On a delightful Sunday morning in mid-November, Jonah and I went to have brunch at Rivercrest, the new craft beer and cocktail bar at 33-15 Ditmars Blvd in Astoria. The bar had its soft opening on October 3rd, and grand opening on November 14th, after four years of planning and renovating by a pair of Lower East Side bar owners.
Upon our arrival, we were warmly greeted by the manager and co-owner, Ciara. The name Rivercrest comes from a local former sanitarium (that opened in 1896), and the venue pays tribute to it with framed photos of people who were patients there (including actress Drew Barrymore’s great-grandfather).
The space takes over the entire bottom floor of the Acropolis apartment complex. We sat in the dining area, which has a number of TVs and very attentive waiter service. There is a bar in the middle area with seating on all four sides, and next to that is another more intimate, vintage inspired bar. A baby shower had been booked for later that day, so we dined with the morning crowd beforehand.
We perused the brunch menu, which is served from 10am–4pm on weekends. It includes delicacies such as Crème Brulee French Toast and Banana Pancakes with vegan chocolate chips. We settled on Eggs Benedict and the Farmer’s Wife French Omelette, which has goat cheese, sautéed spinach and wild mushrooms. Instead of an English Muffin, the Eggs Benedict is served on a crispy latke, or potato pancake, giving it a nice crunch. We added a side of toast and crispy potatoes.
The team has come up with cheeky names for dishes, such as “Morning Wood,” which is eggs with Applewood smoked bacon and salsa verde on a brioche bun. Prices are reasonable, with most dishes costing between $10 and $12. There is an extensive drink menu and we sampled the mimosa flight—Lavender Berry, Spiced Fig, Jalapeño Pineapple, and Rosemary Lemon. The Jalapeño was a bit spicy, but it was nice to get to try the different varieties, and the other three were excellent. We also had the local cider Ninepin’s Hunny Pear, which was crisp and delicious.
Our food was tasty and filling and we couldn’t help but wonder how the dinner menu compares. We’ll have to return for hand-rolled Flatbreads, Wings, Buffalo Falafel Street Tacos, and an extensive Tater Tot selection (beef bulgogi, anyone?).
The journey to open this bar was a long one. The storefront sat empty for six years, drawing much neighborhood interest. We’re happy to welcome them to Astoria!
The musical traces the life of Marguerite Bourgeoys, the first female saint of Canada, from her immigration to New France in the seventeenth century. A fearless pioneer, her ever-present faith combined with solid determination helped her bring liberated women to the New World and to build the city of Montreal. An inspiring tale of love, inclusion, and living life without walls. Canada will mark the 400th anniversary of her birth with a multi-event celebration in 2020. For more details see https://margueritebourgeoys400.org.
Marguerite was initially developed under the title, Second To Nun, and received a reading as part of Playwrights Realm Next Edition Series, starring Tony-winner Cady Huffman. It was next featured at Phoenix Theatre’s Caleb Reese Festival of New Works and Zeiders American Dream Theatre in Virginia Beach then produced the regional premiere starring Molly Pope. APAC’s production will mark New York premiere of the work.
Cast & Crew:
Cady Huffman’s credits include: Broadway: CHICAGO, THE NANCE (Outer Critics’ Circle nom.), THE PRODUCERS (Tony, Drama Desk & Outer Critics’ Circle awards), THE WILL ROGERS FOLLIES (Tony nom.), DAME EDNA: THE ROYAL TOUR, STEEL PIER, Bob Fosse’s BIG DEAL, LA CAGE AUX FOLLES. TV includes: 10 seasons as a judge on Iron Chef America, Younger, Difficult People, Master of None, The Good Wife, Curb Your Enthusiasm, Law & Order: CI, Law & Order: SVU. Law & Order: TBJ, Frasier, Mad About You, One Life to Live. Film includes: “The Company Men”, “Romance & Cigarettes”, “The Nanny Diaries”, “Dare”, “Hero”, “Billy’s Dad is a Fudgepacker”. Web series’ include, HE’S WITH ME (2016 Indie Series Award), AFTER FOREVER (Emmy nom), and self-created and produced CADY DID (due out Winter 2019). Cady is a busy director around New York City and recently directed THE CURIOUS INCIDENT OF THE DOG IN THE NIGHTTIME at Weathervane Theater. Proud union member. @cadyhuffman cadydid.tv
Anton Dudley (Book & Lyrics) Off-Broadway credits: City Of (Playwrights Realm, directed by Stephen Brackett), Substitution (Playwrights Realm, featuring Jan Maxwell), Getting Home (Second Stage Theater), Slag Heap (Cherry Lane Theater), 17 Orchard Point, co-written with Stephanie DiMaggio (Theater Row), and Honor and the River (Theater Row). Other productions include A Dram of Drummhicit co-written with Arthur Kopit (LaJolla Playhouse, directed by Christopher Ashley), Girlstar (Signature Theater, directed by Eric Shaeffer), Cold Hard Cash (Williamstown Theater Festival), Honor and the River (Walnut Street Theater), Davy & Stu (Ensemble Studio Theater), Letters to the End of the World (Theater Row, Finalist for the 2012 Lambda Literary Award in LGBT Drama), and The Lake’s End (Adirondack Theater Festival). His work has been commissioned by Manhattan Theatre Club, New Victory Theater, Cherry Lane Theater, Houston Grand Opera, Baryshnikov Arts Center, and Williamstown Theater Festival, and is published by Samuel French, Playscripts, Backstage Books, Heuer, and Vintage.
