All Points West Festival – This Weekend!

 

apw_poster

 

This weekend, head to Liberty State Park for the All Points West Festival.  This year there is a wide variety of performers during this local three day music event.  If you are coming from Manhattan, I recommend taking the ferry. That way you can fully take in the beautiful scenery on your way to Liberty State Park.  Once at the festival there will be plenty of music, art and food to enjoy throughout the day.  I had a lot of fun last year and am looking forward to this year’s line-up.  Check out their website for all the details at http://www.apwfestival.com/index.php.

When You Can’t Travel – Dine Instead!

Escargot

Escargot

Salmon Tartare

Salmon Tartare

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Enter the cozy setting at Bistro Les Minots, located at 47-17 30th Avenue in Astoria and it is easy to forget that you are in NY.  The eager to please owners at this French Bistro are very welcoming and work hard to ensure that your dining experience is an enjoyable one.  I went with a larger group so we were in the back area of the restaurant.  Even, with a large group, our waiter was very accommodating with any questions we had and offered helpful suggestions for our orders. 

Eager to try French cuisine for the first time, I sampled three dishes during this meal.  My first and most adventurous dish was an appetizer portion of Les Escargots de Bourgogne which is described on the menu as sautéed snails served in a puff pastry with garlic, parsley, shallots and red wine.  Since they were not served in their shells but in a pastry, I thought it would be the best way to try escargot.  Even though I was nervous that these were in fact snails that I was eating, the dish itself was quite delicious and beautifully plated.  I also ordered the appetizer portion of Le Tartare de Saumon.  It was fantastic!  The small cuts of fresh salmon, cucumber and mango covered in a cilantro vinaigrette all blended together perfectly in each bite. 

For my entrée, I had the Les Moules Provençales – steamed mussels with Provencal herbs & spices in a tomato sauce.  It was a plentiful serving of mussels that came with an order of french fries since it was the entrée portion.  At this point I did my best to finish the mussels since I had already sampled two appetizers.  As usual, I was too full to try a dessert, but those around me enjoyed some delicious looking crepes and crème brule.

Bistro Les Minots offers an all you can eat mussels and fries special on Monday evenings and there is a prix fix dinner offered from 5-7pm.  Brunch is also served on weekends.

If you would like to have an authentic French dining experience, I would highly recommend Bistro Les Minots.  I left feeling as relaxed and happy as if I had been on vacation in France, even if it was just a couple of hours spent having dinner.

Music Festival in Astoria this Saturday

Astoria Music Now

Looking for a way to enjoy the outdoors while listening to a variety of local performers this weekend?  The second annual Astoria Music Now Music Festival will be held on Saturday, July 25th in beautiful Astoria Park.  This year they have expanded the performance areas to include not only the main & side stages on the Great Lawn but there will also an additional third stage dedicated to world music, DJ’s, dance & theater arts.  Vendors will be selling crafts, clothing, art & food at this event as well.   Activities are scheduled to begin at 12 noon and last until 9pm.  The weather should be great so get out there and enjoy!!!

Surfing Day Trip with ZogSports

S1052397

After last weekend’s day of surfing at Rockaway Beach which was organized through one of my meetup groups, I was really looking forward to getting an actual surf lesson and seeing if I could improve during my day trip with Zogsports.  For this outing, we met in the city at 7am to begin our bus ride to Long Branch, NJ.  I was surprised at how quick the bus ride was and we arrived before the beach was officially open.  This worked out well because we had our pick of were to set up our blankets on the beach.  The weather was absolutely perfect and our surf instructors said these were great conditions for learning to surf.

The surfing lessons were organized through Billabong Surf Camps.  They had a tent set up on the beach where all the boards, rash guards, and wet suits were kept throughout the day.  They were also kind enough to provide super strength waterproof sunblock (which was greatly appreciated!), as well as some cold water and snacks for our group.

Since we had so many people who had signed up for surfing lessons, the day was divided as follows: there were three different groups of surfing lessons and then after those were over there would be time for people to get back out on the water with the instructors there to assist as needed.  I was disappointed that I would not be able to go out on the water as much as I wanted to during the day, but that was how this trip was organized.  I was in the first surfing lesson group where we had three instructors for each group of six students.  The lesson consisted of half an hour on land and then an hour on the water.  For this official lesson, everyone was instructed to try to stand instead of use some of the less difficult positioning that I had started learning the other day. 

