Thursday, June 30, 2005

Coldstone Creamery Doesn't Completely Suck

Originally uploaded by jggrossm.

In my continuing series on cold refreshment in Astoria...

Cold Stone Creamery recently opened a franchise Broadway & 35th Street. I pass the shiny, cherry red plastic sign every time I walk to the Community Garden.

At $4 a pop you can get a pre-fab, "like it" size (as opposed to "love it" or "gotta have it" sizes) ice cream mixed with a previously chosen selection of Cold Stone's toppings. Or starting at $3, you can choose a flavor and add toppings (of which there are *many*) at will.

You will wait for this pleasure. In Manhattan, you will wait out the door for up to an hour. Fortunately, in Astoria, you'll probably only wait about 10 minutes. The staff entertain you by singing every time they get a tip. All of them, in unison. They have lots of songs, too. This is perhaps the salvation of Cold Stone. Their staff get *mad* tips. If you've ever worked in food service (and if you haven't your karma stinks) you get it.

Cold Stone has some unique flavors going on, including "cake batter" and "apple pie filling". After waiting in line behind a rather unconversational hipster-yuppie blend (HYUB?), I ordered the pre-fab "Germanchökolätekäke". The dude who made my Germanchökolätekäke must have some biceps - that stuff is cold! They tried to upsell everyone who ordered before me - but not me. This might be because I commented on dude's potential biceps.

Dude then put the ice cream on a cold stone counter - hence the name - and added all the fillings in the Germanchökolätekäke including an entire brownie. Since I didn't upgrade to the waffle cone, it came in a styrofoam cup. Styrofoam? Come on. It's not a cooler at a NASCAR event.

My Germanchökolätekäke was okay, but I couldn't finish it. Not a good sign. That might be the first time its ever happened, actually.

You want ice cream? Save your duckets - and your taste buds - go to Uncle Louie G's, three blocks away.

News & Notes

So long, smokestacks...Read Article
Astoria Park Tennis Bubble Bursts...Read Article
Don't forget about Astoria - this dude sure doesn't...Read Article

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Astoria Waterfront Bike Ride

Astoria Waterfront Bike Ride
Originally uploaded by jggrossm.
Aw yeah. Here's the pics, peddeling up the East River this weekend.

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Pretty-up the Astoria Waterfront

Help make our waterfront sparkle. Waterfront meeting Wedesday, 6:30pm at ARROW.

Sunday, June 26, 2005

quality graffiti art

get out the villain-pumper
Originally uploaded by maura.
Now, I know we've arrived. (Note, I didn't take this pic, rather, yoinked it flikr-style from another Astorian.)

behind LIC

behind LIC
Originally uploaded by joishi.

Saturday, June 25, 2005

Mundo: Vegetarian Wonder of Astoria

Originally uploaded by jggrossm.
My fellow vegetarians, come one, come all. And bring your carnivorous pals.

I had been avoiding Mundo because of some shameless promotion on one of the websites I frequent, but eventually we wandered in, mostly because we were underdressed for our first choice for the evening. Who knew it would be so blog-worthy?

Mundo is decorated simply but beautifully. It was *hot* outside, but comfy in the cool, plush (but not posh) interior. It's on 32nd Street, just South of Broadway.

This place reminds me of a younger, veggier, Cravo & Canela - a fabulous place that was open on 34th Av & 32nd Street - only for about 8 months, 2 years ago. Does anyone remember that place?

After we sat, the waiter/co-owner began explaining the menu. He had lots to tell. The food is Turkish-Brazilian and we were glad he gave us the scoop. He’s quite a chatty one. I know this place sounds uber trendy, but give it a chance. It’s super vegetarian-vegan-friendly, but without any of those groaty meat substitutes. I hate that "tofu-chicken" crap. Mundo has lots of interesting salads, grains, beans, & veggies. There is actual meat and fish on the menu, too. The plates are small, but rich and not expensive. It's easy to over-order.

When we sat, warm pita arrived accompanied by an olive oil with sumac and sesame seeds. They brought us a carrot and yogurt dip on the house (we were the only people there at the moment) which was *really* good.

