Wednesday, December 31, 2008

The Best of 2008, JIA Style!

Here it is, the last post of 2008.
"It was the best of times, it was the worst of times..." Mr. Dickens new what he was talking about! But for this post, we'll concentrate on the good. Just cause that's how we roll.
So here are the top 5 Astorian bits from the 3 of us:

From Meg-
Opening of Vesta. This new trattoria in western Astoria blew me away with great food and atmosphere, and dedication by the owners and operators to make my stay truly enjoyable. Plus they are doing 80's night for their New Years feast!

Little Soap Shop. This independently-owned boutique sells soaps, lotions, and candles that are all natural and non toxic. Plus, they smell great!

A good latte at Chocolate Spoon. I was pleased to find a place that made a good latte - strong, but not bitter with creamy foamy milk on top. Nice people, too.

The Tap Project. "A campaign that recognizes clean and available tap water in our communities and helps UNICEF distribute clean water to children around the globe." A number of Astoria restaurants participated.

The proposed sale of 21.29 acres of Con Ed property to buyer/developer Steel Equities for a FedEx ground facility DEFEATED. I was pleased with this result.

From Foodista-
There are so many wonderful places that I enjoy visiting in Astoria. From delicious eateries to quaint boutiques and relaxing spas, I never have to travel far to get what I need.

1. Ovelia's Brunch - This is by far my favorite venue for brunch, especially in the summer when it's nice and open for you to enjoy the sunshine. The vibe is social and loud--they play dance music and the clientele is young and hip. Some of my favorite brunch dishes include Yia-Yia's omelette, eggs benedict and the tiropita toast. And the best part is that brunch will only set you back $10-$13, including coffee and a morning cocktail. 34-01 30th Avenue, Astoria. 718.721.7217.

2. Bistro 33 - An intimate eatery, it's won over my heart--and my stomach--over the past year. From amazing classic dishes such as braised lamb to inventive Asian cuisine such as crawfish tempura, Bistro has never disappointed and always over-delivered. It's a fabulous brunch option too and I recommend trying the blueberry silver dollar pancakes. Bistro has become quite the show-stopper this year, rated as a favorite by Sex and the City's Cynthia Nixon and also a taping location of ABC's Ugly Betty. 19-33 Ditmars Blvd, Astoria. 718.721.1933

3. Artopolis Bakery - Although hidden in Agora Plaza shopping center on 31st Street near 23rd Avenue, this treasure won't stay a secret for long. It boasts some of the most delicious bread that I've ever tasted--especially their herb flat bread. They specialize in Greek pastries and make some of the flakiest baklava in town. They've also been featured on Al Roker's "Roker on the Road." 23-18 31st Street, Astoria. 718.728.8484

4. Spa Hydra - My favorite place to unwind, I've gotten some of the best massages here. Their facilities are nicer than some of the top spas in Manhattan--and the prices are a bit gentler too. 35-11 36th Street, Astoria. 718.267.7991

5. Esculon Jewelry - I've been hooked on Alexandra Mihaescu's funky jewelry designs. She makes contemporary fashion jewelry at reasonable prices. My most recent purchase, the Golden Dotty Earrings have become a huge hit with all of my friends--so much so that I've purchased 3 more pairs for some of my closest buds. The compliments on these babies just keep pouring in!

From Flooz-
Cafe Soleil ... didn't start off great for me, but has really come into its own. I see it as a bit of an underdog, but think they have great potential to become a go to spot in the area.

• Comedy came to Astoria, laughs were had and good times aplenty!
(Mezzo Comedy Club and Comedyland at the Beer Garden)

• The return of Mano's Papaya! Oh how your cheap tubular treats and fruitie drink concoctions were missed.

• All the filming bringing celebrity watching to the hood.

• The first ever Astorian Beer-lympic's. I mean, come on- what isn't there to love about THAT???
Have a safe happy and prosperous new year friends, and see you back here in 2009

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Vesta Trattoria

Today I had the opportunity to have brunch at Vesta Trattoria, a relative newcomer to the neighborhood. I think it's one of the best brunches I've had in NYC. This is based on two things: interesting dishes that were incredibly flavorful and delicious.

