@victoriamargaux
 
What felt like nearly two years and one apartment later, Michael Psilakis' MP Taverna is finally open. I've watched the construction on this restaurant since it was just a small sign noting the establishment to come. Chef Psilakis' reputation proceeds him, and so I religiously checked the building status for months. Open just in time for spring, the third location of MP Taverna, an updated Greek eatery with a chic twist on the classics, is a welcome addition to the neighborhood. 

We were seated on the second level by the windows, providing a perfect view of Ditmars at twilight. I made a reservation just to be safe, but stopping in on a weekday without one would have been perfectly fine. The space is perfect for both large families and small intimate two-person dinners. I thoroughly enjoyed the modern decor and cast iron-inset plating. 
A co-worker recommended the Octopus appetizer, and it was definitely spot-on. I've eaten lots of char-grilled octopus in my lifetime, but none compares to this dish. The tendrils were each  perfectly charred, added a touch of smoke to this meaty dish. It melted in my mouth, while still maintaing its texture. I also enjoyed the Mediterranean salad served underneath with chickpeas, olive oil and fresh herbs. The dressing was so good we couldn't help but lap up the extra with the free bread brought to the table at the beginning of the meal. 
For my entree, I went with the Grilled Swordfish. The sides are entirely up to you, so I chose a serving of garlicky spinach (pictured above). Again, the seafood was meaty without being chewy or off-putting. I think the roasted tomatoes on top were a nice touch, adding just the right amount of acidity. I was just as excited to eat my leftovers the next day as I was to enjoy this meal the first time around. 

Jake's Hanger Steak & Greek Sausage with a side of smashed fries (pictured at top) was equally as good. The steak was juicy and oh-so-tender, but I think the smashed fries were my favorite part. Super crunchy without being overly greasy, I found myself reaching across the table for multiple servings of these spuds more often than I'd like to admit. 

The entire menu is fairly priced and the service was incredibly attentive . We're always looking for new date night spots in our neighborhood, and I think MP Taverna definitely fits the bill. We'll be back without question. 
 
 
Well, a full year later and I'm back! Let's just pretend I never left, shall we? 

For months, I've been craving fried green tomatoes. I don't know if it's the longer-than-ever winter in NYC or just my Southern roots showing, but I was beyond stoked to get my comfort food fix last weekend at Queens Comfort in Astoria.

The restaurant's long wooden tables are perfect for communal sharing and ibibing. As anyone who knows me can attest, I love me a boozy brunch. So, when I found out Queens Comfort was BYOB, I literally skipped my ass over to the nearest liquor store. (OK, OK, so I sent my boyfriend.) The staff was more than accomodating, providing a carafe of orange juice for us to pour with our bottles of champange. I also think it's important to note we got a table for six with NO RESERVATION ON MOTHER'S DAY. Kind of awesome, right? 

The friends we were eating with were Queens Comfort pros, so we left the appetizers up to them: three strawberry donuts and an order of disco tots. Now, I'm not a huge doughnut fan, but these straight-out-of-the-oven beauties tasted like real strawberries and none of that processed junk. They rotate flavors (currently it's a riff on a PB&J—I might have to go get a donut.) so make sure to check the menu before you go. 

My real love affair with Queens Comfort started with those disco tots. Tater tots make me nostalgic for my youth, when those toasty potato bites were their own food group. But I digress. Topped with gravy and cheddar, these tots were the opitimy of awesomeness. Gooey, crunchy, and easy to dip in even more gravy—can I have these every Saturday?

The best part about having a large group is that you get to try multiple entrees since (hopefully) everyone orders something different. Thankfully, that was the case. Two people in our party ordered the Chicken and Waffles (pictured at the top), and both of them practically licked their plates clean.  With a tobasco glaze and maple syrup, plus a dollop of butter and some powdered sugar, the sweet-savory combination worked extremely well together.

I opted for the Mushroom Sardou: Poached eggs over sautéed spinach and english muffins topped with a mushroom cream sauce. The dish was earthy yet rich with perfectly cooked eggs. If I'm being honest here, I too practically licked my plate clean. Needless to say, after this meal I went home and took a nice long disco nap.
 
