Literary Astoria

This weekend really opened my eyes as to how much great literary action is happening in Queens!  I had no idea there were so many people involved in developing a supportive community of poets and writers in our very own borough.  It’s all very exciting and refreshing to see it first hand, which is what we did on Friday and Saturday nights this weekend.

On Friday night, we rocked up to the Queens Literary Town Hall, held by the Queens Council on the Arts in their “3rd Space” location in Astoria.   The event, hosted and curated by local artist Audrey Dimola, featured different people from all over the borough giving information and in some cases a sample, of their literary-related Queens-based event and organizations.  The participating collectives/businesses included Boundless Tales Reading Series, First Tuesdays Reading Series & Open MicREZ Reading SeriesOh Bernice! Reading Series, Astoria Bookshop, Enigma Bookstore, and Newtown Literary Journal. It was really great to see that there is so much going on that we have yet to explore when it comes to experiencing local writing!

Literary Town Hall at the Queens Council on the Arts 3rd Space

Literary Town Hall at the Queens Council on the Arts 3rd Space

On Saturday night, jazzed by the evening before, we decided to check out the Oh Bernice! Reading Series at Astoria Bookshop.  Featuring poets and writers including Celine Keating, Kathryn Levy, John Reid Currie, and Peter Vanderburg, we got to taste a selection of some of work that I think otherwise I might not have sought out on my own.  I particularly liked John Reid Currie‘s work, and it was a bit of a kick to hear him recite a poem set in our very own Astoria!

For more information on what’s going on in your area, check out the above sites and go support the writers of Queens!

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Fall is coming

Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness,
Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun;
Conspiring with him how to load and bless
With fruit the vines that round the thatch-eves run;
To bend with apples the moss’d cottage-trees,
And fill all fruit with ripeness to the core;
To swell the gourd, and plump the hazel shells
With a sweet kernel; to set budding more,
And still more, later flowers for the bees,
Until they think warm days will never cease,
For summer has o’er-brimm’d their clammy cells.
– To Autumn, John Keats

fall-leaf

It’s coming real close for Johanna and I to start busting out the boots and flannel. Dangerously close. It’s also that time where the summer trends lead into fall, and everything (EVERYTHING) is going to taste like pumpkin for a while.

And as the season winds down, so do the patio brunches, the long lines and outdoor BBQs. Now is the time to start hunting that bar that has the fireplace, that’s going to have cocktails that will warm your cockles and that all alluring season tasting menu.

Along with land speculation, NYC has a fondness for restaurant speculation. And right now: Queens has slowly been heating up. The recent produced Eater Queens Heatmap has rolled out and I gotta say some of these places are worth the trip.

1. Snowdonia (34-55 32ND ST, ASTORIA, NY 11106)- Gastropub, Good Beer Selection, good for a second date.

2. Tamashii Ramen (29-05 BROADWAY, ASTORIA, NY 11106)- Great Ramen at an even greater price. You’re gonna want to come here early, because it’s tiny and it WILL get packed.

3. Woodbines (47-10 VERNON BOULEVARD, LONG ISLAND CITY, NY 11101)- I’m already gonna spoil it for you- this place is gonna get it’s own dedicated post. Stay tuned.

4. Pata Paplean (76-21 WOODSIDE AVE, ELMHURST, NY) – We’ll make it out here and tell you all about it. We swear on our Kuai-tiao nam.

5. Sayra’s Wine Bar (91-11 ROCKAWAY BEACH BLVD, QUEENS, NY)- Quite the distance- and sadly we did not make it out to Rockaway Beach this year.

6. Crescent Grill (38-40 CRESCENT STREET, QUEENS, NY 11101) – We’ve made plans to go here- and we will. Just you see.

7. Mar’s (34TH AVE, ASTORIA, NY 11106)- I sampled one of every oyster here- and they were all magnifique. The menu is quite select right now- but they plan on rolling out some landlubbing fare soon.

8. Milkflower ( 34-12 31ST AVE., ASTORIA, NY 11106)-  Gonna get some flack on this- but we weren’t really fans. I like the hearth and soul they put into their woodfire pizzas, and I love the house made mozzarella, but I feel if they dialed it back a notch- things would be great.

9. Grill 43 (43-02 43RD AVE, SUNNYSIDE, NY 111040)- Trust me, I love me some Chicken Doner, so this is gonna be a very important trek for us.

10. Bunker (46-63 METROPOLITAN AVE, RIDGEWOOD, NY 11385)- I wanted to say a little out of the way, but I recall the madcap-ness of having to find this place- it’s way out of the way. If you’re in the area, it’s decent place- but bring your wallet. It’s also tiny, so bring some of your closest friends, no space to get acquainted here.  Also- there’s a great big Western Beef over there that captured our hearts.

