The road to the US Open is paved with tacos and kebabsPosted: October 17, 2009 Filed under: Food | Tags: jackson heights, kebab king, kebabs, mexican, NYC, pakistani, queens, taco cart, tacos, taqueria coatzingo, tortilleria nixtamal, US Open 13 Comments
I’ve had 15 half-written food posts that I’ve been sitting on – some for more than six months. So I’m going to attempt to unclog the bottleneck here with a few of these posts. They won’t be fully fleshed out, take it as you will. First is below.
As I’ve noted before, I’ve been somehow successful in keeping IBM’s sports sponsorship as a small part of my communications beat at IBM. It’s great, doesn’t require a lot of time and allows me to dabble in sports PR and sports social media.
One of our premier sponsorships is the US Open Tennis Championship. Held in Queens, NY at the end of every summer and, it’s one of the quintessential New York cultural experiences. And while the tennis is spectacular, and the work generally successful, what I really get excited about is the excuse it gives me to hunt for tacos in Queens.
So, on my way to work at the Open on one particular day, I decided to get off the 7-Train at 74th St, and eat the rest of my way toward the Tennis Center, snacking on tacos, quesadillas, sopes and kebabs along Roosevelt Ave. Below are some of my notes.
Tacqueria Coatzingo. 7605 Roosevelt Ave, Queens, NY
Photo courtesy of Yelp
I have been to Tacqueria Coatzingo a few times before, but my last visit had been at least three years ago. I recently started a query on Chowhound for the latest in spit-roasted tacos al pastor. Coatzingo rose to the top of that discussion, so I decided to start my crawl there. As one of the few places that roasts their al pastor on a spit, Coatzingo automatically gets bonus points.
The tacos al pastor at Coatzingo are very good. Deeply flavorful pork, marinated in adobo, then roasted on a vertical spit giving it a nice char. Generous portions topped with onions, cilantro and avocado salsa (this is the thin, ubiquitious Mexican salsa de aguacate, not the common chunky American guacamole). A good, solid taco al pastor.
Taco cart @ 74th and Roosevelt, Queens
Unfortunately I didn’t take a picture and can’t remember the exact name, but this cart on the south side of Roosevelt, right at the 74th street intersection and below 7 Station puts out very good tacos al pastor. In fact, they are about as good as any non spit-roasted tacos al pastor can be. Huge portions of flavorful pork, served with chunks of pineapple, onions, cilantro and salsa de aguacate. I actually preferred the flavor of the adobo marinade to Coatzingo’s tacos al pastor, but Coatzingo’s cooking method (i.e. spit) gives it an edge. Regardless, this was a good, fat, tasty taco.
Kebab King 7301 37th St. (73rd & Broadway)
Kebab King is near legendary amongst Indian and Pakistani circles. It’s a 24-hour Pakistani restaurant that has a reputation for serving some of the best, authentic Pakistani food around. I caught Kebab King at the right time – during Ramadan – which ensured small lines during daylight hours. There are probably some better places with nicer settings, but Kebab King (the Queens location, not Manhattan) holds up to any of them.
Since I was on the move, I stuck to mobile food – kebabs: Lamb, beef and chicken to be exact. All three were of similar style, consisting of meat ground with spices, herbs, marinated (I think) in yogurt and chiles, then shaped around a skewer and cooked over a live fire. I didn’t see a lot of taste variance between the three kebabs, but all were good so I didn’t complain. (Note: subsequent conversations with Kebab King patrons and friends pointed me to other parts of the menu, like the tandoori fish, beef nihari, chicken biryani and szechuan goat. Some I’ve sampled since, some I haven’t. Stay tuned for another report just on Kebab King).
Tacos Guichos Cart – Roosevelt & 84th
Taking a break from the al pastor tacos I’d been sampling, I grabbed a carnitas taco from the Tacos Guichos cart at Roosevelt and 89th. While I do love tacos al pastor, carnitas (good ones, that is) probably rank at the very top of my taco food chain. Well, just under the angelic baja fish taco. This was a great carnitas taco: tender, mildly caramelized, super rich pork, overflowing the two tortillas on which its served. Garnished with onions, cilantro and salsa, it’s was a beautiful marriage making a glutton of anyone who eats it.
Random taco stand at 99th and Roosevelt
Along Roosevelt Avenue, you’ll find any number of taco stands that sell fresh quesadillas. This particular cart had no name anywhere to be found. It sits on a lonely corner at 99th and Roosevelt on the NE side of the intersection. If, for some forsaken reason, you haven’t had a real Mexican quesadilla, it’s well worth the $2-$3 treat. Almost always made with fresh masa, they consist of large corn tortillas, pressed to about a 10-inch diameter, then cooked on a hot, dry griddle and filled with any number of ingredients.
