Tag Archives: Food Network

The Catskills Comes to Queens celebrates the best in farm-to-table fare

By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photos by Kelly Marie Mancuso


Foodies from across the borough were given the chance to sample farm-fresh epicurean delights during The Catskills Comes to Queens, a tasting event celebrating the farm-to-table movement, held at Flushing Town Hall on Saturday.

The culinary event was created by New York Epicurean Events co-founders Chef David Noeth and Joe DiStefano, famed food writer behind Chopsticks and Marrow, the wildly popular guide to adventurous eating in Queens.

“As someone who’s been writing about food in Queens for years, it’s always been a dream of mine to do a food festival,” DiStefano explained. “In early 2015, I met Ellen Kodadek, the executive and artistic director of Flushing Town Hall, and she told me that they wanted to do more culinary programming. For months beforehand, I’d been having all sorts of wonderful meals made with Catskills-sourced ingredients—grass-feed beef, farm-fresh eggs, free-range chicken, locally foraged mushrooms—at my business partner David Noeth’s house.”

“At some point the idea hit us: Why don’t we go into business together and help showcase all these wonderful products, help the farmers and expose the people of Queens to some great food?” DiStefano added.

Chef Nate Felder's pork belly

Chef Nate Felder’s Berkshire pork belly with red pepper marmalade.

The Catskills Comes to Queens featured a delectable array of mountain-fresh fare from some of the borough’s best chefs. Chef David Noeth’s beef heart tartare was accompanied by cheese from Vulto Creamery in Noeth’s native Walton, New York.

Chef Nate Felder of The Astor Room in Astoria topped tender maple syrup-cured Berkshire pork belly with a red pepper marmalade and served them over a bed of sour cream grits. Lamb and goat tacos dressed in homemade queso fresco, crisp corn salsa and an earthy corn crema were on the menu at New World Home Cooking Co. courtesy of The Food Network’s 2010 Chopped champion Chef Ric Orlando.


The Food Network’s 2010 “Chopped” champion and New World Home Cooking Co. Chef Ric Orlando.

Smokehouse favorites were popular throughout the festival. Chef Alfonso Zhicay of Casa del Chef Bistro in Woodside featured succulent short ribs braised in an intoxicating blend of fruit chutney and Madeira wine served atop a briny bed of homemade pickled carrots and cabbage.

Chef Danny Brown's

Chef Danny Brown’s torchon of La Belle Farms foie gras and guinea fowl.

Chef Danny Brown, of Danny Brown’s Wine Bar and Kitchen in Forest Hills, crafted an exquisite torchon of La Belle Farms foie gras and guinea fowl accompanied by hazelnut oil and fresh microgreens. Bravo’s “Top Chef” Season 7 runner-up and Sotto 13‘s Chef Ed Cotton offered a twist on traditional American fare with his mini rabbit and mortadella hot dogs served between toasted brioche buns topped with mustard and spicy kirby relish.

Bravo's "Top Chef" Season 7 runner up and Sotto 13 Chef Ed Cotton prepares his rabbit and mortadella hot dogs

Bravo’s “Top Chef” season 7 runner-up and Sotto 13 Chef Ed Cotton prepares his rabbit and mortadella hot dogs.

Smokey fare ruled the outdoor courtyard of Flushing Town Hall as well, where Chef Tyson Ho’s whole barbecued hog from Arrogant Swine took center stage, its head displayed on the table, presiding over the festivities. Guests were delighted by bite-sized treats, such as the lamb sliders from Chef Harry Hawk of Schnack and the Eagle Hollow Farms barbecue chicken sliders from Chef Lou Elrose of the soon-to-be-opened Charred smokehouse and bar in Middle Village.

Smoked beef tongue sliders from Harry & Ida's Meat and Supply Co.

Smoked beef tongue sliders from Harry & Ida’s Meat and Supply Co.

Adventurous eaters enjoyed the warm, earthy smoked beef tongue sliders topped with birch bark-infused mayo and pickled heirloom tomatoes from Chef Will Horowitz of Harry and Ida’s Meat and Supply Co., while M. Wells Steakhouse Chef Hugue Dufour’s lamb tagine provided a flavorful feast for the senses.

Chef Hugue Dufour unveiling his gigantic lamb tagine

Chef Hugue Dufour unveiling his gigantic lamb tagine.

Silk Cakes bakery’s Pandan cupcakes topped with coconut buttercream and white chocolate truffle nearly vanished in an instant. Delicate pastries by Rudolf Merlin at Creme French bakery and Leske’s Bakery’s peanut butter and Cotton Hill goat cheese donuts provided a sweet finish.

