Saturday, October 01, 2005

A Pair of Queens New York City Entry #17

A delight of living in New York is to discover "hidden" corners of our town, each with its own culinary surprises. Today I traveled to Forest Hills Gardens, the first and oldest planned community in the United States. The community was planned by the Russell Sage Foundation (the foundation sponsoring my visit to New York) in 1909. (It was sold to a private developer in the 1920s). The leafy community with its curving streets was designed by Frederick Law Olmsted Jr. and over the years residents have included Geraldine Ferraro, Buckminster Fuller, Jimmy Breslin, and Peter Parker (Spider-Man). One feels miles from Queens Boulevard, although it is but minutes across the LIRR tracks. Although the little corner of Queens was intended by the foundation to provide affordable housing, today smaller town houses sell for upwards of a million dollar, with private free-standing homes selling for selling for several times that amount. But perhaps this counts as affordable housing in today's New York. Cheap or dear, the community is well-worth a visit.

And on each side of the community by Ascan Avenue, chowists will find culinary attractions.

South of Forest Hills Gardens is Eddie's Sweet Shop, a century-old soda fountain (I am told that the date of founding has been lost to history). The fountain has its original charm. Perhaps it is not sufficiently elaborate to be included in the National Register of Historical Places, but along with Jahn's in Richmond Hill, Eddie's is part of the nostalgia for old New York. Eddie's makes their ingredients by hand (although I assume this does not include either the milk - I didn't spy a barn in back - or the maraschino cherry, but I was not in a contentious mood). My hot fudge sundae was exemplary. Although my walnut ice cream was not super-premium, the hot fudge was sweet and rich and the whipped cream was properly runny. It was a glorious concoction. My egg cream was more chocolate and milk than seltzer, but the counter-girl graciously offered to add as much seltzer as I wished. I only wish that I was not the only customer during a Saturday lunch. Saddle shoes have been replaced with spiked heels and Nikes and have moved on to the mall.

North of the Gardens on Ascan is Nick's, reportedly the best pizza in the borough. Notable was the stunningly fragrant sausage, if without a strong taste of fennel. It was delightful, as was the sweet yet herbed tomato sauce. My only regrets are that the crust was a little crispier than I prefer (a signature of Nick's) and the tomato and cheese are served in patches on the pizza, a style also found at Grimaldi's, although not in my youth. This is not artisinal pizza as at Di Fara, but it is awfully good, as good as Di Fara. Yet, with my gripes, my search for the platonic slice continues.

Nick's also serves stellar cannoli, more haunting than Ferrara in Little Italy and equal to an archetypal cannoli from Philadelphia's Italian Market. Nick's chooses a waffle pastry shell, making this crackly cylinder impossible as street food. The filling is smoother and more pudding-like than a more ricotta-texture. It is sublime.

* * *

For dinner I stopped in Jackson Heights, and had a disappointing meal at Inti Raymi, a Peruvian restaurant mentioned in several guides. The ceviche was fine (I enjoyed the inclusion of corn, potato, and yam), but the salad was undistinguished and the Grilled Red Snapper was dry and tasteless. To battle my circling depression I stopped in a nearby Colombian restaurant Pollos a La Brasa Mario and ordered a moist and satisfying broiled chicken which I must wipe from my fingers as I type.

Eddie's Sweet Shop
105-29 Metropolitan Avenue
Queens (Forest Hills)

Inti Raymi
86-14 37th Avenue
Queens (Jackson Heights)

Nick's Pizza
108-26 Ascan Avenue
Queens (Forest Hills)

Pollos a la Brasa Mario
83-02 37th Ave.
Queens (Jackson Heights)
718 457-8800


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