Naya’s: A Piece of Lebanon in New York City

Lebanese is the one cuisine I can never tire of! Even after my holidays in Lebanon in which every family visit is accompanied by a plentiful feast, I come back craving the food. Having been spoiled with the best Lebanese food, my family and I have always struggled to find an authentic and delicious Lebanese restaurant in New York city. That is until we found Naya’s in midtown.

In celebration, I brought my friends for a well-prepared feast on Easter. Traditionally, the standard Lebanese meal at a restaurant is all about sharing. It begins with the mezze, which are small sharing platters. My family, one who loves food, usually overdoes this course and is even too full to move onto the hot dishes. Nonetheless, the meal is finished off with a platter of grilled meat and vegetables and rice with vermicelli.


Common mezze include hummus, taboule, babaghanoush, spinach pies, fatoush (salad with pomegranate syrup and sumac), falafel, kibbe (meat and cracked wheat stuffed with spiced ground meat), sambousac (fried pastry filled with spiced ground meet), grilled haloumi cheese, among many other dishes. The variety is so expansive that a different combination of dishes can always be ordered.


I have found it nearly impossible to not leave a meal like this full beyond belief. However, the food itself is actually quite light. Butter and cream are rarely used. Each dish usually contains a large amount of olive oil, garlic, and lemon. For the most part, dishes are prepared through grilling, baking, or sautéing. There is an abundance of vegetables, whole grains, and fruits in every meal. Fish and poultry are more often used than red meat, which when used is most commonly lamb.

Naya’s menu offers a broad representation of Lebanese cuisine. They are true to the original flavors and preparation. With the plentiful choices, there is sure to be a dish for everyone to love. Go to Naya and allow yourself the opportunity to become acquainted with the mastery of a Lebanese kitchen.



Cherry Bombe, Part 1

I’m pleased to announce that my dreams have come true. They actually came true three years ago, when Claudia Wu and Kerry Diamond launched Cherry Bombe, a magazine celebrating women and food.

Cherry Bombe is a biannual print-only publication with a gorgeous aesthetic that mixes white space with colorful personality. Wu and Diamond love the so-called “dead” journalism mediums; Cherry Bombe exists in print, radio, and live forms only. That includes the mag itself, Radio Cherry Bombe (a weekly conversation with Wu, Diamond and others of the coolest women ever), and Jubilee (an annual conference that brings all of these cool people together so that they can share their energy and get even cooler). I’ll attend Jubilee one day, but I get to read and listen in the meantime.


So here goes the fan-girling:

Normal day in the Barnard life. Cut to me in the elevator post-orgo-lab hoping and praying my issue of Cherry Bombe has arrived. Cut to me exiting the elevator with goggle marks still fresh. Back-of-the-mailbox shot of the tears in my eyes when I see my Altschul mailbox crowded by a hefty cardboard object. Jump cut to me savagely reducing that object to its true form, Issue No6 of Cherry Bombe. I do end up nicely hanging the cardboard label with my name and address handwritten by some cool woman who works for Cherry Bombe. I know it’s a small team, so it could be Wu or Diamond herself calling out to me. Are you there, Cherry Bombe goddess?



Slowly so as not to disturb the magical design-induced aura of Cherry Bombe, I curl the cover back and I embark.


To be continued . . .

Rockin’ Raw: Vegan Peruvian Creole Food

One of the things that I definitely take for granted since moving to the city is the opportunity to try so many different vegan restaurants. Even though all vegan restaurants only serve vegan food, they are all very different. On my most recent adventure to find a vegan restaurant, I stumbled upon Rockin’ Raw located at 171 Sullivan Street in Greenwich Village, which serves Peruvian Creole food that is both vegan and gluten free.


Being that it is close to Washington Square Park, it is a great place to get takeout and eat in the park, now that it has gotten warmer outside. Although I would definitely recommend eating in the restaurant as well, because it is very nice and cozy inside. It is small though, so it definitely will get crowded.

