Queens. It has been a scary place for me. Any time I have ventured into Queens on my own, it’s been by car. Terrible parking, terrible drivers, stupid pedestrians, tons of one way streets, and why is there 37th Road and 37th Avenue and 37th Street??
But, ever since I started working there, I’ve realized that there is so much more to Queens than its irritating roadways. There is a wealth of culture and diversity that is missing from my native Long Island and that is much more authentic than that of many parts of Manhattan.
So today, I was in Jackson Heights.
I used to go there all the time as a kid because there was a small Indian/Pakistani pocket. At the time, Long Island had weak Indo-Pak resources, so almost every weekend, my family and I would go to Jackson Heights for dinner and shopping.
Now that we have a Little India near us, we don’t go to Jackson Heights anymore.
That third world charm in first world land is still there though.
If you walk a few blocks away from Little India, you’ll find an Asian world and in the other direction, a Latin world.
Here is what I found:
An empanada joint!
If you go to their website and look at their menu, you’ll see all the yum combinations they have.
First, I tried the traditional empanadas made with corn flour (they give you the option of corn or wheat flour)
this one is the beef. It’s kind of bland, so you need to use the sauce they give you.
Here is the chicken empanada:
The best thing I may have eaten in a while: the fig, caramel and cheese empanada (brevas, arequipe, y queso).
Once you brush away all of that powdered sugar….
Warm, gooey caramel and fig and thick, salty cheese are a perfect combination… maybe as great as the peanut butter and jelly combination…(blasphemy?)
I definitely felt like an outsider when I ordered these (which I did in English). They called out numbers for each order in Spanish, and I can hold my own when it comes to counting in Spanish, so I listened for my number. But of course, when they reached my order, the girl at the counter shouted my number in English, haha!
If I had kept my mouth shut, she may not have known the difference.
Later on, when I went into another store, I didn’t say a word to the cashier. When he was ringing me up, he gave me my total in Spanish! So, appearances may be deceiving.
Basically, me, empanadas, and Queens have something in common: you have to be adventurous to find out what’s really inside!
This picture pretty much encapsulates the feel of the southern cuisine, doesn’t it?
This was my welcome meal when I arrived in Atlanta, Georgia. My best friend Sarah lives there and upon my arrival, Sarah and her hubby Phil took us to a bar near their house called The Tavern.
I think I’ve been spoiled in New York with the no-smoking-in-bars law. As I walked in to The Tavern, the cigarette smoke attacked me like an excited puppy greeting his owner at the front door.
Amidst the cigarette smoke, my buddy Joe and I ordered the Diablo burger. A burger topped with jalapeño peppers, chili, and fatness! The tater tots were a must. How often does one dine at a restaurant and have tater tots as an option?
So we ate our Diablo burgers, inhaled plenty of second-hand smoke, and just when we thought the night couldn’t get any better, the karaoke started. There were two guys who hogged the mic and guess what kind of music they were both into? Yes! Country music. However, they had pretty impressive voices. This really sealed the deal: I was in the south for sure.
I was wrong… The Tavern was NOT the most southern experience I could have. Visiting the Speedi-Pig in Fayetteville is!
Just pulling up to the restaurant made us laugh when we saw this sign:
I just imagined a dead baby pig covered in BBQ sauce, stuck between two slices of Texas Toast.
But here’s what we actually ate:
Smoked chicken, beans, coleslaw, I was right about the Texas Toast, and pickles.
Ready to consume… I couldn’t finish all of this!
And beneath the disappointing vanilla soft serve, was a very tasty peach cobbler.
Next door to the Speedi-Pig!
One of the major tourist sites of downtown Atlanta is Coke World. It’s right next to the Georgia Aquarium and a 5 minute walk from the Georgia Dome, where we went to Wrestlemania!
You can see the aquarium behind us…
The Coke tour has certainly changed since I last visited. It used to be more of a typical museum tour, explaining the history of Coca Cola with different exhibits (like an old fashion soda shop scene).
Now, it’s all about video and digital media. There were movie screens to show everything from animated shorts to all the different Coke commercials from around the world.
But the best part of course, is the Tasting Room. You can try all the different drinks that Coca Cola produces around the world.
Drinks from Asia!
Latin American drinks…Delaware Punch in Honduras??
The worst drink, ironically, is from Italy. There was a crowd around this dispenser because people wanted to try it just because it was SO bad. I remember trying this years ago! Someone would only drink a whole cup of this on a dare. How could Italians actually enjoy this?? It tastes something like rotten bubble gum and sweat mixed with carbonated water.
Nothing beats an ice cold Diet Coke.
