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Simpsons in Ireland!

Simpsons in Ireland!

While I can’t claim to be a die-hard Simpsons fan, the old faithful show is always on whenever it’s needed to fill a half hour in prime time between other shows. It’s always light (in an adult humour sort of way) and funny – reliable. I do admit that I have gotten into the habit of setting my PVR to record the newest Fox cartoon family lineup every Sunday now, collecting the latest from Family Guy, American Dad and The Simpsons. But – this week, that new episode which will air on Sunday March 22, 2009 will actually be almost 5 days stale, sort of.

For the first time in the 20 year history of The Simpsons, the new episode will air in a region of the world other then North America first and on a network other then Fox. Sky1 in Ireland has the prestigious right to air this weeks brand new Simpsons episode before anyone else. That’s because the Simpsons family has packed up and headed to Ireland for a St. Patrick’s Day special that will be memorable, without question.

In an episode titled, In The Name of the Grandfather, Homer and Grandpa take off to the green isle and visit landmarks like the Guinness brewery and Grafton Street. The episode will also feature special voice appearances by Belfast-born actor Kenneth Branagh (Valkyrie), Oscar winners Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova (Once).

Executive producers of the show, Al Jean and James L Brooks as well as Nancy Cartwright who is the voice of Bart and many others, are traveling to Ireland specifically for a special screening of the episode. The only things that they’ll reveal about the plot for the episode are that Homer and Grandpa attempt to buy a pub, but it may not exactly work out in their best interests.

Whatever happens to the Simpsons this St. Patrick’s day, it is clearly evident that even they cannot escape the world’s desire to be Irish for a day!

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There are tons of different ways to mark Ireland’s internationally recognized feast holiday, St. Patrick’s Day.  It is an interesting national celebration that’s seemed to have gotten the whole world involved over the centuries.  Chicago dyes its river green and just last year they gave green water a shot in Trafalgar Square as well.  Another interesting tradition in the UK was a presentation of freshly cut shamrocks flown over by the Queen Mother and given to the Irish Guards.  Here in Canada, we’re proud to have the longest running St. Patrick’s Day parade in North America, on the go since 1824.  Given that Newfoundland isn’t exactly a young European settlement, here too have the celebrations long been shared, and the people that know how to do it best are the folks at O’Reilly’s.

They’re up to their 13th year in business and have celebrated St. Patrick’s Day with their patrons, old and new alike for every single one of them.  You might remember, they only moved into their current location about two years ago and they’re already into expansion.  When all is said and done, O’Reilly’s will be a two floor joint and will feature paintings that are being done by Derrick Holmes.  The carpentry is looked after by Paddy Mackey, who’ll have even more on his hands in the spring when they plan to do a full on exterior facelift to the building.  No less, even though the establishment is in the middle of renovations, they’re still going full steam ahead with their jam packed St. Patrick’s Day celebrations!

O’Reilly’s means business when they say celebrations too, with six back to back days planned, everything gets started on Thursday March 12 with the Pre-Paddy’s Day Bash featuring both The Punters and their special guest Fergus O’Byrne.  Not to mention, that night there will be reduced bar prices, food and prize giveaways.  Over the weekend, right up until Monday, March 16th – O’Reilly’s will welcome a sizeable cast of musical performers to its stage that include Greeley’s Reel, Tarahan, Dungarven, Siochana, Achara, Chris Hennessy, Bill Kelly and the Masterless Men.

Making sure to leave consideration to sleep in the next day, they’ve also planned a “Carvery” Lunch Buffet everyday from Friday to Tuesday for $15.00; and if you really want to challenge yourself “to get worm,” you can aim for the Annual Paddy’s Day Breakfast for the same price.  Serving up traditional Irish-Newfoundland breakfast specialties, there will be music by Fergus O’Byrne and his son that morning as well.

Essentially, O’Reilly’s has taken care of planning an entire mini-festival all its own – all you need do is pull up a stool.  Like the Chicago River tinted green, your Guinness will be as well.  And, by the way, Guinness has a sign that reads, “Everyone’s Irish on March 17th,” outside their distillery.  That seems to be the thing about St. Patrick’s Day; it totally doesn’t even matter if you’re Irish.  It’s just one big party!  It’s so big they’ve even got a “Win to Get In” promotion, the winner of which will be determined at the Thursday kick off event.  The main prize to set your sights on – a trip to Newfoundland to experience the O’Reilly’s mini-festival extravaganza celebrating St. Patrick’s Day, Newfoundland style.

