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Where to buy lamb (raw) in the boroughs?

I live in Astoria where lamb is plentiful. But I don't think it's ever cheap. There are many butchers by the Broadway and 30th Ave stops on the N train. They're all good. But lamb chops are never cheap. Neither is a leg of lamb. But shanks and cheap and bones and heads are basically free. I think you should go to a butcher that sells a lot of lamb for quality. I doubt the price for legs and chops will be much cheaper.

Or, if you really want some fun, go to the live poultry place at 31-37 20th Ave (Ditmars Ave stop on the subway). Pick out a live lamb! You can't get much fresher than that. Plus you'll have lots of leftovers. You should read The Supper of the Lamb for inspiration.

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Astoria Live Poultry
31-37 20th Ave, Queens, NY 11105

Mar 11, 2011
fotaq in Outer Boroughs

HOTTEST hot pepper for sale at Astoria Bodega

Yes. Smart Choice.

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Smart Choice
2855 31st St, Queens, NY 11102

Aug 15, 2010
fotaq in Outer Boroughs

HOTTEST hot pepper for sale at Astoria Bodega

They're back! It was the same guy working as last Sunday night. But he insisted they were not *his* peppers and should always be there. The bag was filled with red peppers (and a few green). But isn't the color just a matter for time with green turning to red.

The guys there are indeed Bangladeshi. And the name he used is Naga Morich. He did not know it by the Indian, "bhut jolokia."

Aug 15, 2010
fotaq in Outer Boroughs

HOTTEST hot pepper for sale at Astoria Bodega

They had both green and red. I bought two and two.

But I went back the bodega a few days ago and asked if they had any more peppers. The guy had absolutely no idea what i was talking about and looked at me like I was crazy.

It was about 1am on a Sunday night when I bought them. So I might try and go back at the same time and see if the same guy is working. I mean, I'm not crazy. I did see them. I did buy them. I still have them!

My Indian friend who loves them says when you cook with them, you leave them whole and let them simmer with the dish. Then you don't eat them.

Aug 13, 2010
fotaq in Outer Boroughs

HOTTEST hot pepper for sale at Astoria Bodega

The generally unremarkable Bangladeshi (or Indian, or Pakistani) Bodega on 31st Street just north of the 30 Ave Subway Stop (east side of street) -- which does, finally sell beer -- has some of the ab-so-lute-ly hottest peppers for sale. Last night they were laid out on a Hindi newspaper by the register. Fifty cents each. "They better be hot," said, I, with attitude. Then I bit just the teeniest little tip of the end of one.

Wow! I've never had anything like it (and this despite the fact I buy random hot pepper I come across)

I've since identified this crazy pepper as Bhut Jolokia.

Buy them while you can. But be careful. No joke.

Aug 09, 2010
fotaq in Outer Boroughs

Kabab Cafe Closed for Vacation 4/13/09 to 4/20/09

Kabab Cafe will be closed from one week from April 13 through April 20. Ali is going with his son to Madrid, Spain, for one week. He'll be back and cooking on Tuesday, April 21.

I had delicious food there last night: duck dumplings, veal and meatball stew, and lamb cheeks. Yum.

Apr 11, 2009
fotaq in Outer Boroughs

Best Thai nearest Santa Monica?

Thanks for the tips--both the place names and the thread links (I searched but couldn't find them myself)!

I picked 10 miles sort of arbitrarily. I'd hate to bike 10 miles and stop 3 miles short of the good stuff! And I can always put my bike on a bus if I'm too stuffed of tired to bike back to Santa Monica (though it's easier to bike back because it's downhill). Thai Town it will be! Thank you all.

May 22, 2008
fotaq in Los Angeles Area

Best Thai nearest Santa Monica?

I'm in town for a visit from New York and want to eat the best Thai food I can. I'm partial to Northern Thai, but will gladly settle for anything great. I don't care at all about decore, service, or hell, even cleanliness. I just want tasty Thai food that will make me love this city.

L.A. is so big and boring to an outsider who knows not what he does or where he goes. I'm in Santa Monica (which outside of the farmers market doesn't impress me, food-wise--am I missing something?) and getting around by bicycle. I'm willing to bike 10 miles or so, one way. Where should I go?

[And unrelated to Thai food, can I just mention that the al pastor from taco trucks in L.A. is so much better than the al pastor in NYC. It must be a Mexican regional thing.]

May 22, 2008
fotaq in Los Angeles Area

Kabab Cafe Update: great fish, help wanted

You know, I'm not sure. I may go back there tomorrow for the bass. I'll let you know if I do.

I did ask him about salt. Because I think he uses a lot (and I like a lot). He seemed slightly offended when I said (as a compliment) he has a heavy hand with salt. He said, "I salt one time." And most people, he explained, salt many times. "Every time something goes int the pan (veggies, meat, whatever), they add a little salt." Maybe he's right.

I would say the "Ali taste" is some combination of white wine, garlic, and char. Watching him, the one thing I notice is there's a healthy glug of white whine in all the main dishes.

