08/21/18 10:30pm

The best, and only, sea urchin I had in CDMX was a daily special at Contramar.

Earlier today I ran into some C+M readers while eating lunch at Warung Selasa, and I had to apologize for my recent lack of posting. You see folks, I was in Mexico City for a week celebrating my 50th birthday. I did my level best to eat every taco in town. There will come a time to speak of tacos, but now is the time to speak of the best two bites of seafood I had on my trip.

“D.F. is 1,500 miles from the sea,” a pal pointed out, when others recommended I book a table at Contramar, a white tablecloth seafood specialist in La Condesa. I did not let my friend’s commentary on D.F.’s geography deter me. Everybody suggested that I try the tuna tostadas, but when I found out that there was a Spanish language specials list, I promptly ignored that advice, and peppered several of the patient waitstaff with translation requests. And that’s how I wound up with a gorgeous plate of ceviche de erizo, or sea urchin ceviche from Ensenada. Served with chips, it was the best sea urchin I ate in Mexico City and not just because it was the only one I ate. (more…)

07/17/18 11:54am

Spot Dessert Bar’s Baked Alaska, fire and ice!                                     Photo: @spotdessertbar

Now that summer is here in full sweltering force it’s time for a listicle that’s as chill as an icicle. Herein, seven of my favorite frozen treats ranging from traditional Thai and Mexican icees to some decidedly highfalutin ice cream and other treats. Feel free to chime in with your favorite frozen treat in the comments!

1. Baked Alaska, Spot Dessert Bar
There’s something about fancy pants ice cream that calls for skipping the cone. It’s as if there is a voice in my head saying, “This Tahitian vanilla bamboo charcoal swirl is for grownups. You can’t let it dribble down your chin, plus how will you possibly get a photo of it?” Which is why I’m glad that Spot Dessert Bar’s Baked Alaska comes in a cone. It’s not ice cream either, it’s sorbet, your choice of mango or raspberry. I opted for the latter. “Would you like to do a video?” the waiter asked as he brought over the meringue topped cone over to the table with a torch. Just beneath the browned meringue sat the tart refreshing sorbet. “I should really eat more ice cream cones,” I thought to myself as I munched happily away. Midway through came a surprise, fluffy bits of chiffon cake followed by more sorbet. I definitely should eat more ice cream cones, especially when they have cake inside. I’ll be back for the mango. Spot Dessert Bar, 39-16-39-98 Prince St., Flushing, 917- 285-2187

2. Tao tueng, Khao Nom
I’m a big fan of shaved ice whether Dominican frio frio or Korean patbingsu, so when I saw that this Thai dessert specialist offered two kinds, I had to try them both. Tub tim krob, which features crunchy jewels of water chestnut coated in chewy jelly, in a sea of coconut milk syrup is strictly for the coconut fans, while tao tueng features longan fruit, barley, tapioca pearls, dates, and of all things potato. Somehow, it manages to make shaved ice seem healthy. Whichever one you choose, you’ll be glad that the brass bowl keeps it ice cold and even happier when the gal behind the counter offers a sidecar of extra shaved ice. I know I was. Khao Nom, 76-20 Woodside Ave., Elmhurst, 929-208-0108 (more…)

04/23/18 10:49pm

Many places in Queens serve wonderful Mexican food, but there’s none quite like Tortilleria Nixtmal. That’s because Fernando Ruiz—who grew up eating fresh tortillas in Veracruz—and Shauna Page make their tortillas the old-fashioned way from freshly ground whole corn. And that’s why the boys from Queens Dinner Club and I have chosen Tortilleria Nixtamal to host our next dinner on May 16th. Tickets are $45 and may be purchased here.

Join us for a very special feast as we help christen Tortilleria Nixtamal’s new salon para fiestas above their tortilla factory on National Street just steps away from the 7 train! The festivities begin with a visit to the factory to taste the freshest tortillas in New York City. And then it’s upstairs to the salon, where the kitchen is rolling out all sorts of Mexican delicacies for QDC, including a taco trifecta featuring trompa de al pastor (rotisserie style roast pork); chivo (slow-cooked young goat); and pollo rostizado estilo Ciudad de México (Guajillo chili marinated rotisserie chicken). You can view the full menu here.

Our friends at Black Label Donuts are creating Mexican-inspired treats especially for this dinner. It’s our most popular event to date, so popular that we might even add a second night.

01/31/18 12:38am

Triple cooked Sinaloan style pork via Elmhurst enriched with chilies among other things.

This past Sunday I had the opportunity to try Queens’ only Mexican restaurant specializing in foods from the Northwestern state of Sinaloa, a state that hitherto I’d only known as the birthplace of Mexican drug lord El Chapo. We only tried one dish from the aptly named Sinaloense, but what a dish. Chilorio estilo sinaloense is a heap of pork that’s been slowly cooked down for hours, then fried in lard, and lastly cooked in a ruddy concoction of chilies and other herbs and spices. The result is some of the most amazing Mexican pork I’ve ever had on Roosevelt Avenue. It had a glorious texture—not quite crunchy and not quite soft—and an amazing depth of flavor with notes of cumin, garlic, chilies and a not unpleasant vinegary acidity. “I’m coming back here for a torta estilo sinaloense,” I said to my pals as I perused the takeout menu between bites. (more…)

08/14/17 12:03pm

As a friend likes to point out, summer—with its steamy humidity and lazy beach days—is far from over. With that in mind here are seven of my favorite international frozen treats from Indonesian and Thai shaved ices and South American slushies to old-school American ice cream for you to enjoy

