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.

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A Forest fit for Queens

A couple weekends ago we cruised out to the last stop on the R train at Forest Hills-71st Ave to see what actually was at the end of the line.  When talking about Queens, Forest Hills doesn’t really seem to come up. People talk about Flushing, Astoria, Jackson Heights- but not Forest Hills. Since at the time we were in the midst of a heatwave, we had put off making a weekend trek further out into the borough. We’d stayed home, cranked the A/C, and swore to each other that we wouldn’t use the oven, under any circumstances. But we felt obliged, we felt like we should, so we peeled ourselves off the couch and went.

First off- this is one of the NICEST neighborhoods I’ve been to in NYC. Nestled between Corona, Rego Park and Kew Gardens, stepping out of the station is stepping into a serene space, quiet and tranquil. Actually, I couldn’t believe how quiet it was. Deafening.

Forest_Hills

What do The Ramones, Archie Bunker, David Caruso, Hellen Keller, Spiderman and Donna Karen all have in common? Forest Hills!

The first spot we hit was Emily’s Sugar Rush.  Unfortunately, Johanna is not a fan of candies of the gummi variety, but lo and behold there was a wall of gummi candy that stretched the entire store.  I filled my bag with gummi eggs, gummi chickens feet, gummi whales, gummie cherries, gummi… bears, you get the picture:

Emilys_Candy1

Emily’s Sugar Rush! And Gummi Chicken’s Feet.

Afterwards we wandered around taking in Austin Street.  We were hungry- yes- the gummi candy wasn’t going to satisfy me. We wound our way over to Jack and Nellie’s for brunch- unfortunately our meandering caused us to hit that dreaded time in all weekend brunch spots- changing the kitchen over. So instead, their extensive list of beers helped us power through.

After a tipple we wandered some more- it seems that FH has an abundance of green spaces- parks, lots transformed into gated gardens. Like many other neighborhoods, the streets have no rhyme or reason, but in this instance it’s a good thing.

FH-Tour

Before heading back to Astoria we decided to try a bar I had heard of. I had read really good reviews of Dirty Pierre’s and it seemed too hard to pass up the opportunity to try a local dive bar. It’s a gem. Really eclectic, dizzying decor, cheap drinks and cheese balls. You really don’t need much more. After introducing ourselves to the bartender and a couple local patrons, the bartender hooked us up with some delicious samples of sangria.  Apparently that’s something their known for, and after a couple of those babies, I can understand why. Definitely try it if you are every in the neighborhood!

Plenty of pigs and cheap drinks at Dirty Pierre's.

Plenty of pigs and cheap drinks at Dirty Pierre’s.

All up, this is a fantastic neighborhood.  If you’re looking to show that NYC isn’t a concrete jungle, this would be the destination.

Ridgewood: It’s all yours Brooklyn (for the most part)

So I have been hearing a lot about Ridgewood lately; it’s been tossed around as a Bushwick alternative, and I recently saw it mentioned in an article in the New York Times about Queens Brownstoner.  Without knowing that much about the area, it seemed only right that we go and check it out and see what all this fuss is about.

Taking the ol' Q58

Taking the ol’ Q58

After digging up a bit of research, it turns out that Ridgewood has quite an interesting history. Right on the border of Brooklyn, Ridgewood actually was once was a part of Dutch Settlement Bushwick, however is now a part of Queens county.

On a weekend it’s not the easiest area to get to from Astoria, with the M train out of commission. We had the option of taking two buses or one train and one bus– we went with the latter option, and ended up on the corner of Metropolitan Ave and Fresh Pond Road.  Our first destination was a Vietnamese place we read about called Bunker, further down on Metropolitan Ave.  As we set out towards the restaurant, we passed by a pretty forgettable area, kind of half suburban with fast food places, but also kind of industrial.  Walking past Flushing Ave things kind of took a turn for the worst in regards to scenery– it’s flat out industrial here, charmless and really, kind of a random place for a restaurant.

Carvel Ice Cream, Metropolitan Ave, Ridgewood

Carvel Ice Cream, Metropolitan Ave, Ridgewood

However, as we approached Bunker, Dustin and I both got super excited by the enormous Western Beef  that suddenly sprung up in front of us.  Forgetting our rumbling stomachs for a few minutes we went inside and wandered the aisles, gasping at the cheap prices and wishing we had a cheap place near us (there is that small Western Beef on Steinway, but that’s peanuts compared to this one).

After we had calmed down and tried a few free samples, we made our way to the restaurant and were quickly seated.  For an appetizer we shared the summer rolls, Dustin had a pork banh mi, while I had a pork and rice dish. The food was delicious, the service quick and the atmosphere was good, a nice small place, but a bit too small– the waiters kept bumping into us every time they walked past, which got a bit old.  Also, there’s something a tad odd about the theme, I mean, is it weird to call a Vietnamese place Bunker? And have a kind of war-ish decorated bathroom? Something about that seemed a tad off.  The only other criticism I would have is that the price seemed exorbitant– $50 for two lunches, an appetizer and two sodas?  All up I’m still trying to decide if it’s worth it.

Pork Banh Mi at Bunker, Ridgewood

Pork Banh Mi at Bunker, Ridgewood

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Pork and Rice at Bunker, Ridgewood

After eating we decided to head over to the Ridgewood Market.  Walking down Forest Ave we passed back over Flushing, and ended up making a slight detour when we saw a cute, historical-looking street called Stockholm. With it’s fake-cobbled street and colonial-looking houses it was definitely the cutest stretch we saw all day.

Proceeding down Onderdonk for awhile then detouring past a small main street that seemed to embody the vibe of run-down 50’s style, we eventually came upon the Ridgewood Market. Housed in the bottom of the Greater Ridgewood Youth Council, the market was a delight. Food and craft stalls selling their wares at decent prices! I’m all in.

We picked up a really cute cat illustration by Jackson Heights’ artist and photographer William Seifert.

By William Seifert

By William Seifert

After all the walking and browsing we had done, it seemed only right to end our day with a treat, in this case we chose a bourbon bundt cake from New Amsterdam Baking Company.  It truly hit the spot.

Ridgewood Market

Ridgewood Market

Delicious Mini Bundt Cakes

Delicious Mini Bundt Cakes

So all up: Ridgewood, after spending a day with you I still don’t know what to think. Part of me feels like you’re not that bad, though part of me just can’t make my mind up. The perks of the area seem few and far between. I’ll just leave it at that.

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Ramsay does Queens

A couple years ago British celeb chef Jamie Oliver started off a culinary tour of the US with a stop in Queens (Astoria specifically), and now it looks like it’s Gordon Ramsay’s turn to check out our fine borough.

Over the course (get it) of next weekend, July 13 to 16, Ramsay will be filming his show Kitchen Nightmares at Greek restaurant Kati Allo in Bayside. If you wish to be a patron of Kati Allo any one of these nights, email knqueensrest@gmail.com for reservations and more info!

P.S. check out the awesome music intro at the start of Kati Allo’s website… it reminds me of the site of one of my favorite Astoria establishment’s–Ornella Trattoria.

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.

Milkflower– Coming Soon!

So during a walk this fine evening with my sister, we stumbled across a new restaurant-in-process called Milkflower on 31st Avenue, right near one of my favourite neighbourhood restaurants Il Bambino.  We spotted a wood-fired pizza oven in the back, which got me a little bit excited.  Will it rival Sacs on Broadway for the best pizza in Astoria?  Only time will tell…

milkflower

(Please forgive the terrible phone photo)