Posts Tagged ‘flushing’

When Is A Foodie Not A Foodie…..?

New York Magazine, ever on the  prowl for a new urban trend or lifestyle to expose to its audience of affluent ex-Manhattanites, offers up a lifestyle piece this week on a “youth culture phenomenon” being perpetuated by what are best referred to as “Yuffies” (Young Urban Food-obsessives) (The term is mine, not the magazine’s, so please direct your disgust at me).  Specifically, they profile a Ms. Diane Chang.  As New York Magazine describes Ms. Chang and this “phenomenon”:

Diane Chang is a prime specimen of the new breed of restaurant-goer. The species is obsessive and omnivorous. Although they lean toward cheap ethnic food and revile pretension, they do not ultimately discriminate by price point or cuisine . . . . They abhor restaurant clichés (Carnegie Deli, Peter Luger) and studiously avoid chains (Olive Garden, McDonald’s) but are not above the occasional ironic trip to either. They consume food media—blogs, books, Top Chef and other “quality” TV shows but definitely not Food Network—like so many veal sweetbreads . . . . They talk about food and restaurants incessantly, and their social lives are organized around them. Some are serious home cooks who seek to duplicate the feats of their chef-heroes in their own kitchens; others barely use a stove. Above all, they are avowed culinary agnostics whose central motivation is simply to hunt down and enjoy the next most delicious meal, all the better if no one else has yet heard of it.

Ms. Chang seemingly defines herself by what she is not – she is not a hipster, not a foodie, not a yelper.  “I just like what I like,” she says.  Fair enough.  The article seems mainly focused on how her tastes seem calculated to support a certain agenda – i.e, obscure, unfamiliar, unappreciated food is good, while mainstream, well-known food, even if widely appreciated, is lacking.   A lunch at Momofuku Ko and dinner at Blue Hill are dismissed negatively, while Ms. Chang’s iPhone screensaver proudly displays a pig’s foot dish “from a tiny food stall in Taipei.”

Of course, Eater pounced, extracting ten damning lines from NY Mag’s “insufferable foodie story” and declaring that the article is “ostensibly about how people have turned dining out into an obnoxious status-symbol seeking hobby” and “eye-rollingly maddening.”  The comments (both on Eater and the NY Mag article) were not kind either.

Now, it would be easy to pile on,and certainly Ms. Chang made some statements in the article that are hard for me to defend:

She says she disliked M.Wells, last year’s consensus “It” restaurant, partly because of “the fact that everybody loves it, and I just don’t want to believe the hype.”

If you say something like that you are selling yourself out right there, and you lose credibility.  But Ms. Chang also speaks some truth.  In regard to her quest for obscure dining experiences, she says: “It’s a badge of honor . . . Bragging rights.”  As much as I might hate to admit it, its true – having gone to more than my share of obscure restaurants hidden away in Queens and elsewhere, IT’S FUN to be able to brag about it afterwards, boast that you went on this adventure that no one else did.  Of course, you have to be honest about it – if the place sucks, you can’t brag to everyone about how good it is.

The truth is, Ms. Chang and I are not so different.  I’m sure we’d have a lot to talk about if we ever met.  Honestly, it sounds like she needs to get around Queens a bit more – Spicy & Tasty is sort of a noob’s Flushing Chinese (not a criticism of the restaurant,which I enjoy greatly), much like Sripraphai is a noob’s Queens Thai (again, no critique – they have taken lots of my money over the years).  Likewise, I don’t know my ass from my elbow when it comes to eating in Brooklyn.  But I can’t escape the feeling that Ms. Chang did not get a  fair shake from this interview, or from Eater.  As to their “Top Ten Lines” from the article, I have already discussed the ones that I don’t particularly agree with (e.g., M. Wells, Momofuku Ko).  Others I am not so sure about.:

The author describes the “silence” among Ms. Chang’s lunch guests when he revealed his favorite restaurant was Eleven Madison Park, and writes cleverly that “on the food-as-indie-rock matrix, I have just accidentally confessed to loving the Dave Matthews Band.”  But his whole issue seems to be entirely internal, there is no indication that his guests care one way or the other.

Second, Eater (via the author) seems to be trying to pin the (purported) opinion of a friend of Ms. Chang’s on her, excerpting  the statement that:

Lately, Casey has been championing the theory that mediocre food is better than good, the equivalent of a jaded indie kid extolling the virtues of Barry Manilow.”

“Casey” is James Casey, a friend of hers and some sort of food writer.

