You know me, where food and other cultures are concerned I’m game (my stomach and I are citizens of the world). So when I was contacted about attending the upcoming 25th annual Irish Festival here in Pittsburgh, I naturally said yes. And when I was asked if I could make it to an exclusive tasting event that would showcase some of the foods that would be served at this year’s festival, heck yeah. So that’s the long winded answer of how I spent last night feeling as if I were back in the Emerald Isle.
While I’ve been to numerous ethnic/cultural festivals in the area over the years (the famous Greek Food Festival at St. Nicholas and the Rusyn Food Festival at St. John the Baptist), I’ve never made it to the Irish one. Somewhat surprising since there’s so much I love about the country and its culture-its writers, its music, and its wonderfully hospitable people. Oh, and the food. While countless people write off Irish food (and British as well) as being bland and uninspiring, it’s anything but that. Irish food is akin to a best friend who’s been with you through thick and thin for years-comforting and reliable.
The event took place at the home of the festival’s co-organizer’s, Maura Krushinski (don’t let the Polish surname mislead you, she’s Erin go bragh all the way). Lest you think that it was a catered affair, it was not. Maura and her wonderfully amazing and kind family made ALL the food. Irish stew, shepherd’s pie with colcannon, salmon from Kell’s Bay (the presentation of this was beautiful), tipsy cake, three types of bread pudding, and I haven’t even listed everything they prepared!
Before diving in, Maura gave a brief background on the festival and its origins, basically explaining how the festival is truly a labor of love for her family. As the expression goes, it takes a village and in Maura’s case her village is her family-all hands were on deck last night including her husband Tom, who I had a great time chatting with, her daughter Mairin, her son, daughter-in law, sister, and I think even her mother (I’m probably missing some people so I apologize, but everyone was so kind and welcoming). And her brother who performs DJ duties at the festival also provided some lovely musical entertainment (just like you’d get in a good ‘ol Irish pub).
One of the things I’m looking most forward to about the festival is that it’s not just food, not that that’s a bad thing. In glancing over the offerings there truly is just about everything one would experience on a trip to Ireland minus the expensive flight and jet lag. Numerous Irish musical performances (do you remember the famous dance scene from the movie Titanic when Rose dances with Jack in the third class quarters-well that was the band Gaelic Storm and they’ll be performing at the festival); there will also be an Irish dog tent (for all you dog lovers, yes you read that correctly); an Irish authors’ corner which is something new this year but definitely where I’ll be for some of the time, not to mention countless beverage tastings (whiskey, Irish cider, it’s all here). And that’s not even all that will be going on the weekend of the festival.
While I’m sad to see summer coming to an end, at least having the Irish Festival to look forward to in September makes up for it.
25th Annual Pittsburgh Irish Festival
September 11-13, 2015 at the Riverplex (SandCastle)
To purchase your tickets and for more information about the festival, click here.
Disclosure: I was a guest at the event but as always, all thoughts and opinions are entirely my own.