I decided to try the lasagna and I also got a chocolate shake to go with it. For their shakes, you have the choice of either almond milk or coconut milk. I decided to try it with coconut milk. The taste of the coconut milk was very obvious in the shake, but it definitely gave it a unique flavor, and actually made it even sweeter. I would guess that with the almond milk, a customer probably couldn’t detect that diary milk wasn’t used. Ultimately, the shake was very good and definitely satisfied my chocolate craving. I would definitely recommend trying it!

Chocolate Shake
Chocolate Shake

The lasagna I had was excellent because it tasted amazing and also the portion size was quite big. I’m not sure how, but it definitely tasted like there was meat in the lasagna, which made it much better than most vegan lasagnas you will find at other vegan restaurants. The lasagna was made with layers and layers of zucchini, mushrooms, red bell peppers, marinara sauce, and sunflower ricotta cheese.


Before going to Rockin’ Raw I had pretty high expectations, but the meal I had was even better than what I expected it would be. I highly recommend trying Rockin’ Raw; you will not be disappointed!

A Middle Eastern Salad Concoction at Sweetgreen

If you’re not familiar with the way it works at Sweetgreen, you can either make your own salad from a set of “bases” and “toppings,” or you can choose from one of their own combinations of bases and toppings. Since the mighty chickpea has become a staple of the American health nut’s diet, it comes up in as many as three different toppings: plain chickpeas, falafel, and hummus. The latter two are featured in Sweetgreen’s Hummus Tahina salad. An updated Greek salad, this concoction starts with a romaine lettuce and kale base, and is topped with tomatoes, cucumbers, pita chips, red onions, and falafel. Dressed with a tangy tahini dressing, and slapped with a scoop of hummus, this salad reaches the end of the assembly line, ready to eat. I went to Sweetgreen to try it out, and got a weird look for ordering the salad without any tweaks. Is that a bad sign? Oh my.

Do I need a better camera or is there no way to make this look appetizing?
Do I need a better camera or is there no way to make this look appetizing?

Usually in these posts I talk about authenticity, but I feel like it is kind of futile in this case. I mean do Guacamole Greens take you back to Mexico? What about the Rad Thai?

When I go to sweetgreen, I don’t expect my taste buds to be dazzled. It seems to be Sweetgreen’s objective to cover each part of the food pyramid in every one of their salads. Unfortunately, this means that their combinations can be very crowded. The list of ingredients that went into my Hummus Tahina is unnecessarily long. I don’t need hummus AND falafel AND tahini. Individually, the hummus is creamy and nutty, the falafel is warm, chunky, and hearty, and the tahini is light and tangy. But together you get tahini and chickpea overload. Romaine is traditional, and kale is a cool update, but again, why put them together? That being said, some ingredients were essential, like pita chips that give crunch, and cherry tomatoes that add color and sweetness.

Overall, it was an okay lunch. Next time, I’d take out the hummus, keep the falafel, and go for an all-kale base.

Also, I promise, I will have at least one home cooked Middle Eastern recipe before the end of the semester!

Happy spring!

Soup Dumplings Part 1: Joe’s Shanghai

There are few things I love more than spontaneously going on adventures in the city—reminding myself how lucky I am to be able to decide at 7 pm on a Tuesday that I want to go to Central Park, or a museum, or in this case, down to Chinatown for xiaolong bao, or soup dumplings.

I was late to soup dumplings. Friends have been raving about them for years, but I rarely go out for Chinese food, so I only had them for the first time about a year ago. Pork and garlic, broth and dough—there are few combinations that are such excellent complements.

There is, as well, a certain magic to the art of eating the dumplings; a technique, definitely, to biting in the right place, managing to get the Chinkiang vinegar into the broth, to slurping the broth without spilling—all while keeping one’s mouth from being severely burned (if they’re good, they’ll be scaldingly hot). For a more scientific breakdown of technique, as well as a list of best soup dumplings in the city, please refer to J. Kenji López-Alt.

