Posted by: Jeffsayyes | February 17, 2015

Viva La Comida 2014 wrap-up

Thanks for all your support of Viva La Comida. For the past 3 years, this event was designed as a showcase for local businesses, small businesses, local flavor, and the people of Queens. The dream was to have a festival full of local legends of street food, aiming for Jackson Heights, uniting on 82nd Street and creating a well-rounded show for all people. In varying ways, I believe we did do that. The 1st year the craziest where, with only a small street closed off, we overwhelmed the block to show that there was support, the 2nd year with the realest street vendors, and in the 3rd year the most complete as far as all-around entertainment.

The first two years it was mostly the street food vendors of the city-abroad to supply the food and flavor;  but in this last year the restaurants and businesses on 82 really stepped up. They saw how much potential this event was, and they totally went with it more than I could have expected. From Coatzingo to Sabor Ecuatoriano Bakery to the new Peruvian chifa restaurant, they showed really well and possibly even outshone the vendors, I loved that.

Edits to this year was that I finally charged the vendors. It was controversial that I didn’t charge the vendors in the past, but truly my heart always said no.  A big part of it was to regard the vendors as entertainment, to acknowledge that they were the reason people were coming to the area. It was especially brave for the BID to agree to this, as it wasn’t me who was answering to the organization’s stakeholders, I just wanted to put on a good show. This year, we charged them a small fee – basically just they would take it seriously and show up. They needed some skin in the game.

After going to the Atlantic Antic last year, I saw probably the best street fair in NYC, probably more than just NYC. It totally humbled me and made me think Viva was just a thin being. In their 40th year, Antic had so many vendors, mixing local restaurants, local vendors, with a minority of typical vendors like mozzarepas. It worked harmoniously and gave people the choice. There was one main stage, but there were also bands playing on just about every block. And the beer! Beer was flowing and people were even taking it to the streets. I loved how the Transit Museum had a display of buses from the years (making their own adjacent festival there), and also the police having a booth showing off their equipment. Great vibes all around.

IF we were to do it again, we’d have to do it much larger. Since 82nd Street is a narrow street, we’d have to also take over 83rd Street and the Manuel Del Dios Triangle. It could be a true Viva La Comida if we incorporated many more food vendors. This year was tough with that, with the increased presence of the restaurants (which I loved), we had to thread the needle with how many street vendors and what type of vendors were brought in. Unfortunately, we had 3 no-shows, which was a pretty big percentage of our Latin American vendors (one had a permit issue, the other two I am still trying to figure out why they didn’t come).

 

————–The Festival————

People seemed to like this event better than all other ones, satisfaction all around. It wasn’t chaos like I always hope for, but it was very comfortable. I think people had a great time because we had so much going on, from the magic shows, to the hula hoops, to the RC Cars, to the music, food, dancing, and more, it was a day you could walk around and new things were happening all the time. For these activities, Seth and Sofia from the BID largely drew from the community and the entertainers they had hired during the year for programming at the Manuel Del Dios Triangle during the summer.

There were kids activities like coloring, drum teaching. If the kids are happy, we are all happy.

Loved having the Magician. Everyone loves magic. I would have magic at every event I do if I could. This magician was especially good because his show was done without language. Anyone from any country could be entertained by him.  Here is Master Magician Angelo Bermeo:

Aren’t murals such a waste if no one is there to watch it? We had a demo last year, and we were lucky to have a big one this year as well. It’s great to watch the process.

Loved the RC car demo. A big part of them being there was to draw people in. I knew they would want a street to do their thing on, and the attention. I knew that the sounds of the RC cars would draw people in. It brought me back to when I was eight and my brother was into RC cars. We were lucky that Good Guy Hobbies was right down the block – I’d been wanting to work with them for a long time, but consider it nearly impossible to get a street or even a park space closed off for such an activity.

Hula Hoop contest was great. It was something I’d been dreaming about for a year. I wanted it to be kids and adults competing against each other, but it turned out to be just kids. That’s okay because a few were REALLY good. I actually had no idea people could hula hoop for more than 10 minutes, but these 2 girls were hula hooping for way over 15 minutes. So much so that I was getting in trouble that the musical acts were waiting to go on. The finalists were so cute, it was two girls from the neighborhood, neither more than 8 years old. They were so skilled.

