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.

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…)

09/02/15 12:01pm

The Austin Ramen Cho features brisket, bacon, cheese, and kimchi.

When I was growing up the closest thing to an extreme sandwich was something called a Dagwood. It was septuple-decker and was only eaten in comic strips by an absurdly thin man. To be sure there were Philly cheesesteaks around, I just never ate one. Today there are all kinds of extreme sandwiches, including the Puma from Tortas Neza, which is bigger than your head and contains a chorizo omelet among other things. The Puma is the Dagwood of Mexican sandwiches. It’s a sandwich fueled by the twin engines of Mexican pride and team spirit for football club Los Pumas de la UNAM. It is also at its heart an American sandwich, embracing Mexican foodways and turning them up several dozen notches. (more…)

07/22/15 10:07am
Surely the best head cheese slider in Queens.

Surely the best head cheese slider in Queens.

The amount of times I’ve wandered into Astoria’s Muncan Food Corp. to ogle all the various cuts of burnished charcuterie without purchasing anything numbers in the hundreds. OK fine, sometimes I grab a bag of jumeri, warm nuggets of crackling made from hog jowls. So I was very pleased to learn that there’s a new sandwich in town that takes many of the old world Romanian butcher’s fine products and places them on a bun. (more…)

08/16/13 3:04pm

These do not appear to be faces of gastronomic bliss.

Above is a snapshot of the only two people who appeared sadder than I did on the debut day of the much  ballyhooed Ramen Burger at Smorgasburg. I waited on line in the rain for more than hour, my desire for mutant foodstuffs unrequited. I was angry, sad, and confused. Why did I set myself up for failure by not showing up early enough? Do I really care about such fad foods or am I just trying to drive traffic to my blawg? (Honestly, a bit of both.)

More important than all my navel gazing though is the question I am most asked about weird foodstuffs: “But, is it good?” Based on the expression of the couple above I’d say not really. I will likely eat a Ramen Burger one of these days. My sincere hope is that it is truly delicious. I don’t know if it’s on offer at the ‘Burg  or not, nor do I care. Tomorrow I am looking forward to a day the beach with my brothers. Have a good weekend, and may whatever you eat, faddish or not, be delicious.

08/06/13 10:39am
Best liver ice cream ever!

Best liver ice cream ever!

I am not one to wait in Soviet-style lines for Cronuts, Nutcros, or Empanosas. And, if I am going to spend my valuable time waiting in line for the latest edible sign of the end of the apocalypse said time will not commence at 5 a.m. I suppose that’s why I thought it would be a good idea to wait in line for the Ramen Burger last Saturday morning at Smorgasburg. The Williamsburgh waterfront is a mere 45-minute ride away from my house and the rain will likely keep the crowds down I reasoned.

Curiosity to try the burger with ramen noodle bun caused me to break two of my rules: travelling to Brooklyn and engaging in food faddery. When I got on the bus I heard that line was already 50 people deep. Then my friend Sam Kim texted me to say he was number 110 on the line. When I got there the line snaked all over the market. Sam told me that the Ramen Burgermeisters had been through the line twice and assured him that he’d get a burger. Wrong. After about an hour on the line a gent came by to tell everybody that the Hype Burger—I mean Ramen Burger—was sold out. I seem to remember chanting “Attica!! Attica!!” upon hearing the bad news. All of us briefly entertained the idea of slugging someone and snatching their Ramen Burger, but reason prevailed. (more…)

06/17/13 12:45pm
Hungry hordes gathered to eat and shop.

Hungry hordes gathered to eat and shop.

When it comes to food Queens has Brooklyn beat. After all, the diversity and quality of the grub in Queens is simply mind-blowing. Plus, we have M. Wells Dinette. And as of this past weekend Queens is giving Smorgasburg a run for its money with the newly opened LIC Flea & Food. Here’s a look at some of the market’s food offerings.

Alobar’s big dog topped with ginger pulled pork and carrot slaw.

Alobar’s big dog topped with ginger pulled pork and carrot slaw.

On Saturday morning I was actually at Smorgasburg performing a Thai chicken skin mitzvah for my friends over at Scharf & Zoyer. They also turned me on to a sandwich and I sampled some wonderful couscous from NYSHUK. And then, I had some ice cream from nearby Oddfellows. So, by the time I got to Long Island City the old food tank was pretty full. Good as it looked there was no way I would have been able to take down Alobar’s Big Dog ($12) a frankfurter topped with ginger pulled pork and carrot slaw. (more…)

06/07/13 5:30pm

The Skillman Avenue BBQ Crawl
Saturday June 8, 3:00 p.m. till late
The Skillman Project hosts its annual crawl of the participating bars and restaurants of Skillman Avenue. The theme this time is Summer BBQ. Sign up at The Brogue (49-10 Skillman Ave.) between 3:00-5:00 p.m. To register and receive a wristband you must have ID and a $5 donation.

Big Apple Barbecue Block Party
Saturday and Sunday, June 8 and 9, 11:00-6:00
No doubt the good folks at The Skillman Project are referring to grilling when they say BBQ. This weekend the annual celebration of the smoky arts descends upon Madison Square Park offering tons of succulent hardwood smoked ‘cue. (more…)

05/16/13 9:30am
Thai rock reopens Monday.

Thai Rock reopens Monday.

Indonesian Food Bazaar
Saturday, May 18th, 2013
12:00–3:00 p.m.
First Presbyterian Church of Forest Hills
70-35 112th Street, Forest Hills
If you’re as big a fan of the Indonesian food festivals held at Astoria’s Masjid Al Hikmah as I am you won’t to miss this event. A group of self-professed Indonesian foodies from Forest Hills is hosting this shindig,which will feature martabak, gado-gado, satay and many other Indonesian specialties. Proceeds benefit Roslin Orphanage in Kupang, Indonesia. I will probably not be able to make it as I’m doing a food tour that day, but I am glad to know that there are Indonesian foodies in Forest Hills!

