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Posts from the ‘Forest Hills’ Category

Eaten, Barely Blogged: Deer Dumplings, Deep Dish, Cold Beans

cooklyn duo

Cooklyn There are two types of New Brooklyn restaurants: those that bore and those that deliver the goods. (Also, I’m patiently awaiting the emergence of the New Queens restaurant). Cooklyn, perhaps even in spite of its name, falls into the latter camp with the assist of a few unexpected Greek touches. Yes, there’s octopus. I never order pasta but those I sampled, from a squid ink cavatelli to a lobster mac and cheese to a new-for-spring beef cheek fusilli with fontina, dried cherries, Kalamata olives and mint were strong. Notable small plates (no, they’re not going away) include two of the most un-Chinese versions of buns and wontons I’ve encountered in recent memory: lamb, dill and feta like a mini gyro, and venison dumplings (pictured) served with stone ground mustard.


Pizzeria Uno Like many fleeing obsessions, I don’t recall how or why I became consumed with hitting up an Uno for the first time in over 13 years (thanks to a history of documenting the mundane, I know exactly when my previous and first visit took place even if it’s embarrassing reading old missives). In that decade-plus span Uno added farro, artisan a.k.a. non-deep dish crusts, and arugula and prosciutto as toppings. What? No. I’m pleased to see that the chain is ditching the pseudo-upscale healthy trends and getting back to doughy basics. Sure, deep dish is kind of an abomination. Yet if you think of it as a lasagna with a tart-like buttery crust, it’s reconcilable.

maravillas chicharrone

Maravillas I naively assumed that a dish called chicharrones en salsa verde would contain a strip of crispy pork, all crunch and contrast, not soggy, soft skin rolled around the meat. I did not hate this, mostly because the sauce was great and that level of fiery where you begin feeling a tingle creep through your tonsils up into your ears, and perfectly tempered by corn tortillas that I’m pretty sure weren’t store bought. The chips made from these tortillas were light and flaky, but the nachos they were a part of? My gringo punishment. (I’d just had an exchange with the guy replacing a window in my apartment upon seeing my last name: “Can you make Spanish food? You look like someone who cooks cabbage.”) They were cold, not just cold like food delivered carelessly and slow–the pork was steamy–but never warmed in the first place. Chilled beans and solid squares of Munster beneath hte guacamole and sour cream. And I still want to return in person despite all this.

pampas parillada

Pampas Argentinas If you find yourself hopped up on tiki drinks at End of the Century (and maybe a surreptitious puff on a silent residential street) and aren’t up for Danny Brown Wine Bar next door and it’s too late for a sundae at Eddie’s, Pampas is a fine enough choice for splitting a parrillada for two three ways and still being barraged by meat. It’s also a little pricier and a lot weirder than the better known Argentine/Uruguayan steakhouses of Jackson Heights/Elmhurst/Corona. You’ll get chicken, not intestines, which is more accurate for Forest Hills. You will also hear a lot of ’70s soft rock, some deep cuts even, Gerry Rafferty plus much Steely Dan. White sangria might come wine-free but tasting like rum. Um, I guess none of that is so weird in retrospect. I did accidentally tip over $100 and had to fill out a new slip, then walked two miles and spent nearly two hours getting the four miles home, none of which was Pampas’ fault.

Eaten, Barely Blogged: Salvo, Near-Suburban Tiki, Simits

bear quint

Bear Russian food, whether the time capsule Brighton Beach version or of the flashy Mari Vanna and Onegin persuasion, has never been in my wheelhouse. Of course, I didn’t say no to Queens’ answer to this genre on a chilly night practically crying out for dill martinis and substantial brown bread. The pickles, herring and potato salad, and salvo, described as lardo but much thicker and tougher to bite through, were fine drinking snacks, but portions are little overly precious. A lamb dumpling special (not pictured) that I’m remembering as priced in the high teens came three to a plate, more appropriate for dim sum than an entree. The layer cake, smetannik, was strangely gritty, which I’m now guessing was due to buckwheat, an intentional addition. There’s something off-kilter about the operation, and that may stem from Bear not knowing exactly what it wants to be. It’s a cozy place in a non-prime corner of Astoria that also happens to serve a $175 tasting menu, possibly a Queens record.

