It’s an odd tradition in the US, but a long-established one, that beer should be tinted green on St Paddy’s Day. Raglan Road, however, sticks to authentic Irish customs, with nary a green beer in sight. Instead, it’s all about traditional Irish beers, spirits, and food, with draught Guinness that tastes like you’re standing in a Dublin pub and eating bread pudding that tastes like your Maiméo (grandmother) made it—if she’d been taking cooking lessons from Raglan Road’s former chef, celebrity Kevin Dundon.
Raglan Road’s Mighty St Patrick’s Day Festival spans Friday through Sunday (because why celebrate on just one day when you can do three?), and this year it starts on March 15, with arguably the best Irish music in Orlando kicking things off at 3pm. Their famed Irish Dancers accompany 11 separate bands, and since this is a major festival, celebrity guest musicians are in attendance, too.
Among the acts are the talented young Byrne Brothers who hail from Donegal and have won the title of Ulster Irish Dancing Champions. Young Dubliners bring the house down with their energetic Celtic rock; Briste provides a slightly gentler touch through folk and country tunes while Reel Republic belts out ballads and modern Irish songs. Even more traditional music comes from The High Road, TradGad, and Maca, and one of the best known fiddlers to hit Raglan Road’s stage is Ben Gunnery, who has performed for such mega-hits as Riverdance, Harry Potter movies, and Lord of the Rings.
The craic continues from 11am to 11pm on Saturday and 11am to 10.30pm on Sunday, again with live music and dancers throughout each day.
But let’s get to the part everyone wants to know about, and that’s the food and drink.
During our media preview for the event, we sampled several food and beverage items (*hic!*), and while we usually come across at least one item during every event that doesn’t cause us to roll our eyes and make “yummy” noises, this event was an exception.
We started with the Hog In A Box, featuring slow roasted pork shoulder, soft baby potatoes, and a fabulous sweet onion stuffing that complimented the pork’s smoky flavour beautifully. Next came Mini Chicken Sliders, a thick cut of moist chicken breast in a crunchy coating, with sweet bacon jam and pickled onions on a brioche-like bun. Have kids who only eat chicken fingers? They’ll go for this one in a big way. You’ll find them in Cooke’s of Dublin.
It wouldn’t be Raglan Road without the dish we were served next, and that’s the Fish & Chips. Moist, meaty fish coated in a beer batter crust mimicked the chips, in that both had a nice crunch on the outside but were soft on the inside, just as they should be. Our samples were served in an adorable paper bag that proved the fish wasn’t at all greasy.
Creamy-soft Raglan Risotto was next, its light, buttery flavour complimented nicely by sweet butternut squash, fresh peas, and shitake mushrooms, and topped with a smoky-salty parmesan crisp. We were too busy scarfing it down to check if it’s a vegetarian option, so ask your server, if that matters to you.
We also keep meaning to ask who names each dish, because most of Raglan Road’s menu items have comedic titles. Gnocchi Sea Gnocchi Do is one such item, but while it’s a little embarrassing to say when you order it, the laughter stops as soon as you take a bite. Smooth and buttery handmade potato gnocchi adds a succulent touch to delicate pan-seared scallops in a white wine sauce, with a tiny pop of smokiness from crispy pork belly bits.
The Gnocchi Sea Gnocchi Do was Simon’s favourite item of the evening, and we highly recommend it along with the Mighty St Patrick’s Festival signature drink, The Pride of the Peninsula, a luscious combination of Dingle Irish gin, Fever Tree elderflower tonic, fresh lime, cucumber, and mint. It’s delightfully dry, and a very grown-up version of Susan’s favourite libation, the classic gin and tonic.
More a beer drinker than a cocktail person? This year’s highlighted beer is the absolutely stonking Brehon Blonde, which went well with the Heavenly Ham, with its Irish Mist glaze, savoy cabbage and colcannon potatoes in a parsley cream sauce. We couldn’t decide if the ham tasted best when slathered in the glaze or the parsley sauce, so we recommend alternating each time you take a bite.
You can’t celebrate a special day without having dessert, and while we devoured our Fluffy Lemon Clouds (lemon curd tart topped with meringue), we have never dined at Raglan Road (and never will) without ordering Ger’s Bread and Butter Pudding. Peruse the dessert menu if you must, but make sure it’s one of your choices, and don’t feel you have to share. You’ll thank us, we promise.
As party-orientated as the Mighty St Patrick’s Day Festival is, fear not. It’s still entirely appropriate for families, so bring the kids along. If they want to volunteer, they can even get up on stage with the Irish Dancers and show off their moves!
We hope you’re in Orlando this weekend and can take in the Mighty St Patrick’s Festival, but if you aren’t, don’t despair. Most food items and both beverages are available on the regular menu now, so put on something green, ask the bartender to pull you a pint, and raise a glass to St Patrick, no matter when you’re in town!
Whether you’re visiting this year or next, how will you celebrate St Patrick’s Day in Orlando? Join us on the ATD forums and tell us about your plans, on this link: https://www.attractiontickets.com/forum/forum.php.
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