09/23/17 12:55pm

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…)

08/15/17 12:44pm

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…)

08/14/17 12:03pm

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…)

05/04/15 10:12am
BOHIO3

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…)

07/10/14 10:08am
FRUITMAN

Nothing beats the heat like fresh tropical fruit.

It’s hot in the big city children. As much as I like to sweat over a bowl of mapo tofu or tuck into a bowl of Thai soup, sometimes the best way to cool off is the tropical way, by sipping on the cool hydrating milk of a freshly hacked open young coconut. And there’s no better place  to get one than the decidedly laid back Dominican gentleman who his fruit stand sits on the north side of Rooosevelt Avenue near 104 Street. I’ve been waiting for him to set up shop and was glad to see that he’s back on the street food scene. (more…)

02/19/14 9:57am
CM-MAMAS

An Italian-American cure for the wintertime blues.

If you’re anything like me you’ve had enough of winter. So today’s Sandwich Wednesday is for you and me, one of my summertime favorites, the Mama’s Special ($7.50) from Leo’s Latticini in Corona. I like to eat it in the backyard of the neighboring cafe, which like most of Queens is still a frozen waste land.

Unlike other Italian combos, which employ an entire deli case of meats, this hero takes a more restrained approach. Three ingredients: Genoa salami, pepper ham, and creamy white mozzarella are tucked into a semolina loaf. You will be asked if you want roasted peppers and marinated mushrooms. It’s an offer you shouldn’t refuse. I’d give my lucky chopsticks to eat one right now and watch Corona’s boys of summer play boccie in nearby Spaghetti Park. And, of course an Italian ice for dessert.

Leo’s Latticini (Mama’s of Corona), 46-02 104th St., Corona, 718-898-6069

01/20/14 10:02am
TLAYUDA1

Way better than Taco Bell’s Mexican pizza.

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.

(more…)

10/30/13 10:16am
TORTASELECCION

Bisteck a la Mexicana is the star of La Seleccion.

“I’m sorry my friend. After tomorrow, no more tortas for you,” Galdino “Tortas” Molinero said as I perused the menu of Tortas Neza. The six-month permit for his mobile temple of tortas and fútbol runs out on Halloween, but Tortas is closing shop the day before.

“But where shall I go to procure a Mexican soccer themed sandwich the size of my head in the middle of the night,” I thought. Actually that’s a lie my thoughts were more like, “Better try something I haven’t had before.” That’s how I wound up eating a not so little number called La Seleccion ($9). Like of all of his sandwiches it’s named after a Mexican  fútbol club and is so messy that I took my watch off. (I also removed my jacket and did a warm up stretch.) (more…)

09/13/13 10:02am

As I wrote earlier this week the ginormous Pumas from Corona’s Tortas Neza, is one of my favorite sandwiches in Queens. It’s named for the truck’s owner’s favorite soccer team. The truck offers many other slightly less titanic sandwiches, each named for a Mexican soccer team. About a month ago some pals and I met up with  James Boo to help him produce the above video love letter “to the moment of celebration when your oversized, painstakingly assembled sandwich hits the counter, informing you that those dinner plans will have to be postponed.” Tortas Neza is also one of the many food trucks and vendors that will be at the upcoming Viva La Comida! festival in Jackson Heights.

09/11/13 10:02am

There are a lot of sandwiches to be had in Queens, so for this week’s Sandwich Wednesday, I thought I’d call out seven of my favorites. Some are big, and some are small, but they’re all delicious and hold a special place in my heart and stomach.

Each sandwich is about the size of yiour head.

Each sandwich is about the size of your head.

1. Tortas Pumas,Tortas Neza
You’ll need to round up some amigos to help you eat this $14 behemoth from Queens’ tastiest torta truck. The ingredients include headcheese, a chorizo omelet, and fried hot dogs. 111th St. and Roosevelt Avenue, Corona

Scotch bonnet pepper sauce makes it even more bangin’.

Scotch bonnet pepper sauce makes it even more bangin’.

2. Bangamary Sandwich, Sybil’s Restaurant & Bakery
A crunchy fried fillet of bangamary—also known as the king weakfish—is tucked into a Guyanese roll. What makes this sandwich ($6) truly great though is a medley of condiments, including tamarind and tartar sauce. A bit of fruity, fiery Scotch bonnet sauce sends the whole thing into the flavor stratosphere. 132-17 Liberty Ave., Richmond Hill,  718-835-9235 (more…)