My son and I went to the Dan McGuinness Irish Pub for a guys night out.
We found a seat ...
And ordered the Shepherd's Pie ...
The plates were huge and loaded with food. It was good, tasty and really hit the spot. A glass or three of cold Harp lager made it perfect.
What is a perfect Shepherd's Pie? Whoever says that it a "casserole" layered with cooked meat, vegetables such as carrots, corn, and peas, topped with mashed potatoes ... is a damned liar and in league with the Devil.
The presently and widely held truth is that the perfect Shepherd's Pie was the kind made by my Grandmother. She would make the mashed potatoes in one pot. In another she would make some brown gravy from pan drippings she'd reserved from the roasting pan from another meal. She'd whip that into shape over a flame with flour and real fresh milk from a brown and white Guernsey named Marie.
She always said the cow was named after a well endowed, 1940s actress named Marie Wilson, but I always certain she named the cow in honor of another Marie ... my *other* grandmother.
One of her favorite expressions was "cooking with gas", and that is what she did right up until the day she went into the Home. She'd turn and chop the hamburger until it was just crumbles. A diced onion melted in with meat. Then she'd mix the gravy in with and some canned peas. Once it got to a bubble, it was done.
Serving was where all that became the Shepherd's Pie. She had this enornmus wooden sppon that she used for every occasion. With a savvy flick of her tiny wrist that spoon could scoop and shape mashed potatoes, beat cake batter, or reach across the kitchen table discipline naughty children. Ouch!
She heft out a dollop of mashed potatoes and aim it at your plate. Whack! The next stroke of the spoon shaped the spuds into a bowl in the middle of your plate. Then you'd get two scoops of the gravy, hamburger and peas mixture. Add one scoop of an unrelated vegetable and that was dinner.
And it was good.
Having "bent an elbow" in the old country, I can say without doubt that Dan McGuinness' "An Irish Pub" wasn't the same experience. The pre-packaged and franchised "Irish Pub Concept" is pretty much everywhere in this country now. Yes, thinking of the differences makes me nostalgic for the real thing, but there are some similarities worth noting. The service was fast, friendly and good. The place was spotlessly clean. But when I heard a shout from the kitchen and the whack of a wooden spoon on a plate ... I was knee deep in memories, and when that big, fully loaded plate landed on the table in front of me ... I was in heaven.
And it was good.