Here's part of their story, according to their website:

With their combined passion for Italian food and the Astoria neighborhood, Leo Sacco and Giuseppe Falco decided to open Vesta Trattoria and Winebar - a neighborhood restaurant offering simple and Italian-inspired favorites guided by the local greenmarket.

They are committed to the Astoria neighborhood; the childhood friends grew up in the area and continue to call it home. Now an extension of their own homes, Vesta Trattoria and Winebar, is dedicated to serving the local community.

We started with coffee. When I asked about how strong it was, Giuseppe said it was strong, and that I'd love it. He was right - it was really good! Nice and rich, bitter and smooth at the same time, with chocolate notes within. I'd like to try a latte or cappucino next time.

T and I ordered three things: for him, the minestrone soup and hangover pizza (though he did not have a hangover), and I, "A Warm Bankie". All three were delicious and I'd be happy ordering them again.

Minestrone Soup: This was an amazing bowl of soup. It had greens and white beans in it, with large croutons and a poached egg. Fantastic flavors - complex and beautiful.

A Warm Bankie: Fried eggs with creamy polenta, asparagus, crimini mushrooms, truffle oil. It was amazing - the polenta was really smooth and lucious, the veggies perfectly cooked for my taste, the eggs delicious (I understand they are organic), and the truffle oil complemented everything.

Hangover Pizza: What a great invention! Potato, pancetta, caramelized onions, fried eggs, spicy tomato sauce. I loved the spice level - hot but comfortably so. The eggs again were great. The crust was excellent - thin and flaky, which went well with what was on top. It was quite light. We have half of it in the fridge waiting for us to nom nom nom.

A brief note about their wines: they have a nice selection of well-priced wines that you can get by the shot, glass, or bottle. We had a wine that went well with the pizza, the Aglianico "Contado" 05.

We also had a slice of the La Torta del Picolo Bambino Gesu Cristo, aka Baby Jesus Cake. It appears to be a kind of spice cake that has a toffee-like crust on top, covered in a kind of caramel sauce. Whipped cream comes on the side. I do not have a picture because I ate it too quickly!

I absolutely loved the food and expect to return often. Definitely head on over and check it out. The staff is so friendly, and really make an effort to make you feel comfortable and at home (thank you Giuseppe!) in their space (which is lovely). The food is delicious, interesting, and excellently prepared. Highly recommended!

Vesta Trattoria
21-02 30th Ave.
Astoria, NY 11102

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Astorian Weekend Edition 25.12.08

Merry Christmas to all of you that celebrate the holiday! I expect a lot of your time will be spent with family and/or friends, and eating delicious food. According to my sources, Thursday will be one of the nicest days we've had recently, with partial sun and no deep freeze temperatures. A walk in Astoria Park might be nice way to spend time outside and with your loved ones.

The 26th brings us another day of rest (and Boxing Day!). It'll be cloudy and grey, so why not hang out in one of the local cafes for a few hours? The other day I was at Cafe Soleil (37-14 Astoria Blvd) on Astoria Blvd and had a delicious cup of tea and a fantastic chicken and green apple salad sandwich. Omonia (32-20 Broadway) is always a good bet, and further south is funky Cafe Bar (32-90 34th Avenue).

Another option this weekend is to take the family to the Museum of the Moving Image (36-01 35th Ave) for their Animation Workshop. From December 26-31 (and January 2-4), workshops are daily at noon and 2:00 p.m. and 60 minutes each. "Children learn the history and technique of stop-motion animation, and then make their own short films, which will be shared online. Recommended for ages 8 and up. Materials fee: $5 per child. Space is limited. Call 718.777.6820 to reserve." They're also showing the delightful short film The Red Balloon in Tut's Fever Movie Palace, daily at 1, 2, and 3 p.m., and 4:30 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday.

