Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Edge of the City Early Review: Marianella's Taqueria

I just devoured two tacos and a burrito from the new Marianella's Taqueria, which opened today on 71st Continental. It was a decidedly mixed culinary experience.


I ordered the Taco Twosome for $5.95. This was two hard-shelled tacos, one ground beef and one chicken. They were ok, not great. But I have to say that I brought them home and by the time I got them home they were a little cool. So I would reserve judgement on them. One thing I have to point out for certain though is they serve the tacos with a lot of lettuce. And the lettuce seemed a bit old. It was brown in some spots. A Big NO NO!


I also ordered the Grilled Chicken Burrito for $7.95. This was much better. It actually was pretty damn good. I had it with refried beans, some type of smoked salsa, cheese, and yellow rice. Quite tasty indeed! There were times I would have sworn it was a burrito from Chipotle or another higher-end fast food joint.

I washed it all down with a medium Pepsi for $1.85. It was slightly flat. Another big NO NO!!!

As for the atmosphere of our newest Mexican restaurant, all I can say is it is just plain odd. First of all, when you get up to order the menu sign is overhead and behind you so you have to remember what you want from a rather unique and even a bit complicated Mexican menu. So I found myself constantly straining my head and stepping back from the counter to remember what I wanted to order!

Also, the fact that there is a regular bar in the restaurant makes it a bit schizophrenic of an experience. What is it doing there? It is like two places in one - A mid-market Mexican take-out restaurant and a bar.

And one other observation. As I was picking out all the different toppings, I noticed some crusty
old looking offerings - I think it may have been hummus or something like it. Not appetizing! Please keep your food fresh!

Now, for my grades:

Taco Twosome: B (I am giving it the benefit of the doubt because as I said it was a bit of a while before I ate them at home. Hopefully they are better fresher. But the brown-looking salad is plain inexcusable!!)

Grilled Chicken Burrito: A

Beverage (Pepsi): C

Food Quality: C (Big No No's: Brown lettuce, and crusty old looking toppings at the counter. I am not giving them a lower grade because it is opening day and I am chalking it up to opening day growing pains. I will have to go back in a week or so and see how things are going.)

Atmosphere: B (Nothing really special. It's not really upscale though. I greatly preferred the look and feel of Green Cactus which used to be on Restaurant Row here in Forest Hills a few years ago.)

Overall Grade: B- (I am giving them the benefit of the doubt. I do hope indeed the next time I go I do not see wilted brown lettuce and crusty old toppings!!) I would place them above the Fresco Tortillas Chinese/Mexican combo restaurants that are all over the city (and that we have two of right here in FoHi), but below Chipotle in terms of overall upscale atmosphere and quality.

Non-Story They're Trying to Make Into A Big Story

Donald Trump running for President. He has even less of a chance than Newt Gingrich in defeating President Obama. For me, I don't even have to know his positions on anything. It all comes down to his hair. If someone cannot manage his hair situation, he is not fit to be President.

We're All Fu*@ed, Again

Wow, Mother Earth sure has been resilient. First, she had to contend with tons of oil being spilled for months and months, and now her next challenge? Tons of radiation. I am sorry, but something we are doing is just not working. Time to reevaluate. There's only so much abuse a living thing can take.

Company Says Radioactive Water Leak at Japan Plant Is Plugged
Published: April 5, 2011
The company that runs Japan’s crippled nuclear power plant said that it had plugged a crack in a maintenance pit that had been gushing highly radioactive water into the ocean.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

More on Windsor 2 Project

The Daily News has an article today with lots of juicy details about Cord Meyer's plans to build the CVS, an underground parking garage, and eventually a high-rise building (the on-again, off-again "Windsor 2"), all on the north side of Queens Blvd. next to the Key Food.

Good news for the one Key Food lover who lives here in Forest Hills: It will remain open through the entire construction of the building, which is scheduled to be finished by the Fall of 2012. Oh, and all the stores were supposed to be out of there by last Thursday.

Sad price of progress as businesses cast aside by Forest Hills developer

Poll Results, and This Week's Poll

It occurred to me I never released the results of the poll from all the way back on February 21. Boy, how time flies. It feels like I just started that poll. Anyway, here are the results:

A total of 22 people voted.

