03/03/21 7:40pm

“Hugue literally said that you inspired the sandwich,” Sarah Obraitis told me via text. The creation in question? A foie gras sandwich that recently landed on the menu at their restaurant M. Wells in Long Island City. While I’m flattered by Chef Hugue Dufour’s comment, I take it with a grain or two of fleur du sel. As for the sandwich, I went to try it last weekend and wasn’t quite sure what to expect other than decadence. I did have a hazy memory of a photo of an orb of fattened duck liver that looked like it had been dispatched with an ice cream scoop.

The $24 sandwich consists of a generous ball of creamy foie perched atop a bun slathered with homemade membrillo, aka quince paste. Call it what you will, its tart sweetness is a great counterpoint to the rich, creamy foie gras. For a moment I considered smushing the orb down and eating the whole lot like an actual sandwich, but decided against that for two reasons: 1) it would be really messy and 2) I wanted to prolong my gustatory bliss for as long as possible. So I spread a good deal of it on the top bun and fell to.

A few words about that bun, it is a challah bread dough that’s been treated like a croissant and has a bit of smoked eel in it. The whole experience took me back to the first time I ever tried foie gras at the River Cafe 20 years ago.
The smoked eel in the bread was a mere whisper, but it did call to mind a smoked eel croissant that Chef Dufour dreamed up for a Queens Dinner Club Brunch. So I guess I am in some sense the inspiration for this sandwich.

I enjoyed my main course of monkfish well enough, but that sandwich was a tough act to follow. Next time, I’m getting two. I wonder if the kitchen would put it on a baguette. Do I dare to dream of a foie gras banh mi? After all stranger and tastier things have happened at M. Wells and hopefully will continue to do so now that restaurants are back open at 35% and the end of the pandemic is in sight.

M. Wells, Steakhouse, 43-15 Crescent St, Long Island City, NY 11101

10/07/19 6:52pm

The brunch scene back in the glory days of M. Wells Diner.

I know what you’re thinking, “‘Queens Brunch Club??,’ Joe hates brunch, and isn’t it called ‘Queens Dinner Club’ anyhow?” All true, but for this month Jonathan, Gabe (they hate brunch too), and I are changing the name of our little eating organization to Queens Brunch Club. That’s because we are hosting a brunch at M. Wells Steakhouse on October 26th. Make sure you don’t miss out on this very special dinner by signing up for our mailing list here.

“Québecois Chef Hugue Dufour of M. Wells has created a chef’s brunch for chefs that hate brunch. Not an egg or hash brown to be found here,” says Chef Jonathan. “Nothing but fantastical visions of food turned into reality.” (more…)

03/16/15 12:01pm


Yellowtail tartare, so much more than the sum of its multicultural parts.


Four years ago when Danny Yi opened Salt & Fat it was pretty groundbreaking. After all, the only small plates Sunnyside had ever seen were the mezze from the local Turkish joint. Each meal began with a paper bag filled with bacon fat fried popcorn, a treat that evoked the restaurant’s name, and ended with a shot of probiotic Yakult yogurt drink, a beverage more commonly seen in Korean restaurants. It’s a touch that evokes Yi’s Korean heritage. In between there was an oxtail terrine that called to mind a meat brownie, shaved foie gras with bacon brittle, and a pork trotter transformed into a crispy panko breaded croquette crowned with a slow-cooked egg. (more…)

10/23/14 10:36am


Photo: @kat_odell

Foie gras, the rich decadent fatty liver of a duck or goose, always pairs well with something sweet like a glass of Sauternes, or perhaps some maple syrup. Leave it to Sam Mason and his crew at OddFellows Ice Cream Co. to turn it into a frozen confection. Last year the scoop shop served foie gras ice cream paired with a tart blueberry soda. This year Mason created something a little more playful, a drumstick that childhood staple. The inside of the cone is lined with dark chocolate and the scoop of foie gras ice cream is also covered in chocolate and then sprinkled with peanuts. The adult treat comes with a grownup price too, $7. It was well worth it last Friday on what I am pretty sure was the last day of Indian Summer.

OddFellows Ice Cream Co.,  175 Kent Ave, Brooklyn, 347-599-0556;  75 East 4th St., 917-475-1812

09/18/14 10:35am

smooklerJoshua Smookler the man behind Pete Wells’ favorite ramen has been a busy man of late. In between the birth of his daughter and the run-up to Mu Ramen,which is set to open mid to late October, he was kind enough answer Seven Questions.

Will you be unveiling any new ramen?
Yes, we will have four types of ramen that will be seasonal. Three of the ramens will always be on the menu; Mu Ramen, Spicy Miso, and the Tonkotsu 2.0. I have not decided which four we will open with but we will always have five ramens on the menu and one rotating on a weekly basis.

What types of ramen could they be? It could be anything from Tsukemen, Foie, Duck, Pata Negra, Parmesan, Seafood, Shoyu, Yuzu, Paitan, Kimchi…basically these ramens I have mentioned I have already made.

They are all very delicious, but I want to keep it fresh. So we will see which are popular and which are not. It really depends on the guests, how I feel, and what inspires me. (more…)

03/05/14 11:40am


Call me a foie gras philistine if you must.

