Celebrate the Irish Pub Spirit--at Home

Times Staff Writer

Need the luck of the Irish to squeeze into a pub on St. Patrick's Day?

How about an Irish pub party at home for a change? It'll cut wear and tear--and hazards--of pub-hopping.

"Although there are no statistics to suggest that St. Patrick's Day is any worse or safer than any other day of the week, the old saw is not to drive a vehicle when you've had too much to drink," said Cmdr. William Booth of the Los Angeles Police Department. It's also the law.

So, if home sounds like a good place to be, make it a simple--and relatively inexpensive--Irish pub party, where spirits are the focus and the food low key but to the point.

As for decor? "It's go for all shades of green on this holiday," said Cathee Hickok, party designer for Rococo caterers. "An Irish pub party calls for a rustic, natural look, so use rough fabrics and natural woods." (You also can get away with disposable paper and plastic goods for this party).

Among the Irish beers for the pub bar: Beamish, Guinness and Harp. Incidentally, there is an imported non-alcoholic Irish beer called Kaliber, which is available at several liquor stores, including Liquor Barn in Los Angeles.

Several Irish whiskeys, such as Paddy's, Bushmills (or Blackbush, the aged, more expensive counterpart), Jameson (Jameson 1780 is the super-premium version) or Murphy's can be found at many specialty liquor stores.

Even though no such concoction exists in Ireland, green-tinted beer is fun to serve for St. Patrick's Day. To make green beer, carefully stir a few drops of green food color into a pitcher of beer. Some novelty beers, such as Rainier malt liquor, Mickey's malt liquor from Washington state, and imported Green Rooster (available at Liquor Barn stores in Los Angeles during the St. Patrick's Day holiday season), have a slight green tint and might satisfy the occasion.

Assorted Green Garnishes

And if you'd like the garnishes to comply with the occasion, try green maraschino cherries, green onions, green olives, mint leaves, celery stalks and lime. Have these assembled on the bar for easy access the way professionals do.

If you have help, you can offer a variety of mixed drinks. If not, stick to beer and whiskey or just one manageable mixed drink.

No liquor party should be without food. The Irish would delight in sausage rolls--puff pastry wrapped around sausages, available at many British food stores. Otherwise, wrap refrigerator biscuit dough around tiny sausages and bake.

Potatoes make fitting Irish pub food, and you can serve them as chips (Irish call chips crisps and French fries chips) or scooped-out boiled potatoes filled with soft cheeses, caviar and other fillings. Hickok suggests Irish stew served from a pot-bellied kettle (electric ones can be rented). Corned beef and cabbage also are good choices.

An Irish cheese tray would be easy to handle for those who want to keep things simple. Imported Blarney, a semi-soft Irish cheese similar to Edam, and Shannon, an oak-smoked cheese, are sometimes available in gourmet cheese shops. Otherwise any cheese from the British Isles might suffice.

Several places in town are turning up with novel ideas, too. At Western Bagel Co., green bagels will be sold for St. Patrick's Day. Tint cream cheese with green food color to serve with the bagels.

For a strictly American touch you might consider popcorn tossed with melted butter that has been tinted green with food color among the snack nibbles.

Coffee and something sweet to send off the lingerers-on are always welcome and a good safety precaution for guests who have to drive. Irish coffee is a must.

Pistachio or mint ice cream served in tiny cups or cones, shamrock-shaped cookies or cake, chocolate-dipped oatmeal cookies or lime or mint pie or mousse also are in the St. Patrick's Day spirit, Irish or not.

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