In his masterful novella “Dubliners”— considered to be one of the finest ever written in the English language – Irish literary icon James Joyce delved into delicious detail about the lavish feast enjoyed by the story’s cast of memorable characters.
Chef Patrick Reilly, a native of Ireland who’s known for his outstanding skills and innovation in Memphis’ culinary community, is also known for his attention to detail. Reilly will serve up his culinary interpretation of that famous multi-course Joycean meal for a gathering called “The Dead: A Joycean Feast,” which will be held January 9 at The Brass Door, a pub that’s the heartbeat of the city’s Irish community in Downtown Memphis.
The feast will include smoked ham croquettes with parsley sauce, pate with figs, oysters prepared several ways, bread pudding with whiskey butter, and colcannon – a classic Irish dish of mashed potatoes and cabbage. And, of course, there will be wine, whiskey and stout. Reservations are required for the ticketed event.
“I’m a big Joyce fan, but really the motivation behind it is part of the desire to incubate a real cultural community at the pub,” said Deni Reilly, an Irish-American who’s Patrick’s partner in business and life. The couple owns The Majestic Grille, and Majestic Hospitality Consultants, which operates The Front Porch and The Brass Door.
“In Ireland the pub is more than just a bar or restaurant – it’s often a cultural gathering spot for the entire community, where world events are discussed over a pint, writers glean inspiration for works, and musicians entertain with spontaneous song,” she said.
“The Dead” revolves around guests at a dinner party on the Feast of the Epiphany – the end of the Advent season that marks the arrival of the Magi’s visit to the infant Jesus. Love and loss, jealously and pride are among the themes explored in the novella, and The Brass Door’s Joycean Feast will include readings by members of Memphis’ Irish community, and likely a rousing song or two, in keeping with Hibernian tradition.
Guests are encouraged to wear period costume, which will blend seamlessly with the ambience of The Brass Door, housed in the restored Marx and Bensdorf building, constructed in the early 20th century.
The Brass Door was established in 2011 by Seamus Loftus, a native of County Mayo on the beautiful windswept west coast of Ireland, and his business partners, Memphis natives Meg and Scott Crosby and Shawna Engle. The pub closed temporarily in July and reopened in the fall of 2017, with the Reillys now leading operations.
“The pub has always had just a lovely, genuine atmosphere about it, and we plan to work to enhance that,” Deni said. “When the owners of the pub brought us on board, it was really to provide operational leadership. The Majestic Grille is known for its consistency in the quality of the food we serve, our rigorous staff training, vendor relations, and the way we treat our staff and guests as family. So that’s what we’ll be bringing to The Brass Door — operational consistency.”
This will be the pub’s first special dinner of the New Year, but its first event of 2018 is slated for January 6, when it will host Nollaig na mBan, meaning “Woman’s Little Christmas” in the Irish language. Traditionally held on the Twelfth Day of Christmas, Nollaig na mBan is a day when men take charge of children and chores while women head to the pub for a day of cheer and comradery.
“It’s a tradition that’s catching back on in Ireland, with lots of pubs and hotels hosting days like this, so we thought it would be fun to celebrate the women in our lives and ring in the New Year as it ought to be — with mimosas, brunch, and a massage,” Deni said.
Check out the Facebook event page for “The Dead: A Joycean Feast.”