Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

SD #19: Even I Cannot Live On Guac Alone

March 9, 2013

Now that we’re trying to get back in the swing of Serial Dining Woodside, our quest to eat at all of Woodside’s many restaurants in alphabetical order, I think I remember why our adventure stalled out a while ago:  La Cabanita.  This is the restaurant that opened up at 6406 Roosevelt Ave after the closing of El Paso, which was the next retaurant on the list after El Nuevo Izalco.  Sometimes I think I’m the worst food blogger ever, because I love almost everything we’ve tried, so my posts are all like, “This was awesome!”  Not so La Cabanita.  It’s small, and because they have the jukebox, the radio, and at least one television going the whole time we were there, there was a constant, pointless, totally off-putting cacophony of noise that only the most idiotic of restaurant owners would create.  The service was slow despite the dining room being almost entirely empty.  We were alone almost the entire time we were there.  Finally, somebody else came in, but it turned out he just wanted to use the bathroom.

Anyone who knows me knows that I am a guacamole fiend.  My guacamole consumption habits are officially sanctioned by my doctor and by my former food nazi, both of whom felt I needed more heart-healthy fats and magnesium in my life.  These are the little sacrifices we must make in life.  Some people have to eat more broccoli.  I have to eat more guac.  It sucks, you know?  Anyway, every single time I go to a Mexican restaurant, I try the guac.  La Cabanita was no exception, and in fact, their guac was really good.  I don’t remember what we ordered after the guac, but both Allan and I remember it being very slow to arrive, and not worth waiting for once it did.  In fact, we didn’t even save the pictures.

That visit was some time in December of 2012, and that was the last of our Serial Dining adventures.  I think the experience of coming across bad Mexican food in Woodside was just too much of a shock.  I’m pretty sure they’ve already gone out of business.

More than a year has transpired, and we’re ready to get back in the groove.  There are hidden gems in Woodside yet to explore, and we mean to find them out!  Stay tuned for further Serial Dining Woodside adventures!


Won’t Somebody Think of the Potatoes?

November 9, 2011

Priorities, people. Repeat after me: Make the school lunches healthy, and then do whatever you must to pay for it. I don’t even have kids, and this principle is perfectly obvious to me. But apparently when it cuts into the profits of the food-industrial complex, it’s not so cut and dried. Behold, the cluster-f-bomb:

I must give the USDA snaps for trying to encourage healthier diets in kids.  I still can’t get over how they actually help dairy farmers sell more full-fat dairy products by hiring marketing experts to design and advertise even-more-cheese-laden fast food items to sell us.  And of course, these are the people that brought you corn subsidies.  This time, they’re not the villain.  But their efforts to reform school lunches and reduce the amount of starch and sodium kids consume with their school lunch have been met with resistance from legislators and the industries who own them.  Apparently it’s not a good idea to put the kibosh on the school lunch potato parade, because that hurts potato farmers.  You’ve heard this song before.  It’s the same one the corn farmers sing when they’re afraid somebody might turn off the corn subsidy gravy train.

Even school officials in urban areas are fighting against the changes, because they don’t think they can afford the $0.14 per lunch extra it will cost to serve more non-starchy vegetables in place of so many potatoes.  How sad is the state of affairs when the very people charged with looking out for the most vulnerable are basically forced to say, “Please let us continue feeding crap to our kids.”

I feel the same way about the potato farmes as I do about the corn farmers and the dairy farmers who complained when Americans started buying fewer full-fat dairy products:  If your profits are based upon selling more of your products than is healthy for your customers to eat, I have no sympathy for you.

SD #16: The Best Cheeseburger in New York

October 26, 2011

On August 5, we had a visit from Allan’s good friend Brian, who was in town for work.  When lunchtime rolled around on Saturday afternoon, Brian was in the mood for a cheeseburger.  This being Woodside, our mission was clear:  Take Brian to Donovan’s Pub for The Best Cheeseburger In New York.  As luck would have it, Donovan’s was next on the serial dining list, so when we left the apartment, I took the camera along.