end of the century cocktails

End of the Century I’m not sold on Forest Hills’ stretch of Metropolitan Avenue being touted as “Michelin Road” (I mean, it is home to the one and only East Coast Sizzler, which has strong Michelin-negating powers). Forest Hills is a very different kind of Queens, though, still on the subway but  more suburban and upscale than most of the western half that non-residents associate with the borough. You will see lawn jockeys on the meandering walk from Queens Boulevard and definitely no other pedestrians. Some new bar openings are hyped. Others are not. End of the Century, tiki in mission but still looking a little like the pub that preceded it, has owners with pedigrees including PKNY, Maison Premiere and Dutch Kills, but on my visit its first week open the crowds were not there yet. The drinks like the above Dr. Funk and super gingery, honeyed and multi-rummed Kon-Tiki Mai Tai are crafted with purpose and well-priced at $10 (and may not stay that low indefinitely). I’m not convinced the concept is in line with the sleepier part of Forest Hills’ needs or expectations. I would be happy to see them succeed, however, especially since I need to try the scorpion bowl, the bar is only one express stop from me, and my neighborhood won’t be seeing any falernum or absinthe-filled atomizers any time soon.

buffalo wild wings da & night

For inexplicable reasons that hopefully will become apparent to me soon, I’ve not only walked past Forest Hills’ Buffalo Wild Wings twice in less than a week, I’ve also photographed it.

simit sarayi duo

Simit Sarayi is the latest foreign import in Manhattan, by way of Turkey. Simits are more or less sesame bagels with much larger holes, and they are going to be totally hot in 2015. Ok, probably not, but I had to get in one pseudo-end-of-year prediction. Clearly, I will need to sample more than just a cheese and tomato filled version to fully assess the situation. As far as authenticity, all I had to go on was the staff and clientele, who with the exception of my first and maybe my last (I say defeated-ly, not optimistically) Tinder date, appeared to be Turkish. Good riddance, 2014.

Sizzler Forest Hills

oneshovelSizzler is a tricky beast. I’ve been talking it up all summer (and f.y.i., there’s still more than three weeks left). I am one of its only 48 Instagram followers. I also became debilitatingly sick immediately after eating there. And yet even with a dull headache four days later, I still don’t want to snark on Sizzler.

Photo: Sizzler

Photo: Sizzler

Not only is the Forest Hills location just past the never crowded Trader Joe’s that no one ever talks about the only remaining example of this fading heritage brand in NYC, it’s the only sad reminder of the once mighty chain east of Nebraska (if you don’t count the three in Florida, which I don’t). Somehow, though, the America’s Favorite Flavors promotion explicitly mentions the East Coast, represented by steak and shrimp scampi linguine.

It’s also kind of a fun bus ride if you happen to be in Williamsburg and enjoy seeing long inter-borough thoroughfares shift character from starting point to near-terminus and keeping tabs on the one other rider with even more staying power. For $2.50 the Q54 provides a magical sightseeing tour of many of the city’s super-scarce chains. Sizzler, obviously, but also NYC’s only Chili’s, hidden in Glendale’s upscale and underwhelming Atlas Park Mall, and one of only two Arby’s, plopped in the lot that used to be occupied by Niederstein’s in Middle Village’s cemetery country.

Despite Sizzler searing itself into my consciousness as a child, it’s not a young person’s game. In fact, one member of the crew I convinced to join me had previously been to this exact Sizzler in grade school after her grandmother’s funeral. On this visit I witnessed a septuagenarian’s birthday, as well as waist-high toilet handles, presumably to prevent the need to bend. There are most certainly senior specials, even with the already modestly priced menu.

sizzler spread

I mean, $12.49 for steak and chicken? There was no way I wasn’t going to get the Malibu Chicken. I loved Malibu Chicken so much as a teen that I Todd Wilbur’ed it. My sister and I would allocate part of our $20 weekly grocery budget for frozen, breaded chicken patties, Swiss cheese, packets of Land O’Frost ham and powdered hollandaise sauce–just add milk and margarine. We were processed food geniuses.

sizzler steak & malibu chicken combo

I’m not sure if my tastes have changed or the recipe did, but the sauce currently being served is definitely not hollandaise. The predominant flavor was mustard, not lemon. I do now recall the appeal of this dish, though, and it’s the fried, fatty, creamy trifecta. That cheese is a solid molten mass, no lacy holes remain. I would probably add a spicy component if I were an R&D consulting chef. I don’t think Sizzler is at Sriracha level yet, so I might start them off with a mayonnaise-based chipotle sauce. In reality, pepper jack swapped for Swiss might be as much change as anyone could handle.

sizzler salad bar plate

I barely touched my medium-rare steak that sadly didn’t come skewered with a little plastic doneness indicator because the salad bar is more important than sirloin topped with sautéed mushrooms and onions (an upsell). And you’re insane if you don’t get the salad bar–a $4.95 add-on–because incorporating hard shell tacos, krab salad, onion rings, corn fritters, and chicken wings is kind of the whole point.

sizzler taco bar

Nacho cheese, of course. Mild, naturally. No shredded cheddar here.

