Friday, September 29, 2006

Astoria Weekend Edition 29.09.06

I think I'm still in denial that summer is over and fall is here. While I enjoy the cool temperatures, I miss the more carefree feeling of summer. I will say, though, that it's certainly easy to run in this weather. On Saturday morning, I'll be in Manhattan running the Fifth Avenue Mile, while thinking ahead to a concert I'd like to go to over at Wassi that night. The Astoria Music Society is presenting a jazz show that should be fun, featuring musicians Jacob Varmus, trumpet and cornet; Daisuke Abe, guitar; Jacob Garchik, accordion, trombone; Gil Smuskowitz, bass; and Brian Woodruff, drums. Through the grapevine, I heard the news that the owner of Wassi will be giving away free shots to add to the party atmosphere. I didn't realize Wassi had gotten their liquor license, but it's good news that they did. It's a suggested donation of $12 at the door, but that also means pay what you can. The show starts at 9pm, and Wassi is located at 37-05 28th Avenue. Come support local jazz in Astoria!

Tonight also has great NY musicians coming to Astoria from two of the other boroughs at Waltz Astoria. Ranjit and Justin present an evening of bossa nova, with Indian influences. Their combination of guitar and violin proves to be a fascinating and enjoyable mix of instruments and styles.

If music isn't for you tonight, you can catch the second evening showing of Alwill he run for President?Gore's An Inconvenient Truth at the Museum of the Moving Image. I saw it last night and was really impressed. Everyone should see this movie.

And oh yes, here it is, the Beer Garden's Octoberfest, AKA hipster invasion, Saturday the 30th. The Beer Garden says: "Mark your calenders....we'll be rolling-in the barrels to offer you some of the best beer ever made. You don't want to miss this one. Starting at 1pm till 10pm. We are featuring 2 bands, the Pilsner Brass Band and the Czech Polka Cruisers, a band from Texas. We will have plenty of imported and local beers. Food will be available from our restaurant or BBQ grill. We will have both Czech and American style food available. Admission is only $10 or $5 for BCBSA members. Children under 12 free."

And even though I'm really just (sort of) kidding about the whole hipster invasion thing, I expect people from all the boroughs to descend upon Astoria that day to enjoy the Beer Garden. I mean, who doesn't love an Octoberfest?? So locals, get there early! I'll also add that tonight the Beer Garden presents their Spaten Octoberfest. They'll be holding a raffle and giving out prizes, as well as good times.
As they say, Czech it out!

And if you've got some time to kill this weekend, take a walk on down to Astoria Park and check out the almost finished Riverview Apartments. They're now up for sale. While quite ugly (to me) architecture lives on the 21st Street side, the Park side of the building looks much better. Prices, while NYC-style-nutso, are less than I expected. And enjoy the Park while you're at it. Things still look green and summer-like, though soon the leaves will change (and they are gorgeous when it happens). Head down to Shore Boulevard and admire the work that was done during the Shoreline Cleanup a couple weeks ago (here are some pictures, no need to sign in).

Most of all, enjoy your weekend!

More fun, here.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Best French Baguette in Astoria!

A new patisserie recently opened here in lower Astoria (it used to be a sleepy Columbian bakery), and upon the urging of some friends, we stopped in to sample their fare. The Petit Prince is much more than a little pastry shop: they also serve a small selection of sandwiches and coffee too. My personal love is french bread. Real french bread. As a disclaimer, I must say that there are some truly great bakeries in Astoria (Parisi Brother's, La Guli, Rose and Joe's, and Long Island Bakery are among some of the best)... but they're all coming from an Italian background, let's face it. The "baguettes" at Parisi's are made with shortening and Rose and Joe make a better Sicilian slice than a crusty french loaf. The Petit Prince, with its charmingly authentic French-accented baker/propietor, is the first I've sampled here that is loyal to French technique. Snobby, huh? Finally, a baguette reminiscent of Paris and worthy of a big blob of St. Marcellin! Next time I'll have to try some actual pastries.

Note the blistered, crisp skin and the characteristic point on the end of the baguette. Real topography here: high, crunchy ridges crown the loaf. The color of the skin is actually golden brown, not doughy and pale. The inside is airy (the result of a proper working of the gluten) and has chewy big bubbles that yield beautifully to fresh butter, pate, confiture, Nutella, or anything at all! At about $2 for a large baguette, its just as well priced at its Parisian cousins but a lot more convenient to pick up for dinner tonight.

Who can resist a fresh croissant? I got a smaller size one (they've got two sizes) and was pleasantly surprised by how authentically buttery and delicate its innards were. No margarine here. The layers were distinct and slightly chewy. The outside was less crispy than flaky, which is okay. As long as its not one of those big bready monstrosities from the early-morning midtown bagel cart vendors

The Petit Prince
Broadway between 33rd and 34th Streets

It only opened fairly recently so they're still working out some final details and I suspect that we will see more menu additions as time goes on...

