Saturday, May 31, 2008

Chef Jonathan Forgash - 5 Questions

It's that time again where another lucky Astorian gets to answer the big 5. This month we get a friend and fellow foodie.

: Jonathan Forgash
Owner & Chef of Star Struck Catering, Astoria NY.

Question #1 Were you born here? If not, where were you born, and what brought you to Astoria?
Born: Brooklyn, NY. Grew up on Long Island. Moved from Greenwich Village 15yrs ago because it was too expensive. Astoria was cheap, close to work and interesting.

Question #2 What is your favorite thing about living in Astoria?
The many cultures represented here. The people and their foods, Fantastic! The many friends we have here, Astoria is a family neighborhood and we love it. My work is also here. What a great place for a chef to live, work and shop. Every restaurant, market, shop and neighbor is an inspiration for the dishes I create.

Question #3 What is your number one go to restaurant in Astoria?
That's not fair and you know it. I will give three.
-Bistro 33 for perfection, inspiration and watching a great chef in action.
-Il Bambino for a chef showcasing his skills through simple high quality products and superb flavors.
-And of course Kebab Café where a Master, Ali, shows you what cooking from the heart and home is all about.

Question #4 Best kept local secret that you don't mind sharing?
There are some crazy foodies in Astoria. We make all sorts of homemade foods. Cured meats, pickled items, spice mixes, pate' and fresh sausage. I think Astoria may become the great foodie Mecca of NYC.

Question #5 What would you like see happen in/for Astoria in 2008?
A honky tonk American joint for Burgers, bbq, Southern foods, milk shakes and some good bourbon at the bar. A juke box with Johnny Cash and the Violent Femmes.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Astorian Weekend Edition 29.05.08

This weekend, take the opportunity to get to know your community a little bit better by attending some walking tours. Richard Melnick (of the Greater Astoria Historical Society), leads the Borden Avenue Bridge Walking Tour (Saturday, May 31st, 1-2:30 p.m., Hunters Point Avenue #7 train) and Astoria/LIC Waterfront Parks Walking Tour (Sunday, June 1st, 11 a.m. - 2p.m., Queensbridge Park).

On Thursday, check out the inaugural Queens Green Drinks. According to Helen Ho, the organizer, "it's an informal social gathering/networking event for folks that are environmentally minded. Come and meet some of the other like-minded folks in and around Queens. If we're lucky (which is likely) we'll cross pollinate make new friends, catch up with old ones, and maybe even sprout an idea or three." The event is hosted by the Transportation Alternatives Queens Committee, and takes place at The Irish Rover, 37-18 28th Avenue from 6 p.m - 9 p.m. More info:

Stop by Socrates Sculpture Park to participate in their Saturday Sculpture Workshop. This weekend is To the Rescue! with Shaun Leonardo. Using fabric, paint and recycled materials, participants construct their own superhero costume complete with a discussion on special powers and how to be a great hero. The event is 12-3 p.m rain or shine.

This past week I checked out Zabb Thai on 30th Avenue. One thing that really stuck out as totally delicious was the Tom Ka Gai soup. I couldn't stop thinking about it all day! I'd go back for sure. 34-11 30th Ave. I've been hearing good things about Seva, a new Indian place in the old Meghna space. Apparently the Green Chili Chicken is very good. 30-07 34th Street.

Enjoy the weekend!

Monday, May 26, 2008

The Coffee Bar is Open

The Coffee Bar is finally open! I've been watching this place progress since the sign went up, what, maybe a year ago? Originally it was Zygos Taverna, which served passable, yet uninteresting Cypriot food.

The papers finally came off the windows this weekend, revealing a nice space (I like the wood) with plenty of menu offerings. They serve coffee and tea, bagels (with tofu cream cheese), pasta, sandwiches, salads, smoothies and dessert. They also serve beer! They are in the process of getting wifi, too, so I expect the laptop crowd will soon find this place.

Their hours are 6:30 a.m. to midnight, 7 days a week. I would expect them to do well in part because of their amazingly close proximity to the Ditmars station. Hello, convenience. Walk out the front door and you're pretty much at the steps leading up to the train.

If anyone has tried it, let us know in the comments! I expect I'll check them out very soon.

