Category Archives: Events

A Tasting Tour of Astoria, Queens

AstoriaSubwayPhoto via flickr/Ed McGowan

New York is a city of immigrants, a place where diverse cultures co-exist, thrive, expand and blend. We are a mish-mash of transplants. And that mish-mash tastes real good.

Last month, I had the delicious joy of joining Cristina Lombardi, the insanely knowledgeable owner of Follow Me New York City Adventures on their “Taste of Queens Adventure.” This private, customizable walking tour focuses on the neighborhoods of Astoria or Flushing, depending on the interests of the guests. In fact, Follow Me NYC can customize pretty much any type of tour you’d like: from a tipsy tour through the city’s speakeasies to a sweet-tooth tasting of the city’s best candy and dessert spots. They also offer a la carte adventures exploring Times Square & Theater District, Wall Street & Financial District, Central Park and Greenwich Village.

On a sunny and blustery fall day, our small group set out to taste our way through Astoria, Queens. Queens is the most diverse borough of New York City and, depending on what survey you read, it is either in the top three or the most diverse county in the entire United States. According to the last U.S. census in 2010, 48.5% of the population of Queens is foreign-born.

We began our tour with a brief history lesson. We learned Astoria was named after the wealthiest man in America (at the time), John Jacob Astor, in the hopes he would invest in his namesake neighborhood. And though he could literally see it from his palatial home on the Upper East Side of Manhattan, it is rumored Mr. Astor never actually set foot in Astoria, nor invested any substantial money. Regardless, the name stuck and, through the years, Astoria became home for every wave of immigrants that landed on our shores.

yayabakery.jpg

Galaktoboureko

Throughout the early to mid 1900’s it was primarily Irish, Italian and Jewish. It wasn’t until the 1960’s that Greek immigrants began flocking to Astoria and creating one of the largest centers of Greek culture in the United States. So, it was fitting that our first stop was the family-owned Yaya’s Bakery for a taste of Galaktoboureko, a traditional Greek phyllo dough pastry filled with warm custard and drizzled with a light syrup made from honey and lemon juice. Not only was it delicious, but it was a dessert I would have never thought of ordering had it not been for our guide, Cristina, who chose this pastry specifically for that reason.

With warmer bellies, we headed to La Cabaña Grocery for Tacos al Pastor (a pork taco with fresh cilantro, pineapple, chopped onion and a squeeze of  lime). The bodega sells traditional spices, authentic ingredients and beloved Mexican treats in a no-frills but all-taste setting.

samosa

Samosa at Seva Indian Restaurant

From one characteristically spicy cuisine to another, we next savored a vegetable Samosa at Seva Indian Restaurant, which specializes in Northern Indian dishes. Don’t forget to dunk the potato, onion, pea and lentil-filled pastry in the mint chutney for the full flavor explosion.

Burek

Spinach Burke

Our walk continued to Djerdan for a Spinach Burek, a Balkan staple and probably my favorite of the day. The crispy phyllo-dough pastry is filled with cheese and freshly sautéed spinach and shaped like a (very tasty!) cigar. Insider tip: In between trips to Astoria, you can order from their online store.

At our next stop, Zenon Taverna, a member of the family that owns the restaurant greeted us with a crash course in Cypriot cuisine, explaining “we use a lot of mint and cumin… we use all the spices that Greeks won’t.” He continued describing the flavors as a blending of traditional Greek, Turkish and Middle Eastern influences, before serving us Trahana Soup. The traditional Cypriot soup is made with bulgur wheat, thickened in chicken stock, Greek yogurt, halloumi (a type of goat cheese) and finished off with a squeeze of fresh lemon.

From the traditional to the trendy, our group headed to the very popular Queens Comfort, which had a line of folks waiting to enter. Inside, there was a DJ spinning for a brunch clientele that was equal parts multi-generational families and Millennial hipsters. Our takeaway was a taste of the Atomic Fire Balls–deep-fried, Siracha-infused mac ‘n cheese balls. If these spicy nuggets were indicative of the other menu options, I can easily understand the long line of eager diners.

IMG_5822

Atomic Fire Balls

Our final stop took us to Little Morocco for a taste of the Merguez sausage, a minced lamb sausage spiced with cumin, chili peppers, sumac and harissa. The area of Steinway Street, where the restaurant is located, is often called Little Egypt or Little Morocco, as Lebanese, Northern African and Middle Eastern immigrants have been steadily settling in the area since the 1980’s.