The economy is:

Improving - 10 votes (45.45%)
Worsening - 6 votes (27.27%)
Hasn't really changed since the Recession began: 5 votes (22.73%)
Other answer - 1 (4.55%) - "Worsening in actuality, but fake numbers are showing improvement"


Now, on to the new poll:


A Revitalized Austin St.

I guess this is what makes New York City so special. A year ago, heck, maybe just several months ago, our main shopping district, Austin St., seemed in the doldrums with empty storefronts popping up from one end to the other. What a difference just a few months makes! Consider the following new businesses that have either opened in the past month on or just off Austin, or are about to in the next few:


  1.  Agora Taverna (fantastic new Greek restaurant)
  2. The newly reopened Q Bistro (a new modern American format for what used to be a Thai restaurant)
  3. Exo Cafe (a new relaxed venue for some drinks and lite fare)
  4. Marianella's Taqueria (a new casual Mexican eat-in/takeout restaurant)
  5. Emily's Sugar Rush (a new candy store?)
  6. La Boulangerie (a new French restaurant/bakery?)
  7. Energy Green (a delicious new make-your-own salad place)



Sunday, April 3, 2011

Inside Marianella's Taqueria

Here's a look inside the new Mexican restaurant, Marianella's Taqueria, on 71st Continental, which opens this Wednesday. Note the bar way up front, near the counter, to the left. Click on the pics for a better view, especially the second one.

Filing date
January 20, 2011
Premises name
Marianella's Taqueria LLC
License number
1251199
License status
Active
License type
On-premises liquor
License allowing on-premises consumption of liquor, wine and beer and sale of beer for off-premises consumption. Food, such as soups and sandwiches, must be served.
Effective date
February 28, 2011
Expiration date
January 31, 2013




Saturday, April 2, 2011

New French Restaurant/Bakery Coming to Austin?

Drat! Possibly more bad news for my waist line.... again.

Yes indeed... more information coming in today about a new French restaurant / bakery called La Boulangerie coming to Austin St. and 72nd Road. A reader posted a comment about it yesterday, and now one of my roving reporters confirms that a sign has gone up, along with decorative black awnings.

I did a Google search and found a French cafe type restaurant of that name in several cities across the US, including Chicago. Also, there is a restaurant called La Boulangerie located on the Upper East Side, serving up baked goods and sandwiches. But I can find little more information, aside from a few assorted reviews. Here is an excerpt from one of them:

The place is small, charming and inviting. As soon as you walk in, you see the various freshly baked bread and French delicatessens. I wanted to eat everything but we all decided to order crepes. We ordered the peasant one (brie cheese, fig jam and walnuts), ratatouille (goat cheese, red peppers and something else that was delicious I can't recall) and another crepe that had mushroom and chicken. They were all savory and divine. 



I have no idea if this is the same place, but here is the Yelp! link for the one in Chicago:
La Boulangerie - Logan Square

God, I'm getting hungry....



Friday, April 1, 2011

Edge of the City Introduces Digital Subscriptions

Due to the incredible popularity of my blog, yes, the long-time rumors are true, I have been forced to implement a new digital subscription plan. Here are the choices you have in order to gain access. The Edge of the City Board felt these were quite reasonable:

1. Clean my apartment building of all mothballs for me.
2. Build me a series of Whole Foods stores where the Key Foods currently are located.
3. Move the Forest Hills Trader Joe's to somewhere on Austin, so I can actually shop at it.
4. Convert the Forest Hills Tennis Stadium into a year-round Farmer's Market/Eataly East gourmet, organic food complex.
5. Build me a Shake Shack where the Blockbuster is closing.
6. Close Queens Blvd. permanently to all traffic.


Thanks,
Drake






Thursday, March 31, 2011

Energy Green Photos

As promised, here are my photos of the new make-your-own-salad place, Energy Green, which just opened on the lower level of the Austin Street Mall:








Eww!

This post was almost too much for me to bear, but I got through it!!

Though I love Springtime more than any other season, especially here in New York City, there is one, enormously upsetting downside for me: the reemergence of those very very creepy multi-legged long bugs. I have no idea what they are called, but about this time every year, the first weeks of April, lo and behold I inevitably find one of them arrogantly perched somewhere high on my apartment wall, just sitting there staring at me like it owns the place.

