Tag Archives: cuisine

Supping at Snowdonia


| editorial@queenscourier.com

Photo by Bradley Hawks

BRADLEY HAWKS

Crisp, effervescent bubbles hastily scurry upward through a blend of vodka and prosecco, deterred only by a few fresh berries hindering their path, before bursting at the surface and gasping for air.  The “Berry Fizz” is simply the perfect way to awaken the palate and put a smile on your face.

Or perhaps you prefer to start with a fresh bloody mary that gently pricks your tongue with the heat of horseradish, or a sweet—yet tart—flute of peach Bellini.  Maybe you will stray from the brunch cocktail offerings altogether, and opt for a spicy rum punch rimmed with Sriracha (called the Angry Fruit Loop) or an icy margarita laced with ginger, jalapeno, and fresh basil.

Whatever you choose, the drinks are all some of the most exciting around, and all coming from Snowdonia, a quaint little trappist-style gastropub slightly hidden at the corner of 32nd Street and 35th Avenue in Astoria.

“A ‘trappist-style gastropub’ follows in the tradition of Trappist monks using local, fresh food and incorporating beer into the recipes,” explains Matthew Callahan, marketing director for one of Astoria’s newer hot spots.  “From the beer batter and the mussels in beer to our Oatmeal Stout Panna Cotta, craft beer is a major ingredient in most of our dishes.”  And there are plenty to choose from, if you just want a pub with a fantastic pint.

Behind the kitchen are the talents of Will Lubold, a former chef of ‘inoteca.  His dishes are another reason Snowdonia is poised to be a cornerstone in the neighborhood.  A roll arrives at the table slathered with caper mayo, tangy beer pickles, along with crunchy-coated beer-battered skate—which is a steaky, flavorsome catch. A stacked double patty ½ pound burger arrives next, cloaked in melted smoked gouda, topped with pickled onions, and caper mayo.  These are some sandwiches that make lasting impressions.  Some of the very best I have enjoyed in the past year, in fact.

Desserts are the stuff of which dreams are made, like a mason jar filled with stout panna cotta and oatmeal clusters, a caramel sticky toffee bread pudding, and a bourbon brownie that blows your childhood babysitter’s to smithereens.  I am completely leaving out several winners, like the beer-steamed mussels kissed with citrus and cilantro, or the scored, grilled sausages and redskin mashed potatoes and pickled mustard seeds.

Owned collectively by two couples, the family of one of the owners is from Wales. “There’s a beautiful national park there called Snowdonia that’s home to the highest mountain in Wales— Mount Snowdon,” explains Callahan. “The mountain and ski decor in the bar reflects this heritage.”

The bar was started, in part, by a Kickstarter campaign.  Bar stools are etched with different names—the Kickstarter backers who chose that as their perk. The result is a neighborhood bar built for the community, by the community.

Snowdonia
34-55 32nd St., Astoria
347-730-5783
Open seven days a week, 4p.m.-4a.m.
Dinner is 6p.m.- midnight
Late night menu is midnight – 2 a.m.
Brunch is Sat, Sun, and industry brunch Mondays from noon-4 p.m.

 

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A new party at Pachanga Patterson


| editorial@queenscourier.com

Photo by Bradley Hawks

BRADLEY HAWKS

Peyton Powell recently took over as executive chef in the kitchen at Astoria’s Pachanga Patterson, the third restaurant of the Mexican trio that also includes Vesta in Astoria and Venturo in Sunnyside. Powell had been the executive sous chef at Casa Mono since 2009 and also worked at DB Bistro Moderne, as well as Daniel.

Powell met the owners of Pachanga by eating at Vesta and seeing them around Astoria, where he has been living for the last four years.

“I loved what they were doing in the neighborhood, and wanted to be a part of it,” explains the chef.

Previously, Pachanga focused on serving “family meals,” incorporating  nontraditional ingredients into classic Mexican recipes.  A family meal, in the restaurant industry, is a staff meal served before a shift.  While tacos stuffed with duck remain, the theme has moved from fusion to classic Mexican.

