Curry Point, Sunnyside

What is there to say about yet another Indian restaurant in Queens? When it comes to Curry Point, it’s simple: fast, delicious, cheap, and Halal.

Curry Point is situated on Greenpoint Avenue near 41st Street in Sunnyside. I know, very clever – Curry Point, Greenpoint. A cutting-edge marketing team must make up some of Curry Point’s staff.

Most importantly, the food is good, but how does it measure up to other Indian fare in Sunnyside? My dining partner says Saffron Garden and Curry Point must be compared dish-by-dish. So here we go.

curry point chicken tikka masala

chicken tikka masala

Samosa: Curry Point’s samosa are very-fried triangles of vegetable goodness. A cooling cucumber-flavored sauce contrasts the spicy interior of the samosa. So what about Saffron Garden? Their samosa are, as stated in an earlier review, not-fried tasting, which is nice.

Chicken tikka masala: Saffron Garden has a sweeter, thinner tikka masala sauce than that of Curry Point, but I think I prefer Curry Point’s when compared. I appreciate the sauce’s thickness–it’s almost like a gravy (a distinction we Italian-Americans know how to make)–and the number of chicken pieces was many. Saffron Garden’s portions are, in general, smaller than Curry Point’s.

Chana masala: My dining partner enjoys chana masala. It was less spicy at Saffron Garden, and, consequently, he prefers Curry Point’s rendition.

curry point garlic naan

garlic naan

Naan: This time around, we tried the garlic naan at Curry Point. A giant circular piece of naan was wrapped tightly in aluminum foil. The worker at Curry Point folded it in half so that it’d fit more comfortably in the take-out bag. The garlic-flavored naan featured pieces of garlic embedded in the dough and had a full garlic punch. Very delicious. At Saffron Garden, they present the naan cut into quadrants, which is fine, but I like tearing naan apart (as is the expectation at Curry Point).

I haven’t tried Curry Point’s mango lassi, but I’m sure it measures up to those of Saffron Garden (and Tangra).

If you’re looking for a bang for your buck, Curry Point is it.

Curry Point

41-02 Greenpoint Avenue

Sunnyside, Queens

Take the 7 to 40th Street and walk south then east.

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Taylor Swift IS the Girl Next Door

taylor swift singing from her heart

In today’s New York Times, there’s an article in the Sunday Styles section about Kelly Clarkson, the role model next door, as it were.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I think Kelly Clarkson’s great. And she’s definitely a role model. As the article points out numerous times, Kelly isn’t exactly your typical pop star (think: physique), and yet carries herself with confidence and candor.

With that said, I can’t understand why Taylor Swift made her way into this article. If the writer alleged that Taylor Swift, like Kelly Clarkson, is the typical girl next door, I’d agree. However, Taylor is invoked with a negative perspective and is contrasted to Kelly as the anti-girl next door.

Courtney E. Martin, who, up until a few months ago, wrote for Feministing, is quoted in the article as saying, “‘There’s so much talk about Taylor Swift being the girl next door’ — the role played by the singer in her video for “You Belong With Me” — ‘but she’s tall and blond, the girl that the girl next door wants to be. But with Kelly, you sense that she really is the girl next door. She acknowledges more complexity than most stars talk about.'”

What? Since when does being tall and blonde preclude someone from being a so-called girl next door? (As my partner says, “I don’t know why being fat makes you more down-to-earth or authentic.”) Didn’t the writer (Jan Hoffman) read the recent awesome New Yorker profile of Taylor, which portrays her as a normal, yet brilliant contributor to society?

I don’t see Martin’s point. Well, I do, in a way — of course, Kelly Clarkson breaks from the mold in that she’s not thin, has trouble dating (“If I were gay, I’d probably have more luck”), and wears brunette hair (now). But there’s no need to bring Taylor Swift into this conversation. If anything, Taylor has proven herself to be the atypical down-to-earth superstar. Only a handful of her songs relate to notable men (there was some suggestion in the article that she dates celebrities, as well); most of her songs relate to the intricate difficulties of relationships–from a grounded, girl-next-door perspective. If listeners connect with Taylor, it’s because they feel they are the girl singing the song, not because they want to be her, as Martin suggests.

Author of one semi-known book, Martin positions herself as an expert on teen idols. She isn’t, nor is Ms. Hoffman (nor am I, for that matter). Martin ignores the obvious reality of Taylor’s influence on young girls–a positive one. Unlike most of her peers, Taylor doesn’t smoke, drink, or do drugs. Martin’s Taylor Swift acumen is sorely anemic.

In conclusion, I am horrified that the Times chose to publish an article that trashes Taylor Swift in order to achieve some kind of revelation about Kelly Clarkson.