“We like to think that we’re bringing the best products in New York State to the New York’s best chefs at New York City’s best venue,” DiStefano added. “And what better place to do it than Flushing, which was once itself farmland.”







Ridgewood magician competes on ‘Worst Cooks in America’

| ctumola@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of Food Network

A Ridgewood magician is trying to make his disastrous cooking skills disappear — and he’s turned to the Food Network for help.

Michael “Six” Muldoon, 26, is a contestant on “Worst Cooks in America,” which kicked off its sixth season on Jan. 4. The show takes 14 abysmal home cooks and divides them into two teams — one led by returning Chef Anne Burrell and the second by first-time opponent Chef Tyler Florence.

The contestants go through a culinary boot camp, during which two of them are eliminated each week. Two finalists, one from each team, will face off in the finale, where they will prepare a three-course menu. The winner will receive $25,000 and bragging rights for their chef.

Just how bad are these cooks? Some admit to starting kitchen fires and even poisoning friends and family.

When the contestants are told to create their signature dish in the first episode so the chefs can choose their teams, one contestant substitutes gummy bears for goose fat, then tries to cut the candy with the wrong end of a knife. Another woman cooks a baked potato by microwaving it in a plastic bag.

But Muldoon is just as clueless.

“I try to make meals that look like one thing and taste like something else, and it just never seems to work,” the magician says as he tries to explain his spaghetti and meatball cake, which looks like a cake but tastes like spaghetti and meatballs.

Florence is not impressed.

“Surprise, it’s burnt,” he says. And Burrell ends up picking Muldoon for her team.

Muldoon’s magic skills are better left for the stage, not the kitchen.

At a young age, Muldoon coped with having a sixth finger and weight issues. His Maspeth house burned down when he was 11 and his parents separated around that time. Muldoon found magic at about age 13, which helped give him the confidence he needed. He later turned the hobby into a career.

In addition to performing, he started System 6 Magic, a company that produces playing cards and DVDs. He is also vice president of Magicians Without Borders, which travels to more than 30 countries “using magic to entertain, educate and empower.”

Muldoon, who was 25 when he appeared on “Worst Cooks,” was nominated to be a contestant by his brother for his magic-inspired food that constantly missed the mark. The two have a bet that if Muldoon learns to cook, then his brother will learn some magic tricks.

“I wasn’t cooking bad. I was cooking over the top more than anything else, ” Muldoon said.

He only heard of the show in passing before being nominated, and after watching past episodes he wasn’t sure he could take the humiliation. But he ultimately decided the challenge was worth it.

“This is one of the hardest things I’ve had to do. You are learning and you’re memorizing and there are a lot steps,” he said.

Muldoon also wanted to appear on the competition so he could learn to cook for his girlfriend. With his new skills, he says it’s nice to give her a break from making meals.

Though Muldoon says the biggest lesson he’s learned from the show is simplicity, it doesn’t mean he has given up on his magic dishes.

“It’s in the back of my head,” he said. “Knowing what I know, I wonder if I can pull off a good one now.”

To see Muldoon compete in the next episode of “Worst Cooks in America,” watch Sunday, Jan. 18, at 9 p.m. on the Food Network.


LIC chef to compete in Food Network’s “Beat Bobby Flay”

| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Angy Altamirano

Natasha Pogrebinsky is at it again and this time she is looking to take on an iron chef.

The Long Island City chef, who has appeared twice on the Food Network’s “Chopped,” will now go head-to-head with chef Esther Choi on the network’s new series “Beat Bobby Flay” on Sept. 4 in hopes to move on and battle celebrity chef Bobby Flay himself.

“They were really impressed with me as a chef and as a personality on TV,” said Pogrebinsky, who is also the owner of Bear Restaurant located at 12-14 31st Ave., about getting offered a chance to appear on the show. “They wanted me back.”

In the episode called “Ladies First,” Pogrebinsky and Choi will “thrown down in the kitchen” creating one dish, which must feature a mystery ingredient given by Flay. The dishes will then be judged by chef Marc Murphy from “Chopped” and Katie Lee, co-host of “The Kitchen.”

“It was a lot of fun and it was great to be able to show off what I could do,” Pogrebinsky said.

Whoever comes out the winner in the first round will then be able to challenge Flay with her very own surprise signature dish.

“If I get to win the first round then I can go on to the next round and challenge Bobby Flay to cook a dish that is my specialty,” Pogrebinsky said. “If I make it to the second round then I get to throw him a curve ball.”

Pogrebinsky said her third appearance on the Food Network was a lot more intense because of the competition, yet it was fun because during the taping there was a live audience that included some Queens fans.

“In ‘Chopped’ you have a little more of a chance, here you have a 50-50 shot,” she said. “It’s a lot of fun to hear your fans from Astoria and LIC cheer you on.”