If I were to do that again (and I totally would), I’d have the band start playing after 10 minutes of the competition. Also would try to get more adults to compete, and maybe obstacles like water spraying and confetti to make the game go quicker. I can’t find a picture of the actual contest, but here’s a girl practicing:

——- And the vendors ——–

Very happy to have Potala Fresh Momos cart again. It has always been a delight to work with the Himalayan community. They did very well, as always. Everybody loves momos.

Funny how the Arepa Lady continued to garner such lines. They had just opened their new place a month or two beforehand, so this was great PR for the restaurant. This year, again we put her in the furthest spot and still the lines were extremely long, maybe 40+ deep. People were waiting for over an hour for an arepa. I said to my friend, “You know you could just walk 5 blocks and get it from the store, right?”  He then told me that he didn’t care, he wanted to have the experience. Which is really interesting. Here, I learned that people love lines. People want to be a part of something. Also, lines at food festivals work because it gives you a chance to rest between bites. If you just got what you want, when you want, where would the accomplishment be?

Mysttik Masaala did better in 2013. I believe this was because the owner, Yuvaraaj, is the lifeblood of this business and the biggest appeal of the cart. People love talking to him and seeing his smiling face welcome people to the cart. He couldn’t make the event and instead had his employees sell. As a result, people were less enthused. It only reinforced my enthusiasm for owner-present businesses.

There was a bit of conflict of interest with the street vendors who normally sell food on 82nd Street from shopping carts. While I truly love the ladies selling tamales and chuzos, the fact is that although they have licenses to sell, they don’t have permits and approved vehicles, so we couldn’t officially have them at the festival. How we were set up was that all the vendors had their own permits, which relieved us of having to go through the red tape for selling food. I had a heavy heart telling them that they couldn’t sell, because I was very concerned about the Department of Health arriving in swift moves of disregard as they are want to do on such high profile occasions (See Vendy Awards and the opening of Arrogant Swine). If these ladies were hit with fines and had their items confiscated, I would feel incredibly guilty, but also I was afraid of what I or some other street vendor-loving people might do. When dogged by the girls (who offered to pay to be a part of it), I told them that I wouldn’t say whether they could or could not sell – they would do as they wished but I couldn’t take the heat for them if the popo come down on them. Well, they sold, and they sold A LOT. They were very happy, and them having a successful day made me very happy and relieved. It’s amazing, the fortitude to sell on Roosevelt Avenue and 82nd Street. Through so many incidences here with the authorities, the vendors are still there every day, they will not be stopped. They always come back. Wherever you are, I encourage you to spend a dollar whenever you have the inkling at a tamale or chuzo lady.

Mamas Food: I had no idea how they would do. This was actually a vendor we had from the first Viva La Comida, who we found selling closer to her home in her new cart in Flushing. I was a little worried because I didn’t know how would people take to squid tentacles, but alas they loved it. They surprised me so much. It just affirms it: people love things on sticks.

Happy to have an Ecuadorian cart there (it was NOT EASY to get one to come). While selfishly I loved how their food was represented, I’m afraid they did not make as much as a normal day on Warren St & Roosevelt. I believe the main hole in that front was not having someone to advertise and approach people on the street. When we had people standing with them and showing people the way of the Ecuadorian cart, people were much more willing to buy.

Interesting how the Italian sausage truck did just okay. To me, they were one of my favorites but it may have been the wrong crowd, just like how the Chipper Truck may have been too ethnic for the crowd last year. Also, for the foodies, the truck may have been too typical and they thought it was a normal, filler truck you’d see at every other festival. Nope, it was there for a reason – I stand firm that D’Angelos Sausage & Peppers Truck is one of the best.

It would have been great to utilize the Chiva Bus more. We had them make a grand entrance down 82, but that was by far the best part of them being there – after that, there just wasn’t much to do. People could visit the truck, but if the bus isn’t moving and there’s no drinks to be had, it just isn’t as fun. Next year it should travel around the block with a big banner, proclaiming Viva La Comida!, so people inside can act up for those outside, and people outside can gawk.

I’ve replayed the event hundreds of times in my head. There is just much potential in here with engaging the people, and this neighborhood has so much flavor and content and challenges. I really do love engaging people. I’m happy we gave the people somewhere fun and fulfilling to be right in our backyard – We have so much, this should happen much more often.

Thanks for the support. Will I continue to be involved the event? I do not know. The director I worked with has gone to NoHo, and I need some added awesomeness to make it worth it for me. I believe the 82nd Street Partnership does intend to do another festival, so we shall see…

All photos courtesy Danilda Izquierdo

Thanks Seth and Sofia for running this show with me. Thanks Danny Dromm for the support.

