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Putting class into St. Patrick’s Day

BY ERIC ANDERSEN | MARCH 11, 2010 7:30 AM

Charlie Anderson/The Daily Iowan
A glass of Guinness sits on the bar at Linn Street Café on Wednesday. The café will hold its first St. Patrick’s Day Guinness Dinner next week.
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The Linn Street Café wants to put some class into St. Patrick’s Day. Not that the Irish aren’t already classy.

For its first time, the local gourmet eatery will create a five-course Guinness Dinner in spirit of the holiday, which the Irish have observed for more than 1,000 years. Historically, Christian Lenten prohitions were suspended, meaning those celebrating St. Patrick’s religious feast day and the anniversary of his death could eat meat, drink, and feast.

Iowa City residents can do just that at the Guinness Dinner, which will kick off at 6:30 p.m. at the Linn Street Café, 121 N. Linn St., on March 17, of course. The dinner costs $45 per person and includes a bottomless pint of Guinness Stout.

“Historically for us, St. Patrick’s Day is super-slow because people are out celebrating at the bars or out of town for spring break,” said owner Frank Bowman, 37. “We got the idea from [one of] our servers that every item on the menu should have Guinness in it and thought it would be a fun, upscale, casual event.”

Bowman said anyone planning to attend should make a reservation; there is no dress code for the event.

Executive chef Brett Smith said he planned the menu with two other chefs the night the café decided to do the event. Each of the courses created by Smith will have a Guinness component.

“There are some things on the menu that are going to take a good amount of time to make,” the 24-year-old chef said. “Everything we are serving is going to look cool and taste awesome, while pairing very well with the beer.”

The story behind that frothy brew begins in 1759, when Arthur Guiness signed a 9,000-year lease for an unused, four-acre brewery in Dublin and began making porter and ale. By 2007, the company expanded its reach into markets in 150 countries, selling 10 million glasses every day, its website reports.

The menu Linn Street Café has planned will likely contribute to that total.

The restaurant’s first course on the menu will be roast Arctic char with a Guinness glaze. For the second course, the restaurant will serve oyster chowder in a Guinness bread bowl. The third course will be a spin on the classic “bangers ’n’ mash” (sausage and mashed potatoes) with a Guinness demiglace, and fourth will be a pastrami slider composed of a Guinness-brined brisket, among other ingredients.

“Because Guinness is a heavier beer, the portions will be light enough so you won’t be weighed down,” Smith said. One pint of the draught beverage contains roughly 210 calories and 17 grams of carbohydrates.

The fifth and final course (and also Smith’s favorite) will be an Irish Car Bombe, made up of layers of Guinness, Jameson Irish Whisky, Bailey’s Irish Cream, and a chocolate crust, topped with candied beer nuts.

“The fun thing is that the entire staff gets to try the food, which doesn’t always happen,” Bowman said.

The owner said he hopes to have similar events in the future to spread interest among Iowa City residents who might not think of eating at a higher-end restaurant.

“We are trying to slightly modify the image [of Linn Street Café] as a place you may come for not only special occasions but also more casual events,” Bowman said.

This is especially important to him during the economic recession, in which all luxury-based businesses take a hard hit in sales, whether in the area of designer handbags or gourmet meals.

“Typically, we deal with more UI employees than students,” he said. “Starting last January, we put some lower priced [$10-$12] items on the menu to attract a more diverse crowd.”

Perhaps even a few Irishmen and Irishwomen.


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