Oy Benne!

Instagram Post 6/22/2019

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I’m not certain about the linguistic prowess of the folks from Oy Benne!, the Queen’s Night Market Italian-Jewish comfort food vendor, but I am certain about their cooking prowess. “Oy”, of course, is a Yiddish interjection, but were they trying for the Italian “Bene” meaning good? I was so taken with their culinary concept that I neglected to ask.

[1] Their gastronomic fusion idea is not lost in translation, however. Matzo Brei is a savory dish made from softened pieces of matzo soaked in beaten eggs and fried, the Jewish kitchen’s answer to French toast if you will. Traditionally accompanied by sour cream and applesauce, here it gets a sweet bacio from Italy by swapping in ricotta for the sour cream and cherry preserves for the applesauce, along with a few other tweaks to the canonical recipe.

[2] At the Queen’s Night Market press event, Oy Benne was featuring chopped chicken liver made with duck fat instead of schmaltz (chicken fat), unexpectedly served with a sweet, fruity topping. Matzo never had it so good. Check the QNM schedule to see when they’ll be there next.

Che geshmak!
 
 

More 2019 World’s Fare Vendors

Instagram Post 6/3 and 6/5/2019

Four more vendors from the 2019 World’s Fare that took place recently at Citi Field in Flushing.

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Duck Season brought out their 10% duck fat burger, duck fat fries, and Brooklyn poutine with duck bacon, cheese sauce and gravy; shown here is their BBQ rub smoked duck sandwich on a brioche. Wabbit Season was nowhere to be found but you can find Duck Season’s whereabouts by following them @duckseasonnyc on Facebook or Instagram.


Brooklyn’s Korzo Restaurant (667 5th Ave in Park Slope) offered up their Slovak halušky. Residing somewhere along the gnocchi<–>dumpling continuum, these little hand-cut pillows are made from flour/potato dough and served with a tangy bryndza cheese sauce topped with bacon and chives. Central European comfort food.


Alexandra Dettori (AD) Catering and Events brought their 🇪🇷 Eritrean tacos to the party. If you’ve enjoyed dining at any Ethiopian/Eritrean restaurant, you’re familiar with injera, the spongy flatbread that serves as the foundation for dishes like wot, the region’s emblematic dense stew. AD’s fusion concept is the Eri-Taco – mini injera, in this case supporting a spicy diced beef wot. Follow them on Facebook or Instagram @adcateringandevents.


Nansense featured their Mantu, first-rate dumplings from Afghanistan packed with savory beef and onion, slathered with garlicky yogurt and tomatoey split peas, and hit with dried mint and cilantro. Often a fixture at Smorgasburg, follow them @nansensenyc on Instagram or Facebook to be certain of their whereabouts. Comfort food that’s delicious 🇦🇫 (or as the emoji appears on some platforms, AF). 😉

 
 

Tania’s Kitchen

Instagram Post 6/2/2019

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If you’ve never tried Haitian food, whatever are you waiting for? Some of the best I’ve tasted comes from Tania’s Kitchen, a family owned catering and pop-up business that operated a booth at the 2019 World’s Fare a couple of weeks ago in Flushing and they were one of my favorite vendors.

You’re looking at Diri Djon Djon (black rice that gets its color from dried black mushrooms, a Haitian specialty), Banan Peze (fried plantains), Pikliz (pronounced Pick-leez, spicy pickled cabbage), and up top, delicious Griot (incredible deep fried pork) and Kodenn Fri (equally incredible deep fried turkey). It isn’t easy to make meat so tender and so crispy at the same time, so mèsi anpil to the talented chef!

What’s that? You missed the World’s Fare? No problem because you can find them at the Queen’s Night Market this summer. Check out taniaskitchen.nyc for their schedule, then head to the New York Hall of Science in Flushing Meadows Corona Park, Saturdays from 5pm to midnight. Bon manje!
 
