Friday, January 27, 2012


Would you believe that Phantom of the Opera, the longest running musical on Broadway, will hit its 10,000th performance in a few weeks? The 24th Anniversary occurred on January 26. I attended the day before, a matinee, with my Aunt Gertie.

I was surprised when Christine (performed by Marni Raab)did not get a standing ovation hearing some news about who was to be portraying her. Afterwards, I looked in the Playbill to see that Trista Moldovan was the hype and Raab was doing alternate shows on Wednesday and Saturday matinees. Personally I thought that Raab gave an excellent performance. It was Hugh Panaro (the Phantom) who got the standing ovation and much deserving of. I recalled the last time I say the show and went back stage to meet Hugh. He has such an amazing voice and his acting is to be as much commended.

What is it that draws so many people to see Phantom? Let's begin with the score. The plot isn't one that you have to strain to follow. Then there is the score. Although there is much drama, there are some amusing spots as well due to the characters. Then there is the score. Talent is wonderful, sets are fabulous, effects are great and did I mention the score?


While I was shopping at Fairway Market, I noticed a line of grain products that almost had as much variety as their coffee beans. The thing about Bob’s Red Mill is that most of the products are non-gluten. I am sensitive to wheat and also know that wheat breaks down to sugar in the body. I selected a bunch and now I’m experimenting.

I enjoy a hot cereal during the winter months choosing an 8-grain of stone ground corn, oats, brown rice, soy beans, oat bran, millet, barley, sunflower seeds and flaxseed. When I cook it up I add sea salt, butter and milk. Loved it!

Most curious about a chocolate cake mix with the ingredients of: evaporated can juice, unsweetened cocoa, garbanzo bean flour, potato starch, tapioca starch, whole grain white sorghum flour, fava bean flour, baking soda, xanthan gum, sea salt and cream of tartar. Being a chocoholic I added more cocoa, a bit more sugar and sour cream having already added milk, butter and eggs. Tasted just great!

When my mom made split pea soup I didn’t care for the texture as it was more like chicken soup with split peas. I like a thick pea soup. I had gotten a quart of Fairway’s ready-made matzoh ball soup having half to taste the matzoh balls (excellent consistency) and chicken. Since the soup already had carrots and onions, I added Pea Flour. It’s like buying instant pea soup without the flavor.

My next adventure is concocting gnocchi using their organic unbleached white flour with their potato flour (great for thickening soups as well) and topping it off with Fairway’s tomato sauce (which turns out to be a great salsa as well).

I have a new bread machine and Bob’s has loads of bread mixes. Haven’t made any as yet, but looking forward to the cinnamon raisin. I see that they have a mix for pizza crust. Another experiment as I will use a combo of their white flour and beer. Bake the crust and when almost done add the toppings and put it back in my NuWave Oven.


There’s another revival on Broadway with a newer title: The Gershwins’ Porgy and Bess and it ain’t necessarily “theatre” or “opera”. It’s a combination of both with the famous opening number, “Summertime”, sung in operatic tone by (Clara) Nikki Renee Daniels.

I am too young to have seen the original Broadway musical, opera versions in New York, nor the movie. In fact I went into the theatre without the knowledge of the plot. So, let’s get to that. The play is set in Charleston, South Carolina, in a small black enclave known as Catfish Row. It tells about Porgy (Norm Lewis), a crippled beggar who (originally) travels about in a goat-drawn cart and falls in love with Bess (Audra McDonald), a woman of some negative reputation who is under the domination of a man named Crown (Phillip Boykin). Crown murders a Catfish Row inhabitant in a craps game and takes a hike. Bess falls in love with Porgy. When Crown returns for Bess, Porgy kills him. Porgy goes to jail, and Bess is enticed to go to New York by, Sportin' Life (David Alan Grier), a flashy gambler and provider of cocaine. At the play’s end, Porgy is headed to New York to search for her.

There have been all sorts of revisions regarding Porgy and Bess. This one has little dialogue. No matter. It’s this performance that I’m experiencing so let’s talk about what counts. In case you are not familiar with the score, there were specific numbers that become popular including “I Got Plenty of Nothing”, sung by Porgy; “I Loves You Porgy”, sung by Porgy and Bess and “It Ain’t Necessarily So”, sung by Sportin’ Life.

