Friday, September 5, 2014
Queens Trip (Queens, New York City, NY)
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In my quest to attend a game at each Major League Baseball stadium, I took a quick trip up to New York City for a Mets game, staying with my cousin in Queens. This was just a Friday to Sunday trip, but I managed to get to a few different places, including one old favorite restaurant in Flushing, and a couple great beer joints in Astoria.
Friday night, we headed to the Bohemian Hall and Beer Garden, a Czech style beer hall with a huge outdoor courtyard. Their beer list is not incredible, but both times I have been there I had no trouble finding good beer options. The food is primarily Czech, or at least Czech inspired, which is similar to German. There really is not a great deal to say about the Beer Garden, other than that both times I have been there I have thoroughly enjoyed myself, as everyone is friendly, the outdoor area is great if it is not too cold, and the inside has a handful of televisions showing various sports games, including association football. It is one of those places I wish existed right in my backyard, though my wallet appreciates that is does not.
Saturday before the game, we grabbed a late lunch/early dinner at my favorite Chinese restaurant in New York, Joe's Shanghai in Flushing. Known for their soup dumplings, Joe's has locations in Chinatown and Midtown in Manhattan, and in Flushing's Chinatown, with menus featuring both Americanized and authentic food. Following a shared order of the shrimp and pork soup dumplings, I had the Crispy Whole Sea Bass. The dumplings have a spoonful of broth in them, so when you bite into one you get a little bit of hot soup along with the wrapper and the filling. I have occasional cravings of these, but I should be okay for a little while now.
The order of the Crispy Whole Sea Bass is a bit of a tradition for me, going back to the first time I ever ate at Joe's Shanghai as a young teenager; very slightly spicy, thoroughly crispy on the exterior and light and flaky on the inside, this fish is incredible. The sauce, which is where the spice comes from primarily, has a little bit of a sweetness to it, and goes well with the fish, on rice, or anything else really. Everyone else at the table had a bit and absolutely loved the sauce, even if they did not necessarily try the fish. The bass itself is very lightly battered and deep fried, so you get the delicious flavor of the fish and that classic fried flavor that really just makes everything better. This is among my favorite restaurants, period, and I cannot recommend it highly enough.
After the Mets game, my cousin, her boyfriend, and I adjourned to Mosaic Cafe & Lounge. This place has an incredible beer list, comfortable chairs and a great atmosphere, along with knowledgeable, friendly bartenders. Their menu also includes several delicious looking items, though I was still pretty stuffed from the dumplings and fish. For beer, I went with the bartender's suggestions; one was a new item on tap for them, Hop Knife from Troegs Brewery. A fresh hopped IPA, it is among the best beers I have ever had. Incredibly drinkable (it comes in at a more than manageable 6.2%, but really feels like 5%; to quote the bartender, it is "completely sessionable") yet complex, the hops are very subtle, but flavorful, with a background note of lemony citrus and wheat. The beer had very little nose, surprisingly, but the aroma that was present was of hops and mild fruit. I look forward to having this beer again, though I suspect it is best on draught, rather than in a bottle, so I will be a little wary if I find it in bottles. All in all, this is actually one of my favorite beers now for the combination of flavor, drinkability, and the fact that it is out of the ordinary for me. Highly, highly recommended.
The second beer I had that evening was from Bell's Brewery, a fairly new-to-me brewer, but one that has impressed me significantly and that has received raves elsewhere (they have a 96 rating overall on BeerAdvocate). The beer I had was called The Oracle, and according to the bartender it should not have been available; someone shipped a few cases accidentally to their supplier, despite it not being released in New York State, and I am pretty pleased it happened. This beer is probably the most hop-forward beer I have ever had; from the first sniff I was blown backward by the aroma of the hops, and the first sip was legitimately intense. While I had to hold back on the Hop Knife so I did not devour it in just a few minutes, I had no choice but to nurse The Oracle. Every little bit of the alcohol (and there is a lot, at 10% ABV) is in each sip, and so are the hops, the malted notes, and some spicy flavors that I could not identify. I think I drank this beer (and it was just a 12oz) over the course of nearly an hour, so it is really the opposite of Hop Knife. It also was not as good; while I was very glad to have tried it, and I actually did enjoy it overall, I would probably not go for it again unless it was to pair with an incredibly powerful--and spicy--meal, as it is absolutely not the sort of beer that suits itself well to sitting around drinking.