First Impressions: Queens Kickshaw

The Queens Kickshaw is run by a husband and wife team that have lived in the area for a couple years. Their site says they wanted to create a place and community that reflected their love for the neighborhood and passions for good food and drink. They serve specialty coffee, teas, sodas, pastries, and fancy grilled cheese sandwiches. The grilled cheese menu is a nod to the food and cultural diversity of Queens, and features fresh, quality ingredients.

Made a quick little trip over to the shop in Astoria last weekend, the day of the year’s first snowstorm. I’d read something about it in the past and my friend wanted to grab a quick bite. She had mentioned it seemed like a place I would like with a huge selection of craft beer and grilled cheese sandwiches. Needless to say, once I perused the menu, I agreed.

It’s an unassuming little spot right off Broadway near the Steinway stop in Astoria. I actually walked right past the entrance, twice. But once inside it was a quaint comfy little spot, blasting out some old school hip hop and indie rock. It had charm and a friendly little staff. We ordered a couple beers, I believe I had the Empire Amber and my friend the Captain Lawrence Kolsch. I say I think because I’m not entirely sure. I actually forgot to note down what we had and just remember being so overwhelmed and excited by their selections, I think I just went with what I thought would go well with the grilled cheese.

The food was pretty good. It’s pretty hard to go wrong with a tasty grilled cheese. They certainly had a couple interesting combos on their menu, including my selection, the Great Hill Blue, blue cheese with prune jam, pear and cranberry walnut bread. I really enjoyed it with the side salad. My friend had an open faced marinated mushrooms and basil pesto on focaccia. It was almost reminiscent of a Sicilian slice of pizza the way it was presented. Overall a good meal with some great beers. The only thing that I thought was strange was no meat on any of the sandwiches, nor any fries or chips on the menu. Not sure if that’s deliberate, but thought it was interesting. They are well known for their coffee and hot chocolate too, which would have made a great close to that chilly evening.

Listening Pile: Mclusky – Forget About Him I’m Mint

Just seems like the right song for this post. I keep thinking Kickshaw and want to say Rickshaw. Oh well, learned something new that day. Kickshaw means fancy food, delicacy, not those little pull carts like in Central Park.



First Impressions: Top Hops

Merchants and Advocates of Great Beer

Wanted to put out some quick thoughts on Top Hops, the new beer bar/store in the LES. It’s obvious once you walk into the place that they are still ironing out their set up and look of the store. There’s a lot of open, unused space in the front, bare walls and some empty space in the fridges. They were also still adding beers into their system while I was there.  The bar is set up on one side and features a huge amount of taps, I counted what seemed like 2 dozen, including stuff from NY State breweries like Ommegang, Captain Lawrence, Defiant and Greenport Harbor. There was also some stuff from Bear Republic, Stone and Stillwater on tap during my visit.  The strange thing was, they also had Budweiser on tap. The bartender even mentioned people coming in and getting growlers of it. That seemed odd to me, but hey, whatever floats your boat, right?

You walk into the back and that’s where all the beer is stored, cold. There was no beer at room temperature, which seemed very odd to me. I couldn’t quite tell what the order was either, but they had a small amount of imports, mostly seemed like Belgian, Danish and British from what I saw. I’ve seen in places, they are looking to have over 800 types of beer, with a mix of imports and domestic craft and a few macro beers.  Seems like you can buy a beer in-store and drink it, while paying a cappage fee. They also do growler fills, both 32 and 64 ounce sizes from what they told me.

They mentioned to me to not mind the look of the place. They still don’t know what they are doing with the extra space. However, they did mention doing brewery nights, food pairing sessions and other beer enthusiast type events.  Seems like they are off to a good start. I believe they said they stay open til midnight on Friday and Saturdays, 11 the other days of the week.  So if you’re in the hood trying out one of the many great restaurants or seeing a gig at the Bowery Ballroom, it’s a great spot to stop by and pick up something for the rest of your night or sample something on hand.

Listening Pile:

Spoon – Merchant of Soul

Great song from a great band. Tops Hops motto is merchants and advocates of great beer, which is sprawled across everything in the place. Made me think of this song for some reason.



And That’s A Wrap

What a year. 2011 came and went faster than any other year of my life. Where to start? Should we start with the shocker of the year, the Katy/Russell split? Am I the only one who thought they broke up a while back. And they were married? Shall we chat about the death of Kim Jong Ill or Osama Bin Laden? Um…good riddance, I guess. How about the retardation of Ashton Kutcher? Nah. Someone told me the other day, stick to what I know, baseball, beer and music. So, here goes. This is a quick(hopefully) rundown of 2011 as it mattered, to me.

