Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Tacos Mexico

I woke up craving chilaquiles, I think I must have had a dream about them, so I headed to Woodside in search of some. While I had originally planned on spending only two months in each neighborhood, I've been working on Woodside since March. Firstly, because there are just so many great places, and secondly because I haven't been able to write more than once a week lately. At this rate I'll never get to Flushing. But I'll keep trying.
So back to the chilaquiles. Chilaquiles are what you make when you have leftover stale tortillas, which most tortilla-eating households, and all Mexican restaurants, usually do. You fry the tortillas until crisp, break them up, add them to a pot full of sauce (red or green) with some epazote, and then eat the whole mess with sour cream, queso fresco, and chopped raw onion. Not a light meal, but so delicious, and made with leftovers from the day before.
Tacos Mexico was the next Mexican restaurant on the route, a few doors down from La Frontera, and it looked like the right kind of place for a late breakfast.
As soon as we sat down, we were handed a basket of chips and some salsa. It's interesting how some of the Mexican restaurants in Queens have adapted to this mainly American custom and some haven't. Tacos Mexico has, and the chips were fresh. The salsa was too.
I did not pore over the menu, I knew what I wanted, my only decision was if I wanted my chilaquiles red or green, plain, with fried eggs, cecina, or chicken. I always choose green, and as much as I love fried eggs and salty beef, I went with the chicken.

It was a good decision. Often, the thinly-sliced chicken breast that accompanies something like chilaquiles or rice and beans is tough and stringy. This chicken was moist, flavorful, borderline salty but not crossing into overly salted territory. And there was lots of it. The chilaquiles ($8.95) had everything I wanted. The salsa verde was spicy, the tortillas were soft but not mushy, there was a slight flavor of epazote but not overpowering, and it was topped with cream, cheese, chopped onions and cilantro. If I were to make chilaquiles at home, I would put more of everything. I like to make them soupy, swimming in sauce, and I go garnish crazy. But for a nice-looking restaurant kind of plate, these were just what I was looking for.

My dining companion José wanted something "saucy". He ordered costillas en salsa roja (pork ribs in red sauce, $9.95) and was happily surprised when it was exactly what he didn't even know he wanted as well. The pork meat was tender and slipped right off the bone. The salsa was spicy and smooth, the rice had a strong tomato flavor, the beans were creamy, it was all good. With lots of tortillas and some agua de jamaica, we had a meal that satisfied what we were both craving and more.

Tacos Mexico
64-09 Roosevelt Avenue

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Nowhere Near the 7 Train: Russian Ice Cream Bars

I was in Rego Park yesterday taking pictures and buying my favorite Israeli grapefruit juice drink when I came across a deli that had a freezer full of fun looking ice cream-like treats from Russia. I've been in an Eastern-European state of mind since my trip to Brighton Beach last weekend, so I bought the most exciting looking ones.
Ok, not the most exciting flavors, but I liked the packaging. A cold vanilla substance with a crisp, chocolate-like coating. Yum!
Sort of like a nutty buddy, but with strawberries.
I think that the spheres on top were supposed to be crunchy, but they were soggy, as was the cone. But the white whipped topping, with a layer of strawberry ice cream underneath, that hid a core of strawberry jelly inside of a chocolate-coated cone was, while I won't say delicious or fresh, fun to eat. I love real ice cream, that goes without saying, but I also have a thing for ice cream products. Mr. Softee. Strawberry shortcake bars. Carvel cakes. Remember the Wattamelon Roll from Friendly's? Wait until I find a Magnum bar.

Monya & Misha European Delicatessen
64-46 108th Street
Rego Park/Forest Hills

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Casa Colombia

José and I had dinner at Casa Colombia a few Sundays ago. I wasn't prepared for a post, didn't bring my camera, so there are phone pictures to document the meal.
The place was busy, loud with live music that made it almost impossible to talk to each other. But sometimes that's alright.

I ordered a bandeja con pollo, because I like to get as much food as possible onto one plate, but still keep it light with the chicken. And believe me, compared to some other bandejas, this was pretty tame.

Bandeja Con Pollo: Arroz, Frijoles, 1/4 De Pollo, Chicharron, Huevo Y Maduro Rice, Beans 1/4 Chicken, Pork Skin, Egg and Sweet Plantains (their translation) $7.50

The chicken was your regular rotisserie chicken, tender meat, salty skin, a good flavored, not too dry, breast and a wing. White rice, soupy beans, a salty, meaty, crispy, fatty piece of pork belly. I have yet to meet a chicharron I don't like. Sweet, soft, caramelized plantain, and a strange sort of egg. The yolk was cooked all the way through, but the whites were perfectly white. They must be steamed. I need to eat more bandeja platters. I could have gotten the Bandeja Campestre: Arroz, Frijoles, Costillas, Pollo, Chorizo, Heuvo, Maduro, Chicharron Y Arepa 1/4 Chicken, Rice, Beans, Ribs, Eggs, Sweet Plantains, Pork Skin, Corn Cake for $13.50. But I didn't.