On Saturday night, Astoria Music & Arts presents their first Holiday Surprise, a 3-venue "Rock n' Crawl" down 30th Ave, with live, original music by Astoria musicians. Boite Cafe (40-17 30th Ave), The Quays (45-02 30th Ave), and Shillelagh (47-22 30th Ave) are the venues, and a variety of bands will perform. Crawl starts at 6 p.m. at Boite and is expected to go til 2 a.m.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Cookbook Giveaway - We have 2 Winners!

Last week, we announced a cookbook giveaway, compliments of the Queens Museum of Art. The cookbook called, "A Healthy Taste of Corona" features 150 pages of healthy recipes, written by local neighborhood officials, community leaders and restaurateurs.

Many of you wrote in to tell us about your favorite healthy dish and why you love it. There were some fabulous responses and we thank you for those.

So...without further ado, we'll announce not one but two winners!

Jen Rock, a fan of lentils - It's amazing how diverse one staple food can be, especially when you examine an array of cultures and their techniques for cooking them. This month I'm hooked on preparing [lentils] Ethiopian style. Last month, it was lentil soup with smoked ham hocks. Next month, who knows!


Helen, who loves soups - You can throw in your favorite meats and veggies and still have a healthy meal.

Congratulations to our winners! Please email us your home addresses and we'll send the cookbooks your way. Contact -

Thanks to everyone for submitting your entries. And even if you haven't won, contact the Queens Museum of Art for more details on how to purchase this book.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Astorian Weekend Edition 18.12.08

Here we are: it's crunch time for holiday shopping! Get your last full weekend of gift prep done locally.

If you're on a budget but still want something original, try locally grown Firelight Jewelry for that sweet lady in your life.

Clash Culture (34-03 34th St) is a pretty new fresh shop on 34th St. Find some slick original tees or some cool kicks for the little bit funky friend or

Don't forget your furry friends either! The welcoming folks over at The Jumping Bulldog (28-10 23rd Avenue) are more then happy to outfit Fido in some new gear.

For that hard to shop for style maven, try Site (35-11 34th Ave) for eclectic home goods. They are definitely good to keep in mind for random knick knacks too, my weakness!

Something a little different, you can find it at The Little Soap Shop (2207 36th St). Help that certain someone smell delicious and pamper them while your at it!

Still looking? Don't forget about some old standbys: Candy Plum , Kristees, and Loveday 31

There's a big one on Sunday! At Waltz (23-14 Ditmars) from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., enjoy the Second Annual Holiday Flea Market. One of a kinds and local arts galore! And there is, of course, food and drink :)

End it all off at one of two holiday parties! Both L.I.C.Bar (45-58 Vernon Blvd) and Rapture (34-27 28th Ave) are holding an evening of merriment on Sunday. L.I.C. Bar is hoppin' from 8 to 11 p.m. with free grub. The Rapture fete also starts at 8 p.m. and with a new unwrapped children's toy, you get a free holiday cocktail and an entry for the big midnight raffle.

Now go out there and help this durn economy!

A free and fun activity for you- go now and vote for the Best and the Worst of Queens. Be heard!

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Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Laugh a little on a dreary day!

Tonight get your last comedy fix from the kids over at Comedyland before the holidays. Got this from their Myspace page:

Colin and Stacia are leaving on jet planes to visit the fams for the holidays. We'll be back on January 6th with a line up designed to blow your mind.
Enjoy your holidays! But before you light the yule log and/or Menorah, celebrate Comedyland one last 2008 time!

Here's what we have in store:
Stacia & Colin (Your holiday hosts)
Sharon "Mama" Spell (She sings, she dances, she's a holiday wonderland!)DJ Hazard (This comedy legend is bound to have a few hilarious holiday stories)
Cory Jarvis (speaking of holidays, he's travelled to Japan.
Will we get stories?)
Dan Curry (2008 was the year of Dan: he got married and got on the TV)
Peter Moses(In 2008, he became like family to Comedyland)

Tuesday, December 16th @ 9pm
Bohemian Hall and Beer Garden in the Beer Cellar Restaurant
29-19 24th Avenue
Astoria, NY
www. bohemianhall. com

The most magical part: IT'S FREE!! Totally FREE!!

