Many guests on my food tours of America’s Greatest Chinatown—aka downtown Flushing—have had soup dumplings. Xiao long bao virgins get a quick tutorial. Since the wrappers at my favorite spot in New York Food Court are super thin, I encourage people to avoid using chopsticks and gingerly pick up the package from the top with their fingers and place it on the spoon.
They may or may not choose to cool their dumpling in the accompanying black vinegar, but the next step is always the same: “Bite a tiny hole in the side like a vampire and slurp the soup out.”
The fig and rosemary latte from Toby’s Estate Coffee Roasters.
I’d just wrapped up a rather epic food tour of the entire 7 line in Long Island City. Before parting ways with one of my guests we had a brief chat about overpriced coffee in L.I.C. and how he never patronizes the local cafes. After we parted ways I proceeded to one of the aforementioned cafes, Toby’s Estate Coffee Roasters for an espresso.
When it come to highfalutin java I’m an espresso man, or if I’m feeling kind of fancy a cortado. I hardly ever get lattes, and certainly never flavored ones. But when I saw the sign on the counter for a $5 seasonal fig and rosemary latte, I couldn’t resist. If I’m going to overpay for a coffee, it might as well be a fancy one.
Thankfully both the rosemary syrup and fig preserves were on the light side, but it was definitely a sweet drink. In any case I’m sure it was way better than the ubiquitous pumpkin spice latte. So here’s what I like to know friends, what’s your favorite fall beverage? Let me know in the comments below.
Hun jiang chang fen, aka mixed sauce rice roll noodle.
One of my earliest food memories is shrimp in rice roll noodles at Mei Lei Wah in Chinatown. Slippery, sweet and savory—they sparked a love affair with Chinese food and proved to be good chopstick training.
Served two or three to a plate, cheung fen, whether beef or shrimp remained a dim sum favorite for many years. When I moved to Queens I discovered other varieties, including the wonderful hun jiang chang fen, or mixed sauce rice roll noodle. It’s a simple pleasure consisting of the rolled up noodles, peanut and sweet sauces, and little else. They’ve become a staple of my Flushing Chinatown food tours.(more…)
Keizo Shimamoto’s Ramen Shack, one of my Smorgasburg Queens favorites.
Curating Smorgasburg Queens with its melting pot of international vendors ranging from The Arepa Lady and Celebes Bakar Indonesian Grill to luxe offerings like the lobster rolls from Brine by Danny Brown has been a real hoot. What’s even more fun for me though is eating there.
One Saturday I went full on Andrew Zimmern: balut from Papa’s Kitchen for starters, papaya salad with black crab from Qi, Snowy Durian from my friends at KULU Desserts. While I’m partial to the hallacas—sweet and savory Ecuadorean tamales—from Son Foods, my favorite eating experience at Smorgasburg Queens has to be Keizo Shimamoto’s Ramen Shack.
To step behind the curtain and take a seat at Keizo’s counter is to enter another world, somewhat more serene than the rest of the market, but no less delicious. Both of the hot soups I have tried have been most excellent, but my top pick might be the seafood broth based cold noodles. So, tell me, what’s your favorite thing to eat at Smorgasburg Queens?
Smorgasburg Queens, 43-29 Crescent St., Long Island City
“This one wants to try something really weird,” the parent of a young man on my most recent Flushing Chinatown food tour said. We had already tried fu qi fei pian, the Sichuan mélange of offal that combines tripe, tendon, and beef shin, so I knew the kid was a tough customer. He seemed satisfied by the plate of crunchy Chengdu style pig ears we shared at Golden Mall. (more…)
At Lao Dong Bei, they call it lamb chop in Xinjiang style, and it’s glorious.
Muslim lamb chop is a dish I first had at one of Flushing’s first Dongbei eateries, Fu Run. Not really a chop but rather a whole slab of lamb ribs, braised and then deep fried and rolled in cumin, chili, and sesame seeds—a mixture that one food writer termed “Dongbei everything bagel spice”—the result was magnificent fatty, crunchy and luscious. And for quite some time it continued to be magnificent, so much so that I turned the crew of Andrew Zimmern’s Bizarre Foods America on to it. (more…)
A selection of Guyanese sodas in Richmond Hill, Queens.
“Are you a soda geek?” my pal Rich Sanders of Ethnojunkie asked me a few weeks ago when he saw me scoring some Sanbitter, an Italian aperetif soda,with evident glee. “I dunno Rich, I like Vimto, Chinotto, and Moxie’s pretty good,” I replied.
The point here is that whether I admit or not I am indeed a fan of carbonated beverages that go well beyond the Sprite, Coke, and Pepsi. I blame it all on that first Fresca I tasted as a kid. So here’s what I’d like to know what’s your favorite oddball soda? Do you like oldschool medicinal ones like Moxie, or a Thai Fanta fan,or perhaps something else entirely Tell me in the comments or hit me on the Twitter, @JoeDiStefano.
A selection of Czechoslovakian and German charcuterie at Chef Dave’s.
Spicy Italian dry sausage with a slight fermented funk, mortadella, liverwurst, blood sausage. These are some of my favorite forms of charcuterie. Recently I added a few more to the list. I don’t know their names, but I do know they’re from the Czech Republic. My pal chef Dave smuggled them back after a European vacation. My favorite was a skinny pork sausage flavored with paprika and a spice we couldn’t quite put our finger on. Then, it hit me. Caraway! Germany was also represented in the form of schwartenmagen, a rustic tinned liverwurst of sorts. So here’s what I’d like to know. What’s your favorite form of charcuterie? Tell me in the comments or hit me on the Twitter, @JoeDiStefano.
Great N.Y. Noodletown’s shrimp dumpling soup is a classic.
The other night I attended a panel discussion “Historic Preservation, Meet Restaurant Preservation,” where food writer and longstanding Greenwich Village resident Mimi Sheraton and Robert Sietsema, senior restaurant critic at Eater, discussed restaurant preservation in New York City. Rapacious landlords and the idea of forming a body to help restaurants as well creating a list of places that should be preserved, and just who determines who to include on said list were all discussed. When it was over the question of where to eat weighed mightily on my mind. Katz’s came up in the discussion several times, and I briefly considered it, but I ruled it out as too heavy.
Then I started to think along the lines of restaurants and Manhattan neighborhoods that I feel should be preserved. And I headed down to Chinatown. Fish Corner Market’s long gone. Mei Lei Wah ain’t as pretty or tasty as she used to be. Yet Wo Hop, whose sweet and sour pork my dear old Mom reproduced at home, and Great N.Y. Noodletown still abide. I opted for the latter. It’s survived a couple of name changes. The menu and the room remain the same. And they’ve still got one of my favorite dishes, shrimp dumpling soup. It’s a generous bowl of thin-skinned beauties packed with shrimp and mushrooms. I like to liven things up with a few spoons of the citrusy house hot sauce.
Time and tradition seem to have done a good job of preserving stalwarts like Katz’s and my Chinatown haunts, but who knows if scrappier underdog eateries will survive. So here’s what I’d like to know what New York City restaurants, dishes, or neighborhood’s are on your preservation list? Let me know in the comments or hit me up on Twitter.
A couple of weeks ago I had the pleasure of dining at Momo Sushi Shack with my good friend Tyson Ho. While everything was excellent—especially the red wattle pork chop with greens—the standout of the evening had to be the live uni. With its creamy texture and marine flavor with a touch of funk it was like the triple crème brie of the sea. Tyson pronounced it his “best bite of the year.” (more…)