SUN PHOTO/LIZA MORROW
Silvie Marnie welcomes diners to Pelican Pete’s in Cortez.
By Liza Morrow
sun staff writer
Pelican Pete’s is a cozy find. Despite the foggy night and the chill in the air last Thursday night, the party vibe was in full swing. This simple storefront with sit-up-and-take-notice food celebrates the British every Thursday night. Stepping inside was warming, even before a pint of Guinness was poured, with its deep golden walls, dim lights, a wooden bar lined with beer taps and pitchers of homemade Sangria.
On a break from the dinner crowd Sylvia Marnie dashed over to the bar to introduce herself. She is the proprietor and while chatting briefly she added that her husband, a musician, also works with her. Every Tuesday his band plays and, evidently, he is a very good musician. He was part of the original Chris de Burgh's group whose 1986 album, Into the Light, contained the pop hit “Lady in Red.”
"We actually planned to retire here from Lancaster, England. We’ve both been in show business all our lives. I was a lady-magician and my husband a musician." Sylvie said. "But we just had to have this place when it became available. I couldn’t just retire! This gives both of us a chance to feel some sense of belonging and, of course, the restaurant business is very close to show business. Honestly, I have the restaurant because I love it. I do! It sounds crazy but I absolutely love it. Especially now that my husband is here with me on some nights."
With a gamine frame, classic features and signature wide smile, Sylvie looks and sounds quirkily adorable, like a grown-up Pirates of the Caribbean. Her style and presence too are kinetic and youthful: Under an apron she wears skinny jeans, printed T-shirts and platform shoes.
However the main event on Thursday nights is Sylvie’s Shepherd’s Pie, a rather classic home-cooked British affair, which is served in crocks brought over from England twice a year by Sylvie’s family. The cheerful, pretty bartenders get the job done and when they deliver the eye-popping dinners, there is visible rubbernecking in the dining room. It is a home run: with perfect mashed potatoes in proportion to the meaty stew.
I've had Shepherd's Pie before but couldn’t wait to try this recipe. Feel free to use what is on hand. I cheated and used instant mashed potatoes, but I stirred in some sour cream to give the flavor a little more richness and topped the whole thing with grated jack cheese and coarse-ground black pepper. Sylvie would probably never forgive me! But seriously…wait, I was serious.
Sylvie’s Shepherd’s Pie
• 5 lbs. good quality ground beef
• 3 large onions
• 3 lbs. carrots
• Salt and pepper
• Beef stock
• Mashed potatoes made with a little whole milk and a good knob of butter
Chop onions and carrots fairly finely and sauté in oil and butter for 5 minutes until softened. Add meat to the mixture and sauté till the meat is browned.
Add a good glug of beef stock to the mixture. Taste. Then add freshly ground black pepper and salt if required. Simmer gently for 35 minutes and it will thicken slightly.
When cool, spoon the mashed potatoes on top and place in the oven for 30 minutes to brown off and serve.