Max & Mina’s

Instagram Post 4/22/2019

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Since we’re in the middle of Passover and warm weather is inching ever closer, I can think of no better time than to recount the story of my pilgrimage to Max & Mina’s Ice Cream at 71-26 Main Street in Kew Gardens Hills, Queens. That they’re kosher is beside the point – and their over-the-top decor showcasing covers from 60’s era Mad Magazines, cereal boxes, and other memorabilia against a seaside themed subplot is just the tip of the icecreamberg. It’s the seemingly infinite roster of unique, unusual flavors they’ve created over the years that’s their claim to fame.

If you can name it, and even if you can’t, they’ve probably made it: Cotton Candy Pop Rocks, Pancake Chip, Sponge Bob, Circus, Snickers, Bourbon, Merlot, Coffee & Doughnuts, every breakfast cereal I can think of like Rice Krispies, Cap’n Crunch, Fruity Pebbles, Cocoa Puffs and Quisp. (Remember Quisp? I wonder if they did Quake.) If your taste runs to the more conventional, there’s always Mint Chip, Pumpkin, Nutty Pistachio, Peach, Rum Raisin, Key Lime Pie and the like. This trio comprises Peanut Butter Pie, Blackberry, and Egg Nog. I’d name more but Instagram limits me to 2200 characters. I’m told that they also have chocolate, strawberry, and vanilla.

So how does Passover factor in? In a nod to Judaica, past flavors have included Nova Lox, Herring, Horseradish, Cholent (a Sabbath stew), Esrog (the yellow citron that’s part of the Jewish holiday Sukkot) and Macaroon. But not only plain macaroon, oh no. How about Chocolate Macaroon, Coffee Caramel Macaroon…the list goes on. Horseradish gets a similar facelift from strawberry and blackberry infused versions as well, and their Babka ice cream really takes the cake.

Note that when you go (and it would be a shonde if you don’t), none of these flavors may be available, presumably to accommodate the latest experiments, but I can guarantee that they’ll be replaced by as many equally intriguing offerings in a rainbow of flavors, colors, and textures.

So nu, what are you waiting for?

Mitsuwa Marketplace – Ice Cream

Instagram Post 4/11/2019

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Is it warm enough yet to start writing about ice cream? (And does it even need to be warm at all?)

[1] A recent visit to the frozen food aisle at Mitsuwa Marketplace, probably the most comprehensive exclusively Japanese supermarket in the area, turned up this besquiggled, choko-cliff of an ice cream cone that was too visually compelling to forego. I made my way through the red balloon katakana (“super”), the yellow hiragana (bikkuri which means “amazed”), and the creamy soft-serve curlicue to be rewarded with a crunchy chocolate supporting infrastructure.

[2] The inside scoop (as it were). Truth in advertising: “amazed” pretty much summed it up.

Mitsuwa Marketplace is located at 595 River Road, Edgewater, NJ.

More Mitsuwa

Instagram Post 3/4/2019

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In addition to the specialty shops and restaurants that accompany their extensive selection of Japanese packaged and prepared foods, Mitsuwa Marketplace, 595 River Road, Edgewater, NJ plays host to a series of promotional events. Currently, for example, three exhibitors from Japan are presenting bespoke Japanese sweets, premium dashi (Japanese soup stock), and luxurious seafood bento. The products are available for a limited time at the store and, I was told, once they go back to Japan, so does the opportunity to sample them locally.

Marumasa, hailing from Yamanashi Prefecture, featured a regional style of fried chicken (kara-age) along with other deep fried snacks. This set included [1] fried shrimp nestled within onigiri (rice balls) which were excellent and [2] chicken that would have been good had it not suffered from being out of the oil for too long rendering it cold and a bit greasy, an uncommon happenstance I was told.

[3] A fixture among Mitsuwa’s restaurants, Tendon Hannosuke specializes in tempura bowls. Shown here is the Original Tempura Plate with whitefish, two shrimp, soft-boiled egg, nori and vegetables.

