Wednesday, August 24, 2016

IF YOU REBUILD IT THEY WILL TREK



Broad Channel has always been a town that I have passed through going into the Rockaways.  A book signing was being held at an historic restaurant/former hotel.  In fact the author, Dan Guarino had a bit part in La Cage aux Folles at Rockaway Theatre.  This is the first time I stopped and entered any structure.  I could see much rebuilt from Sandy as well as lingering destruction in this closely knit island section considered as part of the “Mainland” of Queens.   Dan mentioned a restaurant, Bayview Grille and Marina as an eating house that I would enjoy located at 25 Brunt Road (718-945-2525). 
 
Prior to entering the building I first smelled the aroma of seashells that quickly turned into “grill”.  Everything was royal blue and white.  There was a long bar on the right with high tables and seats around.  Stairs lead up to the loft that has about 10 tables.  The rest of the inside of the restaurant does not have many tables as much of the property centers on the outside deck. 




The weather this evening couldn’t have been more perfect as rain clouds simply dumped the water and moved on.  There was a breeze and the trending heat advisory was gone.  I tend to like air conditioning, thus seated inside.


Allison Zeller, a waitress, has a Broad Channel ancestry that goes back to several generations when the town was composed of summer bungalows.   She has been working at Bayview for 6 years.   “When Sandy hit the deck fell off, we lost the atrium and the wooden floors buckled”.   One of the partners owned a few other establishments and they vowed to rebuild or renovate all of them.  Properties  included a deli and supermarket owned by Alex and Rob Pisani, where Allison worked during the Bayview rebuilt, which had its reopening in April of this year.  Allison also told me that preparations were under way for the deck in regards to the fall and winter season. 


“I’ll have a Blue Moon beer and a half dozen raw Blue Point Oysters”, said I.  Always a great choose from an established restaurant. 





Of the few restaurants in Broad Channel, Bayview Grill and Marina is the only eatery with waterfront dining.  Eight slips are available to those who want to moor their boats. 


“Are there any signature dishes from the Executive Chef?”  There is no Executive Chef.  It’s not fine dining.  Menu is “Americana” and the owners are the E.C.  Hmm…this looks interesting…Food Loaded Fries. These “side winder” thick fries are first beer battered.  Topped with bacon and cheddar cheese with a side of gravy.  This is Broad Channels answer to French Canadian Poutine.  I highly suggest this as a shared appetizer or a full lunch…breakfast idea…think of it as bacon, cheese and home fries.  




Needless to say, the outside deck is the biggest draw when it comes to atmosphere.  In fact, Dominick Delio and his wife Ann arranged to have a 30th surprise birthday party for their daughter Maria Murphy.  They live in Howard Beach.  She and her husband Michael danced as the first round of local  entertainment had “George” singing and playing guitar. 



Since I expect to be here for quite a while, I’ll nurse some other items and can always take home a “person bag”.   “How about the Bayview salad of house greens, fresh mozzarella , and roasted peppers.” Looking out the large windows I could see diners coming up from their boats.  There was a couple each taking photos.  You can view the trains going into the Rockaways, as well as the buildings. On the right is the toll bridge.  








If it weren’t for some lingering clouds the sunset would have been more than picturesque.  Instead, Jonathon Seagull invited his friends for several photo opps. 


“The chicken wings read well.  How about some with the Honey BBQ sauce”.  One thing that I found to be on the plus side is that the staff is familiar with not just the menu but the preparation.  As for the wings, they couldn’t have been more perfectly cooked.  Easy to eat, juicy and just enough crunch.  Again, not fine dining so don’t expect homemade sauces.  Choices are: BBQ; Buffalo; General Tso; Teriyaki; Bourbon; Carolina Tangy, Honey BBQ; and Garlic Stinger. 

“In case I decide on a burger or steak, are they frozen or fresh?” (I ask).  “Totally”, I’m told.  




It appeared that the earlier entertainment is geared to a more subtle sound.  It was followed by a rock band.  Need I say more.  Hey, it’s a Saturday night!  I was able to hear both seated inside and away from the door that opens onto the deck.  Live entertainment (vs corpses) on Thursday through Sunday. 


The menu does not feature a whole lobster.  They are delivered fresh and prepped for the lobster Mac and Cheese, Lobster Grilled Cheese sandwich and Lobster Roll.  “What the heck…I’ll have a lobster roll”.  It bills itself as being lobster salad.  To me it looks and tasted like a simple mayo was added.  Plate came with a slice of tomato and house made chips.  




