Trattoria Thompson

I grew up in a house that had a beautiful kitchen. Really and truly. The secret to keeping it beautiful was a combination of my mom’s obsessive attention to detail (read: constant cleaning on top of having a regular housekeeper) and minimal cooking.

My adult life has been made up of rentals, and as such, less than stellar kitchens. In my married life, though, I’ve done my best to make the most of what we have in our modest Queens apartment. I’ve learned how to prepare meals that aren’t just suited to my tastebuds, but that can work well with meat for Adam, too. My only rules for our kitchen in this home, though temporary,  are that meals be kept healthy (whole grains, no salt, natural ingredients), no pork, and no shellfish (Kosher style, so to speak).

I’ve conquered a few of my foodie fears in feeding my husband. I’ve made challah, toum and poached eggs. But tonight, I tackled a beast that I failed to tame as recent as two days ago: homemade whole wheat pasta.

I tend to limit my grain intake to post-workout, but I had a rough day from some muscle pain and had a hankering to try my hand at it again. And it was a wild success.

I followed the recipe that came with my KitchenAid Pasta Extruder, and decided to make a shape that I can rarely (in fact, I think have never) found in a whole wheat variety: bucatini. There’s something charming about a chubby spaghetti-style noodle that’s hollow in the center.

Charm meet flavor when I added the final product to sautéed heirloom eggplant, heirloom tomatoes, garlic, Spanish onion and a little bit of olive oil, topped with French feta.

The recipe made a huge portion that satisfied my husband and me, with plenty leftover for lunch or dinner tomorrow.IMG_2328.JPG

I highly recommend the recipe and the attachment for your stand mixer. It was super easy to make (less than 30 minutes from prep to plating), and just as easy to clean and store. Next up will be a whole wheat spinach pasta, and by then, you could call our kitchen Trattoria Thompson.

 

I Won’t Scream, But I Did Love This Ice Cream

A while back, I joined a site called Influenster because I love test-driving products for review. And, with my luck, I received my very first Voxbox…for Weight Watchers Ice Cream.

I don’t usually have a sweet tooth. In fact, I much prefer the flavor of roasted garlic to most things sweet. That said, my Memorial Day festivities called for something sweet, so I decided to use my two coupons from Weight Watchers to snag two boxes of bars for my in-laws’ house.

The Bars

I opted for the Dark Chocolate Dulce de Leche and Divine Triple Chocolate. I’m a sucker for caramel flavor, and chocolate is an old standby for even the pickiest sweet-eater.

The Verdict

I’m glad to say that these particular ice cream bars were delicious, and nothing about them felt like a sacrifice for some of the more indulgent brands and varieties. The chocolate shell that’s on both bars adds a really nice texture and flavor against the creaminess of the bar itself. I most enjoyed the caramel bar because of the well of caramel at its core.

I offered one to my husband without the wrapper, and he thought it was Haagen Dazs.

The size was just right – more than a taste, and not even close to a splurge.

I would recommend these bars to anyone – Weight Watchers member or not. They’re nicely portioned, real-tasting (which is big in the world of lower calorie sweets), and affordable.

I’m excited to try new flavors to beat this city heat!

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The Hundred Foot Journey [A Review]

It’s been a while since I’ve seen a movie. I’ve been very much tempted by the small theater I pass each workday on my short walk to the train, but have resisted, mostly in an attempt to conserve my energy and attention for The Hundred Foot Journey’s opening weekend. 

When you work the hours that I do, you want to do right by the things you love. 

Food and film are my two loves, and if I’m going to indulge in either, it’s only going to be when I can give each my full attention.

Juliet Blake, one of the film’s producers, is a family friend. I met her four years ago through my cousin Esther when I moved to New York, and she was – and still is – incredibly real. I got a glimpse of the movie from photos she shared via Facebook while on location, which only built up my anticipation even more.

From start to finish, the film was filled with warmth, from family to food, inviting the audience in as part of the experience. 

While you can’t deny that Manish Dayal was the star of the film, so too was Om Puri – my favorite. His character reminded me of Omar Sharif from Monsieur Ibrahim. And for that reason, I was drawn in. His rugged charm made him so lovable; we’ve all had the type of relative – most likely a parent – who has been meddlesome and persistent, in only the most protective and loving way.