Like all restaurants when they first open here, Mundo doesn't have their liqueur license yet. You are welcome to bring in wine or beer. We sipped Turkish soda - sweet, but with a funky kick.

Our artichokes were enormous, carved-out, and stuffed with peas, carrots and a pretty pearl onion. The fava bean pate was shaped into a butterfly and a tree! That’s the kind of presentation that makes me feel loved.

We had a salad of black-eyed peas and chopped veggies. It was a luxury on a hot day. The Red Sonia - sort of a moist bean and grain patty snuggled in lettuce leaves with fresh lemon juice on top - was veggie-vegan dream food. The shrimp were just warm shrimpy goodness. They came in a clay pot au gratin with a red sauce and were very fresh. If you eat fish, you must order them.

At this point the fresh-faced chef/co-owner popped out of the kitchen to say "hello". He told us that he's Turkish but tries to incorporate some Argentine and Brazilian elements into the food. That seems to work for him.

We declined dessert, but these two can't resist. They left us with a serving of delicious chocolate mouse. It was chocolate perfection. (Is there any other kind?) I had to skip ice cream on the way home. So much for that review.

This pair are running Mundo all on their own, and from what I can see, doing a bang-up job of it. I hate to write another rave review, but this place rocked.

Key points here: veggie-vegan-friendly, food was great, service was outstanding. A nice joint, but totally unpretentious. This is what I’m *talking* about, folks!

Friday, June 24, 2005

Weekend Edition 05.06.24

What brilliant weather. Get outside. Walk down to Astoria's best known landmark - The American Museum of the Moving Image and celebrate your pal Gumby. Oh, he's so cute! Take this opportunity to perfect your Eddie Murphy impression over dinner at Mundo, preferably with the vegetarian of your choosing.

Sunday put some air in those tires! Meet me and New York City Parks whiz, Emily Maxwell, at Gantry State Park in LIC for a bike ride up the waterfront. We'll wash down the sunset at - where else - the Beer Garden.

- Joey Edition

Weekend Supplement 05.06.24

Take a guided tour of Astorian eats tommorrow. Not rowdy enough for 'ya?

Today through Sunday - The Italian St. Antonio Abate Festival on Ditmars Blvd between 35th & 38th Streets. A helpful reader reports that there's dancing, games, rides and lots of fun. (I wonder if Mr. Noshwalks knows about this?)

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Astoria Geography Quiz & Bike Ride

Originally uploaded by jggrossm.
1) What river lies between us and Manhattan?
2) What island do we all live on?
3) What are three of the parks along our waterfront?
4) Where is Newtown Creek?
5) What two bridges span Astoria Park?

Don't know? Like to ride your bike? Join local Astoria-LIC waterfront expert Emily Maxwell from the New York City Parks Department for a little bike ride along the water. This Sunday at 5pm. Visit the Astoria Waterfront website for more info.

Monday, June 20, 2005

Happy Summer Solstice!

*So* much better than Christmas in July. Hello. Music, art, pretty green park, the City skyline and your Astorian pals. Celebrate the Socrates Sculpture Park Summer Solstice Celebration Tuesday. (Talk about a mouthful!)

The days only get shorter from here, pal. Might as well live it up while its light out!

Saturday, June 18, 2005


Originally uploaded by jggrossm.

Folks, I owe you an apology. I can't believe I didn't give you the head's up to meet Gumby! I didn't know until last night, but let me tell you, he's a cool dude. Here he is photographed with his agent.

Catch his show at the American Museum of the Moving Image all summer.

- Joey

Friday, June 17, 2005

Weekend Edition 05.06.17

weirdDog Originally uploaded by jggrossm.

Sure, sure. *Now* spring comes - after the deathly heat wave that was last week. Well, Dad lucks out.

Celebrate Papa's day QNS-style. Take him to Papa'sEmpanadas and then dare him to try the Banana & Peanut Butter one. Let us know how that works out. Did he overload on hot sauce? Stop by Uncle Louie G's ice cream on the way home. Soooooo good. Then show pop youlearned to drink beer and eat pork without him - take him to the Astorian Beer Garden.

