The Astoria At Home Cookbook
Bring out your inner MASTER CHEF with... The Astoria At Home Cookbook
When Covid-19 hit our neighborhood almost six months ago, life as we knew it, seemed to grind to a complete halt. It was a shock to the system, no doubt.
The lockdown had us all sheltering in place, save for the city's intrepid essential workers. Other than quick runs to the local supermarket, pharmacy, or bodega down the street, we were, for several months, pretty much tied to our apartments.
No one could be sure just what the future held. And it was this uncertainty that was, perhaps, the hardest thing to get through, emotionally.
But Astoria residents, (in common with most New Yorkers), are a resilient bunch and it didn't take long for us to recover from Covid's sucker punch, get off the mat and start fighting back.
Slowly but surely our community began to virtually reconnect with one another.
Positive energy and ingenuity reigned supreme from Astoria Park and Ditmars Blvd. all the way to 30th Avenue and Steinway Street.
Thanks to the efforts of unsung heroes, like the men and women helping their neighbors in need at the Astoria Mutual Aid Network, locals knew that they were NOT alone!
During this time, foodies were seriously missing the social experience of dining with friends and family at their favorite neighborhood restaurants. Quite literally, this moment of joy was taken away from them overnight.
Enter, Katie Riley, a long-time Astoria resident and foodie, who definitely felt their pain.
With more people cooking at home out of sheer necessity, Katie thought that it would be a good idea to create a cookbook that would feature recipes as well as behind the scenes stories from some of the neighborhood's most beloved restaurants.
In some ways, Katie hoped, the cookbook would fill the gap, enabling her fellow Astorians to recreate, in the comfort of their own kitchen, the signature dishes they missed the most. when dining out.
Curated by and for locals, The Astoria At Home Digital Cookbook celebrates all that we love about the diverse and vibrant neighborhood that we are proud to call home.
Proceeds from the sale of each cookbook are donated to the Astoria Mutual Aid Network, so that's yet another reason to check it out. Once you do, you won't be able to stop leafing through the pages.
The hard-working folks at AMAN do everything from picking up food and prescriptions for the home-bound to checking with the sick and elderly by phone, making sure that they are okay.
Katie connected with the founders of AMAN when the cookbook was in its'early stages and she just knew that they had to be a part of it!
Now available for download at www.astoriacookbook.com/order, The Astoria At Home Cookbook features 32 recipes from restaurants and bars such as The Bonnie, Duzan, Blackbird's, Ovelia, Oliver's, Rivercrest, Taverna Kyclades, Comfortland, Queens Room, Yes Chef Wine Bar, Zenon Taverna along with numerous others.
Chock full of interesting info and enticing food photos, the book is divided into 4 sections; cocktails, small plates, mains and desserts along with anecdotes from restaurant workers and memories from Astoria residents about what made their fave places so special.
The recipes are all written to be accessible to the average home cook. You don't have to be Gordon Ramsay to make this magic happen.
Even though some ingredients or techniques may be unfamiliar, Katie and her colleagues encourage their readers to be adventurous! When you leave your comfort zone, that's when the fun really begins.
And yes, there are several vegetarian and vegan recipes included. There's something for everybody here. Isn't that what Astoria is all about?
Aplez.com was absolutely delighted to connect by email with Katie and several other members of the cookbook team, Nikki Kleitzel, Liz Alvarez and Brianne Riviello for an up-close look at how this exciting venture came to be.
Katie told Aplez.com that she was " Inspired by an article in the New York Times about how community cookbooks were gaining popularity during the height of the COVID crisis. I was looking for a way to support local restaurants who were struggling and those who were facing food insecurity. This seemed like a fun way to do both. "
We wanted to know just how the cookbook team came together in such a relatively short amount of time.
"When the idea was formed, I reached out to a few friends and friends-of-friends who made further introductions. The cookbook team includes 8 people, only some of whom knew each other before the project. Believe it or not, we've never all met in person"
Instead, they do a ton of Zoom meetings and, of course, phone chats.
The process with regard to getting the various restaurant owners and chefs involved in the cookbook was far from easy.
Katie's erstwhile colleagues, Liz and Nikki, both chimed in on exactly what went down.
"Initial outreach involved an invitation email detailing information about the cookbook and what we needed from the restaurant. Depending on the response, that was usually followed by a phone call and/or a socially-distanced visit to engage in-person."
"At first, it was a lot of cold calling, direct messaging on Instagram and emails. From the start, it felt like an all hands-on dec process. Also, one of my favorite parts was just making a list of restaurants to reach out to. It brought forth a ton of feelings of hope and positivity during the pandemic, being reminded of all the wonderful places that make up Astoria."
