Archive for January, 2009

Sweet Leaf Tea & Coffee House in Long Island City

Posted on January 22, 2009. Filed under: Coffee/Tea Shop, LIC |

100_0822 Sweet Leaf ( 48-12 11th Street LIC 917-435-2745 open daily 7am-6pm) is more than a place to get coffee. It’s a place that induces a serene state of mind that is often absent as much as it is fleeting. Walking into this homespun atmosphere one is surrounded by antique coffee presses, hardwood floors and a presence of peace. Missing are the laptops, cell phones, and cacophonies that are so very much a part of daily life.  Seating no more than seven people this tiny place is a gem worth discovering. It serves gourmet fair-trade coffee and Mighty Leaf tea- with flavors like- Mayan Chocolate Truffle and Aloe Serenity. Sweet Leaf carries Sutmp Town coffee- NPR voted best coffee. They have specialty drinks such as “Death by Chocolate” mocha, french press coffee and chai tea. The corner cafe also offers cookies and pastries that can be special ordered for catering. Though usually a place where patrons spend no more time there than it takes to order their drinks- my company and I found it a delightful place to sit, talk, gaze out the window and simply… do nothing. Imagine that.

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Wind Down Part II- Cheap Massage in Astoria

Posted on January 16, 2009. Filed under: Astoria, Entertainment, Health/Spa |

Chinese Gonfu Tui-Na (29-28 Ditmars Blvd 2nd fl 718-204-7580) isn’t a luxury spa by any means. You won’t be serenaded by the sounds of flowing waterfalls or chirping birds, but you will be provided with a plastic cup of hot tea and prompt, attentive service.There aren’t private rooms, but merely curtains to seperate the clients from each other. If you don’t mind a bare bones establishment with good quality at a cheap price, then this is the place for you. Take an evening after work or a sunday morning to enjoy a no-frills, inexpensive traditional chinese massage or hot stone therapy starting at $30 for 30 minutes or  $50 for 60 min. If it’s good enough for me- then it might not be for everyone. If your environmental standards are set just at the average mark, then you will appreciate what you get for your buck. Be sure to ask for their frequent customer card- the tenth massage is free!

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Wine by the Shot at Vesta Trattoria and Wine Bar in Astoria

Posted on January 16, 2009. Filed under: Astoria, Cheap Dining, Date Spot/ Romantic, Fine Dining, Italian |

100_08071 Vesta Trattoria and Wine Bar (21-02 30th Ave 30th Ave N/W train or Q69 bus) isn’t going to change your world of culinary experiences. It is however, a fantastic place to go for a romantic night of Italian eating and drinking. The thing that makes Vesta a unique step above other restaurants, is that you can order wine by the shot, glass or bottle.  This is an affordable and practical phenomenon, and puts fine dining within reach. Shot glasses of wine start at $2.50 and glasses around $7. There are bubblies, whites and reds to choose from- mostly small regional labels imported from Italy. The red Salice Salentino offers a fruity dry  taste similar to that of a fine Malbec and the white Gravina is fruity and tart. The appetizers and sides like the crispy seared brussel sprouts or the beet salad are simple and elegant dishes that compliment almost any meal.  The potato and pancetta pizza is an unusual combination of meat, starch, apples, goat cheese and a sweet caramelized onion sauce (in place of the traditional tomato sauce) topped with arugula . The fresh vegetables and meat are arranged on a thin crispy crust large enough for two. At Vesta the three meat lasagna isn’t oozing with molten cheese or bursting with flavor. It is a more refined and simpler version of what diners might otherwise normally encounter. The service is genuinely attentive and down-to-earth. It is a blend of neighborhood friendliness with a romantic edge. The atmosphere provides a youthful hipness with Cold Play, Interpol and The Gossip  playing on the stereo without being pretentiously unwelcoming. Vesta stays loyal to the local economy by purchasing artwork and baked goods from the surrounding neighborhood. They are open late, serve brunch, offer a great date spot at very reasonable prices.

