Saturday, June 29, 2013


Some unsolicited advice: if you're anticipating a stressful day, make plans to have pizza for dinner. That way, no matter how crappy things get, you can take comfort in knowing that later THERE WILL BE PIZZA.

(Note: this also works with tacos. But we'll talk about tacos some other time.)

It can't just be any pizza; the slice place down the block won't have the desired effect. No, it must be a thin crust pie topped with fresh ingredients and cooked very quickly in a wood-fired oven. You know, the kind they serve at Milkflower.

The latest addition to Windsor Garden  the mythical, perfectly square micro-neighborhood invented by some local wiseacres  Milkflower is another establishment that seems plucked from the Borough That Shall Not Be Named. It's all exposed brick and reclaimed (or reclaimed-looking) wood, with banquettes upholstered in burlap coffee sacks. The Friday crowd was a mix of date-night couples and fourtops of friends.

Dr. Science and I started with the toast plate: four crostini with a variety of creative vegetable toppings. This dish alone would make us come back. The spring onion, fava bean, and grated egg in particular tasted like the month of May on bread. I wasn't as enamored of the ramp pudding with broccoli rabe, but those aren't generally among my favorite flavors.

A toast(s) to you

We continued with the arugula salad, which was pleasingly bitter and bright with its fennel, thinly sliced mushrooms, small chunks of grapefruit, toasted walnuts, and lemon vinaigrette. A few scattered basil leaves added a nice surprise.

Lemony arugula salad

And then there was the pizza. We probably should have ordered The Queen — your standard margherita — so we could establish a baseline, but I got distracted by the Brussels sprout pie, having recently discovered that when cooked properly sprouts are not, in fact, disgusting. The crust was chewy and light with just the right amount of salt and char. The Brussels sprout leaves, however, were slightly tough, and the poached egg on top didn't contribute as much as I'd expected. The verdict: a good, but not transcendent, pie.

Mmm, sprouty

Dessert came in the form of three delicious scoops from Il Laboratorio del Gelato: black sesame, white fig, and fior di latte (in English, milkflower). 

Il Laboratorio's finest

The service was friendly and attentive; our water glasses were never empty. The total for two appetizers, a pizza, two bottled craft beers, and dessert came to a reasonable $65 including tax and tip.

Best of all, we took two slices home for leftovers. Because whatever the next day might bring, we knew there would be pizza.

34-12 31st Ave.

  Veg friendliness
Food quality


Sunday, March 17, 2013


"You know what I love about this neighborhood?" asked Dr. Science when we moved to Astoria way back in the last century. "It's not cool at all!"

This was long before Site or Sparrow or the Queens Kickshaw or Astoria Bier & Cheese. It was also before COFFEED, a hyperlocal java joint and bakery in the heart of Northern Boulevard's car dealership district. How local? It roasts its beans on site, and come summer its food will incorporate produce grown on the roof. That's right: it's on the ground floor of the building that houses Brooklyn Grange, the rooftop farm whose concept I love but whose name irritates me (you're in Queens, yo! Show this borough some love).

COFFEED is mostly, of course, about the coffee. Dr. Science and I both ordered decafs (hey, it was after noon) mine iced, his hot. Since I'm a philistine when it comes to joe I'm perfectly happy with Dunkin' Donuts I'll defer to my coffee-hound husband, who deemed it "good." We picked two sandwiches from the small menu: a grilled Swiss with tomato and a cheddar and avocado, both on seven grain. The Swiss was the clear winner, but the cheddar, served with layers of guacamole, romaine, and sliced cucumbers, was nice enough. The sandwiches came with tortilla chips, a bowl of tasty salsa, and pickles. 

For dessert we shared two excellent house-baked cookies, one chocolate chip and the other oatmeal raisin.

The food is fine, but the atmosphere is the real draw. A huge, curved bar wrapped in burlap coffee sacks dominates the industrial-chic space. I'm a sucker for menus written on chalkboards, and COFFEED's got several. The ceilings are high and the glass storefront lets you watch the traffic flow silently by. If coffee isn't your thing, they also serve wine, fancy sodas, and Astoria-brewed SingleCut (again, local!) beer on tap. A minor quibble: a place this cool should have a better soundtrack than the Greatest Hits of the 1960s.

The whole meal set us back $20.20, plus the two dollar bills we stuffed into the tip jar on the counter. COFFEED says it gives a portion of its proceeds to local charities, and all those coffee grounds? They're turned into compost upstairs at Brooklyn Grange. To top it off, the staff is amiable and the free wifi has a very cheerful password.

So, yes, COFFEED is yet another local business helping to make Astoria hip. I hope Dr. Science can make peace with it. Otherwise we'll have to move to Staten Island.

37-18 Northern Blvd.

Veg friendliness

Food quality