11/30/15 9:47am

Bear’s Russian ramen sings with the flavors of Siberia.

When cold and flu season hit, chicken soup’s the order of the day. There’s a reason they call chicken soup Jewish penicillin. Lucky for me there are two places just a matzo ball’s throw from my house to get to an excellent bowl. In Queens every culture has its own version of chicken soup: Indonesian soto ayam hued yellow with turmeric and spiked with fiery sambal and  lime, Korean samgyetang enriched with ginseng and garlic, and Filipino tinalong manok singing with ginger are just a few of my favorites. Now thanks to Natasha Pogrebinsky’s Bear I can add Mother Russia to the list of cold busters. (more…)

11/24/15 10:09am
pad thai

Half the fun of Plant Love House’s pad thai is mixing the ingredients together.

“You ordered pad thai!!??” one of the chef’s daughters at Plant Love House exclaimed last night. “That’s not like you,” she countered when asked why she reacted with such shock. She’s rights, it’s not like me at all. I can probably count the number of times I’ve ordered the dish. The last time was over two years ago at Andy Ricker’s now shuttered Pok Pok Phat Thai. I like to think of it as the sweet and sour pork of Thai cuisine. It’s a “real dish” in Thai cuisine—just as sweet and sour pork is in China’s Dongbei region—that’s been Americanized.

I’ve eaten my way through most of the items, including the lovely noodle soups, on the menu at this family run joint in Elmhurst’s Thai Town, and have enjoyed most everything I tried from the specials board. So when I saw pad thai listed as a special I had a hunch it would be pretty good. (more…)

11/18/15 10:15am

A gutbusting Waffle House sandwich born of a hunger for IG likes.

I spend more time than most—and less than some—thinking about sandwiches and Instgram. The same can be said for my pal Rev Ciancio who was kind enough to pen this guest column inspired by that most American of establishments, The Waffle House.

The lunches at my grade school … sucked, for lack of a better word. They sucked. Our hot pizza was merely a no-name version of a square piece of Ellio’s. The meatloaf was a dense piece of hardened automobile sponge covered in a warm “gravy” that had the consistency of Slimer’s ectoplasm from Ghostbusters. Even the French Fries were terrible. They were toasted styrofoam covered in the same salt they use to clear snow covered roads in states that end in “ota.”

If you wanted a decent lunch you either had to sneak out—which wasn’t an option until you or a friend turned 16 and was blessed with a Chevy Nova that could squeeze in a six-pack of high-schoolers — or you had to bring your own. The latter was a pretty good option. Maybe you had PB&J on white bread. If you were really lucky, you got salami and mozzarella with yellow mustard on split-top wheat. (Those were great days.) Your sandwich usually came with a hand-packed Ziploc bag of Doritos, Chex Mix or some generic potato chips, and a piece fruit or carrot sticks. If your Mom/Dad/Caregiver really liked you, you were blessed with the social currency of cookies. (more…)

11/16/15 11:15am

Fried shark at the Nest in Richmond Hill.

My pal Rob MacKay of It’s in Queens has been raving for years about a restaurant in Richmond Hill called the Nest. It’s a Carribean-Chinese spot that’s a little further afield from Liberty Avenue’s roti shops and doubles parlors. Not only is Queens fortunate to have plenty of real deal regional Chinese we boast several hybrid varieties: Indian-Chinese, Peruvian-Chinese, and Carribean-Chinese. I’m least familiar with the last of these, and truth be told my West Indian food game is leagues behind my regional Chinese repertoire. With its deep menu of Carribean-Chinese items, including more than a dozen kinds of fried rice and plenty of West Indian fare, the Nest is a great place to learn about both. Which is exactly what I did over the course of a leisurely meal with Rob last Friday. (more…)

11/11/15 10:53am

From Gothamist and Eater to The Village Voice and Bloomberg much well-deserved praise has been heaped upon the pastrami sandwich at Harry & Ida’s Meat and Supply Co. The kudos are piled as high as the smoked deckle meat is in Will Horowitz’s  new-fangled yet old-fashioned entry into the deli game.

Before all these recent accolades, in fact before Harry & Ida’s even existed, the Pop’s Pastrami Sandwich received the highest accolade of all being named “The World’s Greatest Sandwich.”  The honor came from the creators of video series Make Me A Sandwich— Rob Serrini and Jeremy Spector—who upon tasting Horowitz’s creation declare their quest to find the world’s greatest sandwich over. (more…)

11/08/15 10:07pm

The buttery folds of Turkiyem’s börek are filled with a savory mix of beef and herbs.

One of the things I love most about leading food tours in Queens is reliving  the sense of discovery through my guest’s as they experience new flavors—fresh Chinese tofu, Nepalese jerky, Mexican seafood cocktails—for the first time. Sometimes, I even make new discoveries while leading a tour. This past Saturday I discovered that I can ride a bike through Queens traffic without getting creamed, I also found some awesome homemade böreks at Turkiyem Market in Sunnyside. (more…)

11/05/15 10:39am

The Hong Kong equivalent of New York cheesecake.

I’ve been eating my way through Flushing’s New York Food Court for about a year. Yet somehow, I only just got around to trying Mango Mango yesterday. The bowl of spicy soup I’d just finished had put me in the mood for something sweet to cool down.

I wasn’t in the a mango mood though, and almost left the food court without getting dessert.  Then I saw the hand written special sign reading “mille crepe durian (slice).” There was also a mango version, but I was more intrigued by the durian. (more…)

11/01/15 10:44pm

Chu-tse momo are packed with chives.

Lhasa Fast Food is a favorite stop on my Himalayan Heights Food Tour. Tucked away behind a cell phone store, it’s a veritable Shangrila of Tibetan cooking. Last year the hidden restaurant’s beef dumplings took home the coveted Golden Momo, the trophy awarded to the best momo in the annual Momo Crawl. Juicy and scented with Sichuan peppercorn and Chinese celery the little packages are made to order and well worth the wait. The other day I discovered a secret momo being served at this momo speakeasy: chu-tse momo. (more…)

10/30/15 12:20am

Gemmeli were a childhood favorite for Mamma Gianna Cerbone of Manducatis Rustica.

This year marks the 100th birthday of Ronzoni, the venerable pasta maker that was started by one Emanuele Ronzoni in 1915. To celebrate its centennial the company chose a chef from each New York City’s borough to be the face of Ronzoni. When I received an e-mail stating that Chef Gianna ‘Mamma Gianna’ Cerbone of Manducatis Rustica was named the Ronzoni chef for Queens, I couldn’t help but smile, her restaurant is one of my favorite Italian spots, and, just like Ronzoni, she got her start in Long Island City, Queens.  (more…)

10/26/15 9:14am

Asian Taste 86’s soto ayam topped with shrimpy-garlicky koya powder.

“Ah yes I remember you from last time,” the waitress from Asian Taste 86 said. “Soto ayam, with lots of sambal.” Last time was a month ago when I had a cold and had come seeking comfort in the form of the yellow Indonesian chicken soup known as soto ayam. When I have a cold I tend to subsist on matzo ball soup from Knish Nosh and gingery chicken and rice soup spiked with plenty of garlic and chilies from Eim Khao Man Gai. Usually I reach a point where I bring out the big guns, like a bowl of the Indonesian chicken soup, with plenty of fiery sambal and lime. (more…)