I’ve passed Cienega Grocery & Deli dozens and dozens of times in my perambulations through Corona. I’ve always meant to stop in this Mexican grocer/restaurant. The other day the stars aligned in such a way that I poked my head in and learned that this humble deli specializes in the seldom-seen cuisine of Oaxaca, in the country’s Southwest. “Que es tlayuda?” read a hand lettered menu board. “Tortilla gigante de maiz orginaria de Oaxaca,” it continued, listing several options, including al pastor and chorizo.
I don’t if I was more excited to read Oaxaca or tortilla gigante. “Do you have chivo?” I asked. Once I got through the formalities and told them I knew what chivo was, I asked for a tlayuda topped with goat and eagerly awaited the arrival of the mystery antojito.
The Verizon Food crawl ended at one of my favorite spots , M. Wells Dinette.
When it comes to technology, I’m what you might call a late adopter. As for food, I am quite the opposite, living to discover new cuisines and flavors. So when Verizon contacted me to help organize and participate in a Queens food crawl on November 23 I was quite excited. Not only would I get to spend a day eating in Queens and pregame for Thanksgiving, I might learn a thing or two about technology.
Our day started at the new Verizon store in Astoria where we were each outfitted with a smart phone. Once I’d managed to set up my e-mail and social media accounts on the snazzy new LG G2, I immediately started testing out the camera. Soon we were using the Uber app to callup a car and take us to our first destination. (more…)
I live to discover the delicious in unexpected corners of Queens, whether it’s a Tibetan restaurant in the back of a cell phone store or a Malaysian joint in Flushing with a graveyard shift specializing in kari laksa. So when I heard about Mu Ramen, Joshua Smookler’s nighttime popup inside of a Long Island City bagel store, I was especially intrigued.
The scene inside Mu Ramen on Saturday night.
So I set out for Bricktown Bagel & Café on a night that was indeed quite brick. Joining me on the frigid Saturday after Thanksgiving was my pal William who knows a thing or two about Japanese food. The first thing that surprised me was that Mu’s chef, Joshua Smookler, was Asian. What’s not so surprising about the Korean-American chef with the decidedly non-Korean name is that he has a monomaniacal fascination with ramen. (more…)
The tyranny of the tasting menu—that feeling of being held hostage by a chef’s creativity as course after course after course comes to the table—is a phenomenon with which I have scant experience. The only tasting menu of note I’ve had is Momofuko Ko’s and while not quite tyrannical, it was vast, running to more than a dozen courses, each quite good in its own way. Even so sensory overload sets in by course eight or nine. It’s not that I was full, but rather that I was punch drunk on the experience, much the way I feel after wandering around an art museum for too long. So when Chef Natasha Pogrebinsky of Bear invited me to try to her $85 seasonal tasting menu, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. (more…)
Bo kho, beef braised in Coffeed beer with Brooklyn Grange baby carrots.
On a dark, drizzly winter’s night I took the bus to a bleak stretch of Metropolitan Avenue in Ridgewood to meet my friend Max Falkowitz for dinner at Bún-ker then a new Vietnamese spot in a neighborhood better known for junkyards than Southeast Asian fare. I got lost, really lost, cursing in the freezing rain lost.
“Man, I don’t know where this damn place is!”, I bellowed to Max. “Look, just start without me.” Eventually I made it to the funky little dining room. At the time I found the food to be good, but not great. I am of course fully aware that perhaps my opinion was skewed by my blowing a gasket in an attempt to find the joint. (more…)
This ethereal goat leg is part of the Goatober specials at M. Wells.
Every now and then I have a dish that revolutionizes the way I think about a particular foodstuff.The goat leg ($26) I ate at M. Wells Dinette last Friday is such a dish. Served over a bed of chanterelles and sunchokes it was phenomenal. So phenomenal I immediately took to the social media with a picture of the half-eaten portion captioned, “Saddle of Unicorn.” Fine grained and slightly sweet with no trace of gaminess whatsoever, it might as well have been the flesh of that mythical beast. (more…)
Eating at Real Usha Sweets and Snacks is out of the question. There are no tables in this tiny Indian snacks and sweets shop in Floral Park. There’s barely enough room for more than a few people to squeeze in around the ordering counter.
But there are many good reasons to brave the cozy, rustic conditions at Real Usha (not to be confused with the larger, sleeker Usha Foodsdown the street)—chief among them: khaman dhokla ($3.50/pound). A beloved Gujarati snack, these savory “cakes” are made with ground and fermented chana daal (i.e., lentils made from de-skinned black chickpeas). After a day-long fermentation, the ground lentils are seasoned lightly with salt, sugar, lemon juice, and a pinch of turmeric; then steamed. (more…)
The real K-town in New York City is in Queens, stretching for about five miles from Northern Boulevard and Union Street in Flushing all the way out to Manhasset . This vast K-tropolis is lined with dozens of BBQ restaurants, kimbap joints, large Korean supermarkets, fried chicken spots, a store that sells Korean stone beds, and even a Korean-run Third Wave espresso bar. There are so many places it would take an entire lifetime to document them all. So it is with some trepidation that I announce a new feature on C+M: K-tropolis.Today, a look at 1962 Tofu a Korean soft tofu chain that opened its first U.S. branch over the summer. (more…)
Mumbai’s famous beach snack, bhel puri, is easy to track down in Indian chaat shops in New York City. But other snacks from Maharashtra—the state on India’s western coast that is home to the megacity—are much harder to find on this side of the world (though not impossible).
Maharashtrian food is amazingly flavorful—drawing on staple ingredients that impart bold flavors: peppery curry leaf, ginger, cilantro, tangy tamarind, jaggery (unrefined cane sugar), fragrant coriander seeds, savory cumin, and coconut. I love this cuisine and wish it were more prevalent in restaurants. (more…)
Clockwise from top: crab, crispy pata, ukoy, longanisa, and tuna belly.
Americans traditionally mark Labor Day weekend with one last summer backyard barbecue with friends and loved ones. I too celebrated with friends, in traditional Queens fashion. That is to say by embracing the traditions of another culture, specifically Filipino. On Saturday my friends Kaori and Stella joined me for a traditional salu-salo sa bilao fiesta at Papa’s Kitchen in Woodside. Salu-salo bilao loosely translates to a gathering over a bilao,or banana leaf-lined basket overflowing with goodies. It’s an informal affair where all the food is eaten with one’s hands.
Chef Miguel prepared quite a spread. One tray held crab; crispy pata, a whole foreleg of pig fried to a shattering crunchiness; the shrimp and veggie fritters known as ukoy;longganisang hamonado, a lovely sweet pork sausage;tuna belly; and Papa’s signature spicy dynamite spring rolls. Everything was quite tasty,but we all agreed the salty, fatty tuna belly was spectacular. Stella, who is Filipina, schooled me in the proper way to eat with my hands. On the few occasions when I’ve eaten South Asian food with my hands I’ve felt self conscious most likely because the food is usually very saucy. At Papa’s I felt especially relaxed, and not just because we had the place to ourselves. (more…)