Articles by

Joe DiStefano

Newsstand
12/05/16 11:11pm

As someone who’s constantly devouring the delicious diversity that is Queens it’s possible to become spoiled by choices, even jaded. Luckily for me leading food tours affords an opportunity to turn others on to the culinary delights of Queens. My passion for the borough and its food is rekindled by seeing it from somebody else’s perspective. Which is precisely what happened when I led ace travel blogger Jon Barr on a whirlwind food tour of Jackson aka Himalayan Heights last week.

“It smelled so good the second I stepped off that train and walked down the stairs,” Barr exclaimed as we strolled over to the aptly name Diversity Plaza for our first stop, some Indian chaat. No tour of the hidden gems of Jackson Heights is complete without a visit to Lhasa Fast Food where we feasted upon momo and cold skin sushi.

All told we visited four countries and two continents in under 10 minutes, plus I got to use my Telemundo announcer’s voice. Be sure to check out Jon’s Youtube channel here and click here for my info on my Queens food tours.

12/05/16 10:56am
sushi

A mandala of deliciousness!

Slippery chewy cold noodles coated in a chili-spiked sauce have been a favorite since I slurped my first sesame-slicked strand. Here in Queens the cold noodle game gets way deeper than sesame noodles, Sichuan noodles, or even near ubiquitous cold skin noodles from Xi’an Famous Foods. That depth is best measured by something I like to call Tibetan style cold skin noodle sushi. I discovered it at Lhasa Fast Food, a Himalayan hot spot hidden behind a cell phone store. (more…)

11/29/16 7:04pm
cfruitpizza2

Durian pizza, a match made in Hong Kong.

Once upon a time there were many places in downtown Flushing to get a slice of pizza, notably Gloria Pizza and Lucia Pizza. The former is long gone and the latter soldiers on in a space flanked by a Chinese food court and a Korean skin care emporium. And then there was T.J.’s, which served a mean kimchi slice. These days it’s easier to find a spiky durian fruit than old school New York City pizza. Enter C Fruit Life, a new Hong Kong style dessert cafe serving “Golden Pillow Durian Pizza,” a decidedly modern fusion pie.

Is jin zheng tou liu lien pi za as it’s known in Mandarin Chinese the strangest pizza I’ve had in Queens? (Yes, the pinyin for pizza is pi za.) Hard to say, after all the borough boasts both bulgogi and falafel pies. It’s certainly one of the stranger uses of the pungent durian fruit I’ve come across. For the record I happen to like durian and think it has a bad rep.  (more…)

11/27/16 2:03pm
phayul-friedmomo

Fried beef momo, just one of many delicacies that will be offered.

With winter just around the corner, my pals and I from Queens Dinner Club have chosen a most seasonally appropriate cuisine: the hearty, spicy flavors of Tibet. And there’s no better place to enjoy them Chef Chime Tendha’s Phayul. In fact I personally love Phayul—which means fatherland in Tibetan—so much that I made sure they appeared on Bizarre Foods America with Andrew Zimmern. To score a ticket for this tasty trek please click here. (more…)

11/23/16 5:41pm

pumpkit2

If you’re anything like me—and I suspect you are if you read my musings about food and culture in Queens—you might still be struggling about what to bring to Thanksgiving tomorrow. Rejoice procrastinators and noncooks! Japan has come to your rescue in the form of pumpkin creme brulee KitKats. Let me say that again “Pumpkin Crème Brûlée KitKats!”

(more…)

11/16/16 11:39am
flyhea

Fly heads are not what you think.  Photo: Stephen Yen

When talking Taiwanese food in Queens one or two names always pop up: Taiwanese Gourmet in Elmhurst and the rather loftily named Main Street Imperial Taiwanese in Flushing. The latter lies at the southern end of Main Street away from the hustle and bustle of downtown Flushing. Thankfully it lives up to its name and executes all the classics rather well.

Main Street Imperial is a favorite among my local Taiwanese foodie friends. It’s also a go-to spot for Chef Trigg Brown of East Williamsburg’s hottest new Taiwanese spot, Win Son. as I learned while dining with him and a bunch of chefs and food nerds the other night. (more…)

11/10/16 3:30pm

cheesecake I have a culinary confession. As a kid I was obsessed with Red Lobster. Grownup me—the adventurous eater and Andrew Zimmern acolyte—avoids fast casual chains, although the local Applebee’s where we’d smuggle in tacos and Difaras pizza—was once my watering hole. There’s one chain I’ve been curious about for some time though, The Cheesecake Factory. Chalk it up to scarcity—not love of cheesecake. So when the first Factory opened in New York City  earlier this month at Elmhurst’s Queens Center I had to check it out. Spurred on by a media frenzy started by Eater, our threesome—consisting of myself and Queens finest barbecue Pitmasters Big Lou Elrose and Robbie Richter—visited during restaurant’s opening week. “Joey, if we can’t get in we’ll go to Shake Shack,” Robbie said. I nodded, thinking to myself, “No, you’ll go to Shake Shack, I’m going to the Factory hell or high water.” (more…)

11/08/16 12:32am
tresgolpes

Strike out hunger with this Dominican breakfast.

“Oh you have to try the mangú,” my good friend Jane said of the Dominican breakfast staple made from mashed plantains. “It’s so good.” I half expected something with a viscous fufu-like texture, so I didn’t share her enthusiasm. I am happy to report that mangú is not only pleasant in texture, it’s tasty too.

At Mangu Grill, a Dominican steam table spot in College Point, the yellowish mash is the centerpiece of a classic Dominican breakfast combo known as los tres golpes, or the “three strikes.” The triple play includes fried salami, two braids of salty fried cheese, and two eggs, and is sure to vanquish your hunger. I shall henceforth think of it as the Dominican breakfast of champions.

Mangu Grill, 153 College Point Blvd., College Point,  718-321-9982

10/31/16 10:48am
ollebrod2

Sea buckthorn berries provide a pleasant acidity to this cold Danish porridge.

Porridge is having a moment in the culinary consciousness. Brave new savory versions—cumin scented millet for one—abound, according Jill Neimark’s wonderful NPR piece. It’s also been having a moment for me personally as I’ve turned to congee for comfort and sustenance.

Tired of congee and oatmeal I decided to give the Grain Bar at Klaus Meyer’s Great Northern Food Hall a try last week. After a rather hellish commute I was more than ready for a comforting bowl of mush. I bellied up to the grain bar and perused the six-item menu, which was heavy on the oatmeal and also featured barley.  I almost skipped the grains in favor of and egg sandwich, but then I saw the øllebrød ($7). Unlike everything else on the menu it was a cold porridge made with rye bread and sea buckthorn among other things. (more…)

10/24/16 11:25pm

cmscavenger

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.