This tour through Astoria was a much-needed reminder that diversity makes New York City great—always! As a now seasoned New Yorker I too often stay within my own neighborhood out of habit and, well, laziness. But no one moves to New York to stay within his comfort level. Especially as politicians are using the topic of immigration to stoke unfounded fears, it’s important to remember that our diversity makes us stronger, makes us better, and makes our walks through Astoria all the more tasty.

IMG_5827

(The restaurants we visited on our tasting adventure; our fabulous guide, Cristina Lombardi, in center; Trahana Soup lower left.)

***To share in the experience, visit the “Astoria Tasting” highlighted story on the @travelingiq Instagram

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under Events, Restaurant, U.S.A.

Wakanda on Tour

BlackPanther596d2f166e594.0

Photo from Black Panther film (Source: Heroes & Sheroes) 

The badass looks of Black Panther are bringing a blast of Wakanda to Pittsburgh, before embarking on a world tour.

Currently on display at the Heinz History Center, “Heroes & Sheroes: The Art and Influence of Ruth E. Carter in Black Cinema” showcases the costumes, career and inspiration behind Academy Award and Emmy-nominated costume designer, Ruth E. Carter, the woman who helped create the cinematic worlds of Malcolm X, The Butler, Selma, Amistad and Black Panther, among others. “The exhibition is a celebration of film culture, Black culture, African culture, American culture,” said Carter.

The multi-media exhibit uses sketches, stills, behind-the-scenes media and (of course) costumes to celebrate a thirty-year career, while tackling the complicated ways in which underrepresented communities are displayed in film. “I will have to rethink ever dressing a young African-American man in a hoodie in a film ever again,” Carter said after the shooting death of Trayvon Martin.

Heroes & Sheroes” will be on exhibit in Pittsburgh until December 2, before touring to Chicago, New York, Los Angeles and Paris, with additional cities planned.

Leave a comment

Filed under Africa, Events, U.S.A.

Dominican Republic Celebrates Caribbean Pride

TravelingIQ-CariubbeanPrideJPG

Is the Dominican Republic ready for its gay close-up? It’s a slow zoom, increasingly coming into focus.

Last month, the CHIC Punta Cana, the all-inclusive resort (or “all-exclusive” as the brand boasts) hosted the second annual Caribbean Pride. For one week, the expansive resort turns into an adult playground packed with pool parties, drag shows, culinary workshops, and a slew of fitness activities—all geared toward the LGBTQ traveler…

Learn more about Caribbean Pride and how the Dominican Republic is emerging as a gay travel destination, by reading the rest of my article, published in EDGE Media Network.

EDGE-Dominican Republic

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Caribbean, Events, Gay, Hotels, Photos, Publications

IQ Heading to Caribbean Pride

Facetune_12-09-2018-22-17-13

Want to hang on to summer just a little bit longer? Pride Season is not yet over!

This weekend IQ is heading to the powdery-soft beaches of Punta Cana in the Dominican Republic, for the second-annual (my first) Caribbean Pride. Held at the luxury, adults-only, all-inclusive CHIC Punta Cana over seven days packed with pool parties, beach parties, foam parties (yes, that’s still a thing apparently) and whatever kind of party you can imagine.

There will also be shows from beloved Toronto queen, Miss Conception, culinary classes, cocktail samplings and even a broad range of fitness activities for those who… do fitness activities while on an all-inclusive gay vacation.

Follow @travelingiq on Instagram to share in the festivities.

And visit CaribbeanPride.com for photos, event schedule and booking info.

Leave a comment

Filed under Caribbean, Events, Gay, Hotels

Cleveland: A Cultural Center in the American Heartland

1-Photo courtesy of Destination ClevelandThis summer, the cultured traveler is looking beyond the coasts and discovering a contemporary art center in America’s heartland. With the inaugural FRONT International: Cleveland Triennial for Contemporary Art, the city of Cleveland has commissioned more than 100 local, national and international artists to join the city’s evolving transformation into a prominent cultural center. And everyone’s invited to the party. After all, in 2014 Cleveland hosted the Gay Games, an international sporting event for LGBTQ athletes and their allies, and in 2016 hosted the Republican National Convention that nominated Donald Trump. (For the record, Cleveland voted for Hillary Clinton by 66.1%). It is the rare city where everyone is welcome, and where the moxie of its people is on par with their midwestern charm…

Read the full article published in Travel Squire

ilthy, photo by Ivan Quintanilla

Leave a comment

Filed under Events, Publications, U.S.A.

