A closer look at the Emerald Isle 

Instead of spending St. Patrick's Day with a beer and corned beef, take time this year to explore the amazing variety of Irish food that most people aren't aware of.

In traditional Irish cooking, beef, lamb and mutton are high on the list, along with root vegetables like neeps (turnips) and colcannon (simmered leeks, kale and cabbage). And, yes, potatoes, either as boxty cakes (pancakes) or what might be the national dish, champ -- mashed potatoes with greens.

Try a lamb stew, bacon-and-egg pie or beef simmered in Guinness. Seafood is also important -- Galway Bay is known for its oysters. A dish of mackerel rolls with yogurt, baked stuffed herring, or poached salmon and kelp with fried corn will make Irish eyes smile.

Finish off the day with a good Irish whisky -- not as respected as fine Scottish single malt, but a few nips of Tyrconnell or Connemara will do you up a treat.

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