Ultimate Guide to proper food and drinks during St. Patrick’s Day

With everyone’s favorite green themed holiday right around the corner, it’s time to review the proper food and drinks in which you must indulge on this most festive intro to spring.  Certain beers and Irish Whiskeys will be on sale at your local supermarket, so use this guide to plan accordingly, shop smart, and take confidence that you have the power to be a better bartender this year than that dude who kept skipping over you last year.

Your shopping list:

  • Guinness. LOTS and LOTS of delicious, smooth, rich & creamy Guinness.  Not only will you use it for cooking, but there are a myriad of ways to enjoy the quintessential Irish Stout.  And it’s usually on sale prior to St. Paddy’s day. (Jewel in Chicago has 8 pack pint cans for $11.99)
  • Two Gingers.  Usually about this time college kids and the odd high school student will start jumping up and down on the Jameson bandwagon causing you to spill your drink and get irate. This is where you’re maturity sets you apart from the novices.  Two Gingers is a smooth and refined Irish Whiskey imported from Ireland.  It’s not as sweet as Jameson and usually a dollar or two cheaper, but this does not mean that it is of a lessor quality.  I find it to be much better. And it’s a great whiskey to use in an Irish coffee. (Bushmill’s if you have some extra spending cash is also on the preferred list.)
  • Harp Lager.  You need this to pair with your Guinness for a proper Black and Tan.  And to drink in case your guests drink you out of Guinness.  But they shouldn’t because you paid attention to the first point on the list and got A LOT.
  • Baileys Irish Cream. Or something similar.  Just for a good Irish coffee and the different brands taste pretty much the same.  Just stick with the original flavor.  Going into the weeds might leave you wishing you didn’t.
  • Ginger ale or ginger beer.  LIMES.
  • Corned beef. The leaner the better.
  • Cabbage. One head should be plenty, but cutting it is going to be a bitch. Find a good YouTube video that shows you how and watch that first.
  • Red potatoes. Carrots. Onions. 1,000 island. Rye bread.
  • Anything else that good recipe you found on google calls for.  Every year we do one corned beef in the crock pot and one in the oven.  We add about a can or two of Guinness to each and it turns out awesome.  I’ll be eating corned beef sandwiches for a week and it’s the greatest thing ever.  I love it and I never look back.  I’m getting hungry now just thinking about it.

The big thing is to start the food prep early. I’d even go so far as to suggest peeling the carrots and cutting up the red potatoes the night before and putting them in the fridge.  It takes work and time (oh no!!), but the pay off is absolutely worth it and the way your house smells is awesome. It adds a something extra to the holiday that you really can’t buy or recreate in any other way.  And never, ever drink on an empty stomach.

Feel free to completely lose it once you see real bag pipes.

Feel free to completely lose it once you see real bag pipes.

The Celebration

Get the food ready and throw it into the oven and/or slow cooker.

Then have breakfast.  Corned beef hash is usually a good way to go.  Of course you need an Irish coffee to go with it.  It’s going to be a big day, but not without your coffee.

Once you get home (I didn’t expect you to spend the entire day in the kitchen. If your brunch place doesn’t serve drinks, bring your own, just don’t mix the Baileys and Two Gingers in the same container.  And don’t be an idiot about it. It’s far to early in the day to be ejected from an establishment.) mix yourself a Black and Tan. Put on your favorite Irish movie (my list below).  Or put on some good Irish music (Dropkick Murphy’s, Three Irish Tenors, Riverdance whatever floats your boat; there’s plenty to pick from.) Put up the decorations and maybe do an Irish car bomb before everyone arrives.  That’s the extra kick in the pants to get the party started.

After that? Well, I’m from Chicago where St. Patrick’s day is held in more reverence than Thanksgiving and the Super Bowl combined (doesn’t help that Da Bears are rarely, if ever, involved in either one). We have big parades, dye the river green, and general insanity erupts from every tavern and bar in a 30 mile radius.  So, go out, have fun, be safe, dress in green, throw beads, and hope that the weather cooperates.  If you’re at home, use this link to one up that bartender from last year and make some amazing cocktails.  If you stick with the shopping list above you can make a good assortment of drinks.  One of my favorite non-beer drinks is Two Gingers, ginger beer, and lime over ice in a copper mug.

The recipe is a closely guarded secret.  But not the recipe for good times.  You're reading it now!

The recipe for the dye is a closely guarded secret. But not the recipe for good times. You’re reading it now!

Keep in mind, on this celebration of the end of winter, that St. Patrick’s day isn’t about getting obliterated and spewing green.  It’s about getting together with friends and celebrating the many great gifts the Irish immigrants imparted on American culture, and their legacy of hard work and family values.  So drink responsibly, enjoy some great food, and be a good friend to all of those you choose to celebrate this day with and the luck of the Irish will shine upon you. Sláinte! (Pronounced – se-laan-che. Today’s the day to say it!)