Saturday 11 a.m.-6p.m.
East River Park, the waterfront at N 7th St.
As much as I love to hate on Brooklyn and its legions of gastronerds I have to admit to a soft spot for Smorgasburg. And now have even more reason to like it, my pal Noah Arenstein’s Scharf & Zoyer and its wacky New School take on Old School deli. Did somebody say kugel double down?

Second Annual Momo Crawl, Sunday, May 19, 1:30 p.m.
Meeting place: Jackson Heights Plaza, 37th Rd between 74th Street and Broadway
Local business booster and fresser extraordinaire Jeff Orlick takes to the streets and dumpling parlors of Himalayan Heights for the Second Annual Momo crawl, celebrating the dumplings beloved of Tibetans and Nepalese and their makers who “who have the courage not to open up a Subway.” Meet at the designated spot where you can purchase a momo map for “two bills of any denomination.” Momo eaters will be organized into teams of eight, and a spiffy trophy will be awarded to the winner after all the teams’ votes are tallied.

Thai Rock Reopens, Monday, May 20
375 Beach 92nd Street, Rockaway Beach
I haven’t been able to bring myself to go to Rockaway Beach since Hurricane Sandy. That said I am very glad to know that Thai Rock reopens Monday. I’m gonna do my darnedest to stop by. You should too. Here’s a statement from the owners.

We miss you.  We miss working.  We miss the normal commotion, you know, the things we normally complain about, and although we are not fully ready to serve you as we once did, we are opening our doors Monday and will continue to work day-by-day improving everything we can and always strive to provide the best food, drinks, music, water sports and other diversions.

Our goal is to make your experience at Thai Rock like being on vacation and now more than ever, we will do all we can to bring our customers much needed joy, good times and great food.

One lesson I learned since being in the restaurant business is “good enough is good enough”.  I admire the people who instinctively know this, but for me, it’s a hard learned lesson that still requires more work.  Like the cliché about Rome, I now so much more appreciate the importance of the journey and that the “goal” is merely a milestone along the way and not a destination.

Friends, we have been on a journey together and individually that we did not ask for, that we were not prepared for, for which we sacrificed and lost much, and, to this day, our governmental support net is still not properly supportive.  Together we are challenged as a community, to rebuild, to be strong and united, and to help one another.  Individually, we each have a responsibility to keep our families healthy, to keep ourselves vital and to strengthen our resolve for the future because that is the promise.  The future is the goal.  The future is where the journey takes us and it’s each and every one of our responsibilities to protect, promote, nurture and encourage a positive and health future.  This is our strength.  This is our wealth.

So, Thai Rock is not what it was, but it’s better than it’s been and we will keep on making it better and now it is good enough to open.  Please come by and visit, our menu will be extremely limited to start, and we will only have the outdoor deck open, but it sure will be great to see you again.  Hugs are permitted.

05/10/13 12:55pm

Uncle John’s hot links are revelatory.

Fellow Queens fresser Jeff Orlick offers his take on Smorgasburg, complete with a ginormous Flickr set. He marvels at Crazy Legs’ turkey drumstick schtick and counts himself a fan of Porchetta.

Over at the Voice my main man, Robert Sietsema makes me hungry for the 17-item Cypriot mega-mezze spread and some awesome looking octopus at Astoria’s Kopiaste.

Writing for the Times Peter Kaminsky, who’s perhaps best known to this carnivore for his book “Pig Perfect,” tells a mouthwatering tale of a beefier nature, an Argentine “Secuencia de la Vaca.”

Meat maven Nick Solares pens an ode to Osteria Morini’s 120-day-aged ribeye, which has “a profoundly funky, Gorgonzola cheese like tang thanks to the long aging, and a correspondingly buttery, tender texture.”

My favorite culinary Vikings over at First We Feast take a look at U.S. chefs’ ramen creations, including some that”stretch the definition of ramen a little too far.” Delicious as it sounds I’d put the Pozolemen from Chi-town’s at Oiistar in that category.

Sandwich Surprise ponders whether lettuce wraps can be considered sandwiches, and answers with a delicious-sounding yes: bulgogi lettuce wraps with kimchi chips and fried rice. Best of all, as always there is a recipe.

Looking for a more ambitious, and historical recipe to try? Stop by The Morgan  Library and Museum to check out a 15-century cooking scroll written in Middle English.

05/01/13 10:02am
Noah cracks up the Thai chicken skin.

Noah cracks up the Thai chicken skin.

I have the distinct honor of having performed a cross-borough Thai chicken crackling mitzvah. It all started when I heard that my buddy Noah Arenstein was having problems sourcing gribbenes for Scharf & Zoyer, his new sandwich stand at Smorgasburg. So last Friday night I breezed by the throng waiting for tables outside Thai juggernaut Sripraphai and purchased four boxes of nan kai, super-crunchy fried chicken skin seasoned with salt and garlic.

An experimental kugel double down with cabbage-carrot slaw.

An experimental kugel double down with cabbage-carrot slaw.

Noah had me play guinea pig with his newest creation, a kugel double down with carrot and cabbage slaw topped with gribbenes. The kugel sandwich is his invention and a brilliant one at that. This version of it needs some tweaking, though the Thai gribbenes played their crunchy, salty role perfectly. “I think you’ll find the original more balanced,” Noah said. (more…)