Just like her two previous “Chopped” premieres, Pogrebinsky said she plans on having a viewing party at Bear Restaurant, but details are still pending.

The “Ladies First” episode of “Beat Bobby Flay” will air on Sept. 4 at 10 p.m.



Queens chef wins Food Network’s ‘Cutthroat Kitchen’

| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

Photo by Brian Redondo

Chef Tomica “Tom” Burke took a leap of faith that made her a Food Network champion.

Burke, a Douglaston resident who grew up in Cambria Heights, came out the victor Sunday on the Food Network’s “Cutthroat Kitchen.” She went head-to-head with three other chefs on the reality cooking show hosted by celebrity chef Alton Brown.

“I couldn’t breathe in the morning before we started filming,” Burke said. “Once we got into the studio, it was a totally different ball game. You’re there and doing the best you can. It was very hard; between every round I had no idea what was going to happen.”

Contestants are given $25,000 at the start of the show to bid on the right to sabotage their competition during three rounds of cooking challenges.

In the episode called “Chain of Tools,” Burke had to create her own versions of Cobb salad, enchiladas and layered cake while facing sabotages such as having to mix ingredients in a cement mixer and create her own kitchen out of items within a shopping cart.

Although Burke had received no training as a chef and never enrolled in culinary school, the Queens resident beat her competition Sunday night and took home a total of $8,600 in winnings.

“You have no idea what you can do until you have to do it,” she said.

Burke, however, did not start off as a chef. The 31-year-old graduated from Columbia Law School and, while studying and working in a city law firm, took courses at the Institute of Culinary Education. She then decided to leave the legal profession and opened her own catering company in 2013 called “TomCookery – New Comfort Cuisine & Catering.”

Since then, Burke has been cooking Caribbean and Southern-inspired food, influenced by her grandmothers, out of the Entrepreneur Space in Long Island City. TomCookery caters for any kind of party including weddings, bar mitzvahs and much more.

She said as a new business it was very important for her to take the risk of competing on the show, which she hopes will create more business and recognition for TomCookery.

“I think taking risks is super-important in general,” she said. “You shouldn’t limit yourself, just jump at every opportunity and let life decide what is going to happen.”

For those who want to catch a rerun of Burke on “Cutthroat Kitchen,” the episode will air again on April 26 at 4 p.m. and May 4 at 6 p.m.

For more information on TomCookery visit here.



LIC chef to make comeback on Food Network’s ‘Chopped’

| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/ Photo by Angy Altamirano

One Long Island City chef hopes this time she’ll put her competition on the chopping board.

Natasha Pogrebinsky, executive chef and co-founder of Long Island City’s Bear Bar and Restaurant, will be making her comeback on a “Return and Redeem” episode of the Food Network’s “Chopped,” airing Tuesday, Feb. 25.

The chef made her first appearance on the show in August, where she competed against three other chefs. In the end, although the judges struggled to make a final decision, Pogrebinsky came in second.

Now, she is ready to go head to head with three other returning chefs for a $10,000 prize on next week’s episode.

“It definitely feels great to be back on, to represent Queens and to represent New York City,” Pogrebinsky said. “It was just as intense and real [as last time], and I was just happy to come back and put up a fight.”

Contestants on “Chopped” receive baskets filled with mystery ingredients. Each chef must create dishes and compete to make it to the next round.

On the Feb. 25 episode, the returning chefs work with ingredients such as sour candy, green lime jello and palm seeds.

“It was a much tighter competition,” Pogrebinsky said about her return. “You see the basket and you don’t know what is really in there. You have to think on your feet, you have two seconds to decide. It’s very nerve racking and you pull out everything you’ve learned in your culinary career.”

In 2011, she and her brother, both immigrants from the Ukraine, opened up Bear Bar and Restaurant, serving modern Russian cuisine. Currently the siblings are looking to open a fast food Russian restaurant in the same neighborhood.

Since her first time on “Chopped,” Pogrebinsky said she has seen a large amount of support from fans, customers, family and friends.

There will be a viewing party at the restaurant Tuesday night, Feb. 25 starting at 8:30 p.m. Guests can RSVP by emailing contact@BearNYC.com or calling 917-396-4939 to see if Pogrebinksy comes out a winner. They will also be able to taste samples of dishes the chef cooked on the show.

The “Return and Redeem” episode will premiere on the Food Network at 10 p.m.

Bear Bar and Restaurant is open for brunch on Saturday and Sunday from noon to 3 p.m., for dinner on Tuesday to Saturday from 6 to 10 p.m. and Sunday from 6 to 9 p.m.



