Flushing Day Trip

This summer has been a non-stop highlight reel of beaches and vineyards, lake houses and boat trips, charming towns and exotic cities, mountains, yachts, villas, rented cars, hikes, bike rides and SO. MANY. SUNSETS. Just nonstop sunsets really.

Hahaha no, silly goose! None of them mine! All of that’s been the recap of pretty much almost everyone else I know’s summer. My friends and acquaintances, let me tell you, have gone freakin’ everywhere in the past few months.

I went to Milwaukee. For work. (Cue sad trombone.) Well, and Miami, too, but that doesn’t really count because I’m from there, and while I did sneak in some fun, it was largely tainted by familial obligations.

With a pending move next month and a hemorrhaging bank account because of it, there have been no big trips this summer, and there won’t likely be any till next year. But you know what? It’s fine.

When you live in New York, there’s a little bit of every pocket of the world right here, which is why last weekend, in lieu of an exotic, expensive, faraway trip, the boyfriend and I decided to explore one of those foreign-to-us pockets instead and rode the 7 train to the end of the line to Flushing, Queens.

For me, travel is largely about exploring through food, so that’s exactly what we did in Flushing, making our own walking tour/ food crawl experience as we went along.

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I read somewhere that more than two-thirds of Flushing residents are foreign-born, most of them Asian and predominantly Chinese, though there are people from everywhere else too.

Between the 90 degree weather with a steady drizzle, the bustling markets full of exotic fruit and crates of live creatures, the crush of people, the squawking vendors and the foreign language signs everywhere, why even spend the money on a plane ticket? We already felt like we’d gone farther than just a borough away.

It wasn’t drinks with a view or a white sand beach but really, any tiny jealousy of mine aside, after a day spent eating amazing (and cheap!) food, visiting a Hindu temple I never knew about, wandering through quiet neighborhoods and huddling together under a small umbrella down busy main streets, I was ok with being exactly where I was. Even if I had been halfway around the world, I probably would’ve been doing the same thing: wandering, chasing down recommendations, eating too much.

For as much as I complain about New York, if you have to be stuck somewhere without being able to travel, there’s no better place to be stuck than here.

A whole lot of comforting

My sister and I are separated by roughly 1,200 miles (1,276.3 if you ask Google) and because I have a slight aversion to Miami, where she still lives, and she’s been to New York a bunch of times, we thought we should get together in a whole new city.

Our requirements were that our destination be no more than a couple of hours away by plane, have fun things to do (the younger De Angelis isn’t one for poolside lounging or beach bumming) and have lots of good food. So off we went to Atlanta, to do our sister bonding with a side of southern comfort.

Many a calorie was consumed by way of fried, butter-laden southern specialties, but we both agreed the best meal of the trip (though possibly the worst for our waistlines) was at Mary Mac’s Tea Room, the kind of bright, sunny restaurant that fills up with bustling families and church ladies in their Sunday best, all packed in for heaping plates of artery-clogging southern goodness and tall glasses of sweet tea.

Plain table bread? Psshh, not here, folks!

Plain table bread? Psshh, not here, folks!

Right out of the gate, Mary Mac’s starts you off with a basket of sweet morning buns and cornbread in place of regular ol’ bread. Morning buns, with their sweet cinnamon bun-like swirl of brown sugar, were an interesting way to start things off, almost dessert-y and a nice complement to the more savory butter-slathered cornbread.

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Oh you know, just a little light lunch.

While the options were many, with seemingly endless combinations of carbs on carbs on carbs, I went with the shrimp and cheese grits with fried green tomatoes and my all-time favorite, sweet potato soufflé, as sides. The cheese grits were all of the creamy, buttery, cheesy perfection I needed them to be, with fat, juicy shrimp plopped on top, and the fried green tomatoes, tangy and juicy inside their crunchy, battered shells were the ideal companion. But by and far, my heart was won over by the sweet potato soufflé, all creamy and smooth, caramelized marshmallow sitting on top like a dream.

Fried chicken, dumplings and mac and cheese...trifecta of deliciousness.

Fried chicken, dumplings and mac and cheese…trifecta of deliciousness.

The other De Angelis went with fried chicken (because really, when in Rome…), mac and cheese and dumplings. The chicken, a giant, hulking affair of crispy, crunchy skin and tender white meat paired well with the softer, creamier sides. The dumplings, thick and soupy in their gravy like sauce were like the ooey, gooey, cheesey mac and cheese in rich, over the top southern goodness.