Once on the water with our instructors, we were dependant upon the ocean to provide us with some great waves.  There were some frustrating lulls (since time was so limited) but there were also some nice opportunities to try our hand at standing up on our boards.  I caught some waves and got really close to standing up although I usually wiped out immediately after getting on my feet.  I only wished that I had more time on the water to keep working at it. 

After the lesson was finished, I stayed in the water for a bit before resting and relaxing with my friends on the beach.  Due to the wave conditions and the lesson schedule running over, I never did get back in the water with a board.  Instead, I joined other people from the group for the planned happy hour. We ended up at a place called Tiki Bar which was located nearby. Surrounded by palm trees with a nice view of the ocean, they served some excellent frozen drinks while a band played some reggae tunes.  It was the perfect way to cool off after lying in hot the sun most of the afternoon.  At 6pm it was time to head back to NYC.  This time there was some traffic but that is to be expected on a Sunday evening in the summer.

All in all, I had a great time on this trip.  I loved hanging out on the beach and not having to worry about getting myself there.  I would prefer to have access to a rental board for the entire day in the future, so I am not sure I would sign up for actual surfing lessons again if that is not something that can be arranged.  With Zogsports, there is the option to sign up without the lesson and just pay for transportation and a day at the beach.  This is something I hope they offer again this season as I would definitely sign up.

Long Branch, NJ was quite beautiful and very clean.   There were some amazing houses that we passed by on the drive in.  The main area where we spent most of the day had a variety of nice shops and places to eat, although some leaned towards a higher price range.  If you are looking for a beautiful, well-kept beach that is not too far from the city, this is a fantastic place to go.

Surfing at Rockaway Beach

surfgenblog

I had never been surfing before, but I am a member of a meetup group that has scheduled outings during the summer for people of all skill levels to hang out and work on their surfing skills.  In this particular group, those who have been surfing awhile generously offer to help the beginners get started with some basic instructions.  As you can guess, it is extremely difficult to surf so just getting the basics down is a challenge.  But I must admit it is a fun challenge, as I discovered this past Saturday! 

Depending on where you live, it is only takes a short drive or a subway ride on the A train to get to the Rockaways where there are at least 2 designated surfing beaches (between 67-69 Streets and between 87-92 Streets).  This past weekend, my group went to the less populated 67th Street area.  When we arrived it felt like it was our own private beach!  There was plenty of space to lie out on the sand and no real crowding when in the water.  The waves were pretty great this particular day too so we were very lucky!  I have not yet been to the 92nd street surfing area other than to rent a board at Boarders Surf Shop, but I would guess it is very similar.  You can check out the surfing conditions before you go at: http://www.surfline.com/surf-report/rockaway-beach-90th-northeast_4270/

As a kid, I would spend most of my beach time in the water and I used to love boogie boarding.  In the more recent years though, I have usually just waded near the shore and tried not to get too covered in salt water.  For this visit to the beach, I had signed up to try surfing so avoiding the water was not an option.  As I was led into the water lugging my rental surf board, it was an abrupt reminder of how powerful the ocean is as the waves crashed against me.  There is nothing more humbling then getting knocked over and tossed about by a strong wave.  After listening to some basic pointers, it was then time to see what I could do on my own.  As the day went on, I kept trying to catch waves and work on developing my surfing skills.  It was the most invigorating feeling when I was able to stay on the board during those times when I didn’t wipe out.    I wasn’t able to officially stand up on the board this time but I did have some successful attempts at the more beginner level surfing positions.  Later in the afternoon, the waves got a little too rough for me so I finally ended my surfing efforts.

As this was my first time to try surfing, I was not sure how it would go.  Now I can say that I am a definite surfing fan and eager to go again.  Luckily, I am already signed up for an official lesson next weekend during a day trip to the Jersey Shore.  This weekend’s informal meetup was an amazing time with a fun group of people.  I look forward to seeing how it goes with ZogSports on their surfing day trip next Sunday.