Happy St. Patrick’s Day, everyone! I know this post is coming very late in the day but I hope everyone’s day was filled with fun Irish festivities, food, and – if you enjoy getting a little happy and tipsy – beer! There were so many food celebrations going on all over the city in different pockets of town and although I’m a little disappointed that I wasn’t able to treat you all to an entire week of St. Patrick’s Day goodies, having one post is better than not having any at all.
Just so we can keep these ideas and events in mind for next year (because we all know we’ll be in the mood to celebrate!), Short & Sweet Cupcakes and Prairie Girl Bakery had special St. Patrick’s Day cupcakes during the week, Sadie’s Diner had a special St. Patrick’s Day shamrock shake smoothie, and the St. Lawrence Market celebrated the green holiday with a happy-go-lucky market party! In addition to their March Flavours of the Month (their mint Oreo Mint Everest cupcake and their Irish cream and tres leche Pierce Brosnan one) Short & Sweet had a special “green velvet” cream cheese cupcake adorned with a lucky green clover and Prairie Girl was dishing out Irish cream cupcakes on their luscious dark cocoa cakes.
After doing a truckload of food research for St. Patrick’s Day last year, I jumped on the chance to grab a few Groupon vouchers when they offered a deal for the Irish Embassy Pub & Grill, located at the corner of Yonge and Wellington St. I was covering my tooshie to make sure I would have a special St. Patrick’s Day post for the blog this year even if I couldn’t make it out to any of the other Irish pubs or restaurants. Sadly, I didn’t get around to having my Irish breakfast fry weekend brunch this year (again), but I did have some very delicious Irish lamb shepherd’s pie to boot! Situated in a lovely historic building in the hubbub of downtown Toronto, Irish Embassy Pub & Grill serves a menu that boasts pub classics and hearty Irish meals.
Thanks to dear friend Breige in Ireland, she coached me and taught everything there was to know about Irish food and cuisine so I was prepared to tease out the pub favourites from the authentic Irish eats! Aside from the Irish Embassy’s Irish breakfast fry that they serve on the weekends, they serve several dishes that are particularly traditional in their main lunch and dinner menu including a soda bread appetizer, a traditional Irish lamb stew with root vegetables, and a lamb shepherd’s pie. And no Irish menu would be complete with a few meals made with Irish beer and ale! Among these dishes are the Guiness pulled pork sandwich, the Guiness braised beef short ribs, and the Kilkenny battered fish and chips. The menu is divided into three sections with one devoted to appetizers, one to sandwiches, and the last to mains, along with a separate page with a list of lunch specials.
The pricing isn’t for the faint of heart though! Had I not had my Groupon, I would have hestiated coming here just because it’s a little out my budget range for lunch. Based on this first visit I thought the food was wonderful, but if you need to put things in perspective, the pricing doesn’t differ between lunch and dinner menus. The dinner menu offers a larger selection of appetizers (which sound mouthwateringly scumptious), a larger selection of traditional Irish meals within that portion of the menu, less sandwiches, and the same selection of mains. Therefore, if you want to get your money’s worth, I’d go for dinner as opposed to lunch because you definitely have to be prepared to pay $15-$20 for your meal either way.
After debating between the Irish lamb stew ($17) and the lamb shepherd’s pie ($16), I caved and had the shepherd’s pie because the thought of creamy whipped mashed potatoes over a pot pie was making me salivate. That, and because I saw four other patrons around me noshing on said shepherd’s pie. FOUR! Nothing like a little visual temptation to make my decision for me, no? I’m no fool – I know good food when I see it. And my was this shepherd’s pie ever delicious. After having the shepherd’s pie meal, I understood wholeheartedly why it was such a popular menu item.
The pie was served in a white cermaic baking dish with a side of mixed green salad with sliced radishes and cucumers and shredded carrots tossed with some of the yummiest olive oil and vinegar dressing I have ever had. You wouldn’t think a side salad would play such a starring role but it did and it was fabulous. The shepherd’s pie was made with ground lamb, carrots, peas, and corn with a smooth, whipped layer of garlic mashed potatoes that was beautifully piped on top. The ground lamb and vegetables were tender, the mashed potatoes were airy and soft, and the best thing about the shepherd’s pie was the flavour and seasoning. It wasn’t overly salted or seasoned and the ground lamb wasn’t dry or gamey in the least. The meal is terrific comfort food and a real winner if you’re looking to have something Irish in town.
Even though Breige swears up and down that Ireland, as a nation, isn’t necessarily celebrated for its food, I was fascinated by all the food traditions and meals she was telling me about and I can’t wait to explore the Irish food scene right in own home in Toronto. If the rest of the scene is just as delicious as my shepherd’s pie was, it’s going to be one very delightful expedition.
Irish Embassy Pub & Grill is located at 49 Yonge Street in downtown Toronto at corner of Yonge and Wellington Street East. The pub is is open for both lunch and dinner during the week and serves Irish brunch during the weekend.