Articles by

Joe DiStefano

10/04/15 3:25am

BearCheeseBurgerThere’s a Queens-based chain called Bareburger whose menu complexity never ceases to vex. There are multiple meat choices: elk,bison,beef, duck, ostrich,wild boar, and turkey; multiple sauce choices, including curry ginger ketchup and horseradish remoulade; a greengrocer’s worth of vegetation to choose from; and even multiple bun choices: brioche, sprout bun, tapioca rice. You could also choose from the 14 remade combos. Just writing about all these choices has given me a headache!  The only choices one should have to make when ordering a burger are cooking temp and with or without cheese.

And then’s there Chef Natasha Pogrebinsky’s Bear, which has nothing to do with the aforementioned chain. It offers only one type of burger. It’s a cheeseburger that also goes by the nickname the Grizzly Burger. It consists of a loosely packed patty with a fringed, crispy bottom sitting atop some greenery. The top is mantled with American cheese and crowned with a slice of juicy tomato. The bun’s what Pogrebinsky calls a standard “backyard bun,” because after all who really wants to think about the bun when eating a burger, it should serve as a mere vehicle for its contents. (more…)

10/01/15 12:19pm


Spanish cuisine is world renowned for its delicious tapas, fresh seafood and steaming plates of paella. Aside from these iconic dishes, there are plenty of regional specialties which offer an authentic taste of the Mediterranean. Here’s a selection of the best and most popular amongst the locals.

Empanada gallega
Galicia in the northwest region of Spain is home to this savory pie which comes in all shapes and sizes. A variety of delicious fillings include sautéed chicken, minced pork or seafood in a slow cooked onion sauce which gives a rich depth of flavor. Empanadas may be popular in Latin America and across the world, but we think the original is by far the best.

Summer in a bowl, this cold soup has long been a favorite in the southern regions of Spain. It’s most commonly prepared with tomato, stale bread, cucumber, wine vinegar and garlic. Many restaurants serve with their gazpacho with ice cubes and some include chunks of ham and vegetables. In the charming town of Alfarnatejo, this famous dish is celebrated each year with its own festival. It’s a good opportunity to sample some of the best gazpacho in the country and enjoy a traditional flamenco show. (more…)

09/30/15 4:10pm

Hardboiled eggs, ground beed, and pickled red cabbage meet in the rikitaqui.

Based on the name—rikitaqui—and the menu picture I thought the Dominican sandwich I was eager to try at the newly opened Empanadas Monumental in Woodside was going to be an epic gutbomb. It turned out to be something far more subtle.

The $5.50 sandwich consists of a schmear of seasoned ground beef topped with a pleasant red cabbage slaw tomato and hard boiled eggs. There’s also some salsa roja, a red sauce that calls to mind Russian dressing, in there. The sandwich took well to the extra hot hot sauce.

All in all it was a pleasant sandwich, just not as monumental as my expectations of it. The empanadas, which come in more than a dozen varieties, including lasagna and Philly cheese steak look pretty epic though. Next time I visit, I’ll have try one along with another rikitaqui of course.

Empanadas Monumental, 64-03 Woodside Ave., Woodside, 347-612-4388

09/28/15 11:44am

DIY noodle soup at Flushing’s Gui Lin Mi Fen.

Sometimes it feels as if I lead so many food tours of Flushing Chinatown that I don’t do enough research, i.e. eating, of non-sharable dishes like noodle soups. Sure I have my favorites: predawn laksa at Curry Leaves, Nutritious Lamb Noodle Soup’s namesake tonic, the samgyetang at Hansol Nutrition Center. Lately though I’ve been craving a brand new flavor in noodle soup, which is why I’m glad  I finally tried Gui Lin Mi Fen. (more…)

09/24/15 10:30am

Chili crab, arguably Singapore’s national dish.

C+M correspondent Kristen Baughman checked out the Singapore Crab Throwdown and has the scoop on all the goings on for Singapore Restaurant Week.

Singapore celebrates 50 years of nationhood this year as this city-state comes of age on the global stage. In honor of the country’s birthday, The Daily Meal hosted a few of Singapore’s top chefs for the “Singapore Crab Throwdown.” Chopsticks and Marrow had the chance to go behind the scenes at The Daily Meal Test Kitchen to learn from these great chefs as they prepared dishes from salted egg yolk crab to wok fried black pepper crab.


