Sunday, January 20, 2008

Harp & Fiddle: Across the River

Update 2/27/10: Ack!  This has since closed down.  How sad...

Venture with me, if you will, across the Susquehanna River to the York side of things. There's a great Irish pub on George St. called the Harp & Fiddle. I like going there because it reminds me of an Irish pub in Ann Arbor I used to frequent, frequently, during my graduate school days. The atmosphere and even decor is so amazingly similar, it takes me back to the good ol' days. The Guiness is on draught and tastes great. But I make the trip across the river for one main reason, and one main reason only. The Shepherd's Pie is awesome! It comes in a piping hot crock and smells divine.

You should know that I am a bit obsessive about Shepherd's Pie. I didn't grow up with it, nor do I even have an ethnic bond with the dish, but I consider it one of my comfort foods. Whenever I see it on a menu, I get it. Except, of course, if it is made with lamb. See my "Great Food Finds in Cali" blog. So I've had a LOT of Shepherd's Pie between the time I discovered it in the 90s until now. It also means I've had a lot of BAD Shepherd's Pie. I can't tell you how disappointing it is to find that the potatoes sitting on top were made from some potato flakes mixed with hot water. Potato flakes are only good for trying to make Pringles at home. And who would do that? Right. Leave the potato flakes on the shelf in the store. Or when you dig your way into the bottom of the dish with sheer anticipation of oozing, flavorful gravy, only to find a watery base of greasy vegetable juice. Gross.

At the Harp & Fiddle, the potatoes are REAL! When you get down into the meat and gravy, it's rich, delicious, and has a nice, thick consistency. Large chunks of carrots and other root vegetables make you feel like they might actually cut it up fresh in the kitchen as opposed to a big bag of frozen vegetables cut into tiny cubes. Now, salt and pepper alert here. You need to add them both fairly liberally. Then again, my husband and I are the salty sort, so we're always adding S&P to almost everything. Tip: Ask for extra cheese to be baked on top. You can't go wrong with extra cheese!

As for the other dishes there, they're less impressive than the Shepherd's Pie. The French Onion Soup has all the makings of something mouth-watering. The crock comes out with cheese melting all down the sides and bubbling on top. The flavor is good, with a touch of sweetness, but not as complex as some of the greats I've had. I also had the Dublin Cabbage Rolls. Cabbage leaves enveloping corned beef, potatoes, and dijon mustard, then smothered in a cream chive sauce. Sounds delicious, right? Too bad it's "okay." First, they need to stick with the very tender cabbage leaves--the ones that are a pale green color. One of my leaves was of the dark green variety, which leads to toughness and slight bitterness. And then everything else was just bland. I salted and peppered, but alas, could not get it to achieve its full potential. But the Shepherd's Pie? It's at the head of the class...

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