We Heart Astoria's Mackenzi Farquer
Mackenzi Farquer is the owner of Lockwood, a lifestyle boutique with four locations—and a fifth stationery-focused shop on the way—in Queens. She’s also the co-creator of We Heart Astoria, a neighborhood blog that always has the 411 on restaurant openings and Q-Boro comings and goings. Originally hailing from the suburbs of Chicago, Farquer has spent 14 years in Astoria, making her not only a bonafide neighborhood insider, but a community leader.
Underwater is the color of the accent walls in the kitchen-adjacent room of Farquer’s Astoria home. It’s a beautiful marine color with a comfortable richness to it. “I kept telling my wife, ‘When we have a dining room, I want to paint it this color. If we buy a house one day…”’ she trails off. “And then I was, like, ‘That’s never gonna happen.”’ And so the accent wall was painted and lighting fixtures were changed to gold, Edison-bulbed chandeliers. It is a lovely home that Farquer and her wife have created in Astoria.
We sat down with Farquer at her French teak dining table—“Left over from my days of having a backyard,” she tells us—to talk about misfit Thanksgivings, growing up vegetarian in a Midwestern family and why at least two kinds of popcorn should be on hand at all times.
I moved here with a friend from undergrad in 2003 to go to design school. He came out before me, and we were broke. He said, “I found this place in DUMBO, or I found this place in Astoria,” and the Astoria place was a little closer to the train, and a little bit cheaper. The first time I came to Astoria was in the middle of the night in a moving truck. The thing I was most shocked by was that old ladies were out with their carts, and it was late. Where I’m from, there’s a hard out at like 9 or 10. I was like, “Oh, this is going to be a whole wild ride.” But it made me feel safe. You arrive to New York and you think everything’s going to be chaos, but Astoria is pretty chill. It has a for-sure “Sesame Street” quality to it.
On starting We Heart Astoria and becoming a local food insider
When I opened my first business (and also when blogging was really a thing), I reached out to a local blogger and asked to join their team. I knew a lot about the local small-business scene and was able to easily contribute. When that blogger moved on, several of us launched We Heart Astoria and nurtured it over many years. Two years ago, I acquired it fully and now work with a staff of about six to make all that local coverage happen. [I became connected to Astoria’s food scene] mostly by being an Astorian and eating food. I’ve really gotten to know a lot of the small-business owners, so going out to eat often feels like having dinner with friends.
Every vegetarian for herself in the suburbs
My only hobby is cooking. I spend a lot of time thinking about and executing recipes. I’m a vegetarian, and from the Midwest, so my parents were, like, “You’re on your own.” I was 12 when I stopped eating meat, so I had to do all my own cooking. You learn.
What’s for dinner?
We’re really into taco bowls. They’re vegan. I try and make as much of our food vegan as possible. I also feel like my claim to fame is that I’m really good with tofu. When it comes to taco bowls, I’m making it out of tofu scramble where I mix together chili powders, garlic and nutritional yeast. Instagram and Pinterest have changed everyone’s lives, so I’m always seeing recipes, pinning them, saving them on my phone. My wife does not cook, so there’s a fun imbalance, which I like because I don’t have to worry about her plans in the kitchen. That’s my domain.
Popcorn and Penzeys Spices
If you know me, you know I’m obsessed with seltzer and popcorn. I have an old-fashioned pan, where the handle turns the little mechanism inside, that I make my popcorn in. Sometimes I just do salt and olive oil, but I’m a real fan of that hippie popcorn with the nutritional yeast. I’m really into Penzeys Spices; they’re based in the Midwest. At minimum, there are at least two kinds of popcorn in my cabinet at all times.
The freeform art of cooking vs. baking
I was making chocolate chip cookies the other day, and somehow I messed those up. I like the freeform thing about cooking. Baking is not like that, so I struggle. I own my own business, I do my own thing. I think cooking is very much for me where I’m, like, “Hey, that recipe called for cashews? I have almonds. Who gives a shit?” Baking, no. And I always don’t have something. Like, what do I need brown sugar for? The most baking I do is making cornbread, that’s it. Skillet cornbread, the Mark Bittman recipe.
Food traditions and misfit Thanksgivings
I try to cook brunch for my wife and me every Sunday. It’s time that’s just for us; it’s very slow and thoughtful. It’s sometimes the most complicated meals I’ll make just because I have the time. It feels still on Sundays in a way that no other day does. We always have Thanksgiving, every year the same group of my friends—I always call it “Misfit Thanksgiving”—it’s the one time of year that I entertain. Our Thanksgiving is potluck. We start the day with Bloody Marys. A friend of mine makes the Bloody Mary mix from scratch and lets it rest overnight, so that in the morning it’s on point.
This interview has been condensed and edited for clarity.