When You Can’t Travel – Dine Instead!

For those of us who are not able to afford a trip to Greece, luckily we can try to experience the next best thing. Philoxenia, embodies what you would expect from a restaurant of its kind in Astoria, Queens – an authentic Greek dining experience. At its new location, 32-07 34th Ave, you walk in to a very cozy and welcoming environment. Even though it was freezing outside the night I went for dinner, I immediately felt warm and comfortable once I was seated.

Sometimes, it is intimidating to try something you are unsure of, but the wait staff at Philoxenia was eager to assist my group in finding the perfect items to order for our meal. Upon their suggestion, I tried the house red wine which our waitress described as being close to a Cabernet Sauvignon. It was just what I was in the mood for.

I already knew I loved the Greek appetizer, Tatziki, so I was excited to see that they had an item on their menu called Pikilia which was a sampling of four of their homemade traditional spreads. Tatziki is a yogurt, cucumber and garlic spread and was included in this sampling. The other three spreads included in the Pikilia were a spicy cheese spread, a carp roe caviar spread and finally a roasted eggplant spread. Served with hot, toasted pita, I was in heaven sampling all four of these! Each had a very distinct flavor and each was delicious. I enjoyed rotating a different spread for each bite. I highly recommend trying this item if you want to see what you like best. I liked each spread enough to order this appetizer every time I return because I am definitely not going to be able to pick just one or two.

For my entree, I ordered Bakaliarakia or in other words – the fried whiting with skordalia (a potato and garlic dip). I have had fried whiting before at other Greek restaurants so I was already sure I would enjoy my choice. This was the first time it was served with a potato garlic dip to accompany it though and that was definitely a highlight for me. It was fantastic!

Although I did not have any room to try anything else myself, I have heard great things about the desserts served at Philoxenia. This restaurant is also known for its fresh seafood and when they announced their specials we also found out that they make their own phyllo dough! I can say with certainty that everyone in my group really enjoyed their entrees and the friendly service we received.

Philoxenia is just a quick subway ride from Manhattan on the N Train which is much faster and more affordable than a trip to Greece! It is an excellent spot to experience Greek Cuisine at its finest. You can view their menu and other details at www.philoxeniarestaurant.com.

Snow Tubing at Mountain Creek!

Since I already know I love skiing and being out in the snow, I signed up for an evening snow tubing trip this past Saturday through MMA. This would be something new and different for me and it also sounded like a lot of fun!

This was an evening trip, so our bus left the city at 4:30pm. Our group of 30 people arrived at the snow tubing site approximately 2 hours later. Our destination was Mountain Creek Resort in NJ. It was exciting to see the ski slopes lit up all over the mountain, but I had to remind myself that we were there for snow tubing not skiing.

Snow tubing a great way to remember the joy of being a kid and sledding down a hill – only it has a little more intensity. The snow tubing area consisted of three straight downhill tracks. You grab a tube, walk over to your track of choice, and then there is a person at the top who uses the rope attached to your tube to help launch you down the hill. After you make it down to the bottom of the hill, you drag your tube with you to the standing lift that takes you back to the top. I tried walking up the hill once instead of waiting for the lift and that proved to be more difficult than I thought. It was quite slippery and since it was so steep I found it to be too frustrating to keep doing during our scheduled tubing time.

I didn’t sit as aerodynamically as I could have on my first try so I didn’t get as far down the track as I would have liked. It was on my way back up that I saw that some people were spinning on their way down the hill. So the next time down I asked to try that. And it was then that I found my favorite way to snow tube! The thrill of spinning so fast on the way downhill was perfect for me. I continued to go spinning down the tracks for the rest of the evening. It was so much fun!

Our group was scheduled for only an hour of tubing. With the super cold weather and the energy involved, that ended up being the perfect amount of time. My only frustration was that I couldn’t get out there and ski too! But that will have to be for another day and time. The ski resort looked nice though so I might return to try skiing down their slopes sometime in the future. All the details on Mountain Creek can be found at their website: http://www.mountaincreek.com/.

Snow tubing is a great way to let out your inner child. Definitely give it a try if you want to have some fun in the snow but seek a little more of an adrenaline rush than the average hill can provide. MMA has some future outings for snow tubing so you can sign up for those at http://www.meetmarketadventures.com/.

Just because it is cold out doesn’t mean you can’t get out there and have lots of fun!

A Ski Day at Belleayre Mountain

This past Saturday I went on my first visit to Belleayre Mountain for a day of skiing. I had signed up through Zogsports and this was listed as a beginner friendly trip. Since I have not gone skiing for many years, I thought it was the perfect way to get back onto the slopes!
The day started off quite early. The bus left the city at 6:30am (!) and I had to wake up super early in order to take the subway from Astoria to get myself there on time. The good news is that we had a drive of approximately 3 hours to rest up before we got to our ski destination.
Once at the mountain, it was time for everyone to go their separate ways depending on their skiing expertise. Many had brought their own equipment and went straight from the bus to the slopes. Then there were those who needed to rent equipment. I was in that category. I was so excited to get on the slopes that I could barely wait to get my ski equipment on!! The benefit of signing up for this trip was that lessons were offered for whatever ski level you were. The beginners and first time snow boarders had a place to go on the lower part of the mountain for their lesson. And for those of us who were intermediate or advanced, the place to find instructors was higher up on the mountain.
Once I got on the slopes, I started out cautiously to see if I could remember what I was doing. Luckily, I was still able to go down the intermediate level slopes to get reacquainted with the sport again. I loved it! Having only been to ski slopes in either MD or Pennsylvania before, it was refreshing to be in NY where there was more snow and less ice. This particular mountain was really nice since it was less crowded than the other places I had been to. I loved that I had the chance to move more freely without so many people speeding past and of course less crowds meant less lines at the lifts! There was a beautiful trail for intermediate skiers that started at the top of the mountain and the view from this slope was incredible the entire way down. It was definitely my favorite trail and I kept going back to it.
Even though our group had gone in many different directions, the day was organized so that we could still meet up during the day if we chose to. Members of the group had the option to meet for lunch at the Overlook Lounge and then after the lifts stopped at 4pm we also had time for happy hour and a bit of relaxing. Then at 5pm it was time to return our equipment and head for the bus.
Now, this particular Saturday had snow in the forecast. And snow it did. It began coming down at around 12:30pm and didn’t slow down before it was time for us to go. We had about 3-4 inches of snow on the ground when our bus started the trip back to NYC. I was nervous but luckily our group leader had a movie for us to watch during the drive back which helped to distract me. Due to the road conditions, we had a much longer trip home but we got back safely which is all that mattered to me. I made sure to tell the bus driver a very appreciative thank you for driving so well in such crazy weather – some of the roads on the mountain didn’t even have lights and it was snowing hard up there! Of course, when we got to the city there was barely any snow on the ground so it was a very different scene than where we had just been.
To summarize, Belleayre is a great day trip since it is a short drive from the city. It has a variety of beginner and intermediate slopes so if you are wanting to learn how to ski, it is a great spot to try. There are plenty of difficult slopes for those advanced skiers too! For all the info on Belleayre, you can go to their website at http://www.belleayre.com/.
Zogsports did a great job of organizing this day trip. I had so much fun that I signed up for another day trip to a different mountain in March with them. In addition to day trips, Zogsports also offers some weekend ski trips and a week long ski trip this season too. Spots fill up fast so if you are interested definitely head to http://www.zogsports.com/ and sign up sooner rather than later.