Il Poeta: Twenty Years of Serving Northern Italian food in Forest Hills.

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Far be it from me to be cliche, but my first local culinary trip to IL Poeta was an awakening. For a kid that grew up with a Northern Italian grandma in the kitchen, then a generation skipped, minus my many replication cooking attempts — I wasnt actively enjoying the food that I grew up with & I missed it..

The verbal delivery of the Specials List was a symphony of one delectable kitchen creation after the next & spoken by former cook, Lazaro, who answered my few questions with knowledge based passion – not a fraction of hesitation. The lentils placed infront of me waited in extra virgin olive oil, while I approached with a wondeful artisan Tuscano bread.

A beautiful early Spring evening called for a light soup and luckily, a long-time favorite of Potato & Leek was available. A perfect starter dish as the balance of the fresh ingredients was a statement primi piatti.

Secundi came the Bufala de Mozzarella with Prosciutto de Parma was another experience, a reawakening from a time past of cured hams hung from the Italian butchers grandma & grandpa took me to.

After one beer down and another about too be ordered a third finishing starter was a debate between Polenta and Fried Calamari, and calamari it was. Bellisimo! Delicious, light in breading and a fresh resistance to the squid ringlettes.

The owner Mario was kind enough to catch up with us at the door to thank us for our patronage and shared a few other kind words.

Folks, IL Poeta is an absolute sit down dinner must.

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Cozy La Coya Peruvian is a Welcome Addition to the Metropolitan Avenue Food Scene.

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Likely the most eye catching of the Forest Hills section of Metropolitan Avenue’s bleak restaurant scene, as the mustard colored corner location seems to draw my attention every time I pass by.
Each of the few times I have eaten at La Coya, I have left with mixed feelings from food to service, never getting the handle I wanted to grasp upon, the foothold I needed too write a proper review.

A big foodie friend keeps pulling on my ear, insisting I give a few meals on the menu a shot that I’ve not had previously. Much to the waitstaffs well hidden chagrin — at ten minutes of 11:00PM on Saturday night we strode inside, if not for anything else but to thwart any regular continuum of naggery.

Chevice de Camarones and Chevice de Pescade has the significant flavor of lime juice as the recipe calls for as we sampled from each others dishes. A dangerous question to ask Mr former Iron Constitution & Stomach, goes something like this “would you like it spicy?” The answer inevitably always comes out in the affirmative but the stomach is not as cast iron as it was, years gone.
The white hominy and sliced red onion did not absorb much of the clear liquid, what was unique too me was the intensity of the translucent sauces spice and the high prawn count which looked too be close to ten, I ignored the seething pain upon my tongue and kept going.

Anticuchos de Corazon was a nice little dish, each tender bit of chicken was well marinated with spices, the vinegar came on a little strong but well enough that the table ordered another three. Speaking of three, I was sucking down three dollar Negro Modelos like water, which only perpetuated the pain which continued to spread around like molten lava in my mouth & other orifices.

Tres Leche was a wonderful finishing dessert (remember: when on fire, getcha self some milk, cudos Adam Richmond — great call bro) and not being much of a fan of sweets, this tall caramel cake not only doused the fire but cleansed my palate and left a light creamy flavor through the exit door to home.


Queens NY Delight Dinner Club Night


After the many delicious success sitting for dinner at Room 55, I was approached by owner, chef and TV personality, Vinny Accardi regarding hosting a Yelp Supper Club event. Restaurants have approached me prior to run an event, but it never enticed me, never really grabbed my interest — this request did.
The menu we was created, is intended to showcase Chef Accardi’s culinary masterpieces of modern American cuisine and we set the date of April 6th, 2017 at 7:00pm to launch Room 55’s very first Unofficial Yelp Event.

Queens Delight Dinner Club Night Tasting Menu includes:

~ Cast Iron Mac & Cheese. (Cheeeseeees and Cheeeseeeey…!)
~ “Everything” Tuna (Mr. NYC Bagel — meet Mr. Tuna)
~ Crispy Pork Belly (Pumpkin Gastrique? Heck yea)
~ Pasta Danielle (Lamb, Prune & Sage Pasta Love’in)
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Take a sip of water or wine, take a little breather — because there is more…..

