Rincon Melania – Part 2

Instagram Post 12/14/2018

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Rincón Melania, 35-19 Queens Blvd in Sunnyside, Queens, is one of those restaurants where everything I tasted was so good that I know I need to return soon.

Seco de Chivo, Ecuadorian goat stew, definitely made me happy: served with Arroz Amarillo (yellow rice) and an avocado wink 😉 plus a Maduro half (sweet plantain) smiling 🙂 at me. Nice when your food likes you back.

Tender, succulent, Pernil accompanied by yapingachos (or llapingachos), pan fried potato pancakes, and two members of the corn family in contrasting preparations: boiled mote and crispy maiz tostado made from cancha or chulpe, sometimes referred to as corn nuts.

More deliciousness to come from Rincón Melania….
 
 

Kanafeh

Instagram Post 12/13/2018

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Having recently done a post about a hearty meal we enjoyed in Brooklyn’s Middle Eastern neighborhood, Bay Ridge, I thought it appropriate to follow up with a coda about dessert. We hit two bakeries that day (there are many more), partly in a quest to see who made the better kanafeh.

Kanafeh, also spelled knafeh, kunafa, (there are many more), but always reliably كُنافة, is hypersweet and made with sugar syrup-drenched crisp shredded dough that conceals rich delights like clotted cream or cheese and is often topped with chopped nuts. You’ll recognize it easily: Picture a large pizza positioned on its round aluminum pan; now increase its size by, oh, half again as much; now instead of pizza toppings, picture finely shredded noodle-like dough so orange in hue that it would put a fresh carrot to shame; now forget that I said anything about pizza, it’ll only be confusing, but you’ve got the picture.

At Cedar’s Pastry and Ice Cream Shop, 7204 5th Ave, we tried two different kinds of kanafeh (there are many more), [1] mastic/ashta, the hands down winner by my standards, and [2] cheese.

[3] At Nablus Sweets, 6812 5th Ave, where the pans are square – picture Sicilian pizza, now forget I said that – we chose one with cheese and a different topping (there are many more) but I wish we had plumped for one of the other varieties as well.

Perhaps one day I’ll bring a few friends and we’ll do a proper smackdown of all the varieties because, as you’ve no doubt discerned…there are many more.
 
 

Chutney’s – Part 3 (Dosa)

Instagram Post 12/13/2018

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More from Chutney’s, an exclusively vegetarian Indian restaurant at 827 Newark Avenue, Jersey City where everything we ordered was tiptop. As one would expect, the menu listed over two dozen types of dosa; here are two.

Dosa almost never quite fits on its serving tray, and indeed, that’s part of its charm. Paper thin and crêpe-like in appearance but generally crisper, dosa is made from a fermented batter of rice and lentil flours, griddled, and typically filled with a dollop of vegetables or cheese, in this case with potato masala, a popular choice.

End on observation seems like something out of NASA’s Image of the Day: here’s looking at aloo, kid.

Plain (i.e., not spiced) Rava Dosa, by way of contrast. Lacy and even more fragile, made with semolina and other flours (and more to my liking), this thin batter is not fermented. Sambar, a spicy thin soup for dipping, on the side.

Chutney’s chutneys, clockwise from left: coconut, tomato, and peanut.

More to come from Chutney’s….
 
 

The Indonesian Gastronomy Association

Instagram Post 12/12/2018

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The Indonesian Gastronomy Association (IGA) is a collective of Indonesian expats who share a passionate interest in nourishing and promoting Indonesian culture and businesses in New York City and beyond. They foster their mission through monthly events, each with its own distinct focus, the annual Independence Day celebration and an Indonesian fashion show as recent examples. Fortunately for those of us who crave the cuisine, the principal spotlight always shines on a wide assortment of small batch and homemade authentic food from a variety of regions in Indonesia. Two standouts from last weekend’s event:

