Chinese in Flushing, Greek in Astoria, Indian in Jackson Heights — these are just a few of the cultures and cuisines representing Queens’ diversity.
Those that live in and around the borough are lucky enough to have access to an international menu that is not only varied, but also delicious. But with all those choices, navigating the Queens restaurant scene can be daunting. A new book, Food Lovers’ Guide to Queens: The Best Restaurants, Markets & Culinary Offerings, makes it easier.
Its publisher, Globe Pequot Press, has put out dozens of other “Food Lovers” guides to cities and areas across the country, including Brooklyn and Long Island. For each one, they seek a local food expert to research and write it, and selected blogger Meg Cotner for the Queens guide.
Cotner has her own food website, HarmoniousBelly.com. She is cofounder of the blog We Heart Astoria and editor of QueensNYC.com. She has been living in Astoria since 2005.
When she moved to the borough, she brought her passion for good food, and was able to expand her palate with Queens’ diverse dining.
“Growing up I didn’t eat the most elaborate stuff,” said Cotner. “But I always liked food and I liked talking about.”
In addition to writing for the previously mentioned sites, she also wrote about Queens for About.com. Through that job, her editor connected her to the publisher of the Food Lovers’ Guide books.
The book allowed Cotner to indulge in her passion for Queens and its food. “It was exciting to get to know parts of Queens I hadn’t gone to before,” she said.
“It was a lot of fun to discover these hidden spots.” But it was difficult narrowing down what to include in the guide. “I feel like I just scratched the surface of Queens. I feel like there’s so much out there,” said Cotner.
Food Lovers’ Guide to Queens is organized by neighborhood and subdivided into local foodie faves, landmarks (restaurants with a multigenerational following that have been around a long time), specialty stores, markets and producers and street food.
There are also additional sections with recipes from local chefs and food artisans, a list of Queens food festivals and events, information about community supported agriculture and local food-related websites.
Cotner hopes the guide, which is aimed at both locals and tourists, will bring more people to Queens.
“[The borough] offers the opportunity to have an amazing meal for a small amount of cash,” she said. “Almost any ethnicity you can imagine is represented by food. You can have incredibly authentic food here.”
The following recipe, created by the author, Meg Cotner, appears in Food Lovers’ Guide to Queens:
1 small loaf of crusty yeast bread (Italian-style is good), preferably stale
4-5 large tomatoes, cut into large dice
2 ears of corn, kernels removed
1 red pepper, seeded, cut into medium dice
1 large cucumber, peeled and seeded, cut into small dice
1/2 red onion, cut into small dice
2 cloves garlic, pressed
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
Cotija cheese, crumbled (to taste)
1 avocado, chopped (optional)
1/3 cup olive oil
3 tablespoons apple cider or sherry vinegar
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon crushed Mexican oregano
1/4 red pepper flakes
1/4 smoked paprika
Juice from 1/2 small lemon
Salt and pepper
Honey, to taste
Chop the bread into 1-inch cubes. If you are using fresh bread, toast the cubes in the oven or toaster oven for 5-10 minutes.
Combine the tomato, corn, red pepper, cucumber, onions, and garlic in a large bowl. Add a little salt to draw out the vegetable juices. Let rest for about 5 minutes.
Meanwhile, chop the cilantro. Add that to the vegetables when they are done resting.
Add the bread cubes and lightly toss. Let rest while you make the vinaigrette.
For the vinaigrette, whisk together everything except the honey. When everything has come together, add a little bit of honey. Taste the vinaigrette adjust seasoning as needed.
Add half the vinaigrette to the bread and vegetables and lightly toss. Wait a minute. See how much vinaigrette is absorbed by everything, then add enough to achieve your preferred texture. Let rest for a few minutes. Add the cotija cheese and toss lightly. Taste the mixture and season with salt and pepper to your preference. Top with avocado, if using.