A Couple Things I Think I Think about 2011

High and Inside
Baseball, another great season, highlighted by the utter collapse of the Red Sox in the last month of the season. It was almost OK to have the Yanks make a quick exit in the playoffs, seeing the collapse in Boston and the subsequent fallout. Eating chicken and watching porn will never be the same again. And now they brought in Bobby Valentine to lead that club. It’s like firing Chief Wiggum and then bringing in Krusty the Clown to take over. It’s either going to be a monumental failure or huge coup by the Sox. Either way, it brings a great new element to the rivalry, the inventor of the sandwich wrap.

As for the rest of baseball, it was a fantastic season. Justin Verlander was great, maybe not MVP great, but just down right filthy on the mound. The Cardinals were basically one game away from going home and losing Albert to the Angels, when faith intervened with them. They went on a great roll to capture the World Series. How the Yanks won the division with the ghosts of Bartolo Colon and “Sweaty” Freddy Garcia making so many starts is pure witchcraft. Cashmoney must’ve made a pact with the devil. Hopefully A-Rod makes the same pact and gets his career back in order this season. Both the Yanks and my fantasy team need it dammit.

The offseason has proven to be quite entertaining as well, with the huge free-agent activity, trades, the NL MVP getting busted for PED’s, the continuing drama with the Mets, Dodgers and Oakland’s stadium bid. How many people are now slapping their knee wishing they voted for Matt Kemp to win the NL MVP? What the hell are the Mets doing? They let Jose Reyes walk to their division rival, getting nothing in return. Their team is a mess. It would make sense to trade David Wright and get a boat load for him, while he’s still young, cheap and relatively healthy. At least the Dodgers are one or two key pieces away from being legitimate contenders in their division. Hopefully those teams get their stuff in order. The owe it to their fans.

I think the one thing that we as fans have to look forward to is all the youth that has been infused into baseball the last few years. I love seeing young guys like King Felix, Clayton Kershaw, Evan Longoria and Matt Kemp dominate the league. Maybe it’s been said before, but we’re witnessing a baseball renaissance these days and we the fans are the benefactors of what’s truly a golden age in the game. Enjoy kids, it won’t last forever.

The Foamy Stuff
Beer, hmmm. I had a great year of beer. So, so, so many great beers had. Tried Pliny the Elder for the first time, also tried a couple other beers from the Russian River crew. Believe the hype. Also got to try Westvleteren 12, not once, but twice this year. It was very, very good, but sorry, I just don’t think it’s considerably better than the other trappist beers. Certainly not for how impossible and pricey it is to get. If you can get your hands on it, try it. Don’t miss out on that. Just saying, don’t expect the world to stop. Actually, that would probably be really bad if the world stopped. But you know what I mean.

Also got to try the Bourbon County Stout from Goose Island, which was quite delicious. The vanilla and chocolate flavors are balanced so well with the oak flavor. Good stuff. Hopefully, they continue to make great one offs like this even after the AB/InBev acquisition, probably the craft beer story of the year. Loved really getting into some great casked beers this year. One that sticks in my head vividly was Troegs Nugget Nectar. Flavors were intensified and it finished so nicely from the cask. Founders did it again with their KBS and CBS. Both outstanding when you could finally track some down, which was like trying to find that cousin of yours that has your dvd’s of The Wire.

In terms of other beers I’ve enjoyed, really loved that Sixpoint found their way into cans. I always thought they made great beers and I was happy to finally be able to take some home with me. Weyerbacher is another brewery I’ve really come to enjoy this year. Love their double simcoe hopped IPA. Firestone Walker is another I’ve really gotten to like a lot. Their Union Jack IPA is probably now my go to IPA. Their 15th Anniversary Ale, was a truly magnificent beer, a blend of 8 of their beers, prominently featuring a barley wine, stout and double ipa. Another brewery I really liked a lot was Montreal’s Dieu Du Ciel! There Peche Mortal, an imperial coffee stout is amazing. Also, at the Brewer’s Choice event this year, they had this unreal sour wheat beer made with plums, called The Plum Shiso. It was one of the most interesting beers I tasted all year.

In My Belly
Gotta say, this was a great year for food. My thing this year was poached eggs. I never knew they could be so goddamn good. You could do so much with them, put them over toast and bacon. Drop it into some ramen noodles. You could put it on mashed potatoes. I don’t know what took me so long to figure this out, but I’m downright upset at myself for not realizing this earlier in life. It’s like the whole avocado thing all over again.