 
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HOY-OB-MOR-DIN or THAI STYLE MUSSELS
When my friends over at Thai Pavilion in Astoria invited me to try some of the restaurant's authentic cuisine, I was excited yet unsure what to expect. Now, I love spicy food, but I'll admit my knowledge of Thai food doesn't go much further than the mediocre pad thai from my nearest takeout spot.

Not only are the owners (and head chef) at Thai Pavilion knowledgeable, but they're also seriously the nicest, most hardworking people you'll ever meet. I think I sat at the restaurant for a full two hours laughing and enjoying each and every dish.

I'll just jump right in to my favorite: Hoy-Ob-Mor-Din or Thai Style Mussels. The fresh mussels were steamed with Thai fine herbs and lemongrass, and served with a spicy lemon sauce. The lemongrass broth was soothing and bright, while the spicy lemon sauce added just the right amount of kick. Each mussel was tender and not too chewy or overly fishy.

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LARB GAI OR CHICKEN SALAD
The Larb Gai was a wonderful new take on the traditional chicken salad. The grounded chicken with onions, chili, scallions, mint and lime juice was served over a bed of lettuce. The dish can be made as spicy (or not spicy) as you'd like. With almost an undertone of licorice, this plate was flavorful in ways no American chicken salad with mayo could ever be.
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MIXED APPETIZER PLATE
And the food just kept on coming. The mixed appetizer plate they put together for me was a great way to taste a little of everything. The Steamed Thai Dumplings were not like any dumpling I've ever had before (and I love my dumplings!). Stuffed with finely grounded chicken, peanuts and preserved radish, each dumpling was earthy and textured—especially with crispy shallots sprinkled on top.

I'm normally not an egg roll fan, but the Thai Egg Roll was pretty delicious. Glass noodles wrapped with egg roll skin were stuffed with sauteed white cabbage and bamboo shoots, making this egg roll so much better than the bland vegetable stuffed junk you get at other takeout places. The plum sauce drizzled on top was the perfect addition.


The Shrimp Wrapped in Phyllo Dough was simple but fun. I loved dipping them into the spicy lemon sauce from the mussels.
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DRUNKEN NOODLES
Drunken Noodles might just be my new go-to dish. The stir-fried flat noodles with chili pepper, basil, onions and chicken were surprisingly light with a wonderful creeping heat.
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PAD THAI
This Shrimp Pad Thai was nothing like any pad thai I've ever had anywhere else. Even the day-old leftovers were better.The stir-fried rice noodles with bean curd, ground peanuts, egg and bean sprouts were crunchy, smooth and oh-so-nutty. You just need to go try it. Seriously. Like now.
Although I didn't have much room left, I'm glad I took a few bites of the Whole Fish with Tamarind Sauce. The Chilean sea bass was flaky and light, while the tamarind sauce brought a tanginess to the dish. The side of Shrimp Curry was pretty delicious, too.

Needless to say, if you love Thai food (or even if you don't) make your way to Thai Pavilion in Astoria. They'll treat you right, feed you good, and make sure you've got lots of leftovers to relive the experience all over again at home.

 
 
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WHISKEY BREAD WITH CULTURED BUTTER
On a random Friday night a few weeks ago, my friend Iwa and I decided to go on an adventure. After a few cocktails (specifically Moscow Mules) at Dutch Kills in Astoria (that's in Queens for those who are geographically challenged), we thought it would be a fantastic idea to catch a cab and hike over to Williamsburg (in BROOKLYN!) for dinner. And, to my surprise, it turned out to be quite a fantastic idea.

Yeah, we're a little bananas, but the food at Gwynnett St. on Graham Ave. was pure bliss.
The space itself is visually stunning. The wall mural, located in the back of the restaurant, is of the calmest blue. I felt like I was swimming in a glorious fishbowl thanks to the oceanic colors.

Originally, we were only going to get one appetizer, but our ravenous stomachs won out. If pound cake and cornbread got together and had a baby, it would be this Whiskey Bread with Cultured Butter. Moist yet textured with just a hint of sweetness, the butter almost wasn't necessary—almost.

