Monday, September 15, 2014

Café 1 of a Kind – Serving Stumptown and Beyond

Brunching at my brother and sister-in-law’s yesterday, we wanted to surprise them with a fun host treat. Noticing a sign at a nearby café that caught our eye, we were all about it, as it advertised Stumptown cold brew coffee. Dan and I have been getting into this lately, as we’ve been trying various cold brews from around the area (more on that soon). So we walked in this Café 1 of a Kind – yes, strangely that’s its name – to check it out.

Situated on Northern Blvd in Little Neck, Café 1 of a Kind sits right next to other food establishments such as La Baraka French Café and Red Lotus Chinese bakery, which is one of my favorites. Unlike its neighbors, Café 1 of a Kind boasts an ultra modern façade and a sleek, contemporary interior.

I liked it from the minute we walked in, as the furnishings are earthy with a hint of rusticity. You’ll find dark wood paneling, a few welcome bursts of green and fun light fixtures that have a whimsy feel.

It’s great to see they have free wifi and lots of communal tables to sit with a larger group or even smaller tables if you want more privacy. I can see this as a good place to spend time and do work, blog, or have a meeting.

Food & Drink:
Although we came here for the Stumptown, we walked out with something else – cupcakes to be exact. Noticing a lovely display of baked goods and various savory things, we quickly chose a treat to bring over for brunch.

Sweet Street Cupcakes – Given that I’m a cupcake freak, I immediately stopped to marvel at these beauties, which came in a few different flavors including chocolate, peanut butter/chocolate, vanilla bean, red velvet and lemon meringue. Supplied by Sweet Street Bakery in Pennsylvania, which started out as a small batch producer, I knew I wanted to try a few flavors including the chocolate ganache, chocolate/peanut butter, lemon meringue and jelly roll.

We cut the cupcakes carefully in order to try them all and quickly devoured them. While they were all delicious, my favorite was the lemon meringue, which came with a light, fluffy dollop of frosting (or meringue to be exact). The inside was lovely too, as it was soft, airy and injected with a shot of lemon curd. Agreeing that the chocolate cupcake was a close second (or first for some), we enjoyed its unbelievably rich frosting and perfectly moist chocolate cake.

Stumptown Coffee – Although I found the cold brew to be expensive ($5 a bottle) and didn’t end up purchasing it, I did however go with the hot drip coffee and it was awesome. Rich, earthy and potent, you didn’t need to mix it with too much milk and a little went a long way. If you’re a Stumptown fan like me, you’ll be happy to know that they sell 1 lb bags that you can grind and brew at home.

Service and Cost:
Because this place is brand new, and also to give credit to its lovely staff, Café 1 of a Kind’s service was on point. Even though at times I found the baristas a little slow, it’s only because they were trying their very best to please each customer, including going downstairs and fetching the cupcakes of my choice. Everyone was simply lovely, and I’m eager to come back.

Costs are on the higher side for coffee, but reasonable comparatively speaking for desserts. Given the high quality of everything they sell, I think the costs are fairly justified.

Coffee/Espresso - $2.50 - $5.50
Breakfast/Sandwiches - $4.50 - $9.50
Desserts - $5 - $9

3 Mmmms 

Cafe 1 of a Kind - 255-13 Northern Blvd, Little Neck NY 11362

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Vegetarian Gnocchi - Featuring Tofu & Brussels Sprouts

Loving the medley of vegetables in my fridge today, I decided to improvise a hearty, fall-like vegetable dinner dish.  Making use of the little gnocchetti I had at home, I combined them with bright earthy ingredients such as red onions, fresh Brussels sprouts, sweet craisins and organic tofu for some protein.  No red sauce was used or needed and I put a little bit of sharp cheddar on top, which melted beautifully and made the dish comforting.

Vegetarian Gnocchi with Tofu & Brussels Sprouts

Ingredients (serves 2)
1 package of gnocchetti (I use Vantia brand)
1 small package of Brussels Sprouts (about 6-7 heads)
1/2 red onion, chopped
7 oz block of organic tofu, chopped into small squares
Large handful of craisins

Olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

Cook the gnocchetti according to the directions on the packaging.

In the meantime, sautee the onions and add the Brussels Sprouts and the tofu.  Be very careful with the tofu so you don't break it apart too much.  Let all these ingredients caramelize for about 5-7 minutes or until golden brown. Season with salt and pepper.

Drain the gnocchetti and add into the veggie/tofu mixture.  Be gentle while mixing so you don't break the gnocchetti apart.  It is however, OK to let the gnocchetti caramelize a little bit.

Serve immediately and top with a little bit of grated cheese and fresh herbs if you like.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Cronin and Phelan - Good Ol' Dependable Irish Pub

Since Football season is officially back, Dan is always on the hunt for a good ol' dependable pub that serves up all the games and good food and drink to boot.  He's quite particular, as he roots for the unfortunate Miami Dolphins and those games are hard to come by - with the prevalence of NY teams, obviously.

