Georgian Deli and Bakery

Instagram Post 1/12/2020

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Three delectable beauties from Georgian Deli and Bakery, 2270 86th St in Brooklyn; sometimes the only road to comfort is via homespun baked goods.


Pakhlava (you might see an infinite number of alternate spellings, but Instagram restricts me to 2200 characters) – loaded with chopped walnuts and golden and black raisins, punctuated by white beze (meringue). Pakhlava and baklava share the same Turkic root word but aside from the walnuts the resemblance between them ends there: three layers of rich, sour cream based dough in contrast to multifold sheets of gossamer phyllo leaves with sweetness coming from dried fruit instead of a beehive of honey.


Crescent Cigarette Cake – walnuts and raisins again, cinnamon too, a fairly standard complement for the region. Sufficiently distinct to include here.


Qada (you might see kada) – my absolute favorite of the three. Tight roll, tight crumb; butter, flour, sugar, butter and perhaps an egg yolk (did I mention butter?) – how can something so simple be so delicious? (Oh yeah. Butter. 😉)
 
 

Little House Cafe – More Savories

Instagram Post 1/8/2020

Picking up from a few days ago, here are a trio of savory dishes from the remarkable Little House Café, 90-19 Corona Ave in Elmhurst, Queens as promised.

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Chow Kueh Teow (you might see char kway teow) is practically a national dish in Malaysia and Singapore but is enjoyed throughout all of Maritime Southeast Asia in innumerable variations. Thick rice noodles along with rice cakes are the foundation accompanied by shrimp, squid, pork and bean sprouts in a rich, dark sauce that is the essence of this stir-fry. Good eats.


Bakwan Udang – an Indonesian treat; deep fried shrimp fritters, crispy on the outside, yielding within. And yes, those are whole shrimp on top, shells and all. (I told you they were crispy!)


Chai Kueh – steamed dumplings with dried shrimp, jicama and carrot.

And as usual, everything we tasted was great!
 
 

Little House Cafe – More Sweets

Instagram Post 1/5/2020

Kuih are Malaysian snacks – sweet, savory, salty, ubiquitous throughout the region – and they’re well represented at the always reliable Little House Café, an Asian fusion counter service venue with a few tables because you can’t wait until you get home.

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Frequently, when you spot a two-tone layered beauty (seri muka/kuih talam) like the ivory and tan polyhedrons shown here (upper right and lower left) half is salty, the other half sweet. In this case, the creamy layer (salty) has the flavor of coconut cendol freckled with green pandan noodle bits; the supporting role is made from sweet palm sugar.

Glutinous rice, imbued with a blue hue courtesy of butterfly pea flowers occupies the diagonal counterpoise. These days, blue food is the darling of foodies in search of the novel and Brazil’s jenipapo berries are gaining ground, but that’s a story for another day. Crowning the plate is pandan kaya (coconut egg jam) for dipping (or slathering if you’re anything like me).


They have a righteous Chinese Wife Cake here as well; a flaky pastry generously filled with candied winter melon paste and abounding with legends about the origin of its name, it’s recently adopted a refurbished identity as a symbol of resistance in Hong Kong.

The bing bisected.

Little House Café is located at 90-19 Corona Ave in Elmhurst, Queens. Stay tuned for a look at some savories.
 
 

Mandato Fruit & Grocery Corp. – Part 2

Instagram Post 11/10/2019

I’ve written about Mandato, the three-in-one Mexican destination at 7220 3rd Ave, Brooklyn before: it’s a take-out restaurant featuring tortas, cemitas, tamales, picaditas, tlacoyos, sopes, quesadillas, huaraches and more; a market where, in addition to packaged goods, you’ll find authentic Mexican ingredients including quesillo, nopales, and store-made barbacoa, carnitas, and tamales; and an authentic panadería where they bake their own Mexican panes dulces (sweet breads) available in store and sent out to close to 30 local groceries and bodegas as well – and that’s the subject of today’s post.

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Shown here are three from among dozens of varieties of baked goods prepared daily, all delicious, all made without preservatives or lard. Sleeping at the bottom is a yoyo; moving clockwise a taco de crema; and holding down the 2 o’clock position is a cherimoya, so called because it’s crafted to look like the eponymous fruit.


