Literary Astoria

This weekend really opened my eyes as to how much great literary action is happening in Queens!  I had no idea there were so many people involved in developing a supportive community of poets and writers in our very own borough.  It’s all very exciting and refreshing to see it first hand, which is what we did on Friday and Saturday nights this weekend.

On Friday night, we rocked up to the Queens Literary Town Hall, held by the Queens Council on the Arts in their “3rd Space” location in Astoria.   The event, hosted and curated by local artist Audrey Dimola, featured different people from all over the borough giving information and in some cases a sample, of their literary-related Queens-based event and organizations.  The participating collectives/businesses included Boundless Tales Reading Series, First Tuesdays Reading Series & Open MicREZ Reading SeriesOh Bernice! Reading Series, Astoria Bookshop, Enigma Bookstore, and Newtown Literary Journal. It was really great to see that there is so much going on that we have yet to explore when it comes to experiencing local writing!

Literary Town Hall at the Queens Council on the Arts 3rd Space

Literary Town Hall at the Queens Council on the Arts 3rd Space

On Saturday night, jazzed by the evening before, we decided to check out the Oh Bernice! Reading Series at Astoria Bookshop.  Featuring poets and writers including Celine Keating, Kathryn Levy, John Reid Currie, and Peter Vanderburg, we got to taste a selection of some of work that I think otherwise I might not have sought out on my own.  I particularly liked John Reid Currie‘s work, and it was a bit of a kick to hear him recite a poem set in our very own Astoria!

For more information on what’s going on in your area, check out the above sites and go support the writers of Queens!

Fall is coming

Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness,
Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun;
Conspiring with him how to load and bless
With fruit the vines that round the thatch-eves run;
To bend with apples the moss’d cottage-trees,
And fill all fruit with ripeness to the core;
To swell the gourd, and plump the hazel shells
With a sweet kernel; to set budding more,
And still more, later flowers for the bees,
Until they think warm days will never cease,
For summer has o’er-brimm’d their clammy cells.
– To Autumn, John Keats

fall-leaf

It’s coming real close for Johanna and I to start busting out the boots and flannel. Dangerously close. It’s also that time where the summer trends lead into fall, and everything (EVERYTHING) is going to taste like pumpkin for a while.

And as the season winds down, so do the patio brunches, the long lines and outdoor BBQs. Now is the time to start hunting that bar that has the fireplace, that’s going to have cocktails that will warm your cockles and that all alluring season tasting menu.

Along with land speculation, NYC has a fondness for restaurant speculation. And right now: Queens has slowly been heating up. The recent produced Eater Queens Heatmap has rolled out and I gotta say some of these places are worth the trip.

1. Snowdonia (34-55 32ND ST, ASTORIA, NY 11106)- Gastropub, Good Beer Selection, good for a second date.

2. Tamashii Ramen (29-05 BROADWAY, ASTORIA, NY 11106)- Great Ramen at an even greater price. You’re gonna want to come here early, because it’s tiny and it WILL get packed.

3. Woodbines (47-10 VERNON BOULEVARD, LONG ISLAND CITY, NY 11101)- I’m already gonna spoil it for you- this place is gonna get it’s own dedicated post. Stay tuned.

4. Pata Paplean (76-21 WOODSIDE AVE, ELMHURST, NY) – We’ll make it out here and tell you all about it. We swear on our Kuai-tiao nam.

5. Sayra’s Wine Bar (91-11 ROCKAWAY BEACH BLVD, QUEENS, NY)- Quite the distance- and sadly we did not make it out to Rockaway Beach this year.

6. Crescent Grill (38-40 CRESCENT STREET, QUEENS, NY 11101) – We’ve made plans to go here- and we will. Just you see.

7. Mar’s (34TH AVE, ASTORIA, NY 11106)- I sampled one of every oyster here- and they were all magnifique. The menu is quite select right now- but they plan on rolling out some landlubbing fare soon.

8. Milkflower ( 34-12 31ST AVE., ASTORIA, NY 11106)-  Gonna get some flack on this- but we weren’t really fans. I like the hearth and soul they put into their woodfire pizzas, and I love the house made mozzarella, but I feel if they dialed it back a notch- things would be great.

