One of the first places I lived in Queens was Woodside. Walking Roosevelt Avenue to hit Thai places, Filipino spots, and taco trucks turned me on to the delicious diversity of food that makes the borough my favorite place to live, eat, and play. There’s one place I never frequented in all my time in Woodside though, La Flor, a cafe restaurant helmed by journeyman Chef Viko Ortega. I only just got around to meeting Chef Viko and trying his wonderful nuanced dishes. I was mightily impressed by his cooking. As were my friends Chef Jonathan Forgash and Gabe Gross of Queens Dinner Club. That’s we’ve decided to have Chef Viko cook our next dinner Mexico Meets France and Italy via Roosevelt Ave. which takes Tuesday May 17, 2016, 7:30 p.m. Chef Viko was kind enough to take some time away from the kitchen to answer seven questions.
How did you get into cooking?
I started baking when I was 13 years old in my hometown of Puebla, Mexico. In 1987 when I was 21 the main reason I came here was that I was tired of baking. So I came here and figured out that the only way to make decent money was back to the kitchen. I started doing pizza and pastry and salads. I cooked at dozens of restaurants including Larry Forgione’s An American Place. I can’t get away from baking though. The starter I use to make all the breads at La Flor is 24 years old.
Atlantic salmon with potato gallettes.
How would you characterize your cooking at La Flor?
I would say it’s a combination of everything I learned. I mix Italian, French, Mexican—that’s one of my favorites—a little bit of Asian. So it’s kind of fusion and I just love food. The dishes that you’re going to find here you’re not going to find anywhere else, I just love to play.It’s me. (more…)
Tutti Matti brings Calabria and Sicily together via the magic of pasta.
Growing up in an Italian-American household the product of Sicilian and Calabrian heritage, I didn’t learn much proper Italian. My language lessons were limited to staizitt’ and the like. Thus it’s not surprising that when I first heard of the maccheroncini dello stretto at Long Island City’s Tutti Matti, I assumed the name meant “little macaroni of the street.” This assumption was aided by a spicy seafood flavor that called to mind spaghetti alla puttanesca. After all it doesn’t get more street than the whore’s pasta. (more…)
When people ask me about traveling, my stock response is something along the lines of “I’m still working my way through Queens.” Lucky for me I have friends who travel that I can live and eat vicariously through, friends like Kristen Baughman, who was kind enough to write a guest post about a certain porchetta sandwich in Florence that goes by the name L’Inferno.
I spent the past two months traveling around the Middle East indulging in giant plates of hummus and late-night chicken shawarma sandwiches. So, when I discovered that a flight back to New York City was cheaper if I did a stopover in Italy, I had to extend my trip for two more weeks. Plus, my stomach was ready to be filled with as many pork products as physically possible. I was ecstatic to enter the land of unlimited amounts of porchetta,culatello and prosciutto! (more…)
With summer coming to a fiery close, I thought it would be a good idea for Sandwich Wednesday to get its last licks in with a list of four of our favorite ice cream sandwiches in New York City.
1. Redd Foxx at Mikey Likes It
It’s probably a good thing that Mikey Likes It Ice Cream, the hiphop themed scoop shop in the East Village is a good 45-minute subway ride from me, otherwise I’d be in here every day scarfing down a Redd Foxx. Named for the salacious comedian it’s a freshly made red velvet waffle encasing a scoop of ice cream. Mikey Likes It Ice Cream, 199 Avenue A, 646-896-1836
2. Pandi Ice Cream at House of Inasal
The pandi-ice cream ($5.50) at House of Inasal is surely the most elaborate pair of ice cream sandwiches to ever be served under the 7 train. It’s a duo of ube ice cream sandwiches topped with halaya, coconut, and pinipig. Young coconut and pinipig, a crunchy beaten rice, top each scoop of purple yam ice cream. The warm slightly sweet eggy buns are smeared with halaya, a rich spread made from ube, or purple yam. Pandi-ice cream is the best most purple ice cream sandwich in Queens. House of Inasal, 65-14 Roosevelt Ave., Woodside, 718-429-0709 (more…)
The bun can barely contain its contents of gelato and Chantilly cream.
“Oh my god you have to have the focaccine at Amorino,” my new friend Sara Massarotto told me last night in her broad Florentine accent over mounds and mounds of San Daniele prosciutto, speck, and ham at a swine and dine at Osteria del Principe hosted by my good friends at Tabelog and Joios! I ate a lot of pork product—thumbs up for both truffle ham and porchetta—but I didn’t let that deter me from trying the new gelato sandwich that Sara had enthused about. “Ask for Federico,” she reminded me as I left. (more…)
“It’s kind of like a banh mi,” the waitress said of the roast lamb sandwich at M. Wells Dinette. As I scanned the menu my eyes darted between the lamb sandwich ($12) and the spaghetti sandwich ($12). Lamb and Vietnamese sandwiches sit pretty high in my culinary pantheon, but ultimately I went with the spaghetti sandwich. It bears pointing out this kooky sandwich predates, that other noodle-based mashup, the ramen burger. (more…)
Sotto 13’s pork pie pizza topped with head cheese.
Last November I had the privilege of being taught how to make turducken by Ed Cotton, the executive chef of Sotto 13. “Come back some time; I’d love to feed you,” he told me after our lesson and frankenbird photo shoot. A couple of weeks ago I finally took him up on that offer.
The meal began with that week’s special pizza, pork pie. Provolone cheese, caramelized onions, and cabbage are topped with pork shank meat. Once the pie comes out of the oven it’s blnaketed with housemade coppa di testa and lashed with mustard vinaigrette. It’s like a subtler, more sophisticated version of an Italian combo sandwich. Cotton changes out the pizzas regularly and recent iterations have included beef carpaccio with creamy kale, wild mushrooms and fontina and this week’s special: spicy lamb sausage pizza with n’duja, ricotta, and mint. (more…)
When it comes to offal I’m one of the least squeamish people around, gladly gobbling everything from Southern fried chitterlings to Chinese lamb face salad. Friends often call me the Andrew Zimmern of Queens. That’s high praise, but there are some things even I can’t abide, like the coppery tasting blocks of blood often found in Chinese soups. A can get behind a savory morcilla enriched with rice and spice and I like a good British black pudding. And then there’s sanguinaccio. (more…)
Dip Dip, perhaps Flushing’s coolest looking hot pot spot.
This brutal winter has me craving Chinese hotpot. Do you have a favorite place? — Jane S., College Point I’m not the biggest fan of huo gou, or fire pot as it’s known in Chinese, but I had a great experience at Dip Dip (135-21A 37th Ave, Flushing, 718-888-0711) recently. Apart from excellent hotpot—with such add-ins as baby ginseng and well-marbled ribbons of beef and lamb—the place looks like a movie set. I half expected Lucy Liu and her henchman to come leaping out of the upper room. This weather makes me want to go back and try the medicinal black chicken pot. (more…)
There are many, many sandwiches to be had in New Orleans as I learned when my fellow Chowzters set themselves the mission of eating every po’ bo they could get their hands on. I skipped that mission and focused my sandwich eating energies on the muffuletta. Leave it to this Italian-American boy to go all the way to New Orleans for a Sicilian sandwich.
Central Grocery, located in the Big Easy’s French Quarter is credited with inventing this Sicilian sandwich combo. It takes its name from the round sesame seed-studded Sicilian loaf. Central’s version consists of Genoa salami, mortadella, ham, mozzarella, and provolone, dressed with an olive salad. My eating buddy Joe “Hungry Dude” Hakim split a half sandwich as we were saving room for yet another Italian-American meal, fried chicken at Fiorella’s. (more…)