“What I’m trying to do at Pachanga is not strictly Oaxacan,” says Powell, “even though it’s my favorite region of Mexico, foodwise. I want to incorporate traditional Mexican flavors and ingredients influenced by my background, in a local, seasonal, and comfortable environment.”

The result is some of the most delicious Mexican food in the entire city.  A surprisingly light queso fundido arrives in a shallow clay dish, studded with hen of the woods mushrooms, tiny diced cubes of butternut squash, and pumpkin seeds.  Quacamole is served in the classic style, or can be ordered jazzed up with pomegranate seeds, queso fresco, and chipotle pepper oil, making it sweet and spicy.

Cabernet colored beets are delicately charred on the grill, and served with pickled apples, crushed peanuts, and hibiscus.  Grilled octopus is stewed with cannellini beans and jalapeno oil, giving just the right spark of heat to remarkably tender tentacles.

If you order the fideos con mariscos, do not plan on sharing even a single bite, as these head-on prawns are sweet and tender, swimming with mussels in a pot of broken capellini, stewed with cactus paddles in a habanero aioli.  From the land, never has pork belly been executed to such deliciousness, glazed with tamarind and served with crunchy chicharrones and tangy tangerines.

“Pachanga” can loosely be translated as “street party,” which means there are plenty of unique cocktails to sip.  Drinks range from a Coriander en Fuego to a Cactus Cooler, made from organic prickly pear puree, blended with tequila blanco.

From appetizers to desserts, Pachanga Patterson is hitting it out of the park.  Chef Powell is dishing out some pretty remarkable dishes worthy of at least a visit, if not two… or 20.  If only all Mexican food could taste this fantastic.

Pachanga Patterson
33-17 31st Ave., Astoria
718-554-0525

 

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One door closes and another opens


| editorial@queenscourier.com

Photo by Bradley Hawks

When Lounge 47 closed on Vernon Boulevard, I have to admit I was extremely sad.  One of the chefs had been the owner of a bar on the street where I live, which closed last year and became a panini shop, and another contributing chef—Julie Powell—had written a book that became a movie that inspired my own career—as well as the lives of many others I know.  But that is all a part of what happens when you write about restaurants for a while.  A place that held special memories and conversations will disappear in the blink of an eye if you aren’t watching carefully.  And that is how it seemed to me with Lounge 47.  One day I was sipping a coffee with Julie Powell, discussing her career and her friendship with Joss Whedon, and the next time I drove by, a new sign read, Woodbines.

It took me a moment to be able to enter Woodbines without any previous opinion.  I know that the new owners had not personally pushed my friends out the door—it just seemed like I needed to at least grieve for a minute, anyway.  But when I did decide to stop in and see what was going on, I was instantly reminded of something I have always known.  When one door closes, another opens.

Woodbines is an absolutely fantastic addition to the Vernon Boulevard corridor in Long Island City.  Serving pub-style Irish dishes alongside American favorites, they really showcase a few plates of note—with some pretty solid drinks, as well.

The Scotch egg arrives halved, and drizzled with spicy mustard for just $5—the same price as a handful of their snacks, which also include jerk chicken, fried pickles, and miniature sausages wrapped in a flaky pastry crust that come five to an order.

Lamb nachos headline for appetizers, and the lunchtime Woodbines burger is stacked with a blanket of Irish cheddar, thick smoked bacon, and a mound of Irish slaw.  It is disastrously messy, so plan on forking up every bite that falls to the plate.

Of course they serve shepherd’s pie and lamb meatloaf (with hon

ey ginger ketchup), but their pride and joy are the fish & chips, battered an India Pale Ale. For lunch on weekdays, you can get a cheeseburger, chicken Caesar salad, or chicken sandwich for just $10 that comes with a soft drink or mug of coffee.

Be sure to check out the drink list, which features growlers and around eight different whiskey flights, 14 canned beers, and two pages of bottled beers, ciders, and cocktails like the Old Woody — Woodford Reserve with orange bitters, sugar, muddled orange and cherry, and served with a large ice cube.

