It’s almost been two years since I first moved to Queens, but I find that there is still so much to see and explore. Since most of my friends either live in Brooklyn or Manhattan, I’m usually biking across the Pulaski Bridge into Brooklyn or hopping on the subway to Manhattan; I really haven’t had much of a chance to explore my own borough. But this all changed when I began to prepare and plan for Asian Feastival. In the past few months, I’ve spent more time in Queens than ever before. As a result, I’ve gotten a chance to know more Queens people and Queens places, and I really love it.
When the idea of doing an Asian Feastival bike tour came up, the first person that came to mind was Youngsun Lee. A Korean chef born in Seoul and raised in Queens, he first began biking to get in shape for the snowboarding season but now he is an equally expert biker. Together with Emily Lew, Asian Feastival graphic designer and correspondent, we discussed our shared passion for biking between bites of teok (Korean rice cakes) at the Asian Feastival press conference. By the time the conference was over it was settled, we were going to take it to the streets and do the bike tour. The fourth biker in our bike brigade was Jeff Orlick. Having lived in Jackson Heights for the past two years, he’s been spreading a good dose of Queens love through food. Organizing Queens-centric food gatherings and events, he’s been exploring the culinary landscape of Queens and bringing people together through a shared love for exploratory eating.
Two Tuesdays ago, the four of us set off to test out the tour to get an idea of which roads to take, which stops to make, and to spend a nice sweaty Tuesday afternoon exploring the streets of Queens by bike. Meeting in front of the Queens Museum of Art, we started off through the World’s Fairgrounds at Flushing Meadows Corona Park and made our way to our first stop, a local Korean community garden.
Hidden amongst the neighboring residential and commercial buildings, the Korean community garden is just a stone’s throw away from the busy streets of downtown Flushing, yet it feels like a hidden oasis amidst the daily hustle and bustle of the area. Divided into several plots, the gated garden was lush even in the thick of the summer heat. We brushed past rows of scallions, green and deep burgundy perilla (sesame) leaves, tall stalks of amaranth, and other plants, while we watched the elderly Korean gardeners tend to their shared plots. With a watering hose or hoe in hand, outfitted in complete trend-bending gardening regalia, they seemed so at peace sitting in plastic beach chairs, tilling the land and tending to each manicured plot with such great dedication. There was no plant left thirsty or uncared for.
Touring Queens by bike is an amazingly visceral experience — it’s just you, the road, and the wind in your face. Since the areas in Queens that I frequent tend to be either near a subway station or a high traffic area when I’m traveling by car, I never really considered the borough to be much of a looker when it came to landscape and scenery. I made a wrong assumption. For the next leg of the bike route, we rolled through the bike paths along several parks, winded down shady tree-lined paths, and breezed by the quaint residential areas. Riding through the pathways and streets at a bike’s pace is one of the best ways to instill some Queens pride.
After our leisurely stroll in the garden, we mounted our bikes and pedaled off to our next destination: The Queens County Farm Museum. Right off the Littleneck Parkway, the Queens County Farm Museum comprises of 47 acres of New York City’s largest remaining tract of farmland and the oldest continuously run farm in New York State, a historical site whose mission is to restore, preserve Queens County’s agricultural, horticultural and viticulture past. On a typical day, you can find volunteers weeding the watermelon patch, young families visiting the farm, and troupes of visiting children from schools and summer camps.
The farm is home to many furry residents. Let’s meet some:
After our meet and greet with the animals, we met with Amy, the director of the Queens County Farm Museum. Even after working there for twenty years, she still gushes with passion and enthusiasm when she talks about the farm.
Edgar, one of the workers on the farm, was kind enough to walk us through a quick tour. First stop was the Adriance Farmhouse. Built in 1772 and done in the Flemish style, the farmhouse is where cooking lessons are held and the general caretaker of the farm resides. Stepping inside, lingering smells from the last meal cooked in the kitchen perfumes the farmhouse with the woodsy smell of roast pork.
Across from the Adriance House is the farm store where produce, eggs, and other farm products are sold, in addition to other artisanal products such as their namesake Queens County Farm Museum wine made from the grapes on their vineyard and processed in Long Island.
Edgar led us into the chicken coop and the hens didn’t seem to mind our company, continuing to strut about, lay eggs, and eat grain. While Edgar passed around some freshly laid eggs, Jeff was busy picking up some ladies — as in some hens.
Aside from the farm animals, another major attraction at the farm is the corn maze, which changes shape every year (this year it’s supposed to look like an ipod). Hand-cut by farmhands after using lasers to direct the design, it isn’t much of a maze right now, but come fall the stalks will be tall and the maze will ready.
To conclude our farm tour, we ended at the vegetable patch, comprised of neat rows of vegetables and flowers. The produce harvested here is picked and then sold at local farmer’s markets.
We looped back into the parking lot of the Queens Museum of Art slightly tanner and sweatier than when we started, but the 22 mile ride was worth every drop of sweat. Thanks to Emily, Jeff and Youngsun for an epic ride.
To join the “Tour du Jour”, email email@example.com with your Brown Paper Ticket purchase confirmation and we will send you a waiver with detailed instructions about the ride. See you at Flushing Meadows Corona Park at 8:30am on September 6th!