Fun and fabulous fare were served at last month's Queens Taste 2012 at Citi Field's Caesars Club. On 1 May, nearly a thousand festivalgoers sampled offerings from 47 vendors to celebrate the tenth anniversary of this gastronomic extravaganza.
Queens Taste 2012 through the lens and palate of Comestiblog:
The Appetizers and Entrées:
Duck confit from an Irish gastropub? Aye, and it was most delicious, it was! Served in a pastry shell with wild mushrooms, gravy, and mashed potatoes, this dish from Padraigh Connolly's Dog and Duck in Sunnyside was one of my favorites.
Another standout came from the Haute Palate of Chef Lisa Christensen Beels. Her tasty quiche-like frittatas had me returning for seconds. I enjoyed particularly the creamy specimen made with duck egg, duck foie gras, and a trifle of truffle.
Creative Concepts showed conceptual creativity with their Mango Spring Rolls.
I thoroughly enjoyed the Cajun Shrimp with White Beans on Roasted Garlic Crostini from Papazzio in Bayside.
Their Pasta e Fagioli Soup—made with a variety of red and white beans in a creamy, savory broth with onions, carrots, celery, rosemary, prosciutto, and noodles—received the Best Appetizer award. Upon accepting his prize, Papazzio's Dominick Bruccoleri added that his soup also contained "a lot of love."
Several fine sandwiches were on hand as well. One of the best was the deliciously satisfying Braised Lamb-Belly Pita with Dill Yogurt Sauce and Smoked BBQ Vinaigrette from Christos Steak House in Astoria.
Once again, Leo's Latticini (known locally as Mama's of Corona) offered its signature sandwich of peppered ham, salami, fresh mozzarella, roasted peppers, and mushrooms, stuffed into a sesame-seed hero, surmounted by a slice of pepperoni and a green olive. And once again, it was tasty.
The Pão com Chouriço from Jamaica's O Lavrador delivered a tasty snack that encased flavorful Portuguese sausage in bread to yield the Iberian version of a hot dog in a roll.
Fresh, lean, and simple. That pretty much sums up the burgers from Woodside's F. Ottomanelli Burger and Belgian Fries. Sadly, there were no fries.
Pop Diner in Elmhurst never disappoints. Their superb Pernil (Latin herb-roasted pork), served with chimichurri mojo, remains a perennial favorite of mine. With a hint of sour orange, this dish is muy delicioso! Why didn't this little piggy win?
The Skirt Steak and Crab Cake from Austin’s Steak and Ale House in Kew Gardens fared better by land than by sea. While the beef was tender and well-seasoned (without being salty), the deep-fried crab ball foundered.
A dish of cavatelli with lamb, ricotta, and baby arugula by Russo's on the Bay of Howard Beach was nicely seasoned, yielding lovely springtime flavors.
Magna Ristorante of Flushing won the Best Entrée award for both its Pollo alla Romana (lightly sautéed chicken breast with specially prepared artichokes in a tomato-and-cream sauce), as well as its Penne alla Siciliana (long, tubular pasta with sautéed eggplant in a marinara-style sauce).
At the QEDC E-Space anniversary celebration in January, I had the pleasure of sampling the fermented teas of Astoria's Beyond Kompucha, as well as speaking with the company's founder, Spiro Theofilatos.
I sipped another round at the Queens Taste. This time, I tried the Yerba Máte [sic] and the Vanilla Rooibos.
Slightly stronger (in alcohol) were the wines. The Empire State was represented by Cutchogue's Castello di Borghese (Long Island's first estate vineyard) and, more locally, Little Neck's Queens County Farm. The latter represents one of New York City's last operating farms and the state's longest continually farmed site.
France was also represented. (But of course!)
Gilles Louvet's Sauvignon Blanc (left) and Bulles d'O (right)
Stronger yet were the distillates. While the estimable 1921 tequila was smooth enough to rival you-know-who, the ginger flavor of the Yazi vodka was completely overwhelmed by the excessive sweetness of the Lemon Drop cocktail with which it was mixed.
There was no shortage of sweet temptations. I returned to Leo's Latticini for a delightful bite-sized Strawberry Tart.
MitchMallows, Mitch Greenberg's iridescent marshmallows, produced a brief flashback to the '60s for me. Perhaps they ought to be renamed MitchMellows.
Christmas in May? Keksies afforded me a crunchy little taste of my heritage with their traditional German Christmas cookies. Sandra and Hans Penz's restrained use of sugar results in cookies that impart a pleasing, not cloying, European sweetness. Sehr lecker!
A few more familiar names and faces:
I had to sample the tasty cheesecakes from Whitestone's Cascon Baking Company. So much for my diet!
Uncle Peter's of Jackson Heights churned out a creamy Dulce de Leche Mousse that was, perhaps, my favorite dessert. The sinfully rich heavy cream and the Oreo cookie crunch produced a playful textural contrast.
For the Best Dessert award, the judges chose Tropisec, a Long Island City-based company that creates flowers and other edible designs from dried tropical fruits, such as mango, papaya, and pineapple. One of founder Blanca Lilia Narváez's signature products consists of dried banana pieces mixed with unprocessed cocoa.
"This was a fantastic event on so many levels," said QEDC Executive Director Seth Bornstein. "The food, the beverages, the networking and the upbeat, almost giddy, atmosphere really couldn't be beaten. Everybody had a great time, and we hope to build on this for next year."
Queens Taste 2012
123-01 Roosevelt Avenue (126th St)
Flushing, N.Y. 11368 (map)
Tuesday, 1 May 2012, 6:00 P.M. till 9:00 P.M.