Newsstand
10/15/18 7:52pm

Chicken thentuk, perfect for a crisp fall night.

To say Elmhurst’s newest Tibetan eatery is easier to find than its predecessor would be a vast understatement. After all Sang Jien Ben’s first restaurant, Lhasa Fast Food, lies down a cramped hallway behind a cell phone store, while the new one is in plain sight just behind Elmurst Hospital.

It opened in August with a menu featuring the beef momos—juicy dumplings that are as ubiquitous in Tibet as they are in Himalayan Heights—and thentuk, a hearty soup with hand-torn swatches of dough that made the first spot a draw for everyone from homesick Tibetans and local foodies to Eater and Anthony Bourdain. A beaming Dalai Lama presides over the room. Enshrined on altar below it a photo of Chef Ben and Bourdain. (more…)

10/10/18 4:13pm

A Peruvian breakfast sandwich by way of Northern Boulevard.

“They have Peruvian sandwiches,” my pal Cristina told me a few weeks as I stood slack-jawed in front of Juanita’s, the only Peruvian sangucheria in Queens. We’d already had two meals, so there was no way we were eating any more that afternoon.

A week or so later I returned to the groovy cafe on Northern Boulevard, this time with an appetite. Among the half dozen sandwiches—including pollo a la brasa and butifarra, a home-made roast ham—the one that stood out to me was the chicharrón, after all who doesn’t like shatteringly crisp, succulent pork. Something about the menu description, crispy pork shoulder with sweet potato sounded familiar, but I wasn’t sure why until the sanguche hit the table. (more…)

10/02/18 11:02am

Do the Keebler elves eat octopus?

Ceviche de pescado—fish, typically corvina in Queens, cooked in lime juice—is such a staple of Peruvian cuisine that until just the other day I’d never tried Peruvian style octopus. Sure, I’ve had pulpo in the exquisite cokteles from La Esquina del Camaron Mexicano. Octopus is probably  on the menu of every Peruvian place in Queens, but my eyes skate over it in favor of sexier seafood like jalea, that mountain of fried fish, shrimp, and calamari fortified by planks of fried yucca.

The other day pulpo al olivo jumped off the menu at El Anzuelo, spurring my friends and me to order it. Tender slices of octopus loll in a pool of mauve liquor flanked by some avocado slices and, of all things, five Keebler Zesta brand saltine crackers. (more…)

09/28/18 10:39am

Photo: Takaski

With fall finally here, the days growing shorter, and Halloween just around the corner my thoughts and appetite turn to Japanese Cranberry Almond KitKat. Or at least they do now that I found them at H Mart in Manhattan’s K-Town.

Japan’s obsession with KitKat is legendary.  My personal obsession with the Japanese version of one of my favorite American chocolate bars  almost approaches that level. I’ve tried the green tea, wasabi, and Japanese pumpkin varieties and I’m always on the lookout for new flavors. So when I saw the package emblazoned with a bowl of cranberries and almonds I immediately grabbed two. Unsure as to how they would taste, I was drawn in by the blond wood and green-leaved cranberry stems. (more…)

09/17/18 11:48am

Manhattan’s Fung Wong is where I tried my first mooncake decades ago.

Last week I paid a visit to Manhattan’s Chinatown with my brother John. The neighborhood has changed much since we used to go there with our father 30 years ago, but some things remain the same, notably the tea parlors and Fung Wong Bakery. The latter is where I used to get blobs of chewy sweet rice cake for dessert after hitting up Wo Hop with my parents. It’s also where I tried my first mooncake.

After John and I caught up over dim sum at Nom Wah, I poked my head into Fung Wong to see dozens of mooncakes lining the case and stacks of red boxes proclaiming, “BEST MOON CAKES IN CHINATOWN N.Y.” Back in Queens, I shared the treat with some dear friends. The filling of fruit paste and preserved duck egg had an old-fashioned feel to it, more of a rough texture than others, whose smoother paste seems more processed. The real thing that set it apart though was the dough itself, which was far less dense and sweeter than any I’ve had in recent memory. (more…)

09/12/18 9:12am

This past Saturday I had the privilege of judging Pig Island, a festival of fine swine hosted by my dear friend Jimmy Carbone. The pork was provided by Flying Pigs Farm, and much of it took the form of ribs. As anybody who knows anything about barbecue and cooking it in a festival setting, it’s very easy to screw up ribs. You can take a perfectly good smoked rib and ruin the texture by grilling it afterwards. The best ribs come straight from the smoker, or in the case of my dear friend Rodrigo Duarte, straight from a pig bladder. (more…)

09/11/18 9:26am

Pay no attention to the an behind the bamboo curtain!

After trekking out to Bushwick on a raw rainy day to help my friend Cathy Erway kick off the fall 2018 season of her radio show Eat Your Words, I was ready for something hot and brothy.

I always get lost on the way to the Heritage Radio Network studio inside Roberta’s Pizza, even though it’s basically around the corner from the L train. Sunday’s detour took me past Ichiran Ramen where a patient local took pity on my hapless Queens soul to direct me to Roberta’s with his phone. I’d been meaning to try this Japanese import and its ramen isolation booth, so I blurted out, “What time are you open until?” I should point out that the helpful young man was Asian and was sporting a Sriracha T-shirt. “I don’t work here,” he said turning his back to walk into the ramenya, as I spun on my heel to high-tail it to the studio. (more…)

09/06/18 8:33am

Fish cakes from Bronx-based Vendy finalist CaSpanish.