 

Black Label Donuts

Instagram Post 6/1/2019

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Winner Winner, Donut Dinner! Okay, maybe not dinner, but deliciously filling and definitely a winner. More specifically, the winner of the “Best in Show: Sweet” category at the recent World’s Fare 2019.
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There are two elements that make Black Label Donuts so special. The champions (IMHO) start with a 24 hour cold fermented brioche dough (Richard Eng, the culinary master behind these creations, knows his carbs) and the ever-changing gourmet flavors that are uniquely creative like matcha crème brûlée, rosemary lemon/olive oil curd, lavender blueberry, azuki ichigo (red bean/strawberry) and sake kasu cherry. Shown here are the Japanese Elvis – banana brioche, torched bananas, and smoked bacon with a peanut butter-miso glaze – and the Kalamansi Buttermilk Lime. Both were outstanding.
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Currently, they’re only available in pop-up format, so follow them on Instagram @blacklabeldonuts and on facebook.com/BlackLabelDonuts. And wherever they are, get there early, because they sell out fast!
 
 

Janie’s Pie Crust Cookies

Instagram Post 5/31/2019

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Every now and then, some genius comes up with a brilliant idea for combining two beloved baked goods into a single treat, a portmanteau of pastry if you will. The cronut comes to mind. That marriage often begets lesser, more commercialized offspring which will remain nameless here. But sometimes a star is born unto this hallowed union and it is this miracle of which I bring good tidings.
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Okay, so I got a little carried away. But that’s what happened at the press event for 2019’s Queens Night Market when I tasted Janie’s Pie Crust Cookies. Resting on a foundation of flaky pie crust, topped with buttery, crumbly, caramelized streusel and filled with just the right amount of gooey pecan magic to balance it off (cherry and chocolate pecan are available too), Janie’s cookies comprise the best parts of the pie and they’re heavenly. (Oops, there I go again.)
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Janie’s personal story is the stuff of which legends are made; visit her website janiebakes.com to learn more or follow her on Instagram @janiebakescakes, but even better – taste for yourself. You can find her and her life-changing cookies (there’s a poignant reason they’re called that) at the Queens Night Market: head to the New York Hall of Science in Flushing Meadows Corona Park, Saturdays from 5pm to midnight until August 17 and again from September 28 to October 26.
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Say Hallelujah! 😇
 
 

La’Maoli

Instagram Post 5/30/2019

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Over the next few days, I’ll show you some pix from the over-the-top feast that was the 2019 World’s Fare a couple of weeks ago in Flushing.

Cuisine from Antigua and Barbuda doesn’t get enough love around these parts, and La’Maoli represented the Caribbean island nation swimmingly. You’re looking at sunbathed ducana and saltfish, and of everything I tasted that day, this brought the biggest smile to my face.

Ducana, a sweet Antiguan specialty, lies somewhere along the dumpling<–>pone continuum and is made from grated sweet potato, coconut, sugar and spice, coconut milk and sometimes raisins; it’s wrapped in a banana leaf and boiled until firm (and yes, I took a bite out of one so you see inside). Saltfish is dried salted cod, cooked with onion and tomato (I’ve seen this called “buljol”) and can often be found keeping company with ducana. I neglected to ask about the greens, but I suspect it was “chop-up”, another local dish, consisting of okra, eggplant, and spinach. Each item complemented the others perfectly and all went far beyond the definition of delicious.

Not to take anything away from the other terrific vendors there (more photos to come tomorrow) but La’Maoli’s food was unsurpassed. They’re caterers and they pop up at events from time to time, so follow them on Instagram @lamaoli_ to find where they’ll be – and I bet you’ll find that big smile there too.
 
 

Songkran Festival

Instagram Post 5/22/2019

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Songkran is Thailand’s New Year and last month there were two opportunities to celebrate along Woodside Ave in Elmhurst, Queens where we found this treat. IMO, it manages to incorporate each of the most fundamental elements of Southeast Asian sweets into a perfect singularity: pandan, sticky rice, coconut milk, and durian.

Combine them, and the result is to dessert as Euler’s Identity is to mathematics. And if you know what I’m talking about, we can be best friends forever. 😉
 
 

2019 World’s Fare Preview

Instagram Post 5/15/2019

 
If you’re a hardcore international food freak like me, you know that The World’s Fare is happening for the second year on May 18th and 19th at Citi Field in Queens. Check out their website for information and a complete rundown on the more than 100 participating vendors from as many cultures. I’ve tasted scores of wonderful dishes from dozens of these folks throughout the year at weekly events and pop-ups as well as at last year’s World’s Fare and I can attest to the fact that this is an expertly curated show. But today, I want to give a special shout-out to three vendors who not only do amazing work but are actually friends of mine IRL.

