Sunday, December 25, 2011

Xmas Eve at Woks & Lox

At The Queens Kickshaw produced by Jeff Orlick and Veronica Chan 
We did it! Woks & Lox turned out to be a smashing success. On a night when most businesses were closed, The Queens Kickshaw in Astoria, Queens played host to the first Jewish and Asian Christmas celebration. It brought the tradition of Chinese food and a movie on Christmas Eve to a whole new level.

Woks & Lox, produced by Jeff Orlick and Veronica Chan, featured a nine course Asian and Jewish inspired meal, a nosh party including drinks (craft beers, Golden Monkey Chocolate Egg Cream Bubble Tea, Double Happy Five Spice Hot Mulled Manischewitz), a raffle, dreidel games, Jewish Mahjong, and a beach themed Bar Mitzvah sign in board. Folks came from all over and much merriment was made over Sweet Red Bean Rugelach.

A lot of hardwork went into planning this event. It was an honor to work side by side with the masterminds behind Woks & Lox, the talented chef Chichi Wang who poured love into the dishes, keen photographer Stella Dacuma Schour, and everyone else who pitched in muscle. On that note, let's raise our Manischewitz! L'chaim!

Woks & Lox

5 Recipes by Chichi Wang

Jeffrey Tastes- Queens Qustodian

World to Table

Stella Dacuma Schour Photography

The Queens Kickshaw
40-17 Broadway
Astoria, NY 11103    

Friday, November 25, 2011

Neighbors and Friends at The Queens Kickshaw

Jen and Ben holding down the fort.
The Queens Kickshaw is a neighborhood coffee shop in Astoria, Queens. It's a small business that I have been following over the past year and one that has quickly become one of my favorites to support. The owners Ben and Jen are adorable, sweet, kind, and friendly. Every time my friends and I stop by for a drink and bite, they come over for some conversation. It is this kind of hospitality that keeps customers coming back. They're genuine and the relaxing atmosphere designed by Ecosystems Brand is just as inviting.

One pitfall of small businesses is growing too fast too soon. It's dangerous to grow a business you can't support with the manpower you have or the limited resources available. The Queens Kickshaw is taking it slow and easy. In the beginning they had a simple coffee menu, grilled cheeses, and limited hours.

The owners keep their full time jobs and pitch in hours when they can. When you own your own business, you breathe life into it even if it means being on your feet all day, using extra brain power, pouring in your life savings, and working 80 hours plus every week. You do what you can to keep it alive.

The Queens Kickshaw is now open in the evenings until 1 AM. They take pride in the craft beers and wine they now serve and are experimenting with adding new vegetarian friendly items to the menu. I tried the three cheese macaroni and cheese last night. It was a dreamy concoction of pasta with smoked mozzarella, gruyere, and cheddar. Also on the menu is chestnut stuffing. I'm really excited about that. It's the same variation my grandma used to cook during Thanksgiving. Most of all, I like that The Queens Kickshaw added in the element of live music on Friday nights. The acts are locals showcasing their own style of folk, acoustic guitar, klezmer, blues, and all sorts. Last night I grooved while dj Ab*Soul* played some soulful R&B. It was a nice way to relax and end our Thanksgiving festivities. Yes, The Queens Kickshaw was open during Thanksgiving. For that, I thank them. In a city where so many are transplants and family is so far away, New Yorkers are rich with alternatives to the traditional.  Dinner in Flushing Chinatown followed by late night snacks, dessert, drink, and music at The Queens Kickshaw. Yup, sounds just like the New York life I never imagined I'd be living. And perfect at the same time.

Tomorrow, Saturday, November 26 is the second annual Small Business Saturday. It was a day created by American Express to support small businesses. Stop by The Queens Kickshaw. It's like a home away from home. They serve killer coffee to get you going, amazing grilled cheeses, and Balthazar sticky buns. Save yourself the trip to SoHo and stick to Queens.

Owner Jen Lim and Barista Alisha
Gouda w/black bean hummus, guava jam, pickled jalapenos
Inside shot of Gouda sandwich
Green Salad w/pickled golden raisins
Balthazar Sticky Bun
Cold Brewed Iced Coffee
My favorite way to enjoy The Queens Kickshaw:
1. Go with 3 other friends
2. Order 4 grilled cheeses
3. Make a Franken-cheese sandwich!
Pictured: (clockwise from top) Gouda, Fontina Val d'Aosta, Gruyere, Manchego & Ricotta

The Queens Kickshaw
40-17 Broadway
Astoria, NY 11103    

Small Business Saturday

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Halloween- Happy NYC Anniversary

When I decided to move back to New York, my goal was to be in NYC by Halloween. I wanted to feel alive in the streets with all the energy of the people. I always thought Halloween was festive and believed it was the perfect time to celebrate the big change in my life. I booked a one way red-eye ticket on October 30th and landed in NYC on October 31st, Halloween.