The first of two soup dumpling posts is about Joe’s Shanghai; specifically, the location in Chinatown. It’s my roommate’s go-to soup dumpling place, and I spontaneously tagged along

Scallion pancakes and soup dumplings—you know, I’m all for fine dining, but sometimes there’s really nothing better than some salt, pork, and starch, especially on a cold December night after wandering up and down Fifth Ave for hours (my roommate’s friend was visiting).

Upon entering Joe’s Shanghai, you will most likely be sent back out into the cold—there are a bunch of people already in line. But once in a while, when your group has an uncommon number—three, perhaps—you’ll get seated at a shared table and within about five seconds, there are a multitude of menus and both tea and water in front of you.

Get a couple of orders of the soup dumplings. Don’t expect particularly kind waiters, but do expect piping hot food that arrives quickly. Eat the dumplings fast, though—otherwise they’ll stick to the steamer and you won’t be able to use your new xiaolongbao-eating techniques.

Stay tuned for part 2 of the soup dumpling adventures, where I’ll compare Joe’s to a rival…

Can anyone resist these?
Can anyone resist these?

Joe’s Shanghai

9 Pell St, (212) 233-8888

Atmosphere: Casual.

Credit Card: no.

Noise Level: loud.

Recommended Dishes: soup dumplings, scallion pancakes.

Hours: 11am–11pm, 7 days a week.

30-Minute Gourmet: Sweet Chili Salmon

This week I am finally moving from the stove to the oven with my Sweet Chili Salmon. This recipe is adapted from this recipe from Pinterest and an old family favorite from Mark Bittman, which consists of nothing more than butter, salt, and pepper. Like all my posts, this recipe is versatile and can be paired with nearly any vegetable, starch, or grain, especially my One-Pan Pasta or my Spinach Mushroom Quinoa Skillet.

Like my previous recipes, this is another one-dish wonder. It does require removing the dish from the oven a few times, which can be tricky to do effectively so as to not lose too much heat from the oven. This skill, along with the ability to gauge when to finish cooking the fish, is essential for mastering this recipe. Luckily for us, the rest of the recipe is extremely easy and cleanup takes about five minutes.


Salmon is my favorite fish for many reasons. Firstly, it’s incredibly versatile in that it can be eaten with flavorful sauces, such as teriyaki and sweet chili, but it also has wonderful natural flavors that be brought out with just a touch of salt and pepper. Furthermore, it can stand alone or be incorporated in salads, pastas, and many other dishes. This particular recipe utilizes both salmons natural flavor and it’s ability to pair with sauces to achieve a good balance. I also sautéed some greens quickly in a pan on the stove while the salmon was cooking as a side, which  was done by heating some butter and garlic in a pan and sautéing the greens until wilted.

A side note before I get to the actual recipe, the recipe from Pinterest called for the salmon to be marinated, which could be great for the flavors, however it would make this recipe take longer than thirty minutes to prepare. Also, broiling the salmon as suggested in the Pinterest might create interesting textures, however I have not yet figured out how to use the broiler on my apartment’s oven.


And without further ado, here is the recipe.

1 3/4lb salmon fillet

2-3 Tablespoons of Thai Sweet Chili sauce

3 Tablespoons green onions

1-1/2 Tablespoons butter

Salt (to taste)


Preheat the oven to 475 degrees and place a small baking dish of butter inside to melt the  butter. Once the butter is melted, remove from the oven and place salmon fillet flesh side down in the dish. Cook for 5 minutes.

Remove the dish from the oven and flip salmon so the flesh side is facing up. Brush 2 Tablespoons of Chili Sauce over the top of the salmon. Place white part of green onions around the salmon and put back in the oven for 3-6 minutes (or if desired, remove halfway and add more chili sauce)

Garnish with remaining green onions and serve.


