He was captured by pirates as a teen and taken from his home in Britain to Ireland to herd sheep.
“I prayed in the woods and on the mountain, even before dawn,” Saint Patrick wrote of his ordeal. “I felt no hurt from the snow or the ice or the rain.”
Today St. Patrick’s “flock” consists not of a handful of sheep, but of millions of humans, who commemorate Ireland’s most popular saint on March 17. That is supposedly the day he died, though no one really knows for sure. What we do know is this: feasting and revelry mark the day. And in Telluride and Down Valley, the celebration begins even before then.
SATURDAY CELEBRATIONS, BIG AND SMALL
“Global fusion taco” purveyor Gnar, with branches — “restaurants” may be a tad too formal — in Telluride and Ridgway, is closed on Sundays. Accordingly, the St. Paddy’s Day celebration will take place Saturday, where a celebratory item will be on the menu. Reached by phone on Thursday, Joe Ouellette, the restaurant’s sous-chef was coy about what exactly said comestible would be. In Telluride, he said, “We’ve in the past offered a variation of our Drippy Mitch,” Gnar’s best-selling homage to the Sloppy Joe, featuring house-made Chorizo, tots and cabbage enrobed in gooey queso blanco. The St. Paddy’s Day version, dubbed “Drippy Mick,” keeps the cabbage and subs in corned beef. “And Gnar in Ridgway has a really fun special,” Ouellete said. “We’ve been playing with a plant-based sausage,” a version of Bratwurst. “We’ll fool with that, and it will be the cornerstone of something awesome.”
If a traditional repast is more your style, turn to the Ouray Elks, where an all-you-can eat, corned-beef-and-cabbage dinner begins at 5:30 p.m. Saturday in the historic Ouray Elks Lodge on Main Street, followed by games of Bingo at 7 p.m. The public is invited!
ST. PATRICK’S DAY PROPER
On Sunday, you might begin breakfast with a corned-beef-and-hash special at the Butcher and Baker Café in Telluride, which is open until 2 p.m. (Kate’s Place, in Ridgway, is also likely to offer a celebratory dish to mark the day). Many think beer, or worse, green beer to celebrate. But at Ouray’s O’Brien’s Pub libations will be more intense. There, the restaurant and bar open at 11 a.m.
“We’ll be offering Jamison’s shots for $5 and Irish car bombs,” a potent concoction of “Bailey’s and Jamison dropped into half a glass of Guinness,” front-of-house manager Nicole Sauvageau said. “And then you chug it.
And we’ll be serving Irish food all day.” O’Brien’s will also host a band Sunday night, the Far Side Trio. “The bar will be open until at least 11 p.m.,” she said.
Libations will likely be on the higher-end at Allred’s restaurant in Telluride, where the aerie eatery’s bartender, Paul Hall, “is likely to whip up something green and patriotic,” as a manager put it. “He’s gifted at making delicious concoctions.”
Craving traditional-yet-inventive St. Paddy’s Day fare Sunday? Guinness onion soup with Irish-Cheddar croutons, Paddy O’Brien’s fish & chips and corned beef brisket, served with a side of braised cabbage and herbed, buttered potatoes are all on the menu at Altezza, at The Peaks Resort (where $5 Guinness is also being served all day).
You could also do what natives of Ireland do: cook your own dinner. Don’t worry if you’ve never prepared corned beef. Erin Spillane, a Daily Planet contributor who divides her time between Telluride and Ireland, has enjoyed several St. Patrick Day dinners in the company of Telluride residents Denise Mongan and Cormac Bourke, who hail from the Emerald Isle. “One thing that surprises Americans is that the Irish don’t eat corned beef,” Spillane said. Her feasts with Mongan and Bourke were truly traditional, meaning they featured “bacon” (not bacon as we know it in the U.S., but more akin to ham, according to Spillane) along with cabbage and boiled potatoes. “In Ireland, St. Patrick’s Day was traditionally a religious day when people went to church,” Spillane said. “But for the past 10 years, the Irish have celebrated the way Americans do: with parades and parties and fun drink specials.”
In Telluride, there is an event that blends the two — where revelry is in service to a higher purpose. The annual St. Patrick’s Day dinner at St. Patrick’s Church features “a corned beef dinner with all the fixin’s, beer and wine, and a silent auction,” all to benefit the church. “It’s one of their biggest fundraisers of the year,” said Mark Niebruegge, the Telluride Elks’ Exalted Ruler. Niebruegge will be there himself. “It’s really busy,” he said. “It might get to where they’re turnin’ people away, or there won’t be any seats left, and people will have to stand and eat along the walls.” (He’s seen both things happen). Tickets, $35, are available at the church and Ace Timberline hardware.
Those are a few of the places Telluriders can celebrate come Sunday. But where would St. Patrick go? Michael Martelon, the president and chief executive officer of the Telluride Tourism Board, thinks he knows. (After all, the patron saint of Ireland did once write about it.) “If St. Patrick were here, he’d be on the mountain,” Martelon said. “He might go to Mass beforehand, but he’d still be up there.”