Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Festival Review: KC Irish Fest

Posted By on Wed, Sep 3, 2008 at 10:35 AM

BY OWEN MORRIS

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Yesterday, Pitch blogger and ye fair maiden Flannery Cashill wrote a hilarious review of the KC Renaissance Festival. I didn't make it to the Ren Fest for my turkey leg and glass of mead but I did make it to the KC Irish Festival this weekend at Crown Center.

I went to see the Irish music, poetry, sports, Civil War re-enactors and, most important, to get some good Irish food and beer.

Before I could accomplish that, I received some famous Irish hospitality in the form of a small guided tour by KC Irish Fest founder Pat O'Neill. It's clear that O'Neill has great pride not just in being Irish but being Kansas City Irish. He's written a book about the history of the Irish in KC and the festival is an extension of that. "It shows the Irish's deep roots in this town," he says, "and in return we have a tremendous crew: 1400 volunteers from art and design to legal advice to retail."

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O'Neill, on the left, talks to Irish singer and historian Derek Warfield.

O'Neill was optimistic that attendance would hit 90,000 this year, which would make KC Irish Fest the third largest Irish festival in America (after Milwaukee and Dublin, Ohio). But the size of the crowd was second to the temperament of the crowd and O'Neill proudly boasted that even though the festival had gone through 400+ kegs of beer, there hadn't been one arrest. "It's a friendly, friendly crowd. I think it has a lot to do with the kids. We encourage parents to bring their kids give them lots of goings-on. And just look at the crowd -- at all the kids."

After saying goodbye to O'Neill I was on my own to explore the expanded festival grounds. (After last year's debacle, the event planners took no chances.)

I passed several generic festival food stands serving those Celtic classics like Sheridan's ice cream and funnel cake, to find the more authentic grub near the entrance. I use the term authentic loosely, because some of the ethnic dishes were Scottish and not Irish, such as haggis. I really wanted to try the haggis, but the folks working at Hamish's Kitchen informed me that it was sold-out. I settled for a Scotch egg, which is a hard-boiled egg wrapped in sausage and bread crumbs and then deep fried. Yes, it's as delicious as it sounds.

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Scotch Egg and Chip for nine dollars. Or if you really want to be Irish, six Euros.

Also enjoying the Scotch eggs were Donna Banaka of Kansas City, Missouri, who recommended the mustard. "Just a little yellow mustard and they taste great... I was thinking about going with an Irish beer, too, like Guinness, but I have to drive later and so will probably just have a Bud Light or maybe a Bud Lime."

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Donna Banaka eats a Scotch egg. "They smell great and ooommm, they taste really good too."

Next door to Hamish's Kitchen was Heritage's Meat Pies, serving six varieties of pies including sausage pie, chicken pie, Scottish meat pie and shepherd's pie. I held off trying them for a couple of reasons: I was full from the Scottish egg and I recently saw Sweeney Todd, which will scare anyone off of meat pies. Besides, I had to save my pennies for beer.

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The other stand serving ethnic British Isles' food was O'Malley's Pub from Weston, Missouri. They had a mouth-watering menu featuring bangers and mash, and the Guinness Irish Stew looked especially good. O'Malley's is the host of the Weston Irish Festival which begins October 10 and is cosponsored by Weston Brewing Company.

The Guinness Irish Stew turned out to be the only Guinness I was able to find. Due to promotions with Coors and Boulevard, there were no Guinness or Murphy's kegs on the grounds. I was disappointed that I had to settle for a Boulevard Irish Stout. Not a bad beer but not really a true Irish beer.

Most people seemed to be enjoying themselves and even though I searched, I didn't see anyone who looked blotto. As O'Neill mentioned, a lot of children were there and they did give the afternoon a mellower feeling.

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