Eater again goes after her for “not riding the subway,” quoting the article’s report of her taking a $38 cab ride to go to a Korean BBQ place in Flushing.  Now, I’m not sure why anyone who knows better would take a cab to Flushing when it is about 15 minutes away on the 7 Express Train.  However, read in context, it is clear that she had a budget to spend on food from NY Mag and the cab fare came out of her budget.  Plus, as I mentioned before, it sounds like she is not very familiar with Queens. (Also, it sounds like she took the subway home anyway, I’m not sure $38 would get you there and back.)

Finally, she calls Park Slope “the worst food destination ever.” Now, I have no experience in this area but when I sent the article to J. Burger the first thing she said was “she’s right about Park Slope.”  So there you have it.

Anyway, all this to say, the media may have been a bit hard on Ms. Chang.  She obviously is very passionate about food and highly opinionated.  The author of the article made his decisions about how he would describe their time together, and fashioned his story accordingly.  When I first read this article I prepared to pile on but, as I said earlier, Ms. Chang and I are not so different.   We obviously care enough about food enough to spend our time eating out, or planning to eat out, or cooking at home, or planning to cook at home, or writing elaborate blog posts when we could just be relaxing and watching Netflix.  I can’t support everything she says in the article but neither do I think it quite makes her out to be the “status-symbol seeking” snob that some have labeled her.  And I am probably guilty of exercising some of my “bragging rights” in a way that has annoyed people.

Her Tumblr page is quite unassuming, just a simple collection of photos of stuff she’s eaten with some commentary and a link to a “paired” song.  Unlike this blog, there are no tirades about restaurants, or culinary trends, or news of the day.

UPDATE: Eater has posted Ms. Chang’s response to her coverage in New York Magazine (and subsequently on  Eater).  Without further comment on my part, it can be found here for readers interested in pursuing the subject further.


Queens Represent! – Mapo Korean BBQ

November 9, 2010 Leave a comment

And we’re back…

So much has happened since our last post.  Thirty-three trapped miners in Chile were rescued.  The San Francisco Giants(?!?) won the World Series.  Andrew Cuomo won the gubernatorial election in New York making Allegations of Deliciousness’s “favorite” chef Food Network personality, Sandra Lee, the first lady of our fine state.

Yes, I know we promised more regular posts as we transitioned from summer to fall, but like going to the gym, when you are not in a routine, it is hard to keep any momentum going.

No fear, dear readers.  Inspired by this past Sunday’s annual running of the NYC Marathon, we’re trying to break our nasty habits long before New Year’s resolutions rear their ugly heads.  I finally got my butt to the gym…and am giving you a long awaited post.  I have no doubt that J. Frankfurter will soon follow suit.

Now, let’s get to the food…

While J. Frankfurter and I enjoy arguing over which of our respective boroughs is better, I have to begrudgingly admit that when it comes to authentic Asian food, Queens may have an edge over Brooklyn.

For Korean BBQ, my friends “Tracy and Don” suggested we check out Mapo BBQ.  I grabbed two other friends, “Edna Krabappel” and “Sleepy Gonzales”, who are big fans of Korean food and took off for Flushing.  Admittedly, Mapo BBQ is not easy to get to without a car (although there is a LIRR stop right across the street), but Tracy and Don were nice enough to pick us up at the end of the 7 line and drive us over.

Mapo BBQ is known for two things: (1) using charcoal, which is our preferred grilling fuel, instead of gas like most of the restaurants in Manhattan’s Koreatown, and (2) kalbi – deliciously marinated beef short ribs.  Trust me.  Order the kalbi.  The quality of the beef, seasoning and perfect char from grilling (the waitresses cook for you) make the kalbi phenomenal.  Everyone was also very impressed with the variety and quality of the banchan (little dishes of various pickles, salad and accompaniments that come at the start of the meal).

There is usually a wait out the door, but tables turn quickly thanks to the fast and efficient service of the ladies who work there.  The ladies are also super nice and helpful.  We got recommendations and plenty of refills on our preferred banchan dishes even though none of us spoke Mandarin or Korean (the two languages the ladies seemed to be more fluent in).

If you’re looking for the best Korean BBQ in New York City, trek out to Queens.  While pricey and a bit of a journey, a trip out Mapo BBQ is well worth it.

Queens Represent!: Better Chinese Than Your Neighborhood

August 16, 2010 2 comments

Super Happy Fun Spicy Time!  In this edition, J. Burger and I report back on our mission to Flushing (Queens) where we ventured in search of an authentic Chinese dinner.   No General Tso’s here!

For this expedition, we brought along two dining companions – Edna Krabbapel, whose dining exploits have been featured elsewhere in these pages, and a mysterious frenchman named Francoise.  Actually, he may not have been French, but he seemed to know an awful lot about France.  We rode the 7 Train until its very end, where we reached the mecca of Chinese dining in New York City.