I took it for granted that the customers were all Broad Channel locals.  Wrong.  Some paid the toll and were there not just for the food but to watch “The Fights”.  It’s a draw for those who want to enjoy the sports and not have to pay the extra price for ordering it on their tv.   There are enough televisions placed all over the indoors for everyone to see regardless of where they are sitting.  If you really want to view it from the deck, you can simply look through the windows.  It didn’t look like anyone outside was interested.  In fact, I saw a group have their meal indoors and then take a table at the deck.  Did I tell you that there is another bar located on the deck?


I bit of history before dessert.  The property is owned by Anthony Martelli and was a mere fish store called The Boat House.  His nephew, Nicky is now one of the owners of Seaview.  Nicky told me that the aim is to create a place of relaxation, casual dining and great service.   Unless you have a large guest party, there are no reservations.  Hint….this place is very popular and the wait time is worth it. 


As for Anthony, you will see him walking about from table to table conversing with the customers in order to see that their dining experience is a positive one.  When not doing that he might either be busing a table or down at the docks helping to moor a boat.  He, however, is not the General Manager.  David Ramos has that position and what appeared to be a very busy one at that.  You could tell that he loves his job.


At present, none of the desserts are made on the premises.  A frozen dessert menu rests on the table with photos of items such as lemon ices served in a lemon.  I chose a Tartufo.  I love the dark chocolate shell, let alone the combination of vanilla and chocolate ice cream, preserves and almonds.  Now ready to depart. 


While waiting outside for a car service to take me home, there were some patrons preparing to leave.  I heard one of the women say to me, “Wait on the curb.  The tide is coming in and there is a full moon”.  She must have been a “local”. 






Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Kennedy’s Restaurant Makes a Breezy Point



Picture it.  You are seated at a large window looking out on Jamaica Bay.  Just outside people are dining at tables with umbrellas.  The sand is a few feet away, but nobody is walking on it.  There is one path that crosses in front of the tables.  Mothers with strollers, walkers of all ages.  The evening is warm with a breeze.  Another path goes down to the water.  One man comes walking up with his kayak.  Families are arriving and leaving as the sunset waits its approach.  Out in the near distance you can see the green of an area known as Jamaica Wildlife.  Further out in the distance are some of the Manhattan buildings as the blue sky shows its clarity.  





 

You have already been aware that you are in a private community in the Rockaways known as Breezy Point, prior to entering the parking lot of Kennedy’s Restaurant.  It is one of few historic places that have survived the hurricane and rebuilt by owners Christine Strehle and Gerard Casey.   
Calming hues of royal blue and white line the inside of the restaurant.   It is a busy Friday evening with local residents meeting up at the bar.  A small band plays mood music, soft in sound so not to interfere with the customers’ conversations.  Tables are placed in a way that gives you some amount of privacy. 

As one would expect, the bill of fare features much seafood.  I am dining with a friend prior to attending a show at Rockaway Theatre Company just minutes away.   There is plenty of time to relax and enjoy our meals.

We each order a glass of pinot grigio.  Maggie, our waitperson, recites the specials of the day with complete descriptions and price, not even having to look at her “cheat sheet”.  That is already a bit unusual as most places don’t reveal the price unless you actually ask.

I have my favorites when it comes to oysters.  However, one is located at an oyster farm on Cape Cod and the other in Apalachicola in Florida.  Blue Point is my choice and probably the best in the area due to its size and brininess.  I settle for 6. 



We choose two appetizers to share.  One is a tuna tartare over Hass avocado with ginger-lime-soy wasabi and homemade crisps (potato chips).  It is the next best thing to sushi.  I could not resist the second one, “Sea Scallops in Chilli-Accented Sriracha Beurre Blanc, accompanied by a Chorizo and Shrimp Risotto”.   Every time I watch Hell’s Kitchen a meal always seems to call for Sea Scallops with risotto and hearing Gorden Ramsay cursing out the chefs for it not being perfect.  Ramsay would have been proud of Kennedy’s chef.  I certainly loved it!




Having our taste buds dancing with the seafood, we switched to landlubbing.  A New York strip steak was cooked exactly as ordered.  I would have called it a bit “chewy” if it weren’t my own fault of having older teeth, if you get my drift.  It came with fresh string beans.  I requested risotto vs having potatoes.  This one seemed to be a wild mushroom with a bit of truffle oil.  Executive Chef Orville Campbelle adds aged parmesan cheese for an extra creaminess into the risotto.




One popular entrée is Chicken Puffed Pastry made with chicken breast and a slice of tomato.  Mushroom gravy surrounds it so not to lose the crispiness of the pastry.  Although I did enjoy it, it would not be a first choice, considering all of the specials.  


