The Beauty of Queens

One of the reasons I love my neighborhood in Queens so much is that there are hundreds of different types of cuisine at your fingertips, and all of them made authentically. One stretch of road offers Brazilian, Italian, Spanish, Mexican, Ecuadorian, and Indonesian. On Sunday I braved the heat with friends to explore an Indonesian food bazaar at the Masjid Al-Hikmah mosque in Astoria, Queens and had quite the incredible Sunday meal.

I would love to go into detail about the names and ingredients of all of the authentic dishes, but to tell you the truth… I’m short on details. When I asked what each dish was, the woman behind the counter took pity on my blatant white-ness and described things as “ground beef inside pastry dough” or “ground chicken in fried dough.” My favorite description was “vegetarian patty” with a shrimp head blatantly sticking out of the side. Exhibit A: “vegetarian patty”:

We indulged in ground chicken mixed with spices tucked inside thick crusty dough, ground beef and spices inside thin layers of pastry dough (my personal favorite), rice wrapped around ground beef cooked inside a banana leaf, banana cake inside of a banana leaf, shrimp crackers, and sticky rice made with coconut milk, rolled in shredded coconut topped with plum sauce.

Again, I wish I could tell you all of the authentic names of these dishes but be happy with that incredible picture. The Masjid Al-Hikmah mosque in Queens has these bazaars quite a bit so it’s worth checking back to their website to find out when the next one is. The food is authentic, incredible, and dirt cheap. My friends and I probably spent around $20 total and ate until we couldn’t see straight. Sunday Success.

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Classy Ladies

That is one giant shaker of Old Bay, but we're not complaining

In addition to my incredible birthday lunch, I was treated to an equally delicious birthday dinner. I got an e-mail a few weeks ago about a special deal at Choptank in Manhattan from Tasting Table (on a side note, if you live in New York and you don’t get these e-mails, you are SERIOUSLY missing out). For $36 you get half a dozen crabs and a growler of beer. I said, a GROWLER of beer. That’s a half gallon, people. One half gallon of beer.

Please don’t judge me.

Anyway, I knew this was what I wanted for my birthday. When the waitress laid out the newspaper, handed us little wooden hammers, and set down a roll of paper towels, I knew I made the right choice.

They pour those crabs out on the table in front of you from a paper bag! Love it.

Choptank 308 Bleecker Street between Grove Street and Barrow Street, New York, NY. Choptank is named after the Choptank River in the heart of the Chesapeake Bay. The food is mid-Atlantic inspired and seafood-centric, and just down-home enough to make me want to go back again and again.

On the menu:
Homemade potato chips with Old Bay, served with crab dip (a free starter!)
Middleneck Clams with garlic Butter, herbs, and country toast
Tasting Table special: 6 crabs plus a growler of Lionshead Deluxe Pilsner, served with red potatoes and fresh corn
Thousand layer cake with fudge frosting
Hamburger cookies with frosting and vanilla ice cream

Thousand layer cake

Verdict: The clams! The clams! Oh lord, the clams! The crabs were a lot of work (a LOT of work) and not really worth the effort, but oh man, the clams. I could’ve eaten three dozen. They were served in a steam pot full of melted butter with just a pinch of red pepper flakes and a hint of garlic. Becca and I both agreed we’d like to pour that sauce on everything from steak to cardboard. It was that good. Choptank gets its seafood from a New York fish market, but their baked goods are imported: the cake from a local bakery, and the cookies are delivered straight from Maryland where hamburger cookies are a local specialty.

Hamburger cookies - essentially black and white cookies but amaaaaazing

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Oui, Oui Baby

Marinated fingerling potatoes

French food is my favorite cuisine. Hands down. And for my birthday, my parents took me to Gordon Ramsay’s Maze at The London where Monsieur Ramsay has created quite the menu. This $26 pre-fixe lunch is available year round, but right now it’s Restaurant Week and there is an additional pre-fixe menu for only $24.07. So… there’s really no reason not to go. Have you left yet? Okay, read the review first. And then go.

Tortellini of beef short rib

Maze by Gordon Ramsay at The London 54th Street between 6th and 7th Avenue, New York, NY. Maze offers a standard 3-course pre-fixe meal for lunch with tapas-sized offerings. The food is French-inspired but in true Gordon Ramsay style, there is an element of comfort food and Asian fusion.