The challenge in Flushing is figuring out where to go – there are tons of Chinese restaurants, and you can’t just walk around until you see a nice one because (as we discovered), some of the best ones do not look attractive at all. But we knew we wanted a Sichuan place, none of our intrepid party being at all adverse to spice, and one that came well recommended was Xiao La Jiao Restaurant, translated as (and alternatively known as) “Little Pepper.”  As it turned out, the place was indeed little, and the food was chock full of chili peppers.

“Little Pepper” had maybe 8 tables, filled almost exclusively with Chinese patrons.  The decor was sparse and both the atmosphere and the physical space were grungy.  However – the beer was cold and the service brisk and we were soon comfortable and ready to start eating.  First up – Sliced Beef Tendon In Spicy Sauce: This was a cold dish, perfectly spicy and not chewy at (as one might fear), with a nicely funky flavor.  This was both mine and J. Burger’s favorite dish of the evening, and was an excellent start to the meal, washed down with a cold Tsing Tao.

Next up: Rabbit Meat Sauteed With With Chili and also Tea-smoked Duck. Following the mantra of “one of every animal,” we set upon these dishes. The rabbit was fiery, chunks of juicy rabbit meat sitting on a deep bed of chilis and scallions.  Francoise later declared this to be his favorite dish, and spent a good deal of time pulling out and devouring the chili-oil soaked scallions once the meat had been finished.  In contrast, the duck was not spicy at all, but pleasantly smoky and tender (pictured: the duck is on the right, the rabbit is on the left.  A close-up of the picture will reveal the sheer number of chilis included with the rabbit).

At this point, we realized that we had not ordered any rice, as we have been trained to do at all Asian restaurants in this country.  However, three things happened: first, we looked around at the surrounding tables and noticed that none of the Chinese patrons had ordered rice. Next, we looked at the menu, and there wasn’t really any mention of rice, other than a fried rice dish.  Finally, it was noted, and all agreed, that rice was okay but really it just filled you up and took up room in the stomach more properly devoted to other things.  So we never ordered rice, and it was not missed.  These dishes finished, it was time to to order the next course, and another round of beers.

For the second course, we looked to the other patrons of the restaurant for inspiration.  A good number of number of them seemed to be enjoying some stew-type dishes, served in large metal tureens.  So we ordered Braised Lamb In Spicy Soup Base.  Having now consumed rabbit, cow and duck, and soon to add lamb to that menagerie, our stomachs were becoming a veritable Noah’s Ark (of sorts) – so we decided to give the animal kingdom a break for the next dish.  The table next door had just received a particularly intriguing tofu dish, so we pointed to it – “bring us what they’re having.”  As it turned out, it was Ma Pa Tofu – tofu in a spicy ground pork sauce.  Francoise raised his eyebrows at the notion that tofu would be served with pork, but it was noted that the Chinese don’t eat tofu because they are vegetarian (as the contents of the menu made abundantly clear), but because they like the taste.  And the dish was excellent – soft silky tofu in a rich gingery sauce flavored with diced pork.  As it turned out, this was Edna’s favorite dish of the evening.

Finally, the braised lamb. Essentially, ultra-tender (and suprisingly non-gamey) strips of lamb, cabbage and bean sprouts, swimming  in an angry red, spicy and oily braising liquid (the “Soup Base”), with a small mountain of garlic and herbs sitting on top (see picture above).  Not for the faint of heart, to be sure.  Each piece of lamb pulled out of the liquid was coated in garlic and chili pieces, but that wasn’t even the hottest part of the dish.  The bean sprouts absorbed the spiciness more thoroughly than anything else and seemed to emit a cloud of heat such that, if one inhaled while eating a mouthful, would send searing vapors into the sinuses.  We had weathered the previous dishes without flinching, but this one set off some rounds of coughing and led to sweating as well as very clear sinuses.  Of course, more beer soon put out that fire.

Satiated, we lingered for awhile and let the fire die down a bit.  When the check came, it was roughly $20 per person, including several rounds of beer.  All agreed that it had been an excellent meal, and that every dish had been enjoyable.

The bottom line is this: if you can muster up the energy to ride the 7 Train all the way out to Flushing, there are great rewards awaiting you – namely, interesting, authentic Chinese food that is dirt cheap and will give you definitive bragging rights as to your adventuresome culinary spirit.  So join us on our next trip to “Little Pepper.”  There is a huge menu and much still to explore – as I learned later, the dish to get there, apparently, is the “Lamb With Cumin.”  And of course, the traditional Sichuan “Hot Pot” remains to be tried, in addition to several dozen other dishes.