Cleveland Triennial – “The American Library”

Photo©FieldStudio2018

Photo courtesy of FRONT International

This summer, the contemporary art world is converging in Cleveland.  Through September 30, the city hosts the inaugural FRONT International: Cleveland Triennial for Contemporary Art, engaging the region with over 100 programs by international, national and local artists. From traditional museums to repurposed spaces, the Cleveland Triennial is enabling art lovers to explore the city’s major attractions and travelers to revel in world-class contemporary art.

One of the highlights, The American Library by artist Yinka Shonibare MBE, fittingly displayed in the Cleveland Public Library, celebrates the diversity of the United States—never more topical than with the backdrop of the immigration debate, the President’s controversial travel ban and the recent outcry over the separation of families at the border.  The American Library consists of approximately 6,000 books, each wrapped in a traditional African textile and stamped in gold with the name of a first- or second-generation immigrant to the United States. And the featured Americans will surprise you: from Leonard Bernstein to Scarlett Johansson to—yes—Ted Cruz, Sarah Palin and Donald Trump. Though the backgrounds are all different, each person shares a common bond, they are the American product of immigration.

IMG_2552

Curious about an individual’s background?

Head to theamericanlibraryinstallation.com to research the cultural heritage that has shaped each of these Americans. I was particularly drawn to the stories of those who are actively fighting against immigration, though they themselves have greatly benefitted from our nation’s history of welcoming other cultures. For example: Ted Cruz, born in Canada to a Cuban father; or Donald Trump, whose mother is from the U.K. and paternal grandparents are from Germany.

Chances are, you have your own immigration tale. Visit the website to add your story and photograph to the expanding narrative.

For more information and help planning your Cleveland experience, visit the websites of FRONT International and Destination Cleveland.

And follow @TravelingIQ on Instagram to see more of my travels through Cleveland and beyond.

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Events, Travel News, U.S.A.

Miami Beach Gay Pride Gets the Olympic Treatment

Gus Kenworthy© Jeff Swinger-USA TODAY Sports

On April 2-8, Olympic freestyle skier Gus Kenworthy will trade the snow for sand as a Grand Marshall of Miami Beach Gay Pride 2018.

The Sochi Silver Medalist, PyeongChang puppy-saver and Ricky Martin admirer (see photo below) will join musical guests, festive floats and 135,000 partiers for the week-long celebration.

Celebrating its 10-year anniversary, Miami Beach Gay Pride shifts into party gear on Friday, April 6, with a VIP Gala at Faena Forum and Pride Kick-off Party at Basement in the Edition Hotel.  On Saturday, the festivities move surf-side with the all-day Beach Party Festival, featuring DJ Yazz, DJ Dan Slater and a performance by Betty Who.

Starting Sunday at noon, the Pride Parade struts down Ocean Drive and keeps the party pumping past nightfall with music, fireworks and a headlining performance by perennial pop favorite, Taylor Dayne.  For a view fit for a queen, reserve a table at the recently reopened Palace, alongside the Pride Parade route.

For more information and tickets, visit MiamiBeachGayPride.com.

For a preview of the festivities, check out the video below:

Leave a comment

Filed under Events, Gay, U.S.A.

Top Travel Tops for 2018

It’s the season of resolutions–the time to plan this year’s travel, uncover new destinations and fantasize about exotic trips you may or may not ever take.  But with so many “top travel lists” how do you focus your exploration?  Fear not. Traveling IQ has combed the pages, clicked the links and collated the suggestions from the most trusted travel publications, to find the ultimate destinations for IQ’s 2018 Travel Top Trilogy.

