ALL POSTS IN [Food]

If you’re a New Yorker, you may already be in the know. If you’re not, here’s what you should know: Queens, NY, may have the most diverse food scene in the world. Melting pot truly applies to the collection of foods and eateries in New York City’s fifth borough of 2 million people, hailing from places as far-flung as Bulgaria and Tibet.

We asked a couple of Queens food bloggers to give us the inside scoop on good global eats in their neighborhood. Joe DiStefano writes about his food adventures in Queens on his blog, Chopsticks + Marrow, and Lingbo Li shares her food musings on her eponymous blog, Lingbo Li. Both recently took Andrew Zimmern on an underground tour of their favorite foodie spots in their beloved borough. You can see them in tonight’s episode of Bizarre Foods America: Queens, NY: World’s Best Food Town at 9|8c. In the meantime, here’s what they told The Traveling Type:

TC: What gives Queens its unique flavor, so to speak?

Joe DiStefano

Joe DiStefano

Joe DiStefano: A combination of diversity and authenticity. When you go to a Nepalese restaurant in Queens you’re eating where Nepalese folks eat and work and getting a taste of what their food is like back home without having to travel half way around the world. The same holds true for Thai, Liberian, Ecuadorean, etc. In addition to all the ethnic restaurants, there are spots like Salt & Fat and M. Wells Dinette where chefs draw upon the borough’s many rich cultural heritages.

Lingbo Li: The gorgeous melting pot of immigrants! You can’t get quality food without the demand for it.

TC: Has Queens become a foodie destination or is it still off-the-beaten track? Is it the next big foodie destination?

JD: The corridors of Flushing’s Golden Mall have yet to be as crowded as Eataly. That said there is a growing interest and it’s not uncommon to see some tourists. I sincerely hope it becomes the next big foodie destination. There’s just so much great stuff here. Foodies who come to New York City and spend all their time — and money — in Manhattan are missing the boat.

LL: I think it’s always been on the radar for food enthusiasts, but it’s not yet completely mainstream. In college, people who lived a 15-minute walk off campus might as well have been living in Timbuktu. I think a similar geographic psychological distortion effect probably takes place [with Queens]. The LIRR [Long Island Rail Road] makes it really easy, though, so there’s no excuse!

TC: What are your top 3 favorite places to eat in Queens and why?

JD: There’s this Mexican food truck in Corona called Tortas Neza. It’s run by a dude from Mexico City who’s got more than a dozen tortas — overstuffed sandwiches — each named for a different futbol club. The Pumas, named for his favorite team contains everything but the kitchen sink and can feed a small family. And his tacos, particularly the carnitas, are stupendously good.

I’ve been eating there for more than 5 years, but Flushing’s Golden Shopping Mall — a hive-like collection of regional Chinese deliciousness — remains one of my favorite destinations whether I’m leading a food tour or just grabbing dinner. The Henanese hand-pulled lamb noodle soup on the upper level is amazing.

And I have to get my M. Wells Dinette fix, at least once a month. In fact I am going tomorrow. Hugue Dufour is a genius. The dishes here — beef tartare, oatmeal with foie gras, escargot and bone marrow tart, to name a few — are decadent yet balanced. And he’s always running bizarre dishes like cockscombs and duck testicles in veal broth with wild mushrooms and sunchokes encased in a puff pastry dome.

Lingbo Li

Lingbo Li

LL:  First, the lamb noodle shop in the Golden Shopping Mall on the first floor. Everything — from the flavorful broth to the crisp wood ear mushroom to the chewy, toothsome noodles — combines to form a heavenly bowl of WTF-this-is-amazing. Actually, a lot of things in the Golden Shopping Mall, like that beef tendon in the basement. We ate it on the show, if it made it in. Just give me a bowl of white rice and some spicy beef tendon and I would be very, very happy.

Second, M & T, an unusual regional restaurant for Qingdao cuisine. I haven’t eaten here for a while, and am due to come back soon.

And third, Jmart! I’m appreciative of variety, so food courts are pretty much heaven for me, if you couldn’t tell. There’s a fantastic place there that will make a giant bowl of spicy things stir-fried together.

TC: What’s your best Queens food memory?

JD: I’d have to say hanging out at the Hog Days of Summer, watching a 200-plus-pound Heritage breed hog get loaded on the smoker and then eating it the next day. My buddy Tyson Ho is the Chinese-American king of eastern North Carolina whole hog barbecue. Seriously, he is.

LL: My favorite memory from my childhood, and one of the few moments where everyone in my family managed to get along, was getting food from one of the food courts in Flushing. Back then, the Flushing Mall was more vibrant (it’s since been replaced by Jmart), and I looked forward to their shaved ice, the spicy noodles, the Taiwanese oyster pancakes and the takoyaki stall that’s since disappeared.

