Articles by

Joe DiStefano

Newsstand
06/24/16 12:28am
Was the Jackson Hole burger ever good?

Was the Jackson Hole burger ever good?

There are probably some hamburgers out there worth a 20-minute subway ride and a 20 minute walk involving traversing the BQE. Sadly the cheeseburger at Jackson Hole is not one of them. The loosely packed behemoth is steam griddled, that is to say cooked on a flat top under a dome. A burger should breath free—sputtering and sizzling on the flat top or under a salamander—not suffocate in its own fetid vapors.

Ordered medium rare it was a mushy flavorless gray travesty of a burger utterly devoid of a char. I found myself wishing Tommy DeVito would walk in and put two in the back of my head so that I didn’t have to finish thing.

I did not bother to ask what type of meat it was, it could have a blend of unicorn chuck and golden calf short rib for all I care, the cooking process would still turn it into drek. There’s only tasty steamed burger out there kids: White Castle.

All that said the decor can’t be beat. There’s a reason the folks behind Goodfellas used it in a scene, the exterior of the diner is iconic, all stainless and neon. It’s evokes a time that was simpler and also more glamorous. I’ll bet it was a time when people gave a shit about how their burger tasted.

Jackson Hole,  69-35 Astoria Blvd., Astoria, 718-204-7070

06/22/16 10:22am
Giuseppe

The Giuseppe, Astoria’s take on Philly’s roast pork Italian.

The late great Josh Ozersky once said that I had forsaken my Italian-American heritage to eat my way through the Chinese food courts of Queens. He was partly—well, really mostly—right. When I find myself in need of comfort and familiarity though, there’s nothing quite like a good Italian deli.

I am a huge fan of the ladies at Leo’s Latticini in Corona and their food. They know how to make this Italian boy feel right at home. I am lucky to live so close to their shop. Lately I have been exploring the Italian delis of Astoria. My favorite so far might be Rosarios. Under the el Rosario DiMarco serves up old-school Italian-American comfort food in the form of killer Margherita pizza and more than a dozen sandwiches. (more…)

06/20/16 12:51pm
patningsoo

Nuts and dried fruit top this frosty Korean treat.

When summertime rolls around, my heart, mind, and stomach turn toward frosty treats. Here in Queens we’re lucky to have so many to choose from. There’s everything from old school institutions like Eddie’s Sweet Shop and The Lemon Ice King of Corona to new fangled creations like Snow Days, plus shaved ice creations from all over the globe, including Mexico,Taiwan, the Dominican Republic, and Korea.

Pat bing soo, or Korean shaved ice typically consists of a small glacier of ice topped with red beans, fresh fruit, and condensed milk. Lately a newer version of the treat has appeared on the scene, a “well-being” variety that skips the red beans and condensed milk, favoring other ingredients like nuts and mochi. My favorite version of this pat bing soo subspecies can be had at Ye Dang, a shop on the further reaches of Queens’ vast K-tropolis. (more…)

06/16/16 12:38pm
Goat sekuwa eats like a meat lover's chaat

Goat sekuwa eats like a meat lover’s chaat

Kamala Gauchan is the godmother of Himalayan cuisine in Jackson Heights. The garrulous Gauchan is the driving force behind many of the neighborhood’s Tibetan and Nepalese eateries, including Himalayan Yak, Laliguras, and Dhaulaghiri Kitchen. For about three years she held court at the latter, a shoebox of a restaurant that shared a space with a roti factory. In a setup smaller than some Manhattan studio apartments she wowed expats and food geeks alike with cooking that managed to rustic and vibrant, featuring earthy goat jerky, vibrant pickles, and of course, momos.

About a month ago she decamped to Manhattan’s Curry Hill, across the street from Kalustyan’s and just down the road from Chef Hemant Mathur’s Haldi. Yesterday I finally made the trek to Manhattan to say hello to the woman I like to consider my adopted Nepalese mother. (more…)

06/13/16 12:40pm
wasabikitkat

The pride of Japan, now in candy form!

I consider myself lucky to procure the occasional green tea Kit Kat. It’s a Japanese variety of Nestle’s popular candy bar. And in that country Kit Kat are really, really popular. There are scores and scores of oddball flavors: cherry, blueberry cheesecake, brandy and orange, red bean and matcha shaved ice, maple, sports drink, and wasabi.

My good friend William shared some of that last flavor with me the other day. He brought back a box of minis from a recent trip to Japan. The package bears the familiar red-and-white logo and the slogan “Have a break, have a Kit Kat.” There all similarity ends, for one thing there’s the word “wasabi,” and a whole bunch of Japanese on the inside of the box, which extols wasabia japonica’s white flowers and talks about how it was first cultivated 400 years ago.

So how does it taste? Crunchy and creamy with just the slightest hint of wasabi. Wondering why Kit Kat are so popular in Japan?  The candy’s name sounds like “kitto katsu,” an expression associated with good luck. I consider myself lucky to have tried the wasabi ones, and look forward to eventually getting to Japan to try others.

