08/13/14 11:44am
labne

Wafa’s labne and zaytoon, my idea of health food.

“Why don’t you weigh 300 pounds?” It’s a question get asked all too often. “I mean with all the good stuff you eat,” the non-food-writer person continues in amazement after seeing me take down an entire order of 15 lamb dumplings and then bewail the fact that I have a dinner meeting in two hours at some temple of meat or another. The number is always 300 pounds—roughly twice my current body weight—never 275, 350, or 412. Depending on who’s asking I’ll either make a crack about ingesting tapeworms purchased on Roosevelt Avenue, roll my eyes, or both. (more…)

06/20/14 10:32am
KATSUNO2

Katsuno’s carpaccio made me rethink salmon.

I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve ordered salmon at a sushi bar. At least one of those times was a monstrous Philadelphia roll. Novelty rolls are common at Japanese restaurants in Queens, but not at Katsuno. Yuka Seo and her husband Chef Seo pride themselves on authenticity at their Forest Hills sushi haven. (more…)

05/16/14 10:23am
8792823342_7ff65bee61

Serving up some satay at last year’s festival

I count myself a huge fan of the Indonesian Food Bazaars held every summer at Masjid al Hikmah in Astoria. So I was even more excited when I received an e-mail about an Indonesian Food Bazaar being held this Saturday in Forest Hills. I was unable to make last year’s event, but I’ll be there with bells on this year.

It all goes down from 12 p.m. to 5 p.m. in the auditorium of the First Presbyterian Church of Forest Hills, 70-35 112th St., with proceeds to benefit Ranah Orphanage in Lampung, Indonesia.

I’m especially eager to try nasi goreng babat, beef tripe fried rice and tekwan, minced fishball soup from Palembang. The organizers also have other surpises in store including such exotic ingredients as torch ginger flower, keluwak nut, sator bean, and blue pea flower. There will also be Burmese food. Looks like I’ll have to bring my spare stomach to this one folks.

12/04/13 11:10am
WAFA-CAULI

Wafa’s cauliflower sandwich is a Lebanese delight.

For the longest time the scope of my Middle Eastern vegetable sandwich knowledge was limited to the mighty falafel. After all what’s not to like? Pita stuffed with the crunchy, fried, cheap, and flavorful orbs got me through  many misspent East Village nights in my twenties. The falafel at Wafa’s is excellent, and even better with the fiery hot sauce made by her son, Youssef, and the addition of crunchy pickled turnips. The last time I visited the Lebanese spot in Forest Hills I decided to broaden my horizons with what family matriarch and chef Wafa Chaimi describes as “something different”: a fried cauliflower sandwich ($6). (more…)

11/18/13 12:21pm
KNISHPIEROGIE

Knish Nosh’s perogies are pure Eastern European comfort food.

Sixty-year-old Knish Nosh is best known for its namesake old school New York City snack. The Forest Hills shop sells seven varieties of hand-rolled potato knishes, including sweet potato, broccoli, and mushroom. As much as I love the knishes, come late fall I like to snack on one of Knish Nosh’s lesser known, but heartier potato products: perogies. The hefty packages smothered in caramelized onions taste like they were cooked up on the stove of an Eastern European grandmother. That grandmother would be Romanian-born Ana Vasilescu, who prepares spinach and potato varieties ($2.50) as well as ones packed with brisket ($2.50). I prefer potato, but when especially hungry I get brisket. I have yet to try the spinach version, but I am sure it’s only a matter of time before my adopted Romanian grandmother tells me to eat my vegetables.

Knish Nosh, 100-30 Queens Blvd., Forest Hills, 718-897-5554

11/11/13 10:03am
WAFAKIBBE

Lamb tartare is a Thanksgiving favorite for Wafa’s family.

I suppose there are some people who are disgusted by the very idea of eating raw meat. I am not one of them. Beef tartare is of my favorite things to eat. Once I even had horse tartare, which was quite good. I am especially fond of other cultures raw meat dishes and relish Korean yuk hwe and Thai num tuk. So when I heard Wafa’s was making a Lebanese lamb tartare I knew I had to try it. (more…)

09/24/13 9:45am
DIMSUMJURY

Dim sum at East Ocean Palace will lift your spirits if you are on jury duty.

“A food writer?” Judge Ira H. Margulis asked as I squirmed in my seat hoping not to be picked.”Well, what’s good to eat around here?” “With the exception of Dani’s House of Pizza it all stinks,” I replied. As a reward for my culinary candor both the defense attorney and the assistant district attorney deemed me fit to sit on a jury. The case was expected to take a week or less. It wound up taking 10 days.

In those 10 days I found only two things that were truly delicious. One was the dim sum at East Ocean Palace (113-09 Queens Boulevard, Forest Hills), a short walk from Queens Borough Hall. If only I’d served in Manhattan, then I could have undertaken a survey of the neighborhoods Vietnamese sandwiches, Cantonese roast meats, or eaten myself silly at Xi’an Famous Foods. Alas I was serving my time in Kew Gardens, where East Ocean Palace is the only game in town for good Chinese. The dim sum—shrimp in rice noodle, flaky pork pies, and dumplings—was quite nice, but one juror can only eat so much dim sum. (more…)

09/18/13 10:04am
boulangerieduck

Salty focacia plays nice with the duck and mozzarella.