As The Gershwins’ Porgy and Bess is not a huge production like Les Miz or Phantom, what it does have works well. The cast is adequate enough to enjoy the ensemble numbers in both voice and movement and they all stand out in the way of talent.
Audra McDonald gives a wonderfully moving performance with barely enough time to not be on the stage. From the first time she sings you know that she has a background in opera. I thought that she appeared glassy eyed until it occurred to me that Bess is snorting.

As Norm Lewis was not in a goat cart, he did a remarkable job of walking about with the foot of his left leg pointed towards the middle of his body. His singing voice is in between operatic and theatre. However, it doesn’t blend as well when he and Audra do a duet not both having the same “tone”. But who cares?

David Alan Grier has a noticeable role. The Sportin’ Life character allows him to show off his voice (we already know that he acts well) with his solo. Nikki Renee Daniels made her NYC Opera debut as Clara in the operatic version…no surprise.

Well, they didn’t throw in a token gay guy but I am now noticing that there seems to be a token “fat black woman” going on. I had remarked to my friend Renee, a fellow writer about this. We had all to do but laugh when the actor appeared…complete with what seemed to be an extra added butt shelf, if you know what I mean.

All in all, I highly recommend The Gershwins’ Porgy and Bess as a dramatic musical and good entertainment.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012


New York City has something called Access-A-Ride that entitles to people with physical disabilities to use MTA vehicles vs the bus and/or subway. For the price of public transportation ($2.25) you can be transported to any place within the five boroughs. The MTA employs what looks like shuttle buses and taxis that bear the name Access-A-Ride. However, with the number of people needing the use, the MTA run Access-A-Ride opts for private taxi companies as well. Due to a physical condition, I was able to get this. They have "vouchers" and may give me two car services to choose from of which I call directly. If they are choosing a car service, they go through a service which does the choosing. Another words, I may be getting picked up by a shuttle (which most likely has other passengers), taxi (which may also be picking up other passengers)or a car service.

This day my pick up time was 10:19 a.m. I got a phone call at 9:35 from the driver asking if I could be ready in a few minutes as he first had to pick up a passenger in Brooklyn who was also going to Manhattan. I was not ready and said that I could be ready in 15 minutes.

We agreed on 9:55 and I walked out of my house to see a car service with no logo. The driver did open the door, but did not make any attempt to ask if I required assistance or wait until I got in to close the door. He didn't say anything (they are supposed to ask for your $2.25 (exact) and give you a receipt either before the drive or at the destination. Once my door was closed he just took off.

He had started a conversation on his hand held cellphone and continued to do so as he drove off. I could tell that it was a person call as he was speaking in a foreign language. I wanted him to get off the phone since the Taxi and Limousine Commission had published a "passengers rights" list that included the driver not talking on the any cellphone. The law in New York is that drivers cannot talk on a hand held cellphone when driving. I interrupted by saying, "Don't you want my money"? He continued to talk, put his hand out and as I placed a bunch of change in his hand, just dropped it in between the two front seats and continued to talk. I then said, "You're not supposed to talk on a cellphone".

Well, the man went berserk! "WHO THE FUCK DO YOU THINK YOU ARE? LET THE COPS CATCH ME. I DON'T FUCKING HAVE TO LISTEN TO YOU...." and further use of the word "fuck" continued. He then pulled over to the side of the street (where he would be blocking traffic) and said, "GET OUT OF THE CAR!" He later told me that if I called to complain that he would "hunt me down". He then at one point says that I need to walk up straight and that if I weren't no nasty my problem wouldn't exist. At one point he was speeding at 70 mph on the highway (50 speed limit)

I requested his identification and name. He told me to tell the person I complained to that his name is "Trouble".

When the other two people came in the car, he was suddenly so nice to them. I did voice as to what happened just in case there was a problem prior to getting to my destination and someone would have at least heard about it.

Once I got home (I didn't have the time or opportunity to call the correct persons to complain to) I called Access-A-Ride who gave me a company and phone number. I not only gave them the info but asked the guy's name. I mean, after all, he has my name and address. Mooteram Lalbachan.

