Archive for the ‘India(n)’ Category

Umamiventure #6: Jackson Diner

January 28, 2008

Trekked out to Jackson Heights on Saturday for our monthly Umamiventure- a food field trip that we take to cult-following foodie places all around the 5 boroughs (that the DOH wouldn’t necessarily recommend). After all the hoo-hawing about the Indian food at Jackson Diner, I thought that this would be a good opportunity to check out what all the hype is about.

Honestly, I was sorta skeptical about this choice, and even thought about changing it last minute– I heard so many mixed reactions from people! But since it’s such a famous destination spot, we figured we should all try it at least once. As my friend Radhika says, “Makes me giggle that the Indian restaurant with the most street cred in all the burrows is called ‘Jackson Diner’.” SO TRUE!!!

All in all, we had a great time. There were 14 of us, and even though I had only made a reservation for 8, they were really friendly and accommodated us in a smaller dining room upstairs (which was much better cause the downstairs area is really loud because of the high ceilings).

The lunch buffet is only $10, all you can eat, and they had all sorts of dishes: chicken tandoori/ makhani/ with chili sauce; goat curry; grilled veggies; pekoras; saag paneer; and even a man making dosas. Favorites around the table included the veggies, chicken makhani, chicken in chili sauce, pekoras, the saag, and the coconut rice dessert.

To be fair though, I would say the food was so-so– I’m a Indian food novice to say the least, but there wasn’t anything super spectacular about it, I didn’t think (Radhika agreed- she being my Indian food expert). People say that Jackson Diner isn’t what it used to be from 10 years ago, which may be true, I couldn’t say. This is why I normally don’t blog a place I haven’t been to at least twice though- it’s just not fair to rate the food on your first occasion. Radhika says that Saravanaas in the city is much better, so we need to try that pronto.

But for $18 after tax and tip for all that food and a Kingfisher beer, it was a fun day trip to Queens. After the meal, Mariana led us into the depths of Jackson Heights to an Argentinian bakery– they sold all sorts of Argentinian goods, and even bags of mate! Walking around the neighborhood (Betty Suarez born and raised), you really do feel like you’re in another place– makes you remember how great New York can be.

All photos by Christy Jones and Matt Myers.

Jackson Diner
37-47 74th Street

Jackson Heights, Queens

T: 718.672.1232

*PS- Umamiventures are open to everyone! I do post information about it under “UM News” or on our FACEBOOK page whenever they are coming up so don’t be shy and join us!

Past trips include:
Sripraphai Restaurant – 11/07
Taste of Jackson Heights – 10/07
Red Hook Ball Fields – 06/07
Ocean Jewel Restaurant – 06/07

Grandmothers ROCK

May 29, 2007

What’s Cooking Grandma is a site about following around grandmothers and getting them to cook awesome food on camera. Almost better than watching reruns of The Golden Girls.

Watch Jackie throw down some scone. You can tell she’s made them a zillion times by the way she sticks her hand in the butter bowl and scoops out a nice fat handful by feel, and also by the fact that she has a bowl of (probably sweet local) butter sitting out in a tub at room temperature. And by the old man hanging around waiting for a fresh batch to come out of the oven. I’d be there too.

Speaking of Grandma’s home-cooking, there’s a fascinating piece in the Times about dabbawallas in India, basically a lunch delivery service that is like FedEx for grandmothers to get lunches to their hard-working sons.

“In India, where many traditions are being rapidly overturned as a result of globalization, the practice of eating a home-cooked meal for lunch lives on.

To achieve that in this sprawling urban amalgamation of an estimated 25 million people, where long commutes by train and bus are routine, Mumbai residents rely on an intricately organized, labor-intensive operation that puts some automated high-tech systems to shame. It manages to deliver tens of thousands of meals to workplaces all over the city with near-clockwork precision.

[…]The service is at once simple and complex. A network of wallas picks up the boxes from customers’ homes or from people who cook lunches to order, then delivers the meals to a local railway station. The boxes are hand-sorted for delivery to different stations in central Mumbai, and then re-sorted and carried to their destinations. After lunch, the service reverses, and the empty boxes are delivered back home.”

I’ll trade you my PB&J for your chapatis and dal and lamb vindaloo! God I wish I had an Indian grandmother so I could get in on this!

Tamarind at the James Beard House

April 15, 2007

I photograph dinners at the The James Beard House in New York about once a month, and it’s quite a treat. If you ever have a chance to go, I’d highly recommend it. The Beard House is located in a great old brownstone on West 12th Street. The kitchen is small, but anyone who is invited to cook a meal there is honored. Chefs from the best restaurants in the country fly in to prepare a special meal for anywhere from 50-100 people, who have usually purchased tickets months in advance. This happens several times a week and is about $100 a head, depending on who’s in the kitchen.

This week I hung out in the kitchen for a few hours while the Chefs of Tamarind, an Indian restaurant in NYC, cooked for about 50 people. Having worked in restaurants, I know what a stressful place the kitchen can be. But the beauty of this kitchen is that the Chefs are always in a good mood and just so excited to be there that they’re happy to let guests come through and ask questions and even sample the goods. As a vegetarian, usually it’s a bit tricky for me at these things, but the Tamarind chefs were more than happy to make me something special- stuffed eggplant, one of the best Saag Paneers I’ve ever had (and I’ve been to India!), and these amazingly unexpected pasta-less dumplings.

The evening always begins with a champagne reception (outside in the garden if weather permits, otherwise in the atrium overlooking the garden) and then everyone moves upstairs to the dining room for several courses, which are always paired with impeccable wines (a rep from the winery usually talks about the selection). At the end of the meal, the Chefs come out and answer questions and talk about what has been prepared.

It’s a fun evening and a great alternative for a nice meal out. I encourage you all to try it!

Kanye’s $4000 Meal

March 6, 2007

Kanye had a craving for Indian. British Raj in Wales, anyone???

thanks Jim for this!