9. Grill 43 (43-02 43RD AVE, SUNNYSIDE, NY 111040)- Trust me, I love me some Chicken Doner, so this is gonna be a very important trek for us.

10. Bunker (46-63 METROPOLITAN AVE, RIDGEWOOD, NY 11385)- I wanted to say a little out of the way, but I recall the madcap-ness of having to find this place- it’s way out of the way. If you’re in the area, it’s decent place- but bring your wallet. It’s also tiny, so bring some of your closest friends, no space to get acquainted here.  Also- there’s a great big Western Beef over there that captured our hearts.

11. Mamak House (35-20 FARRINGTON STREET, FLUSHING, NY 11355)- It’s not often that I’ve had any Malaysian food, but I think it’s high time I did. Johanna has had it, and in her words: “I liked it a lot. It’s good.”

12. MP Taverna (31-29 DITMARS BLVD, ASTORIA, NY 11105)- I directed my boss to go here on one of his seldom trips out of Manhattan. He loved it. Ditmars has really been ebbing and flowing with new restaurants, and this one seems to be the crown jewel of the avenue.

13. LÁO CHÉNG DŪ (37-17 PRINCE ST, FLUSHING, NY 11354) –  With all the awesome restaurants in Flushing, for this one to get called out, they gotta be doing something extra special.

14. Alchemy, Texas ( 71-04 35TH AVENUE, JACKSON HEIGHTS, NY)- Deep in the heart of Jackson Heights and tucked in the back of sports bar, some of the best BBQ in New York City. (Note: I believe this place has either shut down, or is shutting down very soon..)

15. M. Wells Dinette (22-25 JACKSON AVE, QUEENS, NY 11101)- I’ve read all the back-and-forth about M. Wells, that it closed, that it’s now reopened. I think I’m gonna make this trip soon just so I can see this version open for my own eyes.

SO- in summation- we’ve got a lot of homework and trips to make- and we hope you’ll make them too.

The Elusive, Exclusive Momo

For many people, Jackson Heights has been a destination solely based on Jackson Diner. Yes, THE Jackson Diner, with the most out of this world awesome all you can eat buffet. Last year we deviated slightly from the norm and went on TONY’s Jackson Heights 1$ Food Tour, and while that was an eye-opening taste experience, there was still so much unexplored territory. So this rainy Sunday we went back to one of the most culturally eclectic neighborhoods in all the city to try out even more delicious cuisine.

Enter the Momo.

Big Pot of steamed momo's.

Big Pot of steamed momo’s.

 

The momo is, for all intents and purposes, a dumpling. Although similar to Chinese dumplings, these little guys were born in the far reaches of Tibet, Nepal and Bhutan. We trekked all over Jackson Heights (and Woodside) to a variety of joints by way of the 2nd Annual Momo Crawl held by Jeffery Tastes (http://iwantmorefood.com/). We didn’t get to all the momo vendors in the 3 hours allotted for the crawl, but we did get to sample some from each place listed below- usually beef, chicken or vegetable- one place even had a back order of Yak (which is almost out of season, if you didn’t know). So please, read on, eaters, and then, have some momo.

1. Woodside Cafe
64-23 Broadway

Way off the beaten path of Jackson Heights proper, you have to crossover the BQE. They offered the only momos that were Kothey momos- meaning they are pan fried after steaming giving it a crispy underbelly but retains the softness of the dumpling.

2. Himalayan Yak
72-20 Roosevelt

Now THIS place is what I’m talking about. This place is a real gem- and the bartender/manager/owner ( didn’t get his name) explained a lot of the background of the momo to us, and a few extra tidbits of information, mainly:

  • In order to get around eating beef, Hindus eat yak meat momos.

  • Imported Yak meat costs around $12 a pound.

  • Yak meat season is nearly over, soon they will have water buffalo meat-based momos.

 The momos here- not bad. I really wanted to try the yak momos, but since they only charged us $1 for a single momo, the nice informative proprietor would have lost out. 

3. Potala Fresh Momo Cart
Broadway (between Roosevelt/73rd St.)

Although it seems like just any other cart, you could see the steam billowing out of both windows. You’re gonna need a spare 15 minutes, but it’s well worth the wait.  Gonna have to warn folks, the red sauce that comes with it looked way too spicy for me.

