red Cow celebrates St. Patrick’s Day in scrumptious style. Where else could you encounter a corned beef and cabbage burger, and a beer milkshake? Yes, you can sink your teeth into St. Paddy’s Day fun at Red Cow and you don’t have to wear green or even be Irish to enjoy this festive food.
Let’s start with the main course, built from food legends of the Emerald Isle. The famed corned beef and cabbage burger makes a comeback for St. Patrick’s Day. A juicy burger topped with housemade ale mustard sauce, roasted cabbage, pickled mustard seeds and corned beef could make you dance a jig, or at least bring a twinkle to your eye. Flavors are every bit Irish and updated with a Red Cow twist. Lucky for us, the corned beef and cabbage burger is available for a couple of weeks during March. Savor your burger with an Irish beer or try the new beer milkshake as a St. Patrick’s Day-only, adult-only special. The inclusion of a Stillwater-based brewery draught called Lift Bridge Irish Coffee Stout takes this milkshake to a whole new level. While the beer milkshake is new this year at the Red Cow, its origins are much older and can be traced back to John Steinbeck’s 1945 novel Cannery Row. The ever-philosophical character Doc pondered the culinary merits of such an indulgent concoction:
Blaisedell, the poet, had said to him, ‘You love beer so much. I’ll bet someday you’ll go in and order a beer milkshake.’ It was a simple piece of foolery but it had bothered Doc ever since. He wondered what a beer milkshake would taste like. The idea gagged him but he couldn’t let it alone. It cropped up every time he had a glass of beer … Once the thing got into your head you couldn’t forget it.”
With or without famed novel references, the beer milkshake holds its own. Enticingly sweet, slightly boozy flavors capture the mildly mischievous mood of the day. The beer milkshake melds two guilty pleasures into one must-try St. Patrick’s Day treat. Corned beef and cabbage burger $13, beer milkshake $7.
Make it at Home
- 1 ½ ounces Original Jameson Irish Whiskey
- ¾ ounce Freehouse #4 simple syrup or brown sugar
- Hot coffee
- Whipped cream
Place Irish whiskey and simple syrup (or brown sugar) in a fancy mug. Carefully stir in hot coffee to fill all but 1 inch of the glass. Top the coffee mixture with a thick collar of whipped cream. Serve immediately.