One of my favorite things to do after leading a Chinatown food tour on a steamy summer’s day is to walk westward down Roosevelt Avenue and cool off by sampling frosty treats from various cultures. My first stop is the Dominican shaved ice at 98th Street and Roosevelt Avenue known as El Bohio. The bodega that the place takes it name from is long gone, but the frio frio man along with his gigantic block of crystal clear ice and his multihued syrups remain.
Behold El Guachito’s mighty mixed grill laden with short ribs, blood sausage y mucho mucho mas!
Summer’s the perfect time for grilled beef and cold beer, but sometimes it’s just too hot in New York City to do it yourself, which is why the boys at Queens Dinner Club and I have decided to hold an Argentine style feast for carnivorous kings and queens at El Gauchito, one of our favorite steakhouses, on August 13.
Situated in Corona’s Esquina Argentina neighborhood, this temple to Argentine gastronomy—i.e. sumptuous grilled meats served with plenty of garlicky chimichurri—got its start as a butcher shop in 1978, which Mario Civelli named for the mascot of his home country’s football team in that year’s World Cup. The butcher counter—filled with special Argentine cuts like vacio or flap steak and homemade blood sausage—is still there as is El Gauchito or the little cowboy. These days the restaurant that started as little more than a butcher shop with a grill in the front window has expanded to take up two storefronts with two dining rooms, each a museum of Argentine culture lined with pictures of vaqueros (Argentine cowboys), accordions, and tango dancers.
Antipasto El Gauchito features creamy beef tongue.
Our carnivorous feast kicks off with an antipasto featuring creamy beef tongue, a terrine of pig feet, eggplant, and matambre. The name of the latter specialty—a rolled veal breast stuffed with spinach, olives, and cheese—translates to “hunger killer.” The real hunger killing though will be done by the special mixed grill loaded with skirt steak, vacio, short ribs, Argentine sausage, and blood sausage. All this meaty fare will be balanced out by Gauchito Salad with arugula, artichoke hearts, and Parmesan. Save room for traditional flan for dessert! Cash bar includes beer, wine, sangria, and, for those who have overdone it, the Argentine version of the digestif Fernet Branca.
Tickets for this Argentine feast are $45. Seats are very limited for this one so make sure to sign up for our mailing list to get your early ticket sale notification that will be sent on 8/1.
Behold, the mighty Tortas Chivas, CDMX’s answer to the NYC breakfast sandwich.
“They’re all pretty big,” I said to two recent guests on a World’s Fare Eating Along the 7 food tour. We were about an hour into our trek and had already enjoyed delicacies from Joe’s Steam Rice Roll and Soybean Chen and had just arrived at Tortas Neza, which specializes in comically huge Mexican sandwiches. I was doing my best to steer the two ladies toward a carnitas taco, but l knew they really wanted a sandwich.
The gargantuan 7-ingredient Tortas Puma named for the owner’s favorite Mexican soccer team was out of the question. So I scanned the roster of 20 creations, each named for a different team, and settled on the Chivas, which listed only three ingredients: huevo, quesillo, and chorizo.
As Galdino “Tortas” Neza prepared the sausage omelet on the plancha I told the guests it represented just one component of his biggest sandwich. “We can handle this one, it’ll be like a Mexican breakfast sandwich,” I said with a chuckle. (more…)
King Benfareremo says, “We do not mix,” but peanut butter and chocolate belong together.
Since we are apparently in the Dog Days of September, I decided it was as good a Tuesday as any to splash around in the fountain at the Unisphere and then pay a visit to the Lemon Ice King of Corona.
Lemon may be the King’s claim to fame, but I opted for something less traditional, some might even say sacrilegious, a super cup of peanut butter. It’s not the peanut butter itself that was blasphemous, but rather the fact that I also ordered a small chocolate, with the intent of breaking the King’s edict against mixing flavors.
The culinary King of Queens doesn’t need to abide by the two foot high sign that reads, “WE DO NOT MIX,” I thought smugly to myself.
“Enjoy, boss,” the dude behind the counter said as he handed me both. I wonder if he knew that I was going to slink away to Spaghetti Park to commit a cardinal sin and concoct an ungodly Italian ice speedball?
The King’s spumoni is a much better combo.
Once there I ate a bit of the peanut butter ice which is as good as everyone says it is, with bits of peanut and and peanut butter flavored chips, and a bit of the chocolate. The chocolate couldn’t stand up to the peanut butter. That didn’t stop me from plopping the small chocolate ice atop the jumbo peanut butter one and digging in. The combo was good, but not great, largely because the peanut butter ice is so much better than the chocolate one.
“Should have got a spumoni, I mused to myself. That combination of pistachio, chocolate, and almond mixed by the King’s minions is one that works just fine. Which goes to show you that even culinary royalty needs to follow the rules sometimes.
The Lemon Ice King Of Corona, 52-02 108th St., Corona, (718) 699-5133
Many places in Queens serve wonderful Mexican food, but there’s none quite like Tortilleria Nixtmal. That’s because Fernando Ruiz—who grew up eating fresh tortillas in Veracruz—and Shauna Page make their tortillas the old-fashioned way from freshly ground whole corn. And that’s why the boys from Queens Dinner Club and I have chosen Tortilleria Nixtamal to host our next dinner on May 16th. Tickets are $45 and may be purchased here.