New Orleans

Rex_CherylGerber_3e47f27e-e498-4955-8ff7-e98e6a4dc42e

NEW ORLEANS – Photo courtesy of NewOrleans.com

New Orleans leads the pack as the American city most recommended by travel publications.  Celebrating its tricentennial in 2018, the Big Easy promises to make its 300th birthday party a year-long event.  And you’re invited! Whether you chomp on po’boys or savor fine Creole cuisine, guzzle Hurricanes down Bourbon Street or sip craft cocktails in hotel lounges, saunter through historical walking tours or dance along with extravagant parades, New Orleans requests the honor of your presence.

Malta

MALTA

MALTA – Photo courtesy of Flickr/DRAS

Malta is stepping into the spotlight in 2018.    The small island country off the coast of Sicily has a “vibe that is Mediterranean with a North African twist,” says Travel & Leisure.  Already a popular European beach getaway, this year, the world’s artists will descend on Valetta, Malta’s capital, named a 2018 European Capital of Culture.  Designated a UNESCO World Heritage site, Valetta boasts Baroque architecture, prehistoric temples and the enviable characterization as “Europe’s sunniest city,” with more than 300 days of sunshine each year.

South Korea

Winter Olympics PYEONGCHANG

PYEONGCHANG, KOREA – Photo courtesy of Flickr/Korea

South Korea will be on full display as PyeongChang hosts the 2018 Winter Olympics next month.  Now an easy commute with the launch of a high-speed rail connecting the resort town to Seoul in 70 minutes, you can tour the Olympic village, attempt your own Triple Axel, and still make your dinner reservation in Seoul’s trendy Hannam neighborhood.  After dinner, don’t forget to stroll through Seoullo 7017, the city’s new high-line park, lined with 24,000 plants atop an elevated former highway.

(These destinations were chosen from the top lists of the New York Times, Conde Nast Traveler, Travel & Leisure, CNN, Frommers, US News & World Report, Lonely Planet, Afar, the Guardian, Rough Guide, LA Times and National Geographic.) 

Leave a comment

Filed under Europe, Events, Travel News, U.S.A.

Miami Beach to Host World Outgames

gay socks running

Attention gay sports fans (and allies!):  Miami Beach and Miami will host the World Outgames in 2017, marking the first time the sporting event is held in the United States.

Sponsored by the Gay and Lesbian International Sport Association (GLISA), the World Outgames–a gay-inclusive Olympics of sorts–takes place every four years in a different global city.

Included in the Miami Beach-Miami bid were proposals to host a human rights conference, a diverse cultural program, a World Outgames Village, opening and closing ceremonies, and 30 sporting events over 10 days, all under the South Florida sunshine.

Consider this your four-year warning:  It’s time to squeeze into the Speedo, dust off your running shoes, or bedazzle that figure skating costume.

(Photo via GayNZ.com)

Leave a comment

Filed under Events, Gay, U.S.A.

NYC Celebrates Furry octoBEARfeast

Photo: Dick Mitchell,  Model: Gio  Photo: Dick Mitchell,  Model: Gio

Before winter hibernation, New York City bears are having a ball, and you’re invited to flaunt your PETA-approved fur for a good cause.   For the first time, the city’s LGBT Community Center (commonly called “the Center”) is expanding their popular gay bear dance party, Fur Ball, into octoBEARfest:  “a week-long celebration of everything furry.”

The Fuzzy Wuzzy festivities kick off with sustenance.  On Monday, October 1, the boys will celebrate Bear-BQ at Bone Lick Park restaurant with $3 shots and drafts, $3.50 margaritas, and 35¢ wings.  Tuesday brings the Bears & Beers fundraising dinner, with unlimited food and drinks and optional VIP bourbon tasting, at 508 Gastrobrewery.

To help you find the perfect napping partner after all that food, the Center will host Bear Bating on Thursday, October 4, a speed-dating event for bears and their admirers; and then the big daddy event of the week, Fur Ball on Saturday, October 6.

Headlined by DJ Corey Craig,  Fur Ball’s estimated  900 guests will take over every floor of the Center, with two dance floors, go-go-bears, and an outdoor garden.  And more importantly, all proceeds benefit the Center, whose programs range from hosting arts and entertainment events, advocacy groups and family gatherings, to offering youth, recovery and wellness programs.

So let your hair down, wear your God-given fur out, and celebrate for a Grrrrrrreat cause.

Visit the Center’s octoBEARfest website for tickets and additional information.

1 Comment

Filed under Events, Gay, U.S.A.