sizzler green peppers

I didn’t see evidence of the kale mentioned on Sizzler’s site, but apparently green bell peppers are so out they’re back in. That pile of sauteed beef and peppers is exactly the type of dish that caused so much teen angst that my mom gave up cooking for us.

sizzler pasta salads

In another fit of Sizzler synergy, The New York Times also featured a pasta salad in its cooking newsletter last week.

sizzler dessert bar

The soft serve machine may have been broken, but there was no shortage of other soft desserts.

sizzler dessert plate

Green Jell-O, of course, plus ambrosia, chocolate pudding, and pound cake hidden beneath an avalanche of mini chocolate chips.

bangkok sizzler duo

I was going to say that I haven’t been to a Sizzler since the ’80s, but that’s about as accurate as saying the Queens Sizzler is the only one remaining on the East Coast. I must admit I hit one up for lunch when I was in Bangkok two visits ago. Yes, there’s a salad bar. And yes, the portions are completely un-American. You call that Texas toast for two? More like Rhode Island toast, amirite?

The leftovers: sadder than the HBO show

The leftovers: sadder than the HBO show

I may have been the only person depraved enough to drink beer at Sizzler. I was also the only one in my group who took home leftovers–steak and Texas toast that got forgotten in my ride half-way home–because I’m just that cheap (and didn’t even pay for my own meal). I’m well on my way to becoming an “Honored Guest.”  I only made it down Metropolitan Avenue as far as Ridgewood before hopping out of the car to head off a friend who’d been biking up to meet us for a Forest Hills bar crawl. Too dizzy and sweaty for drinks at this point, I ended up laying down in her spare room, and eventually the bathroom where everything I’d ingested five hours earlier came up for the next 20 minutes.

sizzler salad bar

It was only last night that I deduced I had a migraine, not food poisoning–are Jell-O and processed cheese triggers? I got made fun of on Facebook for saying I didn’t want to blame Sizzler, the true mark of an abusive relationship. I can’t have Malibu Chicken to be the source of my malady, and I’m not convinced that it was because no one else who ate it had any distress. Maybe my brain just shorted out from sensory overload–it’s a lot of nostalgia for a body to contain.

Sizzler * 100-27 Metropolitan Ave., Forest Hills, NY

Eddie’s Sweet Shop

After naively purchasing a silky teal-and-white Proenza Schouler for Target dress and thinking it would fit (I barely met the junior sizing restrictions when I was of appropriate age), it was already evening in Elmhurst. We’d already eaten a lunch that would suffice for dinner so we needed a non-edible distraction and decided on finding a movie. (In ‘94 a friend and I determined that a great punishment for a bet loser would be having to watch Nell on the big screen alone [out of curiosity, we ended up seeing it in the theater together and while non-good it didn’t live up to our punishing preconceptions]. Norbit strikes me as the modern version of this torture. But who am I to haughtily judge the black man dressing as obese black woman genre? I am fascinated how a lady so large as Rasputia has no cellulite. The more I think about it, the more I need to see Norbit—maybe on Valentine’s Day. I don’t have any plans for Feb. 14 proper.)

Neither of us had seen The Departed (which was intentional in my case) and it was still lingering at the moderately artsy/cheap theater in Forest Hills. I couldn’t picture where it was but as we started heading up Metropolitan Avenue I realized where we were and instantly remembered that Eddie’s Sweet Shop is right across the street from the movies. And miraculously there was an open parking spot on the corner, putting us spitting distance from both establishments.

We had 45 minutes until the 8:15 pm show time and I figured anyone who would’ve wanted to see this movie had already seen it so no stress on snagging seats (I was wrong, the theater was quite full. We were also easily the two youngest viewers in the audience. And for the record, old people are just barely less vocal and distracting than the rowdy teens who dominate the Court Street multiplex near me). We totally had enough time to split a sundae.

Eddie’s hadn’t changed a bit since my first and most recent visit nearly six and a half years ago (reminders of the swift passing of time completely freak me out). It was still manned by wholesome looking teens, old-timey and trinket-filled. The number of soda fountains with counter stools and spindly curlicue chairs is rapidly dwindling. Modernly garish Coldstone Creamery has more appeal, I guess. They don't burst into song at Eddie's, though they do play an '80s radio station. I honestly don't know which is more wrong. 

I find it hard to slow down and enjoy things properly so I struggled to savor my surroundings and scoops of ice cream. Surprisingly, it was James that said, “I don’t think I’m appreciating this,” which was an odd observation. I tried to concentrate and take in our shared creamy butter pecan, coffee chip and overflowing hot fudge before it melted. It’s funny that my initial inclination was to order a butter pecan and butterscotch sundae  since apparently that’s what I ordered on my last visit (see, this blog is good for something, after all). The perfect accompaniment was a short glass of water. I didn’t even have to ask, the young waitress offered, “I like water with hot fudge.” True, ice water and hot fudge is a great combo.

