Monday, April 27, 2009

A Latin Taste of Queens

Queens is one of the most diverse areas in the world; so, it was a no-brainer that Jaquie and I had to attend this year's Taste of Queens event where dozens of Queens chefs gathered in Citifield to prepare samples of their restaurant's most celebrated fare.

Though Italians seemed to rule the floor, a few Latin restaurants showed face and stood their ground. First off was La Rosa Nautica (90-16 Corona Ave/718-592-0482), which is owned by Peruvians who position it as a restaurant of international Latin cuisine.

La Rosa served up a seafood soup, which was good but not outstanding. However, we knew the next item would taste great because people were asking for seconds and complementing the chef. Mescla a la Nautica (Nautica style Mix) is a savory mix of creamy chicken, beef, and veggies mixed in layers of a very unique mashed potato mix topped with slices of hard-boiled eggs. This was one of our favorite tastes of Queens. The owner mentioned that it was an original creation specific for the Taste of Queens event. I was disappointed to find that they didn’t have a website. Hopefully they’ll get one soon.

The next Latin station was occupied by two young and enthusiastic Argentinian guys representing La Fusta Restaurant and Steakhouse (80-32 Baxter Ave/718-429-8222) and Don Francisco Meat Market (85-17 37th Ave/718-505-5892). As mentioned in last week's post, Argentinians are serious about their meat. We tried the choripan which is Argentina's national street food. It's simply sausage on bread topped with chimichurri sauce. As one of the guys explained, chimichurri is a very personal element of Argentinian culinary life. No one chimichurri is the same yet everyone believes theirs is the best. It symbolizes the pride of the Argentinian spirit. CHE! Don Francisco! Your's is definitely the best.

In addition to choripan, we had a tasty seafood salad and matambre (hunger killer), which is rolled beef stuffed with hard-boiled eggs, vegetables and various herbs and spices. It's a great appetizer because it's cold and lean, leaving room for the hefty steak entrees that tend to follow. Sadly enough there were no samples of steaks but maybe that was their tactic to tease the guests for the next level. Your marketing tactic worked on us guys. We'll be there in a couple of weeks for sure.

Most impressive were the delicate tasting samples from Marbella (220-33 Northern Blvd/718-423-0100) who offered carnes con setas del bosque (beef made in it’s own sauce with mushrooms) and pollo en piquillo (chicken in pepper sauce). The beef and chicken tasted absolutely exquisite despite their ordinary look. You almost tasted the years of experience it takes to master these common dishes.

Their salpicon (seafood salad) on the other hand looked as delicious as it tasted. Jaquie went back for seconds and I convinced her that thirds would be ridiculous since there were about 20 other booths that we had not visited. Eventually we went back for thirds.

My tastebuds were overwhelmed with all the different types of food and my stomach expanded to twice its size but my smile was permanent. We were in the new home of the Mets (I'm a big fan) and there were food and drinks everywhere.

The non-food highlight of the evening: Mr. Met pushing a Yankee fan behind him after he tried taking a picture with him. Let's Go Mets!

Unfortunately, Tequila Sunrise ran out of food by the time we arrived and Mitad del Mundo was a no show.

Though not exactly Latin, I must mention our favorite bite of the night and winner of the best appetizer. Courtesy of Bantry Bay Pub, we had the pleasure to taste almonds stuffed in dates wrapped in bacon. I wrote about this only because it's one of the most amazing bites I’ve ever tasted.


  1. Dear Danny,

    Thanks very much for the blog. I'm particularly grateful considering the nature of our cuisine. I’d like to mention that we do have other Latin inspired dishes. We make a mostly homemade (I use a Goya disc) twist on the empanada, a killer Cubano and we sell plantains as a side dish as well as a dessert with vanilla ice cream. I have a dish on the menu called Pescado Meunier and we used to serve Arroz Con Pollo which is still a popular catering option and of course we offer several varieties of the Quesadilla. The appetizer that you wrote about is part of a Tapas dish that we serve and Chimichurri is an option to go over our marinated Flank Steak.

    I call the menu style “Eclectic Comfort” and try to tie in a variety of ethnicities to represent the diverseness of our location. We’re certainly not a classic Irish Pub.

    Warm regards,

    Matt Sabena
    Executive Chef
    Bantry Bay Publick House

    P.S. Just an observation: the Bantry Bay link didn’t work. Again thanks very much.

  2. Hey Matt,

    Thank you for your comment. Your latin dishes sound delicious. I'm curious to try the empanadas and your chimichurri. Thanks for noticing the link. It's fixed now.

    Best Regards,

  3. I loved that appetizer too - and voted for it at the Taste of Queens. Can't wait to visit Bantry Bay!

  4. Foodista,

    Thanks for your kind words. Send me an email before you visit and I'll make sure you get the royal treatment. That certainly goes for you as well Danny.

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