In “Queens: A Culinary Passport,” Andrea Lynn offers a curated slice of Queens that’s part guidebook, part cookbook.
“It’s a celebration of Queens,” Lynn said. An Astoria resident, she had long been keeping a running list of her favorites in the borough, spending Saturdays with her husband eating and exploring.
The book offers suggestions for walking tours and highlights of restaurants and food shops—some better known and some hidden gems.
Discussing what dishes she remembers the most, Lynn revealed a passion for potatoes. “I love my starches,” she said.
She loves Greek lemon roasted potatoes but found that hers were never lemony enough. At Taverna Kyclades in Astoria, she finally got a recipe that works. At Ben’s Best Kosher Deli in Rego Park, she met her dream potato pancakes. At Himalayan Yak, in Jackson Heights, she found potatoes flavored with panch phoron, a five-spice mix of cumin, nigella, black mustard, fennel, and fenugreek that impart warmth and earthiness. To the owner, they were “just potatoes” as usual, but to Lynn, the flavors were anything but ordinary.
In some cases, Lynn was invited into the kitchen to observe dishes being made. In other cases, she received a list of ingredients. A graduate of the Institute of Culinary Education and a recipe developer herself, she was able to recreate the dishes she had tasted.
One neighborhood was a tough nut to crack. Grace Young, award-winning author of several books on Chinese food, had let her know that she would get no answers in Flushing. Young proved right.
In the course of her research, Lynn was introduced to some new cooking techniques as well, like the Filipino method of braising meat and throwing in vegetables at the end, resulting in a juxtaposition of tender, soft meat and crispy vegetables.
The world is maybe smaller than it seems. As an Alabama native, Lynn was surprised to see pimento cheese, which she had deemed purely southern, at a Filipino store. That variation included pineapple juice and condensed milk.
Lynn offers a recipe from Gregory’s 26 Corner Taverna, for the best grilled octopus she has had, and a recipe for Arroz con Pollo from Rincon Criollo.
“Queens: A Culinary Journey” ($19.99) can be ordered through Amazon.com.