Saturday, March 7, 2015


St. Patrick’s Day is invokes images of everything “green” along with that flavors of corned beef and cabbage, something you won’t find in Ireland.  Beef was not privy to the middle of lower class of the Irish as pork and potatoes was more of the celebration day.  It is here in New York City that the combo was “invented”.

Working classes of the Irish Immigrants were unable to afford pork and cabbage was the cheapest vegetable.  Where did they get the idea for corned beef?   They lived alongside Jewish immigrants, frequenting the Jewish delis and food carts.   The one-pot corned beef was cooked with the cabbage to pull away much of the salty and briny meat.   Perhaps it was really having corned beef and cole slaw. 

Irish Pubs conjure up visions of people interacting at the bar drinking beer and whiskey while perhaps having some Shepherd’s Pie for food nourishment.   Then there are pubs sporting a menu of traditional Irish fare.  Banter, located at 108-22 Queens Blvd. features traditional with a “twist”.

Michael Mansfield is the owner of the fabulous fare of food and friendliness that features 71 Irish Whiskeys as well as beer both bottled and on tap.  I chose a Smithwicks lager, surprisingly light in flavor.  He tells us (Once you read you will realize that I could not have done this alone) that the day before the upcoming St. Patricks Day will be their second year.   Michael comes up with the food ideas, Jose Zarate is the chef.  

“French Fries” has a version in almost every country.  Curry Cheese Fries is a popular appetizer for the Irish.  These crispy fries are topped with melted cheese, scallions and Irish Curry Sauce.   Curry in Ireland?  It is not the same curry used in India, but seasonings have made their way from former England-owned India to Ireland.  Keep in mind that curry is a mixture of spices and not all curry is alike. In fact, I hear that apple is used in this Irish curry sauce.  

Although from the name, Homemade Scotch Egg, it is another popular Irish item.  With most places, they use a hardboiled egg wrapped in Irish sausage.  Banter starts with a soft boiled egg, as the sausage is then breaded and deep fried, producing a yolk that still has a bit of “liquidy” texture.  I’m really guessing at this as the process or recipe is not be revealed.  Served cut in four pieces with lines of curry mayo sauce to pass through as you make its way to your mouth.   

The food term “bubble and squeak” seems to apply as the noises it makes while the food cooks.  It is traditionally made with the fried leftover vegetables from a roast dinner.  Banter’s appetizer is Bubble and Squeak Dumplings.  These fried dumplings are stuffed with corned beef, cabbage and carrots with a mustard drizzle.  Not oily at all! 

Take advantage of another small plate item of Mini Pies and pick two.  Shepherds Pie is made with angus beef, peas and carrots topped with a creamy colcannon…a mashed potato, cabbage and onions mixture.   Chicken Pot Pie has chicken (otherwise it would not be called a Chicken Pot Pie), corn, pearl onions, baby potatoes, carrots and celery with a pastry top.   The one we didn’t choose is the Beef and Guinness Pie with prime beef cuts, carrots, potatoes and peas in a Guinness infused gravy with a pastry top.

Now here is one that you will most likely want to share…Irish Breakfast Pizza.   Although it’s considered to be on their “small plate” list, it would make a great lunch item for two.   Don’t think about a pizza that you would normally get.  It starts with a thin non-doughy crust.  What goes on top?  Irish brown sauce, Irish sausage, bacon, black and white pudding…a sausage sort of thing…beans and two fried eggs…more like sunny side up.  When served, poke holes in the eggs to allow the yolk to ooze out.  

Did I tell you that we also had a main course?  Banter Shank.  A red wine braised lamb shank with mashed potatoes and vegetables.  Fall off the bone meat and did not have a gamey taste at all.  Only disappointment was that I couldn’t get all the way into the bone to retrieve the marrow. 
Green, white and orange are the colors of the Irish flag.  With that you can expect the use of vegetables such as broccoli or peas, carrots and cauliflower or the inner part of the green leafy cabbage. 

With all of that do you think we would go for a dessert?  Of course.  Chocolate layered and a raspberry lemon cake.  

What about some entertainment? “We have a live band on rotating Friday and Saturday nights,” said Michael. “Generally one piece bands although sometimes we have more. Every Sunday we have a traditional Irish Seisun at 5pm. All musicians are welcome to join in. One of our waitresses, Olivia Smith, is an opera singer and occasionally sings with them. We also have Irish dancers in sometimes too.”

Website is  where you can view the various menus.   For reservations, call 718-268-8436. 

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