March without Madness.
In Winter I’m a one-subject, mono-directed person, pointed only and always toward Spring, the season of rebirth. But this Winter’s extraordinarily pleasant balmy weather combined with the fact that my family is no longer in or around Manhattan on St. Patrick’s Day (an occasion that is and has always been a nightmare), but instead in the Eden of Chester County, are reasons to celebrate March. Plus the special joy in the mid-month holiday dedicated to Ireland’s patron saint and those truest harbingers of spring’s wonder and bounty—shad and shad roe.
St. Pat’s Classics.
Some people think of St. Patrick’s Day and fix on a traditional meal of corned beef and cabbage. Although some culinary authorities like Malachi McCormick contest the primacy, even the Irish identity of corned beef and cabbage (in Irish Country Cooking, he calls it “a New World dish!”). Others like Darina Allen, proprietress of the famous Ballymoe Cooking School, strongly differ.
Ms. Allen’s corned beef feast (served with buttered cabbage, champ and rhubarb bread and butter pudding) can be found at CountyLinesMagazine.com.
Readers wishing to elaborate on the Irish mood are directed to West Chester’s Abbey Green Irish Shop, 1036 Wilmington Pike, West Chester.
Irish Smoked Salmon.
My own Irish thoughts and memories, which are extensive and frankly ecstatic (if I could celebrate St. Patrick’s Day at the Horseshoe Bar at the Shelburne Hotel in Dublin, I would … celebrate St. Patrick’s Day at the Horseshoe Bar at the Shelburne Hotel in Dublin), center around Irish smoked salmon, which is the best in the world.
My friend Patricia Kellaghan advises that Irish mothers traditionally welcome returning sons and daughters with smoked salmon, good dark bread and smiling eyes.
Closer to home, Sugartown Smoked Specialities’ smoked salmons (various styles) and other smoked fish and seafood are exquisite and unbeatable. 306-1Q Westtown Rd., West Chester; SmokedFood.com.
Shad and the spring shad run in the Delaware River have an elemental place in Philadelphia’s history. Originally considered a poor people’s food, shad and its roe later achieved the status of a delicacy. Several recipes I like a lot, included because they are a little unusual, can be found at CountyLinesMagazine.com. The most important thing to remember (as with all fish) is that you must not overcook shad or shad roe.
We buy our shad at Seafood USA in Wayne or Paoli. Ask about other types of fish roe (e.g., flounder and mackerel) also. You won’t be sorry. 330 W. Lancaster Ave., Wayne; 21 E. Lancaster Ave., Paoli; TheSeafoodUSA.com.
Tea for Thee.
Finally, to fortify against March chills (and accompany any meals or even just bouts of contemplation), the Pureblend Teas created by Chester County native Kari Dandrea are ideal elixirs. Having formed our own tea tastes in England, Ireland and India, we find Pureblend’s new and ever-developing organic tea assortment exciting and excellent.
Current offerings include Mint Mojito (a black tea), Alice in Wonderland (a white tea), and best of all (I think) one of their tonic matcha (finely milled green tea; you consume the whole leaf) blends. As Pureblend states on their website: “Green is the new Black.” Available at local farmers markets and online at PureblendTea.com.
About Curtis Roberts. I’m a lawyer who also does other things, including appreciate regional food. My family returned to the area to reclaim my wife’s deep Chester County roots, educate our daughter in the right Philadelphia way, and enjoy the food. For more of my gastro-adventures, check my blog, ACravan, ACravan.blogspot.com, which is so varied, there may just be something you’ll find interesting.