On Tuesday night, May 16th, Citi Field’s Caesars Club transformed into a food tour through our beautiful borough for the Queens Economic Development Corporation’s (QEDC) annual fundraising event, Queens Taste 2013. The diverse representation of restaurants, vendors and Entrepreneur Space incubated businesses were reflective of QEDC’s work to support jobs, local businesses, and neighborhood development in Queens.
An avid fan of Queens cuisine, I jumped at the opportunity to try some of the classic eating establishments that I am ashamed to say I had not yet visited. Our first stop was Woodside’s own Ottomanelli & Sons, a serious butcher shop and purveyor of wild game since it was founded in 1932, which also happens to make one of Queens’ best burgers. We tried a Bacon Cheddar Burger, that defied expectation by having hearty chunks of bacon and sharp cheddar cheese cooked right into the meat patty itself. Prepared medium and served on a soft potato roll, this burger bite left us wanting to head straight to Woodside to devour their Jalapeno Cheddar Burger and Belgian Fries.
Our next stop was to Corona via a Queens Taste table overflowing with the Italian offerings of 80-year old local institution Leo’s Latticini/Mama’s. Here I encountered the best mozzarella that I have tried in New York City. They ladled ripe tomatoes swimming in olive oil and basil over the creamy homemade cheese to recreate a fresh, brilliant caprese salad. They also had samples of their famous sandwiches and Italian desserts including mini cannolli and crisp mini biscotti, all of which were exceptional. My favorite, however, were the round rolls of prosciutto bread, with a slightly crisp crust, and a soft, flaky interior dotted with generous cubes of savory prosciutto.
For dessert we dropped by Rudy’s Bakery and Cafe, which arrived at Queens Taste via Ridgewood, Queens. Rudy’s has been a Ridgewood staple for over seven decades, and for the last three decades with a single family at the helm. While they are arguably best known for their German pastries, at Queens Taste they were showing off their more recent addition of popular confections like red velvet whoopie pies with cream cheese frosting, and mini cupcakes. We sampled a chocolate cupcake bite with a creamy dollop of salted caramel icing. Salty pretzel pieces and a caramel drizzle topped off this truly excellent sweet.
Queens Taste 2013 was also a great night for some of our borough’s emerging entrepreneurs and small business start-ups, many of whom got their start at QEDC’s Long Island City-based Entrepreneurs Space. I was especially enamored of chic-a-peas, an addictive crunchy, baked, seasoned chickpea snack. The product’s founders, Dave and Darren, suggested they would be great on salad – which they would – but I would be more likely to eat them obsessively by the handful. This Queens success story will soon be available via Fresh Direct.
And an already great evening got even better when we heard the announcement that Astoria Coffee won the annual Queens StartUP Business Plan Competition. Astoria Coffee has plans to create a warm, welcoming community meeting space that features excellent beverages, including espresso-based drinks, hand brewed pour over coffee, and a well-developed tea menu. They are currently scouring the city for the best baked goods to accompany their high quality beverages, and may even feature some local Queens bakers. While they look for just the right brick and mortar location in Astoria, you can take advantage of the whole bean coffee delivery for their single origin beans, or stop into local boutique SITE to buy some. Be sure to follow them on Facebook and Twitter for news and updates.
The night ended with a Queens celebrity sighting when I got to meet a local food legend and Jackson Heights resident, Soraya Sobreidad, the Queen of healthy Puerto Rican cooking, and one of the Queens Tastemakers for the evening. Recently profiled in the New York Times’ City Room Blog, Soraya’s ‘FIERCE’ Cooking Show has generated huge following on local public television channel QPTV, and on You Tube. This was the perfect ending to an event that celebrated the exuberance, inventiveness, diversity, skill, and creativity of our borough, all of which was on display at Queens Taste 2013.