Belle Harbor Steak House (Rockaway Park, N.Y.): Back to the Basics

There’s something to be said for a solid, old-school meal.

What this means varies, of course, depending on where you are. In the U.S., I’ve always relished the mom-and-pop low-key restaurants that still roll out unfussy, decades-old standbys — hot turkey platters, melts, meatloaf and more. (If you’ve read “A Tiger in the Kitchen,” you’ll know what a meatloaf obsessive I am.)

I find myself craving these meals when it gets a little chilly. And so on a recent rainy day, we found ourselves heading over to a little restaurant called Belle Harbor Steak House in Rockaway Park, New York.

I’d caught a glimpse of the menu a few days before and it seemed like just the place to warm you up on a cold drizzly afternoon …

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Breezy Dogs & Shakes (Breezy Point, N.Y.): A Dog Day of Summer

Lunchtime on a hot summer’s day and two small boys are very silently perched on a bench near Fort Tilden Beach.

They’re still; their eyes a little glazed. Finally, one breaks the stupor to very slowly say, “These are soooo good.”

The source of their trance is at their elbows — two almost empty cups of thick, cold milkshakes and the carcass of lunch. At this point, sous chef and I have just gotten off a sunny bus ride all the way to the end of the Q22 line at Rockaway Beach, all in search of this mythical Breezy Dog food truck we’d been reading about.

From the look of the fog these boys were in, lunch was starting to seem worth the ride …

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The Wharf (Rockaway Beach, N.Y.): A View — With Food on the Side

Remember how I mentioned that people love to tell me where I must eat when I travel?

Well, The Wharf in New York‘s Rockaway Beach is certainly not one of those places.

Check it out, yes — I definitely heard that. With its outdoor dining deck with sweeping views of the water and Manhattan’s skyline in the distance, The Wharf’s vista for a sunset cocktail can’t be beat. But eat? We had read and heard enough about the food to know there were probably better restaurants in Rockaway Beach.

Even so, on a recent evening, as our cocktails on that famous deck were disappearing, the vaunted view was nudging us to stay.

How bad could the food truly be? We decided to find out …

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Rockaway Taco (Rockaway Beach, N.Y.): A Surfside Start

You get an inkling that a place is good if everyone who finds out you’re going somewhere for the weekend says you absolutely have to eat there.

Friends, your hairdresseryour hairdresser’s wife. You get the idea.

So on my first visit to Rockaway Beach in New York, I knew there was one place I had to find and hit: Rockaway Taco  …

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Sri Pra Phai: A Thai Pilgrimage

Just because I’ve written a book that touches on Singaporean food, people tend to assume I am an expert on all cuisines Southeast Asian.

In New York, this means I sometimes get asked: Have you been to Sri Pra Phai?

There’s always a look of disbelief when I say, Well, no.

Understandably so, perhaps. Not only have New Yorkers been raving about the cheap Thai place all over Chowhound and Yelp for years — but New Yorker magazine has also weighed in with a review sprinkled with words like “revelatory” and “superb.”

Recently, I decided enough was enough. Time to fix this once and for all. And so when my trusty food guide, Chef Simpson suggested heading to Queens for a Sri Pra Phai fix one evening, I was only too happy to oblige …

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Taste Good: A True Thing


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Years ago, as a freshman at Northwestern University, I used to trek to the computer lab after classes to log onto a Web site and stare longingly at pictures of Singaporean food that someone out in the ether had taken the care to post.

I'm ashamed to mention how long ago this was, exactly — let's just say that this was the first year the university handed out email addresses to incoming freshmen and well, that this "Internet" thing was still new-fangled.

I've never forgotten the kindness of the person — whom I've never known — who put up that rudimentary site filled with pictures of dishes I desperately missed. The photos became my lifeline during that first bone-chilling Chicago winter — and I would spend the next 10-plus years looking for good versions of Singaporean chicken rice or spicy beef rendang in Southeast Asian restaurants across America.

After years of looking, I've finally found a place that I can whole-heartedly say is authentic: Taste Good in Elmhurst, New York. (And I'm not the only one who thinks so — the Singapore Permanent Mission to the United Nations often uses the restaurant to cater its events.) I won't go into all the details here — you'll have to check out my piece on the meal and my quest in the Atlantic Food Channel today — but I wanted to pay a little homage to that anonymous person who saved my sanity all those years ago.

So here's a little visual montage. Whoever and wherever you are, I hope you enjoy these pictures …

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Asian Feastival: Southeast Asian Cooking Tips


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If one does have to work over a holiday weekend, this is not a bad way to do it: Eating and, well, talking about eating.

On Labor Day, at the Asian Feastival in Queens, I had the privilege of spending a lovely hour on a panel with New York chef and restaurateur Andy Yang (of Rhong-Tiam Express, a tiny Thai takeout place that he opened after closing his one Michelin-star restaurant Rhong-Tiam in January) and Kian Lam Kho, a private chef and caterer who blogs about Chinese home cooking at Red Cook. The food festival, which included tasting booths and cooking demonstrations by experts such as the effervescent blogger Maangchi, was designed to showcase Asian food from all regions.

Outside our cozy conference room, the booths and cooking displays meandered through Taiwan, Korea, China, the Philippines. Inside, however, our panel had a specific angle: Deconstructing Southeast Asian Flavors.

While I had felt that I had already learned a lot in the year I spent traveling to my native Singapore to learn to cook for my upcoming memoir, A Tiger In The Kitchen, I ended up picking up a few handy tips from our lively discussion …

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