At the seventh annual Taste of LIC in early June, Queens’ culinary creativity and diversity were again on display. More than 50 Long Island City– and Astoria-based restaurants and food businesses took part in the annual event, which benefits The Chocolate Factory, a local theater.
Astoria’s Pachanga Patterson was on hand, serving up mildly spicy pork shoulder tacos with ancho chilis, garlic and onion served on fresh tortillas from Queens’ own Tortilleria Nixtamal. Pachanga’s sister restaurant Vesta Trattoria offered a refreshing tomato soup with a basil cream shooter at a neighboring booth.
Another of our favorite bites was the sweet marinated and grilled pork BBQ from Long Island City’s Ihawan 2 outpost, served on skewers (and in notably generous portions) to an eager crowd. Ihawan’s crispy, fried lumpiang, an egg roll-like Filipino snack stuffed with garlicky ground pork, were also excellent.
And no Queens food event would be complete without an appearance by the brilliantly talented team from M. Wells. Present in their current incarnation as M. Wells Dinette, they offered a showstopping fluke crudo served with a yuzu sauce and topped with a dry salad of soy nuts, seaweed, shiso and sesame seeds—all prepared on the spot for astonished event-goers.
A surprise favorite came from the talented team at Sage General Store, who dispensed grilled salmon with soba noodles with cucumber, shredded carrots, scallions and shiitake mushrooms tossed in a soy-ginger sauce. This dish, which is currently on the menu at Sage, was served cold in a festive red oyster pail—a perfect summer meal.
Other highlights of the night included the savory merguez sausage meatballs in a coconut curry sauce from LIC Market, the rich, slow-roasted Long Island duck breast cooked to perfection by chef Natasha Pogrebinsky from Astoria’s Bear and deliciously crunchy fried pork spring rolls from Tuk Tuk Thai restaurant in Long Island City.
Sweets were also available in abundance. I took the opportunity to try chimney cake, a traditional wedding pastry made by Hungarians in Transylvania. The cake is made by wrapping dough around a cylinder before baking it, which gives the pastry a uniquely cylindrical shape. Chimney cake can be flavored with a variety of toppings. I tried the plain, coconut and chocolate kinds, and they were all exceptional.
I also had the pleasure of meeting several Queens food entrepreneurs at this year’s event. Red Thalhammer started Antidote Chocolate in her Long Island City apartment in 2010. Committed to creating a healthier chocolate bar with less sugar, Thalhammer uses high-quality Ecuadorian cacao paired uniquely with add-ons like banana, cayenne, almond and fennel to craft her chocolate bars.
I also met the charming Mitchell Greenberg, who makes MitchMallows out of Long Island City’s Entrepreneurs Space kitchen. Mitch’s colorful handmade marshmallows come in creative, fun varieties like wine and cheese and beer and pretzel, which we happily sampled.
The evening truly captured the creative, collaborative spirit of a borough that clearly has no shortage of amazing, diverse food.
Follow all of Sue Yacka’s food explorations at her blog, Tastoria Queens