But the best part is that the staff seems to be the same kind of folks I love anywhere I go.  The bartender, Daniel, runs a sketch comedy group based out of Astoria, and managed to serve me with a perfect balance of humor and sincerity.  Those are the things you can’t put a price tag on.  And since I am addicted to those little sausage rolls and scotch eggs, it looks like I may have a new favorite place to add to my list.

Woodbines Craft Kitchen
47-10 Vernon Blvd., Long Island City
718-361-8488

BRADLEY HAWKS

 

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The Pizza Club: A fresh start


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photos by Liam La Guerre

When Alan Rabinowitz decided to open a pizzeria on Francis Lewis Boulevard in Flushing about eight months ago, he didn’t know the building he planned to open in had a dark reputation.

Shortly after opening, he started to learn of rumors that the site, which was a pizzeria before, failed because the pizza was low quality and because residents saw shady characters lingering inside.

“We really didn’t know how bad the reputation was,” Rabinowitz said. “But when we first opened up, people wouldn’t even walk in here. If I knew that, I wouldn’t have even opened here.”

With that in mind, Rabinowitz and his business partner decided to introduce deals to appeal to customers and build new relationships in the community, such as giving free pizza to nearby Holy Cross High School when the football and basketball team wins games. Their specials have been successful so far and Rabinowitz said the restaurant has been breaking even in recent weeks.

Like most pizzerias, The Pizza Club emphasizes the world-famous Italian specialty. Rabinowitz offers various toppings for a wide array of pizzas, such as Hawaiian pie with pineapple and ham or the penne alla vodka pie. The pizzas have flaky crust and are covered with a savory sauce and topped with fresh mozzarella.

A regular 18-inch cheese pizza costs $15 on a normal day. But, on Mondays, anyone who orders an 18-inch pie between 6 p.m. – 8 p.m. will pay a price consistent with the time they called.

Calling at 6:32 p.m. for example, would make the price just $6.32. It’s just one of The Pizza Club’s deals to appeal to more customers.

“The line goes through the door,” Rabinowitz said.

Besides normal slices, The Pizza Club offers squares, such as garlicky grandma slices and savory upside down pizzas, which are made by putting mozzarella on the dough first, followed by the sauce and a layer of sprinkled cheese.

Then, there is the Pizza Club’s original treat; the pizza muffin. Using a cupcake pan, pizza dough is baked as it would be for a muffin, then layers of cheese, sauce and toppings, such as pepperoni or buffalo chicken, are added. It’s a unique look for a pizza, with a delicious and familiar taste.

“You always have to be on top of the game and keep changing things up, especially at this location,” Rabinowitz said.

And, for those not interested in pizza, the restaurant may have something for you too. The Pizza Club also offers salads, heroes, rolls, wings, wraps, baked ziti, and even Junior’s cheesecake, a delicacy from the well-known Brooklyn restaurant.

The Pizza Club 
718-281-0444
25-71 Francis Lewis Boulevard, Flushing
Hours: 11 am -9 p.m. 7 days a week
Free Delivery
Wheelchair: Yes
Take out: Yes
Catering: Yes
Credit Cards: Yes

 

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Good Greek grub at Aegea


| editorial@queenscourier.com

Photos by Victor G. Mimoni

Aegea, located at the “Douglaston Corner” serves up a surprisingly good array of apps, wraps, pasta, pizza, salads, Greek specialties and some of the best burgers in town.

Owner Mike Sackos commands the counter, moving at light-speed to ensure that, even when the place is packed (which is often), the dishes are not only delicious, but also well-presented and a treat to the eye as well as the palate.

Sackos’ forebears hail from the isle of Chios, just off the coast of Turkey – hence his motto, “where the Aegean meets the Mediterranean.” This may also explain the tasty falafel and Turkish gyro listed alongside the fantastic baby lamb chops, moussaka and other Greek specialties.

Aegea features a wide selection of salads for the health conscious, including seasonal selections. The winter salad is red and green for the season – tender spinach leaves, cucumber, red onion, beets, chick peas and crumbled feta, with a creamy vinaigrette dressing.

Other salad selections include Acropolis (with walnuts and goat cheese),  Aegea (with stuffed grape leaves, feta and grilled chicken),  Douglaston (with shredded mozzarella, fried chicken strips and honey mustard dressing) and of course, Greek salads, all well-dressed and beautifully presented.