Instead of going out and wreaking havoc with ghouls and goblins, I decided to stay in. I was tired from my plane ride and the realist in me began to take over. I couldn't party when I had a job to look for!

Four years later, I finally celebrated properly by going to Coney Island's Nights of Horror to get spooked out and walking the streets of Greenwich Village to check out all the costumes. If you are ever in New York for Halloween, I highly recommend checking out the Village. It's free entertainment all the way.


Thor and Captain America

Dr. Who



Shake it Peep Show!


Day of the Dead 

Pan Am 

Happy 4 Years New York! Thanks for the memories.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Maharlika- Making a Mark in the East Village

Maharlika (pronounced- mahar licka) means noble in Tagalog, one of the Philippines' main languages spoken. I walked into Maharlika in the East Village and felt like it was a nice place. A little regal. It was definitely different from the other Filipino restaurants I am used to in Woodside, Queens. 

Maharlika is more current, trendy, and upscale than your regular neighborhood Filipino restaurant. There is no hot counter of food here. Nor is there karaoke available or a giant television blasting TFC (The Filipino Channel) in the background. Maharlika is a proper sit down restaurant, complete with a bar and menu that reinvents Filipino food presentation to appeal to foreigners and Filipino food lovers. The owners and management are proud of what they have done with the place. They should be. Service and food was excellent.
Sizzling Sisig
We went to Maharlika for brunch. The first dish was Sizzling Sisig with Egg and a side of garlic rice. The sisig, a pork lover's dream (chopped pig snout, pig ears, pork belly, and cheeks boiled, grilled, and sauteed) was served in a cast iron skillet. The waiter offered to mix in the beautiful egg on top with the sisig. The yolk broke and quickly cooked all while adding a creaminess to the pork.

Maharlika made it a point to introduce each and every patron to the customs and culture of the Philippines. Chicharron. Vinegar. Banana ketchup. Pork. These are a few things that characterize staples in a Filipino diet and were showcased by the waiter. We made sure we had plenty to eat. You cannot go to a Filipino home and starve. That's not how Filipinos do things. We also like to share. My group ate off of each other's plate. We weren't all Filipino but the custom of sharing transcended ethnicity. I like to think of sharing as a basic rule of manners to follow.
Tapsilog and the complimentary Chicken Chicharron in the corner
The Tapsilog was complimented with a medley of tomatoes, cucumber, sibuyas, and cilantro. The tapa, fried meat, was not too greasy. It's a sweet meat. Filipinos like their food sugary.
Eggs Imelda with Caviar
The Eggs Imelda impressed me the most. The standouts on this dish were the poached eggs on pandesal (Filipino bread) and laing (taro root) with humongous grilled prawns. We opted to get the eggs with an "accessory" of caviar. As for the prawns, the proper way to eat it was to consume the tail and suck out the fat and juice from the head portion. 
Ube Waffles and Fried Chicken
The brunch special was fried chicken and Ube waffles. Ube is a purple yam. The waffle was giant, thin, and purple. It had a hint of yam flavor and was served with macapuno syrup. I liked the chunks of young coconut and the slight sweetness of it.
Mango French Toast
We ordered Mango French Toast for dessert. This dish looked the biggest and sweetest. It was actually the perfect way to end a meal. It was slathered with the same macapuno syrup used on the chicken and waffles.

The serving size at Maharlika is just right. The food was fancified, which was different than a typical Filipino breakfast, but definitely well received by everyone. I look forward to the dinner options available. Since Maharlika is only in its soft opening stages, they do not formally have a set menu other than brunch. 

If one thing is consistent, it is Maharlika's dedication to service. A few months back, when Maharlika was doing a pop up at Resto Leon, I emailed them inquiring reservations for a party of 35. Nicole emailed me back immediately ready to make accommodations. On our most recent visit for brunch, Nicole recognized one of our party from Twitter, and made it a point to introduce herself as well as to make sure we got our French Toast because, of all the wonderful dishes offered, we really came for the French Toast! I find it so refreshing that this Filipino gem really keeps in touch with their customers. I do believe that is what is going to keep them coming back. After all, don't you want to feel at home and loved when you go out to eat? It's the Filipino way.