I readily admit to being squeamish about a bunch of things in this world (see my post about those annoying anti-smoking commercials!), but I have to say these bugs really take the cake.

I guess they kind of look like this... God help me. I can't even bring myself to make this photo as big as it can be on my blog because it creeps me out so much... Bed Bugs? I am sorry, but this is what I worry about:


What's the Rush?

I'm just back from a quick jaunt out West and it looks like there's been quite a bit of buzz building over this new shop coming in, "Emily's Sugar Rush,"at Austin and 72nd Ave. Some are speculating it will be an upscale candy store like Dylan's in Manhattan.

Another store that I went into before I left and will post some pictures of this afternoon is this new make-your-own salad place on the lower level of the Austin St. mall on Austin, Energy Green. Not the best name perhaps - I can never remember it and I keep confusing it in my mind with those "Energy Kitchen" places in Manhattan. But anyway, the owner was very friendly and I promised him I will be back to try the salad. I do know from a quick look that the offerings looked very plentiful - there were a lot of different dressings and toppings. This type of place we have desperately needed here in FoHi. Finally, we have a make-your-own salad place like just about every other neighborhood in the City!

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Agora Taverna - Mini Review

I'm out of town for a couple of days, so this will have to be a quick review. Before I left, I went to the new Greek restaurant, Agora Taverna, on Austin, for the first time. I think the food is excellent. I will give the place a strong A. Everything was fresh and delicious. I ordered the Branzini (whole fish) for the main course and found it absolutely delicious. Someone else had the chicken kabob and absolutely loved it. For an appetizer, I had the tzatziki. This I found could have been a bit more flavorful. For dessert, I had a Greek coffee, which was really good. I will definitely be going back soon. I haven't had such a great piece of fish in a while, and certainly not in Forest Hills. This is a great addition to our neighborhood.

My Branzini was absolutely delicious. 

The chicken kabob was also excellent.

They also said they will have outdoor seating when it gets a little warmer. That will really liven up this entire corner. I can't wait to see how that adds a touch of cosmopolitan flair worthy of a NYC neighborhood to our shopping district. Finally, good things are starting to happen on the core strip of Forest Hills!

Agora hired a world-class architect and it really shows. There are many little touches - flower pots overhead, white stones in the floor when you walk in - and some big touches as well - the ceiling and the overall color scheme are just fantastic - that make this an exceptional dining experience.

Little decorative touches make this a delightful dining experience.

The service was fine, but quite harried. While the waiter was pleasant and attentive, and the food came out in no time, I felt we never had the waiter's undivided attention. He was constantly off and running in a second. It is nice for a waiter to actually smile and focus on the people you are serving for more than just a few seconds, instead of darting off to the other tables you are also working. Maybe he just suffers from some ADD? :)

Service: B+
Atmosphere: A+
Food: A (Not an A+ because the appetizer was a little dull in flavor, and so was the rice pilaf that accompanied my fish.)
Overal grade for Agora: A

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Edge of the City Review: Q Bistro

With some in my party unwilling to wait for a table at the packed Agora Taverna last eve (they shall remain nameless :), we headed east down Austin... to the new Q Bistro, located at 108-25 Ascan. The good news is having removed its "Thai" so to speak, Q has reemerged as a very pleasant place to dine on some very tasty fare. We all enjoyed what we had and look forward to going back soon to try some other dishes. The food was good, though I wouldn't call it excellent. But good enough that we want to go back and try their other dishes. (Pardon these pics, it was dark and the camera didn't do its usual best.)

I like what they did with the interior of the restaurant. It is very stylishly furnished, with the bar when you walk in and an open kitchen area towards the back.



One of us sampled the chicken paillard ($17) and enjoyed it, however thought it was a tad salty and the portion could have been a bit bigger. I tried it and found it be perfectly cooked and seasoned with a very nice taste.

Another in my party had the cheese burger ($12), and really liked it. The only complaint was there could  have been a few more fries, though the one's included were pretty large steak fries.

