Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Rooftop Farm in Queens!

I learned from a recent article in the New York Times that Brooklyn Grange will be operating on the rooftop of a building on Northern Boulevard and 36th Street. This is very exciting news for the Queens community. We are in desperate need for more trees, more parks, more green spaces and anything that will contribute to the advancement of this lovely borough towards friendlier ecological practices.

I hope this experiment pans out and inspires many other adventurous souls to utilize rooftop areas for green living!

For more info on the "greening" of the city, check out these links:
No Impact Man article on rooftop gardening, old but worth a read
Eagle Street Rooftop Farm - in Greenpoint, Brooklyn
NYC's Housing Authority Garden Program
NYC's Department of Parks & Recreation Green Thumb

more links to come...

Monday, January 11, 2010

Happy Buddha, in Flushing

For a few years now I have been hearing about Happy Buddha. Always on the lookout for a vegetarian friendly alternative in Queens (not that I limit myself by only eating out at vegetarian places, but once in a blue moon it is nice not to have to worry about how animal free your meal will be).

In any case, Happy Buddha has the reputation of being a haven for vegetarians in Flushing Main Street. Their menu features many Chinese cuisine staples, prepared with vegetarian friendly mock meats. Some vegetarians are reluctant to eat those - they are just turned off by the texture of meat; however, I'm not squeamish about a meaty texture so we decided to take the plunge and try some of their "vege" versions.

We decided to start with the "steamed vege chicken buns" (from the dim sum menu) and the mock roasted pork. They were both nice and tasty. We added an order of shumai - my least favorite of the day since it turned out to be just rice wrapped up in the traditional shumai dough.

For our main course we chose the Triple Mushroom Delight, a no-brainer for a mushroom junkie like myself. I loved the black shiitake mushrooms and the veggies, but thought the texture and shape of the mock meat in this dish was a little odd, although it tasted fine. Also, I also found the thick strips of ginger to be a overwhelming in this dish.

I was disappointed that our main dish came out at least ten minutes before our appetizers and that it was difficult to flag one of the servers to inquire about our appetizers and to ask for a glass of water.

All that being said, would we go back to Happy Buddha for more veggie friendly Chinese? Yes, we would, and next time we would go straight for that infamous "General Tso's vege chicken".

Happy Buddha, happy belly.

Happy Buddha
135-37 37th Ave.
Flushing, NY 11367

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Breakfast in Woodside, Part UNO

Two of our favorite breakfast joints. In Woodside. Grab and go, or sit down and enjoy. Meet Mango's and Rico Pan.

The fare: delicious Colombian pastries.

The coffee deal: totally partial to the black coffee at Rico Pan.

The goodies: an assortment of breakfast pastries, a lot of them stuffed with cheese - but they are all good. For those interested in the lingo: pan con queso (bread stuffed with cheese), pan de queso (or rosquita - a ring shaped savory bread), almojábana montañera (savory, sweet, buttery and crumbly goodness, all at once), empanadas, arepas de choclo (sweet corn arepas), deditos de queso (cheese fingers) and that's just the begining.

El Oso's favorite part from either place: costumer service. Both joints are staffed by sweet, endearment term calling, Colombian ladies. And well, as I've learned over the years, he just melts when a woman offers him pastries and coffee.

Rico Pan
5813 Woodside Ave, Woodside, NY 11377
3961 61st St, Woodside, NY 11377

Friday, September 11, 2009

Literally, relaxing in Queens

I discovered The Yoga Room in Astoria almost five years ago. I stumbled into it. Or maybe, it stumbled into me. It came at a perfect time in my life. I had been thinking about trying one of those “Bikram” yoga classes for a while. But the Northeast blackout of 2003 got in the way while I tried to get to a bikram studio in the city. Few months later, while hanging out at Café Bar, in Astoria I found a flyer laying around. It advertised “Hot Yoga Classes” and some sort of introductory deal. All in Astoria, Queens. After all, I was destined to give it a try.