The first cooking demonstration was by Chef Wayne Lieu of Keng Eng Kee Seafood Restaurant. Along with his team, Chef Lieu taught the “Singapore Crab Throwdown” attendees how to make iconic Singapore chili crab, a signature Singaporean dish with a balance of sweet, salty and heat from the chiles.  (more…)

09/24/15 8:18am

Ganesh Chaturthi is one of the most festive times for Hindus in and around Flushing. During the nine-day birthday party for the elephant-headed god, Šri Mahã Vallabha Ganapati Devasthãnam (aka the Ganesh Temple) on Bowne Street is a hive of activity. Ganesh Chaturthi always concludes with the Grand Ratha Yatrã, a parade through the streets of Flushing.

This year the parade was held on Sunday, Sept. 20, but I wasn’t able to make it. I did however have the good fortune to hang out with James Boo of 1 Minute Meal Films a few days before  while he filmed modaka archana, the making and offering of the sweet modaka. The coconut-filled treat is renowned as Ganesh’s favorite food, so much that one of his many names is modakapriya. (more…)

09/23/15 9:56am

Wendy's BBQ saucemaster laughs at your desire to know his secret.

Yesterday afternoon I was doing some virtual trail running in the gym when the above commercial for Wendy’s BBQ Pulled Pork Sandwich came on. Even with the sound down I got the joke. When asked to divulge the recipe for his “secret sauce” the presumably Southern pitmaster and his assistant refuse to give up the goods laughing off the request.

The subsequent glamour shots of “our hickory smoked pulled pork” and a BBQ poutine of sorts looked so good that I couldn’t get them out of my head. I envisioned Wendy’s very own sauce bespattered, real deal pitmaster whipping up this pulled pork, a veritable Ed Mitchell of fast food. As a certified Kansas City Barbeque Society judge who’s been around BBQ pits and smokers of various and sundry sizes and configurations, including a stainless steel number whose firebox resembles a miniature bank vault, I know  this is nonsense. But Wendy’s and its ad agency are selling a fantasy, one that I clearly bought into as evidenced by my choice of a late night dinner. (more…)

09/21/15 10:32am
Malaysian pandan mooncakes are my favorite.

Malaysian pandan mooncakes are my favorite.

“Mooncakes!!??, a Chinese friend said to me over breakfast recently. “Nobody likes them, they’re like fruitcake for Asians.” The dense cakes stamped with Chinese characters are traditionally eaten (sometimes begrudgingly) and gifted—much like fruitcake—for the Moon Festival, which falls on Sunday, September 27 this year. All sorts of mooncakes, including novelty ones for pandas and those made from Taiwanese hornet hives are prepared for the fall harvest festival, which is held on the night of the full moon between early September and early October. (more…)

09/15/15 2:26pm


There are cheeses out there that prove challenging to some palates and sensibilities, most notably the infamous casu marzu, or Sardinian maggot cheese which is actually quite tasty. And then there are the so-called stinky cheeses Tallegio and its odiferous brothers all which I find quite lovely. The most challenging two cheeses I’ve personally encountered are from Tibet. Both are made from yak milk. (more…)

09/14/15 12:42am

As many of you may know Queens has been getting its fair share of media attention lately, with everyone jumping on the Lonely Planet #1 destination bandwagon and, of course, with the U.S. Open in town. Pizza maven Adam Kuban alerted me to what is my favorite bit of recent Queens media glory. It’s a U.S. Open commercial that features two Queens icons: old school slice joint John’s in Elmhurst and The Unisphere, along with plenty of tennis.

The spot makes a comparison between “New York style tennis” and New York style pizza. The pizza at John’s is as fine an example of old school New York City pizza as any. It’s a slice of glory with a crispy crust that comes from placing a perforated disk betwixt pie and pan. The best thing about John’s though might be its circa 1969 dining room complete with counter seating. I do believe I shall eat a slice or three tomorrow.
John’s Pizzeria, 85-02 Grand Ave., Elmhurst, 718-457-7561