Back in 2009, when the Vendy Awards were held in the shadow of the Unisphere, there was only one food market game in town: Smorgasburg. LIC Flea & Food came along in 2012 and a few years later Queens got its very own night market. Well these days it does and so does the Bronx. The finalists for this years Vendy Awards are a lineup of vendors from the street and from the markets that is almost as diverse as Queens itself. Puerto Rico, the Domican Republic,Trinidad, Italy, China, Indonesia, Japan, El Salvador, India, and Romania are all represented. What’s more, six of the nine finalists have a connection to Queens.This year’s Vendy Awards will be held on Governors Island on September 22. Click here to get tickets. Ladies and gentlemen, we present your 2018 Vendy Awards Finalists for Best Market Vendor and Best Dessert Vendor.

CaSpanish
These Bronx Night Market stalwarts take their name from a blend of Caribbean and Spanish cuisines as reflected in a menu that features straight up Dominican fare like mangu—a trifecta of salami fried cheese, and eggs—and fusion specialties like jerk chicken empanadas. Husband and wife duo Keith and Judy were in the middle of planning their wedding in 2015 when they could not find a caterer that offered the varied menu they were looking for. Keith is Trinidadian-American and Judy is Puerto Rican and Dominican. They wanted a reception spread that included each of their favorite foods reflecting their Caribbean-American backgrounds. Unhappy with what they found they decided to cater their own wedding reception, and thus was born CaSpanish.

D’Abruzzo NYC took top honors at this spring’s World’s Fare.

D’Abruzzo NYC
Tommaso Conte started D’Abruzzo NYC in August 2017, and now sells his arrosticini, succulent roasted lamb skewers, at Smorgasburg and other markets. While growing up on Long Island, Tommaso’s family, in particular his nonno, or grandfather, instilled in him the values, traditions, and work ethic that he learned in Abruzzo a rugged mountainous region is southern Italy. Early on Tommaso grew tomatoes, helped make wine in his Cantina, and turned the soil in his nonno’s garden. This connection to the land at an early age has inspired Tommaso to pay homage to his roots with D’Abruzzo NYC.

Hometown Spring Pancakes
Founder Annie Ye hails from Wenzhou, China and got started in the food market game with CBao Asian Buns, which can still be found at Queens Night Market, beside her new venture, Hometown Spring Pancake, which showcases a lesser known Northern Chinese snack. Each flaky pancake is made fresh to order and then filled with such meats as stewed beef or roast pork. (more…)

09/05/18 11:34am

Bellwether’s  patty melt is lovely, but it’s more of a cheeseburger.

Sometimes I wish my dear departed friend and meat maven Josh Ozersky was still with us. Partly so I could take him to dodgy Chinese restaurants, but mostly so I could ask him questions about burger lore, like the one in the headline.

I came to the patty melt late in life. I didn’t try one until my late forties. And I suppose that the one I tried, which I believe was at Tower Diner, formed my impression of what a proper patty melt should be. It was composed of a medium rare patty swaddled between two crisp pieces of rye bread along with melted Swiss and caramelized onions.

It was more of of a grilled cheese than a hamburger, and I have it on good authority that that’s how it should be. Most of all it was a messy sandwich oozing an amalgam of beef drippings and fat from the Swiss, what Ozersky would have lovely called “greeze.” (more…)

09/04/18 4:33pm

King Benfareremo says, “We do not mix,” but peanut butter and chocolate belong together.

Since we are apparently in the Dog Days of September, I decided it was as good a Tuesday as any to splash around in the fountain at the Unisphere and then pay a visit to the Lemon Ice King of Corona.

Lemon may be the King’s claim to fame, but I opted for something less traditional, some might even say sacrilegious, a super cup of peanut butter. It’s not the peanut butter itself that was blasphemous, but rather the fact that I also ordered a small chocolate, with the intent of breaking the King’s edict against mixing flavors.

The culinary King of Queens doesn’t need to abide by the two foot high sign that reads, “WE DO NOT MIX,” I thought smugly to myself.

“Enjoy, boss,” the dude behind the counter said as he handed me both. I wonder if he knew that I was going to slink away to Spaghetti Park to commit a cardinal sin and concoct an ungodly Italian ice speedball?

The King’s spumoni is a much better combo.

Once there I ate a bit of the peanut butter ice which is as good as everyone says it is, with bits of peanut and and peanut butter flavored chips, and a bit of the chocolate. The chocolate couldn’t stand up to the peanut butter. That didn’t stop me from plopping the small chocolate ice atop the jumbo peanut butter one and digging in. The combo was good, but not great, largely because the peanut butter ice is so much better than the chocolate one.

“Should have got a spumoni, I mused to myself. That combination of pistachio, chocolate, and almond mixed by the King’s minions is one that works just fine. Which goes to show you that even culinary royalty needs to follow the rules sometimes.

The Lemon Ice King Of Corona, 52-02 108th St., Corona, (718) 699-5133