Peach cobbler, cause there's always room for something sweet.

Peach cobbler, cause there’s always room for something sweet.

Finally, even with all of that in our systems, we squeezed in dessert: a shared portion of Georgia peach cobbler. Unlike the cobbler I ate in bed back at the hotel, this one was all fruit, no crust. It was good, the stewed, spiced peaches soft and warm, but definitely could’ve used at least a little bit of ice cream. Cause hell, after you’ve had that many calories, what’s another couple hundred?

We left completely stuffed, ready for deep, long naps, and happily bordering on discomfort by the amount of good ol’ Georgia comfort food we put back.

Mary Mac's Tea Room on Urbanspoon

K-Town feast

Most weeks, by the time Friday rolls around, I’m beat and like to unwind by eating. (Yes, I know…) Sometimes, like last week, I ring in the weekend with a snack like a cupcake or cheesecake (or both) and other times, like this week, it’s with a whole feast. The kind that makes you look around to make sure no one is watching when you undo the top button on your pants.

Korea town was just a few blocks from where we were, and a couple of restaurants on 32nd street, between Fifth Ave. and Broadway in the most concentrated part of K-Town, were on my to-do list so that’s where we headed.

Maybe it was because of the nasty cold rain steadily coming down outside, but the second we walked in to Kang Suh I felt that we had made the right choice. A great choice. A warm and delicious smelling choice.

The menu was huge, an encyclopedia of Korean eats and sushi. Two asian girls at the table next to us had a dozen different dishes, bowls and what looked like a skillet before them. I wanted to lean over and say, “Hey, would you guys mind ordering for us? Cause your table looks awesome.” But I didn’t. Cause really, that would be awkward.

So after lots of flipping back and forth through the menu, bargaining and strategizing with Flaneur, we were ready when the waitress came by for our order.

We decided to split an appetizer but before it came, a waiter came by with a tray full of small plates which he arranged across our table before walking away without comment.

“What is this stuff?”

“I dunno. Let’s eat it.”

The plates just kept coming and coming...

From left to right in the picture, the first dish seemed to be some sort of hot peppers. So hot that Flaneur practically spit his out and said I could eat all them. (And I did.) Next, on the top was some sort of fish bits in a sweet teriyaki style sauce. The plate below it was full of tangy, slightly spicy cabbage leaves. The middle plate had soy sauce with what appeared to be scallions and possibly something else. (Garlic maybe?) Next to it on the top were some mixed pickled vegetable strips. Below it was something that tasted like shellfish and cucumber. (Flaneur’s allergic to shellfish so I never got a second opinion.) Finally, on the right was a broccoli type green veggie. I’m a little unsure about everything because like I said we never ordered it. It just came mysteriously with no explanation. But it was good and that was enough for me.

Next out was our appetizer, the tasty-as-all-hell mandoo gui. Fried to a crispy golden brown on the outside and stuffed full with beef, these things were addictive. Sometimes dumplings are greasy (if they’re fried) or have that rubbery, almost greyish dough on the outside but these had neither. They were pretty perfect if you ask me.

Delicious dumplings and creepy carrot butterfly.

Flaneur’s entree came out first, but it didn’t matter because we /I had decided to split both main courses. Japchae, Korean starch noodles fried with vegetables and beef seasoned in soy sauce came in a giant mound and were delicious. It was hard to keep myself from shoveling it all down my throat in one sitting but I managed to restrain myself.

Noodles, veggies and beef

Next came my pick, which I have to admit was something I chose because it sounded a little unusual, like something I’d never had before: Heukyomso Tang, a spicy stew of black goat meat with pepper, sesame leaves and vegetables served with rice. It came in a black cast iron pot  with thick swirls of steam billowing out of it. One of those things that makes people at other tables look over and wonder what you’re eating. With the dreary wet weather outside, this was the perfect thing to be eating.

Spicy goat stew

When we were finally done eating our table looked like a deserted battle field: all empty plates, abandoned chopsticks, stray noodles stuck to dishes, stew dripping over the side of the mini-cauldron. And then there was us, almost panting, bellies full, pants just a little tighter. Although the rain was unrelentling and I could see the wind snapping people’s umbrellas’s inside out, I was prepared to deal with the walk home. I was full and happy, just the way I like to be after my kick-off to the weekend.