“Hugue literally said that you inspired the sandwich,” Sarah Obraitis told me via text. The creation in question? A foie gras sandwich that recently landed on the menu at their restaurant M. Wells in Long Island City. While I’m flattered by Chef Hugue Dufour’s comment, I take it with a grain or two of fleur du sel. As for the sandwich, I went to try it last weekend and wasn’t quite sure what to expect other than decadence. I did have a hazy memory of a photo of an orb of fattened duck liver that looked like it had been dispatched with an ice cream scoop.
The $24 sandwich consists of a generous ball of creamy foie perched atop a bun slathered with homemade membrillo, aka quince paste. Call it what you will, its tart sweetness is a great counterpoint to the rich, creamy foie gras. For a moment I considered smushing the orb down and eating the whole lot like an actual sandwich, but decided against that for two reasons: 1) it would be really messy and 2) I wanted to prolong my gustatory bliss for as long as possible. So I spread a good deal of it on the top bun and fell to.
A few words about that bun, it is a challah bread dough that’s been treated like a croissant and has a bit of smoked eel in it. The whole experience took me back to the first time I ever tried foie gras at the River Cafe 20 years ago. The smoked eel in the bread was a mere whisper, but it did call to mind a smoked eel croissant that Chef Dufour dreamed up for a Queens Dinner Club Brunch. So I guess I am in some sense the inspiration for this sandwich.
I enjoyed my main course of monkfish well enough, but that sandwich was a tough act to follow. Next time, I’m getting two. I wonder if the kitchen would put it on a baguette. Do I dare to dream of a foie gras banh mi? After all stranger and tastier things have happened at M. Wells and hopefully will continue to do so now that restaurants are back open at 35% and the end of the pandemic is in sight.
M. Wells, Steakhouse, 43-15 Crescent St, Long Island City, NY 11101
By my calendar there are only five days left until the start of spring. Winter’s reasserted itself in what some New Yorkers, myself included, deem a rather weak blizzard. Nevertheless there’s plenty of snow on the ground, which means two things: one, tromping around the park, something I’ve been doing for years; and two, making homemade maple taffy/snowcones, something I tried for the first time this past Sunday. (more…)
The first time I met Ed Cotton, executive chef of Sotto 13, he showed me how to make a turducken, a rather involved process that clearly demonstrated the second-generation chef’s love of all things charcuterie. In addition to being an expert charcuterer, pizza man, and pasta maker Cotton’s an L.I.C. guy and I am happy to announce that he will be cooking at The Catskills Comes to Queens. Thanks for taking the time out of your busy sked to answer 7 Questions Ed!
How did you become a chef? I became a chef because of my father. I found what he did for a living very fascinating. I must have been five or so. It was interesting seeing cooks chop, cut and prepare things. That looked so fun to me.
What’s your favorite thing about being at the helm of Sotto 13? One of my favorite things about being at the helm is that we have such a small kitchen and staff, so it’s very easy to talk to my staff. I can show them stuff and talk to them whenever because there’s nowhere to hide.
So let me get this straight. You’re making rabbit mortadella hot dogs for The Catskills Comes to Queens? How in the world did you come up with that idea? Yes, I’m going to call them morty dogs. I love making all charcuterie, sausages, terrines, and all that stuff. We currently make rabbit mortadella for one of our wood-fired pizzas, so I wanted to take it in another direction. So that’s when I decided to make a rabbit mortadella hot dog. The garnishes won’t be as traditional as a normal dog but it will complement it for sure. (more…)
The running joke about me and M. Wells Dinette is that if I had an editor they’d tell me not to write about the place so much. Since I don’t, here goes. Yesterday I stopped by to check out their pig roast and petanque scene in the courtyard of at MoMA PS1. Finding myself in the mood for neither, I headed into the restaurant.
“I kind of want beef tartare, but can’t justify having it since I ate my body weight in red meat last night,” I said to Aidan O’Neal. “You should try the beet tartare,” he said. I flat out refused claiming somewhat hyperbolically that it goes against everything I believe in. It sort of does since I am no fan of mock meat and veggie burgers. “Try it, I think you’ll be surprised,” the chef persisted. Eventually I caved and ordered the $14 vegetable tartare. And I am glad I did. (more…)
A million years ago when I worked in an office, breakfast sandwiches—two eggs, with cheese, and bacon—as served by New York City coffee carts were a favorite way to start the day. In the culinary wonderland that is Queens, there are all sorts of breakfast sandwiches from all over the world. Today, a look at a few of my favorites.
1. Chicharron con camote at Broadway Bakery Chicharron con camote, a sandwich of crunchy, fatty pork and sweet potatoes is a typical breakfast sandwich in Peru. The combination of the orange camote and crunchy salty pork with pickled onions and Peruvian rocoto chili pepper paste is quite satisfying. Broadway Bakery, 81-15 41st Ave., Jackson Heights, 718-457-6523
2. Jiān bĭng at Oriental Express Food Court
Find the jiān bĭng,or titanic Tianjin Breakfast wrap as I like to call it at the Oriental Express Food court, a few storefronts south of Golden Shopping Mall. It consists of a thin pancake coated in egg and studded with chives wrapped around a yóutiáo, or Chinese cruller. Somehow this carb-on-carb bonanza makes an old-school NewYork City egg on a roll seem like health food. Oriental Express Food Court, 41-40 Main St., Flushing (more…)
As 2013 draws to a close rather than offer up a list of resolutions—less chips more gym, save money, etc.—C+M offers a list of 20 of our favorite posts, a highlight reel of the year that was. Let the mostly Queens-focused cavalcade of offal, sandwiches, mashups, secret eats and deliciousness begin.
Crazy Crab’s Yunnan special sliced pork salad.
PLEASE NOTE THIS RESTAURANT IS CLOSED
1. Best use of Pig Face Crazy Crab’s Yunnanese pig face salad is a spicy sour, salty, and unabashedly funky showcase for swatches of cool, slightly chewy pig skin.
2. Best Fizzy Water for Gluttons
Apart from being the preferred beverage of Cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin the selling point of Borjomi, a Georgian sparkling mineral water, is that it “Gets rid of unnecessaries,” or as expressed in more forthright language elsewhere on the company web site, “Borjomi also improves functioning of intestines and supports slag excretion.”
3. Flushing’s Cheapest Veggie Burger The $1.25 cài bĭng at Super Snack, a counter just outside Golden Shopping Mall is packed with crunchy piquant mustard greens and is as fine a snack as any.
I doubt Hugue Dufour knew yesterday was National Ice Cream Day. I didn’t think to ask as I watched him dress a ceviche with olives, jalapeño, olive oil, cilantro, and red onion and then place it in a waffle cone. Before handing it off he drizzled it with coconut milk and condensed milk and showered it with sesame seeds.
Dufour’s wife and partner in culinary crime, Sarah Obraitis, had told me to come to LIC Flea to check out the $10 M. Wells Sweet Fish Ice. She described the cone as “water-proofed with a white chocolate jalapeño sealer.” I envisioned it as something of a pescatarian King Cone. That white chocolate sealant was in the bottom of the cone, not on top though. (more…)