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St. Patrick’s Day: What’s the craic?

Irish banneSign of the times at Bottom Line by Corinne Whiting

St. Patrick’s Day seems to fall at a good time of year—just after we’ve groggily “sprung forward” and just as we’ve been teased out of our winter hermit holes by the sweet promise of spring. Winter vacation seems a lifetime ago; Memorial Day beach treks couldn’t feel farther out of reach. Truth be told, we’re ready for some good craic.

This holiday always seems an ideal time to check in with Irish mates I haven’t properly caught up with since my last trip to Éire. I write friends based in happenin’ Dublin and off “busy” getting sunburned in fabulous places around the globe to wish them a happy Paddy’s Day. (Note: if you accidentally let slip “St. Patty’s Day,” prepare to be scolded for incorrectly feminizing the legendary saint!) This year I surveyed my friends’ March 17 plans, knowing that the night before would be the big night out thanks to a national holiday on St. Patrick’s Day. Over there March 17 seems a day, at least for my friends, to take it easy—catching up over pints and coffees, cycling into the country and, most importantly, avoiding the chaos of city centre. The downtown Dublin parade, it seems, can be saved for the kids and tourists.

So what then does March 17 (unfortunately not a holiday here) mean for Washingtonians? Perhaps the Obamas will dye the White House fountain green again (touch wood). And while the holiday will no doubt give venues an excuse to charge covers to droves of bar goers on a random Wednesday night, it will also give bar goers an excuse to spend a Wednesday night clinking glasses of green beer, downing Irish car bombs and flaunting real or feigned ancestry (“Kiss Me, I’m Irish” buttons, anyone?). It’s also a day when cultural traditions get a wee bit muddled here in the “melting pot” of America—Scottish and English customs become Irish; anything Celtic goes….

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The DC 100, The Features

DC Omni 100: #6 Black Pudding

Photo courtesy of
‘Black Pudding with kidney – The Botanical Breakfast – The Botanical AU19.50′
courtesy of ‘avlxyz’

It’s time for another item from the DC Omnivore 100 list of the top one hundred foods every good omnivore should try at least once in their lives.

Let’s get over the squeamishness now, and call a spade a spade. Black pudding is blood sausage. Ahhhh…I said BLOOD! Now we know what we’re eating and we can directly correlate it to a real live animal,  not some amorphous substance. So now that we’ve established that, freaked out a tad and gotten over it, let’s talk about how delicious black pudding is.

In its simplest form, black pudding is a combination of onions, a few herbs, barley, bread crumbs, meat, seasonal vegetables, or heavy spices and, typically, pork or cow blood. I supposed for some it’s the incorrect assumption that the only ingredient in black pudding is blood that makes it SO unappealing. However, the best black pudding does not use too much blood, and has an even mixture of the other ingredients. It’s this perfect combination that makes the flavor of black pudding to be so rich, complex and delicious.

Traditionally, black pudding is served as part of a full English breakfast, such as the one I recently enjoyed at Ireland’s Four Courts in Arlington, VA. A full English breakfast gets you a few slices of black pudding, eggs (cooked to your liking,) baked beans, fried tomatoes, hash browns, toast, bacon, white pudding (a relative of black pudding but sans blood) and perhaps a few other odds and ends depending on the cook and restaurant you’re at. If you’re new to black pudding, the small amount provided as part of the meal will be an excellent way to sample this iron rich, savory treat. And if you don’t like it, at least you’re left with plenty of “friendly” food. Continue reading