Southern Style Bakery in the Big Apple

After spending a week at my home in South Carolina, returning to New York City made me nostalgic for warmer weather and the ability to wear flip flops every day.  Because I have recently been focusing on the French patisseries, I let my desire for some homemade Southern baked goods determine my next bakery adventure.

Completely different from anything I have reviewed before, Donna Bell’s Bake Shop is a cozy space tucked into a busy Midtown area, blocks away from Times Square.  Yet once I stepped inside, the noise and commotion of the area dropped away as I was greeted by a welcoming environment very similar to a Southern kitchen.  I could watch the baking process of the goods in the tiny kitchen, as they were carefully handmade.  And in front of me, stacks of cookies, cheesecakes, and desserts beckoned me to come further into the store.  Started by Pauley Perrette from the show NCIS and her two best friends, the shop is named for Perrette’s late mother, Donna Bell, and the small staff constantly works to represent her memory through their baking and attention to customer service.



After it was pointed out to me that the blueberry cheesecake squares were especially thick that day, I could not resist picking one up to carry back to school with me.  Donna Bell’s does not have seating for its customers, but in my mind, that just adds to the cozy ambiance and size of the space.  To brighten up my walk back to the subway stop, I also purchased an Arnold Palmer (a blend of sweet tea and lemonade) to really get the full Southern experience for my day.  Stepping back outside, the temperature seemed a little bit warmer and the sun a little brighter, and with my cold drink in hand, I could almost pretend that it was summer again.

Blueberry Cheesecake Square and Arnold Palmer

The blueberry cheesecake that I promptly devoured upon reaching my dorm had thick shell topped with a creamy filling, without being overwhelmingly sweet.  I often find that I cannot even finish slices of cheesecakes when I go out due to their heaviness and sweetness, but this square hit a perfect balance.  A thick layer of blueberry swept through the middle of the cheesecake, the fresh taste of fruit reminded me of homemade baked goods. Donna Bell’s gave me the taste of Southern cooking that I needed, without neglecting the accessibility and options of the city.


Address: 301 W 49th St, New York, NY 10019

Kale Almond Pesto Tagliatelle

Home for spring break? Want to impress your family or treat your friends to a delicious dinner? I have the perfect recipe for you.

The other day, I was testing pesto recipes for work. When I say testing recipes, I mean testing A LOT of recipes. I can officially make pesto with my eyes closed. And yes, I still smell faintly of garlic. You may ask: what does one do with so much pesto? There are three answers: (1) Eat it on chips, (2) Jar it and give it to your boyfriend’s mom for extra brownie points, (3) Make something fabulous for dinner to go with it. We’re going to focus on number three.


This pasta is covered in a kale & almond pesto that I made with all my leftover ingredients from that day. For an added textural component, I threw in some larger pieces of kale. At the very end I tossed in some sliced grape tomatoes for brightness.

This recipe serves 2, but feel free to double or triple amounts for larger parties.

Kale & Almond Pesto 

  • 1 cup of roughly chopped kale
  • 2 tablespoons of roasted almonds
  • 3 tablespoons  of grated parmesan cheese
  • 1 tablespoon of lemon juice (about half a lemon’s worth)
  • zest of a whole lemon
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 2 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon of salt & pepper

Add all ingredients to a food processor and pulse until you reach a spreadable consistency that isn’t too creamy. It should not be fully smooth!


To assemble the pasta…

You need:

  • 1 more cup of roughly chopped kale
  • 1 cup of grape tomatoes sliced lengthwise
  • Extra parmesan cheese & black pepper to top off

To make the Tagliatelle, follow the boiling directions on the package. I say this because it varies from brand to brand. If you can’t find Tagliatelle, Linguini would work great in this as well.

Roughly chop the kale and stir it in to the pasta after draining. If you put the lid to the pot back on for a few minutes, the kale will wilt perfectly.

Add the tomatoes and the pesto last and toss it all together until evenly mixed.

