Articles by

Joe DiStefano

Newsstand
01/30/15 10:22am

Up until last night I’d little or no idea which teams were competing in Super Bowl XLIX. I had a vague sense some outift from New England was involved. As C+M readers are no doubt aware football is far less important to me than food, especially the amazing array of crunchy, sweet, salty snacks from all over the world to be found in Queens. I like conventional junk food—chips, pretzels, and cheezy poofs—as much as the next glutton, but why stop there? So as a public service to sports fans everywhere I devote this edition of The Seven to Super Bowl snacks that showcase some of the best—and strangest junk food—Queens has to offer.

KannikoDisp

Crunchy Japanese crabs are a great drinking snack!

1. Kanikko
Like many Japanese drinking snacks kanikko combines salty, fishy and sweet flavors along with crunchiness. The difference is that kanikko are actually teeny weeny crabs coated in sesame seeds. Find them at most Japanese grocery stores. Family Mart, 29-15, Broadway, Astoria, (718) 956-7925; Sakura Ya, 73-05 Austin St, Forest Hills, 718-268-7220

THAITARO

Festive tangles of Thai taro.

2. Thai taro crunch
Not only are these tangles of fried taro sweet and crunchy, they’re fun to look at. Noi Sila owner of Thai Thai Grocery imports them from her homeland along with all sorts of other ingredients and goodies. While you’re there pick up some awesome Thai beef jerky to gnaw on while watching the game. Thai Thai Grocery, 76-13 Woodside Ave., Elmhurst, 917-769-6168 (more…)

01/28/15 10:06am
SWEETLEAFBRUNCH1A

Sweetleaf’s breakfast sandwich.

Breakfast is the most important meal of the day, brunch not so much, unless you count M. Wells Dinette or dim sum. Long before I read Anthony Bourdain’s takedown of the portmanteau meal in Kitchen Confidential, I was a brunch hater. A good breakfast sandwich—the classic New York City coffee cart bacon, egg, and cheese—however, is something I get can get behind. Heck I’ve even been known to enjoy a McGriddle. Which is why, despite my aversion to the meal, I’m glad Sweetleaf launched brunch this past weekend at its Long Island City waterfront location. The coffee and cocktail bar’s short menu features one of the best egg sandwiches I’ve had in a long time. (more…)

01/27/15 12:09pm
CHI-EXTERIOR

Nothing quite says disaster preparedness like a visit to Chipotle.

Winter storm Juno nee Snowmageddon/Blizzard of 2015 sparked all sorts of irrational behavior in New York City. Declaration of martial law, oops I mean subway closure and a driving ban; a hipstervore kale crisis; even a Craigslist bonanza of potential blizzard booty calls. Over in Brooklyn some poor soul jumped out a third-story window with barely a foot of snow on the ground to break his fall. Here in Queens, I got in on the snowmageddon madness by visiting Chipotle Mexican Grill. (more…)

01/26/15 10:17am
TOTS

Tianjin turnip tots!

I’m pretty sure Napoleon Dynamite has no Chinese cinematic equivalent, but if he did surely he’d say, “No, go find your own,” when it comes to Tianjin turnip tots. Salty and scrumptious, the crunchy morsels are even good cold, which is how I ate them the day I discovered them at Flushing’s Golden Shopping Mall. (more…)

01/21/15 9:09am
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Even though at first glance it looks like a cookie cutter clone of New World Mall, there are many good things to be had at Flushing’s newest food hall, New York Food Court. On a recent multistop tour of Queens’ Chinatown I turned a posse of avid foodies on to the awesome Sichuan cold noodles and the offal extravaganza that is fu qi fei pian. And they, in turn, turned me on to the crispy pancake, or as the sign renders it, “Th Crispy Pancake,” one of the craziest Chinese sandwiches I have ever had. (more…)
01/14/15 11:30am
CENTRALMUFF

Central Grocery’s muffuletta.

There are many, many sandwiches to be had in New Orleans as I learned when my fellow Chowzters set themselves the mission of eating every po’ bo they could get their hands on. I skipped that mission and focused my sandwich eating energies on the muffuletta. Leave it to this Italian-American boy to go all the way to New Orleans for a Sicilian sandwich.

Central Grocery, located in the Big Easy’s French Quarter is credited with inventing this Sicilian sandwich combo. It takes its name from the round sesame seed-studded Sicilian loaf. Central’s version consists of Genoa salami, mortadella, ham, mozzarella, and provolone, dressed with an olive salad. My eating buddy Joe “Hungry Dude” Hakim split a half sandwich as we were saving room for yet another Italian-American meal, fried chicken at Fiorella’s. (more…)

01/13/15 12:59pm
WILLIEMAYS

Willie Mae’s fried chicken is astounding.   Photo: foodbitch.me

When it comes to New Orleans—land of jambalaya, crawfish, and po boys—fried chicken isn’t the first thing that comes to mind. Turns out though that, like much of the South, the Big Easy has some mighty fine fried chicken.

I ate more fried chicken—heck more everything—in the course of a whirlwind weekend with my good friends from Chowzter than I have in quite some time. A quick cab ride from Louis Armstrong airport and Yvo “Feisty Foodie” Sin joined our fellow Chowzters at the iconic Dooky Chase’s, where everyone from U.S. Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall to President Barack Obama have dined. (more…)

01/12/15 1:24pm

As a good eater, gourmand, glutton and reluctant foodie I’ve been meaning to visit New Orleans for at least 20 years. This weekend that long-deferred wish came true when I attended the Chowzter Awards for North America. As the Chief Chowzter for Queens, I really wanted Team Arepa Lady to take home a trophy, but alas, they did not. The winners, ranging from a stupendously tasty sounding raw honey and sea salt doughnut from Pip’s Original in Portland,Ore., which took won tastiest dish to the ricotta ravioli from Rino’s Place in Boston, which won tastiest pasta, all sounded truly amazing. The winner that most impressed me though was the town itself, New Orleans, which won the award for Foodiest City in North America. I was there for only a weekend and can’t wait to go back. Given that I ate everything from fried chicken to an elegant sit-down awards dinner at Commander’s Palace, I guess when it comes to New Orleans I am indeed a foodie after all.  Stay tuned for a whole lotta Big Easy coverage here on C+M!

01/08/15 10:36am
TDBSTEAK

The picanha, Texas de Brazil’signature cut.

At heart—and stomach—I am a glutton, but I’m no fan of all you can eat buffets. That’s because I often reach the point of diminishing returns and indiscriminate eating simultaneously. Over the years though there has been one AYCE concept I can get behind. That’s the Brazilian rodizio/churrascaria, a carnivorous carnival wherein one is served various delectable meats carved off skewers by roving waiters. Each diner is given a chip, green on one side to signal, “Bring on the meat,” and red on the other to signal, “No, thanks.”

When Texas de Brazil—a national chain of Brazilian churrascaria steakhouses—opened in New York City I was intrigued. I forgot all about it until a few weeks ago when someone from the company reached out to invite me and a guest to a meat fest. So I put on my fat pants and made the arduous trek to the Upper East Side. (more…)