Donovan’s doesn’t look like much from the outside, but on the inside it’s absolutely gorgeous.  It’s like a a warm, dark, cozy retreat from the world, decorated with lots of dark wood and stained glass.  It’s not necessarily a quiet one, though.  The guys at the bar can get boisterous, especially if one of the local sports teams is on.  To me, it all just adds to the authenticity and charm.  Here’s what Donovan’s looks like on the outside.  Note the banner proclaiming them the best burger in New York:

Donovan's Pub

But here’s what it looks like on the inside:

The bar at Donovan's Pub

Donovan’s is widely reviewed and widely enjoyed.  You can read about it at New York Magazine online, Time Out New York, BurgerBeast, CitySearch, Yelp, Urban Spoon, and on the Outer Boroughs board at Chowhound.  You’ll see one or two complaints about rude or slow service, but generally people enjoy Donovan’s for the same reasons we do, and they worship.  The.  Burgers.

Early in the summer, Donovan’s had to close for a week or so due to a health code violation, but if rumors are to be believed, there was some skullduggery there involving a local competitor.  In any case, they addressed the problems and had the place open again very quickly, and we’ve never noticed any unclean conditions before or after.

The wait staff at Donovan’s have always been genuinely warm and friendly when we’ve been there, and many of them are the genuine Irish article, which adds to the ambience.  It’s not an Irish-themed pub staffed with college students wearing shamrock buttons on their green shirts.  It’s the real thing.  They do have menu items that aren’t traditional Irish or Irish-American dishes, especially on the list of daily specials.  But for classics like fish and chips or shepard’s pie, this is a great place to go.  And, of course, for their top-rated burgers.  That rating is from several years ago now, but the burgers are still the best in Woodside if you ask me.  Virtually everything I’ve ever had there has been spectacular– the burgers, the fish and chips, the soups (they do a killer French onion), and especially their Thanksgiving dinner.  The only thing we’ve had there that wasn’t all that impressive is the jalapeno poppers, which basically tasted like they came out of a box in the freezer section at Costco.  But hey, how high can the expectations really be for a jalapeno popper?

For this visit, I had the fish sandwich, and both Allan and Brian ordered cheeseburgers.  Unfortunately, the lighting inside Donovan’s is so low the food pictures didn’t turn out, with or without the flash.  Don’t get me wrong– I love, love, love the low lights in Donovan’s.  It’s my camera that doesn’t.  But trust me– the food looked as good as it tasted, and it tasted gooooooood.

I can’t recall exactly how much we spent there for lunch that day.  I want to say maybe about $45 for three lunches and three beers.  Don’t quote me on that.  Whatever it was, we paid it in cash, because Donovan’s is a cash-only operation.  Keep that in mind if you go.
Donovan's Pub on Urbanspoon

SD #13: Squash Blossoms & Corn Smut, y’all!

June 26, 2011

I love this time of year.  I have Fridays off, which means I have a chance to have a nice, leisurely lunch with Allan– the perfect opportunity for serial dining!  Last week’s Friday lunch was at Masala, which was really spectacular.  How to top that?  Fortunately, the next restaurant on our serial dining list was De Mole, 4502 48th Ave on the far western edge of Woodside.  We’ve been there many times before and we love it.  It’s my go-to place for enchiladas verdes con pollo.  The restaurant is cute and clean, with friendly staff and good service.  We’ve never, ever had a bad time there.  And today, the forces of alphabetical order decreed that we must go there for lunch.  Here’s what it looks like from the outside:

De Mole

De Mole

I included two shots of the exterior because I want you to see the intricate brickwork on the outside of the building.  This has nothing to do with food, but I must give a shout-out to all the Italian-American bricklayers who built so many of the gorgeous brick buildings in Queens and the other boroughs of the city.  Obviously I don’t know for sure that my fellow Italian-Americans built this exact building, but truly beautiful, lasting brick edifices are one of the many fruits of the labor of Italian immigrants, and once in a while I like to point that out.  But I digress.