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What can I say about Moon Man’s unique Indonesian treats that I haven’t already said? A regular at the Queens International Night Market, my friend Nigel Sielegar crafts authentic delectable Indonesian desserts like coconut pancakes, cassava cake, steamed pandan cake and much more – and they taste as good as they look. Don’t miss Moon Man’s booth!
 
If you’re not from Spain, you probably think of paella as Spain’s national dish; if you do hail from Spain, you know it’s the heart and soul of Valencia. Not merely a rice dish, it requires know-how, special equipment, and the passion to do it right, and the folks from In Patella score points for all three. Specialists in authentic paella catering, this weekend they’ll reinforce their mission to dispel myths about what paella is and isn’t.
 
Dua Divas is a collaboration of two of my favorite vendors from the New York International Food Bazaar held monthly at St. James Parish House, 84-07 Broadway in Elmhurst: Taste of Surabaya and Pecel Ndeso. They’ll be offering nasi kuning, klepon, satay, and martabak telur. Don’t know what those are? Head over to their booth and find out! (For now, I’ll just tell you that they’re all delicious. 😉)

See you this weekend!
 
 

NY Indonesian Food Bazaar

Instagram Post 5/14/2019

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Two treats from the New York Indonesian Food Bazaar held approximately monthly at St. James Parish House, 84-07 Broadway in Elmhurst.
Pempek are Indonesian fish cakes (you might see empek-empek) made from ground fish (usually mackerel) and tapioca flour. This dish is pempek kulit which includes minced fish skin in the dough (kulit means skin); it’s customarily served with a spicy sweet and sour sauce and chopped cucumber for balance. Don’t let the idea of fish skin put you off – just try it!


Mie Tek-Tek – stir fried noodles with onion and egg; tek-tek is the onomatopoeic word for the sound the wok chan (spatula) makes as the chef taps it against the wok while preparing this dish. On the side, just above the spicy peppers, are krupuk, colorful deep fried crackers that provide a crispy counterpoint to the supple noodles.

The next NYIFB event will take place on June 8, but if you can’t wait until then to taste this delicious cuisine, check out Dua Divas at the World’s Fare, May 18th and 19th at Citi Field in Queens.
 
 

Angkor Cambodian Food

Part six in a series of reports.

Some folks look forward to the annual celebration of their birthdays or anniversaries; for me it’s the occasion to cover America’s largest food and beverage trade show right here in New York City, Specialty Food Association’s Summer Fancy Food Show. (Check out full coverage and a description of a recent event here.) Aside from the fact that it affords the chance to hob and nob with other professional foodies, see what products and brands are trending and poised to make a breakthrough, and get a sense of what the industry thinks the marketplace is craving, it gives me the opportunity to turn you on to new products to watch for locally or even order online.

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Chrouk Metae Paik Kouk (Spicy Jicama Slaw)

Saich Ko Chrawkak (Beef on a Stick)

If you live in an area where Cambodian food is not well represented (and that’s true even here in New York City) and you’re interested in doing a little quick and easy (yes, really) Cambodian home cooking, these are the products for you. At last year’s Fancy Food Show, I met Channy Chhi Laux, the founder of Angkor Cambodian Food, a San Francisco based company that specializes in authentic Cambodian spices, pastes and sauces and had a delightful conversation with her about her company and her personal history.

Those of you who follow me know that I’m an avid home cook with a focus on international cuisine, so I knew I had to try Channy’s products and she provided me with jars of Chrouk Metae (Cambodian Hot Sauce) and Lemongrass Paste (Kroeung). The photos above are the results of my experiments, and I can tell you that they were simple to prepare and tasted as good as they look.

You can get the recipes and order these (and more) ingredients on their website, https://www.angkorfood.com. And while you’re there, be sure to read the remarkable story of Channy’s life as a thirteen year old survivor of Cambodian genocide and her subsequent emigration to the United States.