As for new places to eat and drink, this year I was really psyched to get some new spots closer to home in the Upper East Side. Earl’s Beer and Cheese is just what this hood needed. My friend the other day described it as a hipster bar transplanted to the UES. Yes, sorta. They play good music, have great beers and make awesome food. They also have tattooed guys with beards in plaid shirts pour you beer. The mac n’ cheese is sick, so is the kimchee grilled cheese. Hell, it’s all pretty damn tasty. Shake Shack up here is great. I know, I know, it’s not the greatest, but it’s still better than any other fast food and far less expensive than other burger joints. You get a burger, fries and beer for $12. 12 bones. You don’t even get a burger for that price in most places. They also make rootbeer floats with beer, which you may or may not be able to walk off with. Just saying!

Other great eats this year include the Duck Lunch at Momofuku’s Ssam Bar. This was by far one of the most gluttonous meals I’ve ever had in my life. I mean, it’s duck and lots of it, perfectly cooked, with a ton of sides. I don’t know if I could say it any better than, it was off the hook. The Dutch was a pleasant surprise. Had a couple really great meals there, though the first time was a little rough as they were still working out their kinks. Upon my return I had the rabbit pot pie, which was as delicious as it sounds to say. Who knew Bugs Bunny would come to be so delicious. I don’t know if I can say I had one truly amazing meal at this next place, but lots of really good ones, particularly breakfast and lunch at Peels on the Bowery. Somehow, Torrisi in Soho became one of my favorite sandwich shops in the city. Their homemade turkey and chicken parmesan sammy’s are just great. And I cannot say enough good things about the East Village’s amazing, Porchetta. Pork stuffed with more pork and spices and other bits of goodies. And they have these potatoes with pork ends rolled into them. If you haven’t had this place, do yourself a favor and go, go now. In fact, bring me back something.

In One Ear
Music, all in all a good year. However, I’m going to start with some of the records that I think are good, but really don’t deserve the insane amounts of hype. Indie darlings Feist, Cults and Bon Iver. Bon Iver is a Mark Kozelek cover band in my opinion. Not that there’s anything necessarily wrong with that, but the guy’s getting way too much credit for something that’s been done already and significantly better. Cults record is good, but it’s also been floating around the interwebs for a long time now. Was expecting more new stuff on the album. Feist, well. She is darling, but her music just isn’t that awesome. When did she become Norah Jones? She’s got some big hits, a couple good solid years, but at the end of the day, just so many more artist doing better stuff.

Ok, ok. You want to know the good. Well, The Horrors continue to develop as one of the most outstanding British bands around now. Skying is pure genius. Languid, lush, adorned with heavy synths and basslines. It’s the record equivalent of waking up in the morning with a dense, hazy hangover that just makes you pour yourself another pint and start reflecting on the magnificent evening you just had. You know what I mean?

My second favorite album of the year can be summed up in a few words, the combination of dramatic synth, gothy overtones,  80’s new wave, and it’s what makes Cold Cave’s Cherish The Light Years their best work yet. Neon Indian kills it on his sophomore album, vintage chill wave. Listen to Hex Girlfriend and tell me dude doesn’t know what he’s doing. M83 put together a double album that might be the best double album since Magnetic Fields 69 Love Songs, there is also a song titled Steve McQueen that just kills it. Steve McQueen, the “King of Cool.” Look it up. Pains of Being Pure At Heart figured out being twee doesn’t get you laid. They kicked up the guitars and production and made a stellar second album. I don’t necessarily know if they get laid more, but it’s something I always wished Belle and Sebastian would do, Stevie/Stuart, take note.

From there, so many great albums from old mainstays, Radiohead, PJ Harvey, TV On The Radio, The Kills, Gruff Rhys, the Battles and Stephen Malkmus. The return of one of my favorite songwriters, Walter Schriefels and Rival Schools. New stuff from upstarts and newer acts Holy Ghosts, Friendly Fires, Sbtrkt, Grimes, Class Actress and Pictureplane. So many more, check the full list below.

the horrors – skying
cold cave – cherish the light
neon indian – era extrana
m83 – hurry up we’re dreaming
the pains of being pure at heart – belong
beach fossils – what a pleasure
rival schools – pedals
pj harvey – let england shake
radiohead – king of limbs
friendly fires – pala
sbtrkt – sbtrkt
the antlers – burst apart
the kills – blood pressures
tv on the radio – nine types of light
pictureplane – thee physical
lykke li – wounded ryhmes
grimes – darkbloom
gruff rhys – hotel shampoo
telekinesis – 12 desperate straight lines
wild beasts – smother
cults – cults
battles – gloss drop
holy ghosts – holy ghosts
st. vincent – strange mercy
ume – phantoms
class actress – rapprocher
still corners – cuckoo
washed out – within and without
stephen malkmus and the jicks – mirror traffic
girls – father, son, holy ghost
the drums – portamento

Listening Pile: The Horrors – Still Life – A truly great song from their Jools Holland session. Not only have they become a great band, but they’ve taken that next step and become a truly great live band as well. I was lucky enough to catch them twice this year, including once in a small intimate setting.