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Noshwalks provide Queens culinary tour

To nosh it is to love it.

That could be the motto Manhattan resident Myra Alperson could apply to Rego Park, one of 35 city neighborhoods where she brings visitors to sample distinct ethnic foods as part of her Noshwalk tours.

The 10 or so people on the tour Sunday ranged in age from twentysomethings to senior citizens and came from other boroughs and even other states.

“Food is the way to bring people together,” Alperson said Sunday.

“She does her homework, that’s the nice thing,” said Denis Duran, who came with his wife, Molly Duran, from Stamford, Conn.

“Really, for us it takes us to areas that we normally wouldn’t go,” Molly Duran said, noting they have returned to Flushing after going on one of Alperson’s tours of the neighborhood and discovering a handmade noodle shop in the basement stall of a food mall there.

Not all of Alperson’s guests are from out of the borough, however. Sunnyside resident Molly Charboneau came along to learn about Rego Park.

“Queens is so diverse,” she said. “It’s so nice to explore these culinary cultures.”

Alperson has been in the tour business for more than two decades. Capitalizing on her college penchant for exploring the city, she started Hungry Pedals Bicycle Tours in 1983. She published her first book, “The Food Lover’s Guide to the Real New York,” with collaborators in 1987.

“We came before chowhound.com, before [seriouseats.com blogger] Ed Levine,” she said.

Alperson teaches during the rest of the year, but reserves the summer for excursions throughout the city. Other Queens tours include Astoria, Elmhurst, Flushing and Jackson Heights, Jamaica, Richmond Hill, Ridgewood, Sunnyside and Woodside.

After living abroad for four years, Alperson returned to the city in 1999, starting NoshNews, a newsletter about food finds in various neighborhoods. Noshwalks began in 2000 as an offshoot of the newsletter. She published another book, “Nosh New York,” in 2003.

Alperson prizes Rego Park for its large population of Bukharian Jews from countries like Uzbekistan and Tajikistan. Their shops, like Queens Bazaar Food on 63rd Drive, where she treated her tourists to samples of flatbread, Uzbek raisins and dried apricots, stock many unique and exotic items.

Stopping at the International Gourmet at 97-28 63rd Road, Alperson introduced her food tourists to Tajik dishes like “mink coat” — a combination of herring, beets and cheese — and tkemali, a sour plum sauce occasionally referred to as “Russian ketchup.”

Alperson is proud of how her tours support small businesses and she likes to keep an eye on how the neighborhoods evolve over the years. She said a larger store, Universal Food, opened a few doors down from International Gourmet about a year ago, but now it sits shuttered.

“I was worried this guy would push him out of the neighborhood,” she said, “but it didn’t happen.”

At another stop, the Uzbek restaurant Tandoori, Alperson touted the lepeshka — flaky, round flatbreads with sesame seeds.

“Just before shabbat, they line up here to pick it up,” she said.

For more information, visit noshwalks.com.

Reach reporter Jeremy Walsh by e-mail at jewalsh@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 154.

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