2012 St. Patrick’s Day Guide

For a holiday with such deep religious ties St. Patrick's Day certainly has become a great secular party (Saint Patrick essentially devoted the latter part of his life to spreading Christianity in Ireland, much like a missionary).

This means that anyone can now enjoy the great tradition of Irish hospitality and have a fantastic time celebrating amongst like-minded folk in a pub. It also means there's a great deal of commercialisation around it—remember that attempt by Guinness to make it a public holiday in North America? So where do you go to enjoy a bit of that famous Irish charm and love of life while minimising the drunken louts, shenanigans and chaos? We've put together a guide of some traditional Irish spots that won't just be putting up a few green shamrocks and calling it a Saint Patrick's Day party. These places celebrate their Irish ties year round with a warm welcome, traditional Irish fare and a proper pint.

In the Céilí Cottage Patrick McMurray has succeeded in creating something at the heart of every Irish community—a local pub for the neighbourhood. It aims to not just be a place to grab a bite and drink, but also to act as a community hub where locals can meet to catch-up on the happenings in each other's lives. With that in mind McMurray has a whole week St. Patrick's Day festivities planned. The details are at the bottom of this post, but some highlights include: a limerick contest, a family day to celebrate the parade, a restaurant industry day including an oyster shucking contest and a day for Irish ex-pats to gather and celebrate their culture. On St. Patrick's Day the Cottage will feature the Mere Mortals playing Irish tunes and shows by the Leslieville-based Gilchrist-Canavan Irish Dance Team. The entire $10 cover goes to supporting the dance team who practices in the school behind the the pub. Irish favourites Guinness, Kilkenny, Harp, Smithwicks and some Ontario microbrews will be available on draught as well as some twenty-odd Irish whiskies. The menu features Irish comfort food, but the star is the seafood. Both the Cottage and McMurray's Starfish are the only place in the city to get wild Irish mussels and you can't go wrong with a selection of his oysters especially hard to get European ones. If you're planning to line-up early to get into this popular spot, staff will be easing the potential wait by pouring coffee from Red Rocket.

Staying in Leslieville the Roy will be doing things as it always does with the exception of some Irish music from the trio the Better Half between 3 and 7pm. So expect this intimate spot to be  busier than usual. Brunch including the Roy's take on a full Irish breakfast, BLT and corn beef hash is available from 11-2pm. If you're after some drinks the Roy has Guinness, Kilkenny, Harp & Smithwicks on draught as well as a selection of 19 Irish whiskies.

Over the past 25 years John Maxwell has brought his Irish brand of hospitably to the Danforth at both Allen's restaurant and the next door Dora Keogh pub. Maxwell is a champion of local products  with an all VQA wine list, but he also loves to bring in specialties like smoked salmon, spirits and ales from the British Isles. To celebrate St. Patrick's Day Allen's will be offering a special menu of traditional Irish classics throughout the week like Scallops Kilpatrick and corned beef with champ. The complete menu is at the bottom of the post. On St. Patrick's day itself traditional Irish music begins at 2pm with Aideen O'Brien Band taking over at 9pm with contemporary Irish. Next door at Dora Keogh traditional music including uileann pipes and the fiddle starts at noon and then the Julian Taylor Band and Nisha take over with the mix of traditional and contemporary from 3:30-7:30pm and 8pm until close respectively. Both spots will be the place for whiskey lovers to celebrate St. Patrick's day. Maxwell has a love of fine whisky and the list he offers at his establishments is amongst the city's best. If beer is your beverage of choice both Allen's and Dora's have an excellent mix of the Irish standards Guinness, Kilkenny and Harp and local micro brewed beer.

If you're looking for a spot downtown P.J. O'Brien, tucked away behind the King Edward Hotel, is a good choice. You'll be able to grab a draught pint of Guinness, Kilkenny or Harp. Staff will giving away prizes and running promotions throughout the day. Live music by The Irish Guys goes from 2-6pm and with some Irish dancing at 2pm.

This year's St. Patrick's Day promises to be one of the biggest yet. Not only is it on a Saturday but this year marks the 25th anniversary of Toronto's St. Patrick's Day Parade. Canada is home to some 4.5 million people who can trace their roots back to the Emerald Isle and about half of them live in Ontario so the province's largest city has a proud Irish heritage.

Given that you can sleep off any lingering effects from St. Patrick's Day on a lazy Sunday this year expect the festivities to feature a bit more of everything. So if there's one key piece of advice it's get there early and bring your patience. With many spots open between 10:30-11am expect lines to start forming an hour or two early. Remember a little preparation and some patiences tends to be well rewarded. And a smile never hurts either. Slàinte!

Céilí Cottage
1301 Queen Street East

The Roy
894 Queen Street East

143 Danforth Ave.

Dora Keogh
141 Danforth Ave.

P.J. O'Brien
39 Colborne St.

Eat Me I'm Irish: Fionn MacCool's New Spring Menu features tastes of Ireland
A new Irish themed spring menu that will be available from March 5th until April 29th.

“In Ireland, meals are known for being leisurely and social with generous portions of delicious, fresh meats, vegetables and seafood,” says Niels Kjeldsen, Executive Chef Fionn MacCool’s.  “We designed Fionn MacCool’s new spring menu to re-create this rewarding Irish experience – simple, satisfying food and true Irish hospitality.”

