Last Tuesday was the 11th annual Taste of Queens event, a night of delicious food and drinks hosted by the Queens Economic Development Corporation at Citi Field. There were over 900 people sampling all sorts of treats from 40 local Queens-based restaurants, bars and food companies. I was excited to see some familiar faces from other QEDC events and last year’s Taste of Queens, but I was even more thrilled to see (and sample!) new flavors. Native Coffee Roasters was one of these newbies.
By now you all know how much I love Queens, but do you know how much I love coffee? I’m not a drink-coffee-all-day-kinda person, and I’m not a snob about it, I just LOOOOVVEEE coffee. The taste, the ritual, the scent of its brewing, I love it all. I drink my 2 cups of joe in the morning, black, and then I’m good to go. This recent New York Times article discusses all the current trends happening in the NYC coffee scene these days, but at home we brew our coffee from an out-of-fashion and simple percolator. It’s old, but I love it, and it does the trick. We buy our coffee from Fairway – usually the fair trade medium or dark roast, and we are happy.
However, up until now there hasn’t been a Queens option. Enter Native Coffee Roasters, a new Astoria-based coffee company. Since the actual coffee bean can’t be sourced locally in the North East, having an option of locally roasted beans is the next best thing. Brian Donaldson, the owner of Native Coffee opened up in Astoria last year after wanting to add diversity in the NYC-based small-batch roasters. He’s committed to making a NYC product for NYC natives. I had been hearing great things about the coffee over the past few months on Twitter, but hadn’t had the chance to try it yet, so I was excited to see Brian sampling his coffee at Taste of Queens last week.
Brian was serving pour-over coffee, which is a technique of (can you guess it?) pouring hot water over the ground beans that allows more of the subtleties of the coffee’s flavors to come through. Native Coffee offers a number of single-and blended coffees, and he was serving his Columbian coffee that night, which was so smooth and it paired really well with all the desserts I was sampling. Native Coffee also has a blend called NYC Diesel, which changes based on bean availability and seasonality. Native Coffee Roasters is available at the gift shop at Queens Country Farm Museum and should be rolling out into more stores and cafes in Queens soon. Definitely one to keep an eye out for. Queens + Coffee = LOCAL CAFFEINE!
I was also excited to see my friend/colleague Markella Los from GrowNYC at Taste of Queens, since it gives me the opportunity to tell you all about the awesomeness that’s happening in Forest Hills these days, which I trace back to the moment the Greenmarket opened. A few years ago, there was some community push-back when we tried to get a Greenmarket here, but last year after a successful petition campaign and the support of Markella (above right) and others at the GrowNYC office, the initiative passed unanimously in the community board, and the Greenmarket opened in the summer of 2012 on the corner of 70th road and Queens Blvd. It has been a smashing success, running longer than expected through the end of last year and re-opening earlier than planned in April.
Each week, a great variety of local, sustainable vegetable, dairy, meat, and fish producers set up and sell their goods at the Greenmarket, and sometimes there are tastings and educational demos run by GrowNYC. And every week, there is a crowd of people chatting, buying food, exchanging recipe ideas, and meeting each other. In the past few months a number of new cafes, wine bars, and specialty food shops have opened in the FoHi area, which I think is directly related to the opening up of the Greenmarket. At Taste of Queens, GrowNYC was serving a fresh salad which was simple and delicious, and just my style. Check out where the closest GrowNYC Greenmarket is to where you live/work here.
The event also honored the 3 winners of the QEDC’s StartUP! business plan competition, a opportunity for new or growing Queens-based companies to win $10,000 to jumpstart their business. This year’s winners were:
- Food Category: Astoria Coffee, a soon-to-be coffee shop in Astoria, Queens which hopes to become a local go-t0 cafe featuring artisinal coffee, teas, poetry readings and more
- Community Development Category: Fabulous Fitness, a fitness center in Springfield Gardens, Queens
- Innovation Category: M3D Consulting, a “green” business management, policy consulting and project management company focusing on sustainability, in Flushing, Queens
All in all, it was a very delicious event, and I left with a full belly and beaming with Queens County pride. Kudos to the Queens Economic Development Corporation for nurturing local companies and creating an event to showcase all that is being cooked up in Queens.