11:01 AM 4/18/2001
Irish pub grub: not exactly chili con blarney
By DAI HUYNH
Ask an Irishman what he thinks about Irish food, and his answer is a joke:
"The French live to eat; the Irish eat to live," one man said.
"Irish food is a pint of Guinness and a pint of potatoes," his friend chimed in.
"A pint of Guinness is a meal in Ireland. That's what they say, and that's the truth," a third one said.
But after the jokes comes the defense.
"We have a great abundance of herbs -- rosemary, thyme and sage. They
have great flavors, but they don't add heat, and they don't jump at you
like peppers. So for the most part, we have very mellow products,"
Irish-born chef Neil Doherty says.
Every Irishman knows that a bit of the auld sod is better than
nothing. And when homesick, they head to an Irish pub for fish and
chips. Irish pub grub is humble as its name indicates, but a pint of
thick, dark Guinness with beer-battered cod or Irish stew is just about
This weekend and April 28-29, Houstonians can sample Irish pub grub
at the 2001 Houston International Festival downtown. The salute to
Ireland will highlight Irish culture and food from vendors, including
Slainte Irish Pub and Garden in the Heights. This is in addition to
booths spotlighting foods from Africa, China, Mexico and the Caribbean.
After the festival wraps up, consider visiting the following establishments for Irish grub (traditional and inspired):
· At McGonigel's Mucky Duck, patrons can listen to flute, dulcimer
and harp music while munching on a Scotch egg -- a hard-cooked egg
coated with a sausage-and-bread mixture and deep-fried. Food and drink
play important supporting roles to the music at this cozy Upper Kirby
District pub, which Rusty Andrews opened in 1990 with his wife, the
former Teresa McGonigel.
The concert venue -- which showcases blues, country, folk, Latin and
Irish artists from around the country -- boasts a menu with such dishes
as Guinness beef stew and homemade trifle (a layered dessert of sponge
cake, whipped cream, raspberry preserves and almonds).
Many of the recipes are based on those found in old family cookbooks,
such as the three-century-old chicken pot pie from Herefordshire,
England, while other recipes were handed down from aunts and uncles.
By far the favorite of patrons, Andrews says, is the shepherd's pie, made with ground beef instead of lamb.
Try also the steak-and-kidney pie, an earthy casserole of various
tastes and textures, or fork into the Guinness beef stew with a little
brown sugar stirred in for sweetness.
Cluttered with varnished wooden oval tables, medieval prints, faux
painted bookshelves and advertising memorabilia, McGonigel's makes for a
cool, dark haven for a quiet lunch. At night, however, the pub hums
with lyrical energy. A bevy of talents, from Clandestine and Ceili's
Muse to Don Walser and Alejandro Escovedo, have performed at this
neighborhood concert hall.
Address: 2425 Norfolk; 713-528-5999. Hours: 11 a.m.-2 a.m.
Mondays-Saturdays; closed Sundays. There's a cover charge most nights,
except Mondays and Wednesdays.
Diners who would rather not attend the show need not pay the cover
charge. They can eat and drink while enjoying the evening breeze in the
pub's cozy, shaded rear patio area.