Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Weekend Edition 30.12.09

Another weekend, another holiday to celebrate! Don’t forget to check out our great guide to all the amazing New Years Eve celebrations happening around town.

Trying to keep those New Years resolutions? There are lots of amazing gyms, fitness centers and yoga studios to help you on your way. Crossfit Queens has only five spots left in their studios, click here for more info. Or try Evolution, New York Sports Club, Planet Fitness or the ever popular Yoga Room. The Yoga Room offers first time students any 3 classes for only $30!

Or, what about hitting up lots of local shops and getting some great deals on after Christmas sales? KrisTees is having their annual year end blow out with 25-60% off all their great designs. Pick something really unique up for your New Years Eve party. Loveday 31 also has some amazing finds, all boots are $49.00, all winter clothing is 25% off (including coats, jackets, scarves, & skirts) and their sale rack is buy 2 items get one free! Don’t miss the after Christmas sales at Inside Astoria and Candy Plum too!

Happy New Years, Astoria!

Monday, December 28, 2009

New Year's Eve in Astoria

New Year's Eve is almost upon us.  If you're looking for a way to celebrate, there's no need to leave Astoria - there's plenty to do right here in town!  Here's what has come our way as far as tasting menus, prix fixe menus, and other celebrations.  Happy New Year, Astoria!

718, 35-01 Ditmars Blvd. 718-204-5553
"Join us for New Year's celebration - DJ Leon kicks off with Sounds of the 80's and Latin Music, starting at 11 p.m."

Bistro 33, 1933 Ditmars Blvd. 718-721-1933
A la carte menu Bistro 33 available all night (reservations suggested).
Special chef’s tasting menu beginning at 9:30 pm at Side Door. 6 course tasting menu with wine pairings, champagne toast at midnight. $95 per person. Reservation only.
New Year’s Day brunch 12:00 p.m.-8:00 p.m.

Bistro Les Minots, 47-16 30th Avenue, 718-606-2535
Special 4 course menu, two seatings at 6 p.m. ($39.95 per person) and 9 p.m. ($49.95 per person).

DiWine, 41-15 31st Ave. 718-777-1355
Four course dinner, $70 per person,
Seating from 8-11 p.m. (regular dinner from 5-7)
Live DJ, complimentary champagne toast, party favors, free h'ors d'oeuves after midnight.

Gleasons Bar, 33-08 Broadway. 718-626-5393
"We're inviting everyone down New Years Eve. We have a kick ass band and its $60 at the door for an open bar (Top Shelf) and buffet dinner from 9 p.m to midnight. Doors will open to the public at Midnight! God Bless & Happy New Year!!!"

Hell Gate Social, 12-21 Astoria Blvd. 718-204-8313
"Ring in the New Year with the Times Square Ball drop live on our big screen, free champagne and some tasty hors d'oeuvres to snack on served throughout the night. DJ Blasphemey and The Two Bloody Tampons are lined up to keep us dancing through 2010! Doors open at nine. NO COVER."

Mundo, 31-18 Broadway, #E (on 32nd St.). 718-777-2829
Prix fixe dinner, $65 per person.
Seatings at 6:30-8:30 p.m. and 9-midnight.
For reservations call or place online.

Rest-au-Rant, 30-01 35th Ave. 718-729-9009
Free champagne toast at midnight, $3 shots, free platter of cold cuts or champagne bottle to groups of 5 or more, no cover charge.

Sweet Afton, 30-09 34th St. 718-777-2570
"Join Sweet Afton for an open bar from 9 p.m.-midnight with appetizers all night. Tickets will sell out, so purchase your tickets at the bar today."

Vesta, 21-02 30th Avenue. 718-545-5550
Sspecial 4 course prix fixe dinner.
Three seatings available: 6:00 p.m. $45 per person; 8:00 p.m. $55 per person; 9:30/10:00 p.m. $65 per person.
Party favors, Live broadcast of NYE in Times Square, Complimentary welcome glass and midnight toast, Black and  White attire recommended, not required.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Weekend Edition 23.12.09

The Joeys are still busy digging out from last week’s snow and busy finishing up all the last minute preparations for Christmas, so there will not be a Weekend Edition this week.