Friday, September 22, 2006

Astorian Weekend Edition 22.09.06

Friday night come out to dinner and celebrate Rosh Hashana at Mundo! It's a great way to try out some Jewish special occasion food with Roasted Turkey and Mundo-style spiced Rice. Call and reserve now for tonight and have a Happy Holiday!

Presenting the cutest new store to hit Ditmars, Inside Astoria (37-20 Ditmars Blvd)! All things cool and new for you, your kids, your home, your pets... you get the drift huh? There's been tons of buzz about this place and they've only been around for 2 weeks! Stop on by Friday and/or Saturday to help them celebrate their grand opening. From noon to 8pm on Friday and 11am to 8pm on Saturday go in and enjoy some wine and tasty treats as you shop (*10% off everything during the celebration no less.) Welcome to the neighborhood oh adorable shop a few blocks away from home!!!

If a Sunday in the park sounds good to you, then we'll see you out at The Variety Boys & Girls Club Run. From 10:00am to 1pm in Astoria Park, join in some fundraising at the 2nd Annual Gloria D'Amico Fun Run/Walk. Prizes, music, food and drinks will be provided. Good stuff right? More info at 718.728.0946. Can't make it? You can always volunteer to do all kinds of goodness with the kids, just check their site for the opportunity!

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

The loneliest bookstore

So yeah there's been alot of talk of wanting to get some decent book selections in the hood. Nothing has come out of it though. No new bookstores.... at all. The dream isn't dead yet, but i figure in the meantime-maybe we could still give our one and only store another go? If you're like me and haven't even gone in yet, this might be the excuse to check it out. Tomorrow night, Thurs. Sept 21st @ 7pm, Seaburn Books will be hosting a book signing party for Patricia Carragon’s first book, ”Journey to the Center of My Mind,” a Rogue Scholars Press release. It's free and who knows, you may just happen upon a random good read as you peruse the digs.

Seaburn Books
33 - 18 Broadway
718 - 267 - 7929

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Socrates's Birthday!

We stopped by the Socrates Sculpture Park's big 20th Anniversary bash this past Sunday and there couldn't have been a more beautiful backdrop for such a righteous fete. The weather was warm, the light was golden, the air infused with the delightful aromas of souvlaki (Opa! Greek) and chana masala (bangladeshi eatery). There was a totally sweet live band, lots of arts and crafts for the kiddies (face painting!), and of course innovative art installations galore. Power to the people.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Astoria Weekend Edition 15.09.06

Looks like we'll be heading back to summer by Sunday! Sunny and highs in the low 80s. Very exciting. And summer to me means ice cream. Did you know there is a brand of ice cream that was created right here in Astoria? It's 5 Boroughs Ice Cream, the brainchild of a couple from Astoria. They currently have five flavors, each one representing a different borough in NYC. Queens is represented by the town of Astoria (yay!) and the flavor is Bakla-Wha?. It's baklava ice cream! The chunks of baklava in the ice cream are from Astoria's own Victory Sweet Shop. Astoria also shows up in their SoHo flavor, which uses hazelnut biscotti from Rose & Joe's Bakery. Sadly, the ice cream is not available in Astoria! For shame. There is a way to remedy this, though. What a better thing to do while it's raining?

Someone on suggested that this weekend should be considered "Astoria Pride Weekend," due to all the wonderful Astoria-centric things going on this weekend. First, on Friday the AMMI is showing A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints. This was filmed throughout Astoria during the summer of 2005, and is based on the autobiography of Astorian Dito Montiel, who is also the director. Montiel will be there to introduce both screenings. And if that wasn't great enough, food from Astoria restaurants will be sold in the courtyard starting at 6:00 p.m. Tickets are $10 general, and free for Museum members. Call to RSVP (718-784-0077).

Saturday holds two awesome events: The Shoreline Cleanup and Socrates Sculpture Park's 20th Anniversary Party. Come help beautify the shoreline! For the Shoreline Cleanup, sites include Astoria Park, Hallets Cove, and Socrates Sculpture Park. Tools, gloves, and good company provided, as well as free snacks for all volunteers. The event will be held rain or shine, although a thunderstorm will cancel. The times and locations are as follows:
10am-12pm:Socrates Sculpture Park, Broadway at Vernon Blvd
10:30am-3pm: Gantry Plaza State Park, 49th Ave at the East River
12-3pm: Socrates Sculpture Park ’s beach at Hallets Cove, 31st Ave at Vernon Blvd
12-3pm: Hallets Cove North, 31st Ave at Vernon Blvd
12-3pm: Astoria Park, War Memorial at Shore Blvd

For information on the cleanup at Gantry Plaza State Park, please call 718-340-8307. For information on all other events, please call 718-706-8044 or email For information on the day of the event, please call 917-902-9165.