TC: What’s your favorite food town? Other than Queens, of course.

JD: Lately Chapel Hill, NC. The pies and whole hog at Allen & Son BBQ are wonderful. And the soul food at Mama Dips can’t be beat.

 LL: I love spending weekends in Portland, ME. It’s just such a chill, adorable little town with amazing food (Fore Street, Duckfat, The Holy Donut), friendly, crunchy people, and beautiful scenery. Internationally, I’ve had such amazing meals in the cities of Tokyo, Penang and Bangkok. Mmm, Asian food.

 TC: What non-food stop would you recommend in Queens?

JD: Šri Mahã Vallabha Ganapati Devasthãnam, aka the Ganesh Temple, in Flushing is truly amazing. It offers a window into another culture. If you get hungry, there are excellent dosas to be had at the temple canteen in the basement.

LL: OK, so here’s something that’s kind of awesome: There’s a super-cheap store called Pretty Girl at 136-21 Roosevelt that sells shirts and dresses for rock-bottom prices. A lot of stuff there is pretty trashy, but if you dig around, you can find clothing for mind-bogglingly low prices. I still get compliments on a print wrap dress I got from there … 6 years ago.

Photography by star5112, flickr

Venture out to Grant Park on Chicago’s magnificent lakefront now through Sunday, July 14, for the 33rd annual Taste of Chicago. Read on for a breakdown of the world’s largest outdoor food festival.

0 = Price. The cost of admission is FREE, however you’ll need to purchase strips of 12 tickets ($8) for food and drink items (priced from 3 to 14 tickets for tasting and full-size portions).

6 = Number of celebrity chefs participating in Mazda6 Celebrity Chef du Jour, including Rick Bayless, Carrie Nahabedian, Guiseppe Tentori, Paul Kahan and Gale Gand paired with The Hearty Boys. Introduced last year, the event costs $40, which  gets you a sit-down, 3-course meal in an air-conditioned dining pavilion.

14 = Number of different food trucks participating in the festival — for the first time ever! Parked on the concrete path parallel to Lake Shore Drive, they’ll begin selling entrees and desserts an hour before the evening concerts.

16 = Booth number of famed Eli’s Cheesecake, which has been at all 33 tastes. The Chicago Tribune calls a cool slice of Key Lime Skinny Cheesecake one of The Taste’s best bargains – it’ll only set you back 3 tickets!

35 = Number of restaurants on this year’s menu, including Taste favorites Bobak’s Sausage Company and Lou Malnati’s Pizzeria, as well as newcomers like Bombay Spice and Southern-inspired Wishbone. For the full, diverse list and locations visit the Taste site.

48 = Number of bands and musicians taking the stage(s) this year, including Robin Thicke, rock ‘n roll legend Robert Plant and Grammy-award winners Jill Scott and fun.

For more on demonstrations, pop-up restaurants, kids’ activities and daily schedules, visit the official Taste of Chicago site.

Not able to make the Taste in Chi-town? We’ve rounded up more of the best Food & Wine Festivals around the country.

*Or, 5 Casual Observances for Summer Tourists From a Whirlwind NYC Weekend

Cronuts at Dominique Ansel Bakery

Courtesy of Dominique Ansel Bakery

1. The Cronut Craze — When I visited the Dominique Ansel Bakeryin SoHo back in May, you could still deign to enjoy your “DKA,” or “Cronut” seated on the small back patio (although we took ours to nearby Washington Square Park). Now the half-croissant, half-donut hybrid attracts lines around the city block –- and fans from as far as Singapore. I can’t blame them, though, the combination of flaky, delicious dough and caramelized crust is unparalleled. While we waited in line we were also treated to tasty mini-meringues — hope you are, too.

2. Pub Crawl With Pups — A friend’s birthday celebration took the form of a Brooklyn bar crawl with a “no presents, just pets” theme. Rather unsurprisingly, Williamsburg has a slew of establishments that not only allow, but also cater to canines and their owners. We started the afternoon at The Levee, think: a sea of sneakerwedges, $1 PBRs, never-ending buckets of cheeseballs and bar games ranging from Jenga to Big Buck Hunter. Later that evening we strolled to Luckydog, where more than one pug was spotted in skull paraphernalia.

The Standard Biergarten

Photo by Shawn Hoke, flickr

3. The Standard — Situated under the canopy of the High Line, in the heart of the Meatpacking District, the Standard’s open-air Biergarten serves up sausages, pretzels, beer (for 8 bucks a pop) and ping pong all summer long. There’s even homemade gelato at the Ice Cream Cart parked in front. It’s more casual than the storied rooftop, which boasts dramatic city views, live jazz music and almost-famous clientele. Both tend to get packed, so come early or expect to wait in line.