Photography Credits: Maharlika (logo), Stella Dacuma Schour Photography

111 First Avenue
New York, NY 10003

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

The Creators Project DUMBO- Saturday Music/Art/Film

"The Creators Project is an ongoing global arts and technology initiative created by Intel and Vice in order to support visionary artists, musicians, and filmmakers who are using technology to push the bounds of creative expression."
                                            -- the creators project

Brooklyn was on a trip of sorts when The Creators Project teamed up with New York to bring its two day festival of music, art installations, and film to DUMBO last weekend.

Granted admission was in demand. The eager had to RSVP in advance and pick only one day during the festival to attend due to the large amount of traffic The Creators Project attracted. Not everyone got in. A few days before the event, everyone who RSVP'ed either got an e-mail that said, "First things first-- you'll need to pick up your wristband," or ,"We're sorry to announce that we are unable to confirm your RSVP for Saturday, Oct. 15". Selection was done randomly.

The festivites ran all day from 11:30 AM - 10:00 PM. There were multiple stages for concerts and open galleries for art installations, film screenings, and dj showcases.

A$AP Rocky
Harlem rapper A$AP Rocky and Clams Casino was the first full show I caught. I like to be in front to feel the full intensity of the artists and bump with the music. ASAP Rocky was ready to rock and rumble, as rap was the new rock and roll that day. They were heavily interactive with the crowd and 10 minutes into their performance they jumped into the audience to crowd surf and a mosh pit was created. Beverage cups full of liquid were thrown and after all of that I quickly escaped to the back. I decided I needed to get to safety before I got caught in the ruckus.

After A$AP Rocky, the music took a dramatic turn and into the genre of electronica. At the Tobacco Warehouse, Yuksek, from France, got the fans grooving with his vocals, keyboard skills, and backup of guitar and drums. He was quite charming with his French accent and little quips. The energy was full force. Yuksek will be in New York for the rest of the week playing a few shows in the Lower East Side for the CMJ music festival.

Los Angeles based DJ Nosaj Thing broke it down with a live video installation while he spun. The kid, often in a trance and extremely focused, is awesome to watch and his beats are banging. He was very sweet and soft spoken as we posed for a picture together.

As for art, The Creators Project had numerous light pieces, mechanical structures, and rooms of oddities.

Origin by United Visual Artists
Six-Forty By Four-Eighty by Zigelbaum + Coelho
Diskinect by Team Diskinect
Film crossed paths with music when Spike Jonze's Scenes from the Suburbs had a heavy influence from Arcade Fire. Other short films that were viewed were Edouard Sailer Shorts, Follow Follow, and Night Fishing.

Scenes from the Suburbs
Food was provided by Brooklyn Flea and The Creators Project kicked off a week of art to gawk at (Origin is on display until October 23) as well as promotion for Karen O's musical interpretation of Stop The Virgens.

Day turned to night, the music pumped louder, and the crowd kept growing. DUMBO was alive and The Creators Project gave way into a second day of full fledged affairs. Curious to see what type of drama made it to Gallery Girls? The show taped throughout and it's possible you made it into the background if you were walking around The Creators Project. Ah, Brooklyn may have made you into a star.

The Creators Project

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Macaron Parlour, I Surrender

Laduree Macaron Tower Display
Macarons, they're back.

Did they ever really leave? Laduree gave New York something to talk about again in regards to macarons when they opened up their first shop in the United States on the Upper East Side in August. The rumored originator of the macaron has a macaron bouncer to regulate crowd control. Yes, there is a line and the people want their macarons.

While Laduree has their macarons shipped from France and focuses on classic flavors, Macaron Parlour is a small business based in New York City owned by Christina and Simon. They bake their own macarons, fill them with atypical buttercreams and ganaches, and sell them at food bazaars and flea markets. Macaron Parlour feels very local and they have given the macaron a twist with their sweet and savory flavors. Their macarons are not only classy but are also cool.

After tasting the S'mores macaron of Macaron Parlour a few weeks back at Madison Square Eats, I was hooked. It's been awhile since I've had a macaron that good and I haven't stopped bragging about it since. The flavor was just so unexpected. Looking at the macaron, it looked normal. But upon first bite, hidden marshmallow gave way and it was just like s'mores in macaron form. I swear this macaron satisfied the cravings of any campfire and star gazing desire I never even knew I had. Yes, that good.