To all our readers who celebrate, have a wonderful and merry Christmas!

If you’re looking for some last minute gifts for loved ones, try these local spots:

Astoria Wines

Inside Astoria
Blooming Company
Jumping Bulldog
Loveday 31

We will be back next week with a great round up of all the amazing New Years Eve events happening all over Astoria. Until then, Merry Christmas all!

{Lovely Christmas Lights photo by Don3rdSE on Flickr}

Friday, December 18, 2009

Finally Fridays - Guess What?

In this very different edition of Finally Fridays, we have you doing the work.  We picked five favorite venues that we like to frequent on weekends - can you guess what they are?  As usual, they're listed in no specific order of importance because they're all great!

Here are the answers: 
#1 - 24 Wine Bar.  25-19 24th Avenue, Astoria.  347.777.6164
#2 - Arepas Cafe.  33-07 36th Avenue, Astoria.  718.937.3835
#3 - Bohemian Hall & Beer Garden.   29-19 24th Avenue, Astoria.  718.274.4925
#4 - Bizaare Avenue Cafe.  35-01 36th Street, Astoria.  718.937.1234
#5 - Ovelia.  34-01 30th Avenue, Astoria.  718.721.7217


This low-key place brings in not only the locals but ____ connoisseurs too. What is it?


Fun, casual and inexpensive, this place produces great ____ cakes (they're called something else in Spanish).  What is it?


Eat, _____ and be merry here.  What is it?


This place changed names less than a year ago - are you a fan or do you think it's just plain weird? What is it?


Day or night, this place is always hoppin'.  What is it?

Post your answers in the comments section. Enjoy and happy Friday!

Champagne Tasting this Saturday at Vine Wine in LIC

The sweet LIC wine shop, Vine Wine, is having their annual Champagne tasting this weekend. From 3-6 p.m on Saturday, take a load off from shopping and stop by to taste some bubbles. They'll pour 3 different kinds of Champagne: Duc de Romet, Pierre Gimonnet, and Vilmart & Cie (2 of those are under $40!). Bonus: they'll be giving away a set of 2 Champagne flutes to the first 10 people who buy one of the featured Champagnes.

Vine Wine
12-09 Jackson Ave
Long Island City, NY

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Astorian Weekend Edition 17.12.09

Through the Trees 2

We are approaching the end of Hanukkah (did you have latkes? jelly doughnuts? mmm....) and Christmas is fast approaching.  Still looking for the perfect gift?  Definitely check out the upcoming local markets this Sunday, where you can support local artisans and craftspeople. Both locations - Waltz and Sweet Afton - serve great food, so you can nosh on something while you're there.

For more shopping, head over to LIC on Friday for their Midnight Madness shopping extravaganza.  Lots of local shops will be open late til' midnight, plus there are extras to entice you, like free hot chocolate at Manducatis Rustica and "buy one get one free antipasto" at Testaccio. I was just down there this past weekend - if you find yourself there earlier in the evening, be sure to stop by at Sweetleaf Cafe for some delicious coffee.

Those crazy cats at Why Leave Astoria?! are holding their annual holiday party at Ovelia (34-01 30th Ave) on Sunday night at 7 p.m. They're combining a number of things into one ball of fun: a holiday market (for last minute gift ideas), a coat drive (for NY Cares), a raffle (gift certificates to local establishments, and a luxury VA mountain weekend getaway), and a prix fixe dinner ($25 gets you 3-courses and a glass of wine). RSVP, please.