After searching around the neighborhood for a place that would accommodate Dan's wishes and at the same time would dish out tasty eats, we found ourselves at Cronin & Phelan's - a good ol' dependable Irish pub.

Set up like a typical pub, Cronin's space is divided into the far right bar area and while the rest is set up like a restaurant.  There's plenty of TV's around that showcase all the football games, and the staff is super nice and accommodating with one's viewing wishes.

Dan and I sat ourselves in one of the 4 person booths up front and got great access to the tennis match (for me) and the Dolphins/Patriots game for Dan.  The overall atmosphere was casual and cheery, as almost everyone was there to eat hearty brunch, drink brew and enjoy football.  The staff is really lovely and very patient with everyone's personal sports requests.

Excited to see what they had on the menu, Dan and I got a few different appetizers that we grazed on throughout the afternoon.

Irish Soda Bread - The first thing that appeared out of the kitchen (and it was on the house) was a generous helping of Irish Soda Bread. I love, love, love this treat so I was naturally excited - and Dan dug it too, deciding to break his gluten free streak.  Loving the flaky, buttery bites of this bread, it gave us high hopes for the rest of the meal, which also produced great results.

Irish Fries - It didn't take long to sell us on this dish, as we found out it consists of well-done fries with Canadian bacon and cheddar cheese.  Everything about this snack was gluttonous, and we loved the medley of textures it served up, from crunchy (fries), gooey (cheese) to chewy (bacon).

Chicken Wings - Being tough critics when it comes to wings, I think Cronin's version did quite well, producing nice crunchy texture and just the right amount of spicy buffalo sauce.  We ordered it on the medium side, which wasn't too spicy, and overall I found the wings to be nice and meaty.  The blue cheese wasn't the greatest but all in all didn't take away from the tastiness of the dish.

Service and Cost:
Completely satisfied with the friendly and generous service, I can see why Cronin's has been a staple in the neighborhood for many years.  There's a lot of regulars that go in to enjoy the solid food, homey atmosphere and the abundance of sports action.  All in all, I'd love to come back again and try its proper brunch menu.

Costs are fair and veer on the inexpensive side at about $25/person for the aforementioned food and a few beers as well.  We never felt pressured to leave and loved being made feel welcome.

3 Mmmms

Cronin & Phelan's - 38-14 Broadway, Astoria NY 11102
N/Q Train to Broadway or R/M Train to Steinway Street

Monday, September 8, 2014

Psari Still Exceeding Expectations

After what has been a very long time, I was jonesin' for some delicious Greek food and decided to head to Psari, after what was a very fun event at the Queens Collective, featuring Louie KR.ONE Gasparro.

Dan hasn't yet been, which made me excited to show it off to him - and he's always down to try some good, homemade Greek food.  On a Saturday evening, the atmosphere was quite busy and boisterous, which made service a little tricky but the staff made it up to us (read on and find out how).

But before I get into the service and the overall vibe, let's get to the food we had that night, including the biggest standouts.

Half Dozen Raw Oysters - Wanting to start with something fresh and local, Dan and I ordered a half dozen oysters, which tasted fresh and not fishy at all.  While the texture was a tad on the tough side, overall they were pretty tasty and definitely something that went down easy with a spoonful of horseradish and cocktail sauce.

Saganaki Cheese - Recent saganaki convert, Dan adored Psari's version that boasted a lightly fried exterior.  The interior was everything it should be - warm, gooey, and a little salty.  You didn't need much with it, except for a little bit of lemon, but otherwise no pita or bread was required.

Grilled Porgy - One of my favorite local fish varieties, we ordered a grilled Porgy with a side of lemon potatoes.  I knew that the latter would be awesome because I've had them here before and they totally rocked my world.  Luckily Dan agreed too and loved the fish as well, especially its crispy, lightly oiled skin that we took turns devouring.

Service and Cost:
Because it was a busy Saturday evening, I have to say that the service at first was quite slow.  So slow in fact that we were deliberating leaving and going to Chela y Garnacha instead, only shortly after being helped by our waitress.  While everything came out in good time, Psari's owner stopped by not long after asking if us if we can help him accommodate a large party by moving us to a different table.  Quickly adding in that he'd throw in free drinks and dessert, as well as thanking us profusely, we agreed.

Overall, we appreciated the tactful way in which the situation was handled and felt good after leaving the restaurant.

Costs are moderate but fair for the excellent quality of food you are getting.  Since the aforementioned drinks were picked up, we paid a total of $65 including tax and tip (and still a desire to come back).

