11/06/17 5:57pm

Yum woon sen, aka magic noodles.

It takes a lot to get me to eat Thai food outside of Elmhurst, after all Queens’ second smaller Chinatown is the best place in New York City for Southeast Asian fare. And takes even more for me to trek to Brooklyn for Thai food, but I’d been curious about Chef Hong Thaimee’s new spot in Williamsburg, Thaimee at McCarren since it opened back in September. So when my pal Matt Bruck invited me in for a tasting I hurried over there.

Four subways later I found myself chatting with Chef Hong and staring down a plate of yum woon sen, or magic noodle salad. Chef Hong says the magic comes from the fact the vermicelli—dyed an eerie shade of blue thanks to butterfly pea flower—changes to purple when lime juice is mixed in tableside. I disagree. The magic is in the brightly balanced flavors: palm sugar, lime juice, fish sauce, chili, and garlic. (more…)

06/24/15 11:20am
At first glance it looks like a chicken burger on steroids.

At first glance it looks like a chicken burger on steroids.

As the self-proclaimed culinary king of Queens I’ve made something of a cottage industry of hating on Brooklyn, particularly the legions of kombucha-swilling beard-sporting gastrohipsters. The notable exceptions to my Kings County antipathy are old-school spots like Bamonte’s and its slightly more new-fangled neighbor, The Meat Hook. It’s taken me a good six months to visit the butcher shop’s nearby sandwich satellite. Yesterday Chef Dave and I stopped by after braving what seemed like hours of traffic. (more…)

11/05/14 10:13am

Grandma would approve.

With the  exception of old school red sauce joints  my antipathy for Brooklyn is nigh legendary, which is why I’m glad that I have friends like Kristen Baughman ,who was kind enough to write a guest post about a certain Southern sandwich in the County of Kings for this week’s Sandwich Wednesday. Take it away, Kristen.

I recently moved to Brooklyn on a whim. Sure, I’ve met my fair share of interesting people—like the man off the Morgan Avenue L train stop who owns a pet bobcat. The beauty of New York City is that everyone is different. Unlike the suburbs of North Carolina, I can walk outside of my tiny Bushwick apartment on any given day and hear at least three different languages or see someone with blue hair. I’m having fun exploring the Big Apple, but I would be lying (especially to my stomach) if I told you I didn’t miss Southern food. (more…)

07/11/14 9:49am

Cornbread with salted caramel syrup and burnt sugar.

Last Saturday was sweltering. It was even hotter if you were waiting on line to view Kara Walker’s “A Subtlety, or the Marvelous Sugar Baby,” at the soon to be demolished Domino Sugar Factory. As we left the domain of the massive sugar sphinx-mammy I tasted  a few grains of what I presumed to be some ancient turbinado sugar that was laying on a girder. Back outside in the heat I pondered whether that was a good idea, and my crew and I decided to chill out with something sweet and cool at the nearby OddFellows Ice Cream Co. (more…)

06/20/13 1:50pm
The décor at Oddfellows is Americana with a side of oddity, like ice cream Jesus.

Oddfellows’ décor is Americana with a side of oddity, like ice cream Jesus

When I heard about OddFellowsIce Cream Co. the Billyburg scoop shop that former wd~50 pastry chef Sam Mason opened with Holiday and Mohan Kumar, I knew it was only a matter of time before I’d be trying it. Then I read they were serving chorizo caramel swirl. That sealed the deal. Last Saturday after my latest Thai chicken skin mitzvah I stopped by the newly minted scoop shop,which lies just a cone’s throw from Smorgasburg.

Flavors range from the classics like chocolate chunk to oddballs like chorizo caramel swirl.

Flavors range from classics like chocolate chunk to oddballs like chorizo swirl.

I was so eager to try OddFellows I poked my head in before they’d even opened for the day. Two hours later I returned with my pals Siobahn Wallace, co-author of the excellent and hunger-inducing New York à La Cart and Chris Crowley, a fired-up young food writer who is to the Bronx as I am to Queens. I was somewhat doubtful Siobahn would still have an appetite for ice cream after downing a pie shake from Butter & Scotch. And Chris said he was saving his appetite for some Bronx birria. I, on the other hand had plenty of room for ice cream. The question as I perused the menu was whether to go with the classics like chocolate chunk and Battenkill sweet cream or oddballs like maple bacon pecan and chorizo caramel swirl. (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.

05/01/13 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…)

04/30/13 12:00pm
Yuji Ramen was still pretty sedate before the arrival of the hungry,hungry hipsters.

Yuji was still pretty sedate before the arrival of the hungry, hungry hipsters.

If there’s anything I hate more than foodies it’s hipsters. So the often overcrowded, overpriced  hipster/foodie paradise that is Smorgasburg has never been too high on my list. When it comes to crowds and food I’ll take a Southeast Asian Lunar New Year buffet over the scrum that befalls East River Park every Saturday. This Saturday was my second time at Smorgasburg. The first was last summer to eat foie gras poutine  made by Hugue Dufour. This time around I was on a mission to supply some chicken cracklin’ to a pal with a new booth at the market. With my mission accomplished and the market not yet too crowded I decided to treat myself to a bowl of noodles from Yuji Ramen.

Yuji’s uni ramen is briny and decadent.

Yuji’s uni ramen is briny and decadent.

For a moment I considered the bacon, egg, and cheese noodles ($10), but I was kind of full after sampling my pal’s wares. So I opted for the somewhat lighter sounding uni miso ($10). The ramen dude congratulated me on my choice pointing out that the Maine uni he uses would soon be going out of season. The creamy sea urchin melted atop the warm, chewy noodles coating them with a rich, briny sauce. It was far richer than I thought it would be, though the blood orange zest and shiso managed to cut the richness somewhat. It could have used just a bit of the citrusy Japanese hot paste yuzu kocho.

For dessert I had a half dozen oysters ($16) from Brooklyn Oyster Party. The super briny bivalves served as an effective palate cleanser, and reawakened my appetite. Since I was already at Smorgasburg I thought I might as well get my feed on. Check back tomorrow for a Smorgasburg Sandwich Wednesday, plus the details of my secret chicken crackling mission.

Smorgasburg, East River State Park, at Norh 7th St., Saturday, 11 a.m.-6 p.m.