Coupling in the Kitchen

Big city living comes with many little conveniences – many of which are just a click or tap away. After years of sending out laundry and ordering groceries via delivery – I’m a loyal Instacart user – I’m actually convinced that there’s nothing that can fully alleviate the typical moans and groans of living in New York.

I don’t even really live in the city proper. Just outside of Manhattan, Adam and I have nestled comfortably into the Queens County neighborhood of Astoria.

I’ve tested the boundaries of my budget over the years as I’ve developed adult independence. I’ve reasoned away from the lack of logic behind thrice weekly orders from Seamless, and especially since partnering up with Adam, I’ve rekindled my love for cooking.

No matter where I’ve lived, my kitchen has always served as the heart of the apartment. And so when Adam and I moved in together, our kitchen became the place where we were able to find time to chat and unwind. The bedroom is for sleeping, the living room is for binge watching Netflix (smart TV=best purchase EVER) and the kitchen – well, the kitchen is for congregating.

We recently subscribed to Blue Apron and Plated, and it’s really been our way of doing something together – sometimes in a “lord, give me the strength” kind of way – and learning how to communicate through challenges – chopping fennel is harder than it looks!

When I married Adam, I promised him that we’d do adventurous things, but that we’d also define adventure together. I like to think that our culinary adventures keep us on our toes throughout the week, priming us for the real adventure that is simply living – read: surviving – life in New York

brie grilled cheese

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

Image

Sticks and Stones

I thought words would never hurt me. Until tonight.

I was taking the train home after a late dinner with cousins. I felt that in terms of “financial karma” — if I spend responsibly, bad things can’t happen — it was the right thing to do.

Cold weather be damned, I hopped on the Q train towards Astoria, and made it to the 39th Avenue stop before things took a bitter turn.

Five or six high school-aged kids came through one train car into ours, and their immediate rowdiness and crassness didn’t bother me. Until I became their focus.

Three of the kids pointed at me, and proceeded to call me all sorts of insults on the fat scale. Fat was the least offensive, so was ugly.

I’ve worked so hard to even be where I am now, and five or six disturbed youth aren’t going to ruin that, at least not after tonight. Tonight, I’m shedding a few tears, because more than being hurtful, it was scary. These kids showed no remorse for their comments directed at me, or anyone else on the train that became their target. I honestly didn’t know what their next move was going to be, and that scared me.

At the end of the night, even as I sit here writing this in tears, I’m coming home to a safe place, and to someone who loves me. I don’t know for certain that it’s the same for those kids, and maybe that’s even sadder.

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.

Home for the Holidays

Cover of "Planes, Trains and Automobiles ...

Cover via Amazon

I’ll be spending Thanksgiving in Detroit again this year — something I’ve worked hard to be able to do each year since moving to New York. Some traditions have changed — especially since the passing of my grandmother — but it’s still nice to spend time with my mother’s family, especially over the holidays.

I grow nostalgic during the transition from summer to fall. To help get me through, I pilfer through a series of movies that I associate with this season only because there’s a certain coziness to them:

  1. Planes, Trains, and Automobiles
  2. The Great Outdoors
  3. Home for the Holidays
  4. The Holiday
  5. Love Actually
  6. Home Alone and Home Alone 2
  7. The Addam’s Family
  8. Problem Child and Problem Child 2
  9. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone
  10. Julie and Julia
  11. Something’s Gotta Give
  12. It’s Complicated
  13. Manhattan
  14. It Runs in the Family
  15. French Kiss
  16. In Her Shoes
  17. The Odd Couple
  18. National Lampoon’s European Vacation
  19. Curly Sue
  20. Father of the Bride (the Steve Martin version)

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.

A New Year’s Orphan

Holidays have been tricky for me since making the big move to the Big Apple. I have family here — I think most Jews do — but nothing compares to my Detroit contingent that gathers for weekly Shabbos dinners, the high holidays, Thanksgiving, New Years, and Pesach.

While I’ve grown accustomed to breaking the Yom Kippur fast with my New York cousins — very much worth a full day’s fast if I can snag even one of cousin Marion’s blintzes — especially as they often reminisce in my grandmother’s memory, nothing replaces digging into a deli tray and other dairy delights with my full mishpocha back home in the mitten that is Michigan.

My original plans for the holiday weekend, or rather, the weekend leading up to erev Rosh Hashanah changed last-minute. I was supposed to venture out to Amagansett for what was to be a lovely weekend of apple picking and time spent with my cousins Aaryn and Esther. Thanks to an unruly Hamptons Jitney operator, those plans unraveled.

Suddenly, I felt like a high holiday orphan. Many of my New York friends are not Jewish, and those that are have traveled back home for the holiday. Salt was rubbed into the wound after a few Skype calls with my siblings and parents, and I began to plan for an evening alone on 29 Elul in my teeny, tiny apartment in Queens, while they all made plans to enjoy the holiday back in Michigan.

My luck changed when a former colleague and good friend invited me to join his family for dinner. I jumped at the opportunity, and am excited for the experience. Nothing can replace holidays at Auntie Phyllis’, but hopefully this will be a close second. And while tomorrow I should be spending my day in services, I’m without tickets for Monday, and am plagued with my father’s work ethic, so I’ll be at work and not shul.

That said, to my readers, family, friends, and beyond – I wish you a very happy, healthy, and sweet new year. לשנה טובה ומתוקה לכולם!