While the food itself wasn’t as much a star in this movie as it was in a picture like Julie & Julia, the passion for cooking actively propelled the movie and bridged two cultures.

If you do nothing else between now and Monday, go see this movie. Not only will you leave without regret, you’ll have a renewed sense of inspiration to get you through the coming week.

 

A Guide to Greek Eats in Astoria

I’ve lived in Astoria for 4 years now, and have grown to love the Greek fare that fills this not-so-little Queens neighborhood.

I’ve broken my favorites down by avenue, to show that you really can access good eats, no matter where you are in Astoria.

  • Zenon Taverna (31st Avenue): Zenon was the first Greek restaurant I ever dined at in Astoria, and it’s by far my absolute favorite. It’s hard not to love this family-owned and operated taverna. Their menu can be overwhelming – in a good way – with so many vegan and vegetarian options to choose from. My favorite? The chargrilled vegetables with skordalia, and their spanikopita. I also love, and have a hard time resisting, their trahana soup. Trahana is a cypriot soup that’s a bit like a porridge. It’s thick and tart from its yogurt base, and gets its texture from halloumi and bulgur. Make sure to treat yourself to dessert, too. The galatekboureko is delicious, but so are their homemade ice creams. If they have the rose-flavored one, try it. We had it for Valentine’s Day, and I’ve had dreams about it since. One note: Zenon is cash only, but I’d empty my savings to eat here if I had to.
  • Ovelia (30th Avenue): When I lived on 31st Avenue, and was in the mood for something a little hip, Ovelia was my go-to spot. It’s trendy without being pretentious, and serves up some of the best Greek-style brunch, lunch, and dinner fare on 30th Avenue. Not as old school as others nearby, Ovelia puts a modern spin on some of the Greek classics. My favorite dish on their menu is their eggs florentine. They serve two plump poached eggs over pita, sitting on top of spinach and feta. They also serve Lavazza coffee, which is a major plus.
  • Kopiaste (23rd Avenue): Kopiaste is a very warm, cozy taverna, located between Ditmars and 23rd Avenue on 31st street. It’s nestled to the side, but you don’t want to miss it. Their food is as lovely as their owner, George, who will make sure you’re happy with your food. He truly values quality and service, and it shows in every detail of the restaurant. This used to be our go-to place, but as we get busier, we haven’t been in a while. An added bonus here is that they offer complimentary dessert, and it’s always changing, and always delicious.
  • Taverna Kyclades (Ditmars Boulevard): Here’s the thing, I used to not be on the Kyclades bandwagon. The restaurant is teeny tiny, and unless you arrive promptly at noon, there’s always at least a 30 minute wait. That said, Kyclades has quickly grown to be one of my favorite Astoria spots (see, I’m capable of change!). If you’re a vegetarian like me, I suggest any of their salads, their beets, or their gigantes. The spinach pie is a bit too rich for my palate. Their dolma are also delectable. What really keeps me coming back though, are the dips. The skordalia and the tzatziki pack a fantastic garlicky punch that makes my mouth water just at the thought. Like many Astoria tavernas, Kyclades offers complimentary galaktoboureko or house wine if they’re out of the sweets. My one gripe? I wish they had the melitzanosalata that they serve at their East Village location. If you know me, you know I cannot get enough of eggplant.
  • MP Taverna (Ditmars Boulevard): It certainly took chutzpah for Michael Psilakis to open MP Taverna just a few storefronts away from Kyclades, the neighborhood favorite. MP Taverna has reached fame in its other locations, and it seems that Astoria is much the same. I find its fare to be slightly overpriced and lacking in properly portioned vegetarian fare. The meat dishes are huge, but most of the meat-free options are sides or smaller salads. That said, the one delicious vegetarian option that I love is their fusilli. It’s such a fun version of the corkscrew-shaped pasta, and it’s drenched in a super deep, rich, spicy tomato sauce. The texture is playful, with cherry tomatoes that burst in your mouth, bread crumbs, and feta to boot. But with an appetizer, two drinks, and two main courses, your bill will easily tip over $100 before tax and gratuity. For Astoria, that’s kind of silly.

