A little bit Irish, a little more 'whatever works'
By ROBERT NADEAU  |  September 14, 2009
2.0 2.0 Stars

kinsale main

CUTLINE: AMERICAN PIE The shepherd's pie at Kinsale is Americanized by mixing beef into the ground lamb and adding more veggies than would be traditional.

"Take one spectacular location, season liberally with Norman, Spanish, and English influence, add one major battle and let it simmer for 400 years. The result — Ireland's fine food capital." So says the official tourist Web site of Kinsale, Ireland. The old town was briefly occupied by Spaniards in 1601, until they were driven out in a historic battle — a victory for Ireland, of course, but with the price of four centuries of British food influence. Perhaps if they had been more serious gourmets and less avid soldiers in 1601, you could get decent paella or a proper caldo Gallego today in Irish-American homes.

Kinsale | The Kinsale Pub & Restaurant
2 Center Plaza, Boston 617.742.5577 | | Open Monday–Tuesday, 11am–12:30am; Wednesday–Friday, 11am–2am; Saturday, 10am–2am; and Sunday, 10am–12:30am | AE, MC, VI | Full Bar |Sidewalk-Level Access |
Validated Parking Free for three hours with $20 tab at nights | Center Plaza Garage ($14 Flat Fee On Garden Event Nights)
Alas, that's not the case. Kinsale seems to have forgiven past sins and accepted new cuisines nonetheless. During the American Revolution, the town was used as a prison for captured soldiers. Today, the annual gourmet festival there includes a New England lobster bake.

The Kinsale pub, near Government Center, has adopted a similar culinary approach to its namesake location (and its sister restaurant, Cambridge's the Asgard, too): take any good bar bite from anywhere in the world and slap an Irish name on it. See? Re-branding can be good — even if you don't always buy the gimmick.

Case in point: the "Irish artisan cheese plate" ($14) has a fine slice of Manchego from Spain, just as if the 1601 battle never took place, as well as a Stilton with sweet berries and a port-wine cheddar that might actually have come from Ireland. The trimmings are crackers, strawberry jam, and bits of pear and mango — an island fruit if not an Irish one — plus gherkins and onion. Irish artisans should only nosh so well. Maybe they prefer the "Galway wings" ($8.50/pound; $16/two pounds), which were almost certainly brought to Galway by migrant workers from Buffalo, New York.

Even the beer specials, a strong feature at the Kinsale, are not limited to the styles of the Emerald Isle. I was blown away by a draught of Weihenstephaner Hefeweissbier ($6.25), from the oldest licensed brewery in the world, which happens to be well east of Ireland, in Germany. Despite a cloudy appearance, this semi-wheat beer was whistle-clean on the palate and had a subtle aroma of cinnamon and sweet spice.

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