Aug 02, 2007
fotaq in Outer Boroughs

Kabab Cafe Update: great fish, help wanted

I had lunch at Kabab Cafe today with a friend and was amazed to find the place empty (but granted in was the off-hour of 3pm). He says he's been very busy since the great New York Times review one week ago.

Chef Ali has some amazing fish. Steak cuts from a *huge* wild red snapper. The cross-sectional piece looks as big as a small-to-regular sized red snapper. I really didn't know that snappers got that big. And we had a tail piece. I think he said it was 15lb fish or thereabouts. He said he also has bass, which is probably just as good. But I like snapper more. And since it wasn't farm raised, it tasted like real fish! Delicious! Not muddy or corny at all. Served with great vegetables and rice. $22, if I remember correctly.

It’s nice to see him cooking so well with his new oven.

He also said he needs full-time prep-work/waitstaff help. That’s one person that can do both. So if you like Ali and need work, or just know somebody who needs work, have them stop by. 25-12 Steinway. Closed Monday.

Ali also told me that he has word that the “Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations” episode filmed at Kabab Cafe a while back will finally air, perhaps this week (I think on Sunday or Monday on the Travel Chanel?).

Aug 01, 2007
fotaq in Outer Boroughs

Kebab Cafe Closed For At Least One Month

I had dinner at Kebab Cafe last night (delicious short ribs!) and Chef/Owner Ali asked me to pass on the word that tonight (Wednesday) will be his last night for a while.

He will be closed for one month. Maybe more.

Ali is going to Egypt for a few weeks. When he returns in mid-May he will make some changes. Renovations, a new menu, perhaps a very different concept. Among other things, I think he is trying to figure out a system that does not involve him working 70 hours a week, every week.

In the meantime, Ali urges everybody to go to his brother's place, Mombar, just down the street. Mustafa, Ali's brother, will be featuring some of Kebab Cafe's menu while Ali is gone.

Mombar is at 25-22 Steinway Street in Astoria.
tel: 718-726-2356

Apr 18, 2007
fotaq in Outer Boroughs

Anthony Bourdain at Kabab Cafe

Anthony Bourdain was at Kabab Cafe in October filming an episode for his how on the subject of innards’ meats. Ali cooked at feast. Bourdain seemed to love his meal, best I could tell. Afterwards they smoked sheesha at Ali’s brother’s place, Mombar.

Ali said if all goes well, Bourdain’s piece should air in June. Hopefully this will do both of them some good!

Bourdain is tall.

Nov 11, 2006
fotaq in Outer Boroughs

kebab cafe problem

Give the guy a break! He charges me $1 for a bottle of water! It's so cheap because he doesn't want to deal with tap water. Given his place, it's just easier for him to serve cold Poland Spring water than deal with warm tap water (he has no ice) and cleaning glasses (he never seems to have enough).

Give the man some credit for making a living. How many other places, many of them good, have gone under?

Nov 11, 2006
fotaq in Outer Boroughs

Henckel versus Wusthof knives

Yeah, they're similar. All a matter of preference and comfort when holding. Get a knife sharpener. Even the best knife sucks if it's dull.

Sep 14, 2006
fotaq in Cookware

Do I want a rice cooker?

Rice cookers rock. One of the few kitchen gadets I wouldn't live without. That and a blender are the only things I have in the kitchen that I plug in. Not even a microwave. So simple. So good. I don't know anybody who has one and isn't a convert.

Oh, I do have a popcorn popper. Perhaps not necissary, but it does for popcorn what the rice cooker does for rice. And I love popcorn.

Sep 14, 2006
fotaq in Cookware

Seasoning a Wok

Seasoning is easier than most people make it out to be. Bacon fat (or anything similar) is probably better for seasoning than oil because it's heavier. And tastier.

Iron rocks... both pans and woks. Everything complicated you hear *is* correct. But the best way to season these babies is to use them. Cook in them. Cook fatty things in them. And don't scrub too hard when cleaning. But part of the beauty is that they're old-fashioned non-stick. And they're not fragile. Really easy to clean. Scrambled eggs can be kind of a bitch to clean. Then just leave some water in them over night and the eggs will come out with mild scrubbing with something vaguely abrasive, like the rough side of some of the sponges out there.

And, yes the patina does creep up the sides. It also often disappears from the bottom of the wok because of the intense heat down there (you can simply burn it off). But no worries. It's really hard to mess up if you use the wok a lot. If not, just make sure it's dry before putting it away. Even better, wipe a little oil in it before putting it away. It can rust. That's bad. But it won't rust if you use it just once in a regular while.

Sep 14, 2006
fotaq in Cookware

late night octopus bar food in Astoria

I friend told me about a bar that served octopus and had live Greek music just around the corner from me. I finally went there last week. And, well, it does.

Jimbos bar in Astoria. 30-05 Astoria Blvd.