[1] Delicious handmade noodles with a perfect chew and ideal thickness, spicy chicken, bouncy meatballs swimming in a light broth, crispy crunchiness on the side (and don’t forget the egg!) from Rebecca at Mamika’s Homemade Cuisine, her Indonesian catering service in NYC. @mamika.etc

[2] Bertha from IGA offered up this Bubur Kampiun, a porridge (bubur) with a base layer of rice flour pudding, topped with plantains in coconut milk, glutinous rice balls and palm sugar custard. She told me this is sometimes served as a sweet to break the Ramadan fast and sometimes simply served as breakfast. Since kampiun means champion in Indonesian, I guess this is the Breakfast of Champions!

I attend these events regularly, so expect to see more posts soon. Follow IGA on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/IGAUSA2018/ to learn when their next event will take place. You don’t want to miss it.
 
 

Adda – Part 3

Instagram Post 12/12/2018

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Two more from the lunch menu at Adda, the new Indian restaurant at 31-31 Thomson Avenue, Long Island City, Queens, that feature their amazing paneer, the fresh cheese commonly found at Indian restaurants everywhere. But what you find everywhere is not what you’ll find at Adda. They make their own paneer, of course, but unlike the squeaky, rubbery stuff you may have experienced elsewhere (no matter how good it tasted), this paneer is the real deal. It’s gentle on the tongue and redolent of the heady aroma of fresh dairy that cuts through the accompanying sauces, and might just turn you into a paneer snob.

[1] Chili Paneer Tikka in a light ginger-garlic sauce that supports but doesn’t overwhelm the delicate flavor of the paneer. Simple and delicious.

[2] Seasonal Saag Paneer, not the glop you might be accustomed too. You often see what could easily be creamed spinach with a few afterthoughts of paneer tossed in as if to validate the name. Here the paneer and greens are in balance, playing off each other in a perfectly seasoned sauce.

Review of the dinner menu coming soon!
 
 

Ruzana

Instagram Post 12/11/2018

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The secret’s in the sauce.

Ruzana is a Jordanian family owned Middle Eastern restaurant located at 486 85th St in Brooklyn’s Bay Ridge so it comes as no surprise that Mansaf, the national dish of Jordan, is ensconced on the menu. Their family recipe is simple in appearance but time consuming in preparation. Chunks of lamb on the bone are cooked slowly in an herby sauce of jameed (sheep’s or goat’s milk yogurt, dried, fermented, and restored to a fluid state) until so ethereally tender that they yield submissively to the touch (it’s eaten with the fingers). Garnished with toasted almonds and parsley and presented over rice, the cooking liquid is served on the side and, since that’s the essence of this delicious dish, begs to be applied liberally. I’ve heard that Ruzana does/has done a more elaborate, traditional presentation involving shrak/markook flatbread beneath and atop but ours arrived unadorned.

 
 

Adda – Part 2

Instagram Post 12/10/2018

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More from Adda, the new Indian restaurant at 31-31 Thomson Avenue, Long Island City, Queens.

There are folks for whom the mere mention of kale causes their nose to crinkle; I suggest ordering this dish as a remedy to that reaction. Kale Pakoda (you may know it as pakora) is made from kale drenched in a batter of ground chickpeas, deep fried and drenched with chutneys and an impeccable masala spice blend; it’s delicious enough to make the most diehard kalephobe request a second order.

Keema Pao. Keema refers to ground meat, in this case lamb, perfectly sauced and pao to the bready bun served alongside. Scoop up the former with the latter; enjoy; repeat.

Stay tuned; more to come….
 
 

Adda – Part 1

Instagram Post 12/8/2018

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The Bengali/Hindi word “adda” refers to a place where people hang out and engage in stimulating conversation, often for hours and often over tasty food. It has a special meaning for me since I learned it decades ago from a dear departed Bangladeshi friend who taught me its meaning first hand, so I hoped the restaurant Adda would rekindle the warmth of that experience. From speaking to the restaurateur, I was pleased that we were on the same wavelength.