06/08/16 10:11am
brothersegg

How green was my breakfast.

Back when I was a third-tier line cook in a pub, we used to keep pea shoots in house. They were great in salads and even better to munch on in the walk-in whilst shirking my duties. I would never have thought to put the peppery shoots on a breakfast sandwich. That’s exactly what Brothers, a new concession at Rockaway Beach, has done though.

It’s tempting to think of Brothers $8 breakfast sandwich as a merely an Egg McMuffin gone green, but it’s really a locals only breakfast sandwich. Those pea shoots come from a garden on Beach 97 Street, and the spelt flour blend muffin is made by local baker Diwa.

(more…)

06/07/16 11:44am
Because nothing says Korean food like Canadian ham.

Because nothing says Korean food like Canadian ham.

Back when I first moved to Queens there was a pizzeria in downtown Flushing called T.J.’s that sold a Korean-influenced slice. Apart from a generous serving of tangy, peppery kimchi it was a classic New York City slice. And T.J.’s itself was a classic New York City pizza parlor.

A few weeks ago some friends and I tried out Pizza Maru, in the vast K-tropolis of Northern Boulevard. If T.J.’s was a classic New York joint then Pizza Maru is classic Korean fast-casual spot. It’s Pizza Hut as envisioned by Korean businessmen, complete with four types of stuffed crusts and more than a dozen pies, including honey gorgonzola and Chicago style. (more…)

06/02/16 1:23pm
Marani's dairy kitchen churns out the Georgian cheese bread known as khachapuri.

Marani’s dairy kitchen churns out the Georgian cheese bread known as khachapuri.

As far as this food writer is concerned Marani, a kosher Georgian restaurant in Rego Park, is one of the most unique spots around. For one thing it has both a meat kitchen and a dairy kitchen. The downstairs dairy kitchen with a selection of decadent Georgian cheese pies known as khachapuri is a point of fascination for me. Upstairs find kebabs, stews, and many other Georgian specialties, including khinkali, giant soup dumplings filled with beef and lamb. My friends Chef Jonathan Forgash and Gabe Gross of Queens Dinner Club, were equally impressed with Marani that’s why we’ve decide to have our next dinner there on Weds., June 22 at 7 p.m.  Marani’s owner Ana Epremashvili was kind enough to take time out of her busy schedule to answer Seven Questions.

So tell me about the restaurant. When did it open? What made you guys decide to open it? We opened the restaurant in 2013, we serve authentic Georgian cuisine with a kosher twist and influences. We are the only establishment to have both meat and dairy under one roof in New York City. We did not think it would be an authentic representation of Georgian cuisine without the dairy, so we were happy to get approval once all the separate kitchen requirements were met.

We try to keep the kitchen modern and exciting with reinventing of the traditional dishes, as well as sticking to authentic recipes. We felt there was a void of authentic ethnic cuisines in the kosher world, when you are kosher it is common to have Japanese sushi, steak and Israeli food all in one restaurant and none of it is authentic or any good. Only lately there have been restaurants that stick to their roots, and we are happy to be a part of that trend.

Khinkali filled with beef and lamb.

Khinkali filled with beef and lamb.

The family style menu for the upcoming Queens Dinner Club is pretty exciting—khinkali dumplings, lula kebabs, beef stew, herring and more—tell me what inspired it?
We are excited to showcase the diversity of our menu and introduce people to our flavors. We also find it important for people to understand what it means for a restaurant to be kosher and what is involved in washing greens and specific ways of butchering, once people find out what it really means, they feel more comfortable patronizing kosher establishments. (more…)

06/01/16 10:42am
horowitzchix

Queso fresco and poblanos give this chicken sandwich a Mexican accent.

Will Horowitz is the type of chef who pickles, smokes, and ferments anything that isn’t nailed down. He’s a cook who creates flavor combinations as vibrant as any modernist chef, not with rotovaps and liquid nitrogen, but with decidedly old-school techniques, and not in a sleeve garter steampunk poseur fashion either. He’s the type of guy who does his own foraging and who reduces poblano chilies to cinders to sauce a smoked chicken sandwich. (more…)

06/01/16 1:31am
Bacon makes everything better, including ice cream.

Bacon makes everything better, including ice cream.

I am the type of salty sweet enthusiast who finds most salted caramel ice creams lacking. Until I visited the outpost of OddFellows Ice Cream Co. in Urbanspace Vanderbilt I didn’t realize that what they lacked was bacon among other things.

Brooklyn’s most unique ice cream artisans have joined forces with the culinary juggernaut that is Roberta’s to create a powerhouse of a savory sweet frozen confection. The flavor has no name, it’s announced by its ingredients: coffee ice cream, Roberta’s sticky bun bread pudding, bacon and salted caramel. One scoop in a cup made for a fine dessert after a chicken sandwich.

I must say that while I was eating it I felt much like the monkey in the photo. The new creation will be available through Labor Day.

OddFellows Ice Cream Co., Urbanspace Vanderbilt, 230 Park Avenue