The Bao Shoppe

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After reading about The Bao Shoppe on a round of Astoria sites (We Heart Astoria and Tastoria to name a few), I ventured over to the new Steinway spot this past Wednesday. The quick, casual restaurant serves “baos inspired by Asian and American flavors.” In other words, it specializes in a boa (a delicate, airy puff of a steamed bun) stuffed with fillings such as tender pork belly and pickled onions.

Baalok and I headed over for a late dinner when the crowds had cleared. So we were fortunate enough to have the owner’s full attention. He was immediately welcoming and even had the courtesy to take us through the entire menu. We settled on the Smokey Pig (stuffed with pulled pork), O.G. (braised pork belly) and the Colonel Bao (fried chicken) and Shoppe Fries.

I was a bit hesitant about the Shoppe Fries. The Asian twist features a generous portion of french fries topped with kimchi, spicy mayo, BBQ sauce and daikon. My naive doubt immediately drifted away after one bite. The sandwiches were equally delicious. The Colonel Bao with juicy fried chicken topped with pickled slaw and spicy mayo was my favorite.

bao-shoppe astoria-bao-shoppe

The Bao Shoppe also serves a bevy of bubble teas and other iced tea variations. The vegetarian options are somewhat limited. However, according to their Facebook page, they’re experimenting with more vegetarian combos. So stay tuned. There’s also a small gallery of local artwork in the back. It’s always nice to see some creative, community support!

Anyways, it’s good, really good. So just go, please. Now.

The Bao Shoppe is located at 30-66 Steinway between 30th and 31st Avenues. Join them on Twitter or Facebook for the latest specials and sandwich selections.

Side note: Truthfully, I never had the pleasure of tasting a bao sandwich until moving to New York. For those of you who have never had a boa sandwich, read this recent article, “10 Reasons The Bao is The Best Sandwich You’ve Never Tried.” Specifically, The Bao Shoppe serves gua boa; the bun is sliced half open resembling a taco-like slider. This variation comes from Taiwan.

homemade brunch for two

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Instead of spending money on brunch this weekend, I decided to whip up my own: baked eggs with chorizo and kale with Sriracha Bloody Marys. After a long night celebrating my roommate’s boyfriend’s 25th, this was a tasty remedy to start the day.

Baked Eggs with Chorizo & Kale
Serves 2

  • 1 tbsp. olive oil
  • 3 garlic cloves, chopped
  • ½ bunch of kale
  • 1 chorizo link (about 4 oz)
  • ½ cup of manchango
  • 4 eggs
  • ½ cup Manchego cheese, grated

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Heat olive oil in a skillet over medium heat and add garlic. Tear up kale and throw into pan. Toss for about 2-3 minutes, remove and place aside.

In the same pan, cook chorizo, breaking into chunks, until done.

Grease two ramekins with butter and place kale and chorizo on the bottoms.  Shape a hole in the center and crack two eggs into the well.

Place in oven for about 15 minutes until the whites are almost cooked and the yolk is still runny.

Serve immediately with a side of toast.

baked-eggs-astoria

Sriracha Bloody Marys

  • 3 oz. vodka
  • 5 oz. tomato juice
  • 1 tsp. grated horseradish
  • A dash Worcestershire Sauce
  • 1 tsp. Sriracha (or more for extra spice – I put 2 tsp. in Baalok’s drink)
  • Lime wedge

Combine all ingredients in one glass. Add ice and stir. Garnish with a lime wedge and cheers!

Queso Fundido Supper

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Queso Fundido is a classic Mexican appetizer somewhat akin to fondue – an indulgent dish of melted Mexican cheeses, peppers and spices served with flour tortillas. Last Saturday night, I turned this tasty appetizer into dinner by serving it in an individual soup bowl with a side of black beans, avocado and a dollop a Greek yogurt. The mishmash of warm cheese, beans and avocado rolled up into a tortilla was delicious, resulting in a comforting, satisfying meal. This dish may just be my new weakness.

Queso Fundido Supper
Serves 2

  • 1 large Poblano pepper
  • 8 ounces Mexican or Spanish chorizo, casings removed
  • 3 cups shredded cheese, Monterey Jack and Oaxaca
  • 1 small red onion, diced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • Chopped scallions for garnishing
  • 6-8 small flour tortillas, warmed
  • 1 large avocado, halved and sprinkled with a dash of sea salt & pepper
  • 2 cups black beans, divided
  • 2 heaping tablespoons of Greek yogurt

Heat the Poblano directly under the broiler for five minutes, turning occasionally, until blackened on all sides. Once cool, remove the skin, chop and set aside. Preheat oven to 425°F.

Cook chorizo in a skillet until done, about 5 to 6 minutes. Transfer to a plate covered in a paper towel to soak up the grease.

Add onion and garlic to the same skillet and sauté for about 5 minutes.

Divide onion mixture & poblano into two oven-proof soup bowls. Place half of cheese mix in each bowl and top with cooked chorizo. Cover tightly with aluminum foil.

Fill a baking dish halfway with hot water. Place the two bowls inside the water bath and transfer to the oven. Bake until the cheese is melted, about 20 to 25 minutes. Be sure not to overcook the cheese into a stubborn, rubbery lump!

Remove from the oven and garnish with chopped scallions. Serve with tortillas, avocado and a side of black beans topped with Greek yogurt.

