We’ve been visiting with my mother for several days now and though Astoria may not rival New York City when it comes to holiday decorating, I think it’s charming anyway. Their overhead lights, strung up at every street light, creates a very festive atmosphere along Ditmars Blvd. It may be small but it gets the job done. We have the creche at the local church, The Immaculate Conception, it’s a tradition for as long as I can remember, walking past the creche everyday puts a smile on my face. It reminds me of one of my favorite holiday movies “The Little Drummer Boy” which makes me tear up to this day, especially the part where Baba gets hit and the little drummer boy seeks help and in return plays his drum, it gets me every time, like clockwork, the kids laugh at me, I don’t mind, I’m a big old softie.
I don’t know why it hit me today, as opposed to every other time that I have walked around Astoria, but Astoria is changing and it is nice. Astoria has always been a nice neighborhood when I was growing up, very ethnic; Greek, Italian, German and French and nowadays it is a lot more cosmopolitan. The other day when we got off at Ditmars Blvd, I noticed quite a few aspiring models getting off the subway as well and today I passed three young, rail thin very pretty girls walking towards the subway station clutching their portfolios.
When it comes to restaurants, Astoria is experiencing a renaissance. I walked three blocks and saw three new restaurants advertising for help and ready to open within the next few weeks. Just a few blocks either way from my mother’s house, we now have choices of Japanese, Thailand, French, Asian Fusion and vegetarian. That is world’s away from the choices we had when I was little so it is exciting to see Astoria getting to be a big boy neighborhood if you will. We don’t have to venture to the city to have something different, we can walk a few blocks and patronize the local establishments right here and we feel good about it. We like supporting our local restaurants and giving back to the community.
My hubby and I came to New York to celebrate our birthday’s with my mother. We came during the week because my hubby has a project going on in the area so instead of him going back and forth from New York to Massachusetts twice more, why take care of two things at once? I never mind spending more time in Astoria, it is where I grew up and I like walking around the park, get some exercise going and take some pretty pictures. So that is what I did while my hubby and my mother were at work. I decided to take pictures of Astoria Park’s pool because it is a very beautiful piece of refreshing fun in the middle of a lovely park surrounded by urban craziness. New York can be described as urban craziness and to see an immense pool being enjoyed by senior citizens and small children makes for a beautiful picture.
Once my hubby and my mother came back home, my mother took us out to eat. My sister had recommended a Vietnamese restaurant that she found in the New York Times Food and Dining section, it is called Bun-ker and it is located on Metropolitan Avenue in Ridgewood Queens. According to the article that I read from top to bottom, the chef went back to Vietnam, to the city where his parents are from and followed the street vendors around for a year to hammer out their menus and their techniques, the article said that after what they had sampled the chef had proven to be a first rate student. I can safely say that my hubby and my mother would be in complete agreement. By now you have to know that I am so happy that my sister discovered the article because the food was excellent. As I sit here typing away, my belly is touching the keyboard, my mother kept pushing various bowls in front of me, pushing me to finish the plates.
The plates of food, there were so many. We started with crab spring rolls, they were very good, almost as good as my Tantine Louise’s and that is saying a lot. We also ordered papaya salad, normally a Thai dish, but the chef created something beyond what I had ever tasted before in other restaurants, it was crisp, refreshing, citrusy and oh so delicious. The third item on the appetizer list was a crepe filled with shrimp, bacon and bean sprouts, that we cut into thirds and then wrapped in lettuce leaves with mint leaves and dipped in a spicy dipping sauce. We had never tried anything like that before and it was magnificent.
The main courses didn’t fall short of all this goodness. Our waiter brought us a bowl filled with organic sautéed salmon on a bed of greens, basil, scallions and noodles with a vinaigrette and crunchy nuts, my mother adored this one. The second dish was a tender Heritage pork tenderloin sliced and served with steamed rice, tomatoes, onions and a fried egg, I liked it a lot. The only criticism that my mother and I had for it was that it was hard to properly share, the way it was presented since we were at a Vietnamese restaurant, we each had our own chop sticks but we were sharing one knife and two forks. The flavors were great though. The third entree was shrimp, marinated and grilled with tons of garlic that got really nicely caramelized with steamed rice that had been sautéed with tomatoes and onions. This was fantastic as well.
As we were eating and repeating the same thing over and over again, this is so good, I said to my mother that I was so glad that we had gone to the restaurant armed with an article because unlike all the other times that we have eaten at a vast number of other Vietnamese restaurants, we were finally exploring outside of our comfort zones and experiencing a whole new range of flavors and ingredient combinations.
I realize that the pictures of me are horrible but my mother sure looks cute. I was busy enjoying the remnants of the extraordinary papaya salad while my hubby was clicking away with his cell phone. As I was chewing, my taste buds were ecstatic and didn’t care what my face looked like, so you are looking at a very happy eater.
Who makes the best pizza?
June 11, 2012
I don’t think that there is only one best pizza, there are several delicious interpretations of pizza and one of may favorite’s was an Italian restaurant in Brussels. The family and I stumbled upon the restaurant and we had one of the best thin crust pizza’s ever. It reminded me of the thin crust pizza that my hubby and I used to eat at Paper Moon in New York City, I’m not sure if they are still open. Frankie’s pizzeria in Astoria, Queens makes one of the best traditional pizza’s ever and they have been doing it for over forty years. Those three are my favorite pizza memories.
We, the family and I, are spending time visiting my mother, or Mamie as we call her, to celebrate both Mother’s day and her birthday. My sister and her family came for dinner and we ate great food as usual and took pleasure in each other’s company and conversation. My two kids are a bit older than my sister’s kids but they all get along really nicely regardless of the age difference. For dinner, my mother did all of the cooking, my sister and I helped by setting the table, getting whatever my mother needed and with cleanup. Mamie made us a wonderful seafood soup as an appetizer, she followed that with a rib eye roast cooked perfectly at rare and a tian of tomatoes, potatoes and zucchini with grated Swiss cheese put under the broiler for a crunchy golden melted crust crowning the caramelized juicy, tender vegetables. She also prepared fresh English peas, steamed and then sautéed with onions in a little bit of butter. Now if all that wasn’t enough, dessert of the highest caliber followed, a Saint-Honore. The Saint-Honore is a sophisticated dessert involving puff pastry as the base of the cake with cream puff pastry dough to make the cream puffs used to make a walled circle around the base which is then filled with a vanilla pastry cream and whipped cream. The puffs are attached to the pastry base with golden caramel. It is a picture of fluffy creaminess, it isn’t what I would call light and airy but it isn’t heavy either. The dessert achieves the perfect balance of everything, flavor and texture. It is no wonder that Saint-Honore is the patron Saint of French bakers and pastry chefs. Tomorrow we are going back home after lunch, and as luck would have it, there are leftovers. Seafood soup and Saint-Honore, hooray for us, more good food before we hit the road.