Like the Nicaraguan nacatamal, the hallaca ($9) is meant to eaten while you're comfortably seated. It's heftier than the workaday tamale you might buy from a street vendor, though not invariably broad and flattish. This one was filled with chopped chicken, beef, and pork as well as shreds of onion, capers, perhaps a few tidbits of bell pepper, and an almond or two. The masa envelope was probably tinted with annatto, noted Peter Cherches of Word of Mouth, who alerted me to this holiday specialty. Hallacas are available at Arepas Cafe during December and, perhaps, for a week or so into the New Year.
Also shown: mini cachapas ($4.25); pabellon, pernil, and Guayanesa tropical arepas (about $6 each) featuring, respectively, shredded beef with black beans and aged white cheese, roast pork, and plantains with avocado and Guayanes cheese; pabellon criollo ($11), a shredded beef platter; jugo de papelon con limon ($2), housemade brown sugar lemonade.
33-07 36th Ave. (33rd-34th Sts.), Astoria, Queens