Bread and cheese – it’s a classic combination in many cultures. Ben and Jen Sandler at The Queens Kickshaw certainly know this, evident in their amazing and popular grilled cheese sandwiches. Chef Darren Loveless certainly knows the power of bread and cheese as he crafts delicious panini and crostini at Il Bambino (the guys over at Forking Tasty like them, too – check out their video) And then there’s the amazing queso taco made by the friendly staff at La Cabana that is essentially bread and cheese. We could go on and on (and nom and nom).
Yet another twist on the bread and cheese combo is to bake the cheese into the dough, form it into a little rounds and bake them into buns. Two excellent examples of this approach are the Brazilian pao de queijo (which translates into “cheese bread”) and the Colombian pandebono (which translates into “good bread”). The two breads share some core ingredients (cassava starch, cheese, eggs), with a few differences. Pao de queijo is made with cassava starch, milk, cheese, eggs and butter or oil, and pandebono is made with corn flour, cassava starch, cheese, eggs, and a little sugar. We’ve found that pandebono also tastes a little sweeter than pao de queijo, thanks to the sugar. Pao de queijo is a bit savorier than the pandebono, but not by much. It may taste a bit cheesier, too.
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Astoria has a vibrant Brazilian population (36th Avenue is the main hub of Brazilian life in the neighborhood, but it’s not limited to that area), so it’s easy to find pao de queijo there. In fact, the tastiest around is found at the aptly named New York Pao de Queijo on 30th Street near Broadway (also a favorite of Astoria food maven @tastoriaqueens). It is served warm and is just a delight with its cheesy goodness. They are fairly substantial, too, and beware that the cassava starch (aka yucca flour) can be filling if you eat too many (believe us, it’s easy to do). A perfect combination there is a pao de queijo and one of their brigadeiros, a small ball of chocolate or coconut (there are other flavors, too) that is beyond tasty.
With a substantial Colombian population in Queens (Jackson Heights has the biggest Colombian population in the US), pandebono is easy to find in the borough. That also means there are a lot of passable pandebonos out there. Well, the best place to get a great pandebono is at La Delicia En Pandebono on 82nd Street just south of Roosevelt in what is technically Elmhurst but is easily considered to be Jackson Heights. The pandebono are wonderful there, and the tastiest in the borough. They keep them in a warm oven, so your pandebono is guaranteed to be warm when you eat it. It has a soft texture, yet a pleasant chew – we find Sara Markel Gonzalez’s assessment over on Serious Eats of “a crisp crust and a chewy interior” to be totally true. And while you’re in the neighborhood, walk across the street and get yourself a fruity, sweet, and creamy cholado at the Las Americas Bakery – this is one of the best cholados in Queens. You will not be sorry.
New York Pao de Queijo, 31-90 30th St., Astoria, NY 11106; (718) 204-1979 (GMAP)
La Delicia en Pandebono, 40-23 82nd Street, Elmhurst NY 11373; (347) 448-8020 (GMAP)