Archive for October, 2008

Queens Farm Haunted House, Durckey, and Corn Maze Oct. 31

Posted on October 27, 2008. Filed under: Entertainment, Off the beaten path |

 We thought we were out to see some fall foliage, instead a new species was discovered. Sipping on hot apple cider and witnessing the greatest miracle on earth- a “durckey”- that’s what happens when a duck gets fresh with a turkey, an unlikely hybrid in animal kingdom. At least, that was the educated guess- noticing the webbed feet and duckbill on this bird, what threw us off was the red turkey like crown… one can only imagine. Note: After doing a little research, it looks like this is an actual breed of a muscovy duck from Mexico. Although, the prefered name by Local718 is still the durckey.

There’s only one more day to head to Queens Farm for the corn maze, haunted house, hot apple cider, and hay rides. Dress up the kids or take your friends Friday October 31st for a fun filled and inexpensive afternoon 4pm-7pm. See farm animals, peruse the pumpkin patch and mingle with the locals. This is great fun for all ages. A subway ride on the E to Union Turnpike/Kew Gardens in Queens will get you to the Q46- which is about a 20 minute bus ride to the sub-urban farm and museum.

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El Sitio de Astoria Cuban Food in Astoria / Long Island City

Posted on October 24, 2008. Filed under: Astoria, Cheap Dining, Cuban, LIC |

After passing by El Sitio (37-01 31st Street Long Island City/ Astoria 718-278-7694) a few times, a friend and I were inspired to finally sample this Cuban restaurant, endorsed by Astoria Knife and Fork. The humble little gem that sits nestled under the train tracks is not to be missed. From the authentic inexpensive ($6-$11) food to the jukeboxes perched on the wall over every table– this eatery is truly unique. For more casual dining, bar service is available- serving various wines, sangria, El Presidente, XX , Jupina and the popular herbal cuban soda- Materva. El Sitio offers an array of traditional hearty Cuban entrees that start off with a free basket of buttered garlic bread and a modest plate of ham croquets. The drunken chicken begs for a moment of sobriety. The bird drowns mercilessly in a rich tomato base accompanied by potatoes, onions, olives, mushrooms and carrots. The beef stew is large cuts of tender beef sauteed in a brown sauce with potatoes on the side. The famous Cuban sandwich can be elusive in these parts of country. At El Sitio it is made to perfection. The buttered cuban bread is topped with thick slices of ham, pork, swiss cheese, mustard and pickles- then pressed to a crispy-melted artery clogging festival for your taste-buds. Skip the flan for dessert and ask for one thing that’s not on the menu, the corda dito- a small Cuban espresso- the grinds are sweetened before the water hits them- making a deep, rich and sweet tasting drink that’s mixed with foam milk and sprinkled with cinnamon.  Besides the tasty fare, it’s easy to see why “the place” is a real neighborhood hang-out for Astoria’s Latin American community and then some. At El Sitio no face goes unrecognized and if you’re new, the staff treats you like a regular. The dining area offers a not-so-contemporary DIY choice of Latin American music on the personal juke-boxes, a jungle of ivy vines plastered to the ceiling, a bathroom that requires you to be buzzed in with a doorbell and a kind-spirited waitress heavy on the eyeliner.

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Fall in Queens- Saturday Oct 18th Harvest Festival

Posted on October 16, 2008. Filed under: Entertainment |

Socrates Sculpture Park in LIC is always hosting a bevy of seasonal events for the community. Join your friends, neighbors, dogs and family at the 8th annual Harvest Festival and watch the Red Door Theater performance-

“…make a costume with Socrates Sculpture Park artists; listen to live music; enjoy a special art-workshop with Materials for the Arts; transform your face with face painting by agostino Arts; enter your dog in the 4th annal Canine Costume contests or just watch a parade of creatively clad dogs; paint a pumpkin and try harvest foods from a local restaurant; and see a special performance by the Red Door Theatre. TIME: 11AM – 2PM (rain or shine) The Red Door Theatre performance at 2PM”

Where: Socrates Sculpture Park at 32-01 Vernon Boulevard and Broadway

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RIP Ion’s Corner Cafe Romanian Food in Long Island City

Posted on October 12, 2008. Filed under: Fine Dining, LIC, Romanian |

 The corner restaurant that is no longer- Sadly, another Queens casualty.