Pictured: Not you.

Pictured: Not you. Do not run afoul of the cops on this of all days.  They hand out choke slams like bars hand out drinks and “I can’t breathe” takes on a whole new meaning. 


Rob’s Irish Movie Short List:

The Departed, Boondock Saints, Waking Ned Devine, Grabbers, Gangs of New York, The Quiet Man.

Rob’s Irish Music Short List:

Dropkick Murphys, Flogging Molly (fav album: Behind the Green Door), The Three Irish Tenors,  Thin Lizzy, The Tossers (they’re from Chicago!), The Dubliners.


A Spectacular Sunrise Picture to Start Your Day

This winter has been long and painful.  Nothing like a nice Polar Vortex to start things off, followed by some really friggin’ cold weather and a whole bunch of snow… that began melting and has now turned into solid ice.  The upside of all this cold it that it has afforded me the opportunity to capture some really amazing sunrise photos for you to enjoy.  I live in Chicago and the body of ice in the photo is Lake Michigan.  The beauty of this image takes the icy edge off the frigid air.  Just a note, the lines in the lake are not waves;  rather it is all ice and snow.  Enjoy!

Icy Lake Michigan

Icy Lake Michigan

Lake Michigan In Extreme Cold

I am afforded a unique view of Lake Michigan from my apartment.  I captured this sunrise on the day of the Polar Vortex.  The lake is all but frozen and whatever water vapor remains is evaporating off of the surface.  Kind of looks like something out of a fantasy novel.


How to help a homeless person in Chicago

You probably have come across people in your life that are going through a hard time and can truly use some help.  If you are like me, you want to help that person, but the biggest reason you hesitate to do anything is because you don’t know the best way to help him/her.  The goal of this post is to simply answer the question: “How do you help a homeless person in Chicago?”  This is by no means an exhaustive solution nor does it incorporate a desire for grand societal change.  It’s just an account of the resources we currently have available to help people in Chicago and how to best utilize them (from my limited understanding).

If you don’t know any homeless people, remember that this cat does and he wants you to help them.

The Backstory

Yesterday, I was leaving Chic-Fil-A with my lunch to head back to the office and a homeless guy asked me for money.  As mentioned before, I like to help homeless people get lunch.  So, I ended up taking my new friend, Everett, into Chic-Fil-A to grab lunch.  We talked for a few minutes and I asked him about his life and how he got to where he is.  I also asked what his plans are for getting out of his current predicament.  He didn’t really have any.  Life had beaten the shit out of him and he was more or less on the ropes waiting for life to keep the beatings coming.  He seemed to have learned helplessness.

I asked Everett if he had access to a phone (he had a cell…apparently that’s not uncommon).  I took down his number and I told him I would do some research about next steps for him then call him with what I found out later.

Steps on How to Help a Homeless Person in Chicago

Now, it took me about 30-45 minutes of calls and redirections and mini interviews to get this info, so please skip to these steps to help out people immediately.  Also, if possible, please stay involved during these initial steps since these are the hardest things for people to do, especially in a place of severe depression.

  1. If the person is about to become homeless due to lack of money for rent for their current place or is on his/her way up and needs help with a security deposit for a new place, call the Chicago Homeless Hotline at (800)654-8595 and dial 4.  They can help setup a case and actually keep the person off the streets.
  2. If the person is already homeless (like my friend Everett), he/she should get a case manager.  The easiest way to do that is to go to a Community Service Center.  The nearest place from downtown Chicago is at 4740 N Sheridan Rd.  They can be reached by phone at (312)744-2580.  Here is a list of all of the other locations in the city and description of what their services are: Community Service Centers.
  3. If the person is unable to make it to the nearest Community Service Center while the center is open, he/she can go to the nearest hospital emergency room and dial 01 to get picked up and taken to the nearest shelter.  I was explained passively that this is another method to begin the process of finding the case manager, but the homeless person would have to take down the info of the police officer or social worker who drives them to the nearest shelter.

And that’s about it.  Helping guide someone to a case manager is apparently the best effort that a random person, such as myself, could do for someone homeless or on the verge of it.  Not everyone will be ready for this kind of help, some case managers might be imperfect, and I’m sure there could be many other problems that come up, but according to the people who help out homeless people in Chicago for a living, this is the best thing we can provide.

The Rest of the Everett Story (thus far)

So what happened to Everett?  I called him to tell him about the Community Service Center nearby.  I offered to Uber him a taxi to take him to the place.  He thanked me for the offer, but said he has a bus pass and that he would like to take care of the travel himself.  I asked him to repeat the address to me 3 times.  He did.  I have no idea if he then  hopped onto a bus and traveled up to the Center.  I’ll be calling him next week to check.

(cue the Michael Jackson music)

I’ll post an update next week on what I hear back from Everett.  Also, if you’re in a city different from Chicago, what’s the process to help homeless people in your city?