Having started in the restaurant business at the tender age of 16 and formerly the owner of  Pete’s Pizza on Bell Boulevard, Sackos’ pie bona fides are impeccable, as are his Sicilian round pies, offered with a good selection of toppings. Those too hungry for a just a slice can also opt for the nine-inch “Pita Pizza,” in plain cheese, Greek (lots of olives and feta), Buffalo or pesto chicken varieties.

Pasta lovers can choose from several varieties of spaghetti, baked ziti, penne (whole wheat penne also available) or stuffed shells. The red sauce is piquant and fresh and dishes with red or white clam sauce, or oil and garlic also satisfy.

More than a dozen wraps will satisfy any taste, from vegetarian to tuna, turkey or Angus burger, plus the expected Mediterranean flavors, including shrimp with spinach, souvlaki or gyro filled. For those with no Hellenic inspiration, there’s even a Philly cheesesteak wrap.

Speaking of burgers, the variety of seven-ounce Angus burgers for less than $7 (deluxe for a few dollars more) is an outstanding value. The Aegea burger features American cheese with grilled onions, peppers and mushrooms is juicy and delicious. Soups and sides are also first rate.

If you have room for dessert, the Greek pastry offerings are large, authentic and wonderful.

Mike added a mirror-image double-G to the logo, “Because ‘Aegea’ is a palindrome,” a word that spells correctly forward or backward. Any way you look at it, it’s a place for good food at a great price. Yiasou!

Aegea Gyros and Pizza
242-05 Northern Blvd., Douglaston
718-423-4429
Open 11 a.m. – 10 p.m. every day
Closed Christmas, Thanksgiving Day
Cards accepted for dine in, take out
Free local delivery, cash orders only
Extended delivery for catering orders
Limited on street parking
Q-12 bus, LIRR Douglaston station

VICTOR G. MIMONI

 

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Osteria Italiana: For a real Italian experience


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photos by Liam La Guerre

Looking for real Italian food, but can’t go to Italy? Then how about Maspeth?

Osteria Italiana, which loosely translates to “Italian restaurant,” opened up over the summer on 61st Street near Grand Avenue with a familiar face.

Head chef and part-owner Michael Zampitelli, who is an Italian native turned Maspeth resident, brings nearly 40 years of Italian cooking experience to the neighborhood. Zampitelli owned a popular restaurant in nearby Glendale, which was forced to close in 2008 due to high rental costs.

Zampitelli, who has worked in the restaurant business starting as a teenager in Rome, wants to bring affordable, authentic Italian food to the neighborhood with Osteria.

Chicken cordon bleu

“Everywhere you go in the city, the neighborhoods are mixed. You can find everything,” Zampitelli said. “Personally I think in Maspeth there are no real Italian restaurants. You find diners and pizzerias, but no real Italian restaurants.”

Aside from Zampitelli’s extensive Italian cooking experience, Osteria’s food is authenticated by the ingredients, such as cheeses and olive oil, which are imported directly from Italy.

The menu at Osteria is wide and can satisfy many taste buds.

Starters include soups, salads and appetizers. One appetizer, the eggplant parmigiana, is covered with fresh mozzarella and Parmigiano cheese with a savory marinara sauce.

Spaghetti alla carbonara 

Entrees include a range of pastas, chicken, veal and fish dishes.

Zampitelli’s spaghetti alla carbonara is a masterpiece at $11.95, for those not watching their waistline. The pasta dish is a mix of pecorino cheese, a creamy sauce and bits of bacon.

The chicken cordon bleu, at $14.95, is a hefty meal with big pieces of tender chicken, served with mushrooms and mashed potatoes.

Desserts on the menu include an Italian cheesecake with ricotta cheese and tiramisu, along with other Italian classics. And of course wines, such as merlot, are on the menu as well.

With Zampitelli’s return, some of his long-time customers have followed him to Osteria. He believes it’s because of the quality of his food and the friendly way he treats his patrons.

“Everyone who comes here we treat like family, that’s why they’ve follow me for many, many years,” Zampitelli said.