Join us for a very special feast as we help christen Tortilleria Nixtamal’s new salon para fiestas above their tortilla factory on National Street just steps away from the 7 train! The festivities begin with a visit to the factory to taste the freshest tortillas in New York City. And then it’s upstairs to the salon, where the kitchen is rolling out all sorts of Mexican delicacies for QDC, including a taco trifecta featuring trompa de al pastor (rotisserie style roast pork); chivo (slow-cooked young goat); and pollo rostizado estilo Ciudad de México (Guajillo chili marinated rotisserie chicken). You can view the full menu here.
Our friends at Black Label Donuts are creating Mexican-inspired treats especially for this dinner. It’s our most popular event to date, so popular that we might even add a second night.
“You got to try our Cuban,” George Landin owner of street wear boutique All The Right told me when I stopped by other week to sign his copy of my guidebook “111 Places in Queens That You Must Not Miss.”
Landin was referring to a Cuban sandwich on the menu of his latest venture, the Corona Diner, which opened this past summer. Just as my book is a love letter to Queens so is Landin’s diner. A mural featuring a who’s who of Queens—from rappers like Action Bronson, Run-DMC, and Nas to stars like Tony Bennett, Louis Armstrong, and Lucy Liu—lines one wall and the doors to the kitchen mimic those of the 7 train. (more…)
The King’s bubble gum ice in all its shocking pink glory!
For more than 60 years The Lemon Ice King of Corona has held court on the corner of 52nd Avenue and Corona Avenue supplying frozen treats to Mets fans, neighborhood children, and even the local FDNY company. In an effort to squeeze out the very last bits of summer, I’ve found myself stopping by there rather often. And, since it’s going to be almost 90 tomorrow, I thought I’d share some of my favorites with you. Lemon’s the classic, but I also like orange/vanilla swirl, vanilla chocolate chip, and a newer addition, spumoni.
I’ve been branching out with the fruit flavors like the lovely cantaloupe, but the other day I tried a decidedly non-fruit flavor: bubble gum. Perched atop the medium-sized paper squeeze cop was a rosette of bubblegum pink ice flecked with yellow and green bits. (more…)
Steamed veal pelmeni, spa food via Russia and Corona.
There are many, many Central Asian eateries in Forest Hills and Rego Park where one can procure a plate of pelmeni, the pleated Russian ravioli, but there’s none quite like Forest Hills Spa. That’s because the tiny restaurant lies within the only authentic Russkaya banya, or Russian spa,in Queens. Banya—an experience that combines a eucalyptus scented steam room, sauna, and a blistering Russian Room where the temperature hovers around 190F—is a Russian tradition. The banya is just one of many places featured in my new guidebook 111 Places in Queens That You Must Not Miss, which drops later this year.
The menu at the tiny restaurant illuminated by a skylight includes such spa-worthy items as fresh fruit juices, but on both visits I opted for the Russian ravioli. When in a Russian spa, why not eat Russian food? (more…)
As a friend likes to point out, summer—with its steamy humidity and lazy beach days—is far from over. With that in mind here are seven of my favorite international frozen treats from Indonesian and Thai shaved ices and South American slushies to old-school American ice cream for you to enjoy
1. Pitaya nieves, Los Poblanos Grocery Nieves, literally snows, are a wonderful frozen Mexican treat. With flavors like lip-puckering tamarind; refreshing melon; and jamaica, or tart hibisicus flowers, it’s easy to think of them as a frozen version of the auguas frescas that many vendors lining Roosevelt Avenue sell. There are many nieves sellers on La Roosie, but thankfully my peeps at Food & Footprints turned me on to one the best, Los Poblanos Grocery. On my first visit I had a jamaica, scarlet and refreshing and on my second, I had pitaya, better known as prickly pear. The tart red snow was shot through with crunchy seeds making it even more fun to eat. Los Poblanos Grocery, 92-19 Roosevelt Avenue, Jackson Heights
2. Naem kaeng sai, Teacup Cafe
When I was a kid I was always jealous of one of my cousins who had the Snoopy Sno Cone machine. We never played with it, no doubt because the novelty had worn off. I trace my fascination with shaved ice to that unrequited desire for frozen confections. Now that I’m all grown up, there’s no better way for me to fulfill that childhood wish than Thai shaved ice or naem kang sai. As served at Teacup Cafe, it has enough sugar and toppings for a kid’s birthday party.
First choose your syrup—red or green—and then pick from eleven toppings. The red syrup, an artificial take on the sala fruit is floral and ultrasweet as is the green, which resembles cream soda. Toppings include taro, black grass jelly, pudding, corn, mixed fruit, coconut, palm seeds, red beans, toddy palm seeds, jackfruit, and popping bubbles. Three toppings will run you $4, but for the princely sum of $5.50 you can get all of the toppings. The result is an arctic explosion of colors, textures, and flavors.Teacup Cafe, 76-23 Woodside Ave., Elmhurst, Phone: (718) 426-2222(more…)
The frio frio man’s new flavor tastes like a tropical vacation via Corona.
There’s no surer sign for this Queens kid that spring’s here and summer’s around the corner than the emergence of the frio frio man, a Dominican shaved ice vendor, in the window of El Bohio Grocery. Bottles of fruit flavored syrup—tamarindo, naranja, limon, coco, and frambuesa—line the counter along with a 75-pound block of ice. By the time I arrived on a sunny late afternoon last week the glacier had been whittled down to about 25 pounds by the shuss shuss shuss of his scraper. If Benfaremo is the Lemon Ice King of Corona then this gentleman is surely Corona’s El Rey del Frio Frio Dominicano. (more…)