The Coffee Bar
22-55 31st Street
Astoria, NY 11105

Winegasm News

While walking home from the street fair on Broadway, my friend and I strolled past Winegasm and were drawn in by the friendly owners and beautiful space. During that conversation, I learned a few things:
  • They are now open on Mondays! One of the reasons they decided to do this is provide a nice place for service industry professionals to have a place to go out to on a Monday night. Restaurants are often closed on Mondays, so this is a very nice thing for them to do. Of course, anyone can go to the restaurant on Mondays, never fear!
  • They've added a few more things to the menu, including a delicious sounding skirt steak. They've also expanded their brunch menu (Saturday and Sundays from 11 a.m. - 4 p.m.)
  • They are also keen on being a welcoming place for parties and gatherings, so don't be shy if you're looking for a space for a large group. The big communal table would be terrific for a large group.
  • They also have developed a number of specials, including happy hour every Tuesday through Saturday, 5- 7 p.m. - 2-for-1 cocktails and $15/pitcher sangria (yum); Thursday night wine tastings (7-9 p.m.), and Upbeat Fridays featuring drinks and music from all over the world.
I plan to spend some time there soon, and look forward to it! I'm glad a place like this has opened in the Broadway area.

31-86 37th Street
Astoria, NY 11103

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Goodbye Table 30

On my walk back from the gym, I noticed some changes on 30th Avenue, one of which was the closing of Table 30. This casual eatery, which served typical cafe fare such as sandwiches, paninis, coffee and various brunch dishes was open just shy of one year. I can't say that I'm super surprised or upset. I've heard rumors of a possible closing from a local restaurateur. And in my opinion, Table's food was always less than mediocre, especially compared to the other stellar cafes on 30th. I'll report back once I know if it's closed for good but feel free to chime in if you know the scoop.

Table 30 - 35-02 30th Avenue, Astoria NY 11103
N/W Train to 30th Avenue

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Astorian Weekend Edition 22.05.08

Looking forward to Memorial Day weekend? We are! The weather is looking sunny and warm and that means plenty of fun outdoor activities in the 'hood, such as…

This Saturday, May 24th, get in touch with your creative side—build a recyclable kite at Socrates Sculpture Park, using old shopping bags. This workshop is lead by artists, Miwa Koizumi and Marco Scoffier, starting at noon.

Not into recyclable art? You can also stop at Socrates Sculpture Park for a Saturday workout session. Choose between Yoga, Pilates, Tai Chi or Capoeira (Brazilian martial arts). Most classes last for one hour. Socrates Sculpture Park - 32-01 Vernon Blvd. 718.956.1819

Looking for something cultural to do after the park? Visit the Noguchi Museum, directly across the street. It's a neat little museum (as in literally, small), which focuses on Japanese modern sculpture and design. If you're interested in a free tour, make sure to arrive by 2p. The Noguchi Museum - 9-01 33rd Road (at Vernon Boulevard). 718. 204.7088

Brunch it up, Astoria style and finish off with something sweet. Try 718 for their spectacular prix-fix brunch. It's a bit of a splurge for $22 but the quality of the food is worth it. If you skipped dessert at brunch, walk a couple of blocks down to Ditmars and 29th Street and visit La Guli Pastry Shop—their cannoli kiss is to die for. 718 – 35-01 Ditmars Blvd. 718.204.5553. La Guli - 29-15 Ditmars Blvd. 718.728.5612

Enjoy some nice, cold "bruha" at The Bohemian Hall and Beer Garden but beware of the holiday weekend crowds—they'll be enormous so the earlier you get there, the better. Interested in working at the Beer Garden? Click here. Bohemian Hall and Beer Garden - 29-19 24th Avenue. 718.274.4925.

Can't get into the Beer Garden because of the crowds? Visit The Sparrow across the street, a local neighborhood bar owned by the same people who ran Tupelo and also the ice-creamery, Oleput. They have great beer on tap and a fun, laid-back atmosphere. The Sparrow – 24-01 29th Street. 718.606.2260.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Pinocchio's Facelift Will Unveil Soon

30th Avenue brick oven pizza and gyro landmark, Pinocchio, has been closed for about a month and a half now for renovations. We're looking forward to checking out Pinocchio's new look and are excited that the restaurant will reopen for business this Sunday. Take a walk over there, see the new digs and let us know what you think!