At the end of the tour, they give you a bottle of Coca Cola Classic. When Joe and I realized that we wouldn’t be able to take the bottles on the plane, we decided to take them to Lake Peachtree and enjoy them in the sun…
Each time I have been down to Georgia, I MUST end my trip with some delicious waffles from the Waffle House. In lieu of diners, Georgia has Waffle Houses.
Apple Oat Perfection.
It was a nice experience, once again going below the Mason-Dixon line. It’s something that can be done maybe once a year or so, lest my arteries start to look like the nooks of this waffle…
Much like in the rest of the United States, and especially New York, Latinos and their culture are heavily influencing nearly everything in my household.
It’s not uncommon to find my white-as-can-be mom dancing to salsa music in the living room (usually by herself…and she even sings the words!)
The music is often on in my room. I like to crank up the reggaeton (Don Omar, Wisin y Yandel, or Omega, the ghetto-er the better, I say) while I clean the house, which I’ve been informed is a common practice of cachifas, or cleaning ladies! Was I basically told that my taste is not classy? I don’t know. But the one time I had a cleaning lady, she liked to listen to the same kind of music….
In our little microcosm, my brother is like the right wingers who have a problem with all the foreigners coming into the country. “Farrah, you’re not Spanish!! Why are you watching HBO Latino?”
Of course, when we had some delicious Dominican food in the kitchen, he had no objections to eating it…
To celebrate Dominican Independence Day, celebrated on February 27th, here’s what we stuffed our bocas with:
Mira las fotos!
Pastelon de Platano Maduro is like the Dominican answer to Shepherd’s Pie or Moussaka. It has layers of mashed plantain in lieu of potatoes, layers of seasoned ground beef, all topped with cheddar cheese.
First, we boiled the plantains.
And cooked the ground beef. For most of the ingredients, I went to a predominantly Latin grocery store. In the supermarket, everyone spoke Spanish, even to me, and I was proud to be able to answer back! Like…. gracias…
We used Sazon Ranchero, which is a type of hot sauce, orange peppers (it should be green pepper…), onions, salt.
A surefire sign that my house is going Latin:
Our first bottle of Adobo!!!
Once the plantains are boiled to a bright yellow, you have to mash ‘em real good.
Then layer them at the bottom of a dish
Add layers of beef
Then, bake it in the oven until it looks like this:
Yup, I added hot sauce….
If you want to be SUPER Dominican, enjoy your Pastelon con un vaso de cerveza
¡Buen provecho! or Bon Appétit!, whatever language you want!
One of my favorite neighborhoods of New York City is the Lower East Side. I love that if you just imagine there being no cars, it looks basically the same as it did 100 years ago, and although it is steadily changing, there are still hints of what it used to be.
The LES has several places that you must go to for the ultimate Jewish experience. Although much of Manhattan and some of the other boroughs have important Jewish places, the LES was the heart of the Jewish community back in the day.
The Eldridge Street Synagogue- this synagogue that was built in 1887 was recently renovated and it’s SO BEAUTIFUL! There is an exhibit there that tells you all about the history of the place and how in depth the renovation was. http://www.eldridgestreet.org/
It’s really run-down and stuck in a time warp, but it’s part of history and their pastrami sandwich is mmmmmm…..
Russ & Daughters Appetizers
I went here last week to pick up some chocolate babka and rugelach! This place has all types of dried fruit, nuts, candy, bagels, lox, cream cheeses (they even have caviar cream cheese!), but their babkas are out of this world and so are the rugelach (try the chocolate orange ones…)
The Lower East Side Tenement Museum- An actual preserved tenement, this place is amazing. It feels like you went through a time machine. You can take tours of different apartments that real families lived in. When I visited, I took a tour of a tiny little apartment where a Jewish family lived and ran a garment business! The shabby beauty of the building will creep you out, but it’s a fun and informative tour.http://www.tenement.org/
Yonah Shimmel’s Knish Bakery
Obviously, that’s not my hand, but I thought it was a cool picture!
Natalie and I went here and were amazed. We tried the split pea soup, the original potato knish, the spinach knish, and the pickles and coleslaw. This place has been around for 101 years, so they really know what they are doing!
Kado on Jackson Avenue in Syosset: How lucky I am to live near this place! Most Japanese restaurants that I go to don’t stay in my memory, but this one goes above and beyond.
Crispy crust, spicy tuna, tons of sweet/tangy sauces.
And for dessert, mochi ice cream.
Mochi is like a rice paste. So there’s a chewy outside, and on the inside of this is delicious green tea ice cream
A friend took me to Sushi Hana, which is on the Upper West Side. Not bad, but I think Kado has it beat. Don’t let the picture quality sway your opinion! I only had access to an iphone camera for Kado, but my Canon for Sushi Hana.