Ever since it opened a few years ago I’ve been a fan of Francois Delano’s bakery La Boulangerie, It turns out the best baguettes in Queens as well as some killer croissants and other Viennoiserie. And with all that bread it’s inevitable that there’d be sandwiches. The croque-monsieur is quite lovely here, oozing Béchamel and topped with Gruyère. Recently Delano added a new sandwich to the menu, canard fumé, or smoked duck breast ($8). Thick slabs of the bakery’s salty focacia are layered with smoked duck breast, mozzarella, basil and tomatoes. It’s not a sandwich that will make you slap the table with epicurean glee, but it’s a pleasant change of pace in a somewhat lackluster food neighborhood. Consider it a mozzarella and tomato sandwich for French carnivores.

La Boulangerie, 109-01 72nd Rd., Forest Hills, 347-644-5606

08/15/13 9:54am
Mohammed Malik traveled to Jackson Heights to feast on Pakistani offal for his 25th birthday.

Mohammed traveled to Queens to feast on Pakistani offal for his 25th birthday.

Hey Joe I saw you on Bizarre Foods America with Andrew Zimmern eating that Pakistani dish. My parents are from Pakistan and I haven’t had the opportunity to try tawa kata-kat. I can’t find the name of the restaurant so I can go there. Can you please provide me the name and address? I will be visiting New York this coming Saturday for my 25th birthday. Thanks.
Mohammed Malik, St. Louis, Mo.

Young man, enthusiastic offal eaters like you are the future of our nation. Tawa kata-kat, the fry up of goat brains, kidneys, and heart seasoned with ginger and chili can be had at Kababish, 70-64 Broadway, Jackson Heights, (718) 565-5131. (more…)

05/24/13 4:25pm

Last Saturday I still had a whole hog hangover and had a food tour to lead, so I knew there was no chance I’d be able to attend the Forest Hills Indonesian Food Festival, even though it was practically in my back yard. So I’m very glad that my pal Peter Cucè agreed to do a guest post about it. Peter Cucè is a food-obsessed coffee lover who intermittently chronicles New York City cafe culture via a variety of internet outlets. He has eaten his way through nearly every cuisine available locally and beyond and is now systematically working his way through regional Chinese and Korean food in Flushing and Sunset Park and cataloging his efforts via Instagram. You can also catch Peter on Twitter @petekachu. Take it away Peter . . .

Indonesian Food Festivial | Forest Hill | Queens

The Queens-based southeast Asian food festivals have been coming thick and fast now that spring has sprung, beginning with the mid-April Songkran New Year festival at the Thai temple in Elmhurst, followed a week later (Sunday April 21st) with the inaugural 2013 date of the monthly outdoor Indonesian food festival at Astoria’s Masjid Al Hikmah, and Myanmar’s Lunar New Year fair rounding out the month.

May hasn’t been slouching in this department either, with this past weekend seeing another Burmese festival, one that happens periodically in the warmer months, at Aviation High School; a one-off Indonesian food festival this past Saturday, a fundraiser for the Roslin Orphanage in Kupang, Indonesia, held at the First Presbyterian Church of Forest Hills; and this coming Sunday, the second iteration of the monthly Indonesian mosque festival held in the parking lot behind Astoria’s Masjid Al-Hikmah.

Besides being indoors, compared to the monthly mosque festival, this past weekend’s Indonesian event was conceptually different, because pork was on the menu. Although Indonesia is predominantly Muslim, Christians make up around 10% of the population. The church vendors were mostly Javanese/Chinese, while the people cooking at the mosque tend to be Sumatran, although there are also some Javanese at the mosque and vice versa. This ethnic religious influence reflects on the food available at each event, with the church’s Central Java leanings generally resulting in overall sweeter food, seasoned with kecap manis (sweet soy sauce) and palm sugar, compared to the mosque, where dishes tend to be spicier and more savory, with flavor enhancers such as shrimp paste. One major exception is the sate padang, a well-known Sumatran dish, which is almost always available at the mosque event and was notably available at the church, as I’ll get into a little more below.

Indonesian Food Festivial | Forest Hill | Queens

Since there wasn’t anywhere for the participants to do more than the most rudimentary cooking (in actuality just reheating), this event for the most part offered food cooked ahead time and assembled at the church, whereas at the mosque a good portion of the food is cooked from scratch on site.

Once my Indonesian posse and some other friends arrived, we armed ourselves with $20 or so worth of tickets each and spread out, hunting for tasty items and bringing them back to the group for sharing, a useful strategy for trying lots of things without getting full too quickly.

Indonesian Food Festivial | Forest Hill | Queens

On the side of the dimly lighted, cavernous room opposite the door, one of the first tables was staffed by several generations of women ladling soto babat, a yellow tripe soup with glass noodles, into quart-size plastic containers. (more…)