3 Mmmms

Psari - 32-10 36th Avenue, Astoria NY 11106
N/Q Train to 36th Avenue

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Blue Bottle Coffee and Other Treats at Queens Comfort

Image by Blue Bottle

Being somewhat of a coffee snob, which these days isn't too difficult in Astoria, I noticed that Queens Comfort is upping its coffee game by offering Blue Bottle Coffee.  Originating in Southern California, I've sampled this coffee in San Francisco as well as through their outpost in Manhattan and really enjoyed the taste.  I haven't seen it served in Queens yet, which is why it excited me that Queens Comfort will serve the iced New Orleans Style variety.

In other Queens Comfort news, I also spied a crazy looking Chunky Monkey banana chocolate chip donut this weekend.  Courtesy of the Donut Diva, this thing screams ultimate comfort and makes me curious how it measures up to its namesake ice cream. Have you tried it?

Queens Comfort - 40-09 30th Avenue, Astoria NY 11103
N/Q Train to 30th Avenue 

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Good Eats at the US Open

Even though
good food at the US Open
is certainly hard to come by, as over-eager tourists bum rush the Food Village, devouring sub-par food, there are a few things worth writing home about. If you’re at the Open this year, I highly encourage you check them out:

Morris Food Truck – Known for their grilled cheese sandwiches, the Morris Food truck comes to the Open by way of Brooklyn. I loved this cheery addition to the day’s festivities, and I must say that it’s run really well.

There’s a separate area where you get a good view of the menu and actually place your order. After just a few short minutes your name gets called at the actual truck and you get your perfectly melted cheese beauty. There’s four different grilled cheese sandwiches to choose from and they all sound great. Sure they’re expensive (you’re at the US Open after all), but comparatively speaking, the prices are okay.

After some consideration, I went for the Gouda sandwich with thick pieces of smoky bacon that were nestled inside. Overall, it was a total home run, as the cheese was perfectly gooey, tangy and just generally tasty. I appreciated the well done exterior on the bread, as I like my grilled cheese on the darker side too. It made for some attractive photos to boot!

You can find the Morris Food truck in front of Court 17 at the stadium or on the streets of Manhattan and Brooklyn on most days.

Sandwiches by Parm at the Heineken House – At first, I can’t say I was totally enthused about checking out a branded environment in an already commercialized sporting event, but the Heineken house won me over. Located also right outside of Court 17 on the rooftop of a nearby building, the Heineken house offers a welcome respite for visitors, during this over-crowded event.

A nice, spacious bar welcomes you as you walk in, complete with a picnic table area, a mini pro shop with Heineken swag as well as some games and a cute photo booth. The Parm sandwich area was easy to spot, and similar to the food truck I just described, you first put in your order at the counter and wait a few short minutes for your food to come out.

It didn’t take me long to decide on the Godfather sandwich, which boasted a few generous hunks of fresh mozzarella, basil and tomato on pressed garlic bread. A bright green jalapeno found itself wedged in between the two halves of the sandwich, decorating it beautifully. Overall, the sandwich was delicious, fresh-tasting and made of good quality ingredients that’s a rarity at this event. Kudos Heineken!
I hope you get to visit these two eateries while the Open is still going on til this coming Monday, September 8th.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Ovelia Brunch Never Goes Out of Style

Staying local for the long weekend, I was glad to take advantage of some of my neighborhood favorites, especially for brunch. Having the chance to hit
this weekend with friends, Jessica and Ari, we got to show them Astoria our way and the deliciousness it’s known for.

Here are a few highlights of my meal last weekend that really impressed me.

Bloody Mary – Loving a stiff Bloody Mary, this one delivered on potency and spice. Laced with plenty of horseradish and peppery goodness, each sip gave your senses a little jolt – and lucky for us, we all loved the spice. Something unique I noticed were the thin shavings of celery on top in lieu of a big celery stick that can sometimes get stuck in your teeth.

Ovelia Omelette – Excited by the concept of an open faced omelette, this one featured all sorts of earthy veggies including eggplant, zucchini, mushrooms and even walnuts. As you can see, the whole plate was a thing of beauty, arranged with a bevy of colorful foods including a side of Ovelia’s signature fruit fries and their Cypriot sausage. I’m happy to say that the omelette was perfectly cooked and the veggies on top tasted like a very refined caponata (aka totally awesome).

Service and Cost:
As usual, we experienced really pleasant service and appreciated the way that Ovelia accommodates virtually any kind of diner (including our cute four legged friend Karma). Not only were they OK with our friend’s dog joining us, they even provided her with a bowl full of fresh water.

Upon first glance, costs can seem high for brunch, but note they also include coffee and an alcoholic morning cocktail, which actually makes this a good deal at roughly $15-$17 per person. I’m already thinking of what I’ll devour here next…

3 Mmmms 

Ovelia Psistaria - 34-01 30th Ave, Astoria, NY 11103

N/Q Train to 30th Avenue


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