Pinocchio Palace - 32-02 30th Avenue, Astoria, NY 11102 718.721.9636
N/W Train to 30th Avenue

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Astorian Weekend Edition 15.05.07

Enjoy a musical on Friday. It's entertainment for a good cause, creativity in schools!

If the showers stay away, enjoy the free canoe and kayak rides offered by Long Island City Community Boathouse. Volunteers are also needed to help clean up the beach while waiting for their turn to paddle -- two for one! Exercise AND doing good things for the community? Can't beat it. After this week, you can get your paddle on every Sunday until October. It's on 1 to 4 p.m., out of Socrates Sculpture Park's beach at Hallets Cove, 31st Ave at Vernon Blvd.

A little further south at Rainey Park (34th Ave & Vernon), more festivities celebrating the waterfront are happening, 1 to 5 p.m. Learn about all sorts of programs, enjoy some entertainment, and maybe even get some fishing in!

Eat up at El Jamon (25-51 Steinway) for some yummy Spanish cuisine. Situated on one of my favorite food avenues, it's a little something new! The garlic shrimp toast is a must, as is the crema catalana. Full review forthcoming; but, if you're looking for something different, go here and get your Gypsy Kings fix.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Seussical Jr. Coming to Astoria

This one's for the kiddies! Channel the inner child in you and go see this light-hearted, funny and oh so adorable children's play, inspired by the various works of Dr. Seuss.

This feel-good production takes place in Astoria's I.S.10 Middle School, brought to you by its many talented actors and actresses from 6th to 8th grades. The director and producer of the show, Ms. Christina Sussman has done a phenomenal job at leading the play to fruition. Her undying drive, creativity and love of her students has not gone unnoticed.

Support Astoria's school arts programs. They're so important in helping children thrive creatively.

The show will go on:

When: Thursday, 5/15 and Friday 5/16 at 6pm-7pm

Where: I.S. 10 - 45-11 31st Avenue (between 45th and 46th Street), Astoria, NY 11103

Admission: $5

Get Seussed and enjoy the show!

Friday, May 09, 2008

Funky Gifts for Mom (and More) a la Astoria

Image by:

Still don't know what to get Mom for Mother's Day? Go local! Support Astoria's businesses while treating Mom to something that she won't find anywhere else.

SITE Design - Funky design store with a mix of vintage and modern goodies. The prices are reasonable and you'll find lots of creative gifts for Mom. Suggestions include:

Bangle Jewelry or Ring Box - This is some cool jewelry storing device--it's made out of recycled bangle bracelets, giving it a vintagey, high-end look ($45).

Botanical Totes - Trendy eco bags that are sure to make a fashion statement. Use them for groceries, shopping or just your everyday needs ($16.95 each)

Retro Oven Mitts - Want Mom to bake in style? Get her these funky oven mitts, which come in four quirky designs: pear, owl, poppy peacocks or a flock of birds ($15 each).

Message Plants and Herb Kits (shown above) - These adorable little bean or herb plants have a message written right on the leaves--what a concept?! The herb kits come in basil, thyme or rosemary ($14.95 each).

Site Design: 35-11 34th Avenue, Astoria, NY 11106. 718.626.6030

Activities with Mom:
  1. Take her to Astoria Park. Although it might not be sunny, it will be warm so you can have a picnic with Mom. Bring delicious homemade sandwiches too and enjoy some one-on-one time with mama.
  2. Take her to brunch. It's true that a lot of restaurants are having expensive prix-fix specials, but these cafes are offering their yummy brunch menu as usual: Ovelia Psistaria ($10 - $13 brunch) - 34-01 30th Ave. 718.721.7217. Grand Cafe ($11 brunch): 37-01 30th Avenue. 718.777.7321. Brick Cafe (brunch and dinner menu): 30-95 33rd Street. 718.267.2735
  3. Take her to a spa. Astoria has some fabulous up-and-coming spas that are serious competition for Manhattan relaxeries. My favorite is Spa Hydra, which gives amazing massages and their amenities are state of the art (especially the showers)! 35-11 36th Street. 718.267.7991. SPAce Salon is also a cool option in the Ditmars area. They give 8 different types of massages and various facials at a fair price. 29-09 Ditmars Blvd. 718.726.4477.