Iwa had her eye on the Maitake Mushroom, and I am so glad she did. The mushroom came topped with creamy onion, rosemary and lardo. The dish was so succulent and meaty, if you closed your eyes you would have sworn you were eating a steak. My only qualm is that we devoured the small portion so quickly.

 
 
Photographs by Jake Romoser
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GUACAMOLE ALLA TOSCANA
When I came across a Blackboard Eats deal for free guacamole and a bottle of wine with the purchase of two entrees (or two appetizers per person) at Matilda, there was no way I was passing it up. Date nights with Jake have just been us cooking at home lately, so I thought it would be fun to try some place new and go see a show afterward.

Matilda, located on East 11th Street, has both an eclectic menu and decor. Bright pops of pink and lime green are offset by exposed brick walls and modern white tables (so modern the dessert menu is actually part of the table).

Our bottle of red and Guacamole Alla Toscana arrived right away. I'm pretty picky about my guac—not too chunky, with just a kick of spice—and Matilda's version was spot on. Flecks of red pepper and basil kept the dip from being too bland. I would have preferred more chips, but the focaccia wasn't bad albeit slightly soggy.


 
 
I guess I should start by saying none of these pictures do the food at Talde justice. At all. For the first time in what feels like forever I was just too excited to eat such beautiful food. Taking pictures was definitely an afterthought. That being said, let's dive right in...
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PRETZEL DUMPLINGS

 
 
Photos by Jacob Romoser
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GETTING THE PAN NICE AND HOT FOR CRAB CAKES
Last year, Jake and I started a Valentine's Day tradition of staying in and cooking a scrumptious meal together. Our menu came straight out of Food Network Magazine: Ina's Lemon Pepper Chicken, Bacon-Cheddar Mashed Potatoes, Broccoli Rabe With Cherry Peppers and Neapolitan Ice Cream Sandwiches.

Instead of creating another random menu, I decided I liked the idea of a Surf & Turf type meal. Being on a budget, however, I was pretty afraid we'd get stuck with what I call ghetto surf and turf, or skirt steak and shrimp. That's were GetMaineLobster.com and Living Social saved the day. For what I considered a fairly reasonable price, we received the following:
  • 2 Crab Cakes
  • Lobster Soup
  • 2 Maine Lobster Tails
  • 2 Cuts of Filet Mignon
  • 2 Whoopie Pies
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CRAB CAKES W/ HOMEMADE REMOULADE

 
 
Photos by Jacob Romoser
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FRIED CHICKEN WINGS
I can count on one hand the number of times I've made the trek to Brooklyn. Sorry if I sound like a snob, but traveling from Queens takes just a little too long. When I heard about Brooklyn Wok Shop, however, I decided to suck it up and see what this family business on North 10th Street was all about.

Owners Melissa and Edric hoped to open a neighborhood joint with fresh, delicious food reminiscent of time-honored take-out. I'm happy to say, they did even better
. Brooklyn Wok Shop has a laidback atmosphere with casual but upscale food that works for both a large group or a small, intimate dinner.

 
 
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SEARED DIVER SCALLOPS
To finish my Winter New York City Restaurant Week extravaganza, I met up with my girlfriend Nina for one final lunch. She raved about Quality Meats' Hanger Steak with Brandied Cherries (The photo turned out terrible, but the dish itself was amazing.), so I figured I aught to give it a try.

Of course, I eyed the menu (and salivated) for a full week before we even went. I'm a sucker for seafood, so the Seared Diver Scallops with Brussels Sprouts, Bacon & Honey Crisp Apples was the easy appetizer choice. Although the scallops were a bit thin, they were seared to perfection. The honey crisp apples really brightened the whole dish and brought a nice pop of fresh flavor. Where were the Brussels sprouts? Seriously. I hardly tasted them at all.

Also, the bacon didn't really add anything to the plate. Next time, hold the bacon and give me more Brussels sprouts! (If you can't tell, I'm enamored with Brussels sprouts lately.)

 
 
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BUBBLES & MADNESS, KEY WEST FOOD AND WINE FESTIVAL 2012
Out of all of the Key West Food and Wine Festival events this year, Bubbles & Madness at Azur was my absolute favorite. The unlimited champagne brunch was exactly what I needed after a night of dancing and drinking for my mother's 50th birthday.
 

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