A peek inside sheds more light on the names. Like its real-life counterpart, the yoyo actually comprises two halves, bonded in this case by a fruity layer. The taco de crema, airy and flaky, guards creamy custard within. The cherimoya encloses a surprise as well: a generous amount of sweet cinnamon filling.

It’s a unique stop along my Bay Ridge Little Levant ethnojunket, or if you’re in the neighborhood, check it out for yourself!

(Note that this venue is officially Mandato Fruit & Grocery Corp, not the restaurant of the same name next door – there’s no connection.)
 
 

Fuska House

Instagram Post 11/7/2019

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Ask anyone from Bangladesh about fuchka (ফুসকা – you might see fushka, phuchka, phuska, or fuska as it’s spelled on the Fuska House truck) and they will recount a personal story laden with affection and often a wistful touch of homesickness about this beloved street food. Fuchka is Bangladesh’s take on Indian panipuri: It starts with puri, a deep-fried, puffed up, hollow shell of unleavened bread filled with a variety of components, often including potato, onion, cilantro, delicious aromatic spices, and thin, tangy tamarind chutney. It’s that wonderfully drippy chutney that dictates that you pop the whole thing into your mouth all at once to get an eye-popping burst of those savory ingredients coming together in a symphony of flavor.


The Fuska House truck is parked on 37th Ave near 73rd St in Jackson Heights, Queens. While you’re there, check out the other snacks they offer like this Mix Vorta: slices of fresh mango and peara (guava) so piquantly seasoned as to awaken even the most tired taste buds.
 
 

Pata Market – Marinated Pork

Instagram Post 9/21/2019

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Just wanted to make you aware of some amazing Marinated Pork sold by the equally amazing Pata Market, 81-16 Broadway, Elmhurst. I’ve written about Pata before; it’s a mini market featuring shelf stable, frozen, and refrigerated Thai snacks and ingredients, but it’s also a mini-café of sorts – very mini, actually, with a just few stools in front of a window-ledge table, a perfect photo-op stage for folks on my Elmhurst ethnojunket.

It’s the prepared food that blows me away every time though: authentic, incredibly delicious, and able to stand up to the cookery from the profusion of excellent Thai restaurants surrounding it. This marinated pork (sourced from UThai Cookhouse in Rego Park) is bursting with Thai flavor, soft and tender, and the perfect snack for meat lovers.

More to come from Pata Market. As always.
 
 

Piast Meats & Provisions

Instagram Post 9/5/2019

Serendipity took hold as I threaded my way from the bus stop on an isolated, sleepy, residential street to this year’s Peruvian Festival in Passaic, NJ. (Where would we be without our smart phones and Google Maps? Lost, I guess. But I digress.) As signs of commerce gradually began to emerge, I stumbled upon Piast Meats & Provisions at 1 Passaic Street in Garfield. One of a family-owned mini-chain of three stores, the atmosphere was old world Polish charm (in other words, the aroma of smoked pork and garlic permeated the air); storemade kielbasa, cold cuts, pierogi, and baked goods along with Polish specialty foods tempted me to purchase more than I should have since I’d be schlepping those treasures around all day. It was worth every achy muscle.

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Among many other items I bought, these two were particularly intriguing and utterly delicious. This Przysmak (delicacy) Piwny (relating to beer), translated as “beef jerky”, was incredible: soft, spicy, dried beef but not dry beef and not sausage. Sometimes “beef jerky” should be translated as shoe leather, but not this succulent stuff. On closer inspection it looks like marinated flank steak sliced into ½–¾ inch wide strips. Outstanding.

Another sign identified “pork meatloaf”, more of a cold cut really, that looked promising, but right next to it was the same item rolled together in porky matrimony with bacon, Boczek Faszerowany, translated as “stuffed bacon”. Indeed. So it’s sort of pork stuffed pork. Nothing succeeds like excess.
 
 

Mandato Fruit & Grocery Corp.

Instagram Post 8/13/2019

You’re going to hear more from me about Mandato, 7220 3rd Ave, Brooklyn, not only because it’s the only Mexican destination along my Bay Ridge food tour, but because I absolutely love the place.

