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Posts from the ‘Astoria’ Category

Eaten, Barely Blogged: French Schmaltz, Thai Soup, Mexican Sandwiches

sauvage quad

Sauvage is one of those curiosities where you remember looks more than taste even if your photos don’t convey it. And by you, it’s quite possible I mean just me. Light and airy. Windows open to the street. (My first thought was just because everyone speaks French and Spanish on Bedford Avenue, doesn’t mean we’re in Europe. Some of us enjoy A/C.) Where high-waisted jeans in pale washes and Keds look pretty. (Or maybe that’s just how everyone under 30 looks now–the young women working at Pye Boat Noodle, below, had a similar aesthetic plus straw hats encircled by a fat black ribbon). Service was gracious (even though I was given a time-limit on my table for arriving early but reservation-less). How could this pretty (and those coasters) crushed ice cocktail topped with purple petals not be delicious? Ok, with Macvin du Jura, Aveze gentian, and pear, it was, and hard spirit-free refreshing. This delicate quality was also present in the food to lesser effect. Sunchokes with green garlic, sunflower sprouts, and ‘nduja vinaigrette managed to make something with an oily, spicy component neither luscious nor hot and more like the crunchy tubers they were. Pike with so-called mountain vegetables (morels, asparagus, mystery green), and sour beer sabayon was chosen because it was described as the heartier of the two seafood dishes (oh, there was also a fish special that our server seemed very disappointed we didn’t go for), a word I would use more for the pot au feu chicken with skin schmaltz toast, despite chicken fat on bread translating as, yes, delicate. Maybe I’m just losing interest in full meals. I would totally return for cocktails and snacks at the bar if anyone suggested it (though I’m not sure they would).

cemitas el tigre tinga

Cemitas el Tigre I’m kind of jealous that Sunnyside and Woodside gets modern restaurants like Dawa’s and this former Smorgasburg sanwichery now with seats, subway tiles, wood arranged into chevron patterns, and a bar with bottles of Negro Modelo and gose on tap. Jackson Heights never changes no matter how much people who don’t live here seem to think it’s gentrifying. Rent and co-op prices continue creeping-up, and it’s still impenetrably pollo a la brasa, momos, and sports bars. What’s the difference between a Mexican cemita and one meant for a broader clientele? About $1, papalo, and a seeded roll. The thing is, I didn’t really miss that traditional herb’s almost menthol obtrusiveness on this chicken tinga sandwich, hollowed-out roll stuffed with avocado, saucey chipotles, and Oaxacan string cheese. I’m half-ashamed to admit that I pulled 60% of the herb off the last cemita I had a few months ago from El Rico Tinto Bakery. (This might all be moot because Cemitas El Tigre’s menu claims to use papalo and sesame seed rolls. Maybe sometimes they do?)

pye boat noodles

Pye Boat Noodle Ok, it might seem lame to bemoan the loss of nam tok soup a.k.a. boat noodles when there’s a restaurant with the dish in its name a few neighborhoods over. I’m not intrepid as I used to be. Luckily, I had an afternoon to take advantage of the quiet backyard and happy hour beer special in that murky zone between lunch and dinner. (I’ll have to double-check and see if I was charged lunch or dinner prices on the soup–there’s a dollar difference.) A condiment caddy is always a good sign, the cracklings were a nice touch, and the soup itself was rich, complex, just a little livery, yet still buoyant enough for the steamy weather. Astoria, which I’m slowly getting to know, is a small town because the same loud millennial who was making fun of his 40something aunt for getting breast implants the first time I went to Mar’s, also showed up here and I recognized his attention-getting voice before even looking up from my bowl of noodles. Eerily, while typing this District Saigon liked a bunch of my Instagram photos (maybe you should follow me–I’m friendly) which reminded me that’s where I had intended to go this particular afternoon, but it’s one of those closed between lunch and dinner places.

olive garden spaghetti pie

Olive Garden You might think you want pasta formed into a pie (and there are plenty of reputable examples online that I’m not going to link to) but you probably don’t need Olive Garden’s new spaghetti novelty, either Alfredo’d-up with chicken or with tomato sauce and meatballs. No one needs that level of pasta density, unless we’re discussing kugel. Then again, the ramen burger was a runaway hit. I wouldn’t eat that either.