Pictured: Vegetarian Fare from Taverna Kyclades

  • Top, left to right: Spanikopita, Peasant Salad.
  • Middle, left to right: Skordalia, Gigantes
  • Bottom, left to right: Tzatziki, Pita Bread

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American Hustle

I fell in love with David O. Russell over Silver Linings Playbook (they did an awesome job using social media to promote the movie, too!), and so when I heard he was banding Jennifer Lawrence, Bradley Cooper, Jeremy Renner, Amy Adams, and Christian Bale together for a new film called American Hustle, I was beyond geeked.

This movie had everything I was hoping for. Christian Bale (Irving) played a lovable conman, caught in a dysfunctional marriage with the wildly talented — and in the film, wildly delusional — Jennifer Lawrence. He meets Amy Adams’ character, and falls in love, and into a whole lot of trouble. Bradley Cooper was pretty good, but Bale and Lawrence really stole the show.

I really feel that Jennifer Lawrence is the modern Meryl Streep. She was so committed to her role as Rosalyn, the nail polish-sniffing Long Island housewife whose husband, a conman with a comb-over, spent his days making money with his mistress.

The movie had pieces of romance, adventure, and grit…enough of each to make it a great choice for date night with my non-moviegoer fiancé.

Cameos by Louis CK and Robert (I want to call him Bob…) De Niro were great, and while the movie did feel a bit long — longer than it actually was — the plot twists were well worth it.

See, there, I told you how I felt about the movie, without really saying very much about it. Even if you really want to see Anchorman 2, go see American Hustle first.

The Peter Horowitz Experience

Moving is stressful. There’s no way to avoid the stress, but choosing the right realtor is definitely a strong step in minimizing the it.

I stumbled upon Peter’s website one year ago. I was having issues with my current apartment, and honestly lusted after his listings. They seemed relatively flaw-free.

Throughout the year, I stayed focused on his blog and social, looking for apartments to get an understanding of what I could afford, and tallying the factors that were negotiable, must-haves, or all together unnecessary.

Nudging from my boyfriend convinced me that a May 1 move was a smart idea, and that it’d be less stressful.

It wasn’t.

Until I contacted Peter.

He was able to get an April 15 lease to push to May 1, and he set up a viewing within 24 hours of my phone call.

Hyper-reachable, and able to answer almost any question thrown his way, Peter truly took his time and did not rush us through the leasing process.

The best part about working with Peter has been that it is not a one-and-done experience. He keeps tabs on the tenants he works with, because their happiness is his reputation.

Visit his website, follow him on Twitter, and check out his images on Instagram.

Diana Vreeland: The Eye Has to Travel

Diana Vreeland by Horst P. Horst.

I have a farkakte sense of style. Mismatching for the sake of comfort has become my shtick. Thankfully, to enjoy the new Diana Vreeland documentary, one does not need to understand fashion so to speak, but must instead appreciate it with a thirst for self-expression and originality. It’s not about being the first, but it’s about recognition of the greats.

A trend-setter in every which way, Diana — and her memory as it has been sustained — was an inspiration to women, climbing to the top-most editorial ranks at publications like Harper’s Bazaar and Vogue — the quirkier Anna Wintour. Wintour is veiled by the same bob and sunglasses, we see little life behind her. Vreeland lived through each role with — what was explained by icons like Angelica Huston, Manolo Blahnik, Hubert de Givenchy, Diane von FurstenbergMissoni, Oscar de la Renta, and Simon Doonan — an energy so dynamic that everyone wanted to be part of her “in” crowd.

The one-liners delivered in this just-over-90 minute documentary are worth the $13 ticket alone, but the wisdom and the inspiration are beyond value. I left the theater — my usual City Cinemas 1, 2, 3 — feeling energized and motivated to do something and be more of a someone. To share, with less of a filter — but let’s face it, I’m in PR — my opinions on my industry, on the tools and my predictions of where it’s all heading. Unapologetic, raw and yet so refined, Diana Vreeland set the example of culture and class, and so this film is a must-see. Her life, even after her death, is an ode not just to fashion, but to culture ongoing, and to love of life and New York.

For more on Vreeland and her remaining estate, visit the Diana Vreeland site, and follow her estate on Twitter.