For starters, it’s really three spots packed into one: a genuine panadería where they bake their own Mexican panes dulces; a market where, in addition to packaged goods, you’ll find authentic Mexican ingredients including quesillo, nopales, store-made barbacoa, carnitas, and an array of at least eight mind-blowing salsas; and a takeout restaurant serving tortas, cemitas, tamales, picaditas, tlacoyos, sopes, quesadillas, huaraches and more – the subject of today’s post. All of this is under the aegis of Pedro, a partner in the family business, who is probably the friendliest, most helpful person you’d ever want to meet and who customized these delicious wonders for me.

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This quesadilla is brimming with queso fresco, queso Oaxaca (aka quesillo), lettuce, crema, and huitlacoche, sometimes called Mexican truffle. Do you like mushrooms? Do you like corn? Then you should try huitlacoche.


Sliced in half to reveal its inner beauty.


Huaraches start with a double layer of masa enclosing a thin coating of mashed refried pinto beans, hand pressed into a thick oblong shape and fried (literally “sandals” because of the shape). This one is topped with chorizo and potatoes, onions, queso fresco and crema.


Cross section; look very closely at the bottom and you might see the layer of refritos.
 
 
Auténtico. That’s the word for it. More to come soon from Mandato: the panadería, the store-made goodies, and beyond!

(Note that this venue is officially Mandato Fruit & Grocery Corp, not the restaurant of the same name next door – there’s no connection.)

 
 

Bone Man

Instagram Post 8/11/2019

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It’s no secret that I’m pretty easy to please when it comes to almost any Asian style of fried chicken; this no-longer Secret Fried Chicken (and its attendant aroma) originates from Bone Man where you can get your chix fix on or off the bone, man. They’re the new kid on the block, 135-45 Roosevelt Avenue in Flushing to be specific, they’ve got their own style, and I like it. A lot.

They feature somewhat fanciful descriptions for their parts: chicken wing roots, middle wing, and keel along with less whimsical designations like wings and strips. I’ve tried the dark meat (dark meat only for me, please) nuggets and the on-the-bone pieces and both were yummy to be sure; it’s basically a single recipe (a tasty one at that) so your choice is really about form. The spicy version incorporates an undoubtedly secret (because it is distinctive) recipe that’s sprinkled atop your order. And they provide plastic gloves (a nice touch) for people who actually know how to eat 😉. Gizzards and French fries are available as well. Next time.

First photo was taken after my return from Bone Man. Pro tip: If, like me, you have cats, don’t try this at home, kids.


The original box, pre-feline opera.
 
 

Naranjilla/Lulo

Instagram Post 8/4/2019

Newark New Jersey’s Ironbound district is a mecca for all things Portuguese and Brazilian. I did a somewhat comprehensive post way back in April 2019 about Teixeira’s Bakery although I need to do another now that I’ve emerged from the sugar coma. Just kidding. I haven’t.

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This post, however, is concerned with produce, specifically the fruit known as naranjilla in Ecuador and Panama and lulo in Colombia. Even a nodding acquaintance with high school Spanish (and I remember a student who did indeed nod off in that class) would lead you to believe that it’s a “little orange” but although the fruit is little and orange, it’s not in the citrus family. It’s a cinch to track down at one of the five (count ’em, five!) Seabra’s markets in the area, all within walking distance of each other. (Next visit.) In NYC, you can readily find the pulp frozen and sold in pouches in many Latin American markets.

The fresh fruit is green when unripe, orange when ripe (like these), and although you can eat the fruit out of hand (squeeze out the juice and discard the shell), it’s more commonly incorporated into a batido or liquado, a shake, either milk- or water-based or ice cream. Some report that the flavor is a cross between rhubarb and lime (well, yes, but…). Suffice it to say that it’s tart (you’ll want to add sugar), the color of the juice is greenish even when ripe, and because it’s not overly sweet (I know how important that is to some of you) it’s an easily customized drink.

The first photo shows it cut across its equator. In the second photo, I’m holding a quarter-inch slice in front of what passes for a window in my apartment in an effort to capture a schmancy, backlit view.

Pro tip: Don’t go on a Sunday – restaurants, bakeries, markets and bars are open, but most other shops are closed. (I know, I know, what else would a foodie be interested in there anyway?)

Watch for my upcoming post about that day’s visit to a rodízio style churrascaria.