11. Mamak House (35-20 FARRINGTON STREET, FLUSHING, NY 11355)- It’s not often that I’ve had any Malaysian food, but I think it’s high time I did. Johanna has had it, and in her words: “I liked it a lot. It’s good.”

12. MP Taverna (31-29 DITMARS BLVD, ASTORIA, NY 11105)- I directed my boss to go here on one of his seldom trips out of Manhattan. He loved it. Ditmars has really been ebbing and flowing with new restaurants, and this one seems to be the crown jewel of the avenue.

13. LÁO CHÉNG DŪ (37-17 PRINCE ST, FLUSHING, NY 11354) –  With all the awesome restaurants in Flushing, for this one to get called out, they gotta be doing something extra special.

14. Alchemy, Texas ( 71-04 35TH AVENUE, JACKSON HEIGHTS, NY)- Deep in the heart of Jackson Heights and tucked in the back of sports bar, some of the best BBQ in New York City. (Note: I believe this place has either shut down, or is shutting down very soon..)

15. M. Wells Dinette (22-25 JACKSON AVE, QUEENS, NY 11101)- I’ve read all the back-and-forth about M. Wells, that it closed, that it’s now reopened. I think I’m gonna make this trip soon just so I can see this version open for my own eyes.

SO- in summation- we’ve got a lot of homework and trips to make- and we hope you’ll make them too.

MOMI to Break Bad

The duality of Walter White, courtesy of Laughing Squid

Thanks to a tip-off from another Astoria enthusiast,  we have learned that our favorite local museum, The Museum of the Moving Image aka MOMI, will soon be holding an exhibition on most excellent AMC show Breaking Bad!  As a fan of the show, I am really curious to check it out and see what it’s like.

For more information check out the MOMI website (unfortunately the talk with creator/producer Vince Gilligan on July 28th is already sold out!)

Wisdom begins in wonder.

Today we went on a Loukoumades ( λουκουμάδες ) hunt.  Loukoumades (which I was corrected at least twice on the hunt), is a kind of fried dough soaked in sugar syrup, honey and cinnamon. All in all, it’s gonna be a lot of sugar. We needed something to relieve the eternal heat that has engulfed us.

Long story short, we came up empty handed. BUT, we were able to score some other items. We wandered over to Titan Foods to forage for any kind of Greek sweets. Titan Foods is pretty exclusive- anything Greek, anything remotely Greek, anything with a hint of Greek- they have it and it’s cheap. They’re the Greek superstore of Astoria. We’ve visited several times in the past, but this time I scoured the aisles in our search. I did find some good priced olive paste, but no, no Loukoumades. Instead, we hit up the bakery though for some Spinach and Cheese Pies:

Johanna and her Spinach Spanakopita (σπανακόπιτα,) , I’m rocking the cheese pocket (τυρόπιτα).

We also grabbed a 1/2 pound of another Greek pastries Touloumbakia (that was freak out full of sugar and honey- this is definitely a gift for my Greek co-worker, I couldn’t finish a single one without feeling a cavity coming on).  We made our way down the street to Ya-Ya’s Bakery,  a place we pass constantly. This seemed to be the Parthenon of Greek pastries. A small bakery, floor to ceiling was packed high with pastries, some crowded into glass cases.

And they had the Greek Donut. There was no name for it, just Greek Donut. for $1.50 you could purchase a ring of fried dough coated with huge granules of sugar, the size of your head. We jetted to Athen’s Park to down the massive pastries.

YaYas

Ya-Ya’s Bakery

Greek_Donut

Greek Donut gonna get you.

So far, still no Loukoumades- but we did get all hopped up on other Greek delights. We’re gonna keep hunting until we get them, but until then consider our pastry tour of Astoria incomplete.

The Freshest Neighborhood in Queens?

28th Ave. and Steinway just got a lot more… fresh.

The empty storefront that was previously Lil Joe’s Bar and Grill, and even more further back Luna De Juarez has gotten a new awning and fresh coat of paint.

Friday was the Grand Opening of Steinway Fresh Farm- an open-aired organic market that leans heavily on Middle Eastern fare. It was slow going, but once they got set up the places is fantastic. In the recent wave of more organic shops opening in Astoria, this one is welcome with open arms.

Not close to 28th and Steinway? Here’s a list of other organic markets in the area:

Ditmars and 31st Street: California Farmers Market

Broadway and 46th Street: Vitality & Health Natural Market

30th Ave. and 31st Street: Sai Organics

Broadway and 31st Street: Broadway Natural

Steinway and 31st Ave.: Organics for All

Broadway and Steinway: 24/7 Organic & Natural Food Market