If you’re into Japanese cuisine, cooking, and culture, Mitsuwa Marketplace is worth the short bus ride across the river for a few hours of exploration and dining. And if you have a little extra time, there’s a bookstore (Kinokuniya) and a home décor emporium (Little Japan USA) right nearby. (PS: Don’t miss the creamy, delicious soft-serve which we gobbled too hastily to photograph!)

Hamada-ya Bakery

Instagram Post 3/3/2019

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I’ve been making the pilgrimage to Mitsuwa Marketplace, the Japanese superstore at 595 River Road, Edgewater, NJ since it was Yaohan. (Raise your hand if you remember that.) In addition to being the most comprehensive exclusively Japanese supermarket in the area offering great prepared food to boot, Mitsuwa also sponsors frequent events (more about those in an upcoming post) and incorporates a number of specialty food concessions featuring Japanese confectionery and soft serve ice cream, sushi, rice balls, tempura, ramen and the like. Based on a recommendation from my Instagram friend @rudumplingme, I headed to one such shop, Hamada-ya Bakery (an outpost of Tokyo’s Richu Hamada-ya) to taste their wares

[1] She singled out the Vanilla Cream Cornet (the katakana クリームコロネ on the sign reads “cream coronet”) which proved to be great: the dough was crisper outside and airier inside than I expected, and custard filling in Japanese baked goods is sometimes less rich than their European counterparts, but this was perfection.

[2] Another familiar treat in Japanese bakeries is Melon Pan (メロンパン), sometimes plain but adorned here with chocolate bits that break the monotony (the photo may be a little deceiving, there’s no filling inside). With a crispy thin crust and a yielding interior, this sweet bread made a righteous breakfast the following morning. Note that no melons are harmed in the making of melon pan; the name merely refers to its appearance, a bit like a cantaloupe. Incidentally, the word “pan” (bread) made its way into Japanese via Portuguese missionaries.

[3] Their rendition of pain au chocolat, choco croissant (チョコクロワッサン) was satisfying as well. Hamada-ya also sells savory sandwiches like fried fish and egg, tonkatsu (pork cutlet) and tuna, and goodies that seem to straddle the sweet/savory fence like cheddar cheese curry donut. Next time!

Hobak Chaltteok

Instagram Post 2/23/2019

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For an abundance of Korean supermarkets far beyond the handful that Manhattan has to offer, head out to Northern Boulevard in Flushing. One such business, Hanyang Mart, aka H&Y Marketplace, 150-51 Northern Boulevard, is brimming with Korean staples, produce, fresh fish and meats as well as homemade ready-to-eat fare.

While wandering through the store, I noticed this hobak chaltteok; it looked tempting, so I was compelled to purchase it. When you see tteok (sometimes dduk) 떡 on a Korean menu or label, it refers to Korean rice cake. Hobak (호박) means pumpkin, chaltteok (찰떡) means glutinous rice cake; pumpkin seeds usually figure into this #snack for a little texture. Steam to soften (or microwave if you’re careful not to overdo it) and you’ve got what I suspect is a healthy snack: not too sweet with a satisfying chew that should keep you busy for a while.

Tsirosalata – Titan Foods

Instagram Post 2/15/2019

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Since my friend and I were poking through Astoria prior to lunch at a nearby Greek taverna (more about that in an upcoming post), a visit to my favorite Greek market, Titan Foods at 2556 31st St, seemed a fitting appetizer. (Pro tip: the Greek pronunciation is tee-TAHN, stress on the final syllable.) It’s my go-to place for their overwhelming selection of feta and other cheeses, unparalleled olives, delicious homemade baked goods, and any Greek comestibles one could possibly crave. There, amid many tried and true delicacies in the refrigerator case, was something I had never tasted, tsirosalata. Needless to say, that was reason enough for me to buy some.