Let me guess. Dad drove you crazy while he was here. Perfect time to sit on your stoop and drink that sangria you stashed away. Oh, and if he didn't drive you bonkers? Then you have the perfect family and don't deserve any. Put that Rioja back in the cabinet, punk.

- Joey

See last Week's Edition

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Who can make it better than your Uncle Louie G?

Originally uploaded by jggrossm.
You didn’t even know this place was there, did ja? Uncle Louie G’s is a small ice cream joint on 38th Street just South of Broadway, right across from Tacos Mexico. A stellar combo, no doubt. It opened at the end of last summer.

Uncle Louie G’s is a small franchise in the Metro area and their ice cream is made in Brooklyn. (It is a chain but, until you open your Mom ‘n Pop ice cream store, that’s really all we have to work with right now.) Louie’s got 33 flavors on tap and there are lots of creative kinds you’ve never ever had before. I like the Dulce De Leche De Louie best. Steve likes the Black Razzberry. What’s your fave?

They also have Italian Ice and you can order ice cream cakes and other treats. (Hint hint. Someone who loves ice cream has a birthday coming up.)

The ice cream is creamy and the flavors are for real. It’s not the cheap stuff. There’s usually no line - maybe a short one. The last time we were there the guy behind us tried to convince me that he and Louie G were buddies. Hell, maybe they are.

There are other ice cream options in the nieghb, but they pale, in my view. Cold Stone Creamery just opened on 35th. I, for one, am not the biggest fan of the corporate take-over of Astoria, so I haven’t been there. Emack & Bolio’s up near Ditmar’s also has its devotees. And if you want frozen dessert with street cred, visit the sno-cone chick on Broadway just West of Steinway on hot days.

Happy Cold Tasty Goodness!

- Joey

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Tennis Bubble over Astoria Park?

Whoa there, pal. The park is sacred groud for Astorians.

Tell 'em what you think at hearings being held on the 16th (tommorrow) at 6:30, 36-05 35th Avenue. Read full Article.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Drinking Liberally

What's better than getting drunk and talking trash? In numbers? Well, a lot, actually. But here's a group that makes a mission of it. Drinking Liberally Astoria meets Wednesday at the Beer Garden at 7:30 pm.


Originally uploaded by jggrossm.
'tis the season...

We've fooled around a little with Sangria. I'll tell you this: it's good. While not distinctly Astorian, cool summer drinks are an important part of an Astorian lifestyle. We know how to enjoy the summer - in the park, on our stoop or on our cheesy lawn chairs on the sidewalk. We soak it up. So, soak this up, Shake...

3 T sugar
2T spiced dark rum
3 T orange liquer
1 navel orange, sliced
1 lemon, sliced
2 ripe peaches, sliced
3 ripe plums, sliced
2 cinnamon sticks
1 bottle Rioja

Combine and let sit for several hours - you'll be glad you did.

I'd love it if you post your own recipes or suggestions in the comments section. For example: "Joey, why are you such a lush?" or "Joey, wine is for drinking not flavoring" or "Joey, you have the coolest website in America" or "I like to add a little vanilla". Whatever floats your boat.

Monday, June 13, 2005

Papa's Empanadas

Originally uploaded by jggrossm.
Well Folks, it had to happen sooner or later. I've eaten at the cheapest, cheap eats in Astoria. I *cannot* conceive of a better deal than Papa's Empanadas. Rated on the Village Voice's top 100 cheap eats in the City, this designation is well-deserved.

Papa's is in the Egyptian section of Steinway located just South of Astoria Boulevard. The storefront is ugly - in a McDonald's sort of way. I’m sure you’ll agree; it looks like a wannabe franchise. Bright blue formica counters and a backlit menu. This place is *clean*. The original was actually Mama's Empanada's in Jackson Heights. This is their second location.

Everyone and everything in Papa’s is very friendly to English and Spanish speakers alike. The clientele range from Astorian yuppies to Columbian regulars. (Technically, I suppose someone could be both – but we didn’t see anyone that fit that description.) The woman who cooks the restaurant’s ingenious creations was out in front speaking with all of the customers, making sure we enjoyed our food. Hairnet n' all.

