12/30/16 11:41pm

With 2016 coming to a close, it’s time to take a look back at the year that was. It was a big year for me and for food in Queens, including a feature in Asahi Shimbun and the discovery of the durian pizza. In no particular order here are 16 of the best things I ate last year.

MRCRISPY

1. Best Grilled Cheese
Mr. Crispy, a grilled cheese sandwich served at Astoria Bier & Cheese answers the question, “How good can a grilled cheese be?” with a resounding “very, very good.”  The sandwich of cave aged gruyere, ham and honey mustard is coated in  mantle of white crispy cheese. This coating extends outward into a golden lacy corolla, a veritable halo of crispy cheese. It’s crunchy, sharp, and eminently craveable. I’ve haven’t been this excited about fried cheese since Joe Bastianich’s ill-fated Frico Bar. Astoria Bier & Cheese, 34-14 Broadway, Astoria, 718-545-5588

 

whitspie

2.  Most Fabulous F***in’ Clam Pizza
The salciccia e vongole pizza at Whit’s End is the best clam pie I’ve had outside of Zuppardi’s. Housemade sausage seasoned with clove, star, anise, juniper, and allspice join the Littleneck clams along with pepperoncini and shaved garlic. The combination of the fior di latte mozzarella and  Parmigianno Regianno round things out quite nicely. Whit’s End, Riis Park Beach Bazaar

 

HakkaHotChicken

3. Hottest Off-menu Indian-Chinese Chicken
Nashville may have cayenne-infused hot chicken, but here in Queens we have something I like to call hakka hot chicken. Peter Lo, Queens’ godfather of Indian-Chinese cuisine and founder of Tangra Masala, whipped up a batch for me a while back. The hacked up bits of fried bird sauced in a glaze that marries the flavors of chili, soy sauce, vinegar, and garlic call to mind Dominican style chicharron de pollo with an Indian-Chinese twist. Tangra Masala, 87-09 Grand Ave., Elmhurst, 718-803-2298

 

4. Best Breakfast Sandwich
I count myself a big fan of the classic bacon egg and cheese, but my favorite breakfast sandwich of 2017 contains no swine whatsoever. The breakfast sandwich at Roast n Co combines organic eggs, tomato jam, and Cabot white cheddar on a brioche make for one of the best egg sandwiches ever. Since Roast n co is run by Tunisians you have the option of asking for a sidecar of harissa, a lovely concoction of chili peppers, olive oil, and paprika. It’s an option you should exercise. Roast n Co, 100-12 Queens Blvd. Forest Hills, 718-263-6000

The action at Majang Dong takes place out back.

5. Most Secret Korean BBQ Garden
Korean barbecue always brings to mind happy memories of backyard barbecues. At Flushing’s Majang Dong the Korean BBQ that takes place in an actual backyard. Chef Yu and his family run what some might call a Korean BBQ speakeasy. Sure there’s a storefront and inside you’ll find a restaurant, but the real action takes place out back in the shack and garden. Say you’re there for BBQ,  and Mrs. Yu will walk you out the back door into a Korean BBQ wonderland. Pork kalbi and pork belly are both lovely, and there’s eel and octopus for seafood lovers, but one of the best meats is grilled pork intestines. With a crunchy exterior and chewy interior, the fatty rings eat like an offal lover’s version of pork cracklins. Majang Dong, 41-71 Bowne St., Flushing, 718-460-2629 (more…)

10/15/14 2:22pm
MCGRIDDLE

Best logo stamped fast-food breakfast sandwich ever.

“Do you eat fast food?” the physician’s assistant asked me yesterday during my annual checkup. For a moment I wondered whether cumin lamb skewers consumed on Queens street corners qualified and decided they did not fit the fast-food bill.

“About two or three times a year,” I responded. Most of those times are on road trips and the idea of the food—be it a Big Mac, Whopper, or Taco Bell Burrito Supreme—always far exceeds the end product. It’s as if I’m trying to capture some mystical childhood fast food experience. I’m convinced that if Hardee’s, which I recall as having magnificent char-grilled flavor, still existed in New York City I would be a happy man.  Call it chasing the fast food dragon. (more…)

04/29/14 1:40pm
PELLICCIFUSION

Both the full English and the penne Pellicci are impeccable.

I’m grateful to my new friend Anton Diaz of Our Awesome Planet, a Manila-based blogger who I met over the weekend in London at the 2014 Chowzter Awards. For without his gentle prodding I might never have experienced the wonders of a proper English full breakfast at E. Pellicci, an old school East End diner. On my last evening in London the jet lag was kicking pretty hard, but I’m glad that I ventured out next morning to Bethnal Green with Anton and two other international food bloggers Catherine Ling of Camemberu and Stanislaus Hans Danial Subianto of Eats and Treats to this family-run institution. (more…)

04/02/14 10:15am
SW-FLETCHERS

A low and slow take on an Italian-American classic.

When I was growing up barbecue was synonymous with cookouts and birthdays. These days I draw the distinction between backyard grilling and low and slow American barbecue. A while back I made a pilgrimage to the whole hog heaven that is North Carolina. Heck, I even have a barbecue alter ego, Joey Deckle. But back in the 70s my birthday was the perfect excuse for the old man to throw a blowout BBQ. Hamburgers, hot dogs and chicken grilled with tomato and garlic were all on the menu, but my favorite was always his sausage and pepper sandwiches. So when I heard Matt Fisher was doing a low and slow take on this Italian-American classic at Fletcher’s Brooklyn Barbecue I decided to take a trek out to Gowanus. (more…)