Guy Fieri’s ‘Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives’ stops by Queens Comfort

| ctumola@queenscourier.com

Photos courtesy of Donnie D’Alessio/Queens Comfort

Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives” drove into the borough to film an episode at Astoria‘s Queens Comfort.

The Food Network show, hosted by colorful television personality, cookbook author and restaurateur Guy Fieri, follows him as he visits “classic ‘greasy spoon’ spots” around North America.

Queens Comfort owner Donnie D’Alessio, already a fan of the program, was “honored” when “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives” contacted him a couple of months ago for an initial interview.

“For us to pop up in their research, it was so rewarding,” said D’Alessio.

“A lot of the food they showcase is very unique and it’s something that we pride ourselves on here,” he said about the 30th Avenue restaurant.

After making the cut, the show came to shoot at Queens Comfort for two days last week.

Though the filming took a lot of work, including shutting down the restaurant, preparing eight dishes, and remaking some of the food several times over, it was well worth it, said D’Alessio.

“I got along with him really well. He was fun to hang out with,” he said about meeting Fieri.

D’Alessio does not know when the episode featuring Queens Comfort will air yet, but no matter what exposure it may lead to, the experience is what was the most important.

“It all felt like a dream. I felt like Dorothy for two days,” he said.

Queens Comfort isn’t the only eatery in the borough “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives” recently visited.

The show also filmed at Bun-Ker Vietnamese, located at 46-63 Metropolitan Ave. in Ridgewood, according to the restaurant.



SANDY ONE YEAR LATER: Family-owned LIC restaurant cooks up a comeback

| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

Before photos courtesy of Lawrence Vecchio /  After photo THE COURIER/By Angy Altamirano

As an ocean rushed down the street and filled their basement-level restaurant with seven feet of water, brother and sister duo Laura and Lawrence Vecchio could only watch in fear of losing everything.

The Vecchio family was one of the thousands of business owners who received massive amounts of damage after Superstorm Sandy hit the city last October.

With their family-owned restaurant, Mia Famiglia, located at 44-29 9th Street — which opened only months before Sandy, in April 2012 — just a little over 500 feet away from the East River, the siblings were expecting a maximum of two to three feet of water after hearing the warnings of a storm. However, after standing in the first level lobby of the Wyndham Hotel, on whose lower level the restaurant is located, and watching the storm pass through Long Island City, they knew the next few months were going to be difficult.

“We anticipated water but not that,” said Laura, who is the head chef at the restaurant. “It looked like an ocean coming down the street.”

The family had close to $275,000 in losses and damages, including kitchen equipment, tables, chairs, walls and much more they had to repair and replace.

“Nothing was salvaged,” said Lawrence.

Along with dealing with the aftermath of the storm and staying closed for three months, the Vecchios said they also had no help from their landlord, the owners of the Wyndham Hotel, who they allege left them to fend for themselves.

The owners of the hotel did not return calls for comment as of press time.
Post Sandy, when the city released its new storm evacuation maps, the brother and sister duo learned Mia Famiglia was moved from Zone A to Zone 2. The Office of Emergency Management determined the maps “based on six evacuation zones that represent varying threat levels of coastal flooding resulting from storm surge.”

“There’s no logic to it, we didn’t move,” said Lawrence. “We’re still in the same spot. The water is still in the same spot. So how can you say we’re not Zone A severe?”

Yet, with all the damage and problems the storm threw their way, the family said Sandy has not put them down, but actually allowed them to come back stronger.

With the help of the Small Business Association, the Vecchio family fought to start the new year bringing back their warm family dishes, including homemade cheesecakes made by Antoinette Vecchio, a.k.a. “Mama,” to the Long Island City community.

Another helping hand also recently came through the Food Network which approached the family after Lawrence had created a Yelp account for the restaurant and shared their story. Mia Famiglia was invited to participate in a brand new show called “Restaurant Divided,” where restaurants are divided in half with two different concepts on each side, and in the end the idea with the best profitability and customer reviews can decide to either take home the money or get a full restaurant makeover.

Mia Famiglia appeared on the show’s debut episode on Thursday, October 24. In the episode, Laura had the idea to change the restaurant to a sports bar theme while Larry believed a steakhouse concept would win the hearts of customers. Chef and restaurateur Rocco DiSpirito then assessed customer reactions and the financial viability of each theme based on the one night and in the end selected Larry’s concept as the winner.

The restaurant was given a full makeover based on Larry’s idea and now is an “LIC steakhouse with Italian influence.”

“Sandy has actually hurt us and helped us at the same time,” said Laura. “So ‘she’ kind of torn us down and built us back up.”




LIC chef comes in second on Food Network’s ‘Chopped’

| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Angy Altamirano

Being “chopped” never felt so good.