Papa’s has, count 'em, 37 kinds of empanadas, plus tamales, homemade soup and other Colombian specialties. Their empanadas span the cultures present in Astoria. They also have yummy Columbia sodas. Why are Latin sodas so good? (Except Inca Cola - eeeow. What happened there?) They also have flan and arroz con leche (rice with milk). Sadly, I can’t stand any foods of this consistency so I had to miss out there. Maybe you can tell me if they’re good.

The vegetable empanada and the rice & bean empanada were both really tasty. The plantain & cheese – nice n’ sweet. The broccoli & cheese - whoa - unbelievable. Not your standard broc n’ cheese action going on here. All the fillings were rich, moist and flavorful. And full – no skimping here. The empanada crusts were light and varied – different crusts are used for different fillings, appropriately. They had two fresh hot sauces. I don't touch the stuff, but Steve is a connoisseur (yes, we make it work somehow) and he says they were great.

This place is very vegetarian friendly. They have far more than the standard beef, chicken and cheese offerings. I’ll have to return to try Spinach & Cheese, and Peanut Butter & Banana, not to mention the Greek, Polish, and Hawaiian empanadas.

A lunch for two - 6 empanadas and 2 sodas - $9. Are you kidding me?

PS. Thanks to a helpful reader for assistance with this post.

Saturday, June 11, 2005

more road work

more road work
Originally uploaded by jggrossm.
Will the obscure road work in Astoria *ever* end?

one please...

sno cones
Originally uploaded by jggrossm.

Friday, June 10, 2005

Weekend Edition – 05.06.10

Originally uploaded by jggrossm.

This weekend -- first order of business: Try not to fry to death. The sun is, however, a friend to my basil. If you don't have your own bumper crop of basil, buy some at Astoria Fruit & Vegtable on 38th & Brodway. Pick up some nectarines and lemons, too. Cool off with tasty nectarine-basil lemonade.

Keep that super cool vibe going with free yoga in the park. What's cooler than cucumbers? Have some choice tzatziki sauce and other tasty treats at Philoxenia.

Don't get so mellow that you end up hitched, though. That would be madness.

Stay tuned for a bloggy on Astorian ice cream! That should be some tough research.

- Joey

P.S. See the edition.

Thursday, June 09, 2005


Philoxenia gets a shout out for its tzatziki sauce in the Village Voice. TBB.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Yoga in the Park

If only I could practice yoga in a beautiful outdoor setting where I could contemplate art, nature and the City skyline. All while getting that weird crick out of my back. (It's starting to freak out my co-workers.)

Oh wait, I can! Thanks to the Socrates Sculpture Park and the City Parks Department. They're offering free yoga classes on Saturdays all summer.

Ding Dong, the Witch is Dead

No, not Astorian Plant Killer #2.

It looks like NYC2012 will be nothing but a bad memory. Or a moment of delusion for the mayor. See editorial in the Daily News - not generally my favorite paper - but hey, strange bedfellows 'n all, right?

Tuesday, June 07, 2005


Originally uploaded by jggrossm.
My basil is rockin' out!

Astoria Today

Astoria Today
Originally uploaded by jggrossm.
I passed these guys on the way to the subway this morning. Whoa.

News & Notes - 05.06.07

Astoria, Sinatra & the American Museum of the Moving Image…Read Article

LaGuardia Community College opens new digs...Read Article

Monday, June 06, 2005

Astorian Wedding

Astorian Wedding
Originally uploaded by jggrossm.
We were quite surprised to drive past this on our way home yesterday. Looks like fun! Why weren't we invited?

Thanks to Mr.Z, my favorite neighbor, for the photo.

Astorian Plant Killer #1

Astorian Plant Killer #1
Originally uploaded by jggrossm.
Folks, hide your geraniums. Bring your dieffenbachia back in the house. Whatever you do, hide your plants. Behold – the Astorian Plant Killer #1 is on the prowl! That’s right. Not only is there a plant killer lurking in my building, right here in Astoria, there are two of them!

