America as a whole embraces Ireland’s national day with enormous fervor (and just a few libations!), but here in Florida we take things even more seriously, and it becomes a fully-fledged Event at that great bastion of all things Irish in Disney Springs, Raglan Road.
Here, where the craic is genuine and the atmosphere is even better, they have taken a day of fun and turned it into a four-day festival, The Mighty Festival, in fact.
Most bars and restaurants will make an effort for the day, from special menus (featuring the inevitable boiled beef and carrots) and entertainment to ‘green’ beer and signature cocktails.
In Orlando alone, there are more than a dozen different celebrations on March 17 at various pubs, bars and restaurants, from the St Pat-io Party at the lively Social House (a great bar-restaurant at Waterford Lakes in east Orlando) to St Paddy’s Day in the Backyard at downtown watering hole Elixir. You simply can’t go anywhere without seeing an Emerald Isle celebration of one kind or another.
The popular Hammered Lamb pub in downtown Orlando even features a Hammered Hangover Brunch (!) on the Saturday morning – we presume in case revellers haven’t had enough to drink.
If that all sounds a bit too, well, revelrous (if there is such a word), then you’ll want to stick to the more family-friendly version, and that is definitely Raglan Road.
Not only do they make it something that can be enjoyed by all, they significantly increase the entertainment quotient for the full four-day duration of the Festival, including several international acts and performers you can see nowhere else in Florida.
We were given a ‘sneak preview’ last Friday, and can confirm this will be Irish Central for anyone looking to enjoy a genuine St Patrick’s Day hooley.
Just to start with, Raglan Road is bringing in a host of new entertainment options for the four days. There will be seven (count them – seven!) different bands performing over the full Festival, in addition to the pub’s regular musicians and dancers, including the Young Dubliners and up-and-coming Nashville bluegrass sister duo Hanalena.
The entertainment will alternate on the main Pub Stage and their outdoor Patio Stage, starting at 4pm on Thursday (March 16) and 12 noon on each of Friday, Saturday and Sunday.
It will also include the amazing Byrne Brothers, a trio from Donegal who, along with their dad, Tommy, really put the ‘boy’ in the boy band phenomenon. Luca, Finn and Dempsey are 12, 10 and 7 respectively and are accomplished musicians (playing accordion, mandolin, banjo, whistle and bodhran between them) as well as being the Ulster Irish Dancing Champions.
The Brothers were part of last Friday’s preview, and it is clear they will be a big hit for St Patrick’s week. With traditional tunes mixed with the occasional modern change-up, the group make for compelling listening, and it’s clear they have a real passion for that they do.
Tommy told us: “My father was a musician and I started playing Irish music when I was 23, so it has always been in the family, but, when the boys came along, it just kind of happened. They took up dancing, then playing, and it just gets better and better. At the All Ireland Fleadh, there is a tradition that kids get to do a show and the boys went viral to become the biggest internet hit in Ireland last year, so it has just taken off from there.”
The three lads are all as bright as buttons, and, as well as music, their biggest passion is surfing, and they were hoping to get some surfboard time out on the coast at Cocoa Beach during the week. They also all had an identical ambition for their careers: “We’d love to tour the world and play music, dance – and surf!”
If Raglan Road can lay claim to a unique line-up of live entertainment, they will also have several other claims to fame for their food and drink offerings this week.
On our last visit to the restaurant (in January), we reported on their latest menu and beer offerings, including a growing craft beer profile that included the likes of our local brewery, The Crooked Can Brewing Company, the Orange Blossom Brewing Co in nearby Lakeland, Coppertail Brewing from Tampa and the Terrapin Beer Co in Athens, Georgia.
For the Mighty Festival, Raglan Road has also teamed up with Orange Blossom to produce a special Paddy’s Pilsner, a limited edition brew that will be available only until all 465 gallons have been consumed!
We spoke to Orange Blossom director of sales Aaron Ledger to learn more about it. “We started a relationship with Raglan Road last year when they designed their signature beer programme,” he told us. “We created the Bloomsday Pale Ale for them and, six weeks ago, they called us up again to ask about creating a beer especially for the Festival. They said, ‘We want something that’s easy drinking and crowd pleasing,’ and I said, ‘We’ve got it!’
“We came here with a number of samples of different beers and different flavour profiles, added a bit of this and some more of that, and finally narrowed it down to what they were looking for. We now have a honey pilsner infused with blood orange that provides some sweetness as well as a slight tartness from the orange, and which makes for a really crisp, refreshing beer that you won’t find anywhere else.”
At our tasting session, Paddy’s Pilsner was definitely voted a major hit, and we can see Raglan Road going back to Orange Blossom Brewing for more in future!
Among a huge selection of other menu samples and drinks, we were impressed by the wonderfully fruity Planter Strawberry & Lime Cider from the Keel and Curley Winery in nearby Plant City, Miriam’s Irish Coffee Stout from the Coppertail brewery, and the creamy hoppiness of the Terrapin Hopsecutioner beer.
The signature cocktail for this week is the Irish Iced Tea (Tullamore Dew whiskey with raspberry preserve, Irish breakfast tea and lemon juice, or tea with a real kick!), while their Baileys Shake is a must-try and the Guinness-and-Strawberry cider concoction is a true taste sensation.
Along with their regular menu – with standouts like Lemon Herb Crusted Atlantic Cod over Creamed Leaks, Roasted Onion Squash Soup, the always-popular (and deeply delicious) Shepherd’s Pie and delectable desserts, like their Bread & Butter Pudding – the Mighty Festival promises to be another memorable occasion in the life of one of our most distinctive hostelries. We’ll certainly be back for more, and we hope you will, too!
If you have questions about anything to do with Orlando, the theme parks or anything else to do with Florida, be sure to go online and ask Susan and Simon on the ATD forums, on this link: https://www.attractiontickets.com/forum/forum.php.
Liked this post? You may also like...