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Yelp Elite Events: Tufino Pizzeria & Spa Castle

Last week, I attended two Yelp Queens Elite events. The first one was at Tufino Pizzeria Napoletana, where I thought we would only be served pizza and that I would get bored with the food. Oh, how wrong I was! The other event was at Spa Castle and it was already full with a few hundred person waiting list so I had pretty much resigned myself from ever getting to go. Luckily, Jando (the Yelp Queens Community Manager – get to know him, he’s awesome!) let me in and I had such an amazing, relaxing evening and you can read all about it below!

Tufino Pizzeria Napoletana is a small, but cute and cozy spot with great atmosphere in the heart of Astoria. I loved the huge windows that lead to the street. It gave the place nice lighting and feel.

tufino_meThe restaurant started us off with several amazing appetizers. First there were mini meatball sliders (one of my favorites) with grated parmesan cheese and basil on a brioche bun. The meat was warm, flavorful, juicy and the basil added to the already delicious sliders.

tufino_sliderThen there were mini capellini cakes with vodka sauce that was fried to perfection and extremely crispy. They tasted a little bit like potato. We also had fresh mozzarella, tomato and bread crumb on skewers, which were light and refreshing. Next came the warm farro (a type of grain) salad with wonderfully tasting pesto sauce. After that was another favorite of mine: Zucchini fries. They were hot and fresh out of the oven, with well seasoned breading and a light dusting of parmesan sauce.

tufino_zucchiniSoon after all those appetizers, the thin crust pizza started coming out. I tried most of the different types of pizza, starting with the Margherita, which was made out of organic tomato sauce, mozzarella, parmesan and basil. This was quite good but I preferred the other types of pizza that had toppings on them.

tufino_margheritaProsciutto e Arugula came with mozzarella, prosciutto, lemon juice and truffle oil with baby arugula and parmesan shavings on top. This was wonderful, with delightful tasting meat and all the other flavors came together nicely.

tufino_argula pizzaI also had the San Gennaro, which consists of mozzarella, Italian sausage, peppers, onions and parmesan. The sausage was savory and zesty.

tufino_sausage pizzaMy favorite pizza of the night, however, was Grape Expectations, which had red grapes, gorgonzola, Italian pork (which tasted like bacon) and house made honey. The grapes on the pizza was unique and unexpected, but worked really well and combined flawlessly with the gorgonzola, meat and honey. It was a mix of sweet and slightly savory, and completely mouthwateringly delicious!

tufino_grape pizzaThe service was great, though I would have liked some options for non alcoholic drinks, besides water. But the servers were really patient, friendly and allowed time for some of the Yelpers to take photos of the food, then making sure we all got what we wanted.

Then there was Spa Castle Night, which totally came at the perfect time because I needed to get my mind off of things and just totally chill & relax: CHILLAX!

It was my first time at Spa Castle and what a wonderful elite experience I had! We were given watch keys which were ingenious… They connected to our very own locker and were also scanned when we bought anything- We were allowed 2 free drinks. They also gave us uniforms to wear around the spa and a small towel. I would have liked a bigger towel, because I was in and out of the pools throughout the night.

First, I met some really awesome folks and we checked out the outdoor pools, which had a spraying area and also different massage water jets etc. There was also a nice bubbling jacuzzi. Then we checked out one of the pools inside which was right by the bar and had stools set up along side it. I don’t drink so I asked if the free drinks included any non alcoholic drinks. At first they said no, but then allowed me to order soda so that was really nice.

spacastle_meShortly after that, we headed to the upper floor to get some food. There was a lot of fried food which was tasty: Mozzarella sticks, chicken strips, french fries, fried chicken, shrimp tempura. The shrimp tempura and fried chicken were my favorites. Also salad and delicious fruits: Mango – extremely fresh and sweet; pineapple – sweet and juicy; grapes – wonderful and sweet. It was nice to have that since the fried food was so heavy.

spacastle_foodAfter that we headed back to the outdoor pool area and tried out one of the body massage areas which was AMAZING! It was great to feel the water jets on my back, legs etc. We also enjoyed the foot massage pool and our 2nd drink.

spacastle_poolThen I headed to Sauna Valley and I really liked the whole set up of it. There was a bridge, water flowing, and different colored lights flashing peacefully.

spacastle_saunasI got some friends to join me in trying out all the saunas. We started with the hottest ones first and my favorite was the Gold Sauna. It was a nice temperature, not too scorching and there was a bench to sit on. The most aesthetically pleasing was Jade Sauna which was a dome with gorgeous colors and stones, but at 180 degrees it was a little too warm for me.

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I also laid down in the infrared zone for a little bit. It was okay. I didn’t feel much of a difference after. I just laid out on the long chairs after and then headed back to the locker room. There was a nice area with a massage chair and comfy blue couches just for the girls there.

The one complaint I had about Spa Castle is that it was confusing to navigate and I didn’t even see/know about some of the amenities, such as the Ice Land, which would have probably been my favorite room of all since I LOVE ice! Thankfully, we received a free certificate for another visit, so I will definitely check it out when I come back.