Although Long Island City chef Natasha Pogrebinsky didn’t win the grand prize on the show, she left with an unforgettable experience.

“I’m not upset about the outcome at all, I’m very happy that I had the chance to talk about my story, my restaurant, my type of cuisine,” said Pogrebinsky. “I was really happy I was a part of it.”

Friends and supporters gathered on Tuesday, August 6 at Pogrebinsky’s Bear Restaurant, located at 12-14 31st Avenue, for a viewing party to watch the chef take on lemon bars and whelk snails on that night’s episode of the Food Network’s “Chopped.” Guests were able to taste samples of dishes Pogrebinsky cooked on the show.

The Courier spoke to Pogrebinsky before the episode aired about her experience on the show.
“It’s a little surreal,” said Pogrebinsky. “I like a challenge and it was really fun to meet new people and be thrown into a crazy environment.”

On the August 6 episode, called “Walk on the Whelk Side,” the chefs worked with ingredients such as whelk snails, lemon bars, lamb shawarma, acai juice, upland cress and cucumbers.
Pogrebinsky competed against Long Island Chef Ben Durham and California Chefs Paolo Pasio and Katsuji Tanabe.

Contestants on “Chopped” receive baskets filled with mystery ingredients. Each chef must create dishes and compete to make it to the next round.

After serving sautéed snails as an appetizer and cooking up a stroganoff for the entrée round, Pogrebinsky made it to the final dessert round where she battled against Chef Tanabe.

The two chefs had 30 minutes to create a dish using cucumber salad, cantaloupe, sesame seed candy and marshmallow spread. Pogrebinsky created a sesame cookie with marshmallow cream and Tanabe whipped up a crepe with cantaloupe cucumber sherbet.

In the end, as the judges struggled to make a final decision,Tanabe became the Chopped winner and took home the $10,000 grand prize.

“Food is magical, food is exciting and intriguing and mysterious and doing it at the restaurant is one level and being able to create that little moment , little story for people to watch all over the world is amazing,” said Pogrebinsky.


LIC chef to appear on Food Network’s ‘Chopped’

| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

Photos courtesy of Natasha Pogrebinsk

Chef Natasha Pogrebinsky hopes her dish does not end up on the chopping block.

The executive chef and co-founder of Bear Bar and Restaurant, located at 12-14 31st Avenue in Long Island City, will appear on an episode of the Food Network’s “Chopped” airing Tuesday, August 6. On the show, which has already been taped, she competes against three other chefs for a $10,000 prize.

“It’s a little surreal,” said Pogrebinsky. “I’m a really competitive person and I love when there’s a rush. I like a challenge and it was really fun to meet new people and be thrown into a crazy environment.”

Contestants on “Chopped” receive baskets filled with mystery ingredients. Each chef must create dishes and compete to make it to the next round.

On the August 6 episode, called “Walk on the Whelk Side,” the chefs work with ingredients such as whelk snails, lemon bars, lamb shawarma and cucumbers.

“I was immediately in the zone, I was paying attention to the clock but at the same time I forgot the cameras were there and that there were other contestants,” said Pogrebinsky. “In real life in the kitchen I take weeks to design a dish. You find the right ingredients, you test them, you pair them, you try them in different ways and in here [the show] that’s all out the window.”

When it came to the judging, Pogrebinsky said she was not too nervous because she feels like she is always being judged.

“Every time a dish goes out, I worry about it,” she said. “I’m confident with every dish I put out, but at the same time because I care about it so much, I always look for that feedback from customers.”

After being a high school history teacher, Pogrebinsky was pushed by her brother to follow her dreams and passion to become a chef. In 2011, she and her brother, both immigrants from the Ukraine, opened up Bear Bar and Restaurant serving modern Russian cuisine.

“I still feel like I’m that culinary kid that is so inspired,” said Pogrebinksy. “It feels great and it is something I’ve always wanted.”

There will be a viewing party at the restaurant Tuesday night, August 6. Guests can RSVP to see if Pogrebinksy comes out a “Chopped” winner. They will also be able to taste samples of dishes the chef cooked on the show.

Once the episode ends, Pogrebinksy will talk about her experience.

The “Walk on the Whelk Side” episode will premiere on the Food Network at 10 p.m.

Bear Bar and Restaurant is open for brunch on Saturday and Sunday from noon to 3 p.m., for dinner on Tuesday to Saturday from 6 to 10 p.m. and on Sunday from 6 to 9 p.m.




Queens’ Morning Roundup

| lguerre@queenscourier.com

morning roundup


Clear in the morning, then partly cloudy with thunderstorms and rain showers. High of 95F with a heat index of 100F. Breezy. Winds from the SW at 10 to 20 mph. Chance of rain 20%.

