Dinner at Vesta, Astoria

Vesta beet appetizer

I’d heard from various friends, colleagues, books and blogs that Vesta is arguably THE best restaurant in Astoria. It’s a bit out-of-the-way, and there are so many great places to eat in Astoria, so after living here for almost two years, Kiyo and I had still never gotten to it.

When we left St. Thomas, on a Tuesday a few weeks ago, we skipped lunch and figured we could each just eat a Johnny cake (similar to fry bread) at the airport before our 3-hour flight (my personal tradition). However, our hearts sank and our stomachs growled when the only restaurant in the airport served the very last Johnny cake to the woman RIGHT IN FRONT OF ME IN LINE, and then informed the rest of us that they had no intention of making more. So, Kiyo and I split an unsatisfying hot dog and fries, and later my last Quest bar. By the time we arrived back in New York and drove out of JFK, we were both famished and craving something real, something good. Since we’d left almost no food in our apartment before the trip, we knew we’d have to pick something up or go sit down. And since we were already in the car, and we take all meals very seriously, I figured it was the perfect time to try Vesta.

Vesta pasta special

The first picture is the appetizer that we split (and devoured in five seconds): baby beets, beet green pesto, pickled stems, roasted garlic yogurt, and candied pistachio crumbs. This dish made me realize that I’ve thought way inside the box when it comes to beets. The pickled stems were perfect, the tangy, thick yogurt with the sweetness of the beets was amazing and the pistachios gave it just a bit of crunch and added another flavor component. I absolutely loved this dish.

We decided to order a pizza and an entrée to split as well; we knew we would want leftovers to take to work the next day, so that we wouldn’t have to worry about shopping or cooking once we finally got home. For our entrée, we chose a pasta special: orrachetti with sausage, cheese and greens (I believe it was chard or kale but I forget). Kiyo ate his half right away, and admitted that he was reluctant to hand it over to me. It was so good he just didn’t want to have to share! I agreed, this was an amazing pasta dish.

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Bacon Brunch, Long Island City

bacon brunch sage general store

Take a look at the menu above and then stop reading this post if you’re averse to bacon.

Kiyo and I are both “true bacon lovers,” so when I heard of this special pre-fixe brunch, I just knew we had to try it. It’s also BYOB, which is a huge plus, but we knew we’d be bacon-drunk so alcohol was unnecessary.

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Sage General Store, is located in Long Island City, an industrial area of Queens that is gaining momentum and popularity faster than arguably any other area of New York. There are so many great restaurants, bars, parks and even museums to visit in LIC, but it’s not yet overrun (although I think it will be soon, so hurry up and visit now!).

The restaurant is tiny yet seems bright and open (especially since we were seated at one of the few tables right up next to the front window). The bright walls, vintage decorations, fresh flowers and no-nonsense napkins and crockery all made it feel very cheerful and almost farm-like. They strive to create an ambiance that is “warm and friendly,” like an “old-fashioned country store,” and they truly succeed.

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The brunch begins with a biscuit, three different slices of bacon, and a bacon marmalade made in Brooklyn (be sure to eat the fruit garnishes on each dish; the acidity helps cut through all the fat from the bacon). All three slices of bacon were amazing, but the marmalade didn’t taste much like bacon (considering how much bacon was still in our future, I was A-OK with that). The biscuit mediocre, definitely not the star of the show, but then again, it wasn’t meant to be.

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Yoga Clothes Roundup

patagonia braKiyo often needs to remind me that money can be used for things other than food and plane tickets. One such time was a few weeks ago, when he stopped me on my way to the gym and informed me that it’s not normal to go out wearing leggings with holes in them. I believe his exact words were, “Val, it’s OK to spend money on clothes!”

So, as much as I love spending only $10-20 on a pair of yoga leggings from Forever21 once a year, I finally decided to shell out some of my hard-earned money for workout clothes that will last (and look cute!). Once I got started, it was a bit hard to stop, since there are more good options available than ever before. However, almost every single item here I got on sale. I also stocked up on new running gear, since my half-marathon is coming up soon, but I’ll save that for another post.