Pan seared halibut

On the menu:

Marinated fingerling potatoes with Holland leeks, poached quail’s egg, and prosciutto
Tortellini of beef short rib with escarole, trumpette royale and dashi
Cobb salad with free-range eggs and blue cheese
Pan-seared halibut with butternut squash and brown butter vinegar sauce
Boulliabaisse
Chocolate pudding with stout ice cream, pretzel, peanut butter powder
Vanilla custard with citrus fruits, brown sugar oats and mandarin sorbet

Cobb salad (minus the bacon for my veg mom)

Verdict: DEEEEELICIOUS! I read very mixed reviews of this restaurant online, but I was so impressed, as were my parents, and that’s saying something. I won’t try to run through every dish for you, but let me tell you that the sauces made these plates. My gorgeous halibut was set down in front of me and then the waiter poured the brown butter sauce over and I almost dove in head first. The chocolate pudding was also a stand out dish, and I don’t know what peanut butter powder is but I know I need more of it in my life. I went back to work in a food coma and was effectively useless for the rest of the day. In my book: success.

Boulliabaisse

Chocolate pudding

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Just a Taste

Dear friends, readers, loved ones, and all y’all in between:

I had a fabulous birthday and it was chock full of amazing treats. I started my day with a bowl of Irish Special K (it’s different, I swear!), received a pistachio cupcake and a brownie first thing in the morning at work, and continued to eat like a fiend all day long. I hoped to regale you with tales of amazing delicacies today but I am in a food coma and am in desperate need of sleep. Therefore I give you this. A teaser. The remnants of an unbelievable seafood meal, compliments of my dear friend Becca.

Tomorrow I’ll have a full report on the incredible restaurants and even more outstanding dishes that I enjoyed (serious recommendations coming!) but today, the day after my twenty-COUGH birthday, I am content knowing I did some serious damage.

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The Most Special Day of the Year

Today is my birthday. Let’s just say I’m not shy about announcing it. Tomorrow I’ll have endless posts about delicious birthday meals, but today I’m just going to leave you with this, a birthday card that was sent to me by my dear friend Meredith.

Now that’s saying something.

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It’s Greek to Me

The heat has been making headlines all over the place here in New York City, and as I mentioned before, it makes me want to stay far out of the kitchen (i.e. the only room in the apartment without a fan or AC unit). But I’m hungry, people. And I miss cooking. I miss it a lot.

So tonight I recreated one of my favorite, most basic dishes from Aladdin’s Natural Eatery in lovely Rochester, NY with very minimal prep and stove time. It’s a twist on traditional souvlaki but it was delicious and gave me enough leftovers for two extra meals. TAKE THAT OPPRESSIVE HEAT! I’m still eating. Can’t nobody hold me down.

On the menu:
Steak souvlaki salad
Serves 3

1 lb flank steak
Salt and pepper
1 Tbsp canola oil
4 oz feta cheese
1/2 large red onion, thinly sliced
2 Tbsp dry white wine
4 cups mixed greens (I used a bag of ready-made salad)

Dressing:

1/4 cup olive oil
2 Tbsp red wine vinegar
Salt and pepper
1 tsp honey
1 tsp lemon juice

Heat canola oil in a large skillet over high heat, until you can see slight heat ripples in the oil. Season steak liberally on each side with plenty of salt and pepper. Don’t be shy now! Seriously. Coat it. Sear steak for 2 minutes on each side. Lower heat to medium and cook steak for 5 minutes on each side. Remove from heat. Let rest for at least 30 minutes before slicing into bite size pieces.

In the same skillet you cooked the steak in, add the wine and turn heat to low/medium. Scrape the bottom of the pan to loosen the brown bits. Add onions and coat in the wine sauce. Let cook for around 6-8 minutes, or until onions have softened and the wine has cooked down.

Plate salad, place steak on top of lettuce, and crumble feta cheese over top. Lay onions on top. Whisk together the ingredients for the dressing and pour on top of the salad. Serve immediately.

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Hey Y’all!

This past weekend I flew down to Norfolk, Virginia for a little R&R. One of the reasons I love going down south is obviously, the food. I don’t know if you’ve noticed a recurring theme here in this blog, but I love comfort food. Love. It. So we always make a point to hit Waffle House when we go to Norfolk. If you don’t know Waffle House, then I don’t know you.

Let it be known that I have a couple rules when it comes to my baked goods, and that includes waffles. Rule #1: no nuts. I absolutely 100%, no exceptions, hate nuts in my baked goods. In my opinion, they ruin the whole cakey, doughy confection.

So um… I ordered the pecan waffle. It is literally the ONLY exception to my nut-less rule, and it is so very worth it. Crispy on the outside, fluffy in the middle, and it’s thin. You won’t find any three inch thick Belgian waffle here. Just a thin, delicious waffle like God intended: with pecans.

And to wrap it all up, hashbrowns, Waffle House style. It’s like a different language down there. Smothered, covered, scattered, filtered, muffled, crumpled, scuttled… Okay, those last four don’t count. But look at this perfection. Ignore the blatant slice of American cheese on there. Somehow it tastes fresh off the farm.

Going to Virginia always makes me realize one thing: if I lived down there all the time, I’d weigh 863 pounds. For sure.

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