Happy Mother's Day Astoria!

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Astorian Weekend Edition 08.05.08

Well, it's been so nice this week, finally warming up. Thought it will be less terrific this weekend than during the week, don't let that deter you from going out and having fun.

One way to bring some light to your weekend is a meal at Akti. Everything there shines! I ate there for the second time last weekend and it was fab. Had a lovely salad with feta, peppers, tomatoes, cukes, and onions, dressed with a light and simple mixture of oil and vinegar. The feta was some of the best I've had, I must say. Their fish croquettes are awesome too, and the whole fish is also wonderful - we had the red snapper. They serve a Cypriot beer that is light and delicious. I don't think you can go wrong with anything here. Akti Seafood Restaurant is at 34-19 30th Avenue, Astoria, NY 11103. 718.721.3530.

New wine bar Winegasm is doing a happy hour - thisThursday, Friday and Saturday from 5-7 p.m. get 2 for 1 cocktails and a $15 pitcher of delicious summer sangria. I love sangria, so this looks particularly awesome. Winegasm is at 31-86 37th Street, Astoria, NY 11103. 718.932.3331.

There are a number of outdoor events happening this Saturday. First, the Savvy Cyclist presents their intro to cycling program for new cyclists. Saturday the 10th from 9-5 p.m. Registration and deposit required. Recycle-A-Bicycle training center is at the corner of 46 Avenue and 5th Street.

Next, Socrates Sculpture Park presents the first annual LIC Bike Parade in partnership with a whole host of great local and community organizations. It's free and perfect for the entire family. Lots and lots of stuff going on in conjunction with this event, so check out the website for additional information. It will happen rain or shine; registration is at 11:30 a.m., workshops from 12-3 p.m. and the parade is from 3-4 p.m. Socrates Sculpture Park is at Broadway and Vernon Boulevard. 718.956.1819.

Last, the Friends of Queensbridge Park are holding their annual Mother's Day Dance fund-raiser to benefit the summer program. 8 p.m. to 1 a.m. at the Jacob A. Riis Neighborhood Settlement House, 10-25 41st Avenue in Long Island City. Tickets are $15. Contact to purchase a ticket.

Build It Green! along with the Office of Recycling Outreach and Education is also holding an event on Saturday from 11-4 p.m.: Stop 'N Swap! From their release:
Our block will be closed off for the whole day! 26th Ave between 3rd and 4th Street in Astoria, Queens right in front of the BIG!NYC warehouse. Bring things you want to get rid of for the free swap! You can also just bring yourself and take things for free! As always the warehouse will be open with all our great deals!

WHAT TO BRING: Items that are no longer useful to you, but can be reused by others. Clothes, dishes, books, dvds, cds, stuff your mom gave you for Xmas. You don't need to bring anything to take anything (though a tote bag might help). Bring friends and family too!

WHAT NOT TO BRING: No furniture/large items, drugs/medications, weapons/dangerous objects, adult movies/magazines or pets/pethair covered items.

Build It Green! is located at 3-17 26th Ave. in Astoria.

This Sunday is Mother's Day. Our own Foodista has some suggestions on where to take mom on her special day.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Winegasm - What's in a Silly Name?

Joey and I had the fun experience of trying out the new Broadway wine bar, Winegasm. And although it won't make your toes curl, like it's silly name implies, it will keep you coming back for more.

The coolest part about Winegasm is its contemporary decor with hints of comfort. It's a mix of modern and traditional--a beautiful dark wood wine rack lines an entire wall (modern) while a serious-looking communal table takes over the center of the room (traditional). The lighting is dim and the vibe is sexy--you can't help but feel completely removed from your surroundings. Are you really still between Broadway and 31st Avenue? You almost have to pinch yourself to make sure because Winegasm fully seduces your senses, taking you far from Astoria and into the Mediterranean, the Balkans, South America, Eastern Europe and even Oceania.

