Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Queens...A Taste of the World - Steinway Takes it Again

Yesterday, I had the distinct pleasure to attend--and judge--Queens...A Taste of the World at the new Citi Field. The evening brought together a mix of local restaurateurs, foodies and enthusiastic members of the Queens community. Mayor Bloomberg spoke at the event, commending Queens on its multicultural richness and its abundance of ethnic cuisine. It was a lovely celebration where much deliciousness was consumed and I could safely say that no one walked away with an empty stomach.

In addition to the evening being a showcase for Queens' culinary bests, it was also a competition, in which we judges--along with the public--decided on the "best of" in categories such as appetizer, entree, dessert, drink and an overall Taste Master's Award.

The Winners:
The results of the competition weren't surprising and Steinway restaurant of Elmhurst stole the show again, winning for Best Entree, Best Drink and the Taste Master's Award. I was happy to see that the Bantry Bay Pub of LIC won for Best Appetizer with their sensational bacon covered dates with a crunchy pecan middle. Dessert was a tight battle but once again, Cascon Bakery of Whitestone took the title of Best Dessert, with a rich offering of cheesecakes, cannolis, homemade truffles and so much more to please any sweet tooth.

Other Favorites:
With over 40 restaurants and food suppliers, there was so much excellence and deliciousness in the air, that I have to note a couple of personal favorites:

Fretzels by Jill - Gourmet chocolate covered pretzels with whimsical toppings such as mini M&Ms, Recee's Pieces, non-pareils and even toffee easily won me over. The pretzels were the perfect size and the ratio of topping to pretzel was just right. I tasted an M&Ms fretzel and loved the chocolatey crunch in every bite. Jill herself is a young entrepreneur and happens to be from the same town as my parents--small world. You can order her confections online and even customize them for special occasions.

La Fusta - This Argentinian restaurant from Elmhurst made a good impression on me with its "street meat" topped with chimichurri sauce and the veal stuffed with egg, spinach and red peppers. The veal reminded me of my mom's meatloaf, as she also uses an egg in the middle. For me, the combination of hearty meat with the creamy egg yolk and the earthy veggies was wonderful--it felt like a complete meal rather than one course.

Armando's - What stood out here were the desserts, including the ricotta cheesecake with amaretto and the tiramisu. The tiramisu was especially memorable, as it was super light, had a nice coffee flavor but didn't skimp on decadence. My fellow judges agreed that these desserts ruled supreme.

Ovelia - I'm a bit partial to my own neighborhood but there was a reason why Ovelia's booth had a constant line of people. In my opinion, it was their spicy feta spread and the homemade sausage, providing a perfect mix of modern and traditional Greek food. Chris and Pete, the charming brothers who run Ovelia also kept the crowd plentiful.

Zenon Taverna - Another Astoria favorite, I couldn't get enough of their Cypriot meatballs with fresh spices and a hint of lemon. Their stuffed grape leaves were a nice veggie option. I liked that they were light on the stomach and felt refreshing, especially after the sauce-heavy dishes that were showcased at other booths.

Overall, the event was a success--both for the restaurants and for the public. I had a great time tasting everything and meeting nice people. My fellow judges included a trio from the Young Chefs Academy of Forest Hills, a wonderful organization that teaches kids new cooking skills and educates them about nutrition.

To see more pictures from Queens...A Taste of the World, see my homepage slideshow.

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