10/02/17 10:55pm

It’s been a big week for Ms. Tjahjadi as The New York Times called my dear friend Chef Dewi in last week’s Hungry City. Chef Dewi formerly of Java Village now cooks at Indo Java a small Indonesian grocery store in Elmhurst, Queens. Every Tuesday afternoon you can stop by for lunch, usually with a choice of a dish or two, served up by Dewi. This pop-up, affectionately called Warung Selasa (Tuesday “Food Stall”), is perhaps the best way to experience Indonesian food in New York, according my local Indonesian food guru Dan Hill who was kind enough to interview Chef Dewi between bites of his bakso mangkok.

When did you start cooking?
I started cooking from home in New York in 2003.

You didn’t cook in Indonesia before you moved here?
No, never. I worked as a secretary. Cooking wasn’t a hobby of mine. I learned how to cook when I moved to New York. I helped my mother cook at home as a child, but that was it.

Do you remember your favorite cooking of your mother’s when you were a child?
No, but I learned from my Mom that if I wanted to eat something, I had to make it from scratch. I had to prepare all the ingredients and cook everything. So I remember the cooking process, but I never cooked. For example, if I wanted to make lontong sayur. I would have to make the lontong by cleaning the rice and making the lontong. The vegetables I would have to cut, like the chayote . . . and at that time there wasn’t grated coconut, so at that time we had to grate the whole coconut by ourselves. So everything had to be done from the beginning.

Bakso mangkok, literally a bowl of beef meatball soup inside a bowl made of beef itself.

So you knew how to do all these things, but you didn’t like cooking?
No, I didn’t like it. I liked making cake. I liked baking, but I never did that either! [laughs]  (more…)

02/12/17 12:49pm
aureliencaul

When he’s in full production Aurelién Dufour goes through 100 pounds of caul fat in a week.

Aurelién Dufour is a true master of his craft—French charcuterie—as my dear friend Chef David Noeth and I found out a year ago when we started drooling over his Facebook page. After a 7-year stint as the head chef charcuterie at Chef Daniel Boulud’s Dinex Group the 30-year-old charcutier founded his own company Dufour Gourmet. 

Chef Dave and the team at New York Epicurean Events are honored to have Chef Dufour as part of the judges panel for Charcuterie Masters 2017 on Saturday, Feb. 25. Dufour will also be showcasing his products at the festival. For further details and to purchase tickets, please click here.

Tell me where you’re from and how you wound up in New York City?
I’m from the south of France. I was born in Bordeaux, but I grew up for 14 years in northern Germany near Hamburg. When I was 16 I moved back to France and decided to go to cooking school. I spent two years cooking at two different restaurants one a Michelin star and the other a brasserie.

When I was 18 I got an opportunity to move to Paris to work for a famous chef, Gerard Bérranger, who was designated a Meilleur Ouvrier de France. Five years I stayed with him. I was a catering chef and did a lot of competitions. At this time I started to get more involved in charcuterie and all the charcuterie was very interesting.

One day I got a call from Daniel Boulud. He asked me if I wanted to move to New York City to do the charcuterie program for all of his restaurants. I called him back the next day and said yes. I was with Daniel almost 7 years. We started out at Bar Boulud with a very small charcuterie program one butcher, one charcutier, and me. In 2011 we opened a 22,000-square-foot prep kitchen. We were going through 5,000 pounds of pork a week.

As a Queens guy I’m fascinated that you live in Astoria. How long have you been there? Do you have any favorite restaurants or shops?
I’ve been living there for four years. I like Astoria Bier & Cheese on Broadway. They have nice cheese. I also like The Strand for brunch.

Do you like to cook at home?
Sometimes. I like to do a lot of classics. Last night I made onion soup. I like to cook some meat, like a nice ribeye. If it was up to me I would have charcuterie every night, but my wife would kill me.

(more…)

Marani's dairy kitchen churns out the Georgian cheese bread known as khachapuri.

Marani’s dairy kitchen churns out the Georgian cheese bread known as khachapuri.