Before I get back to De Mole, I want to include this shot of China One Taco across the street, for people who live in the suburbs and don’t see this type of place.  China.  Tacos.  You just don’t expect it, you know?  But it happens a lot in New York.  The street between De Mole and China One is, I believe, the dividing line between the Woodside and Sunnyside zip codes.  So we won’t cover China One in our serial dining adventure, but it’s fun to look at, so here it is:

China One Taco House

So.  Back to De Mole.  They serve Mexican food, including a lot of southern dishes in the Pueblan style.  There are lots of reviews of De Mole online if you’re interested, mostly raving about the food and its authenticity.  In fact, when I Googled before we went, I was surprised by how many times it’s been reviewed– far more than any place we’ve been to so far.  You can read about De Mole at Yelp, Urban Spoon, Chowhound, the Eating in Queens blog, Shauna Eats Sunnyside, New York Magazine, the Wall Street Journal, and even Zagat and Michelin, which often overlook a lot of outer-burrough restaurants.  I can’t post links to those last two because they require paid subscriptions, but if you subscribe, go read– I bet they’ll tell you De Mole is fantastic.

The menu had some staples you see in any Mexican restaurant in the city like burritos, tacos, and enchiladas, plus a variety of more unusual items.  The chef is from the state of Puebla in southern Mexico, so if you’re used to northern Mexican food, you’ll notice some interesting surprises.  There are also vegetarian-friendly dishes; I noted many favorable comments from vegetarians and vegans among the comments around the web.  Here’s the interior of the restaurant:

De Mole from the inside!

Also, check out their super-colorful menus:

As I said, this is my go-to place for enchiladas, and I also love their guac, which is fresh and chunky.  However, this being our official serial dining visit, I decided to try something new.  For a starter, we ordered the Ceviche Vera Cruz.  They make it with either fish or scallops.  We chose the fish.  It was fresh and tangy with a variety of finely chopped vegetables to go with the fish.  They serve it in a little tortilla bowl, and you can eat it either alone or on the tortilla chips that come with the complimentary salsa.  We added a bit of salt to it to bring out the flavors.  Overall, I liked the Ecuadorian-style ceviche at Braulio y Familia better, but I definitely enjoyed this dish.

For a main dish, I chose quesadillas and Allan chose a carne asada burrito.  Our server could tell from our discussion that we both intended to taste both dishes, so he helpfully cut the burrito in half and brought it out on two plates.  Like I said, the people are nice and the service is good.  There are two types of quesadillas at De Mole:  tradicionales, which are made with corn tortillas, and sincronizadas, which are larger and made with flour tortillas.  Tradicionales come in four varieties:  corn mushroom, shredded Pueblan-style brisket, squash blossom, and Oaxaca cheese.  They’re not huge, so we decided to try all four.  If you’ve never had this type of quesadilla before, I highly recommend this strategy– you’ll taste some amazing new things.

The burrito was great.  One of the better ones I’ve had.  However, the quesadillas tradicionales were mind-blowing.  First of all, I’m accustomed to quesadillas that are basically two flour tortillas stuck together with melted cheese, with or without chicken or some other type of filling.  These are not that.  They actually look more like tacos– corn tortillas folded in half, with shredded lettuce and other fillings, always including cheese.

“Corn mushroom” is a euphemism for a corn fungus called huitlacoche in Mexico and “corn smut” here in the U.S.  I had never even heard of it before, much less tasted it, but I found this neat article from the Huffington Post explaining it, complete with a smutty photo.  All I can say is, whoever was the first person to taste a smutty ear of corn was either desperately hungry, very brave, or both.  However, I’m glad they did, because the stuff tastes good, and according to the Huff Post, it’s extremely nutritious and economically advantageous to grow, because you can charge more for the smut than the corn it grew on.  How cool is that?

The brisket quesadilla had a nice smokey flavor and just enough saltiness.  Oaxaca cheese is basically Mexican mozzarella, and it goes perfectly with a corn tortilla.  However, the squash blossom quesadilla was the real standout.

Here’s my squash blossom story:  My father’s people are Italian.  When they immigrated to New York from Naples in the early years of the 20th century, if they had a a house or apartment with access to a patch of dirt, in addition to tomatoes and figs, they had a grape arbor and let the vines grow up over everything including the house.  You still see grape arbors here and there in the city, and a handful of families still make their own wine.