Have you ever seen the movie “La Bamba?” 1987. Lou Diamond Phillips and Esai Morales. As I write this, I’m listening to the song that really made the movie: the La Bamba cover by the band Los Lobos, who also did the rest of the music for the movie.
Great movie in my opinion, although IMDb only gives it a 6.6.
Well, on New Year’s Eve, I got to see Los Lobos perform this song at the City Winery— live! Yes, the song that for my whole life was played at any event that had a DJ.
But before we saw the show, we had a fancy 5 course Mexican dinner. Each course had a wine pairing, apropos of of dinner at the City Winery.
Ceviche with salmon, bacalao (cod), octopus, radish…paired with a nice white wine
A mixed salad consisting of radicchio, grilled cactus, haricot verts (that’s French for green beans), and queso fresco (Spanish for fresh cheeeeeese!)- and some red wine.
It’s pretty clear that I’m not a huge wine fan, or else I would have remembered what I was drinking.Here’s me with umm, some red and some white.
Roasted turkey breast with a mole sauce, Mexican rice, huitlacoche stuffing (probably my favorite part of the meal!!!) I’m infinitesimally glad that I did NOT know what huitlacoche was while I ate it. Turns out, those black things in the stuffing are “corn smut”, fungus spores that grow on infected corn. It’s considered a delicacy. Hmm, sounds gross, but tastes great!
R.I.P. Third Course.
Fourth Course: Cheese and Persimmon Sauce
Dessert:White Wishes! White chocolate covered green grapes. AWESOME!!!
Yes, this was a yummy dinner. Afterwards, we were taken from the VIP section (ah yes, VIP all the way) and brought to the main dining room where Los Lobos performed.
It’s been quite a while! Yes, I’ve been eating this whole time. I just haven’t had the chance to show the world what I’ve been consuming AND creating.
It’s been an eventful fall!
My cousin Mark’s fiancee is diseased. She suffers from Celiac Disease, meaning she can’t process anything with gluten, meaning this poor girl cannot eat regular breads, pasta, OR BAKED GOODS, otherwise she gets dreadfully sick! Basically, if she eats a Ritz cracker, it’s like a trip to Mexico for her, replete with “Montezuma’s Revenge.”
In spite of this, she is able to continue living and luckily for her, the world is becoming more and more conscious of Celiac Disease and there are products that are C.D.-friendly.
So, for their engagement party, I made a gluten-free cake and cupcake display:
These cakes are made with rice flour and potato starch instead of regular wheat flour! And you know what? They tasted fabulous. I used Betty Crocker’s gluten-free vanilla and chocolate cake mix. Then I made my own white chocolate frosting from scratch.
Here’s the happy couple cutting the cake:
The man in the window is my cousin Justin, comedian extraordinaire and fellow gourmand.
It was a lovely occasion at Antun’s of Westchester. This place attracts people from all walks of life that thoroughly enjoy the brunch buffet on Sundays. If you don’t believe me, just ask the man in the polka-dot dress and wig that sat across from us!
There has been SO much cake this fall. That’s been the food for the season. Everyone around me is getting older and getting married! Or having children.
Just last weekend, we threw a surprise party for my Aunt Vivian who is turning 60 on Thursday!
We had a lunch at Lum Yen in Mamaroneck. If you, reader, are smart and care for your body, especially your digestive tract, you will NOT eat here! Chinese food at its greasiest and less-than-mediocrest!
BUT, the cake that we had, that I wish I could make, was quite delightful and very big:
A tiramisu cake from Sal and Dom’s Bakery in the Bronx. It was excellent. The Italians really know what they are doing when it comes to food!
And earlier this fall, we had another engagement brunch for my cousin Dr. Charlie and his lovely fiancee Dr. Laura. This was Part 2 of their party, not because we messed up and planned the first part when Dr. Charlie was on call. No, sir. They get 2 engagement parties because we love them so much and are SO excited about their wedding that our excitement could not be contained in just one party. Haha, well, here’s the cake:
Like I said, this fall has been SO eventful- we had to have birthday cake at an engagement party! AND it was 2 birthdays!
This is a dulce de leche cake!
This was a good one!
How important cake is! I was at a graduation party a while ago and I sat at the table watching this girl stand behind her cake while all these family members took turns snapping pictures with her and this big cake.
This photo session took forever. And then they took a million pictures of her cutting the cake and pictures of the cake itself. I realized that cake is not just dessert. It really means something, and no major occasion is complete without one. Slicing that cake is a rite of passage of sorts. When you slice it, you’ve completed that event, whether its a wedding, birthday, etc.
All the events I have coming up in 2011 have a cake to go with it! 2 weddings, several baby showers, and more birthdays!
