The only time that my WASPy mother acknowledged having a smidgen of Irish blood in her veins (a great-great grandfather was an Irish Catholic) was St. Patrick's Day. She would be full of blarney then, all right. The woman who hated cooking would suddenly get ambitious and prepare a hunk of corned beef with cabbage for dinner. I like corned beef very much, but Mom never got the recipe quite right. More often than not, her version of the traditional Irish dish was as tough as Glenfinnan shoe leather.
I'm still wary of corned beef and cabbage all these years later. But if I know it's going to be good, I can be persuaded to tackle a plate of brine-cured beef and boiled cabbage. This year, I'm tempted to sample the dish at the annual "St. Paddy's Day Feast" at Pangea Café & Market (900 West 39th Street) because chef-owners Martin and Wendy Rudderforth are also serving beef-and-Guinness potpie with colcannon, fish and chips, and Guinness ice cream.
I suspect the second busiest Irish pub in the city — after the legendary Kelly's Westport Inn at 500 Westport Road — will be the new Raglan Road Irish Pub & Restaurant (170 East 14th Street), if only because it's located so close to the St. Patrick's Day parade. I tried to visit the joint on its opening day, but I couldn't find a place to park.
"Couldn't you have parked over on 16th Street and walked?" asked Irish-born chef Kevin Dundon when I spoke to him by telephone. "It's only a few blocks."
He clearly hadn't heard how lazy I am, even though I'm eager to see the venue's interior, which reportedly boasts "vintage bars and fireplaces and original antique furniture reclaimed from Dublin's finest Victorian houses."
Dundon, a culinary celebrity in Ireland, where he runs a four-star hotel, spends 60 days a year in the United States, developing menus for the Raglan Road pubs. (The original franchise is in Orlando.) He says Irish cuisine is so much more than corned beef and cabbage. "The Irish are very well-traveled," he insists. "There's been a revolution in food over there."
That said, the Raglan Road menu will list traditional fare such as fish and chips and "Sod the Stew," whatever that is. As long as my mom isn't cooking it, I'm ready to eat.