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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