The menu

Cashel & Kilkenny Cheese Dip
Cashel (a delectable Irish blue cheese) and aged white cheddar with Kilkenny® Irish Cream ale.  Topped with bacon, green onion and red pepper.  Served with grilled baguette coins.
Haddock & Shrimp Cake Combo
Fresh handmade panko breaded haddock and shrimp cakes, marinated beets and an Emerald Green salad with a Strongbow cider vinaigrette.  Served with Rebel Rock dipping sauce and a lemon wedge.
Colcannon Pie
Colcannon (a traditional Irish recipe of buttermilk mashed potatoes, cabbage, onions and bacon), spinach and aged cheddar in a pub-made pie.  Served with a salad of green beans, chopped pecans, red pepper, red onion, radishes and leeks in a Strongbow Cider vinaigrette and a side of Guinness® gravy.
Corned Beef & Cabbage
Legendary Lester’s corned beef, Montreal’s favourite since 1931, served with cabbage, colcannon and mustard.
Prime Rib Burger with Corned Beef
Topped with legendary Lester’s corned beef piled high, aged white cheddar and lettuce.  Served with a whiskey Piccalilli relish and fries seasoned with sea salt.
Lamb Stew
A hearty lamb stew loaded with sweet peas, carrots, onions, celery and rosemary, simmered in a broth of Kilkenny® Irish Cream ale.  Topped with pub-made dumplings.
Rhubarb, Strawberry & Apple Crumble
Topped with fresh mint and vanilla ice cream.

Fionn MacCool's locations can be found at www.primepubs.com

From March 13th-18th

Creamy Potato Soup with Smoked Bacon and Chives

Mussels steamed in White Wine with Leeks and Garlic

With Tarragon-garlic Mayonnaise and House-made Soda Bread Toasts


Scallops wrapped in Double-smoked Bacon with White Wine and Parsley


Glazed Corned Beef with Apple Juice-steamed Vegetables and Champ

Traditional Irish Stew – Ontario Lamb braised
with Potato , Cauliflower and Leek


Gaelic steak – Atlantic Packers Beef Tenderloin with Jameson Whiskey,
Cream and Mushroom Sauce.  Served with Baked Potato J.Murphy-style

Connemara Roast Lamb with Merlot-Herb Sauce and Parslied Potato

Grilled wild British Columbia Salmon Filet with Donegal Orange Potatoes


With Warm Bailey's Irish Cream and Espresso Sauce    8.95


Céilí Cottage St. Patrick's Day Week-long Festivities
Saturday, March 10 – St.Practice Day 12noon-close
The Tent is up, so let the shenanigans begin!

Sunday, March 11 – Family & Parade Day 12noon- 11pm

St.Pats Parade – 12noon start, downtown leprechaun dress up and walk the parade, Face painting fun for kids at The Cottage.

Monday, March 12 – Restaurant Industry Day 3pm-close
Guinness & Bushmills Cellarman Champs – team comps in afternoon
St.Patrick's Open – oyster shucking contest – 24 Hogtown style. $1.50 oysters for the non-shuckers. 7:30pm CeiliGrass Boys – bluegrass band & Gil-Can Dancers

Tuesday, March 13 – Trad Day 4:00pm -close
Irish Ex-Pat Day – Associations, Business, Sports & Tourism info.
7:00pm Gil-Can dancers

Wednesday, March 14 – Lisdoonvarna Matchmaking Day 4:00pm-close
Meet with the Matchmaker, singles barn dance
“Paul Jones” 6:30
Gil-Can Dancers 7:00-10pm

Thursday, March 15 – Irish Karaoke 4:00pm-close
Come and belt it out, as a professional karaoke DJ will come by and play Irish tunes & artists, and lead you on with all of the classic “drinking songs”, or make up one of your own!

Friday, March 16 – TEICA Arts & Letters day 4:00pm-close
“Baileys” at The Ceili theme
Local Limerick Contest judged by Sarah Dann of Local Mag & ShuckerPaddy. Email entries to limerick@ceilicottage.com by March 15. The top 10 will make it to the stage to win prizes.
1st Annual Ceili Cottage BrushOff! – Painting challenge & auction, prizes.

Saturday, March 17 – St.Patrick’s Day 11am-2am
General Debauchery & Shenanigans
Live music with The Mere Mortals at 5pm
Gil-Can dance shows all day.
$10 at the door all day – 100% of the door to Gil-Can World Champs’s Irish Dance Team


Written by Mike Di Caro

Michael Di Caro covers all things vinous at Spotlight. His lover affair with Ontario wine began over a decade ago and he’s been in front of tasting bars trying to sweet talk staff into pouring a taste of a library wine or the latest unreleased bottle ever since. Since good wine can’t be made without great grapes, you can also catch him amongst the vines trying to persuade the winemaker into revealing his/her next big thing for you on Spotlight. His epicurean tendencies don’t just stop in the glass either. During the rest of his free time you can find him searching for the perfect bowl of Dan Dan noodles, exploring the city’s best tasting menus or baking cookies and mucking about in the kitchen.

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