South America just over the East River


Now I have fully established myself in the tennis “scene”, i.e. I have found someone to play with me every weekend, I am trundling off to Flushing Meadows every Saturday or Sunday to hit a few balls in the stifling heat. We even miss out on weekend lie ins in order to try beat the sun. However, we always seem to fail and today again melted into a puddle at the side of the court.

By 11:30am my partner and I are both exhausted from the humidity and eager to explore this area of Queens a little more. Last week we ventured not to far from the US Open courts in the heart of Flushing. This famed tortilleria has won many awards and is snuggly located on an “esquina” (corner) of a residential hub. Flanked by wood-panelled detached and semi-detached homes, this fun red and yellow taco oasis stands proud in the sleepy neighbourhood. In fact, as I often find in Queens, one can feel very far from a bustling city life and with the suffocating sun beating down and the authentic Mexican food prepared in front of us, accompanied by imported national drinks, we really could have been in Mexico itself.

Centeotl is the Aztec Corn god

Nixtamal is an Aztec word to describe corn that has been partially cooked and treated with calcium hydroxide (otherwise known as cal or lime). Nixtamal can be used for grinding into masa (or corn dough) used for tortillas (finely ground) or tamales (coarsely ground), or can be kept in its whole form to make hominy, typically used in pozole soup.

The ancient process of nixtamalization was first developed in Mesoamerica, where maize was originally cultivated. There is no precise date for when the technology was developed, but the earliest evidence of nixtamalization is found in Guatemala’s southern coast, with equipment dating from 1200-1500BCE.

I highly recommend this restaurant. With reasonably sized portions, this deliciously fresh nourishment is not to heavy for the tummy and everything is prepared on site to make for a very authentic experience.

This week was a lunch of Colombian cuisine. Los Arrieros sits “cerca de la metro” (near the metro) and is almost always (I have heard) jam-packed with locals, which can only be a good sign. A photoshoot menu serves to detail every dish available to the customer but entirely misrepresents the size of the portions. Beans, rice, a plentiful of meat, plantain and tamal (a Columbian dish of chicken and pork cooked in a corn husk with peas and carrots and then wrapped in a plantain leaf) all tempt the reader with their portfolio, but on coming out of the kitchen, the word pequeno does not automatically spring to mind. I plumped for the tamal, it being the most typical of the dishes and I was not to be disappointed. The meat, hidden inside it’s thick polenta-like shell, fell easily off the bone. Incredibly wholesome and as such was probably more of a winter dish. Raf chose the grilled beef and he certainly got enough of that. We indulged in sides of salad, plantain and a plate of rice and beans and between the two of us did quite well, I would say, in trying to make a dent in it. However, I think next time we will have to bring a larger team of eaters!

Queens is quite the dining experience. Pity, then, there are only 3 meals in a day as I have my work cut out for me in New York City.


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