Now, according to the person I complained to, he is to have his license pulled and will file a complaint to the Taxi and Limo Commission on my behalf. He will get back with me on this. I will follow up on this.

Here are the rights

Ride in a car that is clean, in good condition, and has passed all required inspections;
Be driven by a TLC-licensed driver in good standing whose license is clearly displayed;
A safe and courteous driver who obeys all traffic laws;
A quiet trip, free of horn-honking and audio/radio noise;
Receive a fare quote from the dispatcher and pay that amount for your ride (unless the trip changes);
A driver who does not use a cell phone while driving (hands-free phones are not permitted);
A smoke and scent free ride;
Air-conditioning or heat on request;
Working seatbelts for all passengers – please use them!
Not share a ride, unless you want to;
Be accompanied by a service animal;
Decline to tip for poor service.

Saturday, January 14, 2012


Imagine that your raffle ticket was chosen and you are the winner of a 230 lb. quarter hind of beef. What do you do other than claim it? Elizabeth Dusman of Manhasset Hills, NY, had the winning ticket due to the celebration of Fairway Market's grand opening of their store in Douglaston (Queens), New York. Fortunately Fairway Market's head butcher Ray Venezia was there not only to present the hind but to cut it up for her and her husband, Frank.

The demo was open to the public as Ray explained what types of cuts she could choose from each part of the quarter that had a retail price of about $1200. The Dusman's intended to borrow someone's freezer as well as sharing with family and perhaps a friend or two. Frank's mother, Maria, was also present for the present. With 12-year old son Eli and 14-year old Errol who both love beef, I don't think there will be problem. Perhaps her long time friend Paula, who attended, may be enjoying some of the beef as well.

I asked Elizabeth why she came to the store in Queens, living in Long Island's Nassau County, considering that there is a Fairway Market in Plainview. She said that the distance from Manhasset Hills is much shorter and was pleased as punch to find that a Fairway Market opened so much closer to her home.

I later followed up by asking about her first meat meal. Here is what she said. "The evening that you called we were eating the sirloin steak. It was marinating for a couple of days in a mixture of equal parts soy sauce and olive oil. For every cup of liquid, throw in 2 or 3 whole cloves of garlic and a teaspoon of sugar. Mix it in the blender- you'll see that it whips up nicely. It is a tasty and simple marinade. Frank and I set up a whole wrapping station when we got home. Most of it was wrapped in freezer paper and then either plastic wrap or the ziploc bags. Altogether it was an exhausting day.

Thursday, January 12, 2012


I decided that I needed a good ergonomic chair as I sit at my computer. With all of the online stores, I just went for Overstock dot com. The big "O" should now stand for "odorous" as far as I'm concerned. I had to ask a friend to put the chair together and I detected an odor from it. At first I thought that it was just a "new chair" odor until I got just what the smell was...mildew and mold.

I called the company to get some "nice" customer service person who had a list of what to do. She offered a 20 percent discount but agreed that having the smell of mold around me wasn't good. They want me to return the chair. They want me to take the chair apart. They will have UPS pick it up. I'm not in any shape these days to either take it apart or put one together. It's one of the things that require your sitting down the floor. I explained this. They would send me another chair and wait until I had it put together and then get the one that I have taken apart and put into the box that the second chair came with.

They suggested that I find a box big enough to put the entire chair into and then have UPS pick it up. It has all become my responsibility when they are sending a piece of furniture that shouldn't have been sent to me in the first place. Why is this thing smelling of mold? Are they so overstocked that it is in a part of a warehouse that perhaps got flooded a bit?

Then they asked if I wanted to get a credit. I asked, "Why would I take a chance on buying from a company that would send me such a disgusting item?"

I asked to speak with the Corporate office and she connected me with her supervisor, who, of course couldn't make any more decisions that she. I have the phone number of the corporate office, which I will call. I'm interested to hear if the office wants negative feedback all over the place, let alone sending me a moldy chair.

Saturday, January 7, 2012


Having noticed the information from the signs around the coffee and tea section of Fairway Market in Douglaston, Queens, I figured that I could get much information about coffee on beans and brewing. I met with Fairway Market's Director of Coffee, Benny Lanfranco and certainly got a fill of information.