For something completely different, consider The Secret Theatre's performance of A Midsummer Night's Dream, starring the Queen's Players. Performances are this weekend (December 16-20) and later performances on January 1-3. Shows are at 8 p.m., plus December 19 and 20 matinees at 3:30 p.m. Tickets $15, available online, or direct from the box office. Group discounts available.  718.392.0722

And finally, for a delightful dose of history, the Greater Astoria Historical Society (35-20 Broadway, 4th Floor) hosts an afternoon of American history. Along with Tony Pignataro and fellow history enthusiast Al Ronzoni, they will present dramatic and video illustrations of Washington's Crossing of the Delaware River, the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, and the Battle of the Bulge. The event starts at 1 p.m. on Saturday and discussion will follow the main presentation.  Free!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Two Handmade Events This Sunday in Astoria

Astoria is fortunate to have so many creative people living here - musicians, writers, dancers... and craftspeople. This weekend some of our local artisans are presenting their wares for your pleasure and holiday gifting needs.

The first event takes place at Waltz-Astoria (23-14 Ditmars Blvd) - the third annual Handmade Holiday Indie Craft Show. According to organizer Krista DeJoseph:
This year, the show is entirely handmade and comprised entirely of Astoria-based artists. It's a great way to support local (very local!) designers and pick up last minute holiday gifts at the same time. Our vendors this year will be selling jewelry, stationary, wall art, clothing, accessories, housewares and more. Plus, the event is FREE!
The show will take place on Sunday, December 20th from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.
(P.S. The pumpkin pie is pretty dang good at Waltz.)

Following at 6 p.m. is the Holiday Market at Sweet Afton (30-09 34th St.). Organized by waitress Christine Haber (of "I *HEART *ASTORIA" t-shirt design fame - she'll be there selling them), the market will feature five local Astoria artists and designers, and gives Astorians the opportunity to support local businesses. The market goes from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m.  Grab some spicy pickles and a tasty cocktail while you're there, too!

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Sweetleaf Cafe - Excellent Coffee in Long Island City

This weekend I was able to catch the penultimate day of Sweetleaf's Free Coffee Week event, and I am kicking myself for not visiting sooner. It is, bar none, the best coffee I've had in the borough, and some of the best coffee I've had in NYC.

They serve the much-lauded Stumptown Coffee, and it is strong and delicious, not to mention fair trade. They offer American coffee ($1.75) and espresso-based coffee drinks ($2.25-$4.00) on the menu, as well as a variety of in-house baked goods (muffins and other treats).  They also sell Nunu Chocolates, which are wonderful - the hand-dipped salted caramel is my favorite so far.

The staff is really nice and accommodating, and owner Rich answered my questions about the store and products, and even passed on some brewing tips (which were a huge help!).  You can also buy Stumptown beans from them - 12 oz bags run from about $12-14, depending on the kind of bean you get.  I bought a bag of the Columbia El Jordan, brewed it this morning, and found it to be one of the smoothest cups of coffee I've had in quite a while.  I can see myself returning again and again for good coffee and fantastic beans for home brewing.  And those chocolates... mmm...

Definitely check them out - you won't regret it!

Sweetleaf Coffee & Tea
10-93 Jackson Ave, LIC

Hours: Mon to Fri 7:30am–7pm; Sat 8am–7pm; Sun 10am–6pm

Friday, December 11, 2009

Favorite Food Neighborhood Poll

Over on Serious Eats they are holding a poll called "What's Your Favorite Food Neighborhood In New York?". Astoria is on the list! If you want to vote, head on over there (registration required) and show some love for the nabe. At the time of this writing, Astoria is holding down 5% of the vote - we can do better than that! Have fun...

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Astorian Weekend Edition 10.12.09

Man oh man will it be cold this weekend! But don’t let a little chill stop you from enjoying these fun (indoor) “social sports.”