As most C+M readers know I don’t often dine out in Manhattan’s Theater District, but when my pal Chef Dave, said he could set me up with a tasting at Gaby, I figured why not. Chef Sylvain Harribey laid out a lovely four-course meal. It included a wonderful rack of lamb, but my favorite by far was the declination  de foie gras, mainly because it included a DIY foie gras sandwich.  (more…)

12/05/13 10:57am

VZW Food Crawl - Tour Group

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…)

08/06/13 10:39am

Best liver ice cream ever!

Best liver ice cream ever!

I am not one to wait in Soviet-style lines for Cronuts, Nutcros, or Empanosas. And, if I am going to spend my valuable time waiting in line for the latest edible sign of the end of the apocalypse said time will not commence at 5 a.m. I suppose that’s why I thought it would be a good idea to wait in line for the Ramen Burger last Saturday morning at Smorgasburg. The Williamsburgh waterfront is a mere 45-minute ride away from my house and the rain will likely keep the crowds down I reasoned.

Curiosity to try the burger with ramen noodle bun caused me to break two of my rules: travelling to Brooklyn and engaging in food faddery. When I got on the bus I heard that line was already 50 people deep. Then my friend Sam Kim texted me to say he was number 110 on the line. When I got there the line snaked all over the market. Sam told me that the Ramen Burgermeisters had been through the line twice and assured him that he’d get a burger. Wrong. After about an hour on the line a gent came by to tell everybody that the Hype Burger—I mean Ramen Burger—was sold out. I seem to remember chanting “Attica!! Attica!!” upon hearing the bad news. All of us briefly entertained the idea of slugging someone and snatching their Ramen Burger, but reason prevailed. (more…)

01/14/13 8:19am

Oatmeal with dried fruit and nuts  is great way to start the day.

Oatmeal with dried fruit and nuts is great way to start the day.

I suspect coarse-cut oatmeal with dried fruit and nuts is a breakfast nutritionists would call ideal. I say suspect because I don’t talk to many nutritionists. When I do eat oatmeal I take it with a pat of butter and sugar allowing the two to melt together in the center of the bowl before stirring it up. In fact until this past weekend I had never had oatmeal with dried fruit and nuts. And I didn’t know I was ordering it either for what I ordered at M. Wells Dinette was  dish listed on the chalkboard menu as something like foie and oats with maple ($16). There was no mention of the crunchy granola component of this hautemeal on the menu at all.

Breakfast of champions.

Breakfast of champions.

Leave it to Hugue Dufour to cast such a decadent meat as the star of a dish that seems like it could have come from the Moosewood Cookbook. Dried cranberries, blueberries, apricots, and walnuts are right at home with maple and oatmeal, but seem out of place with foie. One spoonful of the rich sweet, fatty concoction dispelled any such concern. In a flash of gastronomic alchemy foie gras became virtuous and oatmeal rose to an unparalleled level of decadence. I forgive the kitchen for sneaking dried fruit in to my breakfast unannounced.

M. Wells Dinette, MoMA PS1, 22-25 Jackson Ave at 46th Ave., Long Island City, 718-786-1800

01/02/13 12:20pm


The line for Hot Doug’s, snakes around the corner.


For a long while my thoughts on the Chicago food scene were limited to deep-dish pizza, the SNL sketch about the Billy Goat Tavern, steakhouses, and gussied up hot dogs. When I became more of a gourmand these ideas were supplanted by a strong desire to sample Grant Achatz’s modernist culinary wizardry. In the spring of 2011 I took a weeklong trip to the Windy City with the aim of trying as much of the city’s food as possible. My traveling companion Chef Bruce had chosen quite an itinerary, including everything from Jimmy Bannos’ Cajun spot, Heaven on Seven and his newer joint, The Purple Pig, to a Thai banquet. As much as I wanted to try Lou Malnati’s deep dish pizza, my staunch eating buddy forbade it. We did however both agree that we should try to snag same-day cancellations for M. Achatz’s restaurant Next, which had just made its debut with a menu devoted to Paris in 1906. Unfortunately we did not get a seating. For almost a year afterward I continued to receive text alerts on my phone. It was torture to receive alerts about the restaurant’s second iteration, a tribute to Thai cuisine.

Hot Doug's foie gras and truffle topped duck sausage.

Hot Doug’s foie gras and truffle topped duck sausage.

To this day the only traditional Chicago style hot dog I’ve eaten—dragged through the garden with sport peppers, tomatoes, and onions among other things—has been at the original location of the Shake Shack in New York City. Chef Bruce and I were after wieners of a somewhat loftier pedigree, haute dogs. Our first stop Hot Doug’s, offers dozens of decidedly gourmet dogs. I had been reading about Doug’s foie gras topped number for years. The snappy foie gras and Sauternes duck sausage was lashed with truffle sauce and gilded with five slices of rich and creamy foie gras mousse. Stupendously delicious, and a bargain at $10.  Lately they have been offering turducken sausage ($8), with pumpkin cream and cranberry-infused Brillat Savarin cheese. I am planning my next trip already.

Dragged through the garden, Asian style at Belly Shack.

Dragged through the garden, Asian style at Belly Shack.

Our next stop was Belly Shack, Bill Kim’s Asian street food spot in the hip hood of Wicker Park. There we had the Belly Dog ($9), an Asian spin on the classic Chicago dog. The tubesteak was slathered with chili sauce and curry mayo and topped with papaya salad, crunchy noodles,and fried shallots. With toppings like these who needs sport peppers?