Eaten, Barely Blogged: Grandma Edition

Because I can be a horrible person, in my 17 years of NYC life I’ve only returned home for a visit maybe four times. Periodically a family member or two will make up the difference and venture here from Oregon. That was the case this weekend and the impetus for social media grousing over the many where-to-dine-with-out-of-town-parents listicles that assume all elders are wealthier than their adult children and can’t wait to treat them to Daniel.

This was an all-Queens extravaganza motivated by the fact that my mom and her mom have experienced Manhattan and Brooklyn many times by now–and more importantly were airbnb’ing four blocks from my apartment in Jackson Heights. If I took away anything from this rare visit it might be that there’s a genetic possibility that between now and senior citizen-hood I could morph from a crank into a ham.

pollos mario spread

Chicken, rice, beans, and salad at Pollos a la Brasa Mario happened before I realized standard food blog photos weren’t going to cut it. Grandma wanted to be in the picture. There were mixed feelings on first experiences with arepas while hearts of palm passed muster.

jahn's waffle

I’ve wanted to go to the last Jahn’s on earth ever since moving here six months ago but wouldn’t drag friends out for the experience and going solo never felt right. The liver and onions, meatloaf, and white zinfandel will still have to wait. There’s no arguing with a fat waffle hiding a trove of bacon beneath, though.

grandma jahn's breakfast

“The fruit is in a can,” grandma was warned when ordering french toast with fruit. Who would have it any other way? Breakfast inspired the first action shot. Life, bowls of cherries and all that.


grandma eating takoyaki

Octopus balls became a hot topic after showing a photo of takoyaki made by a friend of a friend for Easter, so I knew that while in Flushing I’d have to flout convention and stop by the only Japanese stand, Mojoilla Fresh, at the New World Mall.

grandma tacuba

If you wrap up a Museum of the Moving Image visit too early for The Astor Room’s 5pm happy hour , newish Tacuba across the street is great for a very strong margarita (or two). I probably wouldn’t suggest pitching in with the guacamole-making service to everyone.

astor room bacon

There are limits to being game. No one could be convinced to eat $1 oysters at The Astor Room, but the candied bacon that’s freely available at the bar was a hit.

grandma astor room

I almost thought I was going to get a new grandpa out of our very sweet bartender.

grandma jackson diner

I regret not squeezing in any momos or thenthuk considering Himalayan is now more relevant than Indian in the neighborhood. Buffets are crowd-pleasers, though, and Jackson Diner is now a classic in its own way.

grandma jahn's

Jahn’s was irresistible. So much so that sundaes were had an hour before dinner. Now I need to convince seven others to go in on the original large format meal, the $51.95 Kitchen Sink.

grandma chivito d'oro

Only a heartless monster could dislike Chivito d’Oro, the lovely wood-paneled Uruguayan steakhouse that’s second-closest to my apartment. This is the first time I didn’t order a full-blown parrillada and ventured into the pasta section (primavera with canned mushrooms that elicited no comment a la Jahn’s). Even though I try to avoid starch during the day, I am eating the leftover pasta for lunch as I type because I abhor food waste with the passion of someone on a fixed income.

grandma kitchen 79

Kitchen 79 has a good $7.50 lunch special (grandma had a simple green salad and pineapple fried rice with chicken) and now serves beer.

Not pictured: Empanadas, pasteles, and mini cakes from La Gran Uruguaya or random pizza ordered from La Pequena Taste of Italy on Seamless for delivery that didn’t arrive and took me over an hour to realize I’d accidentally clicked pick-up (too much happy hour).

