Newsstand
02/26/15 11:23pm
SOTTOPIZZA

Sotto 13’s pork pie pizza topped with head cheese.

Last November I had the privilege of being taught how to make turducken by Ed Cotton, the executive chef of Sotto 13. “Come back some time; I’d love to feed you,” he told me after our lesson and frankenbird photo shoot. A couple of weeks ago I finally took him up on that offer.

The meal began with that week’s special pizza, pork pie. Provolone cheese, caramelized onions, and cabbage are topped with pork shank meat. Once the pie comes out of the oven it’s blnaketed with housemade coppa di testa and lashed with mustard vinaigrette. It’s like a subtler, more sophisticated version of an Italian combo sandwich. Cotton changes out the pizzas regularly and recent iterations have included beef carpaccio with creamy kale, wild mushrooms and fontina and this week’s special: spicy lamb sausage pizza with n’duja, ricotta, and mint. (more…)

02/24/15 3:18pm
CHIKOR1

The stars of Shandong dumpling making have a new home.

After years of being on the chopping block, Flushing Mall finally closed its doors late last month. I can’t say I’ll miss the odd collection of retailers, but the main food court was always a favorite food tour stop, particularly for Diverse Dim Sum’s excellent xiao long bao. And then there were the Shandong Dumpling Ladies located on the already sleepy mall’s even sleepier side. (more…)

02/23/15 11:32am
BLOODPUDDING

Ornella’s sanguinaccio is bloody marvelous.

When it comes to offal I’m one of the least squeamish people around, gladly gobbling everything from Southern fried chitterlings to Chinese lamb face salad. Friends often call me the Andrew Zimmern of Queens. That’s high praise, but there are some things even I can’t abide, like the coppery tasting blocks of blood often found in Chinese soups. A can get behind a savory morcilla enriched with rice and spice and I like a good British black pudding. And then there’s sanguinaccio. (more…)

02/20/15 11:27am
GXFC1

Festive hong bao being sold on Main Street last week.

Gong xi fa cai!! Here at C+M’s Photo Friday we wish to extend to you warm Chinese New Year wishes for this Year of the Sheep. There’s been much confusion as to whether it is the sheep or the ram, I may just start calling it Year of the Ovine.

Queens being the most diverse place on earth,  it’s not just Chinese who celebrate the Lunar Year, but also Vietnamese, Malaysians, and as I learned the other day, Thai people of Chinese descent. Two days ago I walked in to Sugar Club in Elmhurst with a tour group and there was entire New Year’s spread laid out. Want to be featured on Photo Friday? Tag your  Instagram photos #CMSHUNGRY.

02/18/15 12:43am
REDSTAR1

Sesame chicken and wonton soup, Brooklyn style.

When it comes to Chinese sandwiches in New York City there are few real standouts: gua bao as made by everybody from Eddie Huang to Taiwanese grannies, Xi’an Famous Foods’ cumin lamb burger, and the $1 Peking duck buns from Flushing’s Corner 28.  So I was very pleased to discover an outstanding American-Chinese mashup of a sandwich—Red Star’s sesame chicken ($8.50) —although I’m somewhat ashamed to admit that I travelled to Boerum Hill to get it.

Red Star Sandwich Shop is the brainchild of brothers Gibson and Johnson Ho who grew up eating a combination of Chinese takeout and traditional Fujianese food that their parents and grandparents made. Sesame chicken was a childhood favorite says Johnson. “It’s so American.”

Red Star takes the American-Chinese classic and turns up the heat a bit creating a sesame chicken sandwich that got my attention without blowing my head off. The tender sesame-studded chunks of fried dark meat came with a sauce more spicy than sweet piled high on a roll from Carroll Garden’s institution Caputo’s Bakery. The whole lot’s dressed with pickled peppers, jalapenos, and lettuce.

I’ve eaten sesame chicken and wonton soup together, but not quite like this. Unlike the wonton soup from the corner takeout, Red Star’s is a delicate Fuzhou style version with thin skinned pork dumplings floating in broth made from pork and chicken.