I went back and bought a box of eight to sample. I was hoping to get the s'mores flavor again but it was not available. I picked an eclectic mix which later turned out to make total sense. @Stellaaa helped me sample and polish off the macarons. In order to enjoy the macarons properly, we created our very own system of eating the macarons: The Macaron Parlour Tasting Menu. The tasting menu is meant to take you on an eating journey of flavors from appetizer and main dish to dessert and beyond.

Macaron Parlour Tasting Menu

Passion Fruit
Strawberries and Cream

Candied Bacon with Maple Cream Cheese Frosting
Caramel Fleur de Sel

Peanut Butter and Chocolate

Tea Time
Earl Grey

November Bonus

8 out of the 11 available flavors today at Macaron Parlour
My favorites were the Passion Fruit, Candied Bacon with Maple Cream Cheese Frosting, Caramel Fleur de Sel, and Earl Grey. The bacon macaron was quite a surprise. There was a meaty bacon sliver in the cream cheese frosting! I could get used to savory macarons. It was like food, not candy-like or cookie-ish. I felt that the Nutella and Peanut Butter and Chocolate were too faint. I found the Strawberries and Cream more on the sweet side and the Pumpkin jumpin' with nutmeg. I'm a little torn on the Pumpkin. It was like eating pumpkin pie and definitely conjured up feelings of Fall and Thanksgiving. While novel, I can't say I love it in macaron form, but I did enjoy it. I look forward to trying other Macaron Parlour flavors such as Cookies and Cream and Thai Chili. And if I ever meet the S'mores again, I will have s'more.

Photography Credits: Desmond Chow, Roxwriting

864 Madison Avenue
New York, NY 10021

Macaron Parlour
Madison Square Eats
23rd Street and 5th Avenue

Friday, October 7, 2011

Philly Naked Bike Ride 2011- The Video

"Look naked people!" my friend who has a grade of about 700 screamed. We chased after him in confusion only to meet a couple of hundred naked bikers. It was interesting, amusing, and totally not vulgar. It was just a couple of hundred naked bikers having a good time. There weren't that many spectators either. Nor were there cops or a lot of cars honking. Philly either has a lot of patience or is a nudist colony at heart.


Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Pilipino ka ba?

"Pilipino ka ba (Are you Filipino)?"
"Oo (yes)."

I don't have any trouble telling people my ethnicity. I have trouble convincing them to believe that I am what I say I am.

I have a lack of knowledge about my Filipino culture's history and customs. Like many American born Filipinos, I was raised American thus making me not Filipino enough for the motherland and not American enough for the Americans. Yes, I was surrounded by a Filipino family but I chose not to participate in the Filipinoness of it all. It was just too foreign for me.

Now that I live in the city, I've been exploring a lot of cultures including my own. I went out to eat Filipino food for dinner and, surprisingly, it was the first time I have actually tried some of these native dishes. I've got so much to learn and, luckily, food is not a bad place to start.

Ihawan 2 in Long Island City is the sister restaurant to Ihawan in Woodside. Ihawan is famous for their grilled meat. Ihawan 2 also has a sushi bar menu but I recommend sticking to the Filipino cuisine. After all, why go to Ihawan if you are not going to eat Filipino food?

The best way to eat Filipino food is to share all the dishes. That's what we would do at home. Plus you get to try everything.

Most Filipino meals consist of soup, meat, and vegetables. Party food will always have lumpia and some type of noodles. What we ordered was a pretty good representation of some typical Filipino dishes ranging from snack food to side dishes, grilled meats from seafood to pork, and soups and stews that have the signature sour and sweet flavors characteristic of Filipino cuisine. Filipino food is quite trendy these days. Stay tuned for Filipino food blog post #2. In the meantime, let's have a taste of what a Filipino dinner looks like. Masarap (delicious)!

Lechon Kawali, Calamares, Lumpiang Shanghai
(pan roasted pork, squid, tiny eggrolls
commonly served with liver sauce for the pork and sweet chili sauce for the lumpia)
Chicken BBQ and Pork BBQ sticks
Grilled Shrimp and Mussels
Fresh Lumpia
(vegetables and shrimp wrapped in a thin pancake with peanut sauce)
Garlic Rice
(Most Filipinos eat white rice. Garlic rice is more of a brunch option
but a nice tasty alternative offered for dinner at Ihawan2.)
(Grilled pork ears and snout with chili pepper, onions, and lemon)
Pancit Palabok
You have to mix the palabok in order to enjoy it!
(rice stick noodles topped with shrimps, egg, and shrimp sauce) 
Sinigang na Baboy
(Pork and Vegetables in Tamarind Soup)
(Cow Tongue in Mushroom Sauce)
(Oxtail with mixed vegetables in peanut butter sauce)
Fried Tilapia

1007 50th Ave.
Long Island City, NY 11101

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Why Pink Bunnies Go To Their Graves Crying Gravy Tears

It was the eve of her 40th birthday. Christine sat at her vanity ready to brush her long wavy hair. She gripped her brush, a hand painted ceramic antique, given to her by her grandmother when she was seven.