For more recent immigrants from Latin America, apparently squash vines are the new grape arbor.  Last summer I was fascinated to watch a family just north of the 69th St stop on the 7 subway grow squash vines in their tiny yard and let them grow up the side of the house onto the roof.  I wondered what would happen when the squash themselves got big; wouldn’t they roll off the roof?  Well, I never had a chance to find that out, because apparently the squash weren’t the objective in the first place.  The blossoms were.  Once the flowers bloomed on the vine, they were quickly harvested, and the vines eventually withered away.  I thought that was weird– wouldn’t it be better to have the squash?  After today’s lunch, I get what the big deal is.  I actually took pictures of the flowering vines from the subway platform, but this was more than a year ago and I seem to have deleted them at some point.  I mean, how could I know those pics would actually come in handy someday for a blog post on squash blossom quesadillas?

Anyway, here’s our food:

Complimentary chips & salsa

Ceviche Vera Cruz

Steak burrito

Quesadillas tradicionales: Oaxaca cheese, squash blossom, brisket, corn mushroom

Obviously, after all that food we skipped dessert.  However, I have to make a plug for the flan at De Mole.  We’ve had the coconut flan and the orange flan, and both are absolutely amazing.  If you go, as difficult as this will be, try to save room for flan.

Total price for all of this delicious food plus a Coke for me and a banana licuada for Allan:  $34.57 plus tip.

De Mole on Urbanspoon

Lap Band approved for the just barely fat.

February 17, 2011

Not too long ago I wrote this about Allergan’s push to get the FDA to approve the lap band for people with a BMI as low as 30.  If you missed that post, go read it because it contains links to actual photographs of people with a BMI of 30 so you can see who we’re talking about.

A group of bariatric physicians wrote a letter urging the FDA not to approve the band due to lack of long-term studies that show it is safe and effective.  Again, these were bariatric physicians, not bariatric surgeons– in other words, people who are experts in treating fat patients but who don’t stand to be rolling in money from letting just about everybody with a fat roll get a lap band.  But money talks, and true concern for the lives and health of fat people walks.  The FDA has approved the expansion of eligibility for the band.

There are health-based criteria for who can get a lap band at such a low BMI, but I can’t help but feel like this is a camel’s nose under the tent that will eventually lead to widespread implantation of hardware into people’s bodies for vanity.  There’s a Long Island surgical practice that does lapbands, and their subway ads don’t show people’s dramatically improved AIC or cholesterol levels.  They show a woman in a bikini and another woman raving about how she doesn’t have to shop in plus size stores anymore and how, as soon as she lost the weight, a husband magically appeared.  I wish she could have seen the Adipositivity Project’s Valentine’s Day Special series (warning: NSWF) before she concluded that she needed the fat surgery in order to find love (or at least before allowing herself to be marketed that way by her surgeons), but I digress.  She does also mention that her diabetes is in remission, but that hardly seems the main thrust of the ad.

I guess the only way to get long term data on safety and effectiveness is to have subjects to study.  You can’t claim safety if you don’t have data, but you can’t get data if you don’t have subjects.  I get it.  But then the message you need to be sending in the meantime is “Hey, we’re basically experimenting on you,” not, “Woo hoo, shop off the rack at the skinny chick stores and snag yourself a husband to boot!”






Coupon Code for Navabi! Knock yourselves out!

November 3, 2010

In case you missed this, posted as a comment under my post about lagenlook-style clothes:

Maryam Says:
November 3, 2010 at 9:35 AM | Reply edit


this is the Managing Director of navabi. I read your post and would like to give you and your readers a coupon code . If you are interested id be glad to get in touch. Just write me an email to

Looking forward to hear from you.



Go for it, ladies! I just bought my first two items from Navabi last week, and I am THRILLED with them!  If you click the link to Navabi on the original post, you ‘ll see that it now points to a message telling that the item in question is no longer available.  That’s because I bought the last two in stock– two gorgeous, long, loose, 100% Merino wool sweaters by Barbara Speer.  But there are lots of other great items there, so go browse around, save up your pennies, and buy something!

Also, I have to give Navabi praise for their fast shipping.  They’re in Germany, and they ship via DHL.  The day I bought these sweaters, I also ordered two pairs of shoes from Footsmart and some items from Hanes, both of which are here in the U.S.  The Navabi order was the first one to get here.  The Hanes stuff showed up a few days later, and the shoes STILL aren’t here.  So two very enthusiastic thumbs up for the super-fast shipping from Navabi!  I am definitely a fan!




