Tag Archives: Forest Hills

My search for the best cheesecake in New York continues….

MARTHA'S COUNTRY BAKERY, 3621 Ditmars Boulevard (at 37th Street), Astoria, Queens

The Greeks may have been the ones who invented the cheesecake, but they probably were not the first to bring it to New York. We have either the Germans, Italians, or Jews to thank for that.

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But that doesn’t mean the Greeks aren’t here and that they haven’t brought cheesecake. The neighborhood of Astoria, of course, is full of Greek-owned restaurants, cafés, and bakeries. Martha’s Country Bakery is one such business that has recently expanded on Ditmars Boulevard and into other neighborhoods of Queens.

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Category: Cheesecake

All Hail, Falafel!

I underestimated the modest little falafel. I was expecting some great things, sure, but I was also anticipating lots of dry and dense chickpea balls. Greasy, soggy, and mealy were words I used very rarely in my falafel reviews. Of course, I stuck with the most renowned and popular falafel spots in the city. I’m sure terrible falafel is out there somewhere, but we’re also blessed to be rolling in the good stuff.

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Category: Falafel

My search for the best falafel in New York continues….

WAFA'S, 100-05 Metropolitan Avenue (between 70th and 71st Avenue), Forest Hills, Queens

When my mom called and I told her I had travelled to the middle of Queens for some falafel, the natural question was “Was it worth it?” And I can enthusiastically tell my mom it was indeed. I can’t imagine she’d schlep to Forest Hills on her next NYC visit just for some fried chickpeas, but for those that appreciate good Lebanese food, the trip is a worthwhile one.

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Category: Falafel

My search for the best bagels in New York continues….

The reason I was hesitant to devote so much time searching for the best bagels in the city has more to do with my sleeping habits and procrastination than it does with my fear of carbs. Bagels, of course, are best enjoyed in the morning. But I realized that if a bagel shop is open until 6:00pm, they should be serving fresh bagels all day. Don’t you think? I don’t expect them to be as hot and soft as they are first thing in the morning, but a quality bagel is a quality bagel.

I really put Hot Bialys and Bagels in Forest Hills, Queens to the test when I took the trip all the way out on the E train just a little before closing time. It was a convenient time for me, but when I walked into the shop, some chairs had been placed on tables, a guy was mopping, and the bagels were nowhere in site.

Except upon closer inspection, the bagels were still around, they were just congregated in a big plastic bag. I really felt like I did the place a disservice by coming so late. But like I said, they were open for another two hours and I feel the bagels should be as good as at any other time of day. Am I being unfair?

Of course, none were hot at this point, but the guy assured me they were all still soft. They’re hand rolled and baked on premises throughout the day. When the cashier caught me taking photos, I explained to him I had a blog. He said he had the best bagels in town (of course he did!) and was concerned for a moment that I had ordered a bialy instead of a bagel. That struck me as strange since the original name of this shop is Hot Bialys. I believe the bagel addition came later. Sure, bialys (similar to bagels, but flatter and without the hole) are less popular than bagels, but based on the name, I’d guess that would be their speciality.

I stuck with a Plain Bagel with Cream Cheese. I thought about a bialy, but I might leave that for a completely different search (or at least until I make it to Kossar’s). I made my way to the generic tables that wouldn’t have been out of place in a pizza parlor – although the exterior makes you think Jewish delicacies and the inside makes me want a Boar’s Head turkey sandwich with Swiss.

Regardless of what the place looks like or what time of day it was, they make a good bagel. The bagel had a shiny and large top and a dark, crispy bottom. This made for a chewy crust. I was pleased that the inside was still soft (just like the guy promised). And it was dressed up with some clean, cheesy cream cheese that added to the soft fluffiness.

The flavors were subtle, but I did get a hint of garlic and malt. I think the flavor had been compromised since all the bagels were bunched in that plastic bag. Yet I didn’t mind the variation. I was impressed that the bagels still had their freshness, despite them not being hot and them getting ready to call it a night.

Just goes to show, if a bagel spot is cooking them properly throughout the day, then it doesn’t matter how late I sleep or how long it takes me to leave the apartment. As long as I get there before the bags get put away for the night!

Does Hot Bialys & Bagels have the best bagels in New York? Not sure if the guy was completely accurate, but these bagels are most likely the best in the neighborhood and seem to be fresh and delicious regardless of when you show up making for an 8 out of 10.