Was it the best octopus ever? No. But it was good. Pre-cooked (boiled), then broiled and charred to order. With oregano and lemon. A bit too tender for my taste (but I like my octopus grilled fresh and with a good tough bite).

We also had a slab of feta with olive oil. It was good. Served with standard bad Astoria white bread. But the bread was also put in the broiler to toast which made it better.

They also have lamb chops and a limited selection of other Greek standards. It may not cut the mustard as fine dining, but as barfood it may be the best I've ever had. And it was 2AM. On a weeknight. I'll be back. Music, for better or for worse, is about three nights a week. But I forget the nights.

It's a bar. They also serve beer and liquor.

Sep 09, 2006
fotaq in Outer Boroughs

Great meal Kabab Cafe... and he's looking for a new cook.

Ali does like his char, but if those picture don't look good to you... don't go. His vegetables aren't "carefully" sliced. If you or your S.O. will pick on him for that, well, he's not for everybody. Nor does he want to be. But that being said, he won't overcook his food.

Good news is he was busy tonight. And trying out new help.

Sep 09, 2006
fotaq in Outer Boroughs

Great meal Kabab Cafe... and he's looking for a new cook.

Losing Luis probably is a blow. But I can't help but feel it may be the best for both of them. 5 years is a long time for those two men to be in the same small place together.

Best I can tell Luis is getting a little more money, but isn't moving up in the food world at all.

Let's hope Ali can find a good replacement. Otherwise he's goig to have some long hard nights there. That's for sure.

Sep 01, 2006
fotaq in Outer Boroughs

Great meal Kabab Cafe... and he's looking for a new cook.

We ate again at Kebab Cafe last night. The duck was superb. He also made, on a bizarre special request, a schnitzel. Who would have thought he could make delicious German food?

And I forget what they’re called, but he makes these delicious fried pieces, some with bastourma others with cheese on the inside. Oh they’re good.

And a new wonderful item was a tuna salad. But not your mother’s kind. Nice chunks of (raw?) tuna in a salad with a tremendous amount of raw garlic. Also with some greens, rice wine vinagar, basil, and sumac. Talk about fusion done right!

Also of note: chef/owner Ali is looking for a new cook. Luis, after 5 years, is moving on in a week or so. No doubt the pay is bad and the hours long, but if somebody is looking to work there and learn under his tutalage, stop by and inquire.

25-12 Steinway St.
Astoria, NY 11103

Aug 28, 2006
fotaq in Outer Boroughs

Kebab Cafe status

I just got back from dinner at Kebab Cafe. The food was great and the place looks great. Remodeled kitchen area. And best of all for summer, air conditioning! With air conditioning, he’s suddenly a four-season restaurant. Ali was bitch-slapped by the power outage, but I can’t help but wonder, even with power, how many people would have eaten there in 100 degree heat.

Regarding price, $30 a person seems about average. If you don't order from the menu (and you shouldn't order from the menu), just think of it as a prix fix menu. You’ll leave happy and full and pay about $30. What’s wrong with that? He’s never ripping anybody off. That’s not his style. He’s certainly not a rich man (I’ve seen the broken-down car he drives), but he is a proud cook.

So no, the place isn’t super cheap, but really, where else are you going to get a great meal for that price? At times it is a little hard to figure out exactly how Ali comes up the bottom line, but in the end it evens out and it’s always a fair price. I know him pretty well by now, so perhaps he’s even looser with me.

And if you can’t afford a proper meal there, get a falafel sandwich for lunch, it’s great and something like $5. Technically take out only, but he won’t care if the place is empty. And if you don’t have a lot of money you can probably even go in there and tell him how much you want to pay (within reason) and see what he can do for you. Maybe you won’t get stake, but you’ll eat well. That’s the kind of guy he is.

I find that when I just tell him to bring me food, he always brings me the right amount (I over order when I tell him what I want) and it’s always delicious.

On to the food. We had lamb with pomegranate, duck with honey, goat chops, and a wonderful green salad. The salad is interesting. He never tells offers it as an option. After about 5 years of going there I saw somebody else eat one and asked incredulously what it was. It’s really good. For desert some sautéed apples and pears in a sweet sauce.

One more thing about the menu, I think he only gives the menu to people he doesn’t know. Perhaps he feels like he has to act like a proper restaurant. But his specials, and there are a lot of them, are where his heart is. Go with what he has and what he wants to sell. He’s a true professional and there are a lot worse places to be for dinner than in his hands. He’s not thinking about money when he cooks. And if you can afford between $25 and $35 a person on dinner, it’s best you focus on the food as well.

The only worrisome part is that outside of my party of five, there where only two other people there. Even the best chef can’t cook for just seven covers a night.

Aug 11, 2006
fotaq in Outer Boroughs

Kebab Cafe status

Yes, Ali is officially open again! His phone works (718) 728-9858. The address is 25-12 Steinway St. And he does need appreciative people to give him business and eat his wonderful food.

Aug 10, 2006
fotaq in Outer Boroughs