Authentically Irish


When Sharon and Christopher Egan set out to open an Irish pub in Montclair in 2005, the New Jersey native and her Irish-born partner wanted to infuse the eatery with authentic nuances, not plastic shamrocks and leprechaun cutouts. The result is Egan & Sons, an upscale, 6,000-square-foot Irish pub with 22 spigots of beer, eclectic, pub-friendly fare and classic Emerald Isle accents.

The entrance on Walnut Street opens into a casual café area peppered with tweed-cushioned wood stools surrounding tall marble-topped tables. The exposed brick wall, red paint and brass chandelier with elephant motifs create a cozy, informal atmosphere.

A bar area, which bridges the café and main dining areas, boasts a 55-foot-marble-and-pine bar and flat-screen televisions. Over the bar hang Irish-style lanterns reproduced by a Dublin craftsman. The bar, floors and most of the woodwork also came from Dublin, salvaged from a bar near Dublin Castle that dates to the mid-1800s.

The main dining area, which offers booth and table seating, is large but warm, thanks to its hunter green walls, wainscoting, wood-grained ceilings and dimly lit chandeliers and wall sconces. Artwork scattered throughout is by some of Dublin’s leading contemporary artists. Two private dining booths with stained-glass windows known as snugs (a place set aside for women to have a quiet drink in pubs prior to the 1940s in Britain) offer seating for parties of six or 10 by reservation only.
Irish touches don’t stop at the décor. A selection of imported and craft beer is served in 20-ounce Britannia mugs, a traditional Irish and British glass typically used for drinking games because of its windowed appearance. The menu features contemporary Irish farmhouse fare along with traditional American pub grub.

There are six seasonal salads, including a simple green, a traditional Cobb and a house-made Caesar. Seafood dominates the appetizer menu with lightly fried calamari, classic jumbo shrimp cocktail and steamed Newfoundland mussels in white wine, shallots, garlic and fresh cut herbs. An extensive burger menu offers the classic, as well as specialties like a Tipperary Burger, topped with rashers (Irish bacon), crumbled Cashel blue cheese and Ballymaloe chutney on a brioche bun; and a Portobello mushroom burger grilled whole with savory cheese rare-bit. The entrées are a mix of Irish comfort fare like bangers and mash, cottage pie and corned beef and cabbage, and seafood dishes, such as pan-seared cider-glazed salmon and sesame-encrusted yellow-fin tuna.

Egan’s main dining area seats 100 with additional seating for 80 in the café and bar areas. Dinner is served Sunday and Monday, 2 to 9 pm; Tuesday through Thursday, 3:30 to 10:30 pm; and Friday and Saturday, noon to 10:30 pm. The bar stays open until 2 am, except on Sunday.

Egan & Sons
118 Walnut Street
Montclair
973-744-1413

The skinny:
Upscale restaurant/pub mixing Irish farmhouse fare and gourmet dishes.


Raise your Glass

This month, Andrea Robinson, Master Sommelier, three-time James Beard award winner and the first woman to hold the distinction of Best Sommelier in America, offers insights and wine picks. Robinson, a former Glen Rock resident (who now lives in Napa, California), is the author of numerous books on food and wine, including an annual wine-buying guide. Her website (andreawine.com) offers daily wine highlights, pairing advice and video wine courses.

Explain how to read wine labels. The four Vs are a quick way to identify the key things that most influence the quality and style of a wine.

Vintner—The winery or brand name; a sure bet is to go with a vintner with a quality reputation (just the way you would for a car or a pair of shoes).

Vineyard region—If it’s a warm place (like Napa Valley in California), you can count on a fuller, fruitier style compared to a wine from a cooler place such as Germany or northern France.
Varietal—The grape variety will tell you the body style, light to full.
Vintage—Is the year the grapes were grown. While it can be important to collectors who want to cellar wines from top wine regions, it’s really not important for everyday wine buying. Just look for a year that’s “current,” meaning no more than two to three years previous to the year you are in.

Tell us about the grapes. Three whites and three reds dominate the quality wine world. If you know these grapes—their body style and flavor profile—you know the better part of most wine lists and shops.

Whites:
Riesling—light. Delicate, tree and stone fruits like apples and peaches.
Sauvignon blanc—medium. Citrus fruits like grapefruit and lime, as well as green apples and a touch of herbaceousness.
Chardonnay—full. A range of fruits depending on where it’s grown. Cool climates—apples and citrus; warm climates—stone fruits and tropical fruits like pineapple and mango.

Reds:
Pinot noir—light. Red berries like cranberry, currant, cherry.
Merlot and cabernet sauvignon (very similar and nearly always blended)—full. Range of flavors depending where it’s grown. Moderate climates—plums and red berries; warm climates—dark berries and figs.
Syrah (aka shiraz)—full. Dark fruit flavors and often spice notes like black pepper.

Buying Guide selections for spring sipping: Piper-Sonoma Brut Sparkling—$16 (so you can’t beat the value). This wine has amazing concentration, with deep apple, toasty biscuit and créme brûlee flavors that are so yummy on their own you don’t need food.  But, it will go with anything! How about some spring softshell crabs?  That would be perfect.

Albert Boxler Muscat Grand Cru Brand—(Alsace, France) $40. Now is a great time to discover the wines of Alsace, because their lively acidity and jump-out-of-the-glass fruit, minerality and floral notes are delicious with the flavors of spring, from baby veggies to asparagus (which is one of the hard-to-pair dishes that stump many a sommelier). The Albert Boxler is a majestic wine layered with honeysuckle, apricot, pink grapefruit, quince, fig, plus sweet spices on the long finish. Another classic match is Muenster cheese.  If you can’t find this one—or want to spend less and still get great quality—look for pinot blanc from either Hugel or Pierre Sparr (both less than $20).

Bodegas O.Fournier Urban (Ribera del Duero Spain) $14. This region is home of delicious reds from the Spanish signature grape, Tempranillo. It’s a heady mouthful for the money, with dense fig and balsamic flavors and sweet coriander spice. A magic match for cheeses, and rustic mushroom dishes, too.


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