Inventor of the glycemic index diet dies at 66

August 30, 2010

Another one from the “you can do everything right and still die young” files:

Michel Montignac, who invented the concept of losing weight by choosing foods with a low glycemic index, has died at age 66.  You can read the New York Times obituary here.

So he follows in the path of Atkins, who also attempted to revolutionize the way we eat and help us all get thin and healthy, only to die an early death himself.  Not that I’m equating him with Atkins; I think his ideas hold a lot more merit than Atkins’ did.  Preventing huge rushes of insulin into the bloodstream does seem helpful on its face, and choosing less-processed foods over more-processed foods seems more likely to provide our bodies what they evolved to eat.  It just really catches my attention when a diet guru dies young.

Skinny alumna to women’s college: I’ll give you $1M if you stop being fat

August 24, 2010

This was on the “most emailed articles” list in the Chronicle of Higher Ed daily update today:

Donor Pledges Dollars if Stephens College Workers Lose Weight

Basically, there’s an 87-year-old Stephens alumna whose biggest accomplishment in life is apparently that she can still fit into her prom dress, and she doesn’t like it that there are fatties on the staph of her alma mater.  So she is dangling a cool million in front of the college if the president loses 25 pounds and the rest of the staff loses a collective 250, all by January.

Both the college and the potential donor claim this is all about getting healthy.  But the article notes that the staff are all planning to “start their diets this weekend.”  I guess somebody didn’t get the memo that diets are unhealthy and not an effective long-term strategy for weight loss.

I get that workplace weight loss programs are all the rage right now, misguided and ineffective though they may be.  And from some types of industries I wouldn’t expect much.  But from a college I expected better.  College and universities are in the business of thinking.  They’re where the knowledge is supposed to be coming from.  Research is done, new information is generated, new ideas are introduced, and old ideas are tested and, when found wanting, modified or discarded.  Shades of grey are explored and simplistic black-and-white arguments just aren’t good enough.  Students are taught to think critically and support their ideas and arguments with facts.  At least that’s what’s SUPPOSED to be happening.  So when a college jumps uncritically on the “all fatness is bad and all weight loss is good” bandwagon, it bugs me.  When it makes overly simplistic judgments based on stuff “everybody knows” rather than considering what the research tells us, it bugs me.  Because of an institution of higher learning can’t get the hell over all that, I have no confidence that any organization can.

Holy deliberately missing the point, Batman!

August 10, 2010

An old schoolmate of mine posted this to Facebook today:

Good Looks Hurt Women’s Employment Chances, Study Finds

Um, no.  That’s not what the study finds.

You can click through and read the whole article if you want, but let me sum it up for you:  Physically attractive women have an advantage in hiring for just about every type of job, and they make more money on average than women who are less attractive.  But in a small number of tradionally male-dominated fields, the hotties are less successful than the notties.  And Erin Donnelly of StyleList concludes from this information that “Good Looks Hurt Women’s Employment Chances.”

The photo illustration accompanying the article reminds me of nothing so much as the woman who claimed Citibank fired her because she was too hot.  Memo to the tragically hot:  Wearing suits that are a size too small for you in order to draw attention to yourself may turn some heads in Accounting in the short term but won’t get you taken seriously in the boardroom in the long term.  Thank you.  Drive through.

So.  Ms. Donnelly.  I don’t even know what to say.  Her conclusion is exactly the OPPOSITE of what the facts stated in her own post support.  If you have an advantage in every possible way except a tiny circumscribed few, then you have an advantage.  I’m gonna guess Ms. D either never learned analytical skills in college, or (even worse) she knows how to draw conclusions from facts but chooses not to, because a more sensationalistic title garners more clicks.  If you’re gonna be that irresponsible, please stop writing.

To be fair, this IS StyleList, and not, say,  But still.

You can do everything right, and still die young

June 2, 2010

K. Dun Gifford, father of the Oldways food movement, is dead at age 71 of a heart attack.  You can get more details here, but here’s what I want you to know:  The guy who started one of the most important healthy-eating movements in modern times couldn’t even make it to average life expectancy without keeling over from a heart attack.  What can we learn from this, boys and girls?

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