5. DhaulaGiri Kitchen
3738 72nd St

Taking it’s name from the 7th highest mountain in the world, this tiny tiny kitchen cranks the momos out. It feels exclusive- the place only seats 4 against the wall across from the kitchen- which makes up the rest of the place. The momos here were much lighter than the others; the chicken and beef were less dense. They had three different sauces that we sorta learned the names of as the day went on, but I have to say at this place, we kept dipping, and dipping, and dipping… not afraid to double or tripled dip they were so good.

6. Gangjong Kitchen
7224 Roosevelt Ave.

The owner of Gangjong Kitchen, Tenzinga La, must be doing something right. He was the executive chef of the Russian Kalmyk President, which earned him a gold medal for excellence of service. So you know the momo is going to be good here. They also seemed fried- a lot harder skin that was wrapped tightly around the meat and vegetables, like a cocoon of goodness. 

7. A+G Himalayan Cart
73rd Street (btwn Roosevelt and Broadway)

This is where we got a bit more of a lesson in momos on the varying regions. The guy who runs the cart explained that he was from Tibet, and that there was a wide variety of momos. By the time we got to the A + G Himalayan Cart we were falling into that gray area where we weren’t exactly momo novices, but we could comment intelligently at a party (excuse me, are those Nepalese or Tibetan momos on that tray over there?) Here we got a small history lesson to increase our knowledge, along with some deliciousness which is always good. The dumplings had stewy juices in them, which really enhanced the flavor. Not sure what his hours are or how often he’s there slinging these out, but it’s right next to all the trains, and worth a try.

8. Lali Guras
3763 76th Street

Once again– tiny dining room, just enough to seat eight people comfortably, but where they lack in space, they’re big on flavor. The chef is also a cutup- he knew that there were going to be so many people coming for the momos- he just started to give them away for free. We had the chicken momos here. I’d like to come back and try some of the other dishes that were listed. I just learned that Lali Guras means Rhododendron, which is the national flower of Nepal. They’re cash only, and if I was out for a night out and needed something quick, this would be the place. I had to ask the chef several times to repeat what sauce we were eating (turns out to be a tomato chili sauce) and he shouts next time I come back he’s gonna charge me. I’ll definitely spend my money there.

9. Chilli Chicken
75-18 37th Ave.

This was a really standard spot- absolutely no ambience, but the service was good at least. The momos were so-so, they really were…. forgettable.

10. Mustang Thakali
7414 37th Ave.

Not quite sure what’s going on around the 37th street momo spots! Mustang Thakali is a block away from Chili Chicken, and I could swear they were the same place. Except at Chili Chicken they service was way better.  At Mustang Thakali they were not into it, and didn’t even try to be into it. Everywhere else we went they were happily selling the dumplings for $1 a person. This place flatly told us that they were $5 for 8- which I think to their chagrin we ordered anyway. The momos were really bland, and they tasted  as if they were steamed quickly after they were pulled from the freezer for defrosting. Real generic here. On the way out they refused to stamp our crawl map, as all the other vendors had willingly done. Come on.

11. Wasabi Point
7618 Woodside Ave.

I had to put aside all my reservedness for things being labeled Fusion. Wasabi Point was another that was quite off the beaten path, but the momo was great. It’s not THE pick of the litter, but honestly, looking for some good simple food this far out, it’s a good spot.

12. Delhi Heights
37-66 74th St, Jackson Heights, NY 11372

What got me about this place is they have a walkup window- you can stroll on past and grab your fix on the way off the train. The dude was super friendly, and was excited that people were eating momo from all over. He was eager to stamp our map, I could see in his eyes that he wanted that Golden Momo trophy.

At the end of the crawl, all of the participants voted on the best momo in the area, and the Golden Momo trophy was given to Phayul, which was unfortunately one of the places we didn’t make it to.

All in all it was really great to get out there and try something new, and eat some great food.  To be honest, we are already planning our trip back for more momo.  First stop: Himalayan Yak. I don’t think I’d get to try Water Buffalo anywhere else. Really.