As far as this food writer is concerned Marani, a kosher Georgian restaurant in Rego Park, is one of the most unique spots around. For one thing it has both a meat kitchen and a dairy kitchen. The downstairs dairy kitchen with a selection of decadent Georgian cheese pies known as khachapuri is a point of fascination for me. Upstairs find kebabs, stews, and many other Georgian specialties, including khinkali, giant soup dumplings filled with beef and lamb. My friends Chef Jonathan Forgash and Gabe Gross of Queens Dinner Club, were equally impressed with Marani that’s why we’ve decide to have our next dinner there on Weds., June 22 at 7 p.m.  Marani’s owner Ana Epremashvili was kind enough to take time out of her busy schedule to answer Seven Questions.

So tell me about the restaurant. When did it open? What made you guys decide to open it? We opened the restaurant in 2013, we serve authentic Georgian cuisine with a kosher twist and influences. We are the only establishment to have both meat and dairy under one roof in New York City. We did not think it would be an authentic representation of Georgian cuisine without the dairy, so we were happy to get approval once all the separate kitchen requirements were met.

We try to keep the kitchen modern and exciting with reinventing of the traditional dishes, as well as sticking to authentic recipes. We felt there was a void of authentic ethnic cuisines in the kosher world, when you are kosher it is common to have Japanese sushi, steak and Israeli food all in one restaurant and none of it is authentic or any good. Only lately there have been restaurants that stick to their roots, and we are happy to be a part of that trend.

Khinkali filled with beef and lamb.

Khinkali filled with beef and lamb.

The family style menu for the upcoming Queens Dinner Club is pretty exciting—khinkali dumplings, lula kebabs, beef stew, herring and more—tell me what inspired it?
We are excited to showcase the diversity of our menu and introduce people to our flavors. We also find it important for people to understand what it means for a restaurant to be kosher and what is involved in washing greens and specific ways of butchering, once people find out what it really means, they feel more comfortable patronizing kosher establishments. (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…)

03/29/16 11:10am
Tangra Peter Lo

Peter Lo whipping up Singapore chow mein in the kitchen of Tangra Masala.

Indian-Chinese, with its fiery palate of ginger, garlic, green chilies and soy, used to be one of my favorites, but for about five years my love affair for one of the world’s original fusion cuisines was doused by waves of regional Chinese, Thai, and Uzbek food. I’ve been away from my old flame, Tangra Masala for far too long. It took a chef buddy, Jonathan Forgash, to reintroduce me to one of Queens most vibrant and delicious cuisines. And in so doing he introduced me to the man who is unquestionably the Godfather of Indian-Chinese cuisine in Queens, Chef Peter Lo. Chef Lo took the time out of his busy schedule to talk about the hallmarks of his cuisine as well as the upcoming Queens Dinner Club.

Where are you from originally and how did you learn to cook?
I’m from Calcutta. When I came to this country in 1984 I used to work part time in a restaurant. I really got fascinated seeing the way food was cooked and prepared. I liked the system. Back home my mother had an Indian-Chinese restaurant. She’s an excellent cook. Gradually I got to love cooking food, a friend used to say, “Why don’t you open a restaurant? You know you cook good food.” So that’s how I got to opened this restaurant in 2001. (more…)

01/13/16 11:09pm

Esther Choi’s grandmother taught her to love cooking and eating Korean food. She’s been in the restaurant business since she was 14. She also loves Korean food in Queens whether Geo Si Gi’s pork stew or Sik Gaek’s live octopus as you can see in the above video from our friends at Find. Eat. Drink. As chef and owner of Mokbar, a bustling noodle shop in Chelsea Market, Choi is one busy lady, so I’m grateful she took the time to answer 7 Questions.

What inspired you to open Mokbar? What does the name mean?
I felt the need to speak for Korean food. It can be more than just Korean BBQ like most Americans think. There are so many different special flavors and dishes in Korean cuisine. I wanted to show Korean flavors in a different light, which is why I decided to go with Korean ramen. The name was inspired from a term ‘mokbang’ which is a famous phenomena in Korea where people watch other people eat food. I actually thought it was hilarious and love watching it myself as well. Mok means to eat, so it made sense to me: “Eat Bar.”