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention Red Star’s stupendously good p’tater tots ($3.25), which take a school lunch favorite and elevate it to the zth degree. They are twice fried resulting in a fluffy interior and a crispy outside.

Before I left Johnson and I talked for a bit about Fuzhou food. “It’s not sexy,” he said. I nodded eating the last of the tots. And then I told him that if his brother Gibson, an alum of Ippudo and Momofuku Noodle Bar, could make such ethereal tater tots surely he could make Fujianese food sexy.

Red Star Sandwich Shop, 176 Smith St, Boerum Hill, 718-935-1999

02/16/15 10:05am
HHEGGPLANT

Hunan House’s steamed eggplant is packed with homestyle flavor.

A few weeks I ago visited Hunan House with a crew of ravenous foodies. As soon as we were in the door encountered my pal Colin Goh. “Try the steamed eggplant with salted duck eggs,” he exclaimed. I couldn’t convince anybody to order the eggplant, but we did discover the amazing beef with crispy pepper. It’s a dish so good we ordered two rounds.

This past Saturday I ran into to Colin, his wife, Yen Yen, and their little girl, Kai Kai at the Lunar New Year celebration at Flushing Town Hall. When given a choice between a homestyle Korean place and Hunan House, young Kai Kai chose Hunan House. And that’s how I fell in love with xian dan huang qie zi, or steamed eggplant with salted duck egg yolk on Valentine’s Day. (more…)

02/13/15 9:02am

Ever since I was a kid I’ve been hearing about the Automat, Horn and Hardart’s, much tastier precursor to today’s fast-food chains. I’m quite sure I would have loved putting a nickel or a dime in the slot and opening the door to reveal a piece of pie, or a Swiss cheese sandwich, or a slab of meat loaf and gravy. The other night I was excited to learn that there used to be an Automat in Flushing, Queens. I am perhaps even more excited for a new film by my friend Lisa Hurwitz called The Automat. It chronicles the chain’s  rise and fall. Enjoy the trailer. Don’t blame me if it makes you want to sport a fedora and grab a grilled cheese from behind a wall of magic little doors.

02/11/15 10:15am
PORCHETTABANH2

Porchetta’s banh mi sports fennel blossoms.

Pork—be it pâté, Vietnamese ham, or crumbly char siu—are all integral players in the showstopping symphony of flavors and textures that is the banh mi. The Vietnamese sandwich, with its cool mix of pickled vegetables, pork product, umami rich Kewpie mayo, and chili heat is one of my favorites. In Italy porchetta, another porkcentric creation, is a popular street food.

One of my favorite New York City spots, Porchett,a is devoted to the dish, served as a platter or in a sandwich. I like to stop by the tiny East Village store just to catch a few whiffs of the aroma of pork fat and fennel pollen while ogling the burnished cylinders of meat with their crackling skin and leave without ordering a thing. A while ago I stopped in to do just that and noticed a sign: “Porchetta Banh Mi $10,” and, despite the fact that I’d just eaten, had to order one. (more…)

02/10/15 2:31pm
XINJIANG1

At Lao Dong Bei, they call it lamb chop in Xinjiang style, and it’s glorious.

Muslim lamb chop is a dish I first had at one of Flushing’s first Dongbei eateries, Fu Run. Not really a chop but rather a whole slab of lamb ribs, braised and then deep fried and rolled in cumin, chili, and sesame seeds—a mixture that one food writer termed “Dongbei everything bagel spice”—the result was magnificent fatty, crunchy and luscious. And for quite some time it continued to be magnificent, so much so that I turned the crew of Andrew Zimmern’s Bizarre Foods America on to it. (more…)

02/05/15 10:40am
CHERRYDRYNOODLE

Tom yum haeng topped with fried pork sugar and chili.

I’m such a Thai boat noodle fan that I’ve take to using the tag #boatnoodlejunkie on Instagram. One of my favorite places to slurp these small bowls of amazing noodle soup is the funky bar Pata Paplean in the heart of Elmhurst’s Thai Town. Chef Cherry and her crew only serve the noodles Saturday to Monday, usually from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. (Pro tip follow Pata Paplean on Facebook to be sure they are open.) (more…)