~ Seafood Pistou (Chefs Seafood and Shellfish Selection with Risotto- Peas, Saffron/ Fennel Broth — Oh My.!)
~ USDA Prime Hanger Steak (Oyster Mushrooms- Radicchio- Roasted Potato- Cabernet Sauce – SIGN ME UP!!)

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~ Desserts is chefs choice from a trio of scrumptious sweets taken directly from the Room 55 menu, please check the URL for details.)

~ Enjoy a glass or two or three or four of red and white wines to accompany such delicious dinner dishes for only an additional ten dollars. Coffee and tea are readily available as well.

~ Come and enjoy Queens Delight Dinner Club Night with your Yelp buddies, Elite or not — your all Elite in my eyes – Yelp work colleagues, Yelp friends, Yelp family or Yelp alone.

Do not pass up the opportunity to eat handsome portions of Chef Accardi’s Modern American cuisine, have some laughs and taste the leader board of dishes from the dinner menu that will captivate the eye, dazzle the smell with aromas, euphorically exhaust the taste buds with flavors are — In my opinion — second to none outside of Manhattan..

TRAVEL and TRANSPORTATION:

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Transportation will be provided by: Big Ben Transportation, (bigbentransportation.com)
Departing from Station Square – 1.5 blocks south of the subway station of 71 Continental Ave,Forest Hills subway station & Long Island Rail Road Forest Hills station to Room 55 at 7:00PM.
Returning back to Forest Hills subway and LIRR station at 11:00, times subject to change, proper and advanced notification will be given.

RESERVATIONS:
Credit card customers, please call Room 55 at (718} 897-0055 to reserve a seat, cash payers must provide a valid credit card number to hold the reservation.


Cat Cafes Have Arrived.

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Cat cafes: The basic idea is as follows. An establishments that allows the customer to make feline friends while they enjoy their coffee.
This rather unusual business model already exist not only in Japan, but in Paris as well. Yet outside of Japan, the concept has yet to really gain much momentum for different reasons, including Health Department regulations, but there are some ready for their launch coming up this year and the next.
Entrepreneurs in Canada are giving the idea a try in British Columbia and Vancouver, the United Kingdom has already launched a handful in Birmingham, Edinburgh and Nottingham with reasonable success. True to the tradition of the French, food is involved and their version of the cat cafe is essentially a diner that includes desserts, tea, and, of course, cats. It is ideally situated in the catacombs beneath the streets of Paris, but call for reservations before just walking in.

The concept has hit Oakland, California as the first city in the United States to engage in this model, with a bit of a feel good twist. Unlike many capitalistic cash grab business with possible animal exploitation, the model of the cat in Portland, San Diego, Denver, NYC, Michigan and Massachusetts, partner with a local chapter of The Humane Society or another local cat rescue group.
Cat Café History: The world’s first cat café, “貓花園” (Cat Flower Garden), opened its doors in 1998 in Taipei and became a smashing success attracting tourists from all over Japan and beyond. Part of the reason for the success is in part due to the limited living space in Japanese apartments and rules disallowing most all pets that you can pet and play with. In addition, customers’ young and old, looking for mild to more serious companionship were the most prominent of all customer profiles.
This confirms that it’s time for Americans to just let animals start hanging out in our cafes and restaurants all the time. Health codes are kind of bogus anyway, right?

Here’s a YouTube video of the experience in Japan’s Cat Café. (Cut and paste in to your browser.)


How Restaurants are Bamboozling You into Spending More.

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Dining out has become so common that many of us that sit for a meal probably do not consider what goes into a dining experience behind the scenes, having not worked in the business. What I recently found most interesting about the behind the scenes activities is what restaurant consultants and menu engineers get paid to do by many top tier eateries. The menu consultant is a relatively new niche that has paid tremendous dividends to the restaurants bottom line which explains the boom in popularity.
Significant thought and planning goes into properly nudging the customers decision making process toward the way the restaurant wants you to choose the food you eat.

Listed below are only five of the many ways restaurants use psychological tactics to get you to spend more money, trust me when I tell you that there are many more:

1. Have you noticed many restaurants defer from using dollar signs before the listed price of the dish? The dollar sign is one of the top printable characters that most all restaurants avoid using. The symbols initial interpretation to the customer is a reminder they are about to spend money, triggering a slight pull back response to higher ticket meals as negative feelings can enter their thinking, resulting in less money pulled from their wallet or purses.