HOT BIALYS & BAGELS
11663 Queens Boulevard (between 77th Avenue and 78th Avenue)
Forest Hills, Queens
(718) 544-0900

Category: Bagels

You have pre-conceived notions about certain things (we all do) and then when it turns out that your expectations are completely wrong, it takes a little while to adjust.  That was the case when we walked into Katsuno, a little Japanese restaurant in the middle of suburban Forest Hills.

I sort of expected this place to be dark and romantic, but the lights were bright and the few tables looked more like a fast food set-up than a respectable restaurant.  But I must say besides the layout and the lighting, everything else far exceeded my expectations of this place.

I’ve already talked about how much I love the delicate and light flavors of Japanese food and Katsuno was a perfect example of this.  As the very friendly waitress/owner approached us, I realized this was a place to take seriously, regardless of the ambiance.

In addition to the list item (cold onsen poached egg), we got an appetizer of cucumbers with wasabi miso dipping sauce, chawanmushi (an egg custard with chicken, shrimp and gingko nuts, a warm duck soba soup, and a different approach to a spicy tuna roll (the tuna was not chopped up and mixed with spicy mayo as usual).  Everything was incredibly fresh and well-prepared.  I was in heaven.

The cold onsen poached egg was the thing I had to get and even though I probably would not have ordered it myself, I’m glad it ended up in front of me.  The egg was floating in a broth of bonito and seaweed and when you gently break it, the yolk fills the bowl.  The thickness of the egg and the clean lightness of the broth were a perfect combination of flavors and textures.

I learned later that Katsuno is from the same owner and chef as Seo, which is one of my favorite Japanese restaurants in midtown.  Now if only they spruced this Queens location up to be as intimate and stylish as the Manhattan location, this would be a great destination spot.

Would Katsuno’s Cold Onsen Poached Egg make my Top 100 of the year? I’m not sure this is the dish I would pick from this place, but I probably would pick something.  The egg was interesting and delicious with the right balance of texture and flavor and therefore gets an 8 out of 10.


One of the most fascinating new food trends is the molecular gastronomy movement. Chefs have begun playing with science and chemicals to change our traditional ideas of food. It’s a neat concept. That’s how you get such unexpected flavor combinations as peanut butter vodka and fried mayonnaise. Basically, it’s food magic.

Molecular gastronomy, as far as I know, has yet to rear its scientific head in the pizza world. I’d be the first sucker to try pizza ice cream or pizza soup. But fortunately for now, we have to stick to the traditional methods of cooking pizza.

But in those old-school ways, it’s always nice to have some surprises. And there were moments during my visit to Nick’s in Forest Hills that I felt like I was at the circus.

Nick’s bright little storefront was packed (it was a Friday night) with families and couples. It really felt like a safe, comfortable suburban hangout. After a short wait, I was sat and a menu was placed in front of me. I was impressed by their interesting beer selection and the option of pizza toppings. They even offer a solution for the indecisive: you can do half white and half red pizza. I was intrigued and always interested in trying as much as possible, so I bit.

First off, I was mystified by the amount of steam rising from the dough. The effect looked more like a humidifier than a freshly baked pizza pie. I was also amazed at the half/half technique. The red sauce really did stay on its respective side allowing an impressive two pizza in one illusion. The visual reminded me of the fun I have when I shave my beard. I shave one side and leave the other side full in order to fool friends with my unique half man/half boy trick.

There wasn’t quite as much magic in the eating of the pizza, but it was overall pretty tasty. The very crispy crust was buttery, firm, and delicious. The sauce was thick but slightly uneven. It was a little too acidic and tangy with just a touch of sweetness. The cheese was flavorful and well-portioned.

There was a generous helping of fresh basil, but I couldn’t quite taste it with everything else, especially on the red side. It was a bit more noticeable on the white. It complemented the rich sweetness of the ricotta cheese.

The most impressive trick that Nick’s attempts is preparing a coal oven style pizza in a gas oven. I don’t think they fully succeed, but they come close. The ingredients are fresh enough and the pizza hot enough, but I think the crust was missing a certain char and smokiness. And the tomato sauce could have been moister.

Overall, Nick’s was a fun experience and worth the ride in from Manhattan. The pizza is good and the atmosphere is enjoyable. Now if only they could have used their magic to make my check disappear.

Is Nick’s the best pizza in NY? They definitely make good pizza and I think the whole family will have a fun, delicious experience. I give them a 7 out of 10.


Category: Pizza

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