As I like to say, “Delicious mysteries of cuisine and culture lie around every corner in Jackson Heights, one of the most diverse pockets in the most diverse locations around.” One could liken my 20-year exploration of the neighborhood’s cuisine and culture starting with Jackson Diner and leading to the present day Himalayan-South Asian diaspora to a scavenger hunt of sorts. All of which got me to thinking, this would be a great neighborhood for a scavenger hunt. So I’ve teamed with my good friends at The Gastronauts and professional game designers Interactive Escapes to transform the hood into The Jackson Heights Hangover: A Gastronauts Scavenger Hunt.
I can’t tell you all the details—heck even I’m on a need-to know-basis—but I can tell that the research for it enabled me to see and taste Jackson Heights in a new way, which is no easy feat. So if you’re ready for an afternoon that will tantalize your taste buds, challenge your intellect, and give you a unique perspective on Jackson Heights, all while leading your squad to victory then join us on November 5 for what’s sure to be the tastiest most culturally enriching hangover you’ve ever had. Tickets may be purchased here.
When I was a kid the old man would return from Chinatown laden with hong bao, lucky red shopping bags. Usually these were filled with dried mushrooms, superior soy sauce and other ingredients. There treats were for me and him—lo mai gai, packets of sticky rice—and treats of a sort for my Mom, notably congee.(more…)
I haven’t been this excited about cold skin noodles—aka liáng pi—since I first tried them at Xi’an Famous Foods, back when family patriarch David Shi went by the moniker Liáng Pí and his sales pitch was a hawker’s chant, “My name is Liáng Pí, try my famous cold skin noodles, you want to try a Chinese hamburger.” These days the mini-chain deserves the appellation “famous” and has even spawned imposters, notably Elmhurst’s Chinger, a pormanteau of Chinese Burger, that sounds like a racial epithet.
Thankfully Lǎo Luòyáng is no imposter but rather a practitioner of the liang pi art that brings some color and history to the game. On a first visit I tried the purple sweet potato cold noodle ($6.50), zǐshǔ liáng pí. The sweet potato lent a slight tinge to the slippery wheat noodles and squidgy blocks of gluten, but added little flavor. No matter though as the sauce was astonishing, hitting many points of the flavor matrix, chili, garlic, vinegar, but above all a beguiling blend of tahini and aromatics like cloves. It was so good I slurped some up with a straw. (more…)
Lunza kukalo, Cypriot style smoked pork ribs marinated in red wine, rubbed with crushed coriander.
Just as Jackson Heights has long been associated with South Asian and Indian cuisine Astoria is renowned for its Greek tavernas, but it’s also home to another cuisine that’s often confused with Greek. I speak of Cypriot cuisine, a product of a nation that sits at the crossroads of Europe, Africa, and Asia. And the best place to enjoy this wonderful style of cooking which bears Greek, Sicilian and Middle Eastern influences is Zenon Taverna. Which is precisely why the boys from Queens Dinner Club and I chose it for this month’s dinner on 10/26. To find out when tickets go on sale, be sure to watch our Facebook page.
“Everyone thinks we’re a European country, but we’re actually part of Asia,” said Elena, daughter of Zenon Taverna’s founder Stelios Papageorgiou. “We’re just below Turkey and right above Egypt.”
Many people conflate Cypriot and Greek cuisine, but Elena is quick to point out they are quite different. One of the main differences is the prevalence of pork. “We use pork for everything,” she said. “The reason for it is we’re a small island and pigs are easier to raise.” (more…)
After two decades of eating around New York City I finally got my fress on at Eisenberg’s Sandwich Shop last week. Funny thing is my first job out of college was right around the corner. I’m not sure what kept me away back then, but these days the proximity of Ben’s Best Deli to my home does a good job.
But back to Eisenberg’s. Gotta love a joint whose slogan is “Raising New York’s Cholesterol Since 1929.” That cholesterol along with plenty of schmaltz and New York attitude has also managed preserve the old school deli tradition.
My pal Drew, clearly an old hand at dining in the joint’s bustling lunch time atmosphere, humored me as I briefly considered the shrimp salad sandwich. “I always get the combo Reuben,” Drew said. Between his cajoling and the waitress’ claim that it was “the best thing in the house,” my choice was made, and I am glad it was. And it wasn’t just any plain vanilla Reuben either, but a combo of pastrami and corned beef. Well worth it for $13, too. The dynamic duo of deli meats, kraut, and cheese almost put me in an old school deli coma. (more…)
These Thai rice crackers are a cruncher’s dream come true.
When it comes to treats I’m more of a bag of potato chips guy than a box of chocolates guy. Savory snacks trump sweet ones especially if they’re crunchy. What can I say, I’m a cruncher. Thai treats often blur the lines between sweet and salty, combining fishy herbal notes and heat with sweet notes. (more…)
There’s a reason they call the British breakfast classic a full English. The army of breakfast meats—bangers, bacon, sausage, and blood pudding—and eggs supplemented by mushrooms, tomatoes, and fried bread is a joy to eat and behold. The best full English this Italian-American boy ever had was at an Italian-run cafe called E. Pellicci in London’s Bethnal Green. It’s been in the Pellicci family since 1900 when Elide and Primo Pellicci opened shop. And so has the recipe for Penne Pellicci—a plate of pasta and pesto—that the waiter Tony drizzled with olive oil when I visited a few years ago. It was a fine carb supplement to an already prodigious feed. (more…)
For the longest time Korean and many other cuisines were all about fire for me. Creamy curds of tofu in bubbling angry bowl of red soondubu was my go-to lunch order at K-Town’s Seoul Garden.
Lately I’ve been embracing the mellower side of Korean cuisine; and there’s nothing more comforting than a steaming bowl of seollongtang, a long-simmered ox bone soup. I’ve been told that’s it’s good to eat when feeling sick. Recently I’ve had the good fortune to be sick enough begun to appreciate just how good.
A month ago I found myself in Tang out on Northern Boulevard. Dehydrated and spent after having a chemotherapy port in my chest checked out I slumped into a seat and gasped, “Seollontang.” (more…)
Violet’s house special bánh mì with grilled pork, Vietnamese ham, Vietnamese salami.
Friends and neighbors had been telling me about Violet’s Bake Shoppe in Forest Hills for months. First, there was talk of lovely egg tarts and Vietnamese iced coffee. And then, they hit me with the big guns, bánh mì. The Vietnamese sandwich is one of my all-time favorites, so I hightailed it over to Austin Street.
There I found a respectable roster of 10 Vietnamese sandwiches, including a House Special ($6.50), Baked Fish with lemongrass and turmeric ($6.95), and a Pâté Supreme ($6.50). I almost went for the Pâté Supreme, but I’m a bánh mì traditionalist, so I opted for the House Special. (more…)
Soup dumplings—and instructions on how to eat them—are always a highlight of my Flushing Chinatown food tours. One of the stranger techniques I’ve witnessed is people who forego a spoon and hold the dumpling aloft, nipping a hole in the side. It’s not a method I’d recommend. One tool I never thought I’d see used in dispatching xiao long bao is a straw. Lately though a larger style dumpling has begun to appear, first in Shanghai, and now in Queens, thanks to Shanghai You Garden.(more…)