Thursday, June 30, 2011


Astoria has its fair share of street food -- Mexican taco trucks, souvlaki slingers, kebab carts, and even a Vendy Award winner all grace these fine streets. With so many options, how can you tell if a vendor is the real deal, or just a jive turkey?  You could check yelp, Chowhound, or Grub Street, but sometimes those unscrupulous foodies keep the real finds to themselves.  This would explain why I couldn't find much info on the al-Shamy kebab car located down Steinway Street.  

al-Shamy Kebab Cart
Steinway Street b/w 28th & 25th Avenues
Astoria, NY 11103

This guy is good, almost too good to share -- but I'm going to throw you a bone.  That's the way I am.

All kebabs are grilled to order, and served w/ a side of rice, salad and stewed vegetables.  The half-chicken plate can easily feed two people, and for only $9 you'd be a fool to pass.  The clientele consists of mostly Middle Eastern men, but the vendor goes out of his way to make outsiders feel welcome.  I discovered al-Shamy about five weeks ago and have been back every week since.  All it takes is one fix and you'll be hooked.

© 2011 c. c. villani @ "mission: insatiable -

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Glazed & Confused

Been glazed and confused for so long it's not true.
Wanted a carrot, never bargained for you.
Lots of people cook and few of them know, 
soul of a veggie was created below.

A solid glazing technique is essential to any cook's culinary arsenal.  At the most basic level, a glaze consists of three major components: a sugar, a fat, and a liquid.  The key player on this team is the sugar.  As the liquid evaporates, the sugar starts to caramelize, resulting in an smooth sexy sheen.  The fat molecules stabilize the glaze by providing some much needed lubrication.  Beware -- if you apply a glaze too soon into the cooking process, there is a good chance the liquid will completely evaporate, the fat will render and the sugars will "over-caramelize".  Try to keep the total cook time around 15 minutes.  

A glaze can be sweet or savory -- rudimentary or complex.  You can go hog wild w/ some fish sauce, Worcestershire, and rose jam or keep is simple w/ some sugar, chicken stock and olive oil. Let's start slow.

Glazed Carrots

1 quart carrots, chopped & blanched*
1 tsp salt
1 TBS sugar
1 TBS vincotto
1 TBS olive oil
2 cups chicken stock
  1. combine all ingredients in a 12-inch saute pan.  bring to a boil, reduce to a vigorous simmer.  cook down for 10-15 minutes, long enough for liquid to evaporate and sugar to sheen. 

* to blanch carrots -- cut into equal sized chunks, place in a pot w/ cold water and a pinch of salt.  bring to a complete boil, kill the heat, drain the carrots and allow to cool at room temperature on a half sheet tray.

© 2011 c. c. villani @ "mission: insatiable -

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Astor Place

The Astor Room is a new addition to the Kaufman Studios sector of Astoria, bordering Long Island City.  The subterranean dining room is throw-back chic, as is the menu.  The speakeasy vibe is reminiscent of the roaring twenties, or if you're a gamer -- the underwater city, Rapture, from Bioshock.

Astor Room

34-12 36th Street
Astoria, NY

Oysters Rockefeller, baked Alaska, and chicken pot pie are among a few of the revamped classics that make an appearance on the Art Deco menu.  From what I've sampled, the execution is spot on, and the extensive raw bar is a refreshing treat given the restaurant's location.  The staff is friendly and efficient, but they struggled to maintain the level of service as multiple large parties arrived.
Overall, the food was inventive and well prepared; however, the menu is a bit limited.  There are a few dishes that I would come back to try, but beyond that I'd like to see a more seasonally relevant menu.

© 2011 c. c. villani @ "mission: insatiable -