My choice for today was huitlacoche. An ingredient not all that common in this part of the country. Inky black and earthy in flavor, huitlacoche is my favorite quesadilla filling. At this unnamed taco stand, they are done very well. Huitlacoche mixed with onions, chiles and cheese. When cooked, huitlacoche almost melts, giving the quesadilla a rich creaminess that makes it a near perfect treat.
Tortilleria Nixtamal, 104-05 47th Ave, Queens, NY
Ok, so it’s not really on the way, and I’ve been going to Tortilleria Nixtamal regularly now for about seven months, but I still had to stop by on my walk over to the tennis center. I’ll spare more details for a full post (which also has been partially written for 6+ months now) but I ordered the fish tacos. Made with fresh skate that’s lightly pan fried, they are somewhat non traditional, but still very good. These are single-tortilla tacos that come three to an order (as do all of their tacos). The pictures here are from a visit about 6 months ago.
As I mentioned, much more (belatedly) on Tortilleria Nixtamal in the very near future, but as a preview, I’ll leave you with this picture, taken outside of Nixtamal. Care to guess what it’s for? A hint… lard. Lots and lots of lard…
Twitter and the U.S. Open – Was I the first??Posted: June 18, 2009 Filed under: Uncategorized, Work | Tags: Bethpage, Golf, Torrey Pines, Twitter, US Open 4 Comments
Readers of this blog know two things about me. 1) I love food; and 2) I do social media “stuff” at IBM. They may not know that I also have the awesome job of doing communications around our sports sponsorships (I know, I know… pretty great gig). IBM sponsors only a handful of sports properties, but the ones they do are all top tier: The NFL, The Masters, all four tennis Grand Slams and the USGA, which administers the Men’s, Women’s and Junior and Senior U.S. Open Championships.
So, to get to my point… in thinking about the intersection of social media and sports, I came to the dorky conclusion that I may have been the first ever person to tweet from a U.S. Open when I did so at the 108th U.S. Open Championship at Torrey Pines last year. Now, I’m not claiming to be the first to tweet about the U.S. Open. I’m saying I might be the first to tweet from the U.S. Open. If I’m correct, here’s the immortal tweet that is going to put me in the golf history books:
That was followed by a few other tweets during the course of the few days I was “working” at the event, including:
- Tiger and Phil on the 2nd hole
- Furyk and Stricker battling the beautiful 3-Par hole 3
- More Tiger and Phil circus
- And perhaps my favorite, the Luke Wilson sighting.
How do I come off thinking I’m the first to tweet from a U.S. Open? Well, consider the following:
- No fans are allowed mobile devices of any kind on the course. That eliminates almost everyone else.
- The only people allowed to have mobile devices are very select USGA employees, credentialed golf media and select USGA partner employees (i.e., me).
Since Twitter wasn’t even a gleam in Shaq’s massive eye in June ’08, I think I’m safe to assume none of the credentialed media at the Open were on Twitter. So while I might not be destined for the history books, I am going to claim my place in geek history.
(Oh, and for any of you who can prove that I wasn’t the first person to ever tweet from a U.S. Open… Shhhh… Keep it to yourselves. I need something to tell my mom so she can be proud of me)
* * *
So, on a very related note, tomorrow morning I’m heading back to the Open… this time to Bethpage Black for what is looking to be a complete washout. We’ve got some conversations lined up with media, so our turnout may be higher than expected since there might not be any on-course distractions to deal with. At least, that’s my silver lining to some wet, gray clouds.
Now, for all of you who can’t actually be at the course tomorrow (pity), here are some non-TV ways you can enjoy the U.S. Open this year, thanks to IBM and the USGA:
- USOpen.com for real-time scoring, HD-quality live streaming video of the marquee groups on Thursday and Friday, live video of the 17th whole Saturday and Sunday, and lots fun things for golf geeks: videos, interactive games, history, etc.
- iPhone. Twice a year I get iPhone envy. During the Masters, and now during the U.S. Open. The iPhone app is pretty awesome, with live streaming video, real time scores and player profiles.
- Twitter. Thanks to Ashton and Oprah, there are plenty more folks than me to follow on Twitter for this year’s Open. Best bet is to follow the official Twitter account for the U.S. Open/USGA. USOpen.com has a nice page where you can get that feed plus links to some of the golf pros using Twitter.
- Facebook addicts can pimp their profiles with a US Open Widget to add to their profile. (For anti-Facebook-ites you can use the widget on any profile/blog/web page).
That’s about it. Now we just need nature to cooperate and it ought to be an amazing Open.