Monday, March 17, 2008

The gift of the Irish

Well, St. Patrick's Day is almost over and I have yet to knock back a green beer or kiss a leprechaun. I seem to have survived, but there was a time when I clearly remember being punched in the shoulder by some of my ruffian classmates for the indelicate decision of not wearing green to school. I have rarely failed to wear green on intervening St. Patrick's Days since that time. There have been many famous Irishmen throughout history who have contributed to society in many ways, but in my estimation, probably the greatest gift of the Irish to the world is that of Irish coffee. I had the good fortune to be in San Francisco last year for the American Jewish Press Association meeting there and I was delighted to be at the Buena Vista Cafe, where Irish coffee was first imported in this country from Ireland. The Buena Vista is located at the last stop of the Hyde-Powell cable car that ends near Fisherman's Wharf. Back on November 10 in 1952 the owner of the Buena Vista, Jack Koeppler, invited travel writer Stanton Delaplane to re-create the popular coffee drink that visitors to Shannon Airport in Ireland had been enjoying for years. Throughout the night they toiled and they labored for several more weeks until the perfect rendering of the hot drink could be achieved. The devil was in the details as they experimented until final determining the right Irish whiskey, the proper aging of the whipped cream and the appropriate temperature to pre-heat the glass in which it was to be served. For those of you who have not enjoyed an Irish coffee as prepared by the excellent wait staff at the Buena Vista, you have not truly sampled the delicacy at its very best. One of them snapped the image above as I delved deep into the mystery of their delicious toddy on a midnight evening last June. It was a fact-finding mission and in true journalistic tradition, I am happy to report that it was a successful trip. As a time-honored Irish expression eloqently phrases it "it felt like a torchlight procession going down my throat."

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