While Benny was preparing his own cup of coffee floor manager Jerry Seybert had stopped by. He's been around Fairway since 1979 and was the first "coffee guy" when they started with only 7 bins of coffee.

I then approached Benny who explains why he likes to make one cup of coffee at a time.

We finally get an introduction from Benny who had prepared various small portable methods of brewing coffee, all of which either use hot water or can be done on a stove top. Benny then spoke about Turkish coffee, a method of drinking and not that any beans are actually grown in Turkey. It requires coffee being ground to a powdery substance.

Espresso means "fast" and is just a bit more coarser than the Turkish. One shot take about 22 seconds using 2 oz. of coffee. I love the little stove top gadget, so very Italian.

Next in coarseness if for drip coffee. Rather than using a machine, Benny prepared a special elegant glass drip using a paper filter. Coffee has to be ground specifically for the brewing method you are using. I'm getting that water will go faster through a more coarse grind.

Here is an old fashioned Napolitan Italian stove top brewer that uses a drip grind. It brought up images of my trip to Naples as it can be done right at your table.

We're on to the French Press which is coarser than the drip. Depending upon the size of the press, it is another facility that can be prepared at your table and brewed for 4 minutes. Some French presses can also be used to brew loose tea.

The last method is using a percolator. Do your remember those? Now, they are most used at catered functions.

All of the coffee beans are roasted at Fairway. I was able to watch the "green beans" roasted. A chart is given to the person doing the roasting that will determine whether it will be light, medium or dark roast. Benny showed me samples of the various roasted beans noting how much oil is present in the dark roast.

We then talked about acidity in coffee saying that it has to be balanced and is pre-determined by the soil of where it is grown. He tells me that there is a lower acidity in places such as Costa Rica and Guatamala vs. coffee from Africa like the Ethiopian.

My batteries ran low before we could chat about the peaberry coffee. I had heard that the one from Tanzania was delicious although a bit high prices. When you see the roasted coffee beans they are "halved". The plant produces a "twin" bean whereas the peaberry, a single bean.

Now that I have that Italian single cup espresso do-hicky, I bought a coffee grinder from Krups. It says here: "Coffee that is ground too fine for a particular brewing process - (fine espresso grind used in an automatic drip coffee machine) will result in over-extraction and bitter, pungent tasting coffee. Conversely, coffee that is too coarse for a particular brew method will result in under-extraction and weak, watery coffee. It the correct grind is used, adding more coffee simply makes a brew stronger without making it bitter".

There seems to be more settings than just the ones we talked about. Has something to do with ones taste. I will ask Krups for further assistance on this.

Monday, January 2, 2012


I could see the St. Paul Cathedral from my window. I'm certain that the architect is just fabulous both on the outside and inside. I wanted to view a synagogue that had a history. It was Mount Zion Temple on Summit Avenue that drew me. As it turns out Mount Zion Hebrew Congregation is the first Jewish temple in all of Minnesota and established even before Minnesota became part of the United States. It was designed by Erich Mendelsohn. The Reform Synagogue does not look as if it were built and founded in 1856. "A first glance at the bold sweep of the building and its irregular outlines, at the austere towers, and another at the simplicity of glass, brick and wood of the interior, speak of today rather than of the past."

My tour involved a description of the architecture as well as historic pieces and art in the forms of paintings and glass stained windows that were placed in front of rather than in the window itself.

The day continued with lunch at another historic site, the Lexington Restaurant at Grand Avenue. An original pub from the 1930's, I was able to detect the elegance and sophistication. Chicken and Wild Rice Soup preceded my entree of Walleye with asparagus.

I have a 2 p.m. showing of the Omnivision of Amazon set at the Science Museum of Minnesota. I love watching just about anything in Omnivision. Skipped a tour of the museum for a tour of Wabasha Street Caves, located at 215 Wabasha Street South.

These caves are above ground and said to be haunted. They used to grow mushrooms here so they have one entranceway to a room in the shape of a mushroom. Site of former St. Paul gangsters, tours are offered to include another about the hauntings.

