09/23/15 9:56am

Wendy's BBQ saucemaster laughs at your desire to know his secret.

Yesterday afternoon I was doing some virtual trail running in the gym when the above commercial for Wendy’s BBQ Pulled Pork Sandwich came on. Even with the sound down I got the joke. When asked to divulge the recipe for his “secret sauce” the presumably Southern pitmaster and his assistant refuse to give up the goods laughing off the request.

The subsequent glamour shots of “our hickory smoked pulled pork” and a BBQ poutine of sorts looked so good that I couldn’t get them out of my head. I envisioned Wendy’s very own sauce bespattered, real deal pitmaster whipping up this pulled pork, a veritable Ed Mitchell of fast food. As a certified Kansas City Barbeque Society judge who’s been around BBQ pits and smokers of various and sundry sizes and configurations, including a stainless steel number whose firebox resembles a miniature bank vault, I know  this is nonsense. But Wendy’s and its ad agency are selling a fantasy, one that I clearly bought into as evidenced by my choice of a late night dinner. (more…)

01/24/13 9:43am
Are the pork and crab soup dumplings at Kung Fu Xiao Long Bao Flushing’s finest?

Are the soup dumplings at Kung Fu Xiao Long Bao Flushing’s finest?

Last week my friend and neighbor Suzanne Parker, TimesLedger food critic and author  of “Eating Like Queens: A Guide to Ethnic Dining in America’s Melting Pot, Queens, New York,” called me to rave about Kung Fu Xiao Long Bao’s pork and crab soup dumplings.

“Seriously,” I said, “their soup dumplings aren’t all that, they’re good, but certainly not the best.”  The best I’ve had in Queens, I pointed out, can be found at Diverse Dim Sum in the Flushing Mall. This got us to wondering whether either of us really knew where to find the best xiao long bao in Flushing. So we decided to find out. I should point out that we are both certified  Kansas City Barbecue Society judges and certified food enthusiasts (Suzanne, it should be noted flies the foodie flag, while I abhor the word).

We very roughly modeled our judging criteria—filling, broth, wrapper, texture, and taste—on the KCBS categories and set out to evaluate four xiao long bao joints.  The plan was to savor just one dumpling at each restaurant so as not skew our judgment by becoming overly full. The remaining dumplings would be taken back to Suzanne’s house to reheat and reassess. I had the brilliant idea to eat two dumplings at each stop, one with vinegar and one without. I did this not because it enabled me to judge the dumplings better, but because I am a glutton. So without further ado C+M presents the Xiao Long Bao Battle Royale.

Nan Xiang Dumpling House  ain’t what it used to be.

Nan Xiang Dumpling House ain’t what it used to be.

The first stop on our soup dumpling survey was Nan Xiang Dumpling House where an order of pork and crab soup dumplings is $6.50 for 6 pieces. At one time I could say with confidence—and home borough pride—that Nan Xiang had the best soup dumplings not only in Queens, but in all of New York City. Sadly, that time has passed. The first thing we noticed about the xiao long bao here was that they were huge. The second thing we noticed is that they were abysmal. The broth was completely devoid of crab flavor, and mine even had a bit of gristle in it. What was once a great soup dumpling joint has clearly been spoiled by its own success. It was all I could do to not remove Nan Xiang’s Michelin sign on the way out.  Nan Xiang Dumpling House, 38-12 Prince St., Flushing, 718-321-3838

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