1. Patagonia Women’s Active Mesh Bra - $35

This bra is so cute it can definitely be worn as a crop top for yoga. It’s also so smooth and because it’s mesh, it really conforms to your body. It doesn’t feel restrictive like sports bras often can, but it still provides support.

lululemon running leggings

2.  Lululemon Pants - $82

These are hands down my favorite pants; for running, yoga, or even under a skirt or dress for work on a chilly day. They are tight but incredibly comfortable, strong, soft and stretchy. They weren’t on sale but they were worth every penny. Unfortunately, I can’t remember exactly what they’re called but I just walked into their store and asked which pants were best for running, so you can try that if you’re interested.

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3. Public Myth Hypernova Leggings - $77

I actually bought the cropped version of these  (which by the way, I also included in my 2013 Holiday Gift Guide). They’re really smooth, a bit slippery, and very low-rise, which can be annoying because I have to keep pulling them up. But they glowed like crazy in CYC under the black-lights, which was awesome!

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4. Glyder Paradise Sports Bra – $44

Again, this is a bra you can wear as a shirt for yoga. It would also look cute under a tank top on a regular day (not just for workouts).

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Chilmark Chocolates, Chilmark

Chilmark Chocolates

With Easter around the corner and Memorial Day not much further ahead, it seems like a good time to talk about chocolate and Martha’s Vineyard.

Zan first introduced me, probably over a decade ago now, to the MV tradition that is Chilmark Chocolates. Located in a little house in Chilmark (obviously) this shop is extremely popular and a most-try on any trip to Martha’s Vineyard.

I actually never knew this, but I just read online that the store employs many mentally handicapped citizens and sponsors a different island nonprofit organization each month, so purchases benefit their workers as well as the monthly organization of their choosing. So, you get to stuff your face with chocolate while feeling good about helping people; sounds like a win-win situation to me!

Chilmark Chocolates

Last summer, Maggie, Chelsea and I rushed over from having a drink in Oak Bluffs to each buy our own box of chocolates before the store closed on a Sunday (they’re closed Monday through Wednesday). We all wanted to have some to eat right away but also some leftover to bring home – the perfect souvenir!

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What can I say about why these chocolates are awesome? They’re just delicious, mainly. They’re also sold in that cute little house and feel very homemade. They offer a great variety but also aren’t pretentious (no saffron / hibiscus / edible 24-karat gold truffles here). Apologies for the awful picture; I must have been too focused on getting the chocolate in my mouth to notice that my hand is not the best way to display it. 

Chilmark Chocolates

Chilmark Chocolates

Open: Thursday – Sunday, 11:30 a.m. – 5:30 p.m. (closed December & January)

Location: 19 State Rd, Chilmark, MA 02535 Phone: (508) 645-3013

What I Ate Wednesday: Astoria & New York

Baked French toast WIAW

Breakfast: My day last Tuesday began with the indulgent, baked French toast, courtesy of my friend Emma. She’d made it that weekend for potluck brunch, which Kiyo and I hosted; hence we got to keep the leftovers! I added some frozen berries and with maple syrup, washed down with creamy coffee, it was an awesome start to my day.

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Snack #1: As Maggie told me this weekend, she regularly observes in my WIAW posts that I always eat dessert in the morning! I forgot to take a picture of the four tamarind balls I ate, but this is what they looked like (image courtesy of Broward Palm Beach blog). Kiyo and I bought like 20 packs of them in St. Thomas because we’re both obsessed and that’s the only place I know to buy them.

WIAW quinoa with veggies

Lunch: I had an awesome, big bowl of red quinoa mixed with a lentil stew Kiyo made (it also had sweet potato, celery and spinach). I added about a tablespoon of blue cheese salad dressing, which gave it a nice (yet subtle) tangy taste. This was really tasty and filling, a great lunch that I’d make again (maybe with tahini next time instead of the salad dressing).

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Snack #2: Someone brought in macarons from Macaron Cafe right across the street, so of course I had one (it was shiny and chocolate, I couldn’t resist!).

cookie dough quest WIAW

Snack #3: Yes, I was hungry again! The night before I went to hot yoga, so that’s my excuse this time (I know, there’s always some reason!). Before heading to my 75-minute vinyasa (not hot) yoga class, I ate this cookie dough Quest Bar. I was super skeptical of this bar since it’s “cookie dough,” and has no gluten, no added sugar, lots of fiber and protein, and almost no unrecognizable ingredients; it sounded too good to be true. However, it tasted great and I would definitely like to try their other flavors.

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