Ornella is a great new Italian restaurant worth trying, and all dishes are derived from deeply cherished family recipes. Order the imbustata (pictured above), a specialty pasta “envelope” with roasted veal, chicken, wild mushrooms homemade mozzarella, spinach, mascarpone cheese and tomato sauce. As you can see, it’s an all-inclusive type of dish that's absolutely scrumptious. 29-17 23rd Avenue, Astoria. 718.777.9477

Take a farm to table cooking class this Thursday (or next Thursday) at the Sage General Store. This week’s theme is “Trade Secrets from the Professionals” and covers topics from handling poultry to making the perfect pie crust. $80 per person – includes dinner and you get to take home a pie. 24-20 Jackson Avenue, Long Island City. 718.361.0707

In the mood for casual tapas or just good and inexpensive Latin food? Blend in LIC is a yummy option, and I had a wonderful dinner there last week. Top picks include the arroz con pollo, which is generous in portion and features the most aromatic seasoning, as well as the ropa vieja, served in a crunchy plantain cup. 47-04 Vernon Blvd, Long Island City. 718.729.2800

Indulge in a holiday specialty drink at Mezzo Mezzo--some of the creative concoctions they’ve devised especially for the holidays include martinis such as the chocolate peppermint, nuts-n-berries, an oatmeal-cookie latte and others. You can sample a drink for free with a purchase of an entrĂ©e. The special promo code is “holiday cheer” and it can be used on all days except for Saturday. 31-29 Ditmars Blvd, Astoria. 718.278.0444

If you like to play pool or ping pong and appreciate a relaxing, low-key setting, check out Break Bar on Broadway between 32nd and 33rd street. It’s pleasantly full but never too crowded on weekends, and the bartenders make you feel like part of the family. Pool is free until 9p.m. and they feature happy hour from 12 p.m. – 9 p.m. on the weekends with $3 beers and $5 spirits. 32-04B Broadway, Astoria. 718.777.5400

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Ornella - New Italian Restaurant in Astoria

Last week I had the pleasure of attending a tasting at the new Italian restaurant Ornella, at Judith's invitation.  We were fortunate enough to enjoy our meal with the owners, Ornella Viterale (for which the restaurant is named) and her husband Giussepe, as well as a family friend.  I had been very curious about the restaurant, which previously housed the Brazilian restaurant Samba Grill (which I never got to try, unfortunately).  I love Italian food, so I was pretty excited about checking it out.

Our hosts and guests were lovely, which provided a great entry to an excellent meal.  As we chatted together, there was a plate of bruschetta in front of us.  Not being able to resist tomatoes and bread, I went for a piece early on, and was impressed by how flavorful the tomatoes were for this time of year.  The bread, which is house-made, was also good and substantial, and the two went really well together.

We were asked, "Do you like nuts?"  Well, I told them, "I love nuts!" (I really do).  They were happy to hear this and presented us each with a plate of homemade noodles made with chestnut flour, and served with roasted cherry tomatoes, arugula, and shrimp.  Such a delicious combination!  The noodles were thick and resembled the texture of dumplings.  They were beautifully colored, and the combination with the vegetables and shrimp was mighty tasty.  Apparently, this dish of chestnut noodles is common in their region.  I'd never had anything like it, so it was a real treat for me.

I also had a caprese salad, one of my favorite things to get at Italian restaurants.  Their version was a little bit different, in that it was served with buffalo mozzarella and also roasted red pepper along with the tomatoes.  I loved it, and especially adored the quality of the mozzarella.  It was soft and supple, almost resembling burrata, one of my favorite fresh milk cheeses.  The addition of the pepper to the dish made it more interesting than your average caprese salad.  I'd get it again in a heartbeat.

I am also a gnocchi nut.  I love the stuff!  So, when I saw their gnocchi dish, I couldn't resist.  The little potato dumplings were in a cream and gorgonzola dolce sauce, so rich and creamy, but not overly heavy, as the gnocchi were nice and light - no lead weight in my stomach that night.  It was sweet, salty, and savory all at the same time. Fantastic.

