LIC Market

Trying to beat the heat.

Trying to beat the heat and eat someplace fun.

Wanting to try a new place.

Fork and Spoon decided to try LIC Market – now celebrating their 1st anniversary. We had heard wonderful things about LIC Market and decided to begin our exploration of Long Island City with LIC Market.

It is very difficult to park here, so plan on driving around for a bit.

As you walk into LIC Market, you are in the retail area of the business. They sell teas and pickles and jams. They also sell coffee and tea to go. After you walk through this space there is a dining room in back. A very small dining room. So crammed full of tables that diners actually have to get up so you can sit down.

The lunch menu is small, but the most of what is on there is enticing!

Before we start on the food, let’s get the iced tea situation out of the way. The iced tea comes in a large glass, probably 16 ozs. There is maybe – a big maybe – 4 ozs of tea and the rest ice. Now this wouldn’t be bad if the iced were bottomless. It’s not. It’s $2.50 per glass. I don’t know about you, but I resent paying $2.50 for 4 ozs of iced tea and a glass of ice – FOUR TIMES.

Back to the food.

 

Our first sandwich was fresh mozzarella, grilled radicchio, arugula and basil on French bread. This was very good. Fresh Mozzarella was slightly salty. The bitterness of the grilled radicchio was nice with the peppery arugula. It could have used another – something – vinegar, oil, just another layer of flavor.

Our second sandwich was slow cooked pulled pork on souman bread, gruyere, pickles and a mustard dressing. Almost a Cuban and very tasty. The bread alone was fabulous. THe pork melt in your mouth tender. THe gruyere and pickles giving it that homey spin with a touch of salty and sour. 

 

On the side we ordered rapini with roasted tomatoes. Rapini is a cross between broccoli rabe and broccoli. Same shape as a broccoli rabe but not as bitter. This was really delicious. The tomatoes and oil and rapini were GREAT on the mozzarella sandwich!

When asked if we wanted anything else, we asked about dessert. The waitress handed us back the menu. The lunch menu. Did she think we wanted another sandwich? When we mentioned that we were looking for something sweet, she said they might have an oatmeal cookie left, but that they don’t serve sweets.

SIGH …

LIC Market ~ 21-52 44th Drive ~ LIC, NY ~ 718.361.0013
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Salt & Fat

Now, really. Is there anything about the name of this restaurant that would lead you to believe that it wasn’t wonderful? We can all pretend that we are virtuous when it comes to what we eat, but let’s call a spade a spade … we like salty, we like fatty, we LOVE porky! Salty is not our enemy and comes from many more places than just a salt shaker. Fats, too, don’t necessarily mean transfats or bad fats. Salt & Fat, a new restaurant on Queens Boulevard in Sunnyside, Queens, certainly shows the virtues of salty and fat.

To quote their website, Salt & Fat “is a neighborhood restaurant  serving globally influenced New American small plates in a relaxed casual environment. ”  It couldn’t be summed up any better by anyone. Owner and chef, Danny Yi, the former executive sous chef of The Monkey Bar has set the bar high for the New American small plate concept and so far is rising well above it.

Fork and Spoon love small plate dining. It gives you the ability to try so many more things on the menu, and there were SO many things on the menu to try!

By the way, the hostess is lovely. Our waiter, Brian, super. Everyone is friendly and accommodating. The decor is simple. The tables not jammed together crowded. At the time of this writing, they had not received their liquor license yet, but had soda or water for drinks. They don’t serve coffee or hot tea. And (GASP) no iced tea.

Fork and Spoon went to Salt & Fat on a rainy, cold Tuesday night and it was pretty crowded. THe hostess told us that there was a 20 minute wait for tables the previous Saturday night.  Brian came over as soon as we sat down and gave us our menus, explained that with the exception of the last three, entrée sized dishes, everything on the menu was small plates.

While we were looking at the menu and trying to decide where to start, Brian brought over a small paper bag filled with popcorn. Salty, yummy popcorn that had been popped in bacon fat. You know more than one bag was eaten. This is amazing, addictive stuff! If this was a sign of what was yet to come, we were in for a real treat.

As an aside, Spoon and Spork had tried this restaurant already. Fork had seen it and when mentioned to Spoon, laughter erupted as they had just that night been there and loved it. There was much “na na na na” coming from Spork to Fork. So in turn, when Fork and Spoon went, there were texts and photos sent with ‘na na na’ right back.

Silliness aside, we chose 4 small plates to start. Each small plate comes with 3 of whatever the dish is. Each plate is thoughtfully put together and beautiful. As much attention is paid to the plating of the food as to the ingredients in the dishes.