Also know that from 4-6pm will be a Shoreline Cleanup Celebration at Socrates Sculpture Park, where volunteers will be honored in a ceremony at the 20th Anniversary Celebration! The full Celebration event will be from 12-6pm that day (rain date September 17th). It's a party for friends and neighbors and the entire community of artists, volunteers, patrons, elected officials and businesses that helped create and sustain the Park since 1986. Totally free.

Sunday, check out the Astoria Alive Street Festival. Should be a beautiful day to be out and about. Sponsored by the Astoria Restoration Association, it will be on 31st Street between Ditmars Boulevard and 21st Avenue. Food, games, and the requisite fun will be had that day. awesome!!

More fun, here.

Friday, September 08, 2006

Astorian Weekend Edition 8.9.06

Here we have it, a break in the rain!

Saturday join in on the Waterfront Parks Bike Tour! I've been wanting to do this since Joey did it last year, it looks like tons of fun and educational too. It will be led by local historian Richard Melnick of the Greater Astoria Historical Society so i assume questions are encouraged... Don't worry its only about 5 miles, and wont be more then 3 hours after all is said and done. Tag along but bring a helmet (kids are welcome too with a guardian, that is)
Meet up at 11AM at Gantry Plaza State Park (48th Ave & the East River)

After doing a good thing for the environment, go do a good thing for your social life! Pimps & Ho's Costume Party @ 9pm... and its not even Halloween yet! Sparrow Bar (corner of 29th St @ 24th Ave) is a pretty chill little spot i just stopped into on Weds night. This may become a semi regular place actually (they have a stash of boardgames!) Go dressed as your favorite Pimp or his "friend" and have a blast. Their beer selection is pretty cool too.

If you're in the market for chile's or peppers for your next fiesta, pop over to Original Mexican Food Deli (30-11 29th St) for pretty much the most extensive collection i've seen in the tri-state area! What's even better is that if they don't have what you need, the other Mexican market on the opposite corner probably will. It's like you can't lose!! (Pick up a tamale for a buck and you won't be disappointed either)

T&H Mini Market (28th Ave & 36th St) has the "realest" red bean ice cream ever. I've had it before in Japanese restaurants, but never like this. You could taste/feel the starchiness and upon closer inspection- you see the big ole plump beans! It was just so weird to me i had to let you all know about this random little market. Its like a bodega with odds and ends from an Asian market. Shrimp Crackers (which look like Cheetos) are hung next to a great standby of BBQ Dirty Chips, wasabi peas next to Jolly Ranchers, what an ecclectic mix huh? Check them out if you're just looking for something unexpected...

Culture more your calling? Wind down your weekend on Sunday @ 7pm with Beethoven's World. St. Joseph's Church (43-19 30th Avenue @ 43rd Street) kicks off the season opener of the Astoria Music Society, make sure you check the website for tickets or call AMS at 718.204.9036.

OH and blackout troubles weren't all my pal Ali over at Kabab Cafe had to deal with recently. He has, as of this week lost his sidekick and cook extraordinaire Luis and is on the hunt for a new person. Know of anyone? He's got a few friends coming in and helping out for now but he definitley needs someone else in the kitchen. Personally i think its an awesome opportunity to learn from this inventive foodie. Check out his ad on craigslist if you don't believe me! Or you could always stop in there yourself and grab a bite... (25-12 Steinway St. @ 25th Ave)

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Open Letter to Summer 2006

Dear Summertime,

What happened? I thought we were soul mates. I feel a little vulnerable saying that, but after all the golden dusks and steamy nights, I feel like I've really bonded with you. Kind of like how your sometime 100% humidity stickiness bonded my upper thigh to the subway seat. Good times. Are you going already? Did the picnics in the park, Mister Softee visits, and bike rides to Brooklyn mean nothing to you? Your obvious exit these days is a bit disdainful to say the least. Couldn't you at least break it to me easy, instead of turning your back as soon as Labor Day hits? Well, Summertime, in the immortal words of that prolific 80's band Roxette, It must have been love, but its over now...
Maybe we'll hook up again next year? Until then, here are some of my favorite memories from our time together.

P.S. Autumn is way sexier than you anyways.

Farm-fresh ramps from our CSA!

Meat cage! The universal sign of street fair season.

Socrates Sculpture Park opening day.

Gantry Park for Fourth of July!