It’s frightening to think that my next Eddie’s visit could be in another six and a half years (I’ll be freshly forty…jesus christ). Though since the next NYC Trader Joe’s is bizarrely planned for a spot just a few blocks away, I’ll likely be back before 2013. (2/10/07)

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Peking Duck Forest

1/2 I tried to kill three birds with one stone: buy a wok, pick up Asian groceries and eat peking duck, all while bypassing Manhattan's Chinese New Year crowds. I succeeded on two counts in Queens. Unfortunately, the kitchen supply store was closed for the holiday (though I did recently read that buying a new wok is considered a New Year's tradition, so I had the right spirit).

I was a little nervous about peking duck not in a proper Chinatown, particularly peking duck off of Forest Hills main drag–Austin Street is a weird semi-suburban scene, very Long Island in look and feel. But heck, the restaurant did have the words peking and duck in their name, you'd hope they could deliver the goods.

And they pretty much did, though I was more enamored by the ambience and clientele. The restaurant isn't huge, and at 6:45 pm on a Saturday (which I thought was early) there was a surprisingly long wait for tables. I figured out why after being seated. Minus the side-by-side row of three middle aged couples who all looked exactly the same (chunky balding guys with sporty leather jackets and white tennis shoes and their female counterparts), much of the room was filled with solo dining elderly women, reading the New York Post, nursing what looked like whiskey cocktails, very very slowly picking at their food (we'd eaten half of our large meal before one of the women even decided to order. By that point she was on her second drink and probably bored with The Post) and generally giving the staff a hard time.

Crabby Disheveled Senior: I want teriyaki. Where's the teriyaki?

Accommodating Older Waiter: [Can't actually hear initial reply, though I doubt he bothered trying to explain that teriyaki isn't Chinese] Maybe you'd like the beef with oyster sauce. It's called oyster sauce but doesn't taste like oysters. It's very good.

Crabby Disheveled Senior: I don't like fish!

I've seen my future and its not pretty. I might become (ha, become) a loner alcoholic crank, but at least I'd hope to be culinarily bright. Maybe I should start going to Spanish restaurants and demand tacos, just to get the practice.

It was mildly worrisome that no one around us appeared to be eating the peking duck, despite its prominence on the menu. The restaurant tries to be a little ambitious, its a notch above typical NYC Chinese take out, though its hardly the kind of joint that Asians or purists would frequent (which could partly be blamed on the neighborhood rather than the food, though it was impossible to ignore the staff dining next to us on Chinese food that had been delivered, not cooked in house). Dishes like veal with apples and cashews reek of aspiration. And they have a full bar, the wines by the bottle werent completely hideous, though glasses and carafes only came in Chardonnay, merlot and white zinfandel. Gross, but like a good future loner alcoholic (I forgot to mention penny pinching) I ordered the house Chardonnay anyway. My two $4 glasses were filled to the brim, and I got much tipsier than anticipated. Maybe the evening was viewed through rosé colored glasses because I had a really good time.

The appetizers were old school. I freaked when I saw crab rangoon on the menu, this was so my kind of place. $17.50 per person might sound sort of steep for this kind of thing, but the whole shebang includes beef skewers, shrimp toast, egg rolls, steamed dumplings, soup (we chose one with duck, tofu and spinach) and an additional entre–we picked salt and pepper squid. The service is of the ingratiating, almost too helpful persuasion. While not the most ghetto neighborhood, I feared the waiters getting regularly pushed around and beaten into submission by demanding customers who only want sweet and sour pork and chicken fried rice and to be treated like kings. Class is white tablecloths and the absence of plastic backlit food photos.

The peking duck was presented with great fanfare (so was the soup, each item was said aloud as parceled into individual bowls from the steaming serving dish), a spectacle is made of spreading, stuffing and rolling of the pancake-wrapped packages. The waiter has it down to an art, he managed to use all the scallion, cucumber and duck to create six equal sized Chinese burritos. The extra four go into a domed metal container to keep warm while you eat. James was very disappointed that the duck wasn't carved in front of us, they bring the meat pre-sliced and fanned on a platter. I was ok with it, the taste hadn't suffered, but it tainted the meal for him. Consequently, when we get our next peking duck craving its likely well head to Peking Duck House in Manhattan. But I swear if I'm ever hungry in Forest Hills I totally know where I'm going.

Peking Duck Forest * 10712 70th Rd., Forest Hills, New York