Thursday, December 11, 2008

It's a Cookbook Giveaway!

Image by

The Queens Museum of Art is hosting an exciting event this Sunday in honor of its newly launched cookbook, "A Healthy Taste of Corona." The book was a collaborative effort, featuring content from Queens Borough President, Helen Marshall, The Mets General Manager, Omar Minaya, neighborhood officials, community leaders and let's not forget all the fantastic local restaurateurs.

The bi-lingual cookbook promises 150 pages of recipes, designed to promote a healthy lifestyle. Sound good?

Here's something even better...would you like your own copy?

Comment on this post between now and Sunday, December 14th by 12:00 am, and share with us your favorite healthy food and why you love it.

One lucky winner will be selected at random to win their very own copy of this book--and we'll also announce them online!

So if you're in the neighborhood this Sunday, please try to stop by the Queens Museum of Art for the launch event of this fantastic book.

Sunday, December 14th, 2008 from 3pm - 6pm
Queens Museum of Art
NYC Building
Flushing Meadows, Corona Park

Astorian Weekend Edition 11.12.08

Holiday time is here and that means it's acceptable to eat non-stop and just enjoy oneself. Here are a couple of fun things to keep you occupied this weekend.

Take a "mystery tour" this Saturday at 2pm at P.S.1 MOMA. Led by Betsey Geffen, the tour highlights the works of Italian artist, Gino De Dominicis in his first major U.S. exhibition. Be prepared to see something new and different. 22-25 Jackson Avenue, LIC. 718.784.2084

Visit the Noguchi Museum this Sunday at 3pm for a group discussion on Reviving Classic Designs. You'll get the inside scoop about Noguchi's furniture pieces and you can also enjoy a 20% discount on Akari items. 32-37 Vernon Boulevard, Long Island City. 718.204.7088

In the mood for a filling snack that won't empty your wallet? Check out the simple yet charming Arepas CafĂ© on 36th Avenue. I've recently tried their mini empanadas and the chicken/cheddar arepa (pictured above)—just scrumptious! 33-07 36th Avenue, Astoria. 718.937.3835

Astoria's beloved Bistro 33 has reopened after a 2 week hiatus. They're offering a new winter menu, wine specials and 2 for $10 drink and food specials (those are on Tuesdays and Wednesdays only). 19-33 Ditmars Blvd, Astoria. 718.721.1933

Looking for a place to watch Sunday Night Football? I visited the much talked about Lucky Mojo's in LIC and it definitely lives up to expectations. The mashed potatoes are as smooth as butter and the ribs are finger-lickin' good. 5-14 51st Avenue, Long Island City. 718.786.7427

And last but not least…check out our new banner, where you can finally put a face to our names!

Thanks, Frank!

JIA gets listed in an article in the New York Times! Wooohoooo! Read here.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Vikingo's, what are you?

Vikingo's, what are you?
Originally uploaded by The Flooz
Saw this interesting looking place last week on my walk along 36th Ave to the Xmas Shopping event at Cup. Please tell me someone out there has some info on this place!?!?!? It's crazy! I think it was off the avenue on 34th St. It looked like a private type club of sorts but i'm really not sure. Would love some info before venturing over there.

Don't Touch That Dial!

You've got the right place! Joey has a new look.

Goodbye, old banner! You've been good to us!

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Should JIA Twitter?

Weigh in if you do or don't want tweets from the Joeys. (See sidebar)

Monday, December 08, 2008

Free Dinner at LIC Bar - All In Honor of Lennon

There's an interesting event going on tonight at LIC Bar and it's all in honor of John Lennon and the 28th Anniversary of his passing. The evening will present some colorful, live performances with unique spins on Lennon's classics.

Here's what you can expect:

Live performances by: Little Embers, Andy Stack, Joel Moore, Tom Curtain, Daniel Shay, Jeneen Terrana, Chrissi Poland and many more!