Recipe Attempted: Apple Crisp

So the nagging question of what differentiates a crumble from a cobbler from a crisp has been on my mind. As a result, I decided to try making an apple crisp.

I found the recipe on allrecipes.com, a holding place for meals and treats made by middle-aged white ladies. (How do I know this? Just look at some of the usernames: “Josie,” “jandtsmom,” and “let_them_eat_cake.” I don’t see any ethnic threads here.)

A simple execution, the recipe, calling for dashes of delicious cinnamon and nutmeg, was easy-to-follow and yielded brilliant results:

allrecipes.com apple crisp

apple crisp

The Dog and Duck, Sunnyside

New establishments crop up all the time in Sunnyside. Some last, others don’t. Basmati Table came and went. Bliss Bistro weathered poorly. But I sincerely hope the Dog and Duck, an Irish gastropub which takes Bliss Bistro’s spot on the corner of Skillman and 46th, sticks around for a bit.

The place was bustling when we entered on Saturday night. Nearly every table was occupied with customers busily chattering over fish and chips or pork bangers and mash. We sat right near the door (a poor choice given the brisk weather), at a table in close proximity to the one beside us. The seating is set up like any economical restaurant in Manhattan: tight and close.

The Dog and Duck’s menu contains favorites, such as Beef Wellington, which I ordered. My dining partnered opted for the ham and leek pie, which was served hot and thoroughly baked in a neat little dish. We ordered beers from their busy bar and scallops wrapped in maple bacon for a starter.

dog and duck's beef wellington

beef wellington

Our appetizer contained three large scallops with pieces of bacon wrapped around their stout midsections. An unidentifiable glaze accompanied them. They were pretty delicious, and at $10, a steal (though my dining partner didn’t think so).

The Beef Wellington, a dish that features a piece of meat covered with pate and wrapped in a pastry shell, was quite delectable. Medium rare on the inside and covered in a tasty pastry, it was pleasing. It was served with red cabbage (divine) and potato au gratin (wonderful). I had never tried Beef Wellington before. In fact, I’m not sure I’ve ever seen it, but I’d definitely order it again. As one of the most expensive dishes on the menu ($27), it definitely was worth it.

My dining partner’s ham and leek pie was served with french fries that weren’t exactly flavorful, but satisfied the gut nonetheless. My dining partner remarked that the ham tasted more like pork or chicken, an uncured meat unlike ham. Again, I had never seen ham and leek pie on a menu but wouldn’t mind ordering it next time I visit the Dog and Duck.

dog and duck's apple crumble

apple crumble

Our portions were decent, although the woman to my right ordered fish and chips and I noticed that there were only two pieces of fish and a scant array of chips.

For dessert, we ordered apple crumble, and debated the differences among crumble, crisp, and cobbler. (We still don’t know what separates them, do you? UPDATE: Now I do.) The crumble was sugary and ample, and tasted good alongside vanilla and strawberry ice cream. My dining partner decided that the crumble would have been better had it been warmed, and I believe he is correct.

The Dog and Duck is definitely worth traveling for. Its inexpensive menu delights the palate and its cozy interior makes you feel at home. It definitely gives the Kettle, an Irish pub just five blocks east, a run for its money. Now all they need is a website.

The Dog and Duck

45-20 Skillman Avenue

Sunnyside, Queens

Take the 7 to 46th Street and walk north a few blocks. 

Saffron Garden, Sunnyside

What makes a great Indian restaurant? (A good spice balance, mostly.)

Sunnyside’s answer to that question is possibly Saffron Garden, a relatively new Indian restaurant on Skillman Avenue, where less-than-spectacular Basmati Table once was. Saffron Garden serves up the typical Indian fare: samosa, mango lassi, tandoori dishes, and so on. But it’s cozy decor and impressive service separate it from the chaff. (It sounds like Sunnyside Food had a different experience when it comes to service.)

Usually, we order take out from Curry Point, an Indian restaurant over on Greenpoint. Curry Point’s food is delicious, cheap, and sets the bar for Sunnyside Indian cuisine.

Saffron Garden Vegetable Samosa

vegetable samosa

At Saffron Garden, we started with the vegetable samosa. The exterior of the samosa was light and didn’t taste fried, but baked instead. The innards were a finely, mildly spiced mixture of ground vegetables. The samosa were accompanied by a cold chickpea chutney of sorts, which was good, as well. I think Saffron Garden’s samosa tasted better than those of Curry Point, where the samosa have a lingering fried flavor.

For our entrees, we ordered chana masala and chicken tikka masala (although the menu said “chicken tikka marsala” as though we were in some kind of Indian-Italian fusion restaurant). The portions were just right, though appeared modest by their depth-deceiving serving dishes.