EVENT OF THE DAY: Classic Film Fridays

A Better Jamaica presents The Spy Who Loved Me. James Bond joins forces with dangerous and sexy Russian agent Major Anya Amasova to battle villainous Jaws, a mad genius who plans to destroy the earth with a nuclear holocaust and rebuild it underwater. Free at Rufus King Park . Click here for more info or to submit an event of your own

Billions in debt, Detroit tumbles into insolvency 

Detroit, the cradle of America’s automobile industry and once the nation’s fourth-most-populous city, filed for bankruptcy on Thursday, the largest American city ever to take such a course. Read more: The New York Times 

Reality (show) bites 

A Queens man who thought he won his own yogurt franchise on a Food Network reality show claims in a new lawsuit that he got stiffed on the jackpot. Kris Herrera, 34, of Corona said he signed off on letting the episode of “Giving You the Business” run only because he thought he would be getting his own outlet of the yogurt chain 16 Handles. Read more: New York Post

Billionaire John Catsimatidis shows diverse financial portfolio of companies

It’s no secret he’s a fat cat. But Republican mayoral contender John Catsimatidis’ first city financial disclosure report since announcing his candidacy reveals that the billionaire grocery magnate is also a real estate baron who owns an oil refining company and a charter jet business that’s flown rock stars like Paul McCartney and the Goo Goo Dolls. Read more: New York Daily News 

 Derailment to Hamstring morning commute for Metro-North Hudson Line customers 

Commuters who rely on the Metro-North Hudson line will likely have to find a different way to get to work Friday morning. A freight train derailment in the Bronx forced service on the Hudson line to be suspended indefinitely, the transit agency announced Thursday night. Read more: CBS

New poll shows Quinn leading dems in mayoral race 

A new poll released this morning finds City Council Speaker Christine Quinn is rising above former Rep. Anthony Weiner in the Democratic race for mayor, with undecided voters still likely to play a big role. The Siena College-New York Times poll finds Quinn getting the support of 27 percent of Democratic voters, compared to Weiner with 18 percent. Read more: NY1

 Hamill: Howard Beach mom who lost her son shares Trayvon Martin’s mother’s pain

The mother weeps for the mother. More than 25 years after her son was killed in Howard Beach, the mother of Michael Griffith grieves for the mother of Trayvon Martin. Read more: New York Daily News

Astoria chef competes on ABC reality show ‘The Taste’

| aaltman@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of ABC

The freshest face of foodie television is as fiery as her cooking.

Diane DiMeo, a self-taught Astoria chef and aspiring restaurateur, is a contestant on “The Taste,” a new ABC program that teams ambitious cooks with kitchen veterans for blind taste tests, battling it out for $100,000, a car and gastronomic glory.

DiMeo, who was selected by Anthony Bourdain, best known for his show “Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations,” calls herself the bad-boy chef’s “female equivalent.”

“I identify with him,” DiMeo said. “You love to love him and you love to hate him. He’s just that guy.”

DiMeo, who has spent the past 22 years in kitchens across New York City, said her style was crafted by trial and error and the thick skin necessary to survive as a woman in a male-dominated industry.

“Women in the kitchen didn’t exist,” said DiMeo. “You were a pastry chef, but you were not an executive chef. I learned very quickly that I was going to get tough or get taken down – it’s definitely shaped my culinary style in a very renegade fashion.”

She hopes her presence as a strong, successful woman on a national cooking show creates a different identity for women hoping to make a name for themselves in the restaurant world.

DiMeo, who competed twice on Food Network’s “Chopped” and won once, said her cooking is identical to her personality – fiery and bold with global elements.

“There’s nothing wimpy about what I cook,” she said.

DiMeo moved to Astoria eight months ago, attracted to the neighborhood’s mix of authentic ethnic cuisine and new, innovative favorites.

“There’s already so much food there,” she said. “There are so many ethnicities and cultural restaurants and cuisine but it has new venues too. It’s a food scene that’s changing.”

DiMeo is currently in negotiations for a space on 30th Avenue in Astoria, where she hopes to soon open a new seafood restaurant, tentatively called Shell and Roe.



Ring in a healthier new year’s diet

| Brandpoint@queenscourier.com

Shrimp Scampi

Maintaining a healthy diet is a popular New Year’s resolution for many of us, but for the nearly 400,000 Americans with kidney failure, eating right is actually critical to well-being and survival.

Without healthy kidneys, dialysis patients depend on regular treatments to remove waste products from their blood. And for those treatments to be effective, these patients must limit their intake of foods containing salt, potassium, phosphorus and saturated fats, including many foods generally considered healthy, such as oranges, tomatoes, beans and dairy products.

