Sunday, February 27, 2011

Comfort Me

I'm sort of ambivalent about the comfort food movement. Certainly there are more challenging and original foods out there to make than fried chicken and biscuits. Still, when a hot spot opens in my nabe (a truly rare occurrence), I take notice. Queens Comfort has been building a following all week, with its rakish Williamsburg aesthetic--white wainscoting, chalkboard menus, Stumptown coffee in house and to go, alternative music blasting, cash only. You get the picture. I had to go in.

I sat at the bar, which makes for a comfortable enough brunch. Queens Comfort does their own baking and I had to challenge myself not to eat one of their fresh donuts. I won that battle, but lost others.

My fried green tomato sandwich was a little heavy on the remoulade and a little light on the sweet pepper jam, but I assume they'll find balance after the official week of soft-opening is over. My bread had the coarse texture of cornbread with a tiny bit of the same quality of sweetness. I was aiming for a meat-free morning, which prevented me from ordering the brisket sandwich with horseradish and red onion jam, or the pulled pork sandwich with Stumptown barbecue sauce and slaw, or the fried chicken sandwich with maple butter on a biscuit. The calorie counter in the back of my brain advised against a side of macaroni and cheese, though I'm sure my discipline will only follow me so far. For my family, I brought home three maple bacon biscuits, the last in house.

The staff has advised me that the menu will change and expand in coming weeks. They also plan to delivery and, hopefully, accept credit cards. I'm not sure if Queens *needs* a spot to order a two dollar Mexican Coke, but hey, we have it now. For anyone who was concerned, it should come as a great comfort.

Queens Comfort
40-09 30th Avenue
Astoria, NY 11103

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Eat Here Now

Renee's Kitchenette and Grill. Woodside, Queens. Filipino Barbecue.

There isn't much to see, beyond some communal cafeteria-style tables and a slew of strange gift items marked "twenty percent off." But, oh, the meat.

Order the mixed grill. With it, you'll get pork on a skewer and fatty-tender pork belly and a full chicken leg and thigh and spicy sausage, all doused in a sweet Filipino barbecue sauce. Dip your varied carnivorous pleasures in the side bowl of fish sauce and vinegar, spiced with just enough chile to keep you human. Take some of those spicy pickled veggies--mostly cabbage, I think--and drape them over the modestly delicious garlic fried rice.

Spicy, salty, and sweet, and everything takes a cool respite in a crunchy cucumber, tomato, and hard-boiled egg salad. Eat that, too. Save room for a cool coconut drink with "tropical jello" and toasted rice. It is sweet and likely very bad for you. Saturday only comes once a week.

If the meat doesn't fill you completely, take a jog a few blocks down to Red Ribbon Bakeshop, what my dining partner called, "The Filipino version of Crumbs," where everything is extremely sweet and calorie-laden. I don't know what made the frosting on our angel food cake green, but it was sugary enough to chase down any cravings. I finished the slice of chocolate, too, two layers held together with dulce de leche.

Renee's Kitchenette and Grill
69-14 Roosevelt Avenue
Woodside, Queens 11377

Red Ribbon Bakeshop
65-02 Roosevelt Avenue
Woodside, Queens 11377

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Del Posto

I had only ever walked into the space in daylight, before they even served lunch. It is a cavernous dining room with marble and wide balconies and lush carpet where the tables are. By night, the glow of candles and table side sconces turns the room into a giant Deco-era piano bar (and yes, there is a piano, under the stairs).

Del Posto offers two menus, both price fixed. We chose the lesser of the two, five courses, which has more flexibility; the seven course menu is set in its courses and does not allow for guests to choose their food from the larger menu.

Prosecco arrived within moments. I didn't complain, even though I had already downed a near perfect white peach bellini at the bar. Next, a trio of amuse bouche: gougeres with mortadella; sticky saffron risotto balls; and a clarified chicken broth striated with egg yolk. Then, crusty bread and whipped lardo, an Italianophile's dream spread.

Our 1996 Riserva Barbaresco had been aged in barrique, which I noted to the sommelier. "Do you prefer a more traditional style?" he asked me. I said yes. He told me he would make a note on my reservation so that the next time I have dinner they would serve me something less pronounced. The night was full of comparable attention to detail.

I let the server steer me towards a beef tartare with porcini mushrooms and shaved parmesan when she told me that the kitchen could not produce the goose liver special without almonds (I'm allergic). Her selection won me over, full of crunch and salt and smooth edges. Then came the first of our two pasta courses, a pasta called caramelle, which looked like cellophane-wrapped candy and oozed with gorgonzola and black truffles. A whole wheat spaghetti came with chunks of mirepoix and shaved bonito flakes. The pastas are the star of the whole Del Posto show.

But my lamb--a mixture of leg, t-bone, and other gamier parts--was not to be outdone. Cloaked in a perfect puttanesca, it was the ultimate combination of unctuous fat and tender meat. I still had room for dessert, a butterscotch semi-freddo with candied melon. Every portion served was modest, preventing the post-meal guilt so often associated with four star dining. There was even room to enjoy the final glorious moments of our meal, served in a box grater: a caramel in edible paper, a tiny ice cream bon bon on a lollipop stick, a chocolate truffle, two pieces of candied fruit, and a golf ball-sized beignet filled with citrus cream.

Del Posto
85 10th Avenue
New York, NY 10011