Posted by: Jeffsayyes | November 20, 2014

Momo Crawl 2014 Update

Things are looking up for the Momo Crawl.

Saturday, Nov 22nd, 2-5pm – Jackson Heights Food Court marquee (73-07 37th Road)
Invite on Facebook #MomoCrawl

-$1 momos from at least 15 momo places in Jackson Heights, with the possession of a Momo Map (available in exchange for 3 bills of any denomination)
-Henna Tattoos at Hamro Bhims: 1 bill of any denomination
-Whistling contest at GangJong Kitchen: whistle after eating Chef Tenzin’s mind-numbing sauce and you win a dinner-for-2
-Momo-making at Little Tibet
-Lil’ Momo kids shirts at Tibetan Mobile

Vote at 5pm outside the JH Food Court, followed by Momo Trophy presentation.

Just look for this awesome poster, made by Zach Kaitz:

email me Jeffsayyes@gmail.com for queries and volunteer opportunities

Posted by: Jeffsayyes | October 31, 2014

Announcing: Momo Crawl 2014

Momo Crawl 2014 will take place on Saturday, November 22nd from 2pm-5pm.

The third annual Momo Crawl – All restaurants and street vendors who sell momos in the half-mile around the Jackson Heights subway station will be offering momos for $1 each to those in possession of a 2014 momo map. Momo maps will be created by me and given in exchange for 3 bills of any denomination. There are currently 18 to 20 such places.

Some vendors will have added value like the whistling game at GangJong Kitchen where you can win a Dinner-for-2 if you are able to successfully whistle after eating a momo with chef Tenzin’s mind-numbing sauce, a make-your-own-momo at Little Tibet, drink specials, momo henna tattoos and more.

At the conclusion of the crawl, participants will meet back at the Jackson Heights Food Court to vote on the winner, who will then receive The Momo Trophy.

All are invited. Come to the Jackson Heights Food Court marquee starting at 2pm to pick up your map.

Momo Crawl 2014

Saturday, November 22nd
2pm-5pm
Jackson Heights Food Court
73-07 37th Rd, Jackson Heights, Queens
EFMR7 to Roosevelt Avenue/Jackson Heights/74th Street
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/events/310152259171135/

Info from prior years:
2013 Momo Crawl
2013 Momo Map and Trophy Construction
2012 Momo Crawl 

 

Posted by: Jeffsayyes | October 23, 2014

Interview with House Trip

Sometimes I get interviewed by websites or papers and they end up only taking a few snippets of our conversation. It sucks because I put a lot of time into my answers and they get lost in the annals of email archives. Well, I believe good content is a terrible thing to waste.

For now on, and even I’m going to scour my archives for interviews, I’m going to start publishing the questions and answers after the articles come out, especially when there is an abundance of extra information that went unpublished.

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food expert new york guide

To start off, here is an interview I did with HouseTrip.  The end product was a slick page with recommendations coming from a lot of respected food writers in the city. It’s good (except for the stock photo of pizza, ugh!) but only a bit of what I gave them made the cut, so here is the complete interview.

(feels kind of weird having me as the answerer, but whatever)

Housetrip: From your perspective, which local dish best represents New York’s food scene and why?
Jeffy Tastes: The taco. It’s the new pizza. And the future taco is the momo. NYC is a city of changing cultures. The people who are the sidenotes are soon to be the richest men and women in America. This changing street food is New York.

· Which dish should every foodie try at least once while being in New York (if it differs from the answer to the question above)?
Halal. It’s more than just a religious thing, it’s an entire cuisine in itself. The entirety of it is chicken and/or lamb over rice and it drives locals and travelers crazy.

Halalathon winners: TD Bank Halal CArt

· Where (which restaurant, café etc.) would you suggest trying this dish?
I love the TD Bank Cart in Jackson Heights (74th St and 37th Ave, east side), but that’s just for the “best” one… You can find them all over NYC.

· What sets the New York food scene apart from other cities? Why is it unique?
The entire world converges on New York City, then settles in their enclave. This preserves traditions and encourages chefs to cook for an audience of their peers.

· Any restaurants, cafés or markets you can recommend?
Dhaulagiri Kitchen for Nepalese, New World Mall Food Court in Flushing, Nom Wah Tea Parlor in Manhattan’s Chinatown, the 79th Street Greenmarket.