For more information on exact event line ups or the Catch the Plane to Paddy’s Day promotion you can have a look at the O’Reilly’s Pub website at www.oreillyspub.com.

John Molloy with cask's of Jameson Whiskey

John Molloy with cask's of Jameson Whiskey

With St. Patrick’s Day nearing, John Molloy, relocated to Vancouver, is busily representing the Jameson Irish Whiskey on a cross Canada tour.  He was kind enough to give me an education on what the spirit was all about and what I’d expected to be a story like any other became memorably personal.  Molloy, who is one of 29 country-dedicated brand ambassadors, spoke candidly and passionately about Jameson and even made me consider it as an alternative.  It’s not just a stuffy drink for old men, it’s evolved and that’s a huge part of what Molloy is spreading the word about.  Molloy himself is quite young, something Jameson looks for in its brand ambassadors along with the requirement of being Irish.  He’s the first rep to be placed in Canada and Vancouver was the natural spot owning a quarter of Canadian whiskey sales.

Jameson is a proper Irish whiskey, with an “e” mind you, linking it to the Gaelic name Uisce Beatha.  There are four regions that produce this spirit – Ireland, Scotland, Canada, and the US but depending on where it’s from the name changes from whiskey to Scotch, Rye or Bourbon respectively.  What’s more is that they’re all different and knowing why helps you pick the right one.  They all use the same ingredients, the most important of which is barley and water.  But, in scotch the barley is dried with smoke and peat which leaves a heavy peaty finish in the drink itself.  Jameson uses natural gas so pure warm air does the work and results in a lighter finish.  That’s helped by the fact Jameson is the only spirit in its category that is triple distilled, the more times that happens the crisper and cleaner the taste.  For comparison, bourbon is usually once distilled, with rye and scotch being once or twice.  Molloy says “it’s the true Guinness of the spirits.”

Jim Morey, known as the “godfather of whiskey” agrees and has given it a 94/100.  Industry bar setting magazine Impact has called Jameson the Hot Brand of the Year for the last eight, consecutively and the company garners $2.7 million in annual profit, all from one distillery in Ireland.  The road was challenging though, let’s not forget prohibition and the fact that Jameson’s been around since 1780.  But, Jameson held on in a country that went from 2000 distilleries (on a land mass you can drive across in 2 and a half hours) to only 3 because of a 95% market loss for Irish whiskey from 1845 – 1933.

It would seem survival was directly correlated with quality in this case.  Not only is it light, crisp and clean, there also isn’t a bottle younger then 5 to 7 years old.  Important, because it’s legally sellable after only 3 years, but John Jameson himself said it was worth the wait.  The brand also offers a 12 or 18 year and a gold or vintage, blend’s of 18 and 12 and 24 and 18.

Also tied to quality is the source, which also hasn’t changed for Jameson since day one.  The barley has all come from the same farmers and fields from within 50 kilometres for the last three generations and a fresh water source runs right through the distillery.  That building also houses 32 warehouses where all the casks are held full of patient spirit.  Remember how long it has to age in those?  The equivalent of 6000 bottles gets lost ever day in what’s known as the angels share, or more scientifically – evaporation.

History alone didn’t make me consider the Jameson alternative, which Molloy says is consumed at a rate of 20 glasses per second worldwide.  But knowing the process and how to pick the right one helped.  It had history and critical acclaim but needed cool.  Where Canadian rye Crown Royal aligns with NASCAR, Jameson aligns with film and is a huge supporter of the Toronto International Film Fest and Tribecca with Cannes involvement pending.  Bono of U2 loves the stuff, so does Colin Farrell and Guy Ritchie’s film Rock’nRolla breaks out Jameson with the line “whiskey is the new vodka.”

So, never really liking Guinness, with my new found knowledge and appreciation for a whole new category of sprits I’ve decided to give Jameson its fair shake.  The same afternoon while picking up my usual for the weekend, I also picked up a small bottle of Jameson for $16.00, which is hanging out in my fridge waiting to be mixed with ginger ale, coke or cranberry juice to John Molloy’s suggestion for St. Patrick’s Day 2009.  We’ll see how it goes!

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makin’ sense of it all

keepin’ track of it all

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