Side Notes:

  • Traditionally, Queso Fundido is made with Oaxaca, Quesadilla or Chihuahua. These Mexican cheeses can be hard to find in American grocery stores. Common substitutes are Monterey Jack, Mozzarella or Muenster.
  • Have the tortillas, avocado and black beans plated beforehand. This cheesy bowl of goodness is best served right out of the oven, when it’s sizzling and hot.
  • Make it yours! If you like spicy food, add jalapeno or a touch of chili powder. Mix it up with some oregano and tomatoes or top with fresh cilantro.

spring bucket list

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Lately, the weather has been toying with the thought of spring. So like many Queens residents right now, I’m dreaming of picnics at Astoria Park, a crisp ale at Bohemian Hall or an impromptu day trip to Rockaway Beach.  Fortunately, spring is a week away and we’re slowly wakening from the winter hibernation. Here are a just few spring activities I’m looking forward to:

Astoria Flea & Food at Kaufman Astoria Studios
Every Sunday May-June

MoMA PS1’s exhibition “Taster’s Choice”
March 23-May 25

Outdoor brunch at new restaurant Marketa
Every Saturday!?

Astoria Bookshop’s Creative Writing Workshop with Emily Herzlin
April 10

Relaxing at Gantry Plaza State Park in Long Island City
Every Sunday?!

Conquering a spring dessert, like these lemon, poppy and chevre cheesecakes with rhubard

snowdonia

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Last Saturday night, Baalok and I ventured to Snowdonia, a cozy, trappist-style gastropub. Tucked away at the corner of 35th Avenue and 32nd Street, the neighborhood spot serves local craft beer and quality pub fare. Many of the signature dishes feature the beer selections on tap as ingredients

The atmosphere is immediately warm and inviting. Dining benches line the tables and soft industrial pendants add a nice glow. For an appetizer, we shared the Ploughman’s Plate – a plate of ricotta cheese, house-made olive tapenade, pickled onions and pork spread. I’m not sure my palette is refined enough to have appreciated the pork. However, the fresh ricotta, juicy olive spread and perfectly pickled fat slices of onions were so good. I mean seriously good. Served on lightly buttered, grilled bread, the ingredients blended into a simple delight.

Baalok ordered another delight – the last steak-frites left for the night. Like many men, he has very high standards for steak. I’ve never heard him say a steak is good. He only mutters a doubtful, “It was okay,” or grumbles about an overpriced dinner. BUT for the first time in our 3-year relationship, he said, “Wow. That steak is really, really good.” (!!!) Really, really good means he loved that 16oz rib eye. Apparently, it was absolutely cooked to perfection – juicy and tender with just the right amount of seasoning. I don’t even eat beef, but that meal looked downright mouthwatering.

On the other side of the table, I enjoyed a generous portion of mussels soaked in a beer broth. The P.E.I. mussels were equally satisfying – plump and tasty. We topped the night off with glasses of Peak Organic Fresh Cut Pilsner while “Superbad” played on the TVs above the bar (a nice change from the typical sportscast). We both left in a happy daze patting our swollen food bellies. The relaxed environment, great service and delicious food were right on point. We can’t wait to go back.

Follow the Trappist Times for Snowdonia’s food and drink specials and upcoming events. Another plus, they also serve brunch.

lobster chowder

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I must admit I did not prepare this recipe. Baalok cooked up this drool-inducing lobster corn chowder the other weekend. I observed him from the kitchen table, happily chopping the vegetables and sipping a glass of wine, while he carefully crafted the creamy soup. We giggled over his novice cooking questions and he swatted my prying hands away from plump chunks of lobster. It was a perfect night in, and the meal was a perfect fit with the frost outside. Served with a side of buttery, crusty bread, this soup makes a delicious, heartwarming entrée.

Ina Garten’s Lobster Corn Chowder
Adapted from the Barefoot Contessa
Serves 4-6

For the stock:

  • 6 tablespoons (¾ stick) unsalted butter
  • 1 cup chopped yellow onion
  • ¼ cup sherry
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 4 cups whole milk
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 1 cup dry white wine

For the soup:

  • 1 tablespoon good olive oil
  • ¼ pound bacon
  • 3 cups corn
  • 2 cups large-diced unpeeled Yukon gold potatoes (2 medium)
  • 1½ cups chopped yellow onions (2 onions)
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 pounds cooked lobster (Ina calls for fresh lobster, we just used pre-cooked – less prep time and it was good!)
  • ¼ cup sherry
  • 2 teaspoons chopped fresh chives

For the stock, melt the butter in a large stockpot. Add the onion and cook over medium-low heat until soft, stirring occasionally.

Add the sherry and paprika and cook for 1 minute. Add the milk, cream and wine and bring to a simmer. Then partially cover the pot and simmer the stock over the lowest heat for 30 minutes.

While the stock is simmering, cook the bacon with the olive oil in another stockpot. Remove bacon when crisp.

Then add the potatoes, onions, corn, salt, and pepper to the same pot and cook for 5 about minutes.

When the stock is ready, pour it into the pot with the potatoes and corn.

Simmer over low heat for 15-20 minutes, until the potatoes are tender.

Add the cooked lobster, the chives and the sherry and season to taste. Stir gently until everything is heated.

Serve hot with a garnish of the cooked bacon (Baalok and I skipped this last step. Once we cooked the bacon, we just couldn’t stop munching on it).