I myself went for what they call their "grown up grilled cheese sandwich," which is prepared with a couple of different cheeses, lettuce, tomato, and pork. And as an extra, very nice added touch, it comes with a smoked tomato soup. I think it cost around $14 which was quite a reasonable price for what turned out to be a very filling (maybe a bit too filling - towards the end I thought the sandwich's ingredients may have been a bit too rich) sandwich and soup.

Some of the prices at Q were a little high I noticed. But there were some very reasonable offerings as well, like my sandwich.  I also enjoyed a glass of wine (shiraz), which was very smooth and excellent.

The service was pretty good (they were a little slow in bringing out the bread and then a bit too eager to take away our olive oil for our bread, which was a bit odd. Though I think that just might have something to do with one of the servers who seemed a little inexperienced. The waitress we had seemed more experienced.)

All in all, I like what they have done with Q. The menu seems creative and modern. This is just the type of place we need more of here in Forest Hills. My grades:

Atmosphere: A- (the minus because I noticed several of the tables for two VERY close to each other, one of my pet peeves when dining. Heck, I like my privacy!

Food: B+ (for now, I want to try many of the other offerings on their very interesting and intriguing menu.)

Service: A-

Overall grade for Q Bistro: B+

Remembering Geraldine Ferraro



Former Forest Hills Gardens resident and political trailblazer Geraldine Ferraro has died at the age of 75, after a 12-year battle with cancer. Here's a really good interview with her and recap of her life that the Times did:
The Last Word    In 1984, Geraldine A. Ferraro became the first woman nominated for national office by a major party.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Agora's Menu

Here is Agora Taverna's take-out menu. By the way, they told me they do not take reservations... yet.





Movin' on Up!

Finally, confirmation that the closing of the sad-looking strip of 7 stores next to the Key Food is being done to make way for a "national retailer." The entire building will be demolished and a new one built in its place.

Here's the link to the article on Yournabe.com (Forest Hills Ledger) :

Cord Meyer to evict seven stores Developer says it told tenants in 2006 of plans to revamp Continental Ave. site

The way I look at it, anything is better than what we have there now. Though I do like the unique character that comes from small, independent shops (see Park Slope, Brooklyn), this is one strip that needs a facelift.

Oh, and thanks to reader "Susan" for calling our attention to this breaking news. (She posted it on the Open Forum page of the old site which reminds me I need to create a space for people to do such things here on the new one!) UPDATE - I just changed the "News Tips" page above so readers can now post news tips directly to the page.


Mr. Vino's Moving In

This has the potential to be a cute little wine & spirits shop, where the old Broadway Bakery used to be on 71st/Continental...



Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Edge of the City Review: Exo Cafe

I had lunch at Exo, the new place on Austin, over the weekend, ordering the sampler plate ($12.95) for an appetizer, the classic cheese burger ($10.25) and to drink I had something from their craft beer menu, an Apple beer by Ephemere ($7). For dessert I just had an iced American coffee ($3.75) (this was when it was still Spring and not Winter like today, so iced, not hot :).

All in all, I think Exo is a very good addition to Forest Hills and I would definitely go back. My strongest positive association with it, now a few days out, is of how comfortable a place it is to relax with friends. Unlike many restaurants in the City, this place, especially on the second floor where I ate, is nice and roomy, The tables are very nicely spread out, giving you a chance to have a conversation with your friends and not have to be listening to the people sitting right next to you at the same time! What a breath of fresh air that is for the City, right?

One thing I noticed about Exo is your experience is very much determined by where you end up sitting. If you are facing one direction, you could end up staring at a big-screen TV showing a ball game. If you are facing another, you could end up looking out one of the big windows at the passers-by on Austin. So, this place can either feel like a sports bar or a nice, casual restaurant, depending on where you are sitting. Overall grade for atmosphere and the design of the place: A+.

The upstairs dining area at the new Exo Cafe on Austin St.
Now onto the meal. I enjoyed their sampler plate, which comes with beer battered onion rings, chicken poppers and cheddar cheese sticks. My favorite of these were the cheddar cheese sticks - nice and peppery. Overall grade for this dish: B+.

I also really liked their beer selection (see photo of menu below). Some of the more progressive restaurants are starting to offer a nice selection of craft beers, and Exo is one of them. Overall grade for beer: A.