Michael Cooper (Music) Broadway: It Shoulda Been You (Outer Critics Circle Nomination, Additional Lyrics). Off-Broadway: City Of (Music). Regional: Love, Always (Music & Lyrics), Marguerite (Second To Nun) (Music), ZADT, Virginia Beach. London: Luna Park (Lyrics), From Page To Stage. Paris: Love, Always. 2005 Jonathan Larson Award Winner. Williams College; NYU Graduate Musical Theater Writing. Sunfish (Co-Book/Lyrics) Top Jury Honor DIMF Korea; Second To Nun (Music), Playwrights Realm, Phoenix Theater. Selected for NAMT, ASCAP/Disney Workshop, and Johnny Mercer Writers Colony at Goodspeed Musicals. michaelcoopermusicandlyrics.com
Dev Bondarin (Director) is the Artistic Director of Astoria Performing Arts Center where she has directed Caroline, or Change (AUDELO Viv Award nomination – Best Director of a Musical), Follies, Raisin, (New York Innovative Theater Award – Outstanding Musical, NYIT Award nomination – Outstanding Director & AUDELCO Viv Award nomination – Best Director of a Musical), …Spelling Bee, Merrily We Roll Along (NYIT Award – Outstanding Musical), and In The Bones. As Associate Artistic Director of Prospect Theater Company, Dev directs a musical theater lab which has premiered over 85 short musicals. Other: Little Women (Festival 56), Elevator Heart (THML Theater, The Tank, NYU), national tours of Rosie Revere Engineer & Friends, Junie B. Jones, and Junie B.’s Essential Survival Guide to School (Theaterworks USA), King Lear (American Bard), and Reefer Madness (Gallery Players). Member: LCT Directors Lab. Associate Member: SDC and League of Professional Theatre Women. In 2018, Dev was named “Alumni of the Year” by the Theater Department at Brooklyn College where she earned an MFA in Directing. BA: Brandeis University. devbondarin.com
For more information and for tickets to any of APAC’s 2019-20 productions, visit www.apacny.org
Sizzling King Oyster Mushrooms at Veggie Lin Garden
Vegetarian Asian restaurants have always been magical places to me.
I’ve been on a plant-based diet my whole life, and while normally I am exiled to a tiny box at the back of a menu, it’s liberating when I get to have a whole menu at my disposal. When I get to bask in the fancy-looking, theatrically plated dishes instead of the same old Buddha’s Delight every single time.
Which is why I was so excited walking home a few weeks ago and I saw a sign for Veggie Lin Garden, a new vegan Chinese restaurant just a few steps from my subway stop. While I wouldn’t trade the food scene in Astoria for the world, there aren’t a ton of places around here that have more than one or two decent vegetarian (let alone vegan) entrée options, so I was excited to see a newcomer to the neighborhood and check it out with Jonah.
As we ordered and took in the simple, tasteful décor of teal and artificial plant life, we sipped on hot tea and munched on a tiny tray of pickled veggies.
We started with the barbecue veggie ribs, which weren’t super rib-like visually, but had a nice barbecue flavor full of sweet umami notes. I liked the taste, but the tiny chunks made them a bit challenging to eat.
But the starter that really impressed me was the wonton soup, the sort of thing that I usually never get to enjoy at most Chinese restaurants, as wontons are usually stuffed with pork swimming in a chicken broth. The broth here was extremely flavorful without being overly salty, and the soy protein and veggie-filled dumplings were deliciously delicate. I can definitely see myself returning for this on a rainy day, along with their vast array of other soup offerings, including pumpkin and veggie shark fin.
Remember when I told you I loved being able to order the fancy-looking dishes? I was utterly not prepared for the entrance Mango Madness, which was served with two halves of a hollowed out mango as a garnish that formed a sort of crown around a mixture of soy chicken, peppers, peas, and mango. The Sizzling King Oyster Mushrooms also made a pretty dazzling first impression, with steam wafting up from the hot skillet.