· Where do you buy regional/fresh ingredients if you’re cooking at home?
Usually 79th Street Greenmarket for local. In regards to regional, you could say that the cornucopia of cultures in Queens is our regional cuisine. Does regional have to be what’s grown here? Crabs in Baltimore are brought in from Louisiana. NYC is the import capitol of the world. Everything gets flushed down into NYC.

· We would also like to hear about any other tips you have about New York’s local food scene that may not have been covered above.
NYC is big. Every borough is big. Even the smallest borough is big. There are a lot of food scenes, and we will never cover them all. I’m trying my hardest to bring you the information so you can have a great time in New York, but don’t be afraid to blaze some trails and let the world know.

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This interview was directly pointed towards travelers to this city. As you know, they deserve to have an excellent, authentic and convenient experiences when they come to NY. Yes, give them the finger when they don’t know how to drive, but still be nice.

Posted by: Jeffsayyes | October 22, 2014

37th Road Jackson Heights Diversity Plaza Visioning Session

Last Saturday I went to the visioning session for the plaza on 37th Road in Jackson Heights. Commonly referred to as Diversity Plaza, this spot has been a place of contention, first the placement of and now the discussion of what to do with it and the waiting game for something, anything, to be done there.

Currently the area exists as two closed off streets, one on 37th Rd between 73rd and 74th Streets, and one on 73rd Street between Broadway and Roosevelt Avenue. These sit as the entranceway to the community, at one of the biggest transit stations in New York City, making it a spot with incredible potential.

The area is frequently used for festivals, and for a place for people to gather. As of today, the spots for anyone to sit has been paltry, as temporary places to sit yield increasingly less places to sit as temporary furniture inevitably breaks and is never replaced. A few planters are there but it increasingly looks just like a closed street with people strolling around. The planters have added some effects, but it’s still a skeleton of what it could and should be (by now).

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On Saturday, Oct 18th, there was a visioning session from the Department of Transportation to get some ideas from the community. They gave us maps and we were put in groups to discuss ways to make the area more useable. Lots of members of the community, including many who currently use the plaza and others who stay away from it, came up with many suggestions, which are going to be digested by the DOT. The DOT will then come back with a plan for the plaza and we will then discuss…

Courtesy Rodrigo Salazar

Courtesy Rodrigo Salazar

Courtesy Rodrigo Salazar

Courtesy Rodrigo Salazar

Courtesy Rodrigo Salazar

As someone connected to people who live in the area, tourists who visit the area, and political and non-political groups in the area I’d like to lay out a few ideas for the plaza – some inspired by my group at the meeting, some inspired by others, and some are things that I have been thinking about for a long time. Here are my suggestions for Diversity Plaza:

- Permanent seating. In prior planning discussions for the plaza, I had gotten major blowback when I suggested permanent seating because of the fear that homeless people will sleep there. It is a terrible waste of space for people to be standing around at all hours of the night as they do now. This area is a 24-hour experience, with many people who live and visit using the area at all times of day and night. I believe we need to serve us all. Rinky dink temporary seating is not cutting it, anyhow. Come to the plaza, and you’ll see that the current chairs are out of place and certainly don’t have enough of an impact.

That and the chairs are generic. They are made in France too. You can find the same chairs in plazas all over the US. Why don’t they hire Build It Green to make us some chairs and tables. We have the talent here.

The area is an amazing people watching experience, and right now it isn’t inviting enough. Permanent seating is needed here.

- Create a Point of Significance on the triangle between 73rd Rd, Roosevelt Ave, and Broadway. This island is currently known for having massive amounts of bird poop on it. The obvious thing to do is make efforts to encourage birds to poop elsewhere, but I don’t think many people thought about actually getting the area populated. The 37th Road section of the plaza is a natural draw because it is right near all the stores and the subway entrance, but this island needs to give the people some more encouragement. I believe it needs something large, inviting, with seating to entice people to come to that space. Maybe an everchanging art wall or maybe a large sculpture where people can be drawn to, that they’ll feel comfortable sitting at.

- Eliminate the bicycle lanes. It is a fallacy to think that bicycles belong in the same category as pedestrians. I don’t think bicycles should be encouraged in the plaza if they don’t get their own lane. Bikes should be considered in the same place as cars. The plaza has people walking all over it, to have bicycles navigating around for the purpose of travel is a dangerous situation. Traffic by Tom Vanderbilt is a great book on the subject.

