Queens in Autumn

There’s no better place than Queens to watch the leaves change color, feel the wind pickup, and no that soon there will be warm drinks offered. Johanna is home in Australia right now- but we are plotting and planning our next adventure. Stay tuned!

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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!

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.

A Forest fit for Queens

A couple weekends ago we cruised out to the last stop on the R train at Forest Hills-71st Ave to see what actually was at the end of the line.  When talking about Queens, Forest Hills doesn’t really seem to come up. People talk about Flushing, Astoria, Jackson Heights- but not Forest Hills. Since at the time we were in the midst of a heatwave, we had put off making a weekend trek further out into the borough. We’d stayed home, cranked the A/C, and swore to each other that we wouldn’t use the oven, under any circumstances. But we felt obliged, we felt like we should, so we peeled ourselves off the couch and went.

First off- this is one of the NICEST neighborhoods I’ve been to in NYC. Nestled between Corona, Rego Park and Kew Gardens, stepping out of the station is stepping into a serene space, quiet and tranquil. Actually, I couldn’t believe how quiet it was. Deafening.

Forest_Hills

What do The Ramones, Archie Bunker, David Caruso, Hellen Keller, Spiderman and Donna Karen all have in common? Forest Hills!

The first spot we hit was Emily’s Sugar Rush.  Unfortunately, Johanna is not a fan of candies of the gummi variety, but lo and behold there was a wall of gummi candy that stretched the entire store.  I filled my bag with gummi eggs, gummi chickens feet, gummi whales, gummie cherries, gummi… bears, you get the picture:

Emilys_Candy1

Emily’s Sugar Rush! And Gummi Chicken’s Feet.

Afterwards we wandered around taking in Austin Street.  We were hungry- yes- the gummi candy wasn’t going to satisfy me. We wound our way over to Jack and Nellie’s for brunch- unfortunately our meandering caused us to hit that dreaded time in all weekend brunch spots- changing the kitchen over. So instead, their extensive list of beers helped us power through.

After a tipple we wandered some more- it seems that FH has an abundance of green spaces- parks, lots transformed into gated gardens. Like many other neighborhoods, the streets have no rhyme or reason, but in this instance it’s a good thing.

FH-Tour

Before heading back to Astoria we decided to try a bar I had heard of. I had read really good reviews of Dirty Pierre’s and it seemed too hard to pass up the opportunity to try a local dive bar. It’s a gem. Really eclectic, dizzying decor, cheap drinks and cheese balls. You really don’t need much more. After introducing ourselves to the bartender and a couple local patrons, the bartender hooked us up with some delicious samples of sangria.  Apparently that’s something their known for, and after a couple of those babies, I can understand why. Definitely try it if you are every in the neighborhood!

Plenty of pigs and cheap drinks at Dirty Pierre's.

Plenty of pigs and cheap drinks at Dirty Pierre’s.

All up, this is a fantastic neighborhood.  If you’re looking to show that NYC isn’t a concrete jungle, this would be the destination.

Ridgewood: It’s all yours Brooklyn (for the most part)

So I have been hearing a lot about Ridgewood lately; it’s been tossed around as a Bushwick alternative, and I recently saw it mentioned in an article in the New York Times about Queens Brownstoner.  Without knowing that much about the area, it seemed only right that we go and check it out and see what all this fuss is about.

Taking the ol' Q58

Taking the ol’ Q58

After digging up a bit of research, it turns out that Ridgewood has quite an interesting history. Right on the border of Brooklyn, Ridgewood actually was once was a part of Dutch Settlement Bushwick, however is now a part of Queens county.

On a weekend it’s not the easiest area to get to from Astoria, with the M train out of commission. We had the option of taking two buses or one train and one bus– we went with the latter option, and ended up on the corner of Metropolitan Ave and Fresh Pond Road.  Our first destination was a Vietnamese place we read about called Bunker, further down on Metropolitan Ave.  As we set out towards the restaurant, we passed by a pretty forgettable area, kind of half suburban with fast food places, but also kind of industrial.  Walking past Flushing Ave things kind of took a turn for the worst in regards to scenery– it’s flat out industrial here, charmless and really, kind of a random place for a restaurant.

Carvel Ice Cream, Metropolitan Ave, Ridgewood

Carvel Ice Cream, Metropolitan Ave, Ridgewood

However, as we approached Bunker, Dustin and I both got super excited by the enormous Western Beef  that suddenly sprung up in front of us.  Forgetting our rumbling stomachs for a few minutes we went inside and wandered the aisles, gasping at the cheap prices and wishing we had a cheap place near us (there is that small Western Beef on Steinway, but that’s peanuts compared to this one).

After we had calmed down and tried a few free samples, we made our way to the restaurant and were quickly seated.  For an appetizer we shared the summer rolls, Dustin had a pork banh mi, while I had a pork and rice dish. The food was delicious, the service quick and the atmosphere was good, a nice small place, but a bit too small– the waiters kept bumping into us every time they walked past, which got a bit old.  Also, there’s something a tad odd about the theme, I mean, is it weird to call a Vietnamese place Bunker? And have a kind of war-ish decorated bathroom? Something about that seemed a tad off.  The only other criticism I would have is that the price seemed exorbitant– $50 for two lunches, an appetizer and two sodas?  All up I’m still trying to decide if it’s worth it.

Pork Banh Mi at Bunker, Ridgewood

Pork Banh Mi at Bunker, Ridgewood

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Pork and Rice at Bunker, Ridgewood

After eating we decided to head over to the Ridgewood Market.  Walking down Forest Ave we passed back over Flushing, and ended up making a slight detour when we saw a cute, historical-looking street called Stockholm. With it’s fake-cobbled street and colonial-looking houses it was definitely the cutest stretch we saw all day.

Proceeding down Onderdonk for awhile then detouring past a small main street that seemed to embody the vibe of run-down 50’s style, we eventually came upon the Ridgewood Market. Housed in the bottom of the Greater Ridgewood Youth Council, the market was a delight. Food and craft stalls selling their wares at decent prices! I’m all in.

We picked up a really cute cat illustration by Jackson Heights’ artist and photographer William Seifert.

By William Seifert

By William Seifert

After all the walking and browsing we had done, it seemed only right to end our day with a treat, in this case we chose a bourbon bundt cake from New Amsterdam Baking Company.  It truly hit the spot.

Ridgewood Market

Ridgewood Market

Delicious Mini Bundt Cakes

Delicious Mini Bundt Cakes

So all up: Ridgewood, after spending a day with you I still don’t know what to think. Part of me feels like you’re not that bad, though part of me just can’t make my mind up. The perks of the area seem few and far between. I’ll just leave it at that.

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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!)

Ramsay does Queens

A couple years ago British celeb chef Jamie Oliver started off a culinary tour of the US with a stop in Queens (Astoria specifically), and now it looks like it’s Gordon Ramsay’s turn to check out our fine borough.

Over the course (get it) of next weekend, July 13 to 16, Ramsay will be filming his show Kitchen Nightmares at Greek restaurant Kati Allo in Bayside. If you wish to be a patron of Kati Allo any one of these nights, email knqueensrest@gmail.com for reservations and more info!

P.S. check out the awesome music intro at the start of Kati Allo’s website… it reminds me of the site of one of my favorite Astoria establishment’s–Ornella Trattoria.