What I appreciated about both entrees was that the sauces were flavorful, but they didn’t overwhelm the delicately cooked veggies. The juicy discs of mango contrasted nicely with the denser, chewy mock chicken pieces. The oyster mushrooms of the other dish were a pleasant surprise. Typically when I eat oyster mushrooms, they are mainly the thin, delicate ones with floppy tops. These on the other hand, were the larger, king trumpet variety, with a large stem that here cut into thick, soft wedges that, when cooked, took on a pleasant, rubbery texture that I understand is close to seafood (I only know this because I once used them to make vegan clam chowder). The other fun textural surprise in the mushroom dish were crunchy little chunks of jicama.
This visit we both got entrees involving mock chicken but I look forward to seeing their take on mock duck, seitan beef and veggie prawns. And honestly, I loved their veggies so much I may just skip the fake meat all together next round. The one frustration I have at a lot of these vegetarian Chinese places like Buddha Bodai and others is that the sweet, oily sauces and the proteins can get a bit overwhelming, and I leave feeling bloated and in a food coma. The dishes here had lighter and fresher, and yet still filling and substantial. As a Midwesterner, I was happy to see hearty portions, more than enough to share or bring to work as leftovers the next day.
Overall, great first impression, and welcome to the neighborhood!
Veggie Lin Garden
Astoria, NY 11103
On Friday, November 1st, Matt Koff will release his debut comedy album, Who’s My Little Guy? Koff will be celebrating at QED in Astoria along with famed comics Jo Firestone (The Tonight Show), Ronny Chieng (The Daily Show, Crazy Rich Asians), Matt Wayne (Comedy Central) and Brendan McLaughlin (Best Week Ever). Fans know Matt from his writing on Comedy Central’s The Daily Show with Trevor Noahand The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, for which he won an Emmy, as well as his stand-up appearances on Adam Devine’s House Party and The History Channel’s I Love the 1880s. After doing comedy for over a decade, Matt decided it was time to fulfill his dream of releasing an album because his therapist told him to shut up and do it already.
As a late-night TV show writer, Matt typically deals with current events, so for Who’s My Little Guy? he wanted to shift gears and delve into more personal experiences, like what it’s like breaking your arms in a bicycle accident in New York City, getting fired from a game show, having a neurotic mother who believes that every day may be your last, and how awkward it can be to celebrate Christmas when you’re a Jew. Recorded at Union Hall in Brooklyn, Who’s My Little Guy? provides an escape from the times we live in by offering a delightfully strange comedy experience.
More about Matt Koff
Matt Koff is an Emmy-winning television writer and stand-up comedian from Westchester, NY. He currently writes for The Daily Show With Trevor Noah. He’s also written for The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. When Matt isn’t writing jokes, he is saying them into microphones at comedy venues throughout New York City. Additionally, Matt has written for IFC’s Onion News Network, Comedy Central’s Onion SportsDome, and the White House Correspondents’ Dinner with Hasan Minhaj. He is also genuinely flattered that you’ve read this far.
As a stand-up, Matt has appeared on Adam Devine’s House Party on Comedy Central and The History Channel series I Love the 1880s. He has toured with John Oliver, Michael Ian Black, and Bo Burnham. When Matt is not doing stand-up, he is usually eating a gyro in the rain.
Astoria comedian Katie Compa, whose debut album Hard Pass presented by Little Lamb Recordings is out on digital platforms today (Friday the 13th of September), is witty, astute, and most importantly, very funny. One of her main topics is men (gay guys, straight guys, her father), but she keeps it light and none of it comes across as offensive or cruel. The 51 minutes of the album goes by quickly, and many parts were laugh out loud funny. We recommend you check it out! You can purchase it digitally here.
[More info] Katie is a woman who knows what she wants, or more importantly, what she doesn’t want, and is more than happy to let us know exactly why. Hard Pass was recorded in front of a live audience at the legendary Duplex in Greenwich Village. Katie is based in New York City and her particularly brilliant brand of deadpan sarcasm has earned her recognition at San Francisco Sketchfest, the Brooklyn Comedy Festival, and stages throughout the country and around the world.
Katie Compa developed a biting sense of humor as a highly effective defense mechanism growing up an ugly duckling outside Washington, DC and now uses it to write and perform comedy. Equal parts sassy, smart, and sarcastic, Katie cracks up audiences worldwide. Katie cut her teeth in the Bay Area comedy scene, and is now based in New York City. She has been featured in the San Francisco SketchFest and (don’t tell her mom) on HighTimes.com.