Tufino Pizzeria Napoletana
36-08 Ditmars Blvd
Astoria, NY

Spa Castle
131-10 11th Ave
College Point, NY

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Dining at Traif

I had heard a lot about the restaurant Traif, in Brooklyn and finally had the chance to experience it with a friend the other day. It didn’t disappoint. It was explained to us by the waitress the items on the menu are small bites meant to be shared so we chose a few items. I started off by getting a drink: Pomegranate juice, which was full of pure pomegranate flavor and not too sweet.

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Our first dish was baked Muenster cheese with smoked chorizo and green apple, as well as crostini to dip. The cheese was warm and extremely delicious, along with the chorizo at the bottom. It paired perfectly with the apple and bread. We were even given more bread to finish the rest of the cheese.

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Next came the strawberry-cinnamon glazed baby back ribs, which were as delicious as it sounds. The ribs were coated with just the right amount of seasoning and sauce, and we could really taste the cinnamon spice. The meat came off the bone easily and tasted tender, hearty and a mix of savory and sweet.

traif_ribsAfter that was the BBQ braised short rib sliders with smoked paprika aioli and sweet potato fries. The short rib was incredibly juicy and had a burst of mouthwatering BBQ flavor. And the sweet potato fries were perfectly crispy, crunchy, and delightful. Some of the best I’ve tasted!

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Last was the broccoli rabe, which we thought would be a good, healthy choice but it came smothered in aged asiago, portobello truffle toast and fried egg. Each component tasted great on its own but combining the strong flavors of sauteed broccoli rabe, mushroom, cheese and egg is what made it a wonderful masterpiece.

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The dessert was maple bacon mini donuts with coffee ice cream and this was amazing! Warm doughy, sweet, chewy donuts, glazed with caramel and sprinkled with bacon bits– What could be better? And the ice cream was very yummy, with authentic flavor of milky coffee.
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The meal at Traif, from start to finish, was exquisitely decadent, delectable and delicious! The service was spot on and attentive. I would go back again in a heartbeat to try other menu items.

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Traif
229 S 4 St
Brooklyn, NY

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Dining at Slide

Slide is a newly open restaurant on Bleecker Street in the West Village, specializing in Sliders (What else?) My friend and I ate in the outdoor beautiful garden-like area in the back which had hanging plants & flowers, a rock wall with waterfalls that cascade gently into a pond with koi fish! It was lovely and made us feel like we were not in the city, enveloped in this outdoor haven.

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The sliders come three to an order, presented on a custom-made wooden cutting board with cylinders cut out to hold each individual mini burger. I decided to try a combination of different sliders: Classic beef slider, fried chicken with cheddar waffle, pork belly slider.

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The classic beef slider is made with a top secret meat blend that’s mixed in-house. It came with Manchego cheese, plum tomato, arugula, remoulade and caramelized onions and is delicious. The meat was perfectly juicy, flavorful, tender and all the flavors combined perfectly to create a wonderful culinary experience.

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The buttermilk fried chicken & cheddar waffle w/ maple bourbon pear butter & spicy coleslaw was decent, but didn’t quite live up to my expectations. The fried chicken was not as seasoned as I would have liked; the waffle, though orange did not have a pronounced cheddar flavor and was too dry. I had to ask for syrup to moisten and sweeten the waffle. Also, I could barely taste the maple bourbon pear butter.

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Last was the BBQ pork belly slider, which I had reservations about but turned out to be quite good. It was made with Monterey Jack, pickled onions & fried brussel sprouts. I didn’t really taste the brussel sprouts, but the pork belly was crispy, and a slightly sweeter version of ribs.

I also had Parmesan, garlic & herb fries, which came in a silver tin. They were pretty good, and had plenty of Parmesan shavings but not so much the garlic and herb. I would have enjoyed it more if the garlic and herb were mixed in and cooked with the french fries; instead it seemed like some Parmesan cheese was thrown on top and that was it. They also have curly fries cooked in bacon oil which dark chocolate shavings, which sounded delicious but a little too indulgent. Maybe next time.

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Also for next time I would like to try the CBLT -Crab cake with bacon; the bulgogi cheese steak; the lobster slider, as well as one of their shakes!

Afterwards, my friend and I walked along Bleecker Street and kept passing amazing, tempting shops with posters, cheese, macarons, books, cupcakes… We stopped in a couple of the places. I ended up trying some of the macarons at bisous, ciao which had a clear white window exterior and white walls, accented with hot pink paneling and hot pink twinkle lights. I chose lavender + honey and gianduja, which is a classic mix of hazelnut and milk chocolate. The lavender + honey was truly delightful: Light, delicate flavor of lavender married with the sweeter, richer taste of honeysuckle cream. The chocolate one was surprisingly not as delectable, and was heavier, more dense and doughy with not enough hazelnut flavor.

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Location of Slide Restaurant: 174 Bleecker Street, New York NY

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