Sunday, September 27, 2009

Sweet Afton


One of the only things missing from my neighborhood in Astoria is a good pub. There are great restaurants covering a wide range of cuisines, a multitude of cafes where the Greek and Eastern European residents spend a good portion of their time sipping frappes and smoking cigarettes, a few sports bars equipped with enough TVs to look like the electronics department at Sears and the requisite dive bars that you only frequent if you want to feel uncomfortable and slightly dirty but, oddly enough, not one good solid pub.

Until now. Astorians, meet
Sweet Afton.

Located just off 30th Ave and advertised only by a simple awning and a few lights, this is a place that knows how to do "pub" in just the right way.
Arbor Boy and I had our first of what we decided will be many visits on Friday night and found some of the best food and drinks around. The inconspicuous entrance belies a spacious, inviting interior of brick and wood beams. It is a bar first and foremost so the tables are "first come, first served", many of them large enough to be shared by more than one party. We parked ourselves in a corner bar and were immediately greeted by a perky (but not too perky) waitress. The first thing she did was ask our names and introduce herself. Now, sometimes I find the name exchange annoying but for some reason it felt natural here and, since I plan to frequent this bar, it's a good idea to be on a first name basis with the staff.

Our first task was to decide on drinks, and what a task it was. The drink list offers traditional cocktails such as The Sidecar and The Old-fashioned, specialty drinks created by the bartender/mixologist and a wonderful array of beers. There were far too many tasty sounding drinks for us to try everything that caught our eye so I chose the Sweet Lemon, tea infused vodka with lemon and mint that tasted just like iced tea. Arbor Boy started with an IPA (his favorite) and followed that with the Captain Lawrence ale. Our drinks did not disappoint. Next up was to decide what to eat. The menu is small, a collection of well prepared pub food that boasts local ingredients. We started with the fried McClure pickles. Served with a smoky dipping sauce, they are a perfect complement to drinks. For our main meal we both chose the Sweet Afton burger, mine with Gruyere and Arbor Boy's with Irish Cheddar. The burgers are not served with sides so we shared a basket of fries. The burgers were absolutely delicious, probably the best burger in Astoria as far as I'm concerned. But the real showstopper were the french fries. Oh, the french fries. I hate to use such a cliched phrase like "melt in your mouth" but that's exactly what these fries did. They tasted of fresh potato, were crisp and light and only required a drizzle of malt vinegar and a sprinkle of sea salt. I could have eaten three orders. By the end of our meal we were sated, happy and looking forward to our next visit. On our way out we spotted someone dining on the mac and cheese made with Gruyere, Irish Cheddar and Muenster served with double smoked bacon and we vowed to try it in the very near future.


Sweet Afton set out to be an Astoria local pub and they are succeeding with flying colors. We were tipped off by our waitress, Chris, that they will soon be serving brunch and my mouth waters just thinking about what that menu holds in store for us. Thanks for being one more reason why I never need to leave Astoria.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

San Gennaro, Little Italy in NYC

Last Sunday, Arbor Boy and I hopped an N train to check out the feast of San Gennaro in Little Italy. Although I've lived in NYC for almost ten years it was the first time I had ever visited the festival. It was the opening Sunday, warm and sunny, so the crowds were thick...

...but the people watching was amazing.

Look closely, her shirt says "Bada Bing".

There is no shortage of food at San Gennaro.


All the sausage and peppers you could ever hope for.


There was sangria but we opted for pina coladas served in a coconut shell. It was amazing how many people stopped us to ask where we got them.



Fried something-or-others.

These stuffed artichokes looked delicious.

More sausage and peppers.

And then there are the sweets.

I guess this lady thought I was taking a picture of her, she gave me a big smile.


Torrone. This stuff is everywhere and costs $16 a pound.


Cannolis at The Cannoli King. NOT the best cannolis in Little Italy.

Ferrara's has the best cannolis, light fluffy pastry shells and creamy filling.

We had a late lunch at Paesano's on Mulberry Street.

I had lasagna tradizionale and Arbor Boy had spaghetti carbonara along with a half carafe of the house red.

I could look at the buildings and signage for hours. Great old awnings with lots of Italian.





Stuffed with pasta and Ferrara's pastries in box for later, we caught a glimpse of the Empire State Building on our way to the subway. It was fun spending the day in a neighborhood that we rarely frequent. I look forward to visiting Little Italy again so we can dine at Angelo's and revisit Ferrara's for some pastries and espresso. Ciao.