Unfortunately our tummies were getting full and I didn’t think it would be a great idea to doggy bag it to the theatre.  Oh well.  There is still a little spot in the belly that saves room for dessert.   With Crème Brulee being a running joke in my life (an anecdote that sounds as if Saturday Night Live scripted it), I ordered it.  I personally did not find it to be one of the best.  It wasn’t as smooth as I would have liked it to be and the top was burnt a bit more than enough to taste the flamed char.  


Bottom line. The food did not appear pretentious nor highly eye appealing, although the quality and flavor was certainly up there with my taste buds.  The location is: 406 Bayside (718) 945-0202.  www.kennedysbreezypoint.com 

On a negative note:  This is not the fault of Kennedy’s.  I needed a taxi to Fort Tilden.  They called for me with Belle Rock.  I asked for a receipt and the driver did not have one other than Broker Service vouchers, nor even a business card.  I called a few days later to speak with a dispatcher named Ilya.  He said that I should have requested a receipt when I called and felt that the AAR broker service vouchers would have sufficed. Sure, let’s place the blame on the customer rather than the person who should be doing his job correctly.  I requested to have the dispatcher send a receipt in the mail rather than drop it off in my mail box.  He refused (“I don’t have time for this”) and told me to call back on Monday to speak with either Willy or Yakov.  I will do this as well as filing a complaint with the Better Business Bureau.  Perhaps I should tell AAR that this company is giving out vouchers. 

I did speak with someone from Kennedy’s who said that they are considering my experience when someone requests a taxi service. 

A METAL MURALIST IS SALUTED AT MAPLE GROVE by Merle Exit

At Maple Grove Cemetery in Kew Gardens, honoring those who have been laid to rest there is an multi-faceted, ever changing task. “We are constantly looking for something that will lead to a great discovery,” said Carl Ballenas, president of Friends of Maple Grove Cemetery. “When we walk through the grounds we are always looking at the markers and tombstones for something that we should take notice of.”
While Helen Day, one of the cemetery’s board members, was taking just such a walk, she noticed the name Nikos Bel-Jon and was especially intrigued by the description below the name on his headstone—“Metal Muralist.” According to Ballenas, “that was all it took to get the wheels in motion.” Thanks to Day’s sharp eye, and the hard work of those at Maple Grove, an event dedicated to Bel-Jon and his work is planned for next weekend.
Not only was Nikos Bel-Jon a metal muralist, he was one of the most important artists working in that medium. His work was commissioned by everyone from companies such as Pfizer to the Greek Consulate and Lincoln Center. Known for murals that would take on a three-dimensional appearance when lit from certain angles, Bel-Jon created such well-known pieces as “The Ellington Pieta,” an intricate metal mosaic that was displayed in Rockefeller Center.
Major installations of his work in New York also include one in the lobby of the Pfizer Building located on East 42nd Street. The Greek Consulate as well as Air India displays his artwork. During the 1964-65 World’s Fair, one could view the pieces on Air India along with his special “Tower of Light.”
This year, marking the 50th anniversary of his death (Aug. 11, 1966), Friends of Maple Grove Cemetery is honoring him with a celebration of his life and art Saturday, Aug. 13 at 2 pm.
The event will feature a talk from preservationist Brittany Reilly of Design Nation, and will be attended by members of Bel-Jon’s family, including his daughter, Rhea Bel-Jon Calkin. “He developed a technique that others have tried but no one else has been able to accomplish with the same results,” Rhea said of her father’s work. “He started as a painter from Greece who fell in love with painting on metals in such as way by embracing arcs, angles and illusions. When colored lights would hit it, they would become like three dimensional paintings.”
Born in Greece in 1911, Bel-Jon studied in both Athens and Paris before coming to this country after World War II. “Coming to the United States he was looking for a different avenue of painting, already having studied in Paris about all mediums of art,” his daughter said. His work was done with sheet metal, but rather than just using scrap metal he developed a relationship with Kaiser Aluminum and Kaiser Steel until the 1950s, when metal became more available.
With his connections to the Greek government, he was able to explore in the United States, spending much of his time in Astoria with family and friends. Rhea said that although they lived in Manhattan, when her father thought of a final resting place, his thoughts turned to Queens.
“As for why Maple Grove was chosen,” she said, “he wanted to be buried by a tree.”
The talk and a reception will be held in The Center, a building located at the cemetery’s entrance. Reservations are required, and can be made by calling (347) 878-6614 by Aug. 10.

Posted 6:27 pm, August 4, 2016

Sunday, August 7, 2016

ROCKAWAY THEATRE COMPANY IS A DRAG

La Cage aux Folles at Rockaway Theatre Company