But kidney failure doesn’t mean people can’t continue to enjoy delicious meals with their families and friends. Fresenius Medical Care North America (FMCNA) and Chef Aaron McCargo Jr., star of Food Network’s “Big Daddy’s House,” are helping people with kidney failure learn to use flavorful spices and fresh ingredients to create meals for dialysis patients that are healthy, flavorful and affordable. FMCNA, the nation’s leading network of dialysis facilities, has partnered with McCargo to develop a variety of dialysis- friendly recipes, which are available at FMCNA’s online recipe center.

To ring in 2013, Chef McCargo and FMCNA are sharing a recipe for “New You” Jumbo Shrimp Scampi, as well as tips for healthy, enjoyable eating. So whether you’re on dialysis or just looking to add some nutritious new recipes to your diet, the New Year is the perfect time to get started.

Here are five tips to help dialysis patients – and anyone else interested in improving their diet – make healthy, great tasting meals part of their daily routine

  • Be creative and save a buck. Look for recipes that you can turn into a whole new leftover meal (e.g., use leftover beef tacos to make a quesadilla, stew or a lettuce wrap).
  • Mix it up. Eat a wide variety of healthy foods to keep your diet exciting.
  • Use spices, not salt. Leave out salty ingredients, and add fresh or dried herbs and spices to create more bold flavors.
  • Skip the gadgets. Embrace one-pot cooking and limit your utensils to save time on cleaning dishes.
  • Ask an expert. If you have kidney disease or another chronic disease, work with a dietitian to develop a meal plan.

For all of Chef McCargo’s dialysis-friendly recipes, as well as fitness tips, videos and other information about staying active and maintaining a healthy diet on dialysis, visit www.ultracare-dialysis.com.

Chef Aaron McCargo Jr.’s “New You” Jumbo Shrimp Scampi


1 pound (16-20 count) peeled and deveined shrimp
2 tablespoons chopped fresh garlic
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 cup fresh-squeezed lemon juice
2 tablespoons white wine (low-sodium chicken stock may be substituted)
2 tablespoons unsalted cold butter (cubed small)
1 tablespoon chopped parsley
1/4 cup flour
1/4 cup canola oil


1. Heat half of the canola oil in large nonstick saute pan on medium high heat.

2. In a large bowl, mix flour, black pepper, and red pepper flakes. Toss shrimp in flour mixture and coat evenly.

3. Saute shrimp for approximately 3 to 5 minutes on each side in batches (use leftover oil as needed).

4. Remove from pan and place on a plate or sheet tray to rest.

5. Add to the same pan the garlic, wine, and lemon juice; stir and cook until hot. It will start to boil in about 4 to 6 minutes.

6. Turn off heat, stir in cold butter in small amounts until incorporated. Add shrimp back to pan with any drippings, along with parsley and toss or stir until coated.

7. Serve and eat.

Yield: Serves four. Each serving provides: 328 calories, 24 grams protein, 9 grams carbohydrate, 21 grams total fat, 5 grams saturated fat, 0 grams trans fat, 188 milligrams cholesterol, 259 milligrams



Rego Park resident competes as ‘worst’ on Food Network

| aaltman@queenscourier.com

Photo Courtesy of Food Network

Richard Allen Chen’s girlfriend concludes that he is the absolute worst cook in America, gagging and cringing when forced to consume his culinary creations.

And she might be right.

Chen, an attorney and resident of Rego Park, was selected to compete on Food Network’s “Worst Cooks in America,” a program that pits 16 of the country’s most hopeless chefs against each other, overcoming gastronomic obstacles and dishing out some (hopefully) decent grub. The contestant crowned the best of the worst chefs walks away with $25,000.

“I came up with my own kind of cooking,” said Chen, whose pre-show cuisine repertoire consisted mainly of hotdogs, spaghetti, ramen and canned corn. “Stuff you can cook in less than five minutes.”

Appalled at his foul fare, Chen’s girlfriend of six years gave him an ultimatum: sharpen your kitchen skills or see you later.

“My girlfriend is from China. Apparently a lot of people from China were raised with cooking,” said Chen. “I’m from New York City and my mother wasn’t much of a cook. Her best dishes came from cans. I really never learned how to cook.”

Chen said his girlfriend refused to marry him unless he learned to cook.

“She doesn’t think I’m marriage material,” said Chen. “She was married before and she always brags about how her ex-husband used to cook all the time.”

After receiving notice that the Food Network was searching for the country’s most atrocious culinarian, Chen decided to try out. His audition meal was a casserole containing ramen, hot dogs, canned corn, raisin bread and soy sauce.

“There’s no way someone made a worse dish than mine,” said Chen.

A casting director called Chen for a phone interview, for which, of course, his girlfriend was present.