I did get a chance to taste some of my fellow diners' dishes.  I was especially fond of Ornella's swordfish, partnered with olives, capers, onions and tomato sauce. Its texture was flaky and light but substantial, a far cry from the tough swordfish I had years ago at BeniHana.  I also had a bite of a very interesting dish that Judith ordered, called Imbustata, which was basically a large "envelope" of pasta filled with roasted meats and mushrooms.  So savory, rich, and deeply flavored.  I might have to try that next time.

For dessert, they brought out what looked like fried eggs, sunny-side up... in actuality, it was two halves of a poached peach resting in a pool of vanilla gelato.  Two of my favorite tastes, I ate it up gladly.  After that, they brought out a plate of cake slices - tiramisu, chocolate mousse, and Italian-style cheesecake.  Although I'm a total chocoholic, and a devout fan of tiramisu, the cheesecake stole my heart.  It was light, creamy, and perfect.  Don't get me wrong, the other two cakes were excellent as well, but there was something really special about that cheesecake.  Later, I learned that Ornella baked the tiramisu and cheesecake herself.  I  highly recommend keeping room for dessert - you won't regret it!

The space itself is narrow but doesn't feel cramped, and certainly gives the impression of more space than I got when peering into Samba Grill.  The walls are painted to resemble stone walls, nice and light, with street signs named after Ornella and Giuseppe's children.  I found myself feeling relaxed and comfortable there.

Prices are on the moderate side - $8-10 for appetizers, $15-19 for pastas, fish and meats from $18-25, desserts from $5-8. See the Foodista for more menu details.  Please see her review here.

Ornella Trattoria
29-17 23rd Avenue (Ditmars neighborhood)

Photo credit:  (c) Judith Klein Rich

Friday, December 04, 2009

Finally Fridays - Brunch

Wow I thought the weekend would never come...but finally it's here.  In this edition of Finally Fridays, we reveal five great picks for brunch.  As always, chime in with your two cents.

Sparrow - Leeks and fried eggs with sweet potato hash and crusty bread
24-01 29th Street, Astoria NY. 718.606.2260

Cafe Henri - Mushroom and goat cheese crepe with mixed greens
10-10 50th Avenue, LIC.  718.383.9315

Bistro 33 - Cajun fritatta with andouille sausage and crawfish
19-33 Ditmars Blvd, Astoria.  718.721.1933

Sage General Store - Ranchero Burrito with organic scrambled eggs, onions, smoky ham, tomato & cheese
24-20 Jackson Avenue, LIC.  718.361.0707

Brooklyn Bagel and Coffee Company - Fluffy, humongous cinnamon raisin and plain bagel
35-05 Broadway, Astoria.  718.204.0141
35-09 Ditmars Blvd, Astoria.  718.932.8280
36-14 30th Avenue, Astoria.  718.777.1121

Rally for Safer Streets on 21st Avenue

This is from a couple of friends involved with Astoria community issues:
On Friday, November 13, there was a fatal pedestrian tragedy where someone crossing the street was hit. This tragedy is compounded by the fact there are NO stop signs, speed bumps, or street lights on 21 Avenue from 21 Street and 28 Street. Within this seven block radius lies 2 schools, PS 122 and St. John's Prep HS and a daycare center Kid Krazy in which this tragedy happened in front of.

Our children are at risk for lack of traffic calming measures on 21st Avenue! There is a serious need for this to proceed.

Not only was there a fatality but several car related accidents have occurred in the past 12-18 months in this area. We are calling for the immediate remediation of the unsafe conditions at this intersection.

Join the Long Island City Alliance, Transportation Alternatives Queens Committee, local elected officials, 21 avenue residents and other concerned Astorians to stand up and urge the placement of traffic calming measures to make our streets safe for our children.
Saturday, December 5, 2009
11:00 a.m. - 12:30 p.m.
21 Avenue on the corner of 23 Street

Facebook info

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Marriage Equality and Queens

Although we don't talk politics much here, we wanted to address something recent and relevant to many of our readers and fellow citizens - the issue of marriage equality. As you most likely know, the New York State Senate voted down the marriage equality bill yesterday, 38-24.