And the other attraction of the night?

A full--and FREE--catered dinner for everyone!

Enjoy yourselves Astoria and LIC--this just might be worth getting out of the house for.

Monday, December 8th
8pm - 11pm


45-58 Vernon Blvd

Long Island City, NY 11101

Bistro33 is Open Again

This morning I received this in my inbox from Bistro33:

The weather outside may be frightening, but we have some news to warm you up this season...

New Menu!
Our winter menu is now available

New Nightly Specials!

Welcome to Wine Wednesdays
Join us for dinner and every second glass of wine is on us! A great way to try the new wines on our list

Tuesdays are still 2-for-$10 nights with many of our small plates, sushi, wine and beer in any combination just 2 for $10

See you soon!

1933 Ditmars Boulevard

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Be a fan of Astoria!

Are you still bored after all these sumptuous Astorian activities? Well, facebook's a great way to waste time. Be our fan and get updates and info from us!

Astorian Weekend Edition 04.12.08

This weekend you can buy local! Stop by the Steinway Reformed Church Holiday Sale this Saturday from 10 a.m. - 3 p.m. A delicious lunch will be served and there will also be a raffle table. The Astoria Park Alliance, Seeds of Love, and local artisan Karen Overton (she makes beautiful jewelry from bicycle parts) will all have tables with wares and info. The church is at 21-65 41st Street.

On Sunday, Waltz (23-14 Ditmars) presents the Second Annual Holiday Flea Market. From 10 a.m. - 6 p.m. you can shop for jewelry, clothing, accessories, gifts and other unique pieces by local Astoria designers. Vintage and gently used items will also be available.

Both events are free!

This Friday marks the 75th Anniversary of the repeal of alcohol prohibition. Two suggestions: Go to Il Bambino (34-08 31st Ave), where they finally got their liquor license! They serve a great selection of wine (organic and conventional) and beer. The food is awesome, of course.

Or, join the Wine meetup on Saturday from 2-5 p.m. at Winegasm (31-86 37th St) for their winter Drink & Learn Wine event. This is a laid back and easy Astoria approach to helping you understand wine with a great group of people. You'll also explore the basic terminology and focus on different regions. The class is taught by Winegasm's house sommelier, Dean. Please note that reservations are required for the Wine meetup, and you must be a member of the group to participate. Please call ahead of time to reserve. The fee is $35 for sampling 7 whites and 7 reds. If you have any additional questions please call Winegasm at 718.932.3331.

Finally, head on over to Hell Gate Social (12-21 Astoria Boulevard) on Saturday night for their BORN TO ROCK OUT!! evening. This is DJ Scandal & DJ Belladonna's Birthday Blowout. The event goes from 8 p.m. to 2 a.m. and there is no cover. Come hear some great spinning, dance a bit, and have one of their tasty sandwiches, not to mention some delicious mixed drinks. So, come chow down, drink up and rock out!

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Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Shop locally tonight!

Here's a great way to start your holiday shopping!

Starry Night… Astoria Bright Holiday Shopping Event

Tuesday, Dec 2nd

Cup Diner & Bar

(35-01 36th Street)

It’s Astoria’s first “Starry Night, Astoria Bright” holiday shopping event featuring local boutiques as well as local designers.

Inside the event you will be greeted by 28 tables of creative gift giving items for all!

Not only will there be creative designer items, but there will also be complimentary hors d’oeuvres served throughout the night, our special raffle where you can win all sorts of prizes from neighborhood sponsors including dinner, spa packages, dance lessons, and tons more!

Also, come check out our roller derby girls that will be handing out holiday treats throughout the night grooving to DJ Martin’s back to the 80’s & 90’s sounds…

And did I mention “Admission is Free!”

We look forward to seeing you and being a part of Astoria’s first Starry Night Holiday event.

Don’t miss it and come check it out!!!

*Please note, most designers are smaller designers and will only accept cash. There will be an ATM on premises if needed.