Jose was not as happy with his dish. He got the Sobre Barriga a La Plancha (Arroz, Frijol, Maduro Y Ensalada: Grilled Top Flank Steak (Rice, Beans, Sweet Plantain and Salad) $10.95.
The rice and beans were good, the plantain was good, the marinated red onions atop the salad were good, but the meat was stringy and a little tough. It shred like a slow cooked brisket without being tender. He just covered it in green sauce and ate what he could.
We put the green sauce on everything. It had a kick to it. Not like Peruvian green sauce, nor like Mexican salsa verde; just a spicy, acidic sauce that went well with the mild beans, salted white rice, and the proteins.

So what if we didn't have the best meal ever. It was fun, it was festive, and a good time was had by all.

Casa Colombia
86-23 Roosevelt Avenue, Jackson Heights

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

2010 Roosevelt Avenue Street Crawl

We began at 74th Street and Roosevelt Avenue in Jackson Heights, and ended in William Moore (Spaghetti) Park in Corona. The 2010 crawl, organized by Jeffrey Orlick, brought at least 100 hungry people together to roam Roosevelt Avenue for the best street food on the last Sunday in June, with a great map and some key phrases for ordering from street carts.
It was hot, really hot, and my camera stopped taking pictures somewhere in the middle. I got it to work again but missed some good shots. Aside from the technical difficulties, I must say walking down my favorite avenue with a bunch of people and eating lots of food is really, really fun. I'm usually by myself when I do my Roos Ave adventuring, so it was a nice change. Our smaller group broke off from the crowds and took our time walking, making many stops for liquids and ices along the way.

First stop: El Guayaquileño. I didn't get anything there, I was holding out for tacos. But I took some pictures of my fellow crawlers' food. The Mexico vs. Argentina game was playing on the flat screen tv, so I watched while they ate.

I didn't eat, and I didn't order, so I don't want to mislabel anything. But that salad topping the fish looks delicious.

Stopped for raspados on 80th Street. The first of many breaks for a little something cold.

Mango (I think?)

Coco and Piña.

Next stop was Mexico Lindo.
Perhaps a bad choice, since it seemed like everyone else on the tour stopped here too at the exact same time. There was a very long line and lots of confusion. But we got our order in the end. Four of us split three items: Tacos de lengua (tongue), tacos de cecina (dried, salted beef) and sopes de chorizo. It isn't easy to split a taco four ways, but somehow we managed.

Cutting up a taco on a mail box...

on the trunk of a car (thanks, Stella), and even with kitchen shears (courtesy of Judy).

This was the lengua, after a slice had been taken out. The tongue was crisp on the outside, beefy and soft on the inside.

Moving right along, we stopped at another Mexican cart, a few blocks down and across the street. The sign says Gorditas, so that's what we got, along with a tlacoyo.

The gordita de chicharron was not the most flavorful I'd ever tried, but then again, we split it between four people, and there might have been better bites than the one I tasted.
The tlacoyo was good. Corn masa stuffed with a bean mixture, then topped with lettuce, cream, and cheese. The beans were smooth and creamy, with a distinct flavor of epazote, which was a nice surprise.

Another stop for shaved ice, this time at a Chinese/Colombian bakery selling Hawaiian shave ice called Vanilla Cafe. Sort of cheating by going inside a bakery, but have I mentioned that it was hot?
Mango and passionfruit. Just like Maui! Icy and sweet.

Tia Julia's. This is where my camera stopped working for a bit, I almost gave up and went home to charge it for a while. We ordered here: tacos de barbacoa (goat meat) and tacos de carnitas (pork). The goat was chewy, as goat usually is, and not too gamey. I honestly don't remember if I even tried the carnitas, I was sort of stuck on my camera. I do remember that I ordered an agua de jamaica (hibiscus) and that they gave me a whole quart container full of the dark red liquid.

By the time we made it to Warren Street with its variety of Ecuadorian delights, we were already full and tired. Crawls are all about pacing, and we did not pace well.

We did manage to get more liquids in though.

Orange Drink.
Fruit cocktail drink. The juice was refreshing, and filled with chopped fruit. The bananas were my favorite part.

We walked and walked, but after the food and all of the drinks, didn't make any more stops on Roosevelt. Once we hit 104th street, we turned off, and headed to Timmy O's for some frozen custard.

Banana custard, chocolate custard, marshmallow sauce and some whipped cream. The banana really tasted like banana.

The last stop was the Lemon Ice King of Corona. I was still eating my custard, so I sat in Spaghetti Park and waited.

The Crawl was great. I drank more than I ate, and had more sweets than savory. But it's ok. I live here, I eat here, I crawl down Roosevelt Avenue every day. The best part was crawling with others.

Mini Picanteria El Guayaquileño
80th Street and Roosevelt Avenue, Jackson Heights

Raspado Lady
In front of 80-02 Roosevelt Avenue, Jackson Heights

Mexico Lindo Cart
Corner of Gleane Street and Roosevelt Avenue, Elmhurst

Gordita Cart
85th Street and Roosevelt Avenue, Elmhurst

Vanilla Cafe
8701 Roosevelt Avenue, Elmhurst

Tia Julia Taco Truck
Benham Street & Roosevelt Ave, Elmhurst

Picaditas La Cacerita Cuenca Ecuador
Corner of Warren Street and Roosevelt Avenue, Corona

Timmy O's Frozen Custard
49-07 104th Street, Corona

Lemon Ice King of Corona
52-02 108th Street, Corona

William Moore Park
108th Street, 51st Avenue, Corona