Ion’s Corner Cafe (36-01 Vernon Blvd 718-786-3236) is a one-of-a-kind restaurant in the area, specializing in traditional Romanian fare at reasonable prices. Although there has been little buzz about this place- the menu looked so exotically tantalizing I had to try it. I was not disappointed.  Starting off with the Buck’s Fizz cocktail-the original mimosa from 1921. It is made from orange juice, champagne and grenadine and named after a bar in London. This drink is a favorite at Ion’s and rightfully so- it’s sweet and delicious. The cirnaciori ol tenesti is one of the several choices of appetizers. It’s a dish of small sausages from the southern Romanian region of Oltania. They taste like a cross between Grey’s Papaya hot-dogs and kielbasa- in other words they are mouthwateringly delightful. The ends of the sausages are sliced in fours creating a three dimensional star-like shape that is crispy on the outside and juicy on the inside. The mushroom stew with polenta is a vegan dish of country fare prepared in generous proportions.  This main course contains savory mushrooms in a tomato and olive oil based sauce with mountains of polenta and sour-cream on the side. Aside from a decent vegan menu, they also offer fish, chicken, pork and steak entrees like grilled pork tenderloin sauteed in port-wine sauce and grilled chicken with peasant potatoes. You will want to save room for dessert of papanasi- cheese filled donuts with jam or the salami de biscuiti- a chocolate cake like sweet. Curiously- this treat is cut into three round slices, with bits of nuts and white cake, looking oddly similar to slices of chocolate salami- if there was such a thing. They offer conventional turkish coffee with the fine dark grounds swimming delicately among the bottom of the mug. Service is exceptionally friendly and attentive. Ion’s Cafe has a full bar, extensive pris-fix ($14) brunch menu and free wi-fi. Delivery is available only in immediately surrounding areas. Ambiance is pleasant and immaculate- not overly trendy but slightly refined. This cafe sits at the mouth of the Roosevelt Island Bridge – making it a destination for islanders as well as Astoria and Dutchkills LIC residents. Although not entirely convenient by subway- from N/W 36th ave and F 21st it’s about 10-15 minute walk, you can get there by bus- Q102 & 103 and easily by biking it or hailing a cab.

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BBQ Chicken in Astoria- best and worst- Choo Choo, Samba and Chicken Festival (Pollos a la Brasa)

Posted on October 10, 2008. Filed under: Astoria, BBQ, Cheap Dining, Mexican/South American |

WORST–The word buffet can either be positive or negative. Unfortunately I discovered the negative. After passing Choo Choo Chicken (718-932-6060 22-49 31st St Astoria- formerly Chirping Chicken) a few times while descending the Ditmars platform, I became curious for three reasons- they serve bbq chicken and crepes and sell $10 t-shirts stating “I love Juicy Birds”. Investigating the place a little further- seems they have several good reviews, so I dove head first with enthusiasm into- what should have been a juicy bird. The taste of the chicken was satisfactory, but the preparation was mediocre and dry. The bbq and sweet sauce were the bird’s saving graces- adding flavor and moisture to what was stale and parched. Get this bird some grease before it dies of dehydration! The sides- fries and lemon potatoes were also sub-par. They claim to bake the sides (served in a buffet-like fashion) fresh- daily- it seems they are in-fact baked daily- but just once- early in the morning and left to sit all day… evening … and night until they fill your styrofoam tray. The chicken was ok- edible. The food collision they call crepes, however were barely identifiable- as if they were in a bad accident and had to be scooped up and put back together in an emergency to save the restaurant from itself. The crepes are the catch, but don’t get sucked in. They were doughy, and had the consistency similar to that of chewing a tire. A tire stuffed with pineapple and ham (jerk crepe) and strawberries and chocolate . How could such a tasty and fun idea go so drastically wrong? At least prices are cheap, they offer delivery and are open late.