Our first plate to arrive was the Braised Pork Belly Tacos. Crunchy tacos filled with melt in your mouth Hampshire pork belly that had been braised in an amazing broth. Sitting on top of the pork belly nestled inside the taco shell was kimchi, pico de gallo and  queso fresco. The fusion between the Korean and Mexican was seamless, as if kimchi has naturally always been on a taco. Served with the tacos were lightly picked jalapenos. Tuck one of those slices into the taco and you had a spectacular bite of food. SO many tastes and flavors at one time. You know this dish is on the FAT side of the fence, but really must be tried.

Next came the Short Rib Buns. If you like short ribs, this is so for you. The boneless short rib was fall apart tender. The nice sized square of really flavorful beef sat on a steamed bun.  Ticked inside the bun with the beef were thin slices of pickled cucumber. These are pickled just enough to give you that vinegar hit, but still crisp and cucumber tasting.  Topping all of this is an apricot mustard which adds a tiny bit of heat and sweet. Fork’s only negative thought here is that the bun was a little too thick so the flavors of the beef, pickled cucumber slices and mustard and apricot sauce was a little lost.

Next came Korean BBQ Wraps. Fork loves things wrapped in lettuce leaves. There’s something so seemingly healthy about it. You can honestly say you had a vegetable with the meal. Lettuce is a great, not too filling or heavy wrapper for whatever goodness is inside. And inside! Inside this lettuce leaf is a slice of BBQ hangar steak. The steak was so flavorful. The accompaniment to the steak was a thin slice of pickled daikon radish and seasoned miso. Just to gild the lily, sprinkled over the top were fried bits of shallots. Every bite hit a different part of your tastebuds and all of them were smiling!

And last – and by no means least – we ordered Crack & Cheese. Fork’s mouth is watering just typing, that’s how absolutely amazing this dish was. Imagine if you will lightly fried potato gnocchi swimming in a rich, cheesey bechamel sauce and studded with squares of crispy bacon. I don’t think another thing can possibly be said about this dish except OMG, you have to try it!

Dessert seems sparse here – and you definitely need something sweet after the salty and fatty goodness. There is a panna cotta with a yuzu buttermilk sorbet that Spoon says is amazing. We ordered the Rice Krispie Treats with Marshmallow ice cream. Yes, that’s right, marshmallow ice cream. It’s an ice cream (cream being the key word here) and marshmallow. You get the texture and flavor or both. It is truly amazing. Eaten by itself it’s wonderful. Spread on top of the rice krispie treats and it soared. This dessert is truly amazing. Definitely brough Fork back to being a kid, during the summer, with my sister! The only downside of the desserts here – they really need a third, something with chocolate!

I can’t wait to come back here. I can’t wait to bring more people here. I can’t wait for them to be open for lunch too. I can’t wait for you to get there!

Salt & Fat ~ 41-16 Queens Boulevard ~ Sunnyside, NY ~ 718.408.0533
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Testaccio

As you drive toward Testaccio, you may think to yourself that Fork and Spoon are off their trolleys and sending you in the wrong direction. How wrong you would be! You are headed in absolutely the right direction! Mostly undiscovered residential, a little industrial, and definitely the next neighborhood to live in, Long Island City is quickly becoming the restaurant place to be.

Testaccio was on the list of places Fork and Spoon wanted to try, and one of the places that Cheese Plane was urging us to try. As luck would have it Cheese Plane was in for a visit, so Fork and Spoon decided it was time for this adventure. And even luckier for us, it turned out to be a tableful Cutlery along with us –  always the better, more dishes to try!

Testaccio is just there. No fanfare, no fancy front, but that is where the plain part of this Roman cuisined restaurant ends.

You walk into a very large, very warm, beautifully decorated restaurant. Lovely staff, friendly accommodating, knowledgable about the restaurant and the menu. Through the bar, you pass the pizza kitchen. There is a gigantic pizza oven. We were trying to figure out if this was built in the space, or built and brought in.  We really don’t think it was possible for it to have been brought in. What craftmanship. It almost looked like an adobe hut in the middle of this open part of the pizza kitchen.

The rest of the kitchen is down a half flight of stairs in the back. Up a half flight of stairs are more tables. Separating the view of the kitchen and the upstairs tables is a gigantic wine area. All wrought iron and encased in glass, it is interesting and multi-functional.

The wait staff is super friendly, very courteous, and knowledgable about the entire menu. By the way, the restaurant is child friendly. They even have a children’s menu.

The menu is extensive, with just enough dishes in each category for variety, but not so many to make the menu seem overwhelming. Yes, you heard it here, too many menu choices can be a bad thing.

Yes, they had iced tea, and yes, it was bottomless.

