12/30/16 11:41pm

With 2016 coming to a close, it’s time to take a look back at the year that was. It was a big year for me and for food in Queens, including a feature in Asahi Shimbun and the discovery of the durian pizza. In no particular order here are 16 of the best things I ate last year.

MRCRISPY

1. Best Grilled Cheese
Mr. Crispy, a grilled cheese sandwich served at Astoria Bier & Cheese answers the question, “How good can a grilled cheese be?” with a resounding “very, very good.”  The sandwich of cave aged gruyere, ham and honey mustard is coated in  mantle of white crispy cheese. This coating extends outward into a golden lacy corolla, a veritable halo of crispy cheese. It’s crunchy, sharp, and eminently craveable. I’ve haven’t been this excited about fried cheese since Joe Bastianich’s ill-fated Frico Bar. Astoria Bier & Cheese, 34-14 Broadway, Astoria, 718-545-5588

 

whitspie

2.  Most Fabulous F***in’ Clam Pizza
The salciccia e vongole pizza at Whit’s End is the best clam pie I’ve had outside of Zuppardi’s. Housemade sausage seasoned with clove, star, anise, juniper, and allspice join the Littleneck clams along with pepperoncini and shaved garlic. The combination of the fior di latte mozzarella and  Parmigianno Regianno round things out quite nicely. Whit’s End, Riis Park Beach Bazaar

 

HakkaHotChicken

3. Hottest Off-menu Indian-Chinese Chicken
Nashville may have cayenne-infused hot chicken, but here in Queens we have something I like to call hakka hot chicken. Peter Lo, Queens’ godfather of Indian-Chinese cuisine and founder of Tangra Masala, whipped up a batch for me a while back. The hacked up bits of fried bird sauced in a glaze that marries the flavors of chili, soy sauce, vinegar, and garlic call to mind Dominican style chicharron de pollo with an Indian-Chinese twist. Tangra Masala, 87-09 Grand Ave., Elmhurst, 718-803-2298

 

4. Best Breakfast Sandwich
I count myself a big fan of the classic bacon egg and cheese, but my favorite breakfast sandwich of 2017 contains no swine whatsoever. The breakfast sandwich at Roast n Co combines organic eggs, tomato jam, and Cabot white cheddar on a brioche make for one of the best egg sandwiches ever. Since Roast n co is run by Tunisians you have the option of asking for a sidecar of harissa, a lovely concoction of chili peppers, olive oil, and paprika. It’s an option you should exercise. Roast n Co, 100-12 Queens Blvd. Forest Hills, 718-263-6000

The action at Majang Dong takes place out back.

5. Most Secret Korean BBQ Garden
Korean barbecue always brings to mind happy memories of backyard barbecues. At Flushing’s Majang Dong the Korean BBQ that takes place in an actual backyard. Chef Yu and his family run what some might call a Korean BBQ speakeasy. Sure there’s a storefront and inside you’ll find a restaurant, but the real action takes place out back in the shack and garden. Say you’re there for BBQ,  and Mrs. Yu will walk you out the back door into a Korean BBQ wonderland. Pork kalbi and pork belly are both lovely, and there’s eel and octopus for seafood lovers, but one of the best meats is grilled pork intestines. With a crunchy exterior and chewy interior, the fatty rings eat like an offal lover’s version of pork cracklins. Majang Dong, 41-71 Bowne St., Flushing, 718-460-2629 (more…)

09/29/16 11:17pm
PELLICCIFUSION

A fusion full English at London’s E. Pellicci.

There’s a reason they call the British breakfast classic a full English. The army of breakfast meats—bangers, bacon, sausage, and blood pudding—and eggs supplemented by mushrooms, tomatoes, and fried bread is a joy to eat and behold. The best full English this Italian-American boy ever had was at an Italian-run cafe called E. Pellicci in London’s Bethnal Green. It’s been in the Pellicci family since 1900 when Elide and Primo Pellicci opened shop. And so has the recipe for Penne Pellicci—a plate of pasta and pesto—that the waiter Tony drizzled with olive oil when I visited a few years ago. It was a fine carb supplement to an already prodigious feed. (more…)

06/08/16 10:11am
brothersegg

How green was my breakfast.

Back when I was a third-tier line cook in a pub, we used to keep pea shoots in house. They were great in salads and even better to munch on in the walk-in whilst shirking my duties. I would never have thought to put the peppery shoots on a breakfast sandwich. That’s exactly what Brothers, a new concession at Rockaway Beach, has done though.

It’s tempting to think of Brothers $8 breakfast sandwich as a merely an Egg McMuffin gone green, but it’s really a locals only breakfast sandwich. Those pea shoots come from a garden on Beach 97 Street, and the spelt flour blend muffin is made by local baker Diwa.

