A menu tasting………at The Liffey Irish Pub

I don’t make a habit of reviewing restaurants, as I leave that to the real critics out there, but today I, along with some of my co-workers were invited to the Liffey for lunch, to sample some of the new menu items.  I find a reason to eat at The Liffey whenever possible….but that is easy for me.  I work part time at the Holiday Inn St. Paul Downtown, which is connected to The Liffey!  We are so lucky to have such a great place for our guests to enjoy when staying with us!  Our guests are well taken care of, under the guidance of Chef Erik Rasmussen and General Manager, Jay Johnson.  Let me share with you a little history first…taken right from their website.

“The Liffey Irish Pub first opened in February 2003 and is part of the Cara Irish Pub family which includes our sister pubs The Local, Kieran’s Irish Pub and Cooper Pub.  In the summer of 2011 we remodelled the pub, adding more color and flair along with more bench and high booth seating, while still retaining our warmth & charm.  The pub was built in Dublin, Ireland before being constructed here in St. Paul. The Liffey was chosen as the name to celebrate both our proximity to the Mississippi river and our cultural ties to Dublin as The Liffey is the name of the river that runs through Dublin, Ireland. The Liffey is open daily for breakfast, lunch and dinner. In 2005, we opened The Terrace at The Liffey, our 2nd story outdoor seating area.  This award winning patio offers seating for over 150 with a full bar available to our guests as they take in views of St. Paul.”  Read more here.

Located just steps from the Xcel Energy Center– home of the Minnesota Wild and venue to some of the best concerts & events each year, The Liffey is situated in one of the most exciting parts of downtown St. Paul.  My clients don’t hesitate to say yes when I offer lunch in the summer…that terrace is awesome!  So let’s talk about what we sampled today!

First up, Pot Roast Sliders……these little cuties were in the top two of what we tasted today.  Soft buttery buns, stuffed with tender, juicy Pot Roast, gorgeously sweet caramelized onions and the horseradish sour cream added a nice little kick to balance it all out.  You get three to an order, perfect for sharing or to keep all to yourself!  Seriously, after tasting this today, the next time I make Pot Roast, I may just make them into sandwiches right away!

Next up, Ham & Gruyère, our second favorite of the day.  To start, this sandwich was perfectly cooked, golden brown and oh, if I could encrust all my sandwiches with Gruyère, well life would just be a whole lot better!  Wikipedia describes Gruyère as sweet but slightly salty cheese from Switzerland, with a flavor that varies widely with age. It is often described as creamy and nutty when young, becoming with age more assertive, earthy, and complex. When fully aged (five months to a year) it tends to have small holes and cracks which impart a slightly grainy mouthfeel.   It has always been a favorite cheese at our house.  The kitchen staff at The Liffey puts a whole mess of thinly-sliced ham, topped with a Dijon cheese sauce (uh, yeah, they should bottle & sell that stuff) in between two slices of sourdough bread and then slather the outside of the bread with creamy Irish Butter and grated Gruyère.  You can have it served with fresh-cut chips (they are kettle-style chips, coated in dill), champ (mashed potatoes with fresh chives), wee greens (as shown, with mixed greens, tossed in honey-chive vinaigrette, cucumbers, scallions & radishes), or a cup of their homemade soup.  GO GET THIS SANDWICH PEOPLE!!!  They only thing that would have made it better, was if I would have had it with a Crispin Cider!  Or a Guinness….or…..

Isn’t this one gorgeous!?  It was almost to pretty to eat!  Almost….. This is the Seared Tuna, another Small Plate at The Liffey.  They quickly sear the Tuna, still keeping it rare and place it on top of a bed of black olive tapenade, honey cured bacon and drizzled wasabi mayo.  Tuna is such a delicate fish, that I found the tapenade & bacon a bit overpowering, but delicious and in the end, the whole dish worked together.  I deconstructed mine while I ate it, so I could taste each component.  This was a well put together Small Plate that is the perfect beginning to a wonderful meal at The Liffey!

You can’t make a trip to The Liffey without having Fish & Chips of some sort!  This is their Fish Bites, another Small Plate and makes a great starter for that “wee bit of fish” you crave!  It’s served in a oversized bowl, on waxed newsprint with lemon wedges, spicy cocktail sauce & house tarter sauce.  They lightly batter the Cod and fry it crispy.  Who doesn’t love that?!

Another new addition to the Small Plates menu, is Curry Chips.  We had a discussion after our lunch about the term “chips” when it refers to what we Americans call french fries.  Many of you know that in France they are actually called “pommes frites“.  Here is what I found out about the origin of “chips”, again from our friends at Wikipedia.  “Traditionally, “chips” in the British Isles (and Australia and New Zealand), are cut much thicker, i.e., are “chipped” from the potatoes and described in some recipes as “chipped potatoes” not simply “chips”, and are typically between 10 and 15 mm (3/8–1/2 inches) wide. Since the surface-to-volume ratio is lower, they have a lower fat content. Thick-cut, or beefsteak, British chips are occasionally made from unpeeled potatoes to enhance their flavor and nutritional value and are not necessarily served as crisp as the European French fry due to their relatively high water content.”  Whatever you call them, these “chips” were cooked just right, crisp and perfect for dipping in the house made curry sauce & horseradish sour cream.

Each day, the kitchen staff creates a new Pub Pizza.  Today, we tried the Sausage & Pepperoni version, thin cracker crust, ample toppings and the perfect amount of cheese make this a great Small Plate to share or for lunch.

And of course, we couldn’t leave without trying a couple of desserts.  The Bread & Butter Pudding, was made with sourdough and tossed with vanilla bean custard, mixed with apples & cranberries, baked & topped with a whiskey anglaise.  Not too heavy or overly sweet, this was just missing a steamy hot mug of Irish Coffee along side it!

The Whiskey Apple Crisp is spiked with a touch of  2 GINGERS IRISH WHISKEY™, cardamom, cinnamon and new, topped with a scoop of Izzy’s Salted Caramel ice cream.  Oh yeah!  They have a really great selection of desserts, but the problem being, there are so many great things on their menu, its hard to save room!  Maybe I can bring a client in for a “dessert lunch”…hmmm….

Other favorites on The Liffey menu, Chicken Shots on the Small Plate menu, crispy bits of chicken tossed in a 2 GINGERS IRISH WHISKEY™  glaze.  You can’t go without trying the Frickles as well.  They take their house-made sweet & spicy pickles, batter them in buttermilk and fry them golden.  Served with a creamy side of ranch, these are a must have!  Interestingly enough, they have some non-Irish goodies on the menu as well…the Curried Chicken is one of my favorites and they make a pretty mean Gnocchi as well!  Two other popular items are the Finnegans-Brined Chicken & Steak & Mushroom Pie.

The only things missing from our lunch sampling today was a pint of Guinness or The Big Ginger™, but alas, we all had to be productive the rest of our day!  If you haven’t been, you need to go….don’t walk, RUN to The Liffey soon!  There is no better place in downtown St. Paul to grab some great pub food!

Thank you to The Liffey staff for inviting us in to taste these delicious dishes!

Cheers,

Shawn

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