Eaten, Barely Blogged: Salvo, Near-Suburban Tiki, Simits

bear quint

Bear Russian food, whether the time capsule Brighton Beach version or of the flashy Mari Vanna and Onegin persuasion, has never been in my wheelhouse. Of course, I didn’t say no to Queens’ answer to this genre on a chilly night practically crying out for dill martinis and substantial brown bread. The pickles, herring and potato salad, and salvo, described as lardo but much thicker and tougher to bite through, were fine drinking snacks, but portions are little overly precious. A lamb dumpling special (not pictured) that I’m remembering as priced in the high teens came three to a plate, more appropriate for dim sum than an entree. The layer cake, smetannik, was strangely gritty, which I’m now guessing was due to buckwheat, an intentional addition. There’s something off-kilter about the operation, and that may stem from Bear not knowing exactly what it wants to be. It’s a cozy place in a non-prime corner of Astoria that also happens to serve a $175 tasting menu, possibly a Queens record.

end of the century cocktails

End of the Century I’m not sold on Forest Hills’ stretch of Metropolitan Avenue being touted as “Michelin Road” (I mean, it is home to the one and only East Coast Sizzler, which has strong Michelin-negating powers). Forest Hills is a very different kind of Queens, though, still on the subway but  more suburban and upscale than most of the western half that non-residents associate with the borough. You will see lawn jockeys on the meandering walk from Queens Boulevard and definitely no other pedestrians. Some new bar openings are hyped. Others are not. End of the Century, tiki in mission but still looking a little like the pub that preceded it, has owners with pedigrees including PKNY, Maison Premiere and Dutch Kills, but on my visit its first week open the crowds were not there yet. The drinks like the above Dr. Funk and super gingery, honeyed and multi-rummed Kon-Tiki Mai Tai are crafted with purpose and well-priced at $10 (and may not stay that low indefinitely). I’m not convinced the concept is in line with the sleepier part of Forest Hills’ needs or expectations. I would be happy to see them succeed, however, especially since I need to try the scorpion bowl, the bar is only one express stop from me, and my neighborhood won’t be seeing any falernum or absinthe-filled atomizers any time soon.

buffalo wild wings da & night

For inexplicable reasons that hopefully will become apparent to me soon, I’ve not only walked past Forest Hills’ Buffalo Wild Wings twice in less than a week, I’ve also photographed it.

simit sarayi duo

Simit Sarayi is the latest foreign import in Manhattan, by way of Turkey. Simits are more or less sesame bagels with much larger holes, and they are going to be totally hot in 2015. Ok, probably not, but I had to get in one pseudo-end-of-year prediction. Clearly, I will need to sample more than just a cheese and tomato filled version to fully assess the situation. As far as authenticity, all I had to go on was the staff and clientele, who with the exception of my first and maybe my last (I say defeated-ly, not optimistically) Tinder date, appeared to be Turkish. Good riddance, 2014.

Eaten, Barely Blogged: The Great Outdoors

northern bell duo

Northern Bell. It’s the time of year when setting can trump what you’re actually eating. Sometimes you just want to sit outdoors, preferably in a yard or on a patio (never on a sidewalk, never) with a drink in hand, and the food, if good, is an added bonus. Northern Bell isn’t breaking any new ground with its barbecue and burgers (maybe with the other B’s, bison and boar, in short rib and belly form?) but the backyard is nice as long as a violent downpour doesn’t erupt minutes after you’ve received your drinks. I forgot to ask for cheese, and despite the Pat Lafrieda custom blend, the burger felt a little naked. And who doesn’t want a cobb salad, southern-style with pimento cheese, pecans and deviled eggs?

