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Saturday, March 1, 2008

COOKING FOR THE KENNEDYS

COOKING FOR THE KENNEDYS
New book recalls favorite Kennedy recipes and stories

By Michael P. Quinlin

One of Neil Connolly’s biggest assignments as an award-winning chef was to bake a birthday cake at a family gathering.

It wasn’t an ordinary cake, or an ordinary family. The occasion was Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy’s 103rd birthday, and included dozens of siblings, children, grandchildren and elders who had come together at the Kennedy Compound in Hyannisport.

“I walked into the dining room with the cake – lighted with all the candles – and everyone started singing Happy Birthday,” said Connolly, who served as the personal chef to Sen. Edward Kennedy and his mother for nearly twelve years.

“When the candles were blown out, the room quickly filled with smoke. Senator Kennedy said, ‘Neil, take the cake outside before the fire alarm sounds.’ Needless to say, the party moved to the living room.”

Connolly’s passion for cooking and preparing creative cuisine found a good home at the Compound, which was a headquarters for family gatherings and grand galas for famous politicians, athletes and entertainers from around the world.

Next Sunday, March 9, Connolly kicks off the annual Gaelic Gourmet Week in Boston at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library with a special event sure to bring out lovers of good food and of Kennedy lore.

Sponsored by the Boston Irish Tourism Association and Tourism Ireland, the week long series of events brings top chefs like Connolly to town for a moveable feast of culinary activities.

The JFK Library event, which runs from 3:00 – 4:00 p.m., is hosted by Billy Costa, the lively host of NECN’s TV Diner show. Chef Connolly will give a live cooking demonstration of a favorite Kennedy dish –lobster stew – and will answer questions from the audience about cooking or about the Kennedys.

Afterward he’ll sign copies of his book, In the Kennedy Kitchen: Recipes and Recollections of a Great American Family.

The event is free but reservations are required by visiting www.jfkennedylibrary.org

On Monday, March 11, Connolly joins Chef Gerry Tice at the historic Omni Parker House on School Street for Irish Heritage Dinner. The cost is $50.00 and includes a four-course meal, wine and whiskey.

For details, visit http://www.irishmassachusetts.com/special_features.php

For Parker House marketing director Dave Ritchie, this is the fourth year the hotel has hosted an Irish dinner, which began in 2005 when Galway chef Ciaran Gantly was guest chef. .

Ritchie is delighted with Chef Connolly’s participation in particular, since the Omni Parker House is where the Kennedy and Fitzgerald clans held many of its political victory parties over the years.

In fact, John F. Kennedy proposed to Jackie in the Parker Restaurant, Ritchie says.

For Connolly, co-owner of Doc’s Restaurant in Orlando Florida, returning to Boston with his wife for this year’s event is a pleasurable journey. He recalls how his career with the Kennedys got started.

He was executive chef at the Dunfey Hyannis Hotel, and the general manager called him in to say the Kennedy family had called.

“He said that their personal chef was sick, and they wanted to see if I could cover a dinner party for 60 that night,” Connolly explained. “It sounded interesting, so I agreed.”

The dinner party turned into job as head chef that lasted nearly twelve years for Connolly, who writes in his book that it was an honor to work with one of America’s great families.

For more details on Chef Connolly and Gaelic Gourmet Week, visit www.IrishMassachusetts.com

Gaelic Gourmet Week in Boston, March 9-17, 2008

Taking a Pass on Corned Beef

By Michael P. Quinlin

In Boston, corned beef and cabbage is being edged off the St. Patrick’s Day menu, replaced by more exotic dishes like Wild Irish Rabbit, Spring Lamb and Irish Potato Cakes with fresh Salmon.

These dishes are part of this year’s 4th annual Gaelic Gourmet Week in Boston, a moveable feast of upscale culinary events in the city’s finest hotels, restaurants, pubs, museums and theaters.

The culinary feasts focus on Ireland’s relatively new status as a culinary destination, and puts Ireland’s leading chefs alongside their counterparts in the United States and Canada, where the gathering of chefs can share culinary techniques, recipes and traditions.

The menu also reflects the changing tastes of Irish-American culture, which had somehow gotten mired for decades in a belief and practice that Irish food was strictly a boiled affair.

Tourism Ireland and the Boston Irish Tourism Association are co-sponsors of the event, along with the Irish Dairy Board, Michael Collins Whiskey and the Canadian Consulate General of Boston.

This year’s Boston celebration features visiting master chefs Padraic Hayden from the Dylan Hotel in Dublin, Tony O’Neill from the Merchant Hotel in Belfast, Paul McKnight from Culloden Estate and Spa in Belfast, Sean Doucet from the Delta Barrington Hotel in Halifax, Nova Scotia, and Neil Connolly from Docs Restaurant in Orlando, Florida.


For more information on Gaelic Gourmet Week and a list of Irish activities in Massachusetts, visit www.IrishMassachusetts.com or call 617 696-9880.