Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Urbane Adventure - Part 1

Jackson Heights is home to one of the most diverse ethnic neighborhoods in the entire world. Within less than 10 blocks of the subway, you may procure Korean, Thai, Indian, Filipino, and Ecuadorian food (just to name a few). Jackson Heights is a literal cornucopia of food choices with which to tantalize and entice the palette.

Armed with a map of treasure locations, and a few bottles of aperitif to get the stomach ready, the UE and 7 companions went adventuring into the wilds of Jackson Heights. We met at Grand Central Station on the East Side of New York, and hopped the 7 train into the unknown. The excitement electrified the air, drawing stares from the Queens natives as we chatted loudly about our expectations from the afternoon’s adventures. The beauty of food is its ability to inspire the growth of a community around it, and as illustrated by the rainbow of explorers on this excursion, food brought the most unlikely together in a unilateral pursuit of that which stimulates the senses and serotonin.

Our first stop was a small El Salvadorian café called Tierres Salvadorena, a quaint neighborhood café near 90th and Roosevelt Avenue. Every aspect of this diner was homey and inviting, from the lively and friendly waitresses, to the soccer match playing quietly on the television, subdued patrons watching attentively. Despite my mediocre attempt at Spanish, I managed order some pork and cheese
pupusas for the group. The freshly made corn cakes are stuffed with filling and lightly deep fried into a pancake of chorizo heaven. Needless to say, as an appetizer, this hit home. I was recently introduced to pupusas by a good friend in Houston, and would have been remiss to travel into the South American food capital of the city and not sample some of this mouth watering fare, homage to the M&M mantra of mouth melting ($6.40).

The Ecuadorans welcomed our eager mouths next at El Pequeno Café, a multi-cultural café experience specializing in foods from Ecuador, Colombia and El Salvador, just to name a few. We ordered another South American specialty – a whole roasted chicken, yellow rice, and beans.

The platoon fell on the poultry like
jarheads at the mess hall, tearing away at almost every crevice the feathered meal offered. While the chicken was savory, it was not a standout dish. Honorable mention should be given to the side of rice, however. Butter gave this plate a shimmering, almost glowing character, not undeserved either, as the perfectly cooked rice tantalized the mouth with soft, creamy textures of buttered rice and lightly steamed vegetables ($12.40).

The crew marched on.

Due to its unassuming nature, the UE almost missed the next stop on our hike. Underneath the bridge, there were a few carts scattered on opposite corners, none having a large sign. But only one had a line of people waiting rubbing their hands in anticipation. I knew this must be our next stop – Tacos Guicho. This cart has gained notoriety from several food critics for its simple, fresh ingredients and bold, memorable flavors. I ordered 2 each of the chorizo, pollo and lengua tacos. The tacos came relatively quickly, as the mother / daughter team prepared them right on the spot. Fresh quacamole was practically a footnote to the myriad of flavors in this epic. The chorizo was alive with undertones of freshly ground cumin, earthly and spicy. I refused to tell anyone what
lengua was until we had all tried some, and shocked some of our more experienced taste officers when they realized they spent their entire time eating just that ($12.00).

To be continued...


CoSkay said...

Perhaps because we were working so much...we better go on one of these food treks the next time I visit btw...it looked awesome!

wild cowgirl said...

damn...i pretty much played myself.

i hate that i missed this :(

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