Saffron Garden chicken tikka masala

chicken tikka masala

I ordered the chicken tikka masala, a tomato-buttery cream sauce with interspersed chunks of chicken marinated in yogurt and spices. The sauce tasted sweeter than that of Curry Point, and I liked it. The rice that was served with the meals was a blend of rices, rather than straight-up Basmati rice. It was delicious.

My dining partner ordered the chana masala, a chick pea dish with spices. I thought it tasted good–spiced well and dense–but he said he preferred Curry Point’s rendition. Though he was unimpressed by his dish, he praised Saffron Garden’s light and tender naan.

I also ordered a mango lassi, which was served with ice–an atypical feature. It was thick and creamy and delicious.

We didn’t order dessert, opting for Claret’s wine menu and (out-of-this-world) Tahitian vanilla creme brulee.

I recommend Saffron Garden. I hope they are able to stick around the neighborhood.

Saffron Garden

46-11 Skillman Avenue (by 46th Street)

Sunnyside, NY

Take the 7 train to 46th Street, walk north.

Tangra, Sunnyside

What are your thoughts on fusion? Does it ever work well? I’m curious because, in my recent experience, it falls flat and disappoints. Maybe I’ve just been seeking fusion in the wrong places.

Tangra, an Indian-Chinese fusion restaurant, is precisely one of those wrong places. With its more Indian than Chinese decor and heavy menu, it emanates an almost regal feel. In its front window, Tangra showcases its positive reviews from newspapers. But don’t be confused by the ambience and accolades. The food doesn’t deliver.

We started our meal with lollypop chicken and chicken corn soup. My dining partner enjoyed the soup, which was thicker than I expected it to be. The lollypop chicken pieces were the only truly edible parts of the overall meal. My dining partner has this theory that the lollypop chicken are wings with all the meat scraped to one end of the bone. I’m not sure about this, but am willing to go along with it. Then, the meat is deep fried. The dish is served with a tangy orange-colored pickled-tasting sauce that nicely compliments the chicken. It’s delicious and Tangra does lollypop chicken better than anyone else in the neighborhood.

For an entree, I ordered chicken with mixed vegetables with the Tangra masala sauce. There was cauliflower in this mixed vegetable array, which is a no-no in my book. Anyway, the Tangra masala sauce was very spicy and not much else.

My dining partner ordered the “crispy” ginger beef, which should be called “chewy and disgusting” ginger beef. I couldn’t even swallow a mouthful of it. The beef was stringy and gnarled, and just gross. I couldn’t get past its texture. He didn’t enjoy his dish, to say the least.

Overall, Tangra is fine if you’re looking for Indian-Chinese fusion. Steer clear of the crispy ginger dishes, but do try a mango lassi. It turned out surprisingly well.

Tangra

3923 Queens Boulevard

Sunnyside, Queens

Take the 7 to 40th Street and walk one block east. 

Sage General Store, Long Island City

With its cutesy decor and dishtowel napkins, Sage General Store is definitely aspiring to be something–perhaps a country general store, as their website claims. It isn’t clear. What’s evident, however, is that their food and service are aspiring to be something and falling just short of making it.

sage general store ranchero burrito

ranchero burrito

We started our brunch with some coffee, sweet tea, and cheddar biscuits. The coffee tasted bitter and required extra sugar. The sweet tea was okay–no complaints there. We accidentally ordered two cheddar biscuits. This turned out to be an accident because the biscuits arrived in the size of a baby’s head, with some butter on the side. We ate our way through one, wishing it was warmed by their brick oven that is obviously dedicated to pizzas-only, and took the other home. The biscuits had a crisp, crusty exterior and warm, cheesy interior. There was definitely a kick of cheddar in them.

For my entree, I ordered the Ranchero burrito, filled with organic eggs, caramelized onions, ham, tomato, and cheddar. The potatoes on the side came out cold and lacked flavor. The burrito tasted fine–perhaps too ham-heavy for my taste–but needed something to distinguish itself as a burrito, said my dining partner. Hidden Valley Ranch, of course, would have been the ideal condiment to accompany my lacking burrito. HVR! HVR! HVR! Too bad there wasn’t a Hidden Valley Ranch party in my mouth.

Sage General Store Wisconsin Pizza

wisconsin pizza

Sage General Store offers a bevy of pizzas as part of their brunch menu. My dining partner ordered the Wisconsin pizza, which was topped with Neuske’s bacon, caramelized onions, ricotta, and creme fraiche. To my surprise, the pizza was excellent. The crust was on the thin side and golden brown. The ricotta-creme fraiche combo definitely delighted the senses. It was delicious.

A word about the service: My burrito came out at least five minutes sooner than the pizza did. I noticed this trend at every other table in Sage General Store. As my dining partner said, “They just bring things out here”–without any order or synchronicity. I didn’t like this, and don’t think you would either.