-Permanent performance space. The area is home to many cultures who appreciate the spectacle of performance. At the many festivals, and even impromptu, there are people performing here all the time. There are the amphitheaters in Roosevelt Island, where a theater would double as seating when not in use.

Amphitheater on Roosevelt Island

- Temporary, permanent-style seating. The projected completion date is 2017. We cannot wait 2 years for something to happen. We deserve some major seating for the interim. Something that could be trucked away when construction occurs. We cannot wait 2 more years.

-Extend the plaza eastwards. All of 37th Avenue should be a plaza. Much more seating and play area. The street does not get much use as it is, and the traffic down those roads are slow and don’t alleviate much traffic as it is.

-Public WiFi. duh.

What do you think should go in the plaza?

Photos courtesy Rodrigo Salazar

Posted by: Jeffsayyes | October 16, 2014

Just for you, Tourists: A Day In Queens

I highly value tourists. You are open-eyed and willing to bring monetary compensation to the great destination you have chosen to visit. Your time is limited, though, and I don’t want you to be steered wrong by people with intentions other than your amazement, entertaining education, value, and general well-being. You shall not be swindled by PR companies, empty monikers, and fake monks. You shall not wait in line at brunch, at the awkward spot in the bar, or huddled in the pre-lobby, money in hand, waiting to be taken, liked on social media, then exited with a hollow sense of accomplishment.

Queens is an amazing place.  If Queens were a city in itself (and I am all for the break-up of the boroughs, btw), it’d be the 4th largest city in the U.S. – Nearly as big as Chicago. Now, if places like Charleston, Dallas, and Salt Lake City are major tourist destinations, then Queens should be just as much, if not moreso. I’ve been down on New York City many times, but the unrepeatable traits of Queens have taken a stronghold on my stay. My history is based on immigration and entrepreneurship, and my future is to make it better. If Queens is not the number one place in the world for this, then I will consider another turret for progression.

From my tours, I’ve realized that tourists who come to Queens have a little more time on their hands – and they want the NYC alternative experience. They’ve already done Central Park, Staten Island Ferry, Top of the Rock, Harlem, Times Square, and the Highline. Most people who take my tours come to Queens because they have heard about all the cultures from TV and online, and all the food – but they don’t know where to start. So I’m going to give you a simple one day excursion of all killer, no filler places to go and things to eat. Queens is full of great, local experiences, but for this post I’m going to concentrate on World-Class destinations, guaranteeing you a great time in Queens no matter where you are from. There are many articles online with recommendations for Queens, but from my experiences with travelers from all over the world, this aims to be a concise guide without being esoteric. I have no kickbacks and while I do give tours as a part of what I do, I will refrain from boostering anything directly involved with me. I won’t even link to it.

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The biggest challenge Queens faces in gaining tourism dollars is the East River and Manhattan. With so many tourists staying in Manhattan, crossing a major geographic object appears daunting (ask most NYers if they want to go all the way to another borough). Also, how can PS1 compete with the MoMA? How can Donovan’s Pub compete with McSorley’s or Shake Shack in terms of convenience mixed with quality? LIC Flea with Smorgasburg? They can’t. Those places are for us. Unless you are a burger junkie or modern art obsessive, I say it doesn’t make sense to travel all the way to Queens for these activities, and others that are frequently recommended. That is why this article is necessary. You need not be steered into something 2nd to some. Queens is a jewel of the world. On the spiderweb of cultural movement, all lines lead to Queens. Other cities, including Manhattan cannot compete. Here is an itinerary for a day in Queens, of which no other city can compete. And here is a spoiler:

——————————– YOUR ITINERARY  ———————————–

MID-MORNING – Astoria for the MoMI

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The Museum of the Moving Image is a world-class, destination museum. It is THE museum for film and film history, and it’s located on a TV lot (which you probably won’t have any access to, sorry). It’s not huge, so you’ll be able to do the whole thing in an hour or two’s time. They also have film showings, but how can you sit there and watch a movie when there is so much going on outside?? Well, if it’s raining or you have a special interest, they are probably worth the cinematic experience.

For the purposes of this day, I recommend eating near where you are staying because we need to space our meals as far apart as possible; but if you haven’t had breakfast yet and it’s before the 10:30am opening time, head to Queens Kickshaw for coffee and food that raises the bar; if you want to get a taste of Brazil, start your day at Pão de Queijo.

