Tag Archives: French cuisine

Where to celebrate Bastille Day in Queens this weekend

By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of Aperitif Bistro


Francophiles looking to indulge in French food and culture without the large city crowds can trade the Arc de Triomphe for the iconic Sunnyside Arch and celebrate Bastille weekend (July 11-12) in the heart of Queens.

Several Queens restaurants are holding early celebrations of Bastille Day, the holiday marking the start of the French Revolution on July 14, 1789.

One such location is the Tournesol Bistro Francais (50-12 Vernon Blvd. in Long Island City, off the Vernon Blvd./Jackson Ave. 7 train station). Tournesol (French for “sunflower”) serves up French favorites like quiche Lorraine ($9), salade Nicoise ($12), brie panini with apples ($9.50) and croque monsieur ($9.50), a decadent grilled ham and cheese sandwich with bechamel sauce.

Adventurous eaters can try the escargots l’estragon ($9.50), a dish of sauteed snails in tarragon sauce. The magret de canard ($22) features succulent duck breast with celery puree in honey sauce.

Tournesol boasts an extensive wine list categorized by region in France. The Cotes de Provence Cuvee du Cep d’Or, a refreshing rose wine, is perfect for summer afternoons ($8/glass).

To celebrate Bastille Weekend, Tournesol will host a free petanque tournament on Saturday, July 11, from noon to 8 p.m. Petanque is similar to horseshoes but is played with metal “boules,” or balls.

Francophiles can also head over to Sunnyside and celebrate Bastille Day at the Bliss 46 Bistro (43-45 46th St. off the 46th St. and Bliss St. station). Bliss 46 was voted Best French Restaurant in Queens for 2015 by Courier readers in the Best of the Boro competition. The family-owned establishment is run by owner Deodoro Monge and his daughter, Melissa.

Bastille Weekend revelers will want to try their classic coq au vin ($15), a savory chicken stew with red wine, bacon and mashed potatoes, or the steak d’onglet ($19) with garlic butter, vegetables and fries.

Those seeking classic French crepes can find them at Cafe Triskell (33-04 36th Ave. in Astoria off the 36th Ave. N/Q station).

Founded in 2007 by chef, owner and Bretange native Phillipe Fallait, Cafe Triskell offers several varieties of both sweet and savory crepes. Standouts include the French aged goat cheese and herbs crepes ($9), banana with chocolate jam ($6) and the poached pear with homemade chocolate sauce, toasted almonds and whipped cream ($8).

The final stop on the Queens Bastille weekend journey is Aperitif Bistro (213-41 39th Ave. in Bayside). Black and gold pinstripe banquets and vintage globe lanterns give this Queens eatery a French flea market flair.

At Aperitif, patrons can indulge on filet mignon sliders ($14), steak tartare ($17) and prosciutto and figs with blue cheese and pears in a balsamic reduction ($7). Mascarpone crepes with fresh fruit ($16) provide a sweet finish to this French feast.


C’est magnifique

By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Bradley Hawks

French cuisine is oddly one of the most difficult cuisines to find in Astoria, especially when it comes to table service. As a matter of fact, it could be argued that until last month, one solitary restaurant served a croque madame. Luckily the opening of Francis Café marks the second bistro in Astoria, presently open for lunch, dinner, as well as petite dejeuner, so I took a chance to swing by.

Francis Café is actually an outpost of Francis Staub — owner of Le Gamin in Williamsburg and Ft. Greene, as well as Staub cookware. So considering his famous association, I decided it would be well worth our time to see what he has cooking.

There is nothing particularly extraordinaire about the menu itself, beyond several classic French dishes, especially during breakfast and lunch — just simple sections with a few offerings under each. Breakfast dishes include a few varieties of omelettes, quiche, even a pain perdu. The success at Francis Café lies in the quality (and quantity) of each dish, as each is superbly executed as if to create a postcard to French cuisine.

Moules Frites are extremely tender. Crepes are exquisitely folded and tucked onto the plate as a culinary gift. Dry-aged steak frites is so juicy it falls apart at a prodding.

On one occasion, I made the mistake of ordering a croque monsieur accompanied by a side dish sampler of haricot verts, au gratin potatoes and a morel risotto. When the first of the plates arrived at the table, I gasped at the portion. But as I began to attempt to tackle even a fraction of each section of my meal, the food drew me in until suddenly there was hardly anything remaining. My will power faded, rendering me helpless.

Be prepared, as the cuisine here is actually that excellent. Desserts arrive and last seconds before they are devoured. There are glistening pear tarts, soufflés and brulees. Coffee is as excellent as it should be in any French restaurant.

The menu transition between lunch and dinner is profound, rendering dinner service an experience entirely unique to lunch. The sandwiches are dropped along with the quiches for rich, savory stews and dishes cooked over a span of time, like bouillabaisse or coq au vin. A pappardelle pasta one afternoon was exceptional, rich with rabbit ragout. It is the sort of restaurant where you want to try everything, and find yourself returning to do precisely that.

When you arrive, take a moment and focus on the menu as though you were going to devour absolutely everything on it. And then simply order one entrée, followed by a dessert and a café au lait. Trust me, you will not regret it. And then return again and again and again, as if each visit were your very first. Everything is truly that good.

Francis Café
35-01 Ditmars Blvd
Astoria, NY 11105