Unfortunately, my least favorite part of my first Exo Experience was the main course. My classic cheese burger started out strong - it was presented really nicely, with Belgian fries on the side.  But by the time I was finished I wasn't very impressed. The burger was even slightly overcooked in one part. Overall, it was kind of dry, not a big, juicy, tasty burger. Now, it wasn't bad - just not great. Grade for the burger: B-
The fries were pretty good - I recommend them alone, without ketchup. Fries grade: B+

For dessert I had an iced coffee which was fine. I'd give it a B+

Also, our service was very good. The staff was extremely friendly, attentive, and helpful. And the food came out pretty fast. Service: A+

So, wrapping it all up. I recommend Exo Cafe as a nice place if you want to spend a relaxing time with friends or family. It's a very casual, nicely decorated restaurant and bar with great atmosphere, excellent service and pretty good - not great - food. I look forward to trying some of the other dishes there. The salads I saw being served looked very impressive.

Overall grade for Exo Cafe: B

Looking down on the bar area at Exo.

The view from Exo's second floor. Great people watching while you eat!

Exo's craft beer list. 

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Agora Taverna Photos

It opens this Tuesday. The menu offers all your Greek favorites, from grilled whole fish to kabobs.




Happy Spring

Spring arrives at 7:21 p.m. today.


Agora Taverna Opening This Week?

That's the word from a post on the Queens Central forum...

Here's a link to the architects who have designed the restaurant: BROMLEY CALDARI ARCHITECTS

Agora Taverna's proposed design.

Why I Live in the City


This is one of the reasons:
ARTS
History’s Hands
By RANDY KENNEDY
Published: March 17, 2011
For months, unknown to museumgoers, artisans from overseas have been at work high above the Greek and Roman galleries, effecting a transformation.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Spring Fever

The temperature today is supposed to reach 70 degrees! That means I just may get my bout of Spring Fever today! I really do get it and it is a physical thing - kind of feels like I'm on a drug. Come to think of it, I really don't know anyone else who seems to get it. If you do, share about it below. The symptoms? Kind of like a delightful feeling of fogginess, a bit like a buzz but more refreshing! Oddly, this year I experienced it about 6 weeks or so ago when we had that one day where all of a sudden it got somewhat warm and the wind must've been coming up from the south. That's another thing about Spring Fever - the air has to have that smell of life in it that at this time of year is only carried by the winds coming up from the south. We'll see if it happens today.

Since it's the weekend, naturally my thoughts turn to the movies. There's one film out there that I've been wanting to comment about for a while: "Red Riding Hood". I'm sorry, but is this not the dumbest idea for a movie, like ever? Not just in terms of the plot - which turns the fairy tale we were told as kids into a horror movie. But also in terms of a business decision by the movie studio that made it! This is what I imagined happening last Friday, when it opened:

Teenage male 1: "Dude, so what are you doing this weekend?"

Teenage male 2: "Dude, I am going to see Red Riding Hood."

Not.

What respectable teenage dude would admit to his buddies or be seen going to a movie called "Red Riding Hood"?

Not surprisingly, I read that something like 62% of those who saw this movie on its opening weekend were women. From what I've read this is fairly typical for horror films. Women now comprise the majority of horror film goers - go figure! Nevertheless, a big chunk of the audience is still guys. So with this particular movie, the problem is not just the laziness which went into coming up with the concept - using an age-old children's fairy tale - but also the very title itself which I am sure is just too much of a deal-breaker for your average teenage male. After all, it's just what your average teenage boy wants from his movies: the fairy tale his mommy used to tell him when he was like 5!

So this one will probably be out another week or so. Red Riding Hood fans - Catch it before it's too late!

Thursday, March 17, 2011

NYTimes.com Announces Subscription Plan

I love the comments from those who are angry and upset that the Times will begin charging them to read some of its content online. "How dare you make me pay for your hard work!! Journalists, after all, shouldn't be paid for what they do for a living!!" (Even though what they do for a living is one of the hardest jobs around and often goes with little pay, very long hours and little if any appreciation from the public!)
READERS' COMMENTS: The Times Announces Digital Subscription Plan

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Green Day in Forest Hills

No, not them... Jet Blue will be hosting a special day of tree planting here in town to help us recover from the tornado:

Make New York City a little greener

JetBlue and New York Restoration Project (NYRP) are teaming up once again to do One Thing That's Green! Join us on April 9, 2011 as we plant hundreds of trees in Forest Hills, Queens!