Their bread was also very good. Constantly replenished and served with two different spreads that are made in house, one olive and one sun dried tomato. Be careful of the pits in the olive spread!

As there were eight of us, we knew trying a number of appetizers would be no problem (oh, yes, our accompanying Cutlery fell so easily into our evil plan – MORE DISHES!).

We’ll start with an appetizer we ordered from the specials menu. Raviolini Fritti – these were fried spinach and ricotta ravioli served over baby spinach and spicy tomato marmalade for dipping.  There was a lot of dough and not a lot of filling. It might have been that what filling there was inside the slightly greasy raviolini was seriously bland. In complete contrast, though, the spicy tomato marmalade was fantastic. What a blend of flavors. That alone with some bread would have been great! Sadly, with the exception of the marmalade, this was our least favorite of the appetizers.

Next was Assaggini di Suppli – an assortment of rice croquettes.  Six ping pong ball sized rice balls, three different varieties. There were two artichoke and truffle, two tomato and mozzarella and two sweet corn and pecorino. The shells were very crisp and golden. The rice was beautifully cooked. Spoon had the tomato and mozzarella, Fork the artichoke and truffle. The only one not received so well was the sweet corn and pecorino and that may have been just from the odd combination. They were very good, although not enough cheese in them to make them truly suppli – stringy.

Cheese Plane ordered the Terina di Coda alla Vaccinara – oxtail terrine with celery and mushrooms. The itself terrine was quite tasty. Very rich and hearty. It was served with grilled flat bread or naked pizza crust. Not sure what the beige dollops were. Cheese plane said this was a dish that could be taken or left.

There was a Pasta e Fagioli. Huge portion of bean soup which supposedly was served over maltagliati pasta. Lovely flavor. Full of beans and vegetables. Maltagliati is a short, almost trapezoid shape tube made from left over scraps of pasta. The pasta used in the soup was a long, hollow pasta as opposed to a short pasta that would lend itself better to this soup and the ease of eating it, but it was yummy just the same.

One of the appetizers that we had been longing to try was the Carciofo all Giedea. Crispy artichokes served with a black olive tapenade. The tapenade was really good. Salty, rich and terrific alongside the crispy artichoke hearts. They were quarters of hearts with long stems. Beautifully cooked – nicely seasoned and very crispy on the outside while still tender on the inside.  Perfect for one or for two to share. But, for more than two people, there just isn’t enough!

Spoon had been eyeing the Insalata di Fagioli Giganti e Porchetta. Fork is sure it was the word porchetta that made Spoon swoon. This was a warm butter bean salad, with chunks of porchetta, roasted peppers, eggplant, and other vegetables. Nice light dressing. It was different. The porchetta needed to be a little crisper – or there needed to be something in this salad with a crunch – otherwise everything was the same much consistency. It'[s a shame to take away from a delicious dish because of texture.

The last appetizer we tried was the Gnocchi alla Romana. These are not what one would normally think of when gnocchi is mentioned. Gnocchi – unless cooked really well – can be like little lead balloons. These were nothing like that. These were not even shaped like that.  These weren’t even potato. These were semolina gnocchi. They were very light and fluffy with a great flavor. They seemed to just melt in your mouth. Their shape resembled a short cylinder, as though they were made as a timbale – or perhaps made into a log and then cut into 1″ pieces. They sat on a flat side, sprinkled with parmesan and then light broiled to melt the cheese. The gnocchi were served in a light tomato and basil sauce.

With the exception of Fork and Spoon, main dishes were not shared, so we can’t really comment on the others.

Well, no, Cheese Plane is always a happy sharer. Cheese Plane ordered the Costolette D’Abbacchio Scottdito – grilled organic lamb chops with chicory and grilled polenta all drizzled with a lamb reduction. The dish though was not cooked the way requested.  Cheese Plane explained to the waiter what was wrong and he whisked the dish away and returned with the dish perfectly cooked. Cheese Plane asked for sauce on the side, and truthfully, the sauce is unnecessary and takes away from the dish. Sadly, by this time Cheese Plane had been happily munching away on everyone else’s entrees and took the dish home for later.

Fork and Spoon decided to order two things and share them.

First we tried the Bucatini all’Amatriciana. Bucatini is a long hollow pasta. Amatriciana is a spicy tomato based sauce made with guanciale, hot peppers and a lot of pecorino cheese. Guanciale is salt cured pork jowl. Because it is less lean than pancetta it gives a very rich feel to the sauce.  This was super. Spicy and rich, the guanciale so yummy, the tomato sauce sweet, the perfect amount of heat just hitting the back of your throat.