They take innocent little lettuce seedlings (do you *know* how hard it is grow lettuce on a window sill? It’s freaking impossible, that’s how hard.) and – pop – toss them in the trash, with terra cotta pots and all. Why, you ask? Why? Why would someone be so cruel and evil? I have no idea, but if you find out, do let me know. Maybe my lettuce didn’t die in vain.

You can spot the Astorian Plant killer. Look for an older man and/or woman with a permanent scowl, and a thirst for perky chlorophyll, trolling the streets of Astoria for children to scare and plants to kill. This pair is mean *and* ugly. Be wary!

Stay tuned. More on the Astorian Plant Killer to come.

Thursday, June 02, 2005

Weekend Edition – 05.06.02

Soooo, it's finally getting warm out. Outdoor activities, please.

I hope that you went to the LIC Boathouse fundraiser last night so we can enjoy Astoria Beach all summer long. If you didn’t, you can redeem your karma by donating phone cards to soldiers at the local Post Office(s).

This Saturday, get in touch with your adoptive Astoria roots, and enjoy the weather at the same time, with the Greater Astoria Historical Society. They’re doing a walking tour. According to them, they are “not your grandmother’s historical society”. I hope not. My grandmother scared the crap out of me.

Sunday do your own little walking tour. Swing by The Foundry in LIC and sneak a peak at it (just in case you really didn’t go last night, little Miss Lame-o). Meet with your local realtor about reopening Luncheonette. Is this not the cutest storefront you have *ever* seen? Stroll past ARROW and find yourself blown away by my awesome gardening skills as my tomato plants are already fruiting. Whoa.

If those tiny tomatoes are making you hungry – and thirsty - stop into Sunswick and get some tasty corn chips, load ‘em up with guac and salsa, and wash ‘em down with one of 24 taps.

- Joey

PS. See edition. It won't bite.

Sunswick: Best Kept Secret in Astoria

Originally uploaded by jggrossm.
Broadway Station wishes it was Sunswick.

Sunswick is located on out-of-the-way, 35th Avenue & 35th Street. Conveniently for me, right around the corner from ARROW's community garden. It has a pretty cherry veneer with lots of windows that open out. The reason Sunswick remains such a well kept secret however, probably lies in the unfortunate beer ad banners and year-round Christmas lights outside.

Inside, 24 glistening taps, a light-up Guinness sign, and some video games make the place inviting. But the cheesy pizza-place red tile is kind of a let down. The place is never crowded. There are nice tall tables by the windows and 8 TVs with sports that no one watches. *Everybody* sits at the bar. If you don’t, you’ll feel out of the loop. If people at the bar don’t all know each other already, they will. This is the only bar I’ve ever been to where you can really talk with strangers very comfortably. Everybody knows that bartenders by name, and if you go, you will too. One of them (who’s favorite beer is also Blue Point Oatmeal Stout) told me she thinks the bar is like Cheers – and it really kind of is if you add about 15 years to the clientele’s mean age. Everyone there has scuttlebutt on the neighborhood, and its fun to swap rumors about the old Tupelo space and the new Starbucks.

Once when we were there, they hired a new bartender. Apparently he's a Marine. The staff literally shrieked with joy. It was pretty cute.

On Wednesdays from 9pm there is an excellent DJ and $2 drafts. Did I mention there are 24 taps?

They have an excellent selection of beer including three Blue Points and Smithwick’s. The food is cheap, tasty pub fare. They make their own corn chips, salsa and guacamole which are the best I've had in the neighborhood. The bean burrito and the tuna melt go well with a ball game and the portobello burger was perfect.

Sunswick is truly the best kept secret in the neighborhood. It has 24 taps. Hello.


Wednesday, June 01, 2005

News & Notes - 05.06.01

Congress is kicking in $175,000 to fix the seawall in Queensbridge Park! Read Article
Nasty spot of 32nd Street, North of Astoria Blvd, will get cleaned up. This at a whopping $5 mil. Read Article


Originally uploaded by jggrossm.
This place is sooooooooooooo cute! Why haven't you bought it yet?

(It's on 36th Av.)