You’ll recall yesterday Grub brought you the news that New York’s state politicians spent a few hours earlier this week discussing the undesirability of kumquats, which just so happen to be the hottest ingredient in the city. Caught up in all of this was the Queens-based New York State Senator Michael Gianaris, who didn’t even really know what a kumquat was. As a service, Grub offered up the names of a few places that our lawmakers could go to appreciate the maligned citrus fruit. Per Gianaris’s Twitter, he did just that, hitting Willow Road for mussels with kumquat butter. And when he thoughtfully called Grub HQ to thank us for our recommendation, we took the time to ask him about his new favorite food.
What was going through your mind on Wednesday night when everyone starting talking about kumquats in Albany?
Well, I’d heard the word before, and I knew it was a fruit of some kind, but I can’t say I’d ever seen one, so I used my iPhone to do a quick search. Apparently it’s often mistaken for an orange that’s gone bad.
So, you went to Willow Road last night and had the mussels with kumquats.
I should thank you — I had a delicious meal last night. Usually if I’m in that neighborhood, I’ll go to Colicchio & Sons or Del Posto. But Willow Road was good. The butter served with the mussels was infused with kumquat pieces. It had a nice flavor. I also want to try them at that place that’s opening today, Alder. I was looking at the menu earlier — apparently they’re stuffed with sausage.
Do you go out to eat at restaurants a lot?
I actually fancy myself a little bit of a foodie, so any opportunity to try something new works for me. We have so many great places in Astoria, where we’re based. In Manhattan, I’ve been going to Commerce for years, and love Soccarat for paella. My favorite sushi place is not really at the top of most people’s lists — it’s Yama, on 17th and Irving. Their special roll No. 7 is always outstanding — it’s a spicy scallop roll, with spicy mayo. They have the best scallop sushi in general.
Has anyone sent you or your elected official peers any gift baskets filled with kumquats and kumquat products yet?
[Laughs.] Not as of yet. This is a developing story, though. I’m open to enjoying them — I enjoyed them last night. No disrespect intended, I was admittedly ignorant of the value of the kumquat.
It kind of seems like you were standing up for the kumquats, sort of championing them a little.
You know, I was going with the flow, and it seemed like people were comfortable using the kumquat as an example of the undesirable item you get in a gift basket, and bottom line is I’m glad I tried it. Perhaps this will lead to a resurgence of kumquat appreciation.