Serve and top with parmesan and freshly ground black pepper to taste! Enjoy!


I’m the Luckiest Peach

When you spill milk on thick paper, large droplets of it form a waxy film in puddle-like shapes. I think it’s beautiful; certainly nothing worth crying over.


I learned this when I spilled half a mug’s worth of whole milk on the cover of my Winter 2015 issue of Lucky Peach, a quarterly food journal associated with Momofuku. Yes, that’s Momofuku as in David Chang. Momofuku as in what you daydream about when you decide to go to college in NYC. Momofuku as in the jaw-dropper. And yes, I splurged on a subscription.

This is the seventeenth issue of Lucky Peach, and it’s the breakfast issue. Each one has a theme, but don’t be deceived by the straightforwardness of breakfast. Some themes of past issues have been street food, the apocalypse, fantasy, even gender.


But breakfast does not disappoint. In “It’s 8 a.m. Somewhere,” the mag presents normal breakfasts from twenty-two different corners of the world. Breakfast is often an aspect of routine, which makes it a very personal meal. Lucky Peach validated what I always thought was true: it’s OK to eat almost anything for breakfast, be it tacos (Texas), fish fillets (Alaska), hot coffee from a vending machine (Japan), or even sheep placenta (China). Most of these segments are written by people who live or grew up in the specified place, and this makes it feel less like a magazine and more like what it actually is––a food journal.


However, there is some magazine-like reporting. Adam Leith Gollner’s “Dim Sum Democracy” tells the story of Mak Kwai Pui, the man behind the most democratized chain of Michelin-starred restaurants. He reports on Hong Kong’s Umbrella Revolution, drawing parallels between the protest and Mak Kwai Pui’s philosophy as a chef and restauranteur.


Sam Dean’s “The Roast of George Howell” is not actually a roast, but a celebration of Howell’s weirdness and importance as a coffee king. He details Howell’s unorthodox path to gurudom, his expertise on all things coffee and coffee agriculture, and his obsession with Huichol yarn paintings. I actually grew up eyeing these yarn paintings at George Howell Coffee in Newtonville, MA. Little did I know they were a fixation of Howell’s––specially hung and lit all over his home. I sipped the same coffee and looked at the same paintings as George Howell himself. What does that make me?

Lucky Peach is a weird magazine. By weird, I mean funky. The design choices culminate in a specific vibe––one that implies playfulness and deep knowledge simultaneously. The illustrations have more swagger than you’d expect for a serious food magazine, while some of the photographs are downright sexy (I’m talking to you, spread of Russ & Daughters salmon cuts).


It’s a read I couldn’t help but savor. I look at the milk-stained cover and curled-corners of my Winter 2015 issue of Lucky Peach and I feel comforted. I remember the nights I blew off studying to read about avocado toast or coffee cuppings or to enjoy a comic about egg opinions. I know there will be many more to come.



Chapati House – Quick and Delicious Indian

Midterms hit me very hard this year, as I am sure they did all of you. I could barely find time to fit in enough studying, let alone go out for meals. So I turned to the ever so handy seamless. I ordered from Chapati House since the reviews were consistently positive, and they were right. The food was well-packaged, came promptly, and tasted good. I ordered the brown rice bowl with chicken tikka masala. With this dish came different toppings, out of which I chose pickled ginger, sautéed onions, diced tomato, and banana pepper, all dressed in a cooling, fresh yogurt coriander sauce. The flavors were strong and varied. Each bite satisfied a different taste: the onions were savory, the pickled ginger was tart, and the banana peppers were spicy. The chicken tikka masala was creamy with subtle hints of garlic and ginger. Overall, each bite was full of robust, delicious flavor. I was surprised by how quick they deliver, but also by how satisfying my meal was. The food did not taste overly salted, but my thirst afterwards disappointingly proved otherwise. Besides this, I will definitely be ordering from Chapati house soon. Hopefully, it is not due to finding no time to eat in the midst of exams.