The Astoria At Home Cookbook has been available for several weeks now and it is creating a great deal of buzz throughout the community.
Aplez asked the team what kind of feedback they were getting from people who have already downloaded the cookbook.
Brianne Riviello was up first with her response.
"I've been loving seeing locals and friends who live elsewhere leafing through the book and recreating the various recipes. I can't really welcome my out of town friends to my neighborhood for the time being, so it's fun to see them getting a taste of our community through the cookbook."
Liz Alvarez told us that, "So far the response has been one of gratitude and excitement. Astoria is a close-knit community and as such, I think we have a lot of pride in who we are and our values. The food scene is a major part of that and folks love seeing their favorite restaurant or dish featured. The restaurant owners enjoy seeing their recipes come to life in a new way through the cookbook."
As you would imagine, brunch is super popular with Aplez.com's readers. Always has been and always will be.
So, it was only natural that we were curious as to the cookbook team's favorite brunch spots and dishes. The overall consensus was that it's simply impossible to pick one restaurant out of so many great places in Astoria.
Brianne feels that, " The Bonnie's cozy atmosphere and garden, as well as their fun twist on traditional breakfast food ", puts this gastropub right up there among her fave
places to do brunch.
Nikki is a huge fan of Vesta. "It's a bit removed from the hustle and bustle of 30th Avenue, so the ambiance sets the stage for a relaxing and leisurely brunch. My go-to is the eggs in purgatory served with a side of their crusty bread and home fries. I always complement this with an espresso and a cocktail."
As far as Liz Alvarez is concerned her choice of brunch spot all depends on her mood.
" Am I going for a ladies who brunch, but younger vibe or food, baby, can't eat the rest of the day? "
Liz loves Queens Room for the unbeatable ambiance, variety of beverages and options ranging from light to more indulgent.
" If I'm going for broke, though, I do Comfortland. They do over the top versions of classic donuts, coffee drinks and all of their chicken sandwiches are savory and very brunch-worthy. The owners and staff at both establishments are attentive and go out of their way to create a distinct welcoming experience for their guests."
As in other parts of the city, outdoor dining has been a lifeline for many Astoria restaurants, enabling them to welcome back their old customers while giving them at least something that resembles the pre-COVID dining experience.
Liz most definitely has her opinions on the new style of outdoor dining, in common with most of us, as we get used to the new normal.
"I enjoy having the option of outdoor dining. Seeing more activity outside provides a certain feeling of normalcy and escape from home that I appreciate. As humans, we need to socialize."
That having been said, however, Liz is somewhat concerned with the lack of proper social distancing that has been occurring in some establishments.
"I think that there is a way to serve the community, do business and also prioritize safety."
The Astoria At Home Cookbook is all about connecting people with food in a very sociable way.
With that in mind, this writer was curious as to what sitting down to a nice meal means to the cookbook team, on a personal basis.
Brianne was more than eager to respond to our question.
My favorite thing is sharing the eating experience with people, both old friends and new ones. Food can make people feel comfortable and open up a conversation. I especially love sharing dishes amongst a table and reacting excitedly to the food together. I also enjoy learning about the stories behind restaurants and the history or tradition of family recipes."
Liz had her own take on what mealtime means to her.
"A good meal means being made to feel welcome, feel at home in someone else's space. It's very intimate and is one of the most powerful modes of connection and communication. This holds true even when making a meal only for myself. My decision as to what I create and how I make the food reinforces my commitment to self-care. The short answer is that a good meal equals love."
With the amazing success that the Astoria At Home Cookbook has enjoyed thus far, we were curious as to an eventual follow-up cookbook.
Katie would not rule out that possibility. However, " At this time, all of our attention is focused on making this cookbook as impactful as we can and donating money to the Astoria Mutual Aid Network. Your readers can follow @astoriacookbook on Instagram to keep up with announcements and further updates on the project."
We could have kept chatting forever, but, unfortunately, all good things must come to an end.
Connecting with Katie, Brianne, Liz and Nikki was a total joy. It's positive, hard-working people like this who make Astoria one of, if not, THE best neighborhoods to live
in the entire city.
We know that you're getting hungry right now. What are you waiting for? Order the Astoria At Home Cookbook; get in the kitchen and start whipping up tonight's dinner!
Your cramped apartment kitchen will be instantly transformed into the set of Master Chef... but without the judges looking over your shoulder. Here, YOU are in charge and, thanks to our friends at the Astoria At Home Cookbook, the sky is the limit.
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