The Chive Pocket from Delicious Jin
I can use more green in my “feed,” in more senses of that word than one. The colors of the street foods, grilled foods, fried foods and other snack foods that I taste around the city tend toward the golden browns of just-baked pastry, the ruddy hues of slow-roasted meats and the deep browns of rich sauces. My website and social media accounts are often crowded with images from the same palette.
And my daily diet, during hours-long forays on foot, is often undersupplied with greens. I don’t expect to find a street vendor offering hand-tossed salads, so when I do sit down at, say, a Chinese restaurant, many times I’ll build my meal by looking first to the menu of vegetable dishes.
A chive pocket from Delicious Jin is a remedy in both regards. The emerald filling is eye-catching; sometimes I find myself sneaking an extra look between bites. And although I can’t vouch for the nutritional content of the lightly cooked chives, I can guarantee that they’re a delight.
Better still, a chive pocket is handy, literally, if I want to hurry along on my explorations (or when I need to carry out because I can’t dine in – the sad state of affairs throughout New York City as of mid-December).
Delicious Jin opened this summer in Flushing’s Landmark Quest Mall. It’s a mini-mall, really, just one narrow corridor with stalls on either side. The proprietors come from Dalian, a port city on the southern tip of Liaoning province, nearer to Pyongyang, North Korea, than to Beijing. The winters are cold and windy. Here in Queens, as the days are getting shorter and the forecast bleaker, it’s a comfort to find cooking from folks who really know comfort food.
Bits of egg mingle with the chives; tucked in deeper are a few baby shrimp. True, the pocket itself is mottled with griddle marks, but this golden brown is apparent only when viewed from above. Seen end-on, from an eater’s point of view, things are coming up green.
– Dave Cook, Queens correspondent
Astoria Bakery, the Jackson Heights Greenmarket and More…
We may have seen the worst of the pandemic in Queens but we’ve responded as a community. There have been a lot of grassroots initiatives that have allowed people to donate what they can and take what they need. I myself have been volunteering with the Centro Corona mutual aid network.
Restaurants have been closed for indoor dining for most of the year. But that hasn’t stopped places in Queens – restaurants, street carts and everything in between – from getting food into people’s hands. So rather than one dish or one spot that has been essential for me this year, I want to recognize some of the many establishments that have persevered, providing a lifeline for myself and others in the borough.
One of the things I’ve missed most in 2020 is sitting down in a bakery for coffee and a pastry. Thank goodness for Astoria Bakery, which has great outdoor seating. I come here often and have tried many of their baked goods, but my favorites are, without a doubt, the passion fruit crème brulée and the passion fruit coffee tart. I also get to practice my Portuguese with one of the front of the house staff (they speak several languages among them, nothing out of the ordinary in Queens).
Merit Kabab, Itadi Grill and Al Naimat are my golden triangle of Indian, Pakistani and Bangladeshi food, respectively. Al Naimat stands out because as schools started closing here in New York, many kids were in danger of losing access to their lunches. Al Naimat immediately responded by offering free breakfast and lunch to any child in the neighborhood, no questions asked. I like Merit Kabab because it’s the type of place where you can stop for just a snack and tea, or an outrageous dinner, which can be enjoyed in their comfortable and well-ventilated outdoor seating area.
The Jackson Heights Greenmarket has been a stalwart in this pandemic year. It provides us access to fantastic produce, bread and more from local farmers. One of my favorite products is the hard cider from New York Cider Company – I can’t swing by the market without picking up a bottle. Their ciders are not sweet and also work well for cooking (I use a bit to deglaze… it’s glorious). But maybe more importantly, the market allowed for genuine human interaction – many of the vendors that we met over and over again became friends. Like the fantastic family behind 1857 Spirits, a distillery that makes vodka with potatoes grown at their old farm in upstate New York.
But at times of closures, it was the borough’s street vendors of every stripe who were truly indispensable. They served up everything from fruit and vegetables to full meals. At the top of the list for me is Doña Fela, who makes Peruvian street food, pork sandwiches and the only freshly fried picarones in New York City. You can call in your order and choose contactless pick-up or delivery. But every street vendor in the borough is just fantastic. I was thrilled when the Street Vendor Project, an organization that fights for the rights of street vendors, asked me to participate in a live program they were doing. We did interviews with vendors, trivia games and a bit of fundraising for their programs.
While not food-related, art has also proven to be essential in this “new normal.” With museums either shut or open at limited capacity, outdoor art shows and galleries are popping up around the city. Art is seemingly all around. There has also been a renaissance of more underground graffiti art, with pieces showing up everywhere; some take inspiration from the Black Lives Matter movement, among others. New York City has always been a city where free speech and protest flow freely, and the pandemic wasn’t going to stop us. To avoid huge crowds, though, more decentralized activities were organized in the outer boroughs. Queens hosted quite a few marches and protests this year, and I personally can’t wait to see what happens next.
– Esneider Arevalo, Queens walk leader
Editor’s note: Normally when December rolls around, we ask our correspondents to share their “Best Bites,” as a way to reflect on the year in eating. But 2020 was not a normal year. So at a time when the act of eating has changed for so many, our correspondents will write about their “Essential Bites,” the places, dishes, ingredients and other food-related items that were grounding and sustaining in this year of upheaval.
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