Museum of Moving Image
36-01 35th Ave, Astoria, Queens 11106

Queens Kickshaw
40-17 Broadway, Astoria

Pão de Queijo
31-90 30th St, Astoria

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AFTERNOON – Jackson Heights to the Unisphere

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The Jackson Heights-Roosevelt Avenue subway station is the center point of an unmatchable number of cultural enclaves (and therefore food options). From the Himalayan Heights directly north of the station to Little Manila at Roosevelt/69th St, Little Bangladesh at 73rd St/37th Ave, Little India at 74th St/37th Rd, Calle Colombia at 82nd St where along the way you’ll find Mexican, Ecuadorian and Peruvian places, ThaiTown at Woodside Avenue/76th St, and one of the city’s five Chinatowns at Broadway/Whitney that hosts Chinese, Malaysian, Vietnamese, Indonesian among possibly other nationalities currently moving in.

Specifically, for a small party of one or two, try Dhaulagiri Kitchen for an experience that will make you feel like you’ve left not only NYC but the US of A. It’s Nepalese, so a few words will help you order like a local: “Thali” for a whole meal, “Momos” for dumplings, and “Samabajji” for a snack platter. For a bit more space, and just as much of an experience, try Phayul or Little Tibet for Tibetan. If you are a chef and want learn about food, try GangJong Kitchen at an off-hour so you can talk to Tenzin the owner and chef. Walk off lunch by visiting one of the many markets in the area or snack places listed below and when you are ready for your respite from food, take the 7-train to the Unisphere in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park.

Dhaulagiri Kitchen – Nepal
37-38 72nd St

Phayul – Tibet
37-65 74th St

Little Tibet – Tibet
72-19 Roosevelt Ave

GangJong Kitchen – Tibet/Indian
72-24 Roosevelt Ave,

Dera – Pakistani
7209 Broadway

Apnaa Bazaar – Bangladeshi Market
7220 37th Ave

ThaiThai Grocery – Thai Market
76-13 Woodside Ave

Phil-Am Mart – Filipino Market
7002 Roosevelt Ave

Hong Kong Supermarket – Chinese, Malaysian, Vietnamese
82-66 Broadway

flushing unisphere (2)

The Unisphere is an incredible thing to see, something which will be THE ICON of your trip to NYC – only the Statue of Liberty might give you a more iconic view (yet with a bit more hassle to get to). I recommend taking the 7-train to 111th Street to get to the Unisphere. You’ll see a great section of Ecuadorian and Mexican street food just outside the subway station at 111th/Roosevelt NW corner, then your walk south to the Unisphere will cross through some of the neighborhood then a diverse array of sights as you walk through the the park.  Just south of the Unisphere is an amazing, neglected treasure/ruin of New York City – The New York State Pavilion.

Unisphere / New York State Pavilion
Flushing Meadows-Corona State Park

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SUNDOWN – Flushing

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Flushing is arguably the biggest Chinatown in New York. While Manhattan’s Chinatown is home to Cantonese and Fujianese, Flushing holds populations from many more regions than perhaps anywhere outside of China. It’s not difficult to have an enthralling time in Chinatown Flushing, I recommend a food court like in the basement of the New World Mall, and a stroll down Main Street and around to Union St and you’ll see a transformation to Korean. There is A LOT. Use Yelp for more assistance.

New World Mall
4021 Main St

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AFTER-HOURS – Terraza 7

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For the night, come back on the 7 train to 82nd Street and head to one of the coolest bars I’ve ever been to: Terraza 7 Cafe. Most nights of the week, you’ll get a great performance with jazz and experimental bands playing on the loft. It’s such an interesting space that you’ll never be able to capture with your lens.

Terraza 7
40-19 Gleane St, El
mhurst, NY 11373

Want more? Depending on the specifics of your interests, Queens is a great place to get surrounded by just about any culture you aim for. Astoria is home to large pockets of Egyptian, Lebanese, Greek, Italian, Brasilian, and most recently Japanese among many other cultures. Elmhurst has emerged as Thai Town, with tastes of Malaysia, China, Indonesia and Vietnam. For pizza, slice versions cannot be beat by the likes of Rosa’s in Maspeth, John’s of Elmhurst, and Amore of Flushing. For Latin American, there’s Peruvian, Ecuadorian, Colombian and Mexican in Corona and even a drop Portuguese in Jamaica. Peruse my own site here about mostly Roosevelt Avenue as well as Yelp, Foursquare, Real Cheap Eats, Serious EatsAmuse Bouche by Bradley HawksWe Heart Astoria, Chopsticks and Bone MarrowRidgewood Social, Edible Queens (in hibernation) for more local stuff, and if you have time, a Met game at CitiField. Highly impressive books,  “Food Lover’s Guide to Queens” by Meg Cotner, “Queens: A Culinary Passport” by Andrea Lynn, “New York Street Food” by Jacqueline Goossens, Tom Vandenberghe and Luk Thys – all of whom are good friends and I am in awe of what they have accomplished.