I was a fast convert. My first class was hard. But the release that came with it was exhilarating and addictive right away. Now, let me warn you: I don’t look like a yogi, and I definitely don’t always behave like a yogi (although I try very hard to honor some of my loving, patient teachers, those extra mojitos and those angry thoughts at inconsiderate people riding NYC’s subway do get on the way of my ahimsa - so long brahmacharya and pratyahara too!). I’m not even consistent like a yogi. But I try, and no matter how many times I fall off the wagon, I try again. I find that yoga reflects everything we go through in life. During those ninety minutes you are in the room, you go through every emotion that you might experience in life. Those times when I feel particularly scared of life circumstances are the days when the teacher seems to call out some of the asanas I fear the most; I hear the words “handstand” and I feel my entire body shake and shrivel at the thought of even trying. But, you know what, I try anyway. I try to gently (and sometimes not so gently) set aside my fear in the hopes that I will be able to push aside the fear that can hold me back in life.

The Yoga Room has been a wonderful space for me to experience yoga. I enjoy the variety of their offerings – they have branched out and now the classes include much more than just hot yoga. I like the physical space in the studios and most of all, I feel lucky to have met some wonderful, nurturing teachers there. Some are still teaching there, others have gone on to their next venture, but each one of them has left a little bit of an imprint in my (irregular) practice. I will always be thankful and indebted to all of them.

Now, on to business: if you are looking to experience all the benefits of yoga, or perhaps only some of them, I would most certainly recommend The Yoga Room. They have two locations: one in Astoria and one in Long Island City. Go ahead. Give it a try. It only seems fitting to put a bit of relaxation into it.


For the 411 on The Yoga Room - in Queens (!!!), check out their website:

Saturday, July 18, 2009

A little bite of home: Arepas in Astoria

It seems since I made up my mind to start writing about Queens I look at our borough with new and refreshed eyes. So much to write about I wonder, where to begin. One of the greatest traits of Queens is it's ethnic diversity and as a consequence the "smorgasbord of ethnic cuisines" that our little borough encompasses: Latin, Spanish, Indian, Thai, Japanese, Chinese, Filipino, Greek, Brazilian, you name it, it's all here. But as a good Venezuelan I'm always on the prowl for the perfect "arepa". Arepas are a typical mainstay of Colombian and Venezuelan cuisine, our daily bread, so to speak. They are corn meal cakes stuffed with an array of savory dishes. There could be slight variations on the preparation or appearance according to the region of origin.

Although I love Colombian arepas, I have a very special place in my heart for Venezuelan arepas. Every time I hear of a new Venezuelan joint in town I feel compelled to go to any lengths to savor this little piece of home in the place that has adopted me as resident. I've tasted the slight variations between El Cocotero's, the now defunct Flor's Kitchen and of course the ultra popular Caracas Arepa Bar, and I will admit that I have been quite partial to Caracas' perfect sized tender version thus far.

However, today is a Queens day. I remember there is a place in Astoria we are yet to try. I drag El Oso with me for an excursion to Arepas Cafe. I sit down without any expectations, I mean, it's an arepa in NY, it will never taste like home, right? Was I in for a surprise. As I take my first bite I feel transported back to my childhood years. The arepa although slightly larger than the "arepera" traditional, has the perfect thickness, crispiness, temperature and stuffing to cake ratio. I have ordered an arepa with "caraotas" (black beans) and "queso guayanés" (a farmers like cheese: creamy, slightly tangy and white). El Oso is having a "Mami" (or sweetie, in Venezuelan slang), stuffed with roast pork, avocado and white cheese. To complement our meal we order “mini cachapas” (sweet corn pancakes), two "Papelón con limón": a refreshing beverage made out of a brick of dried sugarcane, water and lemon and finally a café con leche. The service is prompt and polite. At the end of our meal we feel satisfied and exited to have discovered a new jewel in the borough.

If you are in the mood for good, affordable comfort food, by all means try Arepas Cafe. It is also conveniently located two blocks away from the 36th Avenue stop on the N W train, only few blocks away from the Museum of the Moving Image (currently being renovated) and the beautiful new building of the Frank Sinatra School of the Arts.

Arepas Cafe
33-07 36th Avenue
Astoria, NY 11106

(718) 937-3835

Truly yours,

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Welcome Note

Hi everyone,

We have been talking about this forever; so finally, here it is: Relax…it’s Queens. Welcome to our blog.

We’ll be blogging about all the great things western Queens has to offer, about our concerns regarding transportation, politics, education and anything else we can think of. Yes, some of our subjects might not be completely relaxing, but there are also plenty of things that we’ve experienced in this wonderful borough that just make us say: “Relax…it’s Queens”