Flushing, Queens: $20 and a Mission

Flushing, Queens is the last stop of the “International express”, the nickname for the 7 train line. It’s also home to one of the city’s largest Asian population, primarily Chinese and Koreans.

One of the goals on my Day Zero list was to visit the Queens Botanical Garden. The day before I’d visited the Brooklyn Botanic Garden, which I can get into free due to my New York Botanical Garden membership. I’d been to the my Brooklyn counterpart many times, but for whatever reason I’d forgotten there was also a garden in Queens. I decided I’d take the trek to Queens and check it out.

I’m a big travel junkie and on weekends I like to explore the five boroughs and the outskirts when I get a chance. Sometimes to get the full experience you need to travel like a local away from home but get the full tourist experience at home. That’s what I decided to do. First stop: Main Street, Flushing, the last stop on the 7 train.

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I had not eaten before leaving the Bronx and Flushing is known for its great Asian cuisine, especially Chinese and Korean. I decided to let my nose and stomach be my guide. I walked down Main Street south towards the garden. I’d never been the way except once or twice on a bus ride to Jamaica, but that was years ago.

I crossed underneath the Long Island Railroad trestle and landed in front of a bunch of open air windows selling food to go apparently known as AA Plaza. They sold all kind of Chinese goodies, some familiar and others I had never seen before. I settled on these tiny balls I saw on a stick that smelled good. The lady at the window informed me that these were fish balls and cost a dollar for about four on the “kebab.” I agreed, paid the lady, and went on my way. They were actually quite mild, slightly spicy, and delicious.

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I soon crossed the street and stumbled upon a similar type set up: an open window with displays of food being sold. This particular stall specialized in poultry and rice. I saw a good looking plastic container of brown rice, but decided to be more adventurous. I settled on a container of honey roasted duck. I paid the man the asking price of $5.95 (another bargain) and was on my way. The actual meat was not as fatty as I’d imagined, had a texture similar to turkey, and a slightly sweet taste not too different from turkey or chicken.

I am a big fan of Chinese bakeries. I discovered this when I lived briefly in Woodside. There was a bakery under the 7 train in the 50s that I’d frequent to pick up a slice of cake or cookies. When I sawQQ Cafe & Bakery, I made a dash across the street. I saw cheesecake and a creme brulee that looked good, but I decided to go with something different.

A mother and father with a toddler stood in front of me who looked confused as they bombarded the girl behind the counter with questions. I spotted a display of what appeared to be cracked eggs smoking on the counter. I later found out that these were duck eggs, a Chinese delicacy. Not quite my cup of tea (no pun intended.) I found a brightly shaded green cake that the sales girl told me was green tea cake with apple filling. $1.50? I’ll take it! The green tea flavor was subtle but the apple filling was sweet and moist. I happily ate it up as I walked.

I finally hap733985_3046503459087_1876799447_npened upon the garden. It was much smaller than either the one in the Bronx or Brooklyn, and the entrance was not apparent at first.  I flashed my garden pass to the girl in the booth who said the entry

was free for the next few hours, and handed me a map. To people who are not fans of botany as I am, a garden is a garden. I looked at my map and realized there was really nothing in the way of a conservatory like the aforementioned gardens have, which are considerably larger. I walked on. It seemed more like a park than a botanical garden. It was pleasant enough and I walked leisurely through, admiring the scented garden and bridges built over small streams.

I left, slightly disappointed, and headed back up Main Street towards the 7 train. I decided that I wanted to check out some of the local grocery stores, whose interesting displays on the sidewalks drew me in. I walked into the Good Fortune Supermarket, interested in the exotic fruits and vegetables I saw, a produce worker encouraging me to take a look. So I did.

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Dragon fruit aka pitaya

I consider myself to be a pretty adventurous eat, but I will be honest in sharing that there were many things I would have serious reservations about trying and could not identify. I appeared to be the only non-Chinese/Asian shopper in sight, which was no deterrent. Most of the signage identifying the items were in Chinese, though the produce and seafood also had English.

 

I consider myself to be a pretty adventurous eat, but I will be honest in sharing that there were many things I would have serious reservations about trying and could not identify. I appeared to be the only non-Chinese/Asian shopper in sight, which was no deterrent. Most of the signage identifying the items were in Chinese, though the produce and seafood also had English.

 

I think that the other shoppers probably knew that I was as interested in exploring as I was in actually shopping. While I myself would not necessarily be eating what was sold, I did find it interesting to check out what the offered and it appeared quite fresh as many of animals were still alive.

 

I decided to head on my way and see what else was in store for me (unintended pun #2.)

Some things I would eat or were just very fun to look at. It became a challenge to see how much I could eat with the $20 bill I had. You cannot go to a Chinatown and not buy bubble tea. I headed to Comebuy, which I admit that I have been here before and I knew that I could get something fun and tasty. I ordered a green apple bubble tea ($4.50.) Not too traditional, but had a satisfyingly sweet taste similar to ice tea with a Jolly Rancher and just as green. To those who have never had one, the “bubbles” are actually black tapioca pearls that expand and take on the taste of whatever liquid you put them in. They have a soft, sticky, jelly consistency.

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My green apple green tea with tapioca or “bubbles”

I headed to one more bakery to sample a regular green bubble tea (the I think all the sugar got to me) at Maxin Bakery. By then, as you might imagine, I was stuffed. I also purchased anther green tea cake that I planned to eat for breakfast the following morning. I walked to the Q44 bus stop and headed back to the Bronx.

Total spent for the day? Just under $18.

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