Written and performed by Katie Compa at the Duplex Cabaret Theater in New York City
Recorded by Ezana Million for Little Lamb Recordings
Photo by Mindy Tucker
Album artwork and design by Catherine Isaacs
Michelle Drozdick in “Message in a Bottle.” Photo by Melissa Parker Caron
It’s not easy breaking free of a toxic relationship—whether it’s a bad boyfriend or a googly-eyed bottle of vodka named Tito.
Comedian Michelle Drozdick confronts this challenge in her solo show, “Message in a Bottle.” Coming off well-received appearances at SOLOCOM 2018, The Pit, HACPAC and Smush Gallery, Drozdick will present her show at QED August 18-20.
Drozdick describes the show as a “surreal but true love story between a woman and a bottle of vodka, from the early days of awkward first love to the ultimate betrayal, and the realization that life going forward isn’t just doable, it can be beautiful.”
BOAST writer Lisa Huberman sat down with Drozdick to discuss the evolution of the show, and what she is looking forward to about bringing it to QED.
Lisa Huberman: What was the initial inspiration for the show? Did you always conceive of it as a solo piece?
Michelle Drozdick: I wanted to put together a show that was equal parts comedy and drama, without sacrificing one for the other, as well as a way to tell my own story quitting drinking in an engaging, unique way… so I wrote a play about a woman dating a bottle of vodka named Tito. It’s always been a solo piece, yes—I did briefly consider how it would work if other people were added, but at heart it’s a show about that relationship, and I think it works best when it’s just the two of them.
How has the show evolved since you first began performing it in 2018? How have you evolved as a performer?
Every time I do this show, something new happens that I end up incorporating! Often it’s a spur of the moment thing that gets a big reaction, like a throwaway line or facial expression during an otherwise serious moment. I’m definitely more confident than I was since I started doing this show—the first performances were absolutely nerve-wracking, and although I’m still incredibly nervous before hitting the stage each and every time I have much more belief in my abilities than when I started.
You come from an improv background. Is the process of performing your solo show different from improv?
It really is. With improv there’s no pressure—it’s comedy, and you’re making it all up on the spot. With this show, it’s a heavy, dark dramatic comedy based on real life, and it was written and planned well in advance. There’s a lot more preparation that goes into it, but every script revision and time spent agonizing over exactly the right line structure or delivery is so worth it.
There are some similarities to improv, though! Although this show is scripted, I do allow for variations. Each show is different, and a lot of these changes end up making their way into the script. It’s a really unique and fun experience to get to use that improv background in a new, rewarding way.
What is the scariest part about performing a show this personal? What’s the most exhilarating part?
It’s absolutely terrifying to go over some of the darker moments of my life, especially when people I know are watching! The concept of the show is surreal, but the events that unfold are very true to life. Doing this show with my mother and stepfather in the audience was probably the scariest thing I’ve ever done—and I’m so glad I did it.
So many things about it are exhilarating. Getting to take something incredibly painful and slap googly eyes, plastic forks for arms, and a necktie on it then laugh at it has been so amazingly empowering. Getting to talk to audience members afterwards and have so many people confide in me their own stories, past and present, is something I never imagined would happen, and I’m so grateful to be trusted in that way. Although it’s a personal show, I’ve found that more than anything it’s reminded me (and hopefully others!) that no one is truly alone, and more people may understand what you’re going through than you’d realize. (more…)
Message in a Bottle, written and performed by Michelle Drozdick, will be showing at QED on Sunday Aug. 18, Monday Aug. 19, and Tuesday Aug. 20, 7–8:30pm.
From the artist: “It’s a surreal but true-to-life love story between a woman and a bottle of vodka, from the early days of awkward first love to the ultimate betrayal, and the realization that life going forward isn’t just doable, it can be beautiful.”
You can get tickets at this link, and you can find out more information on the Happening page.
[This review is based on the writer’s experience at a Yelp elite event. She also keeps a gluten-free diet, so this is not reflective of the average experience. That said, her expectations were high being that the restaurant opened its doors to a group of hungry, avid Yelp reviewers.]
I sampled several freshly-made iced Lassi type drinks (Vanilla, Piña Colada, and Strawberry) that were light and refreshing.
It appears that the staff is not familiar with food allergies, but will gladly ask the chef what is safe for your dietary needs. They appear eager to please and modify dishes where they can. The chef came out to find me when he heard I was not able to eat any of the many mouth watering looking dishes. He went out if his way to make me a custom dish (ribeye, mashed potatoes, mushrooms & onions with a tall mug of Mango Lassi) so that I would not leave hungry.
He said that if you contact the restaurant in advance he would purchase gluten-free flour and pasta and could easily modify the chicken wings. Be aware that they obviously do not have a dedicated gf fryer.
He truly puts his heart and soul into his business. I would like to see this business succeed, though I would advise to fix the sign on the front door with the posted hours since a few of the letters/numbers were missing. I will be back for sure!