Most of the wine comes from France but you can find a decent selection of Italian, Spanish and even Croatian vinos--no coincidence there, given that this place is owned by Croats. Joey chose the Malbec "Terra Rosa" Mendoza '04 ($9) from Argentina and I went for the sweet and local Wolffer Rose '07 ($10) from the North Fork of Long Island. I loved mine because it was just as sweet as I like it--for me the sweeter the better. I like my wine almost syrupy and I'd definitely get this again for that reason. Joey liked her wine but didn't love it. In her own words: "I found the wine, OK, but it didn't live up to the name. Not enough by the glass selection and not stored at the perfect temp nor decanted, and not amazing. No palate cleansers out."

We got some snacks to nosh on too, which overall were very good. Sticking to non-meat dishes was a smart choice, especially because it enhanced the taste of the wine (at least mine). The best thing we ordered was the Goat Cheese and Cherry Tomato Crostini ($4). It was presented on crunchy flat bread, which looked more like a cracker than bread but that was OK with us. The combination of the cheese and the tomato created a sweet spread that we both devoured. We ended up getting two helpings--the second not by choice but because it replaced a not so good gazpacho, which we voiced our opinion about.

In addition to the goat cheese crostini, we also ordered a selection of cheeses, which were presented on a lovely platter with grapes and a bright pink edible flower. Really fun presentation and really yummy. The cheeses included a sharp Great Hill Blue ($5) from Massachusetts, a nutty Comte from France ($6) and a fruity Talegio from Italy ($6). We liked them all but thought that the portion could've been bigger.

The only dish, which I did not like was their so-called gazpacho. It wasn't gazpacho at all but some sort of green puree, which tasted like grass. Simply put, it was inedible and I wasn't afraid to say so. The waitstaff took it well and were so gracious that as mentioned above, we got another goat cheese and tomato crostini and the gazpacho was taken off the bill. Thanks Winegasm!

In terms of the service as Joey says "it was erratic and excessive." We had about 4 different servers over a three hour period. Some of them were knowledgeable and had great recommendations and others were not so stellar. It took a very long time for us to get our check and then it took extra long to get the final bill with Joey's credit card. Given that Winegasm is still so new, these things can be forgiven and we hope that they improve in the future.

We ended up having a great time at this sweet little wine shop and will definitely be hitting it up again. Something that caught my eye were their Friday night wine tastings. Give them a call to make a reservation or to inquire about pricing.

Winegasm - 31-86 37th Street, Astoria, NY 11103. 718.932.3331.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Astorian Weekend Edition 01.05.08

Start your weekend with some luxurious grub—sample Ovelia's new Happy Hour menu item, the Kobe Beef slider. If you can't make happy hour, you can enjoy this decadent burger for lunch. Ovelia Psistaria 34-01 30th Avenue. 718.721.7217.

As the weather gets nicer, Astoria's sidewalk cafes open up. One that we're particularly excited about is Mundo. This intimate café, serving eclectic cuisine from around the world has recently celebrated its 3rd birthday. Take a walk over there and try their fresh sangria or their amazing carrot dip. Mundo 31-18 Broadway. 718.777.2829

Heading to Astoria Park this weekend? Check out the newly opened burger-joint/Greek snack counter, Kafene right across the street. They boast five different types of burgers, an all-day breakfast menu as well as healthy snack options like Euro toast and fresh fruit smoothies. Kafene 23-08 Hoyt Avenue South. 718.274.6525

Waste Not, Want Not!? We're talking about recycling and about a cool group exhibition at Socrates Park by the same name. Learn about the goals, realities and practices of recycling at this fun event featuring artists and various craftsmen (and women). Sunday, May 4th 2-6p at Socrates Sculpture Park. 32-01 Vernon Blvd. 718.956.1819

Hit up Harry's Water Taxi Beach this Saturday or Sunday for some good beats. Victor Franco spins on Saturday from 3p-1a, FREE. On Sunday, enjoy the music of Chus, Quentin Harris, Joi Cardwell (Live Performance), Merritt, Steve Travolta, Vinyl Life and Dean K, 1p-10p. Tickets available at the door. Water Taxi Beach 2nd Street and Borden Ave.

And finally, ring in Cinco de Mayo early! Join ARROW Community Center for a Mexican shindig with music, arts & crafts and other fun stuff. Saturday, May 3rd from noon – 4p. ARROW Community Center 35-30 35th Street. 718.349.3408