Battery Harris. The $12 beer-and-a-burger happy hour deal can draw a crowd even when storms render a good portion of the fenced-off patio useless (has it rained every Friday in recent history?). When sunny, it’s not a half-bad place to share a plate of jerk wings or pork buns. Plus, it’s the only establishment in Williamsburg where I can recall ever seeing a crew of artsy adults clearly over 60, which counts for something.

astoria bier & cheese berliner weisse

Astoria Bier & Cheese. First, I was excited to find Berliner Weisse with the colorful red and green syrups, a summer quirk that I missed out on my one cold weather trip to Germany. Sure, the woodruff, despite sounding weedy and foraged, is more sweet than herbal, a softener for the beer’s sourness. It is pretty, though, (and happened to match my nails). Then my excitement continued with the sweet/savory/fatty grilled cheese of my dreams. The Cambozola and bacon, drizzled with honey and squished between toasted slices of fennel, raisin semolina is exactly the sandwich I would make myself if I made sandwiches at home.

bacchanal duo

Bacchanal. Ok, one of these things is not like the other. I may have tightened my purse-strings and burnt out on Brooklyn (I’m in the process of whim-buying a Jackson Heights co-op, it turns out) but beer and burgers must give way to aperitifs and small plates at some point. The Adonis (Noilly Prat Ambre, amontillado sherry, orange bitters) is like a summery, lightened-up Manhattan. The sparkling Chinon probably paired better with the sweet and sour–Italian-ish, not Chinese–sweetbreads, though.

The Astor Room

1/2 I don’t even bother attempting to keep up with new restaurants in Manhattan and Brooklyn first-hand anymore. I’m not out and about every night, the first few weeks are always crowded and awful and then when you’ve waited a month for a place to mellow out, the chef leaves. Queens, though? Totally manageable. How often does a new restaurant open in the borough with any semblance of fanfare? I take Queens over Brooklyn on many levels (we ended up seeing Blue Valentine in Kew Gardens after eating at The Astor room even though the movie’s playing in our own neighborhood—I like a quiet, sparsely populated theater).

Astor room entrance Located in the basement near one corner of the Kaufman Astoria Studios, the space functioned as Paramount Pictures’ commissary from the '20s until…I’m not sure. No matter, it has been reopened to the public and is serving cocktails and food evocative of the early 20th century. And no, it’s not a speakeasy despite its subterranean location, piano player and bearded bartender. The entrance is clearly marked by an awning—and a sign for valet parking—the first hint that this is a thoroughly Queens operation.

Other clues that you are not in Brooklyn: instead of the standard maximum bodies/minimal breathing room banquette along a wall, the tables are well-spaced (and there was no wait for one on a weekend night) and seat four, cocktails are $9, neither a 25-year-old nor 65-year-old would feel out of place, the ceiling is low, white and paneled like in an office building. Despite being more Victorian, a Brooklyn restaurant probably would’ve put in tin ceilings or some other bygone signifier, the wood wouldn’t be so pristine and glossy but artfully dulled down and roughed-up; the brass fixtures not so polished, if used at all. This photo sums up what I mean. The tiled walls are cool and are one of the few vestiges of the original space. The Astor Room is not hip and I can appreciate that. Not following the old-timey playbook endeared them to me.

Then there are incongruencies. Service is opening-week, over-officious–at points staff outnumbered the guests–though I’m certain once everyone gets into synch about formalities like when to replace silverware, where to position the glasses and not to remove bread plates (the rolls are like a focaccia/Cheddar Bay Biscuit hybrid and you don’t want a half-nibbled one whisked away) they’ll ease up.

It’s also difficult to overlook the prices of some of the entrees, especially those creeping over the thirty dollar mark (after an assessment, I see that five of the 29 are over $30 and the average price is $21, which is fair). That could be a tough sell for a restaurant that’s not quite a destination; just off Northern Boulevard’s car dealer strip, this commercial patch’s main draw is the multiplex theater (though, the beer garden, Pizzeria Uno and Applebee’s are also popular). For now, the clientele appears to be locals, particularly at the bar, maybe a few movie-goers and a number of curiosity-seekers like myself who’d like to see lobster thermidor and baked Alaska rescued from a continental, hotel dining past.