What’s in your fridge at home right now?
A lot of kimchi. A lot of gochujang and doenjang. And a lot of beer. These are staples in my fridge and I feel really bad when it’s not filled with these items.  (more…)

07/06/15 11:55am
ZHICAY1

Alfonso Zhicay brought farm to table cuisine to Woodside.

As someone who’s been eating in Queens for more than 15 years I can safely say that I’ve never encountered a restaurant quite like Casa del Chef, an Ecuadorean-owned farm to table bistro around the corner from Filipino fast-food purveyor Jollibee. The chef in question is Alfonso Zhicay, who made his bones at places like Bouley and Union Pacific, and worked with Dan Barber for many years. I’m so very honored Chef Zhicay will be cooking alongside two other Queens culinary superstars Huge Dufour and Danny Brown at The Catskills Comes to Queens on August 1. Zhicay was kind enough to take the time out of his busy schedule to answer seven questions, including the accidental road to chefdom.

I’m so honored to have you participating in The Catskills Comes to Queens. Tell me about the dish you’ll be preparing August 1.
It’s a seasonal favorite with our customers that combines savory and sweet: braised short ribs -cooked for 10 hours with lots of tamarind, fruit chutneys, Madeira wine and bay leaves.

What inspired you to open Casa del Chef?
For many years I have been working with wonderful chefs in world-class restaurants. I have been looking for the right opportunity to open my own place where I can fully express my skills and passions in a cozy neighborhood setting.

What are some of your favorite ingredients to work with?
There are so many, but a few of my favorites are sherry wine vinegar, basil oil lemon dressing, and of course fresh vegetables. (more…)

04/09/15 12:22pm
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Sotto 13’s Ed Cotton and friend.

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…)

09/18/14 10:35am

smooklerJoshua Smookler the man behind Pete Wells’ favorite ramen has been a busy man of late. In between the birth of his daughter and the run-up to Mu Ramen,which is set to open mid to late October, he was kind enough answer Seven Questions.

Will you be unveiling any new ramen?
Yes, we will have four types of ramen that will be seasonal. Three of the ramens will always be on the menu; Mu Ramen, Spicy Miso, and the Tonkotsu 2.0. I have not decided which four we will open with but we will always have five ramens on the menu and one rotating on a weekly basis.

What types of ramen could they be? It could be anything from Tsukemen, Foie, Duck, Pata Negra, Parmesan, Seafood, Shoyu, Yuzu, Paitan, Kimchi…basically these ramens I have mentioned I have already made.

They are all very delicious, but I want to keep it fresh. So we will see which are popular and which are not. It really depends on the guests, how I feel, and what inspires me. (more…)

05/29/14 12:25pm
Tyson makes the first cut as an eager crowd looks on.
Tyson Ho is bringing whole hog barbecue to Bushwick this summer.

A little over year ago New York City’s very own Chinese-American Yankee whole hog cooker, Tyson Ho, and I journeyed to the heart of North Carolina barbecue. With the Big Apple BBQ Block Party just two weeks away and Ho’s Arrogant Swine restaurant beginning to take shape in Bushwick, I thought it would be a good time for us to sit down and chat.

What’s this I hear about you trying to get a Thai pitmaster? You’re not going to turn Northeastern Carolina ’cue into Southeast Asian ’cue are you?
I figured I’d put an ad out there in the Thai community. Southeast Asians have been cooking North Carolina barbecue for generations. In fact the single largest diaspora community of Degars, natives of the central Highlands of Vietnam, live in Greensboro N.C. The pits of Stamey’s Barbecue in Greensboro, which is historically the most significant and influential western Carolina barbecue spot in the region, are run by a pitmaster by the name of Pon, a Degar immigrant. Several decades of traditional North Carolina barbecue has been served [and cooked] by a Southeast Asian American.

I’m not sure I’ll find a Southeast Asian pitmaster but if I do, we would be continuing a long standing tradition.

HD8
I can hardly wait for Ho’s whole hog,

So where are you going to be getting your hogs from and how will they be smoked?
I am working with a farm in Seven Springs, N.C., a town with a whooping population of 85 persons. We’re still working out the logistics of getting them up here but I’m optimistic. They’re a special breed called Chester Whites which have extensive marbling and amazing flavor. I’m also in the process of building my own hog smokers. After years of dealing with the good and ugly (mainly ugly), I have a general idea of what makes for a great hog smoker.