Overall, Sage General Store is an okay brunch spot, but definitely do not go out of your way to get there. If you happen to be at MoMA PS1, you might try Sage afterward. Otherwise, stick to your trusted Manhattan reliables.

Sage General Store

24-20 Jackson Avenue

Long Island City, Queens

Take the 7 train to Court Square and walk a few blocks. 

Yum Yum Queens, Sunnyside

You may have heard of Yum Yum. There’s about 25 in Hell’s Kitchen. Maybe you’ve seen them.

Yum Yum Queens, a distant relative of the aforementioned, serves up tasty Thai at cheap prices. With no frills, the restaurant delivers an inexpensive lunch special and a filling prix fixe dinner. If you’re in the neighborhood at mealtime with a bunch of change in your pocket, this is the place to go.

Yum Yum Queens Fried Tofu

fried tofu

Last night, my dining partner and I ordered in. As an appetizer, we got the fried tofu. Cardboard-like and triangular, the fried tofu wasn’t exactly disappointing but not flavorful either. I mean, it’s tofu. What can you do with it? A special sauce accompanied the dish. We drizzled it all over the tofu, in hopes to make a more delectable offering. It helped slightly. Another appetizer we typically try is the curry puffs, which are small, empanada-like pastries filled with chicken and spices. They are quite good and I highly recommend them.

For an entree, I ordered the green curry with chicken. I’m fond of Yum Yum’s curries. I usually order the red curry, but fancied something spicier last night. It is chock full of bamboo shoots, green beans, and other vegetables, including something that resembled a type of eggplant. I was very satisfied with my dish.

Yum Yum Queens Pad Kie Mow

pad kie mow

My dining partner got the Pad Kie Mow with tofu, which was greasy and delicious. The tofu was tough, but had absorbed all the grease and juices oozing from the flat noodles. It was wonderful.

Don’t forget to try the Thai iced tea and coffee. They are expertly served at Yum Yum.

Overall, you get the bang for your buck at Yum Yum Queens. It’s not worth traveling to Sunnyside for this restaurant, but if you’re in the ‘hood, you definitely want to try this Thai.

Yum Yum Queens

43-01 Queens Boulevard (at the corner of 43rd Street)

Sunnyside, Queens

Take the 7 train to 40th street and walk three blocks. 

Sapori d’Ischia, Woodside

To say Sapori d’Ischia is in the middle-of-nowhere is an understatement. Off the 61st Street subway station, one must walk several blocks north and several blocks east to find this restaurant. Is it worth the walk? Sure, the food’s good, but the service could be better.

Last time we went to Sapori d’Ischia, we had a Groupon. This time, we also had a Groupon. I had made a reservation for our table earlier in the day. When we arrived, the waiter referred to us as “regolare” but the owner (I think) offered us a non-regolare table fit for four. I put the Groupon on the booth next to me, buried next to my purse.

“Is that a coupon of some kind that you have there?” he asked, peering into my business.

“Oh, yes, it is,” handing him the Groupon.

He looked me dead in the eye. “You have to present this when you come in, before you are seated,” he informed me.

“Okay, we’ll do that next time,” I said, stunned by his reprimand.

Does the Groupon negate the reservation? I wondered.

Once the Groupon inquisition was put to rest, we ordered our food and had a fine time, though the waiter was brusque, at best, for the remainder of the evening.

For an appetizer, we got the Budino al Carciofi: pureed artichoke meat with roasted red peppers and chopped bits of pancetta. It was delicious. The green, very-artichoke flavor nicely complemented the texture of the roasted red peppers.

On the table, the waiter put bread and olive oil with olives. The olive oil was thick and flavorful. The bread was crusty on the outside and delicate on the inside–exactly as it should be.

For entrees, we ordered the Fettuccine al’Antonio and the Nonna Maria Gnocchi. Sapori d’Ischia is known for the fettuccine dish: a bowl full of noodles tossed in a light white sauce that are then smothered in a parmigiano-reggiano wheel. The result is creamy, cheesy, and divine. The gnocchi, small in portion, were accompanied by lobster and truffles. The cream base made the dish rich, but there could have been a few more gnocchi to absorb the sauce.

Dessert was extremely delicious, as well. We ordered the banana caramelized Nutella bruschetta. My dining partner and I envisioned bread as the base of this dish, but we were both wrong. A whole banana lay on a smudge of Nutella with caramelized sugar and chocolate sauce on top, paired with a dollop of vanilla gelato. Mmm.

During the day, Sapori d’Ischia is a wholesale market, purveying fine Italian goods. Once, we bought bread, cheese, and olive oil–all three delighted our senses.

Sapori d’Ischia

55-15 37th Avenue (near 56th Street)

Woodside, Queens

Take the 7 to 61st Street, then walk.