A lifetime ago before I came to Queens, I lived in Brooklyn, in a neighborhood that realtors hopefully called Park Slope vicinity. It was a short ride from there to Bensonhurst where I would indulge my Sicilian heritage with vastedda—the ricotta and calf spleen sandwiches—at Gino’s Focacceria and pastry at Villabate. Back then, Villabate and Alba were two separate shops. These days they’ve united to form confectionery powerhouse Villabate Alba.
Recently I found myself back in the County of Kings and decided to take a walk from Together, Brooklyn’s sole Burmese restaurant, to Bensonhurst to visit Villabate Alba.
“I’ll have that chocolate-covered cannoli,” I said to the young Chinese girl at the counter pointing to a little number with a broad swath of chocolate in the center flanked by white icing and capped with pistachio.(more…)
Now that the streets around Times Square are almost cleared of New Year’s Eve confetti and I’ve digested several plates of lucky New Year’s noodles it’s time to take a look back at 2015. It was a big year for me, including a profile in The Wall Street Journal.Queens continued to amaze with everything from octopus tacos and Thai noodles to Caribbean Chinese and the most unlikely French patisserie ever. In no particular order here are 15 of the best things I ate last year.
Tom yum haeng topped with fried pork sugar and chili.
1. Yummiest dry tom yum
The weekend noodle soup pop-up at Elmhurst’s Pata Paplean remained on point, but one of my favorites there wasn’t a soup at all. Tom yum haeng—dry tom yum noodles—consists of springy yellow noodles, fish balls and golden shards of fried pork all dressed with fish sauce, lime juice, sugar, and chili, and cilantro. Mix it all up and dig into the best dry noodles in Thai Town.
2. Tastiest deep-fried seafood nostalgia
The cheery blue and white Bigelow’s Seafood has been around for more than 70 years. After driving by it for about that amount of time, I finally had the privilege of trying it this past spring. These wizards of the fryer turn out impeccable Ipswich clams, fried smelts, shrimp, and soft shell crabs all served in an atmosphere that time and cholesterol have forgotten. (more…)
For seven years French pastry fans have made the pilgrimage to Cannelle Patisserie. There, in the Paris of East Elmhurst, situated in an otherwise unremarkable strip mall, they found cases lined with flaky croissants, praline cream-filled Paris-Brest, and other specialties of owner Jean-Claude Perennou’s native Brittany. Now Perennou has opened a second shop in the heart of Long Island City, practically a macaron’s throw from the East River waterfront. (more…)
Fuchsia Dunlop’s account of wrangling with passel of stag pizzle in the latest Lucky Peach is alternately harrowing and humorous. It’s been five years since I took the acclaimed British cook and Chinese food expert to explore Flushing’s Golden Mall, so I thought I’d put my aside my castration anxiety aside and drop the author of Every Grain of Rice: Simple Chinese Home Cooking; Shark’s Fin and Sichuan Pepper: A Sweet-Sour Memoir of Eating in China, a line. Dunlop who is currently eating her way through Beijing was kind enough to answer Seven Questions. By the way if you want to get really hungry follow her adventures on Instagram.
Are there any misconceptions about Chinese food you’d like to dispel? I’ve spent my entire food-writing career trying to dispel various misconceptions about Chinese food—most of all that it’s unhealthy! Of course if one were to eat deep-fried egg rolls and sweet-and-sour pork all the time it wouldn’t be a very healthy diet, but most Chinese home cooking is about rice or other grains with plenty of vegetables and a little meat, fish or poultry. I’ve always been impressed by Chinese knowledge of how to eat for health and happiness (and it’s sad to see how many younger people are now following in the unhealthy food footsteps of the West).
The other misconception is that ‘Chinese food’ is a single cuisine. China is a vast country with an incredible wealth of local and regional culinary traditions. (more…)