Our second choice was a pizza. How could we be 10 feet from this amazing pizza oven and not have a pizza from it!? We ordered the Pizza Diavola. First, their pizza crust is great. The dough is fabulous. Thin crust, nice tooth, not soggy in the center, not too doughy or yeasty tasting. The crust is topped with tomato sauce, fresh mozzarella, salamino and fresh oregano. Great flavor combination. The salamino (pepperoni to most of you) was thinly sliced, packing just enough heat to make it interesting, and crispy. Doesn’t get much better than that!

And, as always, there is room for dessert.  We tried three!

First the Tiramisu ‘Fai Da Te’. Sort of a do-it-yourself  tiramisu plate. This was inhaled so quickly by the tiny Cutlery, there was no time for photos! But, what arrived were lady fingers – soft and springy, a bowl of mascarpone sauce, a cup of espresso, and bitter cocoa. You could put this together any way that suited you – or not at all and eat each component separately.  The mascarpone cream was so delicious, we were practically fighting over the last bits of it.

Next arrived Tortino di Cioccolato e Caffe. Dark chocolate and coffee flan with a caramel sauce. This was more like a seriously fudgey cake than a true flan. Deep, dark chocolate with a not too subtle flavor of coffee. It wasn’t as pudding-ish as a flan, and certainly not what you would call a cake – something in between. Drizzled all over the plate and all over the Tortino was incredible, buttery, sugary caramel. What a flavor combo! Chocolate, caramel and coffee. Throw in a few slices of strawberries and you have perfection!

And, last but not least, Torta di Ricotta e Visciole. Roman ricotta pie with amarena cherries. The cheese cake was so so, but the cherries – man oh man were they good! Amarena cherries are small, very dark, slightly sour cherries. The cherries are preserved in sugar.

Testaccio Ristorante ~ 47-30 Vernon Blvd ~ New York, NY ~ 718.937.2700
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La Portena

Fork and Spoon love steak. At times we CRAVE steak.  One of the places this craving is satiated – and extremely well – is La Portena Restaurant located in Jackson Heights, Queens.

La Portena

La Portena

This unassuming storefront in the heart of Jackson Heights,  gives way to a to a wonderfully noisy, family run, fun restaurant.  Sometimes in our adventures it is necessary to bring our other halves along – if for no other reason that to be able to try more dishes!! In this case though, it was just for more company as we all ate the same thing!

There is nothing pretentious or fancy about this neighborhood restaurant.  The tablecloths are covered in white paper because this is serious eating and serious Argentinian BBQ! 

Bottomless iced tea and soda, fantastic sangria, fresh bread and their freshly made CHIMICHURRI sauce. Now, I wanted a steak, and their delicious salad and empanadas, but the chimichurri and bread is some serious eating.  I put it on everything  – the emapnadas, steak, potatoes, bread – everything but the salad!

We started our field trip with the La Portena salad especial and empanadas. 

I dream about this salad.  All of the ingredients are very, very cold, salty, and dressed in a tangy, citrus vinaigrette. Watercress, tomatoes, hearts of palm, broad beans, hard boiled eggs, and this time avocado. You just can’t stop eating it.

Salad La Portena Especial

Salad La Portena Especial

The empanadas are in a light flaky dough and filled with beef or chicken. Not being able to decide which we would prefer, we ordered two of each.  (And so good with the chimichurri)

Empanadas

Empanadas

The potatoes Spanish style – thinly sliced and fried with lots of garlic (everyone had to eat them otherwise we would not have been able to continue speaking to each other!) and parsley are so good they could be a meal unto themselves! We were virtually fighting over the last bits of them! So much so that we ordered a second plate of them! (And so good with the chimichurri!)

Potaotes

Potaotes

All having a craving for steak we all had the same entree, the Entrana, skirt steak. Beautifully grilled and so big that it hangs off the sides of the plate. Skirt steak if not treated right can get stringy and chewy. This was tender and perfect. And such a good accompaniment to the chimichurri! 

Entrana

Entrana

Now, those of you who have visited before all know we cannot have an adventure without dessert and with four people the possibilities were even better. Sadly the ‘others’ do not like to play share and are not exactly adventurous so we had Peach Sherbet in a peach, Tartufo, and for the Spoon and I, Sweet Caramel Crepe. The crepes were great! Then again, anything filled with Dulce de Leche can’t possibly be bad!! 

Crepes with dulce de leche

Crepes with dulce de leche

The chimichurri sauce is now sold in bottles!  I know people who have spent years trying to achieve the same balance of sweet, garlic, parslied perfection.  Thank goodness I can just take it home with me!! You want to dip everything in it! You want to eat more just to dip more!

 La Portena, for the past 14 years, has been located at 74-25 37th Avenue, Jackson Heights, Queens, New York.

Want a great steak? This place is a MUST!!