Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Queensistan

After going on a House of Cards season 2 binge all day due to a world gone snow globe, I finally got myself out of the apartment and into the snowy tundra.  I was off to meet up with my gastrodiplomacy buddy Braden on Saturday night for some gastrodiplomacy foraging. Braden and I have foraged around Queens prior.   This time, we had settled on Central Asian fare in Rego Park, affectionately known as "Queensistan" for its Bukharan Jewish community.

I caught the 4 train up to Grand Central, and then the 7 line over to Queens.  I passed the once-hallowed ground of 5 points, which was recently savagely painted over. 

I met Braden at his residence in Sunny Side, and got to meet his fiance Robin.  We sipped some incredible Balvenie Tun 1401 Batch 9, which Braden had got a case of for the Monopoly equivalent of bank error in your favor.  Basically he got three bottles of whiskey worth a grand a piece for $50 a bottle.  This whiskey was exquisitely smooth with just a lil hint of smoke on the tongue.  He filled up a flask for the frozen road, as we were off into the snow drifts of Hoth.

Once more into the fray 
Into the last good fight I'll ever know 
Live and die on this day 
Live and die on this day
-The Grey

We ventured out into the tundra with the winds whipping snow in our faces.  Poor Braden had a recent injury with bursitis in his heel, and was unable to wear shoes with a back (ie boots) and was trekking in the snow in waterproof clogs.  Not fun.  But funny because in Rockower Bros. lexicon from Madden days, a bursitis injury was nomenclature for being a wuss.  It was strangely odd to hear of how debilitating bursitis actually was, when for so many years it held such a place of traves-shamockery.

On the open-air above-ground subway line, we waited on the back edge to get out of the swirling snow gale. Central Asian teens had snowball fights on the end of the platform as we waited.   We caught the 7 over to the R train to the snowbanks of Rego Park.  We trudged through the elements, searching out Queensistan joint to dine.

We ended up at a place called Registan.  I chose it because I had been to the Registan in Samarkand.  We entered the restaurant and sat down to watch the U.S.-Russia hockey game.  The menu had tons of Central Asian favorites, although we did not get the plov.

Instead, we had plates of tangy carrot salad with coriander and purple beet salad with scallions and walnuts. They also brought out the beautiful round Uzbek/Central Asian bread in its donut-ish shape with an indented center.

We had a plate of samsas- triangular meat pies that are like a Central Asian empananda.  Braden said they reminded him of the Lebanese spinach and meat pies, known as sfihas.  He mentioned that his Lebanese grandfather loved sfihas, and he used to sneak him some in his nursing home.  He also mentioned that when his grandfather passed away, all his cousins came together to mourn him.  Braden went over to the favorite sfiha pastry shop and got a couple of boxes that he brought over to his mourning cousins.  Everyone stood around munching sfihas and smiling about how his grandfather would have been pleased.

The main courses came out, and we had a plate of manti- Central Asian dumplings oozing with meat grease which we poured dill vinegar drops inside.

We split a plate of shashlik- long skewers of meat.  We had a veal, chicken skirt steak skewer- all were delicious and cheap at $3.50-$4 a skewer.  I picked at the skewered meats with hunks of the soft, crusty bread and sprinkled on pinches of salt and drops of chili sauce.  The Central Asian fare was a delicious reminder of a previous adventure, and nice to introduce to Braden.


After dinner, we ventured out back into the snow to visit a Thai cocktail bar.  I opted for a simple Chang Beer, but Braden got a Tom Yum cocktail based on the soup.  It was a strange concoction, with bits of lemongrass and a burning red Thai chili pepper.  I munch a bite of the pepper, and felt a line of sweat across my brow.  It was super spicy, but a welcome return since I hadn't had such a hot sensation since Mexico. I later took a second bite, which was equally hot.  I followed that too soon after with a third chomp of the pepper, and my hubris was rewarded with a chili punch to the stomach.  I think the burning pepper set-off a Central Asian grease fire in my stomach. 

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