Astor room relish tray

The ice-chilled relish plate and sausage-topped crostini brought to the table while we scanned the menu was a nice touch. Just don’t mistake those stiff green stems for celery—a mouth full of fennel can be a surprise if you’re not expecting licorice. I particularly liked the pickled, turmeric-stained cauliflower.

Astor room new yorker

The New Yorker is like a whiskey sour, my go-to, with the addition of claret. The wine isn’t pronounced in taste but adds a nice rosy hue.

Astor room seafood tower

The shellfish platter for two looks a little sparse, but that’s only because they’ve split up the seafood into separate tiers (putting it all on one tray like I’ve had elsewhere makes it appear more bountiful). The Pine Island oysters, jumbo shrimp, stone crab claws and half a lobster tail (they threw in an extra shrimp and clams) served with mignonette, cocktail and tartar sauce were fresh and would be a fun light meal with a glass of Prosecco.

Astor room coca cola pork chop

The Coca-Cola pork chop is double-thick and big enough for a second dinner the following evening. The main reason I chose it is lame and it’s that the accompanying broccoli rabe and mushroom hash bound with heavy cream and a few tiny potato cubes were the least starchy entrée sides, but I ended up loving the pork chop because it was ringed with just enough fat, the medium-rare came out exactly that and the charred edges caramelized from the soda and reminded me of Filipino barbecue I’ve had made with Dr. Pepper. The cola really does add a vital layer of flavor.

Astor room beef wellington

Beef Wellington was the Saturday special (each night has one assigned—I’m curious about Tuesday’s chicken cordon bleu because I’ve never actually eaten the dish) and I do wish I’d snapped a photo when the whole pastry-wrapped bundle of beefy joy was presented to us before being sliced in the kitchen. The Astor Room doesn’t have many Saturdays under its belt yet, so they might not have considered asking preferred levels of doneness. James' was the first of the night to order the special and his two slices came from the end, solidly cooked through. Our neighboring table (yes, they’re well-spaced but I’m still nosy) that ordered a little later received pinker rounds, closer to the middle of the tenderloin. Not a meal-ruiner, but something to keep in mind.

Astor room valentino & the astoria

The Valentino is offered with gin, vodka or rye. I chose the latter for a cocktail that is Manhattan-esque with the bitter addition of Campari. The Astoria (orange bitters, gin, dry vermouth) is hiding in the background.

Astor room butterscoth ice box pudding

I ordered a second Valentino (I probably should’ve tried it with a different spirit) instead of dessert (hey, $9 is a strong incentive to overimbibe), but we were presented with a butterscotch ice box pudding, nonetheless. I won’t say no to that. Generously portioned, even split between two, the sweet three-layered dessert (there’s a ribbon of caramel and a chocolate base beneath the butterscotch top) with a dollop of vanilla gelato and what might’ve been malt powder, almost didn’t need the brownies. As I’ve stated before, I like my desserts gooey, caramelly and very American, basic sweet tooth concoctions. And I got it. 

I’m still not convinced that Manhattan dwellers will cross the East River (Dutch Kills or M. Wells are the only exceptions in the general area).  An average Brooklynite (or maybe just he people I know) won’t even venture beyond a 15-block radius, so it will take a lot to coax some onto the G plus a non-connecting transfer (or go through Manhattan) to arrive in Astoria. That leaves Queens residents and car-owners, which may be narrower than the restaurant’s intended audience–but a solid one. I wish them well.

The Astor Room * 34-12 36th St., Astoria, NY



Vesta Trattoria

We have a zillion Italian-American, Italian-Italian, wine bars, pizzerias and small plates joints in Carroll Gardens and environs so maybe I’m blasé. I wouldn’t think twice about Vesta Trattoria if it were on Smith Street.

But Astoria is a different matter. That part of Queens has never been my stomping grounds, so I’m not a good judge of the neighborhood. But from what I can tell, there doesn’t seem to be much going on way west on 20th Street. Maybe that’s one of the reasons why the brand new restaurant was filled beyond capacity on Saturday.