In September, tornadoes ripped through Queens leaving once lush areas looking vacant. Trees are a vital part of the environment, especially in New York City, and by recommendation of the City of New York, JetBlue and NYRP will partner to revitalize MacDonald Park and surrounding areas.

Bring your friends and family for an exciting day of outdoor activities that encourage active living! Breakfast and lunch will be provided, and all volunteers will receive a One Thing That's Green branded t-shirt. There will be activities for the entire family throughout the day.

Register now and check back for updates in the coming weeks. All volunteers must register and complete a waiver. Young adults ages 14 to 17 must have a signed waiver from a parent or guardian to participate. Kids younger than 14 are welcome with an adult and they'll be plenty of activities for everyone.

Do your One Thing That's Green! Together with our partners NYRP, 106.7 Lite FM, 103.5 KTU and Power 105.1, JetBlue will make a lasting difference on the community and continue to evolve our commitment to greening the Big Apple.

When: Saturday, April 9, 2011
Where: MacDonald Park, Forest Hills, Queens
Time: 9 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.
What: One Thing That's Green tree planting and activities!

Here is the link to sign up for this upcoming event: http://jetblue.com/trees/
MacDonald Park after the tornado.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Another Local Eatery on TV

If you missed it, the awesome Jewish deli Ben's Best on Queens Blvd. in Rego Park was featured on the Food Network show Diners, Drive-ins, Dives last night. The segment, which must've been about 15 minutes or so long, was really entertaining and By God it made me want to have one of Ben's' delicious sandwiches! (My favorite is their combo - Turkey, Pastrami and Corned Beef on hero bread - it has fed many a party at my place and I have gotten raves about it!)

Now, why exactly Ben's was picked for a show called Diners, Drive-Ins, Dives I cannot tell you for it is neither diner, drive-in nor dive. But who cares - all I can think of is pastrami right now!

The show is on again this Wednesday at 11pm on Food Network. (I assume it will be the same episode as last night's but not 100 percent sure.)

Monday, March 14, 2011

Disaster Relief

Here is a pretty comprehensive list I found of ways to help Japan:

Japan Earthquake and Tsunami: How to Help
By THE NEW YORK TIMES
Published: March 11, 2011
Organizations providing aid and assistance to victims of Friday's earthquake and tsunami in Japan and the Pacific.

We're All Fu*@ed

I'm definitely beginning to think that nuclear power is not the best idea.

WORLD
Second Explosion at Reactor as Technicians Try to Contain Damage
By HIROKO TABUCHI and MATTHEW L. WALD
Published: March 14, 2011
The second explosion on Monday underscored the difficulties Japanese authorities are having in bringing several stricken reactors under control.

These Commercials Are Making ME Sick

Enough already with the extremely graphic television commercials detailing people's brushes with death! It was bad enough that I've had to sit through all those depressing commercials for battling depression and other horrible things (the one where the people have to be wound up like toys in order to function is a particularly annoying one). But now, have you seen this latest crop of ads? The most disturbing (definitely not for the squeamish like yours truly) is the one with the close up of a woman in a vegetative state from a smoking induced stroke where she just breathes for like a minute. I am also tired of hearing that other woman tell me "These are my lungs.." I really couldn't care less about you or your lungs, keep it to yourself. I am taking notes and I will make sure to NOT GO to the hospitals that force me to have to watch these horrible ads. No matter how much I try - fast-forwarding the DVR, rushing to change the channel - they are aired so incredibly often I cannot seem to avoid them.

Look, I know some of these ads - like the woman in the coma - are supposed to be important public service announcements. I get it. But if you don't know by now that smoking will kill you, I doubt this ad is going to make much of a difference. But I do know one thing for sure - the stress it is causing me is shortening MY life!

Sorry, had to vent!


Sunday, March 13, 2011

Spring Ahead

It definitely felt like the end of Winter and the beginning of Spring at Central Park this weekend...