BETTER– Samba Grill (29-17 23rd Ave) 718-777-9477) The sparse decor doesn’t do this Brazilian Grill restaurant any favors. The buffet is served Rodizio style- all you can eat meat. The menu serves an extensive variety of unique tastes. However, a few of them leave room for improvement. There is a medley of different choices for chicken, pork, beef and sides served hot and cold. Unfortunately, many of the choices are mediocre and somewhat pricey for the lack of freshness -$4.99-$7.99 per pound. The price is seemingly reasonable, but meats and potatoes actually weigh quite a bit and before you realize, a full meal will go up to about $10 or more. Depending on when and you go and what you get- the food can range from good to gross. One mistake is offering french and yucca fries in the buffet. Fries get stale and soggy if left uneaten for more than an hour. The spare ribs and grilled chicken are definitely edible, but second-rate, as are the beans and rice. The salpicao-Brazilian cold chicken salad is sweet and savory, with raisins, carrots, and fresh white chicken meat, but this is not a dish they consistently carry. The meat and cheese patties are hot and tasty. With a substantial filling that melts in your mouth enveloped in a rich buttery and crispy crust for just $1.50.  These pastries are a pre-made delight and heavy enough for a light meal. Good to stop here for the buffet if you are super hungry and in a rush, the sit down meals offer slightly fresher cuisine.

BEST— Chicken Festival (Pollos a la Brasa) (718-728-9696 29-19 Ditmars blvd) This is some of the best rotisserie chicken in Astoria. The food is fresh, hot, juicy and cheap. A 1/4 rotisserie chicken and a side of crispy yucca fries will rob your pockets of a mere $6. A hearty meal for these economically challenged times. The barren walls and sterile interior offer an extreme lack of character and ambiance. If you’re concerned about the dining experience, you’re better off getting take-out- great for a picnic in Astoria Park or a meal at home on your couch. Chicken Festival also offers pasta and lo mein entrees, but sticking to what they do best- simple and succulent chicken is the smartest choice. Delivery now available through “the pick-up kings” at 718-898-7747, open noon-9pm catering for special occasions available comidas espciales para toda ocasion.

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Sugar & Joe Cupcakes in Sunnyside

Posted on October 6, 2008. Filed under: Bakery, Coffee/Tea Shop, IceCream/Ice/Gelato/Fro-Yo, RIP, Woodside/Sunnyside |

Sugar & Joes has closed. Your cupcakes will be missed RIP.

These days cupcakes are all the rage. No matter how bad the economy gets, people always have some spare change to invest in a buttery cup of sugary goodness. Sugar & Joes (718-472-1070 42-20 Greenpoint ave, Sunnyside 11104) is a little cafe that offers locals top notch baked goods. Straight from the mixing bowl to your table, this ultra cute cafe provides a staple sweet that, thanks to Magnolia Bakery, was brought back by popular demand. Well, Magnolia’s got nothing on these guys. The moist creamy texture of the cake is topped with flavorful icings that aren’t just fluff. The dark chocolate peanut-butter cupcake consists of a tender chocolate cake covered in thick dark chocolate and smooth peanut-butter icing. If that doesn’t suit your fancy, try the lemon cupcake, a vanilla cake smothered in fluffy lemony icing with lots of sweetness and a slight taste of creamcheese. Looking to have breakfast on the weekend? Stop by for a coffee drink- stay for the gourmet waffles, pancakes, or muffins. If you’re not a cupcake fan- this little bakery also has ice-cream, pastelles, turtle candies, jelly beans, licorice, and cookies. They have an assortment of milkshakes, teas, and specialty coffee drinks. Service is friendly but still working out some kinks when the place gets busy. Nonetheless, it’s still a place that is worth the trip and great for kids. Inquire within about special orders.

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Museum of the Moving Image meets LIC- with Spanish film Volver

Posted on October 1, 2008. Filed under: Astoria, Entertainment, LIC |

Astoria’s beloved art movie house, The Museum of the Moving Image, is undergoing massive restructuring which will include a three story expansion, bigger and better theater, a video screening amphitheater and more. I can’t wait to see it, but for now screenings and events are being held in Manhattan and the LaGuardia Performing Arts Center in LIC. Show your support for the Museum and LaGuardia Community College by continuing to attend great events- coming up—

October 3rd 7pm Volver– a Spanish film (with English subtitles of course) starring Penelope Cruz by famed director Pedro Almodovar (All About My Mother) Volver is a film contemplating women and death and how they cope in their Spanish culture- but is not totally dark. Almodovar generally adds a touch of dark humor and human connection that so frequently plays a part in his films, making them thought provoking and endearing, all at once. So if you didn’t make it to the 2006 Cannes Film Festival where the film first played- you can see it in LIC this Friday.

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