At least they understand the power of softening an hour wait with a free drink. I don’t know how many places, particularly small places catering to locals, seem hospitality deficient. You think that would be especially vital in the first few weeks when opinions are being formed.

The menu isn’t wide-ranging. There are a handful of starters, three pizzas, four pastas and on my visit, three entrees. I wasn’t taken by the standard sounding chicken, salmon or steak. Maybe they were prepared wonderfully, warm lentils and prune reduction doesn’t sound half bad, but they didn’t entice me with their simplicity.

Vesta cracked wheat salad

Instead, I shared a lemony cracked wheat salad. I don’t always want something delicate and leafy when it’s freezing out so this fit the still light but more substantial bill. This is the type of thing that would be horribly dull if I made it myself, probably because I always underdress salads.

Vesta margherita pizza

Pizzas are very crackery, which I like, though I know not all do. The margherita was a little tomato and basil sweet and not terribly cheesey.

Vesta gnocchi

Pastas come in cute individual casseroles, which struck me as something Gordon Ramsey would suggest to perk up business on Kitchen Nightmares. Not that any nightmares occurred here (well, sort of, if you consider being smooshed next to a furiously groping couple who insist on sitting side-by-side on a shared banquette, horrifying. I particularly liked it when James inadvertently got brushed by the grabbing hands an inch from his body).

Gnocchi with oyster mushrooms in a cream sauce more than compensated for the oddly light starters. This was hearty, though not relentlessly dense. The parmesan crumbs and meaty fungi kept the dish interesting.

Vesta lasagna

“Sunday dinner style” lasagna, whatever that means. I did not sample this, and worried for a second, considering it was Saturday’s dinner.

I’m not clear what atmosphere they’re trying to cultivate, maybe it’s evolving. The Scorpions and Poison that were initially playing seemed a little off but I kind of got it and didn’t think it was completely ironic as the crowd leaned middle of the road. As the night wore on Vampire Weekend came on, as if one of the waiters had finally got a chance to play his mix.

Vesta painting
This is the strange little artwork that I looked at during most of my meal. For no particular reason, it made me think of the “The Nightman Cometh” musical from It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia’s season finale. I suppose that’s a good thing, not sure if it’s appetite stimulating, though.

If you feel compelled to pay a visit and intend to drive, beware the folly of Google maps. Type in 20-02 30th Ave. and it gives you 80-02. Drive there and you’ll end up in a residential neighborhood near La Guardia trying to figure out where you went wrong.

Vesta Trattoria * 21-02 30th Ave., Astoria, NY


Poodam’s has reminded me once again of the lameness that is Brooklyn Thai food. Even an unassuming corner spot in that weird part of Astoria not far from the multiplex theater serves better food than any of the attention grabbers in Cobble Hill.

I’m almost certain that I’ve relayed this tale before but it clearly annoyed me enough that it’s still stuck in my craw more than a year after the fact. An extremely volatile, know-it-all former coworker with an MBA (who got fired shortly after I quit of free will) insisted that Joya in my neighborhood served the best Thai food she’d eaten in NYC. And I was like, “You’re nuts” which prompted the oh so sassy, “Have you even been to Thailand?” Uh, yeah I have, and then I thought she was crazier than I already did.

The Issan menu (they spell it e-san but I like it with an I) is what makes Poodam’s unique. When I see Northeastern Thai specialties, I stick to salads over curries.

Poodam's half eaten sausage salad

I tend to imagine Thai sausage as grilled, stiff yet crumbly like this from a random Poodam’s diner. Yet whenever I order a salad with Thai sausage (which has only been twice, the other instance being at Lotus of Siam in Las Vegas) the style used is pale and boiled-seeming, more akin to weisswurst or bologna. I don’t mind these soft sliced links but it’s something to remember. Obviously, I enjoyed this rendition with tomatoes, red onions and a tart-hot dressing or else I would’ve remembered to have taken a photo before half of it was gone.