The interior is casual and the food was excellent, the spice levels appropriate for each distinctly seasoned dish. Here’s the first in a series detailing some of the delights we enjoyed.

Chicken Biryani. I seldom order this: the rice and chicken are often dried out from sitting around too long, a hazard of a popular dish usually cooked in abundance in advance. Not here. It’s prepared as a dum, a technique where dough is sealed around the ingredients that permits them to retain their moisture and steam to delectable perfection. Served with raita on the side, even the dough was delicious. See second photo for the reveal.

Chicken Kati Roll. One of India’s many street food snacks, these paratha wraps were more flavorful and painstakingly seasoned than many I’ve had.

More – much more – to come from Adda, 31-31 Thomson Avenue, Long Island City, Queens.
 
 

UNAMA

Instagram Post 12/7/2018

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The United Nations African Mothers Association (UNAMA) holds an annual fundraising event that takes the form of a buffet luncheon featuring home cooked food representing numerous African nations. Their mission includes improving the socio-economic conditions of women and children in Africa as well as promoting its diverse, rich culture. Held this year at the Consulate of Nigeria, we enjoyed dishes from Burkina Faso 🇧🇫, the Republic of Cameroon 🇨🇲, Côte d’Ivoire 🇨🇮, Kenya 🇰🇪, Tanzania 🇹🇿, Nigeria 🇳🇬 and many more.

This sunbathed plate held a few examples of chicken, salmon, shrimp, couscous, rice, and potato preparations; the second photo provides a closer inspection of an artfully garnished couscous from Libya; the third shows Seswaa (shredded beef) from Botswana, Lamb Basquaise (stew) from Cameroon, and more of that sensually scented couscous.
 
 

Black Label Donuts

Instagram Post 12/5/2018

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Faced with the question “Donut?”, my response is always “No thanks, I’m good.” The lone exception has been the promise of any Doughnut Plant treat to which my eager response is “Where?” So when Instagram friend @nigelsie invited me to an informal gathering that included @gustasian and @dyske.nyc and an overwhelming assortment of examples from donut luminaries, I reckoned a taste test of tempting toroids in the company of this group of discerning palates would be fun. And fattening.

It was my first taste of Black Label Donuts. You may be aware of this elusive, Sundays-only, Bayside, Queens purveyor of bespoke confections. Richard Eng, the culinary master behind these creations, has come up with a unique cold fermentation process for his dough that makes them a standout even before he applies his delectable toppings and fillings. (Eng survived a tragic personal attack last summer that you can read about on his Instagram page @blacklabeldonuts – look for his black and white photo for more information.)

[1] Black Label’s varieties included (clockwise from top left): rosemary lemon olive oil curd, orange miso pecan sticky bun, funky monkey (peanut butter banana custard), salted espresso milk jam, Meyer lemon poppy seed, calamansi buttermilk lime.

[2] Doughnut Plant – top row: coconut crème (filled), peanut butter blackberry jam (filled); bottom: vanilla blackberry jam dough seed, crème brûlée dough seed, marzipan star.

[3] Dough (clockwise from top left): toasted coconut, salted chocolate caramel, dulce de leche almond, lemon poppy seed.

To my surprise, I learned that it’s actually more about the dough than the toppings or fillings (although those are certainly significant as well) that distinguishes the provenance. Black Label’s is brioche-like and could make a donut lover out of the staunchest naysayer (me). Doughnut Plant’s wares are a little oilier and a lot sweeter – still good, but, yeah. Donuts from Dough are cakey with a tighter crumb, not really my thing, but I know they have their fans. And since it was the first night of Chanukah, traditional jelly donuts (sufganiyot) from Moishe’s had a seat at the table too, but that’s a source of a different cruller.
 
 
Black Label Donuts can be found Sundays at Nippon Cha, 39-34 Bell Blvd in Bayside.