I think for my 26th birthday (oof), I will just have a mountain of broccoli with some candles at the top…
As I was compiling photos for this post, I realized that I am definitely a product of my generation. Nearly everything that I remember eating, or enjoyed eating I should say, came from a package. I suppose these were all “kid-friendly” foods that my mom gave me and my brother.
My mom wasn’t/isn’t a terrible cook, but we weren’t much different from any other kids who also nagged their moms for these foods. Some people say that food companies put chemicals in their products to make you addicted. Or their marketing is so strong that kids see the commercials and then demand their parents buy the food. Well I survived it, and have since developed my tastes and branched out to eat other things, as you’ve read!
Here are some foods that come from my earliest memories.
My foray into Italian foods (chuckle):
Ellio’s (some people pronounce it as Eh-leo’s, some Eee-leo’s—either way is correct! I debated this with a friend and we found commercials on YouTube that used both pronounciations)
Ellio’s… comes as a perforated sheet of 3 slices. Hahah.. isn’t it weird that pizza could come perforated? I thought it was fun to break the slices apart- made me feel like a strong Kung Fu girl.
My brother and I lovvvvvved McDonald’s! I couldn’t eat hamburgers until I was much older. They grossed me out. So chicken mcnuggets were my thing.Thanks to the movie Supersize Me, Shay and I have not eaten at McDonald’s in years.
Before Lunchables were geared towards kids with “delicious” lunches of pizzas, tacos, and sandwich “meats”, they were an adult food. I liked the adult version better because the crackers and meats tasted legit. And it came with a little Andes chocolate mint.
Mostly, I remember eating a lot of snacks.
Fruit by the Foot! And I also loved… still love, Gushers.
Handi Snacks. One of my aunts had a jar full of these. I visited her once and ate a ton of them but I never finished the cheese and she reprimanded me. Hah! I’m sorry, I didn’t want a full serving of see ingredients on the package.
Similarly, Dunkaroos came with a serving of FROSTING with some cookies. Wow, and people wonder how children in America are obese!
Okay, this last snack is something I still like to eat:
I’m not particular about brands, but Polly-O comes to mind when I think of string cheese. Weight Watchers makes string cheese too now. ;)
And I enjoyed these foods while plopped down in front of our console TV that looked a lot like this
You know, I’m supposed to be trying to lose weight for my cousin’s wedding in January. I’m even a bridesmaid and I’ll probably be standing with 9 skinny, pretty Dominican girls (did I mention the wedding is in the Dominican Republic…. meaning I will have to wear a bathing suit in front of many strangers…) Yes, at times I look like 1_ _ lbs. of walking chewed bubble gum,
But I can’t turn down some good chow.
Especially beautiful chow like the kind I had at Sofrito. This Puerto Rican restaurant on East 57th Street (http://www.sofritony.com/) has some awesome Puerto Rican cuisine. For those of you who have read my blog, you have seen my post/pictures of my trip to P.R. If not, just scroll down.
Although some people in my dining party said that they thought the restaurant would “look” more Puerto Rican, I didn’t mind what the restaurant looked like. I suppose they expected flashy lights and/or a more rustic feel.
What is sofrito? It’s a base of tomatoes, garlic, and other spices that are used in many dishes like stews and whatnot. Don’t believe me? Ask Wikipedia.
A bunch of us got the prix fixe menu. For $35 each, we started with a family style assortment of appetizers:
(Clockwise from top right) Calamari, carne frita (fried pork nuggets..mehh), the Puerto Rican answer to the mozzarella stick (cheddar cheese with cornmeal breading), empanadas, and some kind of meat that we couldn’t really figure out what it was.
We also had tostones montaditos. Tostones are fried plaintains, but the salty kind.
Some had steak, shrimp, or codfish. Yum yum
Close-up of the cheese stick
Look at this huge mess! This is Pernil (roasted pork) Not my meal, obviously.
The aerial view of this is better:
My aunt’s seafood paella matches her totally tubular tie-dye t-shirt!
YES, that’s a peace sign painted on her face. We took a trip to the King Tut exhibit earlier in the day where she was the only adult to wait on line to get her own face painted. And you can kind of see the King Tut temporary “tut-too” on her arm!
and now for my dish:
This is Ropa Vieja (for those of you who don’t habla español, that means old clothes). It is a shredded beef stew; does it look like shredded old clothes to you? Then next to it are the familiars- rice and beans, sweet plaintains.
I love Puerto Rican stews. I had chicken asopao in P.R.- if you scroll down, you can see how I devoured it. I think it’s the sofrito that makes it so flavorful and juicy.
The prix fixe menu ends with an assortment of dessert! Flan, Coconut rum cake with cream cheese frosting, and dessert fruit empanadas.
Notice the candle in the flan?
It’s my cousin’s 30th birthday! Yaaaaaay!
That woman in the background looks very pleased with herself.