4. The Rain RoomMoMa’s must-see exhibit takes some coordination, but
the ticket line moves surprisingly quickly and the hours-long wait can be
spent perusing the magnificent modern art gallery and equally inspiring museum shops. I’d highly recommend planning one of your days around the 300-square-foot immersive environment, as admission is not guaranteed. And don’t worry, you’ll stay dry despite the falling water droplets, thanks to a system of 3D-tracking cameras that pauses the rainfall whenever a human body is detected.

5. No Reservations? No Problem. — Being a good corporate citizen, I can point you to a wealth of NYC recommendations. In a pinch, however, the power of recent Yelp reviews shouldn’t be underestimated. The app helped point us in the direction of some charming, more casual restaurants — like South Williamsburg’s Uruguayan resto Tabaré, SoHo’s cozy French spot Cocotte, and brunch at Café Cluny in the West Village — that we would have otherwise missed.

Cocotte

Courtesy of Cocotte

Also, dine off-hours when you can. After arriving rather late Friday night, it was nearly 11 p.m. once we checked into the hotel and headed out to dinner. However, we were able to walk right into Cocotte, its handful of tables having been occupied right up until that time. Dinner at Tabaré was at an early-bird 6pm — hey, we’d been at a bar crawl ALL day. Take advantage that you’re on “vacation time” — you’ll miss the trendy crowds, but eat well that way.

The word for local in Hawaiian is “kamaaina,” and to find out how to eat like a kamaaina, you have to ask one. On a recent trip to Honolulu, locals directed me to Kapahulu Ave, an unremarkable stretch of road in the shadow of Diamond Head, where the daily business of Oahu happens away from touristy Waikiki Beach. I got some of my best food tips on Waikiki Beach from a bartender at Duke’s Waikiki who drew me a map of Kapahulu on the back of a cocktail napkin. If you find yourself in Honolulu, play kamaaina for a day and take a trip down to Kapahulu Ave to one of these local foodie hot spots.

Ono Hawaiian Foods
726 Kapahulu Ave.

Photos: Robin Bennefield

When I asked a local named Larry the best place to have an authentic Hawaiian meal, he said Ono Hawaiian Foods, without hesitation. He also told me that “ono” means delicious in Hawaiian. According to Larry, the lau lau is ono. So, I had to go and give it a taste. Ono has all the characteristics of a hole in the wall: it’s tiny; the staff tells you to sit wherever you want; and there are framed pictures of famous Hawaiians all over the walls. One non-local catches my eye: Richard Chamberlain of Thornbirds fame, which boosts its quirk level about 10 points in my book. I order the pork lau lau and I get a hunk of taro leaf-wrapped pork, accompanied by small bowls of raw onions, lomi salmon, dried beef, poi and hanupia. I get an explanation of what I’m eating from Toyo, the gregarious manager, whose mother started the local favorite over 50 years ago. The lomi is a salmon salad with tomato that tastes like salsa, the dried beef is like bits of well-seasoned beef jerky, the hanupia is a slightly-sweet, Jell-O-like coconut pudding, and the poi is the purple, tangy, gooey by-product of pounded taro root, which Toyo tells me is very healthy and good for digestion. He also explains that the lau lau, which reminds me of a Southern dish of collard greens and ham hocks, is typically steamed in a pit in the ground. But the thing that he most wants to tell me, when he finds out that I write for Travel Channel, is that Anthony Bourdain once sat 2 tables away.

Side Street Inn on Da Strip
614 Kapahulu Ave.

Photo: Robin Bennefield

Bourdain also visited the original Side Street Inn on Hopaka St., but I stopped into its outpost on Kapahulu one Monday afternoon only to discover that this is the best place to watch Monday Night Football — at 3 p.m. — especially if you are a Seattle Seahawks fan. A rowdy bunch gathered to watch football over pupu platters of Chinese fare like eggrolls and spare ribs, along with heaping plates of fried rice. I elected to try the Hawaiian take on sliders: Kalua pig sliders with healthy heaps of pulled pork on top of fluffy Chinese buns served with a sweet barbeque sauce. Talk about ono, especially with a lychee martini, my favorite drink in Hawaii next to the mai tai.

Waiola
3113 Mokihana St.