Personally, I feel this is a travesty. I support same-sex marriage. It is hard for me to understand why my gay and lesbian friends should be denied the right to marry. As far as I'm concerned, this is a civil rights issue.

As far as who voted for and who voted against, here is the vote count. Note that four of the eight democrats that voted against come from Queens.  They are Joseph P. Addabbo Jr.; Shirley L. Huntley; Hiram Monserrate; and George Onorato.

Now, George Onorato represents Astoria, which has a sizeable GLTBIQ population. I'm going to give you his contact information if you want to contact him to express your opinion on his vote yesterday:

District Office:
28-11 Astoria Blvd.
Long Island City, NY 11102
Tel: (718) 545-9706
Fax: (718) 726-2036

Albany Office:
310 Legislative Office Building
Albany, NY 12247
Tel: (518) 455-3486
Fax: (518) 426-6929

Email address:

Discussion on yesterday's results is happening here and here.  Please join in if you feel so inclined.

Finally, here is a video that I found particularly moving on this issue:

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Weekend Edition 03.12.09

Don't forget, tonight is Shine 2009 at KrisTEES, from 5-10. This special event is a unique collaboration by various artists to celebrate the energy of the holidays and the spirit of Fashion. Inspired by the movie “Where the Wild Things Are,” this evening will be magical with plenty to see and lots of beautiful holiday items. KrisTEES, 24-01 23rd Avenue at 24th street (718.204.5031).

Love Karaoke? Then check out Thursday night Karaoke at WunderBar! Drink specials and singing, what more could you want? How about a dedicated Karaoke bar right here in Astoria. Forget singing in public, bring a few friends and sing the night away in the soon-to-open Karaoke Shout’s private rooms. The website says opening in December, fingers crossed that’s soon! WunderBar, 37-10 11th Street. Karaoke Shout, 32-46 Steinway Street.

Need a break from all the holiday hustle? Why not check out the newly re-opened Fisher Landau Center for Arts? Currently they are displaying two unique exhibitions, including one on figures and portraits. Fisher Landau Center for the Arts, 38-27 30th Street (718.937.0727). Or, take advantage of this warm December we’re having by strolling through Socrates Sculpture Park, which is open year round! Socrates Sculpture Park, 32-01 Vernon Boulevard.

Did you see that BareBurger is now offering bunch? This organic eatery has quickly become a popular go-to spot for Astorians with their delicious and healthy burger alternatives and classics like shakes and fries. Brunch is a mix of egg dishes, yogurts, and yummy multigrain pancakes and French toast. BareBurger, 33 - 21 31st Avenue, (718.777.7011).

{Fog picture by Astoria4U on Flickr}

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Shine 2009

Just wanted to make sure you all knew about this event tomorrow! From Kristie Foster:
On Wednesday, Dec 2nd, from 5-10 p.m. KrisTEES is happy to present to you Shine 2009.

This evening is a collaboration by various artists bringing their skills to life with the energy of the holidays along with the spirit of Fashion. Inspired by the movie Where the Wild Things Are, the evening will be a magical!


Mieko Anekawa: Our very talented local artist who literally will be using the store windows as a canvas to inspire all!

Hitomi Nozawa: This expressionist dance artist will be showcasing her skills in an interactive window while finding her way through the “mystical forest” Mieko has created.

Valcarcel: Local designer duo Peter Valcarcel and Arianna Ward will be costuming Hitomi in the window, as well as showcasing their new Holiday looks.

Ruico Oshika: this local stylist will be treating all to a complimentary holiday make-up look using vibrant new colors for all your stand-out events.

Designer Trunk Show- Meet hand selected designers with great items for yourself or for gift giving.

And New Arrivals to get you ready for the holidays!

24-01 23rd Ave