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Astoria Best Cup of Hot Chocolate?

Posted on January 8, 2009. Filed under: Astoria, Bakery, Coffee/Tea Shop |

Hot chocolate is one of my favorite things to drink in the winter months. I was on a quest to find a delicious no frills, hot cup of chocolate wholesome goodness… here is what I found and here is what I think is the best cup of hot chocolate (and not so best) in Astoria. Of course I couldn’t go everywhere in the neighborhood- so feel free to tell me your best…

Martha’s Country Bakery-(36-21 Ditmars Blvd.718.545.9737) Better known for their elaborate cakes, pies, tarts, cookies, cupcakes and late-night hours- I stepped in thinking the hot cocoa would be amazing- unfortunately it was merely mediocre. Although the whipped cream (optional) and chocolate syrup swirls presentation were impressive and inviting. Though the taste reminded me of Swiss Mix…

Cafe Soleil– (Astoria Blvd & 37th St) Swiss Mix… ugh.

Chocolate Spoon– 37-03 31st Ave (718) 204-0780 I would expect so much more from an bakery with this name…but it was a yet another disappointing package of Swiss Mix, double ugh. They did however have an unusual and super tasty Yuca Cake which was savory and sweet all at once.

Starbucks (everywhere USA)- OK I know what you are thinking, but the hot cocoa here is actually quite good.

Viva El Mariachi Restaurant– (33-11 Broadway, 718-545-4039)  They make their hot cocoa with boiled milk and Abuelita in a paper cup placed in a porcelain saucer. Delicious!

La Guli Bakery– (29-15 Ditmars Blvd 718-728-5612) This Bakery reigns supreme over most pastry making posts in the hood. The hot cocoa was made with real milk and little sweetened chocolate drops. Mmmmmm soooo good- like everything else in that place.

Looking to get out of Astoria for a good cup of hot chocolate of coffee? May I suggest La Colombe Torrefaction (319 Church St 212-343-1515) in Tribeca.  The hot cocoa is made with milk and unsweetened cocoa. The coffee here tastes rich and deep- worth the trip. The service is outstanding but there are no bathrooms, so it’s best not to linger.

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Wind Down Part I: Queens Meditation Class at Tannia Natural Nutrition

Posted on January 3, 2009. Filed under: Health/Spa, Ridgewood |

The holidays are over, time to relax and renew in Queens, Part I. 

 Tannia’s Natural Nutrition’s (1820 Grove St.  Ridgewood, NY 11385 718.381.0101)

Tannia’s is a health food store and clinic offering meditation classes, holistic healing and iridology  (recognizing colors and patterns in your iris to gain insight on your health). For this unique experience alone, it just might be worth the trip. There are also spa packages including sauna and plaster therapies, facials and hot stone therapy. Here is an over-view of classes being offered there.

Meditation & Makka Ho Exercises sessions are directed by John Vega, a saavy massage therapy student and manager of the spa.  Although only a few weeks old, the sessions he puts on are definitly worth attending for anyone interested in meditation and yoga.  John is a master at relaxation and instruction, giving personal attention where it’s needed, in a very peaceful and serene envirnoment that’s unique to the Ridgewood, QNS neighborhood.  The particular session I attended began with breathing exercises evolving into exercises that were mostly familiar to me, given the yoga classes I’ve attended in the past.  My favorite was the healing meditation session at the end.  Drawing from personal experience and healing, John transcends you into another world and if you allow yourself to go deep enough, the ride is literally sensational.  You leave feeling a renewed sense of self and with a desire to return the next week.  Sessions are Tuesdays at 7pm (please, people, don’t be late).  They are a very reasonable $10, and classes may be taught in Spanish, if needed.  Tannia’s Natural Nutrition can be reached by subway on the M (Seneca Ave) or the L (Myrtle-Wyckoff).

-Adam Naill

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