Rave: Fun St. Patrick’s Day facts

It’s almost that time of year again…one of the best holidays of
the year (sorry, Christmas). The day when honorary Irish throughout North America take to the streets to
celebrate the (hopefully) good weather, green beer and general camaraderie. You know all
the secrets behind Valentine’s Day, and why Halloween started, but do you know
the mysteries behind St. Patrick’s Day? We shed some light on the matter.

1. The Chicago River is dyed green every year

Okay, maybe you knew about this one. But
do you know how the tradition
? In 1961, a plumber was attempting to trace sources of illegal
pollution in the river by using chemicals, and the surrounding water turned green
as a side effect. An idea sprouted, and today roughly 40 pounds of (safe)
powdered vegetable dye is used to change the river’s colour, but the ritual is
officially still sponsored by the local plumber’s union. If only Lake Ontario could be as colourful… 

2. The Toronto Maple Leafs used to be known as
the Toronto St. Patricks

Turns out clovers may have been luckier
than leafs. Our beloved hockey team was named the Toronto St. Patrick’s for eight
years, from 1919-1927, before eventually turning into the Toronto Maple Leafs. The
team won the Stanley Cup in 1922. Since the name change… well, you know.

They’re wearing green, promise. 

3. All the myths you’ve about St. Patrick heard are false

Turns out, St. Patrick was not Irish (he was born in Wales), and the colour to celebrate his day was blue,
not green. He also didn’t chase away any
snakes, he’s not actually a saint, and the first St. Patrick’s Day parade was in New York, not Ireland. But we still can’t get enough of this fun-filled day. Unfortunately for Ontarians, St. Patrick’s Day is currently only an official provincial
holiday in Newfoundland and Labrador (but we are keeping our fingers

4. You are skipping an important tradition

The “drowning of the shamrock” is a ritual where a
shamrock that has been worn during the evening is removed and tossed into the
last drink of the evening. A toast is made and when the drink is finished, the
shamrock is taken from the bottom of the glass and thrown over the left
shoulder. So don’t forget to raise a
glass to your BFFs come the end of the evening, and make sure you’re sporting a
shamrock for good luck.

5. It is always gorgeous in Toronto on St. Patrick’s
Day…so enjoy.

By some quirk of nature, there
has been unusually gorgeous weather in Toronto for approximately the past eight
years. We’re probably jinxing it now, but it’s no secret that Torontonians pour
into the streets to celebrate, make new friends and memories, rain or
shine. Get creative on St. Patrick’s
Day. Turn your beer, cookies, pancakes
or even champagne
into holiday-themed treats with food colouring.  Get outside and see the parade, check out one of Toronto’s lovely parks or trails,
or haul out the costume box and ready for a night out with friends. Slainté.

Yum, yum: Quinn’s Irish Lamb Stew

One of the best St. Patrick’s Day parties in the city can be found at Quinn’s Steakhouse and Irish Bar. This Thursday, this authentic Irish pub (owner Gavin Quinn came to Canada from Ireland) will have live Irish music, dancing and all the Irish fare you could possibly eat in one day.

Here’s one of their great recipes from chef Paul Pisa that you can whip up on your own if you can’t make it down to the Sheraton Center.

Lamb and Guinness Irish Stew
Photo by R. O’Brien.
6 to 8 servings
2 lbs lamb shoulder                                            
3 Tbsp. oil                                                               
2 Tbsp. flour                                                           
2 large onions, coarsely chopped                          
1 large clove garlic, crushed (optional)           
2 Tbsp tomato puree (dissolved in 4 tbsp water)    
1 ¼ cups Guinness stout beer                                    
2 cups carrots, cut into chunks                              
1 sprig of thyme 
Salt and freshly ground pepper (to taste)
Cayenne pepper (a pinch)
Fresh parsley, chopped
1.   Trim the lamb of any fat or gristle, then cut into cubes of 2 inches (5 cm) and toss in a bowl with 1 tablespoon of oil.
2.   Season the flour with salt, freshly ground pepper and a pinch or two of cayenne. Toss the meat in the mixture.
3.   Heat the remaining oil in a wide frying pan over high heat. Brown the meat on all sides. Add onions, crushed garlic, and tomato puree to the pan. Cover and cook gently for about five minutes.
4.   Transfer the contents of the pan to a casserole dish, and pour some of the beer into the frying pan. Bring to a boil and stir to dissolve the caramelized meat juices on the pan.
5.   Pour the mixture and remaining Guinness onto the meat; add the carrots and thyme.
6.   Cover the casserole dish and simmer very gently until the meat is tender, two to three hours. The stew may be cooked on stove-top or in a low oven at 300 degrees Fahrenheit.
Add salt, pepper and cayenne to taste. Scatter with chopped parsley.

For more details on Quinn’s and its other fine establishments (Shopsy’s, PJ O’Brien and The Irish Embassy), check out quinnssteakhouse.com or follow them on Twitter. Happy St. Patrick’s Day!