A Most Excellent Food Adventure!



Oboists tend to be Foodies. Perhaps the obsession with all things food: be it cooking, reading cookbooks, discovering new recipes or simply eating can be an excellent respite from the constant demand of making oboe reeds. I commute weekly from the bucolic hills of Northwestern CT to teach at Hofstra University on Long Island. One of the great joys of my commute is having the opportunity to explore the wonderful ethnic neighborhoods of NYC. A few weeks ago I decided to explore Astoria, Queens. It is known for its large Greek population with many restaurants and Tavernas. Since the mid 70’s the Arab population has grown with people from Egypt, Syria, Tunisia, Morocco and Algeria. In the last few years, a large number of Brazilians have moved to Astoria along with Albanians, Bulgarians and Bosnians. As I strolled through the main drag of Astoria, I was struck by the richness of different cultures all intermingling seamlessly together. There were so many different stores and restaurants to explore but I first felt myself drawn to Euro Market next to the golden dome of a Greek Orthodox Church. As I entered the store, I felt that I could have been in a store in Bucherest or Sarajevo. Sausages hung from the ceilings and the cheese section featured at least six different varieties of Feta. I strolled slowly through the isles and found jars of condiments from around the world including kosher fig jam from Albania and honey from Greece. An eggplant spread from Macedonia reminded me of a concert tour with the Riverside Chamber Orchestra that I made as a young music student to Romania. I remember the wonderful garlicky eggplant appetizer that appeared at most of our meals.


Then it was time for lunch! I had read about an Afghan restaurant in an article written by Ligaya Mishan for the New York Times Hungry City column. It sounded promising, so I set off to locate the tiny restaurant. Sami's Kebab House    http://www.samiskababhouse.com/ was tucked away on a quiet residential street located at Crescent & 36th St. I was met by the warm and friendly owner Sami Zaman and decided to try the Manti ( tiny dumplings that are filled with ground beef and spices.) They were served with a yogurt sauce and topped with a sauce of lentils, tomatoes and onions. They were quite delicious- I think I will try to make Manti for our annual Dumpling Party. The recipe will appear at a later date!

In the last few weeks Hevreh Ensemble has collaborated with wonderful musicians for concerts and on our new recording. They include percussionists Yousif Sheronick and Shane Shanahan, Bassist George Rush and the Tabla player Naren Budhkar. I feel so lucky to be part of the Hevreh Ensemble and have the opportunity to collaborate with instrumentalists from around the world. As I write this during Thanksgiving weekend, this seems like the a perfect time to give thanks for this incredible gift.

In the coming months I look forward to exploring the wonderful connections between food, music and art from different cultures around the world in my own backyard of New York City!

Judith Dansker

November 24, 2017

Judith Dansker