Osteria Italiana
57-57 61st Street, Maspeth
718-894-4391
Hours: Monday-Sunday Noon-11 p.m.
Cash only
Wheelchair accessible
Delivery

 

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Cavo: A little bit of something for everyone


| editorial@queenscourier.com

Photos by Bradley Hawks

It is a juicy hamburger stuffed with decadent, velvety foie gras—like a gigantic beef ravioli nestled on fluffy brioche.  It sits on a bed of crumbled feta and is topped with a ribbon of kefteri cheese and pickled onions.  It is the filet mignon of burgers, and it is just the tip of the iceberg at CavoAstoria’s premiere restaurant, complete with garden, lounge and club.

For years, Cavo has been serving elevated Mediterranean cuisine in one of the most sophisticated dining rooms this side of the Hudson—and the current menu is certainly no exception.  A front bar splits off to additional seating areas on the side, before opening up to a vaulted dining room with giant cloth-covered chandeliers.  Beyond that, steps descend into a sunken garden with waterfalls and foliage cascading down two-story walls.

Cavo showcases a lovely blend of favorite dishes primarily from Greece and Italy intermixed with accents from all over the world—under the direction and expertise of Omari Dacosta, most recently of Danny Meyer’s barbecue hot spot, Blue Smoke.  Dacosta has also worked in the kitchens of Trestle on Tenth, Pera Mediterranean Brasserie, and Red Rooster in Harlem.

At Cavo, the Greek influences are certainly the most pronounced.  Ravioli is stuffed with Greek cheese and arrives under a blanket of creamy feta with white truffle essence. Exceptionally tender octopus is charcoal grilled with lemon and extra virgin olive oil, presented simply, yet still an outstanding dish.  Jumbo lump crabmeat is forked into hearty cakes, and stacked with fennel shavings and celery root puree.

A watermelon salad sings with tomato and feta, and jumbo shrimp arrive wrapped in phyllo dough.  Entrees range from plates of pasta loaded with fresh seafood, to an artichoke feta risotto, Chilean sea bass, and even a filet mignon with lemon potato gratin.

Desserts are equally sublime.  A granita of strawberries sits on a Greek yogurt panna cotta, dressed with shavings of lime zest. Nutella crepes are stuffed with walnut banana compote.

Cocktails range from Cavo’s famous sangria, to a cucumber basil Collins or lychee martini.  Sweeter spirits range from a chocolate martini to a sparkling raspberry watermelon diva martini.

From start to finish, dining at Cavo will leave you wanting to return.  Perfect for an intimate weekday dinner or a weekend evening of dancing, there’s a little bit of something for everyone.

Cavo
42-18 31st Avenue, Astoria
718-721-1001
Closed Mondays
Open daily at 5 p.m.

BRADLEY HAWKS

 

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Danny’s Szechuan Garden will be back soon


| mchan@queenscourier.com

Howard Beach hot spot — Danny’s Szechuan Garden — will be back in business soon.

The popular Chinese and Japanese fusion restaurant temporarily closed at the end of June this year to relocate and is scheduled to reopen before December.

But fans of the cuisine won’t have to travel much further than usual to get their dosage of fried wontons and hibachi. Danny’s is just moving up the street, to 156-40B Cross Bay Boulevard, a few blocks away from where the former restaurant stood for 33 years.

“It’s very exciting. It’s a new challenge,” said owner Danny Chan, 64.

Chan, a Howard Beach resident himself, hopes the new location will bring him more business, while continuing to keep his old friends and customers happy.

“It’s a better location. My old place was really big and I didn’t get to fully use it. There’s more traffic up the street. It’s a smaller place now and it’s easier to manage,” he said.

He also said he’s been getting a fair share of text messages from loyal customers asking when the restaurant will be open again.

“I’ve been here a long time, so I know a lot of good people and friends here. They’re happy that I’m going to reopen. I’m happy because apparently we did something right.”

With the new location, Chan said there will be a few changes, including a lunch menu and some innovative dishes.

But he said, “It’s a surprise. They have to come here to find out how good the new dishes are.”