Chen snagged a spot in the show’s third season line up.

The contestants were divided into two teams: one headed by celebrity chef Anne Burrell, and the other by Food Network personality Bobby Flay. As a member of Burrell’s Red Team, Chen competed against his adversaries in a series of timed cooking challenges.

“It’s like boot camp,” said Chen. “Everything moves fast. Since I don’t have a background in cooking, I needed to pay attention to the details. It was fun to be put under the gun knowing full well I’m not an expert”

Chen claimed he was intimidated by his opponents’ perceived level of aptitude in the kitchen.

“Most of the people had more ability to cook than I,” said Chen. “They were more in tune to listening to the chefs.”

The rapid pace of the challenges heightened the difficulty of the experience for Chen, who explained that he prefers to take his time while cooking.

“I don’t like to put myself under the gun,” said Chen. “In real life you don’t put yourself under pressure. You give yourself as much time as you need.”

While Chen is proud of himself for participating in the show, he still feels he has a lot to learn.

“I think I’m still one of the worst cooks,” joked Chen. “I’m not one of the worst cooks in America, I’m one of the worst cooks in the world!”

Chen said that his knowledge of spices has elevated beyond his former standbys of salt and pepper, and he now enjoys cooking pork, spareribs and chicken. He recently prepared a baked chicken dish for his girlfriend, an endeavor that took over two hours. She was pleasantly surprised by her beau’s newfound abilities.

Chen does admit, however, that when time is scarce, he reverts back to his old, hot dog frying ways. For others struggling in the kitchen, Chen recommends that people not rush and pay close attention to spices, utensils and measurements.

“Take your time and try to understand the recipes,” said Chen. “Read it over. Make sure you have all the proper ingredients and use a timer.”

“Worst Cooks in America” premiers on Sunday, February 12 at 9p.m. on Food Network.

‘Bomb’ botch at LaGuardia

| jlane@queenscourier.com

Graphic by Jay Lane

‘Bomb’ botch at LaGuardia

Clueless TSA agents found two possible pipe bombs in a passenger’s luggage yesterday at La Guardia Airport — and kept them in a public area for six hours without notifying cops, The Post has learned. The Transportation Security Administration bozos at one point left the pipes — which eventually turned out to be harmless — resting on a radiator as hundreds of fliers passed through security nearby, sources said. “Six hours to report a potential bomb? It’s outrageous,” one Port Authority police official fumed. Read More: New York Post


Eli can become ring-leader in Peyton’s back yard

This isn’t Peyton’s Place so much as it is Eli’s Place. The place where he can become the first New York quarterback to win two Super Bowls. The place where he can become the first Manning to win two Super Bowls. The place for Histor-E. It is so much different for Eli Manning now than it was four years ago. He is no longer the Other Manning. And he is no longer the Other Quarterback in the Super Bowl, even though the Patriots’ Tom Brady is once again the other quarterback for the other team. Read More: New York Post


Jailmate sues Lillo in prison ‘assault’

TV tough guy Lillo Brancato just can’t stay out of trouble. A fellow inmate has filed a lawsuit against the hot-tempered “Sopranos” actor for a vicious beatdown he suffered when Brancato allegedly attacked him for talking on a prison phone. Small-time thief Alvaro Hernandez, 40, filed the suit in Queens Supreme Court seeking unspecified damages for injuries he suffered last Jan. 26 in a common room at now-closed Oneida Correctional Facility in Rome, NY. Hernandez was on the phone chatting with his wife, Barbie Hernandez, when an enraged Brancato, 35, demanded that he hang up. Read More: New York Post


Auburndale Atrocity

Contrasted against a sea of well-kept homes and pristinely-manicured lawns in Auburndale looms an abandoned property – a massive four-unit building left destitute, much to the dismay of locals who take pride in their neighborhood. The structure, located at 47th Avenue and 198th Street, once a single-family home, was converted into four separate houses by a self-certified builder roughly 10 years ago. Read More: Queens Courier


Rego Park resident competes as ‘worst’ on Food Network

Richard Allen Chen’s girlfriend concludes that he is the absolute worst cook in America, gagging and cringing when forced to consume his culinary creations. And she might be right. Chen, an attorney and resident of Rego Park, was selected to compete on Food Network’s “Worst Cooks in America,” a program that pits 16 of the country’s most hopeless chefs against each other, overcoming gastronomic obstacles and dishing out some (hopefully) decent grub. The contestant crowned the best of the worst chefs walks away with $25,000. Read More: Queens Courier


Developers Hope To Revitalize Rockaways Courthouse

For decades, residents living next to an old courthouse in the Rockaways have listened to many proposals to rehabilitate the site, but locals hope the latest push is more than just talk. Watch the Video: NY1