2. How is the difference of the last two numbers to the right of the decimal interpreted by consumers? (Eg1: .09 – .95 and .99 ) Menu items ending in .99 tend to signify value as opposed to .95 which is more effective as it appears friendlier and not as close to the next higher dollar amount. That is why menu consultants advise their clients to scrap the entire idea of adding the decimal and the numbers to follow, making the menu easier to decide from but increasing the price if only by a few cents.

3. Using extremely descriptive language is a new approach to offering menu items. Using creative and clever wording has proven to increase sales on many menu items when compared to those that do not have such descriptions.
As an example the item would read something like this. “Maryland Style Crab Cakes: Hand rolled, Chesapeake lump crab meat with a touch of sweet mayonnaise, our secret blend of herbal seasoning encrusted in golden cracker crumbs, creating our one of a kind, signature crab cakes”.
The words description brings a high level of sensory experience to the customer who is reading over the menu. Similar to how a professional server can tantalize the table with their descriptive terms when explaining the evenings special’s and both deliveries typically add more money to the total bill. Additionally it leaves the customer with a more satisfied sensation an the meals end and continue right on through to the desert menu.
Note: I do not intend to include chain restaurants gross misuse of descriptions when using other company names to sell their poor meals such as ‘Jack Daniels sauce atop our Angus Beef Burger’. Its not a novel idea and a poor marketing ploy only Well Doner’s would fall for. (A Well Doner is someone that orders a steak well done, basically cooking out any of the steaks flavor)

4. Connecting food to family is another useful and popular way menu designers drive traffic to a particular item. Customers are drawn to names of relatives such as Aunt’s and Grandmothers. It is likely that Grandmas Homemade Meatballs or Aunt Margie’s Beef Stew sell better than without their names involved.

5. Using expensive items as decoys to draw your attention to a slightly less expensive item is a tactic employed by many fine dining restaurants. The idea is as follows. The restaurant is betting that the customer will not buy the most expensive menu item, but is likely to spend on the second most expensive menu item or one closer in price, believing they are getting a similar item at a more reasonable price, that is the trap.
The reason the $120 item is on the menu is that it stands out as likely the only triple digit menu item and distracts the customer into thinking that all other dishes near it appear more of a bargain yet the entire menu in the same time can be increased in price. What the customer does not realize is that they will receive a smaller portion at a relatively higher price based on what goes into the food cost of the meal. Exactly what the restaurant wanted all along.


Baa Humbug to the Last Outdoor LIC Flea for the Season.

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The outdoor venue gods must have a special place in their hearts for Yelp Elite events as the sun shines down upon the LIC flea market in mid October.

The beer garden area was my first stop and with three taps pouring local brews, Queens specifically, my head soon felt like a toasting marshmallow after I consumed a few beneath the suns rays. It felt good.
I had the opportunity to chit chat with some of the people but the food distractions were far too difficult to ignore to discuss anything meaningfully lengthy in time. Samples were abundant which left me perplexed by those vendors that did not participate. The Greatful Bread stand sold breads with none of the genetic funny stuff, bought two loaves.
The tempura stand folks were so sweet and generous with their delectable offerings. But Southern Wheels Eats really won my affections with a great spin on Southern fare, as a former Charlstonian (SC) the flavors brought me back to where mac-n-cheese is a vegetable, ah yes, the deep south.

With other dogs in attendance Sydney was entertained, great company that I brought as well as just met not to mention close proximity to the Beer Garden, I was having such a great time. So good in fact that I was stuck in my location, just north of corn-hole, I rarely moved unless needing provisions.

With so many other fabulous vendors selling their wares, I lapped the market two more times and was quite thrilled to learn the market will be moving indoors for the remaining season located directly next to the outdoor venue.


Station House Beer House & Whiskey Den: Positively Piquing Taste Emotions.

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With the end of summer and the advent of winter dangerously lurking behind the few weeks we call Fall, cozy bars with great food are now in season for me.

Within the harvest season we harvest many things that we desire to store as we baton down the hatches for the ever nearing long and cold winter.
A new acquaintance, a sweater or cinnamon swizzle stick for your hot apple cider, we all surround ourselves with things that make us feel cozy and comfortable and perhaps, places we can comfortably burrow into and relax within.