Tsirosalata (τσιροσαλάτα) is smoked mackerel preserved in oil, so it’s a triple threat: mackerel is a strong tasting fish to begin with, smoking it only doubles down on the intensity, and anything preserved in oil that super dense probably has the staying power of the Parthenon. Truth be told, it was a bit much even for me. Clearly, tsirosalata is not intended to be consumed straight out of the container unescorted, so my first action was to marinate it; I used a light vinegar with some sugar, onion and dill and let it luxuriate just until it capitulated.

Satisfied with its newly docile demeanor, my next step was to dress it. Thinly sliced cucumber and red onion, black and green Greek olives, fresh dill and lemon wedges were impeccable companions, but the capers and pink peppercorns made it perfect.

Keki Modern Cakes

Instagram Post 1/19/2019

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You know the line that formed outside the door the day that Keki Modern Cakes opened at 79 Mott St in Chinatown? I was in it, mainly because they were (unconsciously) utilizing their unusual cakes to demo the mechanics of momentum in the window, and I’m the nerdy type. In case you missed it, Keki makes “Bouncy Cheesecakes” and they do live up to the promise of their name.

[1] On a postprandial visit to their midtown location, 315 Fifth Ave at 32nd St, my lunchmates and I indulged in the ube variety. Light, fluffy, adorably jiggly and not too sweet (it seems to be so important to so many), the flavors of cheese and ube were present but subtle. Pretty good, actually.

[2] Bisected.

[3] They also offer castella sponge cakes, tarts and “pot pies” that look like larger tarts in flavors like blood orange, melon banana, and pumpkin (these may be seasonal), as well as [4] fancy cheese cakes, described on a chalkboard just above the yellow neon imperative, “Let’s Bounce”. Sure, why not?

Singapore Malaysia Beef Jerky

Instagram Post 1/18/2019

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One of the delights of living in NYC is enjoying easy access to our five or six Chinatowns and the culinary treasures they embrace. Tucked away at 95A Elizabeth St is Singapore Malaysia Beef Jerky, a tiny shop that delivers big flavor in the form of freshly grilled, delicious jerky – a regularly scheduled stop on my Manhattan Chinatown ethnojunket. The word “jerky” has its roots in the Andean Quechua language – ch’arki meaning dried, salted meat – and this savory-sweet version is unique. They offer three kinds of meat in two spice levels and two styles.

[1] The first style (and my favorite) comes in the form of slightly charred squares of wonderfully seasoned pulverized chicken, pork, or beef. (Sometimes they have a combo of shrimp and pork – if you see it, get it.) The three varieties are similar in appearance: chicken is slightly pinker than pork which is lighter than beef; the flavors are identifiable – if you’re eating one labeled chicken, you know it’s chicken; the texture is supple (chicken is subtly more tender than beef); and their distinctive seasoning blend is the reason to go here. All three are available in spicy as well as regular designations; “spicy” has a finish with a tiny kick, but well within anyone’s tolerance.

[2] They also make a style that consists of very thinly sliced meat (pork or beef) with seasoning similar to those above, available in spicy and non-spicy recipes as well. In terms of texture, expect a little more resistance – after all, you’re chewing an actual slice of meat. The second photo shows an example of the two side by side.

[3] How it’s done. I can attest from experience that this is a universal favorite; if you’ve never tried their jerky, put it at the top of your to-eat list.

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Happy Diwali!

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Dear Friends,

I can no longer keep this to myself. I am an addict, hooked on mithai. What’s that? You don’t know about mithai? Mithai are Indian sweets and since Diwali, the Hindu Festival of Lights, is upon us, I can think of no better time than now to tell you my tale. So gather round your diyas and check out my post “Indian Sweets 101: Meeting Mithai” right here on!

Purple Dough – Ube Leche Flan

Instagram Post 10/3/2018

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Another purple treat from Purple Dough, 38-05 69th St in Woodside, Queens. This time, the new bakery presents ube leche flan – dense flan lounging atop ube (purple yam) cake. Surprisingly, this beautiful dessert isn’t overly sweet, so a dollop of whipped cream wouldn’t hurt if you want to dress it up a little – if you can wait to get it home!