I seem to recall reading on your blog about a wonderful pork product called outside brown. What’s that all about?
Outside brown is the smoky crusty part of the pork shoulder that is native to the Western Carolina region in what’s known as the Piedmont Triangle. It is served with tomato based red sauce and red slaw. At the Swine we’ll be butchering pork shoulder in a way that will maximize exposure to the smoke, thus making the entire cut “outside brown.” This also a way to showcase the nuances of real North Carolina BBQ and to educate the public that pulled pork is a crude oversimplification of our tradition.

What made you settle on Brooklyn instead of Queens? Have you forsaken your home borough?
I wouldn’t call it forsaking Queens as much as put my plans on temporary hiatus. While residential rental rates are significantly lower than Brooklyn, commercial leases are the opposite. In industrial North Brooklyn, my competition for space is small fry speculators like me. In Queens I’m fighting for spaces against Starbucks, Foot Locker etc. Spots in Ridgewood, Astoria, Sunnyside are a fraction of my current space and yet almost at twice the cost per month. So let’s see how things work out in Brooklyn and if I get a few more pennies in my pocket I can try Queens again.

What can folks expect from the menu at Arrogant Swine?
I have a few items I’m putting up there, but still deciding if they’ll stay. The core of everything is the whole hog. Any menu item can go or change.  This is largely why I haven’t really published a menu of sorts yet. In North Carolina, barbecue is whole hog, everything else is optional. We will serve up our smoked hog with slaw and cornpone. It will be dressed with the traditional vinegar pepper sauce. We can be playful in seasoning different things like chicken or turkey but never the hog.

What about your artisanal ham?
Given that North Carolina BBQ doesn’t have a very diverse menu set, I figured I’d dig deeper into the whole hog philosophy. To really make ourselves a church of pork, I decided that we were going to import in the Iberian tradition of serving long cured hams. These will be American hams curated from Virginia to Georgia, and like our BBQ, have been long vetted by the palate of history. There is no amount of chefy creativity that could make a better appetizer than these hams. We can take the greatest culinary minds of our generation. Pit them against the traditions of salt, smoke and time. The fight wouldn’t even be remotely fair, ham will win every time.

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Graffiti will grace the wall of Arrogant Swine.

How will it be different from a Carolina whole hog barbecue joint, besides the graffiti?
We are the only Carolina BBQ joint housed inside a Munich-style beer hall. The issue with most joints in North Carolina is that they’re restaurants. I’m not interested in importing in Carolina cuisine, but rather the tradition of the Carolina pig picking. Pig pickings strengthen communities and ties us to our history. A beer hall is the perfect place to host a pig picking.

Actually tell me about the graffiti. What does street art legend Adam Cost have to do with barbecue anyway?
Our walls are curated by the Bushwick Collective, a syndicate of globally famous street artists doing murals in Bushwick. Street art has everything to do with barbecue. Barbecue, especially whole hog, is a gathering of the community. Here in Bushwick, the community is progressive and artistic. So rather than outfit ourselves with faux Southern kitsch and look like some overpriced Cracker Barrel, we are a Bushwick joint. As a proper Bushwick joint, we dress ourselves accordingly.

You seem to have developed an obsession with doughnuts over the past year. Are you moonlighting as a cop?
There might be something in the works. I might just be messing with folks on social media. Or I’m simply on a slow march towards obesity. Folks will simply have to stay tuned to see which.

Will you assisting your mentor Ed Mitchell at this year’s Big Apple BBQ Block Party?
I’m probably gonna stop in and greet some old friends. But building the Swine up has taken away any opportunities for extra-curricular activities.

What do you think of this year’s lineup?
From a whole hog point of view it’s amazing how many we have. Rodney Scott, Sam Jones, Pat Martin and of course Ed. Hopefully this upswing in hoggers means that folks finally see an appreciation of nose to tail eating. And in good timing too! My rent is due soon ….