My stocking consists of a short list of the finest local food and beverage establishments where I can swing by at anytime and enjoy comfort foods and some fine craft beer selections. Which has always been the motus operandi of my blogs focus. Putting Local Back On The Menu. (bestbitesclub.wordpress)

Never has Station House delivered less than top eats served up by a well trained staff and a beer list that is fit for food pairings, beer club discussions, there are no bounds to what great beer can do to lift spirits and raise a meals flavor profile.

To illustrate:
1. For lunch a friend and I ordered the special for starters. Lamb, feta cheese, cucumbers and sauteed tomatoes atop an amazingly light and crisp flat bread. New Holland’s Full Circle was the accompanying beer, light in body and tangy crisp it did not overtake the delectably light appetizer.

2. Medium rare cook temp for The Decadent Burger allowed the boursin cheese and demi-glace to work into the magnificent chopped meat creating a unique burger texture change with the braised short rib topping. As per Steve’s suggestion I dove into my Southern Tier Imperial Stout with reckless abandon.

3. The hits just kept on coming with a hearty plate of beautifully encrusted Haddock fillets, crisp on the outside moist yet well textured on the inside, I slapped some dollops of the tarragon tartar of the fishes side and down the hatch it went.

The Many Mac & Cheese has just arrived to the table, choosing the sausage and bacon meat infusion. I wavered not. Fork in hand I took down the greatest beast of comfort food but not without the help of River Horse’s Bourbon Oak Vanilla Hip Lantern.

Thank you Station House for whipping up another memorable lunch experience.


A Shape That Remains

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They were a tradition of sorts, those golden brown dehydrated sack shaped figs that magically appeared during the holiday season. “Are these exotic looking items actual fruit or mainly purchased for looks?” I often wondered. Nobody really ever ate them, not family nor visitors and the few that I did try I would cautiously pierce into with the tips of my front teeth. I questioned the inhuman feeling of the leathery texture and the seemingly thousands of tiny seeds that find their way into the deepest caverns between teeth and gums and scrape the roof of my mouth like sandpaper. I would always manage to chew down a few before Christmas but after Thanksgiving, yet the taste of pasty blood and brown sugar was never truly palatable, cloyingly sweet.

Come January when all the desirable treats had vanished I would revisit the figs again that now had a light coat of dust upon their cheap, cracking cellophane packaging. I liked the packaging, perhaps more than the figs. The Made in Greece label kept me coming back as I conjured up views of goats with bells around their necks, just walking the mountains in this distant land, which is why I suppose I still do purchase them, but its more than that.

Now I am the faithful holiday purchaser though nobody will ever eat them but me, I have a full year to do so. Yet year after year, they endure this same debate and remain with me. I guess they remind me of being home during the holidays which had all the joys of eating figs.


When I Eat Sushi

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The slices of Yellow Fin Tuna, Mackerel, Salmon and Roe are served up at my favorite table along with a bottle of Biwa No Choju as it has not arrived sooner as imagined. Rows of piano tuning pin sized scales and slabs that sit erect next to the pickled ginger and wasabi sitting patiently on the trays outer corner sharpening its great breath.

I gaze closely to unravel the briny map that tells 0f the deep dark ocean recently carrying these narezushi to my dish. There’s an echo calling out about the Sushi slices that once rippled through the Southeast Asian currents about a place the fish began, a place I could never find on my own, nor were ever meant to.

Even the plum and the tiny eggplant are no relief. Perplexed and inflamed I continue hoisting piece after piece off my ceramic plate as the fish now seems as diminutive than possible.

My mouth opens for the last piece, exposing the truth it so desperately wanted to keep hidden from you,
and you,
and you,
and you.


Charcoal: Choice Cooking Fuel

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The aroma of carbon and ash begins as the material charres, creating to some a disagreeable but very necessary initial reaction. But this smell is not disagreeable to me, for it is the smell of the presence of friends who come and gather in the yard at my humble abode.

The smell speaks of temporary moments of younger days activities, current days hopes, laughing, drinking, smoking all while awaiting the large barbecue grill to heat the unheralded brittle, lightweight, black wood briquettes.

We grill steaks and we roast potatoes, we eat with our hands as if on safari and watch as the coals glow on. Mature conversation was the one dessert purposely unplanned for our summer evenings.

We drank bad wine and fine beer while watching the heat consume itself.

It died at last; we had time to burn.