Poodam's duck larb

Normally, I prefer my duck a little fatty, crispy skin intact, but it also makes for a rich larb ingredient. Typically, there’s no added fat in a larb preparation (just broth) so a gamier meat than chicken works well. I’ve been known to make healthier larb at home with chicken breasts but that’s not something I’d want to eat in a restaurant.

Poodam's crispy basil bass

The fried fish was more Chinesey in flavor though I can’t put my finger on what made it so. Maybe it’s soy instead of fish sauce? I’ve noticed this effect with certain basil and chile preparations. Whole, crispy bass is a treat.

Poodam's pad kee mao

Drunken noodles just because. If it were up to me, I wouldn’t order noodles with a Thai meal because they seem like a distracting thing unto itself.

My Poodam’s review for

Poodam’s * 44-19 Broadway, Astoria, NY


Athens Tavern

I hate to admit that there’s a food I don’t like because I prefer to believe I’m open minded. But I have to say that I’m not crazy about rabbit. There, I said it.

It’s definitely not something I grew up with, but then neither are most meats beyond chicken, ham and ground beef. When I ordered rabbit two birthdays ago at Cookshop the taste weirded me out. I thought it was a fluke, though. Yet the same thing happened again with this creative Greek preparation employing cinnamon and bergamot. The sea of orange is mashed sweet potatoes.


I don’t have issues with offal or venison or heck, even horse. Game is fine but there’s something about rabbit that’s tangy and sharp, hitting my palate high and towards my throat almost like vomit. Literally like I threw up in my mouth a little. It’s definitely doesn’t taste like chicken.

Athens Tavern is interesting in that it doesn’t fall into either predominate NYC Greek category: Manhattan haute Hellenic and dully traditional fare in Astoria. Athens Tavern sits in said Queens neighborhood but it’s far more ambitious than grilled octopus and spanakopita.


We were given three dips from the appetizer menu gratis. No complaints there. From left to right: mavromatika, a black-eyed pea salad, melitzanosalata, garlicky eggplant mash served with barley rusks, taramosalata, a carp roe puree that I seriously couldn’t stop eating. I don’t understand how fish eggs, lemon juice and olive oil can be so good.


Kypriakes pittes gemistes me pikantiko kotopoulo is a mouthful. All you need to know that all those words equal curried chicken salad in crispy pitas. Kind of strange, actually. The English description made mention of pie, so I was hoping for something more flaky and pastry-like.

James ordered a whole grilled fish, possibly a porgy, but the photo was even blurrier than the ones I’ve included here.


We didn’t order dessert but were brought two anyway and glasses of Muscat. I wasn’t sure if this was hospitality or special treatment. Not that I do anything to warrant freebies. You might think that furtively scribbling notes or taking photos in a restaurant would draw attention, but it rarely does. I think New Yorkers are blasé.


Pineapple phyllo and rose flavored chocolate mousse were both very alluring but unnecessary since we’d already eaten our fill. Ok, since I let my rabbit hesitancy out of the bag, allow me another admission that will make me seem like a pickier eater than I am. I absolutely gag at the thought of eating flowers, and even flavors like violet, rose and orange blossom give me trouble.

In high school I occasionally smoked Jezebel cigarettes perfumed with rose and gardenia. I thought they were the coolest because they were pink and magenta with gold tips and matched my hair color. But they were so sweetly foul they’d induce instant nausea. This is how I feel about flowery desserts.

That is not how I feel about Athens Tavern, however, just rose water. Read my positive review on

Very strange…the day I finally got around to posting this (I wait until my listings get published, which can lag anywhere from a few weeks to many months from when I actually ate the meal) a bit shows up on Grub Street that the restaurant might be history. Well, I just typed all this nonsense so there’s no deleting it now.

Athens Tavern * 23-01 31st St., Astoria, NY

San Antonio Bakery #2

Yesterday was the only day I’ve gone to work in a week and that was a mistake I did not repeat today. Unfortunately, Monday I still felt like death and ended up having to leave early. I wasn’t even sure if I’d make it home.

