Fish tacos are tricky business. The batter fried ones are OK, but to this eater they seem like little more than fish and chips gone South of the Border. I prefer my fish tacos with a batter and a hard fry like they do at Tortilleria Nixtamal, where they use skate wing. The other day though I encountered a kind of seafood taco I never tried, octopus tacos. (more…)
Alfonso Zhicay brought farm to table cuisine to Woodside.
As someone who’s been eating in Queens for more than 15 years I can safely say that I’ve never encountered a restaurant quite like Casa del Chef, an Ecuadorean-owned farm to table bistro around the corner from Filipino fast-food purveyor Jollibee. The chef in question is Alfonso Zhicay, who made his bones at places like Bouley and Union Pacific, and worked with Dan Barber for many years. I’m so very honored Chef Zhicay will be cooking alongside two other Queens culinary superstars Huge Dufour and Danny Brown at The Catskills Comes to Queens on August 1. Zhicay was kind enough to take the time out of his busy schedule to answer seven questions, including the accidental road to chefdom.
I’m so honored to have you participating in The Catskills Comes to Queens. Tell me about the dish you’ll be preparing August 1. It’s a seasonal favorite with our customers that combines savory and sweet: braised short ribs -cooked for 10 hours with lots of tamarind, fruit chutneys, Madeira wine and bay leaves.
What inspired you to open Casa del Chef? For many years I have been working with wonderful chefs in world-class restaurants. I have been looking for the right opportunity to open my own place where I can fully express my skills and passions in a cozy neighborhood setting.
What are some of your favorite ingredients to work with? There are so many, but a few of my favorites are sherry wine vinegar, basil oil lemon dressing, and of course fresh vegetables. (more…)
Refreshing and much easier to eat than its blockier cousin.
Lhasa Fast Food is a favorite stop on my Jackson Heights food tours. My fellow travelers are always amazed to discover a family-run Tibetan eatery tucked behind a cell phone store. The momo are excellent, too. The other day I made a discovery of my own—laphing serpo ($6)—while leading a tour of what I like to call Himalayan Heights.
“Yellow laphing,” the cook said when I gestured to a mass of what looked to be dough behind the counter. Laphing, slippery blocky cold mung bean jelly noodles, bathed in black vinegar, garlic and chilies is quite common on Tibetan menus. This was my first encounter with the yellow variety, though. (more…)
I love having guests on my food tours try po cha—the salty Tibetan butter tea—served throughout Himalayan (aka Jackson) Heights. I like the stuff particularly on a cold winter—or spring—day. Not everyone’s a fan, though. Andrew Zimmern hated butter tea when I introduced him to it. (more…)
Chorizo and chicarron give a one-two punch of porky goodness.
The crew over at Areperia Arepa Lady have been busy these past few months. In addition to enlarging the dining room they’ve added mini arepas and patacones. The latter consists of plaintains that have been mashed, flattened and fried. They’re then topped with avocado and various meats. I went for a mixta ($8.50), topped with carne asada, chicharron, and chorizo. The combination of crunchy plantain, creamy avocado, and the one-two punch of pork made for a magnificent gutbomb. “I’ve gained 20 pounds” since we opened the Arepa Lady’s son Alejandro told me as I polished off the last bite. I believe him, I think I gained five after my patacone.
Arepa Lady, 77-02AA Roosevelt Ave., Jackson Heights
Momo—juicy beef dumplings seasoned with ginger,onion, and special momo masala—are the national dish of Tibet. A Tibetan loves his momo as much an American loves his hamburger perhaps even more so. In no place in NewYork City is this more true than Jackson Heights. Momo are ubiquitous at the hood’s many Tibetan and Nepalese eateries. There are three food carts and a truck selling the dumplings and even an annual Momo Crawl founded by local tour guide Jeff Orlick. So it was only a matter of time before someone invented a momo burger. That time is now, and that someone is Lobsang Choephel, the chef of Little Tibet. (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…)
Last week I committed a crime against good taste. Spurred on by a blizzard of panic and the promise of free grub I ate at Chipotle. As a staunch believer in the law of culinary equilibrium, I soon realized my folly and had to set matters straight by eating some real Mexican food right quick. So the very next day I jumped on the 7, intending to grab some tacos de carnitas from Tortas Neza.(more…)
Up until last night I’d little or no idea which teams were competing in Super Bowl XLIX. I had a vague sense some outift from New England was involved. As C+M readers are no doubt aware football is far less important to me than food, especially the amazing array of crunchy, sweet, salty snacks from all over the world to be found in Queens. I like conventional junk food—chips, pretzels, and cheezy poofs—as much as the next glutton, but why stop there? So as a public service to sports fans everywhere I devote this edition of The Seven to Super Bowl snacks that showcase some of the best—and strangest junk food—Queens has to offer.
Crunchy Japanese crabs are a great drinking snack!
1. Kanikko Like many Japanesedrinking snackskanikko combines salty, fishy and sweet flavors along with crunchiness. The difference is that kanikko are actually teeny weeny crabs coated in sesame seeds. Find them at most Japanese grocery stores. Family Mart, 29-15, Broadway, Astoria, (718) 956-7925; Sakura Ya, 73-05 Austin St, Forest Hills, 718-268-7220
Festive tangles of Thai taro.
2. Thai taro crunch Not only are these tangles of fried taro sweet and crunchy, they’re fun to look at. Noi Sila owner of Thai Thai Grocery imports them from her homeland along with all sorts of other ingredients and goodies. While you’re there pick up some awesome Thai beef jerky to gnaw on while watching the game. Thai Thai Grocery, 76-13 Woodside Ave., Elmhurst, 917-769-6168 (more…)
As 2014 draws to a close rather than offer up a roster of resolutions—less chips more gym, save money, etc.—C+M presents a list of 14 of our favorite things, a highlight reel of the year that was. Let the mostly Queens-focused cavalcade of offal, mashups, secret eats, and overall deliciousness begin.
The rugelssaint at Andre’s Hungarian.
1. Sweetest mashup
Part pain au chocolat, part rugelach, all decadence the chocolate croissant—aka rugelssaint—at Andre’s Hungarian Bakery was my go-to guilty breakfast this year.
Ban Ga Ne’s got your large format goat feast needs covered.
2. Best goat meat bonanza Not only was the three-course black goat meat feast at Ban Ga Ne one of the best Korean meals I’ve had in a long time, it was some of the best goat I’ve ever had. Plus as the proprietor pointed out, it’s um, invigorating.
Zuppardi’s glorious fresh shucked Little Neck clam pie.
3. Best pizza Some friendsand I made a pizza pilgrimage to New Haven this fall. Everything we tried was good, but the real revelation came when we dug into the fresh clam pie at Zuppardi’s Apizza. Fragrant with Little Necks and oregano atop a crackling thin crust, it was simply astounding. (more…)