(more…)

04/20/16 5:35pm
C+M's new favorite breakfast sandwich.

Tomato jam and white cheddar make for a tasty breakfast sandwich.

The classic New York City bacon egg and cheese sandwich looms large in Gotham’s culinary consciousness, so much so that Times critic Pete Wells penned an ode to it around this time last year. In Forest Hills I purchase my breakfast sandwiches from a taciturn Central Asian gent who runs the coffee cart down the street from my apartment. That is to say I did, until Roast n Co opened its doors a few days ago. The new cafe/rotisserie chicken spot serves up what is fast becoming my favorite breakfast sandwich in the hood. (more…)

08/12/15 10:25am

It’s been a while since I’ve had sandwiches de miga, the dainty crustless Argentine triple deckers. Leave it to Youtube to stoke my hunger for them. La Cocina del Sandy makes several, including a lovely looking one with one ham and, hardboiled eggs, and pimento.

Before getting down to sandwich making she goes over miga mise en place—ham, roasted peppers, cheese, eggs, etc.—and then spends a good two minutes describing how to prepare a special mayonnaise in which manteca plays a crucial role. My Spanish is just good enough for me to understand some of what she says, but not good enough to understand the entire recipe.  All of which makes me very glad to live just a short subway ride away from La Nueva Bakery in Jackson Heights.

 

06/23/15 8:58am
Mamu’s roat det has an incredible depth of flavor.

Mamu’s roat det has an incredible depth of flavor.

There’s been such a renaissance of Thai cuisine in Queens that it’s sometimes hard to keep track of the players. Which is why I’m very glad my friend Connie asked me to lunch at Mamu Thai. I’ve been meanng to try the Astoria eatery, which got its start as a noodle truck for at least six months. We ate enough for a small army of Thai truckers that humid afternoon, but there are two dishes that stood out:one, a beguiling beef noodle soup, and the other a not-so-simple off-menu omelet. (more…)

01/28/15 10:06am
SWEETLEAFBRUNCH1A

Sweetleaf’s breakfast sandwich.

Breakfast is the most important meal of the day, brunch not so much, unless you count M. Wells Dinette or dim sum. Long before I read Anthony Bourdain’s takedown of the portmanteau meal in Kitchen Confidential, I was a brunch hater. A good breakfast sandwich—the classic New York City coffee cart bacon, egg, and cheese—however, is something I get can get behind. Heck I’ve even been known to enjoy a McGriddle. Which is why, despite my aversion to the meal, I’m glad Sweetleaf launched brunch this past weekend at its Long Island City waterfront location. The coffee and cocktail bar’s short menu features one of the best egg sandwiches I’ve had in a long time. (more…)

12/16/14 2:00am
SUGARCLUB3

‘Egg pan’ at the newly expanded Sugar Club.

I am not sure whether brunch is eaten in Thailand. I prefer to think it’s not. For the purpose of this dispatch though, I had a lovely two-part brunch in Elmhurst’s ever expanding Thai town. Stop number one was the newly renovated Sugar Club. In addition to seating and room for an entire table laden with prepared foods and desserts, the expansion includes a café area, which serves up desserts and a savory breakfast called egg pan ($5), or kai kra ta in Thai. (more…)

10/24/14 10:03am
KANES3

Steak and eggs steps away from Flushing’s Chinatown.

I’ve passed by it hundreds of times on the bus ride to downtown Flushing from my home base of Rego Park. “Kane’s Flushing Diner,” reads a sign looming over the brick building, which clearly predates the neighborhood’s Chinatown. “We Love Our High Class Customers,” is painted on the pavement.

Yet another sign announces, “WORLD FAMOUS STEAK & 3 EGGS $8.99.”  I’m always quick to proclaim the regional Chinese culinary wonderland of Flushing as America’s best Chinatown. It’s certainly world famous for noodles, dumplings, and Dongbei cuisine, but Flushing’s not exactly known as a destination for old-school diners.

(more…)

10/15/14 2:22pm
MCGRIDDLE

Best logo stamped fast-food breakfast sandwich ever.

“Do you eat fast food?” the physician’s assistant asked me yesterday during my annual checkup. For a moment I wondered whether cumin lamb skewers consumed on Queens street corners qualified and decided they did not fit the fast-food bill.

“About two or three times a year,” I responded. Most of those times are on road trips and the idea of the food—be it a Big Mac, Whopper, or Taco Bell Burrito Supreme—always far exceeds the end product. It’s as if I’m trying to capture some mystical childhood fast food experience. I’m convinced that if Hardee’s, which I recall as having magnificent char-grilled flavor, still existed in New York City I would be a happy man.  Call it chasing the fast food dragon. (more…)