 

Photos: Robin Bennefield

Going for a shave ice is probably the best way to eat like a kamaaina, and some will tell you that the best place to have one in Honolulu is at Waiola just off Kapahulu. A shave ice in Hawaii is not to be confused with Italian ices or snow cones on the mainland. The biggest difference is the powdery ice — the consistency of snow. Hawaiians like to have their shave ice on top of ice cream, azuki beans, a Japanese sweetened bean, or tapioca pearls, and top it with sweetened condensed milk, known as a snowcap. Like most shave ice stands, Waiola offers a rainbow of exotic flavors like lychee, passion fruit, guava and kiwi. Cars cram the few spaces in front of the small store, as brightly colored as its cold cones. Listening to people order here is a little like listening to someone order coffee at Starbucks. There’s definitely a shave ice lingo. I opt for the more tropical flavors — lychee, pineapple and lilikoi, or passion fruit — on top of ice cream with a snowcap.

Leonard’s Bakery
933 Kapahulu Ave.

Photos: Robin Bennefield

I love fried dough of any kind anywhere in the world, so there was no way I was going to pass up a stop at Leonard’s, known for its malasadas. The Portuguese-style warm balls of fried dough are sprinkled with sugar or filled with cream flavors like hanupia, that Hawaiian coconut pudding. Leonard’s first introduced malasadas to Honoluluans in 1952 and they’ve been beloved ever since. The old-school signage and tiny pink interior hint at the sweet yumminess inside. I order 3 malasadas, original white sugar, hanupia-filled and li hing mui sugar, a tangy, salty, sweet dried plum Chinese confection. They make me want to start saying ono instead of yum.

For more, local Hawaiian foodie suggestions, watch Andrew Zimmern turn kaimaaina in tonight’s episode of Bizarre Foods America: Undiscovered Hawaii at 9|8c.

Tonight at 9|8c, on an all-new episode of Burger Land, George Motz visits the birthplace of the hamburger: Connecticut. The oldest hamburger restaurant in America, Louis’ Lunch has been serving hamburgers since 1900 when Louis Lassen created the American staple by putting ground steak scraps between 2 pieces of bread. Today, people (like George!) make the pilgrimage to Louis’ Lunch for a taste of this historic burger.

Then after the episode, at 9:30|8:30c, chat live on TravelChannel.com with George! Now is your chance to ask him all of your burning burger questions: How does George make his own burgers? How did he become a burger expert? Join the chat tonight to learn all this and more when George talks burgers with YOU!

There’s more to Charlotte, NC, than NASCAR. In fact, the city also happens to be home to a few uniquely delicious burgers. George Motz learns this first-hand on an all-new episode of Burger Land, tonight at 9|8c!

From a burger slathered in chili and coleslaw and a jumbo cheeseburger at an old-school drive-in burger joint, to a double-decker burger smothered in Pimento cheese, find out what Southern-style burgers are all about.

Get a sneak peek of tonight’s episode with these behind-the-scenes photos. And don’t forget — we want to know where you get your favorite burgers, so submit your photos and share the juicy goodness!

On an all-new episode of Burger Land, burger aficionado George Motz explores Tennessee – from Memphis to Nashville – to taste the burgers that make this Southern state proud.

Pride is an understatement when it comes to the deep-fried burgers of Dyer’s in Memphis. One of the oldest burger joints in the country, Dyer’s credits their delicious patties to their 100-year-old grease. In fact, when the restaurant moved to its current Beale Street location, a police escort brought the grease to its new home. Tonight at 9|8c, watch as George dives into this burger and more on Burger Land! Want to know where to get these delicious burgers? Check out our Tennessee Travel Guide for all the details!

Tonight at 9|8c, George heads to northern Mississippi to taste the state’s classic burgers that haven’t changed since the days of the Great Depression. He also gets a bite of a burger that goes nicely with the Mississippi blues.

The “dough” burger became a hit during the WWII era when beef rations were minimal. Burger slingers in the area began adding secret ingredients to the patties to get more out of the beef ration. Many burger joints in northern Mississippi maintain this tradition, bringing people from all over for a taste of the past.

Check out these behind-the-scenes photos, and don’t forget to tune in tonight at 9|8c to feast your eyes on some of the best burgers in Mississippi!

Tonight at 9|8c, George Motz heads to New Mexico for a taste of the Southwest’s green chile cheeseburger. New Mexico takes pride in their red and green chile peppers, and the chile cheeseburger has become a staunch New Mexican tradition.  Find out tonight what goes into these sweet and spicy, cheesy burgers, and why you definitely need to make a trip to New Mexico if you’re looking for a unique, delicious burger.

Check out these behind-the-scenes photos, and learn why New Mexico takes pride in its chiles!

Tonight at 9|8c, on an all-new episode of Burger Land, George heads down to Houston to find some of the best burgers in the Lone Star state. From deep-fried bacon to patties made with ground beef and brisket, the burgers in Houston are known for their Texas-sized flavor.

And did we mention it’s National Hamburger Month? Celebrate by feasting your eyes on our plethora of juicy burger photos, and submit your own burger close-ups in our My Favorite Burger community!

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