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…)

10/16/16 11:05pm
kukalo

Lunza kukalo, Cypriot style smoked pork ribs marinated in red wine, rubbed with crushed coriander.

Just as Jackson Heights has long been associated with South Asian and Indian cuisine Astoria is renowned for its Greek tavernas, but it’s also home to another cuisine that’s often confused with Greek. I speak of Cypriot cuisine, a product of a nation that sits at the crossroads of Europe, Africa, and Asia. And the best place to enjoy this wonderful style of cooking which bears Greek, Sicilian and Middle Eastern influences is Zenon Taverna. Which is precisely why the boys from Queens Dinner Club and I chose it for this month’s dinner on 10/26. To find out when tickets go on sale, be sure to watch our Facebook page.

“Everyone thinks we’re a European country, but we’re actually part of Asia,” said Elena, daughter of Zenon Taverna’s founder Stelios Papageorgiou. “We’re just below Turkey and right above Egypt.”

Many people conflate Cypriot and Greek cuisine, but Elena is quick to point out they are quite different. One of the main differences is the prevalence of pork. “We use pork for everything,” she said. “The reason for it is we’re a small island and pigs are easier to raise.” (more…)

05/23/16 4:23pm
Loukomades

Little Greek doughnuts, aka loukoumades, at Astoria’s Cafe Boulis.

“Let’s go to the place with the little Greek doughnuts,” my friend Jane said. We’d just had a lovely Thai lunch at Pye Boat Noodle. After I confessed my ignorance of little Greek doughnuts, we set out for our dessert destination.

“Oh, gosh I’ve passed this place dozens of times,” I said  when we arrived at Cafe Boulis. Like many Greek cafes in Astoria the little space hums with a caffeinated energy. Directly opposite the door a sign reading, “LOUKOUMADES MADE FRESH TO ORDER” graces the Greek doughnut station. Behind the glass lies a fryer that evokes memories of fresh fried zeppole for St. Joseph’s Day and the spectacle of watching Krispy Kremes receive a cascade of glaze as they come  down the conveyor belt. (more…)

12/15/14 10:12am
SWINEWAFFLE1

Nothing quite says Carolina ‘cue like spinach pie.

Much like Tyson Ho, pitmaster and proprietor of Arrogant Swine, New York City’s only Eastern North Carolina BBQ joint I am a fan of the spanakopita, or spinach pie. Or at least I am a fan of the idea of it—shattering layers of phyllo filled with a flavorful mixture of spinach and cheese—which is never attained. The ones I have are usually soggy or stale. Not so for Ho’s spinach pie ($6), which is crunchy and crispy thanks to being cooked in a waffle iron. (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…)

10/04/13 10:15am

Rap has made it all around the world my friend Damianos said marveling at the Tibetan hiphop that played in the background as we munched on momos and laphing at Himalaya Kitchen. “There’s this Greek dude, So Tiri, who raps about food,” he said describing a video about feta and a visit to Titan Foods in Astoria. And to think I thought Action Bronson was the only Queens-based food rapper. I tracked down the song “Feta Kai Psomi,”whose title translates to feta with bread and had a good laugh. I also found out So Tiri is actually a Bronx boy. Nevertheless,  he’s Greek through and through and has written a love song to his favorite cheese, or so I learned after reading the English lyrics. “I drink the broth from the pail with fish roe salad for a snack,” the Greek parody rapper sings as a profession of his affection for the salty cheese. Oh, and, in case you were wondering, that’s not a dog he’s walking in the video, it’s a goat.

07/12/13 10:00am
Matt Gelfand and Tyson Ho prepared Eastern North Carolina BBQ.

Matt Gelfand and Tyson Ho prepared Eastern North Carolina BBQ.

Last night Edible Queens celebrated its relaunch with Summerbeat in Sunnyside Gardens Park. The event’s theme “Eat meat, drink beer,” echoed that of the magazine’s summer issue, which includes some great articles about local butchers and brewers as well as my new column, At the Table. It was a very special evening on many levels. For one thing summer has always meant cookouts. Over the years the cookouts in my life have grown in scale from backyard grilling to the smoking of hogs, but the aroma of roasting meat in summer remains as welcome to me as the sight of the first fireflies of July. (more…)

06/11/13 10:23am
For some reason Souvlaki King has a siren on top.

For some reason Souvlaki King has a siren on top.

With the exception of Chinese skewers and anticuchos the last time I had meat on a stick was more than a decade ago. The details are hazy, but I’m certain the meat in question was of the souvlaki variety, essentially a kebab with a hunk of bread impaled on the end. Lately I’ve been passing by Souvlaki King an Astorian purveyor of sandwiches—and you guessed it—meat on a stick. Yesterday I finally succumbed to the siren call of smoke and meat at the stand on the corner of 31st Ave. and 31st St. A red siren sits atop the stand, silently flashing. As it spins it conjures up images of brothers George and Kostas Tsampas as souvlaki EMTs, or better still super heroes. (more…)