Rego Park/Middle Village
64-33 Woodhaven Boulevard
You can’t miss Anne McGreevy’s ANNE’S TREELAND on Woodhaven, what with its eye-catching banner sprawled so boldly along the boulevard. McGreevy and her family have been at it for 24 years now, and are already well on the way towards the next generation’s involvement. While son Patrick and daughter Heather are veterans at this point, 2008 marks the inaugural season for the youngest of the clan, 10-year-old Jake. Loyal customers from near and far know full well the quality and reliability that a tree purchased here stands for, but it should also be pointed out that not only does McGreevy benefit from an excellent location, but her heart’s in the right place, too, and she and her family dedicate their holiday efforts to helping out “Autism Speaks” every year, as well. (Please stop by the trailer and purchase a puzzle piece, if you would – they’re $1 or $5.) It’s the kind of community spirit that’s born naturally of a lifetime of catering to people during a time of year when there’s such an abundance of goodwill around. “We’re a part of people’s tradition,” says 21-year-old Heather proudly, and that would definitely be an understatement.
A.C. MOORE ARTS & CRAFTS
89-89 Union Turnpike
Maybe this is the year you’re thinking a bit of a home-made Christmas might be more in order. Well, then, A.C. MOORE ARTS & CRAFTS will be like Pandora’s Box for you! First of all, you’ve got, a seemingly endless assortment of Folk Art paints from which to choose. Not to mention all manner of stickers, stencils, glitter, stamp pads, you name it. Plus a huge array of exquisitely-designed patterned paper. Or an aisle full of wooden baskets to get you at least halfway towards putting your own version of a gift basket together. And frames, frames, frames galore for showcasing some of the very best holiday gifts there ever could be – family portraits. But we have to admit that our absolute favorite thing about A.C. MOORE ARTS & CRAFTS is aaaaaall the way in the back, where you will find a multitude of inspiration for furnishing your little one’s dollhouse, especially the terrific line of Joshua’s Lifestyle Collectibles. (Although come to think of it, that Pelican Bay Ginger Bread Cookie Mix we bought on the way out wasn’t half-bad either!)
89 Conselyea Street
Regular readers of these pages know what fans we are of this top-of-the-line steakhouse and more right in the heart of Italian Williamsburg. Especially when heading out for dinner on a special occasion – a birthday, an anniversary, or just a homey get-together in the spirit of the holidays – what makes the difference at DE STEFANO’S is the way your hosts Joe and Eleanor Donatelli will welcome you into their restaurant the same way they would welcome you into their home. Of course, the fact that their porterhouse is on a par with another renowned steakhouse nearby certainly helps make the experience worth your while, too! But where a night at DE STEFANO’S truly takes hold of you is its inventive appetizers and side dishes, like their Crab Cakes and Maple Glazed Carrots, just to name two, and for that, credit is definitely due Executive Chef Alex Golovin, who’s behind it all. Head here for the holidays, and it won’t be the last time you do.
34-21 34th Avenue
Residents of this happening Astoria nabe know what a treasure this family-owned taverna is. But especially around holiday time, this is the perfect place to treat that special someone to a relatively inexpensive but unforgettably savory dining experience. Our hosts Barbara and Kostas Lambrakis have been welcoming us to their family’s favorite recipes for fifteen years now, and long-time regulars rave especially heartily about the Cretan appetizer known as Pikilia Orektikon, an assorted selection of savory dips. Our favorites are the Tzatziki (yoghurt) of course; the Pantzari Skordalia (beets); the Piperosi (red peppers); and the exotic, but tasty Taramasi (carp roe). But especially when it’s holiday time – and our sweet tooth goes into overdrive! – please make sure you save room for dessert, too, because the Galaktoboureko at S’AGAPO is guaranteed to have you telling everyone you know, your friends, your neighbors, your office mates, your cousins, and so on, and so on...
THE SHOPS AT ATLAS PARK
8000 Cooper Avenue
Middle Village residents mourning the loss of Metropolitan Avenue’s LINCOLN STATIONERS (hey, we are too!) would be well advised to take the trip up the hill to that oasis of free enterprise, THE SHOPS AT ATLAS PARK, specifically BLUE TULIP. Looking for some exquisite gift wrap that will make your gift stand out from the crowd? Or the greeting card that will get them remembering you fondly, even after 2009 is here? This is definitely the place. But more to the point, BLUE TULIP just might be one of the classiest boutique-style gift shops around, something you will notice immediately the moment you enter. Right up front they’ve got an excellent variety of glassware and serveware to make your holiday gathering extra special, even some colorful “Cookies for Santa” plates, or hot cocoa/cider mugs from the Gumdrop Collection. And if you’re looking for a charming gift for one of the little ones in your life, head all the way to the back wall and check out the offerings from Two’s Company, like their frog and monkey growth charts, for example, or similarly-themed lunch totes. Or how about some really smart-looking Hatley galoshes? Hey, whatever strikes your fancy, take your time here – it’s well worth it!
52-46 69th Street
Looking for some place to get yourself appropriately glam for the holidays? We highly recommend a trip up the hill to the top of the Maspeth Plateau, where 69th Street meets 52nd Drive. The moment you set foot inside DYNASTY SALON, you’ll be pleasantly surprised by its rather elegant, yet welcoming ambience. Wine-colored walls, dark oak fixtures, virtually floor-to-ceiling mirrors – and, yes, two chandeliers that would make even the Phantom of the Opera envious! Even if you’re a first-time customer (and if so, you get a 15% discount on color procedures!), we’re pretty sure that once stylist par excellence Anna Delaportas works her magic on you, you will very soon become a regular patron. (And by the way, while you’re on the block, why not get your nails done at SHARON’S NAIL right next door – the Maspeth Plateau version of one-stop-shopping!)
BAUER’S BAKE SHOP
64-59 Dry Harbor Road
Sweets and baked goods always make for a special occasion, if you ask us. But at holiday time? Well, now we’re talking extra special! Speaking of extra special, BAUER’S BAKE SHOPS proprietors Ernie and Anita Wunsch have been the keepers of the flame for generations of holiday treats, with German baked goods a specialty. Looking for some delicious holiday pies – Apple, Pumpkin, Coconut Custard? BAUER’S BAKE SHOP is the place. Maybe a tray of Christmas cookies? Some chocolate Santas? BAUER’S. But even better, if you’re keen on celebrating the Teutonic roots of this most favorite of holidays (Tannenbaum, Kris Kringle, anyone?), BAUER’S German specialties are among the most celebrated in our area. Treats like their linzer tarts, holiday stollen, pfeffernuesse, spitzkuchen, and the rarest and most special of all – ladies and gentlemen, I give you: Spekulatius! (You’ll see…)