"You have beautiful hair nieta. Your mother had hair like yours," her grandmother told her.

Christine stared into the mirror. She looked at herself, eyes blank, and quickly averted her eyes to the vanity. Her wedding ring and pearl earrings sat waiting to be picked up and put on.
The sound of the door knob turning and her husband's footsteps knocked Christine out of her daze. She put on the last touches and turned around to face John.

John graced Christine's cheeks with his palms and gave her a soft kiss.

"You look beautiful," he told her.

Christine smiled but it was not the type of smile that lit up the room. She smiled more to please him and show that she was appreciative of his comment but the truth was that she always had a horrible time accepting them. Compliments made Christine feel uncomfortable.

"Say thank you nieta!" her grandmother scolded. Christine felt her hair whip against her face. The very same hand that gently brushed her hair had just struck her. She felt a tear drop down her cheek as she gasped for breath. "When someone calls you beautiful, you say thank you!" 

Christine never knew why her grandmother struck her. Perhaps she was too young at the time. All she understood was that from an early age on, people would always stare at her.

Beauty was something Christine never accepted. She never felt that she had style, grace, or a face to look at. When she was 12, Christine used to flip the pages of the family photo album that was hidden in the bottom dresser drawer of the guest room of her grandmother's house. She studied the pictures of her mother, a stranger to her in many ways. Christine had never met her mother. She learned about her through family and the neighbors. Her grandmother made references to her from time to time but never fully divulged. Christine always wondered what happened to her mother. Some said she moved to Mexico to work as a secretary for an ambassador. Others told her she ran away nursing a broken heart. After what seemed like a lifetime of chasing secrets, Christine gave up. The whereabouts and absence of her roots left her feeling empty.

"Here. Have a slice of tres leches cake," her grandmother said lovingly. She set the plate down in front of Christine. "Talk to me. Tell me about your day." 

Christine always looked forward to coming home from school. Her grandmother stood waiting in the kitchen so that she was the first person she saw when she walked in through the back door. It was a comforting routine and something that gave Christine peace. It was ironic that the same memory that gave her so much joy also gave her grief.

"Here. Eat your carrots," her grandmother said sternly. Christine put a carrot in her mouth. She tasted the sweet juices. It was cold and snapped when she took a bite. 

Christine felt as if she was being punished. She had come home crying. The stares at school made her want to run and hide. She felt paranoid that people were talking about her and the unwarranted attention made her cringe. Christine did not know how to deal with the whispers or the rumors. Not knowing the truth made it impossible for her to fight back nor was she brave, articulate, or extroverted enough to look her classmates in the eyes and say something. The afternoon slices of cake became outlets for Christine and it began to show on her body.

"What have you done to yourself nieta?" her grandmother said accusingly.

Christine felt shamed and for many years could not shake off the cake she used to absorb her tears. She thought about her friend Lucy at work. They had started running together in the evenings for fitness. Christine remembered her first mile. It was the first time, in a long time, she felt free and at peace.

Christine picked up her sterling silver locket and then put it down. The locket was a gift from John for finishing her first marathon. Again, Christine smiled gently but not fully. She wanted to smile bright and with teeth and feeling so much that it gave her crow's feet. No matter how hard she tried, she could not because she would not allow herself to.

Christine pounded her fist on the vanity in anger and knocked over her glass of water. It fell to the ground and shattered. She felt the pieces of charred glass cut her foot. Christine looked down and saw droplets of blood grow into a thin stream of wet warm liquid. Tears began to fall simultaneously as she felt the blood drip to the floor.

"Honey, are you okay?" John asked.

He frantically grabbed Christine and wrapped his arms around her. She was shaking and, like many times before, all John could do was hold her. He had tried to console her with words but never got anywhere. Christine was lifeless and unresponsive. He did not understand why his beautiful wife faded in and out.

Only Christine knew why pink bunnies go to their graves crying gravy tears.

Image Credit: cold shoulder by ozan balta