1. Pitaya nieves, Los Poblanos Grocery
Nieves, literally snows, are a wonderful frozen Mexican treat. With flavors like lip-puckering tamarind; refreshing melon; and jamaica, or tart hibisicus flowers, it’s easy to think of them as a frozen version of the auguas frescas that many vendors lining Roosevelt Avenue sell. There are many nieves sellers on La Roosie, but thankfully my peeps at Food & Footprints turned me on to one the best, Los Poblanos Grocery. On my first visit I had a jamaica, scarlet and refreshing and on my second, I had pitaya, better known as prickly pear. The tart red snow was shot through with crunchy seeds making it even more fun to eat.  Los Poblanos Grocery, 92-19 Roosevelt Avenue, Jackson Heights

2. Naem kaeng sai, Teacup Cafe
When I was a kid I was always jealous of one of my cousins who had the Snoopy Sno Cone machine. We never played with it, no doubt because the novelty had worn off. I trace my fascination with shaved ice to that unrequited desire for frozen confections. Now that I’m all grown up, there’s no better way for me to fulfill that childhood wish than Thai shaved ice or naem kang sai. As served at Teacup Cafe, it has enough sugar and toppings for a kid’s birthday party.

First choose your syrup—red or green—and then pick from eleven toppings. The red syrup, an artificial take on the sala fruit is floral and ultrasweet as is the green, which resembles cream soda. Toppings include taro, black grass jelly, pudding, corn, mixed fruit, coconut, palm seeds, red beans, toddy palm seeds, jackfruit, and popping bubbles. Three toppings will run you $4, but for the princely sum of $5.50 you can get all of the toppings. The result is an arctic explosion of colors, textures, and flavors. Teacup Cafe, 76-23 Woodside Ave., Elmhurst, Phone: (718) 426-2222 (more…)

06/01/16 10:42am
horowitzchix

Queso fresco and poblanos give this chicken sandwich a Mexican accent.

Will Horowitz is the type of chef who pickles, smokes, and ferments anything that isn’t nailed down. He’s a cook who creates flavor combinations as vibrant as any modernist chef, not with rotovaps and liquid nitrogen, but with decidedly old-school techniques, and not in a sleeve garter steampunk poseur fashion either. He’s the type of guy who does his own foraging and who reduces poblano chilies to cinders to sauce a smoked chicken sandwich. (more…)

04/27/16 11:33pm
Chef Viko Ortega is a chef's chef.

Chef Viko Ortega is a chef’s chef.

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.

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…)

03/23/16 9:48am

Super Cemita 1

When it comes to Mexican sandwiches, restraint is not an ingredient. Consider the creations of Corona’s Galdino “Tortas” Neza, the largest of which, The Pumas contains a larder’s worth of ingredients, including a chorizo omelet, fried hot dogs, and a deep-fried chicken cutlet. The humongous hoagie calls to mind the adage: Never eat anything bigger than your head. Good as his tortas are there’s one sandwich you won’t find on the Mexico City born and bred chef’s menu: the cemita Poblana. That’s because it’s a specialty of Puebla. In fact I’ve never had a good version of this sandwich until I tried the Super Cemita Poblana at Villa Cemita in the East Village. (more…)

02/05/16 8:10am

Super Bowl 50 is almost upon us, and as usual, I’m only just learning which teams will face off Sunday evening. Such is my interest, or lack thereof, in football. Despite my apathy for team sports, I do hope all who watch the Denver Broncos and the Carolina Panthers have a great time. Thus as a public service C+M presents a list of global snacks and goodies all of which are available in in Queens and will give your Super Bowl party much more flavor than guacamole and onion dip.

MeeKrob

1. Mee krob (Thai)
The name of this popular Thai snack literally translates to crispy noodles. It’s no mere salty indulgence, though. Like so many of my other favorite Southeast Asian snacks, the tangle of noodles and fried bits of egg is salty, sweet, spicy, and sour. Tamarind and chili combined with a chewy sweetness make mee krob eat like a Thai Rice Krispy treat. Find it at the counter at Elmhurst’s Sugar Club. Sugar Club, 81-18 Broadway, Elmhurst, 718-865-9018

jeffrox

2. Fried jeffrox fish (Filipino)
Find this pescatarian answer to potato chips at Phil-Am Market, a paradise of Filipino groceries and snacks located in Woodside’s Little Manila. The translucent sheets of fried dried fish are available on Thursday through Sunday. The crunchy critters come with a sidecar of seasoned vinegar and make for excellent, if somewhat odiferous, snacking. Phil-Am Market, 40-03 70th St, Woodside 718-899-1797 (more…)

01/23/16 12:05pm

Now that King Frost has officially made his presence known with the arrival of winter storm Jonas, it is officially soup season. Sure I’ve had plenty of bowls over the course of the past two months. But now it’s on, time to bring in the big guns. So here are seven of my favorites spanning a variety of styles—from sweet medicinal Chinese concoctions to savory noodle soups and spicy sinus clearers—and regions, including Southeast Asia and Latin America. Best of all you can find all of them without leaving the world’s borough, Queens.

pozole2

1. Pozole rojo, Taqueria Coatzingo
This Jackson Heights cantina is known for its tacos, but the specials are the real stars. That’s where I discovered pozole rojo, the spicier cousin of the Mexican pork and hominy soup. As the name implies, the broth is red—very, very red—thanks to loads of chilies. Pozole rojo employs chicken rather than pork as a base.  Served with the standard pozole fixings of diced onion, cilantro, and lime as well as shakers of oregano and red pepper, I like it think of it as Mexican penicillin. Add a few squeezes of lime along with a handful of onion and the other seasonings for one of the most head-clearing soups to be found on Roosevelt Avenue. Sour, spicy, and packed with fresh herbs, hominy, and chicken it’s sure to cure what ails you. Best of all it’s always on the specials menu! Taqueria Coatzingo, 76-05 Roosevelt Ave., Jackson Heights, 718-424-1977 (more…)