I hope the same care can be provided to me when I come to visit your great city. Comment at will.

Posted by: Jeffsayyes | October 8, 2014

Andrea Lynn’s Queens: A Culinary Landscape – Interview

I just got in Andrea Lynn’s book Queens: A Culinary Passport: Exploring Ethnic Cuisine in New York City’s Most Diverse Borough the other night, and I’ve already gone through it all. The 224 pages in sterling color highlights 6 neighborhoods in Queens which are known to be outstanding areas of eatery, details recipes provided by or inspired by dishes at the restaurants, and interviews persons of interest familiar with the borough (including a 3-page interview with me, hell yeah!).
I love the book. I picked up so many great tips and the segments are an easy read – able to pick up and put down at any moment. Here I asked Andrea a few questions about the book and her process, just enough to possibly pique your interest:

Why did you choose to do a book on Queens food? 
Brooklyn gets a lot of food hype, but I wanted to showcase the irresistible, ethnic choices of Queens. Specific restaurants certainly get a bit of buzz, but I felt that the borough as whole just doesn’t get the culinary love it deserves.

You have recipes to just about every other restaurant listed here, were there any concerns from the owners about giving away the family secrets? 
As a recipe developer who understands the livelihood recipes can provide, I flat-out said, “Do not give me any secrets if you don’t want to.”  My goal was to get a workable recipe for an at-home version of the dish. But I didn’t want to be responsible for any secrets coming out! The information I got really ran the gamut. Some restaurants let me into the kitchen to watch them cook. But others were more comfortable just telling me which ingredients without specifying amounts or techniques, and I relied on my culinary background to create a recipe. And it’s understandable! This is their business, and they have every right to be proprietary towards their recipe. One amusing thing was when I was working on the Arroz con Pollo from Rincon Criollo, the recipe they gave me specified only one type of beer. “Can it only be Budweiser beer?” I had asked. The answer? YES! The owner’s uncle had been doing it that way for decades and that was the way it stayed.

How did growing up in the south influence your appreciation for Queens? 
I grew up in a small town in Alabama–Applebee’s came along when I was in my teens, and it was a monumental occasion. The only ethnic showing was one Chinese restaurant. But my mom would take me to Atlanta a lot where I could be exposed to a variety of cuisines which really started my path of food obsession. It still blows my mind the variety of cuisines available in Queens, and I’ve become quite spoiled by all the options.

This book is so thorough, aren’t you tired of Queens yet? Surely you must want to take breaks (totally cool if you do). What places are you still excited about in Queens?
Ha! As if. Every week, I discover new places that I wish I had been able to squeeze into the book. I think a book could practically be written about each region of Queens, if someone took that challenge. So it’s more of me kicking myself that I couldn’t include every little tidbit there is. For the book, it was decided to focus on places reachable by subway or walking. But there’s so much beyond that (hello, a lot of Jamaica).
Is there anything you wish you could have added to the book since publication? 
Ah, Mu Ramen in Long Island City!! I have been stalking their twitter account to stay on top of their exact opening date (sometime in October apparently). I went when it was a pop-up in a Long Island City bagel shop; the ramen was spectacular with so much depth to it. Also, the person next to me (the pop-up had community-seating) got the most amazing-looking sea urchin which I can’t stop thinking about. I know, I know. I’m obsessed with a sea urchin dish I didn’t even eat.

What are you currently working on? Now that your opus is complete.
Another cookbook proposal! My work life feels a little empty without a cookbook to obsess over.

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Thanks Andrea, for your hard work and dedication to the Queens borough. The world is a better place for it.

For more on Andrea Lynn, food writer, see http://andrealynnfoodwriter.com/

Peruse the book in person at the Astoria Book Shop, 31-29 31st St, http://www.astoriabookshop.com/

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