Talk about the luck of the Irish! One of the most beloved of Irish institutions (there are more than one thousand in Dublin alone), the traditional pub has served generations as the venue for local gossip, sporting news, a ceilidh or two, literary soirees, real estate deals, political debates, revolutionary plots, and, lest we forget, for knocking back a pint of Guinness or a "ball of malt." The food's not bad either—as The Irish Pub Cookbook so deliciously demonstrates. It's a celebration of over 70 pub classics: thick soups and stews; savory tarts and meaty pies; big bowls of salad (times change!); and desserts of the seconds-are-always-appropriate variety. There's shepherd's pie, fish and chips, seafood chowder, and whiskey bread pudding for those with a taste for the quintessential. Contemporary specialties such as Bacon, Blue Cheese, and Courgette Soup; Salmon Cakes with Dill and Wine Sauce; Braised Lambshanks with Red Currants; and White Chocolate Terrine spotlight modern Irish cooking's richly deserved acclaim. Complete with pub photos, history, and lore, nobody leaves hungry when The Irish Pub Cookbook is in the kitchen.
Imagine walking into a 400-year-old Irish watering hole with a thatched roof and open fire, the floor strewn with timber shavings and the walls packed with bric-a-brac, sliding into a snug for a pint and a hotchpotch, and instead being served Caramelized Duck Breast with Pineapple Chutney followed by White Chocolate Terrine. As in The Irish Heritage Cookbook, Johnson continues on her mission to inform Americans that contemporary Irish cooking means not just a rustic, stick-to-your-ribs Irish Stew with Brown Soda Bread, but also Green Tomato Tarte Tatin, as original and sophisticated as one found anywhere in Europe. The book reads like a tourist itinerary for hungry pub crawlers (if only it were arranged by county and in a portable format) and shares history on favorite pubs and their famous and infamous patrons and proprietors. Leigh Beish's full-page photos deliver elegant interpretations of humble pub grub like Bacon and Cabbage, and Ploughman's Lunch. It's inevitable that the recipes cover some well-trod territory, since it's difficult to imagine an Irish cookbook omitting Shepherd's Pie, but "Blackboard Specials" like Bacon, Blue Cheese, and Courgette Soup tend toward the global gourmet, and some were even developed by Bord Bia, the Irish Food Board, to promote traditional Irish products to modern chefs and consumers.