Classic summertime fieldtrip: Giant squid vs. Sperm whale at the American Museum of Natural History.

Nathan's original. Coney Island. Midnight in August.

Flushing Meadows Corona Park (pre US Open madness)

Stini Yiamas

Lately I've met up with friends at a new-ish place on Ditmars called Stini Yiamas. It's kind of a lounge, kind of a bar, hard to absolutely categorize. But it's been a nice place to chill out at the end of the day with friends, have a drink, and the music is low enough to have an easy time conversing with each other. I've had some really delicious cosmopolitans there, and my friends have enjoyed the small selection of imported beers (bottles, no taps). Happy hour prices are really good, $4 for the cosmopolitan and $3 for the beer. I'm actually not positive when happy hour starts (opening hours are still a little wonky right now), but it's safe to say that if you get there by 6pm, things will be open and ready for you.

The look of the bar is really appealing, and the bartenders do a great job serving and pouring drinks, and are just really nice people. Earlier in the evening it's rarely crowded, but at night things pick up. I have walked by there around 10pm or so and there have been more people in there hanging out. I'm guessing the music gets louder, too.

The atmosphere is pretty relaxed, the lights are low, which is conducive to chilling out. I noticed they have a large screen TV (couches, too), and have seen Mets games playing on it (not sure about Yankee games, this being the home borough of the Mets and all), so it's an option for those who want to watch a game but don't want a sports bar atmosphere. I think this is a terrific option to have, not that I don't like sports bars ('cause I do), but that it's great to have options! I imagine now that we're into football season, those games will be on as well.

Stini Yiamas is also right next door to 718, so Stini Yiamas could be a good place to go for a drink before dinner. I hope there develops a good relationship between the two places, and that Stini Yiamas can make it here in the Ditmars neighborhood. It's a really pleasant place and a different kind of drinking establishment in the neighborhood compared to what is around it, and it's always terrific to have variety. I believe there is room for everyone here, and Stini Yiamas is a perfect example of that. Definitely check it out!

Stini Yiamas
Ditmars Boulevard and 34th Street

Friday, September 01, 2006

Astoria Weekend Edition 01.09.06

Well, it's looking like a rainy weekend, with some cooler weather. It feels more like October than August! Cooler weather makes me want to just stay home with a book or watch a movie with someone special. But there are plenty of things to do this weekend, it being Labor Day weekend and all, so I'm here to tell you what's going on!

Friday night, stop in around 10pm at Cafe Bar to have a drink and hear their DJs. As you saw from flooz's post, it's a nice place for brunch, too, and Saturday at 1pm there's live jazz there by Andy Guthrie (piano) and Apostolos Sideris (bass).

Also on Saturday, the Beer Garden continues their Pilsner Promotion. They say: "Stop by for one of the most traditional and popular beers imported from the Czech Republic. Enjoy the give-aways and relax-in in the garden." 2pm-5pm.

Sunday night, stop over at Cafe Rendezvous (Broadway and 35th Street) and hear the Martin Urbach Quartet with local Astorian Tim Collins on vibraphone. 8pm, free.

On Monday the 4th, we greet Astoria's penultimate street fair. To me, this says summer is almost over. Boo hoo. But anyway, enjoy what the 30th Avenue Business Association has to offer in their street fair. Check it out on 30th Avenue between 29th & 42nd Streets. 11-6pm. That same day, also check out the Magic of Astoria Arts and Crafts Show from 10am-6pm at the United Methodist Church (30-44 30th Road). All items are designed and crafted by local artists: paintings, sculpture, jewelry, just to name a few things. For more information call Georgie at 718-721-4037.

The biggest Labor Day bash I've seen so far is that by the Water Taxi Beach, their "Malibu Labor Day Weekend Beach Bash." Saturday through Monday, 7:50pm to 1am each night. Free entertainment and free Carribean food. Free Water Taxi Rides, too! Definitely worth checking out. [Great pic from StreetsBlog, which has high praise for the Water Taxi Beach.]

One last note: check out the Hellgate CSA blog for all sorts of interesting info regarding Astoria's wonderful CSA, as well as related discussion on organic food and sustainable agriculture issues.

Late addition!
On Saturday night at Hell Gate Social, there's M-BODY, a collabaration of expression, movement, music, and libation with Anthony Velarde, Deosil & the Rev spinning techno with laser lights. Also, Invasion of the Body Painters (Body Painting). No cover. And on Sunday they'll be hosting a Labor Day BBQ! From 2pm-7pm they'll have $4 beers, well drinks, and martinis to go with the hot dogs and burgers they'll be serving, gratis. And later at 9pm, they'll be showing another fabulously bad classic outside in the garden on their big screen.

More fun, here.