I’ve always speculated about if you’re going to faint/barf/have heart failure in public is it better to be on the subway or the sidewalk. The conscientious person in me says the sidewalk and not just because of those if you’re sick, stay off the trains public service posters. I would much appreciate it if someone who was about to keel over (especially lady dieters) had enough wits to step off the train and spare me a tangled commute.

Last night my heart was beating so hard I thought I was going into cardiac arrest, I was gushing sweat so profusely that my jeans were wet and then my strenuous coughing fits caused me to start to peeing my already disgusting pants. Twenty-four hours later and I’m still dizzy, shaky and burning up. The remarkable thing is that still have a perfectly normal appetite. Frighteningly, I can always eat. If I were terminally ill I’d probably die obese.

And this weekend I plumped up with Chilean snacks. I’m not in Astoria that often so while reviewing perfectly nice Café Soleil, I kept thinking about San Antonio Bakery #2 on the next block. I could’ve left well enough alone. I was fortified enough by a black coffee and croissant for an afternoon showing of There Will be Blood, but I would be negligent if I didn’t stock up on dulce de leche treats for later.


Witness the alfajor. Alfajores mean many things to many people. Argentine versions are more like sandwich cookies. In Peru and Bolivia they use manjar blanco (a lighter caramel) as a filling. These Chilean goodies are substantial and consist of three thin cracker-like cookies slathered with dulce de leche and rolled in shredded coconut.


Similar flavors are brought together in wedges of panqueque, thin layers of sponge cake frosted with rich caramel. (This is an old photo that I swear I'd used in my previous San Antonio Bakery missive but it doesn't appear so.)


Empanadas are another one of those million of renditions foods. These Chilean pastries are big, doughy and baked. The crusts are stuffed with chopped beef, onions, hard boiled egg, raisins and one black olive. They’re heartier and more pie-like than the Caribbean-style turnovers more commonly found around NYC. (2/26/08)

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Brunch Confessions: Time Cafe & Taco Chulo

For someone who couldn’t agree with this sentiment more, I’ve been doing an awful lot of brunching in the past week. I don’t know how I went from a few brunches a year to two in eight days. This does not bode well for 2008 and I’ll nip it in the bud pronto.

Last weekend I tried Astoria’s Time Café because I was assigned to review the restaurant. See? No say in the matter. I have no problem going to Astoria to dine, but I wouldn’t wake up early for the privilege. But the restaurant does seem like a welcome newish option for the neighborhood. Frankly, I was more interested in Issan Thai Poodam’s across the street.


My swiss cheese and tomato omelet didn’t blow me away but that’s the nature of brunch. It was satisfying. Who needs their mind blown before noon? Ok, 2pm. My egg dish plus vodka-heavy bloody mary and a basket of mini muffins was a fair deal for $12.

Today I ended up at Taco Chulo because I wanted to meet a friend’s half-sister visiting from Germany. It’s fun and informative to meet siblings of people you know. My sister will be here from England next month if anyone has the same curiosity. We are kind of opposites in that I’m brunette, brown-eyed while she’s blonde, blue-eyed, I love meat and she’s vegetarian (formerly vegan), she’s dog-crazy and I’m fond of cats, I hate nature and she’s outdoorsy, I generally loathe humans and she does social work. But other than those minor details, we’re very similar.


Huevos rancheros were ordered by four of my party of six, but I couldn’t resist the queso benedict. Who needs hollandaise when Velveeta sauce is more versatile. Swapping cornbread for english muffins was also not a bad idea. $5 two-for-one mimosas was an even better idea.

I promise to sleep in and only eat breakfast in the privacy of my home for the rest of the year. After all my boo hooing, I did get a small-squared waffle maker for Christmas.

Read my Time Cafe review for

Time Café * 44-18 Broadway, Astoria, NY
Taco Chulo * 318 Grand St., Brooklyn, NY