A second evening was spent at Covington Inn, a bed a breakfast on Harriet Island. What makes this b&b different is that it is a buoyed and buffered floating boat on the Mississippi River with a view of the skyline of downtown St. Paul. The boat is trimmed stem to stern in mahogany, brass and bronze. I bedded down in the Masters Quarters, a suite on the second floor accessible by spiral stairs. Three sides of windows and a terrace. "Lobby" has the dining area and living room.

I was hoping to take a boat ride thinking that the Padelford Packet Boat Company was going afloat while seeing a play called Escanaba in da Moonlight put on by Flying Pig Productions using local talent. Cute show and an ending to my days in St. Paul.

For more information, go to


Check in time! Going to the Saint Paul Hotel in the downtown area,known for its old-world charm and European inspired elegance, and accommodating the most discerning business and leisure travelers every day. I believe that the hotel is turning 101 years old. Great location as they have complimentary local transportation that will take you to such attractions as the Science Museum of Minnesota, St. Paul Cathedral and Minnesota State Capitol crowned by the largest unsupported marble dome in the world. I suggest they get an 18-hour Z-bra.

There are parks located just outside the hotel of which have Peanuts character sculptures. I am told that Charles M. Schulz, the creator, was born in St. Paul and wish to gain their claim to fame.

Across the street is the Landmark Center that serves as a cultural center for music, dance, theater, exhibitions, public forums, and hosts countless special events. There was no particular event going on, but went upstairs to see two of the galleries. One was American Association of Woodturners Gallerie, of art that offers a view of contemporary works created in wood and also features educational exhibits, a display of vintage lathes.

On the opposite side is the Schubert Club Museum which houses an educational exhibit of musical instruments, music boxes and more. It happened to be closed when I was there. Peeking in I could see this massive sculpture of instruments.

The dinner hour has arrived. Found this Russian restaurant called Moscow On The Hill, located at 371 Selby Avenue that features both the authenticity and flavored vodkas. Shot down a few like horseradish, honey, and Chateau Marusya (cherry). Some of the vodkas are topped with a skewer of gherkin.

Onto the food commencing with appetizers. Russian Herring - cured herring filet, onion, olives, pickled beets, baby potatoes, dill, cold-pressed sunflower oil. Had to have Borscht, the classic Russian beet soup with cabbage and potatoes garnished with sour cream and fresh dill. That was followed by Blini with Caviar, a crepe blini filled with salmon roe, with dill, scallions, and sour cream.

Hand-made Dumplings are a must. There are two kinds. Pelmeni are traditionally filled with meat, while Vareniki being meatless. For instance, I had the Siberian Pelmeni with beef and pork brushed with butter and garnished with sour cream, served with vinegar. The Vareniki, a Ukrainian ilk was filled with potato and caramelized onion, garnished with sour cream and fresh dill.

I chose the Babushka Stew for an entree, a pork shoulder stew in a clay pot, sauteed vegetables, parsley and mashed potatoes.

Chef Gary Krasner was called to my table when I sampled the "White Russian" Tiramisu. I could not imagine why a Russian restaurant would offer tiramisu. I dare any Italian restaurant to compare their version to the one here! It was exactly the way I expect tiramisu to be. Espresso and Kahlua macerated lady fingers, Mascarpone cream (not that whipped cream kind that cheats on the Mascarpone content), dusted with cocoa powder. OMG! Since I am a chocoholic, I also had two Belgian dark chocolate cocoa dusted truffles.


St. Paul, Minnesota, tended to be the "quieter" city than was Minneapolis. It did not lack for ways to occupy myself, taking in many attractions and dining spots.

It was in the morning that I landed at the St. Paul/Minneapolis airport, too early to check into my hotel. Tour time! One area, not totally in the downtown area, are the main streets of Summit Avenue and Grand Avenue. Summit Avenue is said to be the country's longest span of preserved residential Victorian architecture. Lined with Victorian homes converted into boutique shops, Grand Avenue is considered to be both an historic residential and "hip" commercial neighborhood.

Since I was unable to do more than look at homes on Summit Avenue, I stopped in some of the stores on Grand. Always thinking of food. Penseys Spices and Seasonings. What a fabulous array to cook with!

Not far away, on 7th Street West, Cosetta's Italian Market caught my attention. Cheeses, meats, deli and a cafe. I heard that they are noted for their pizza. I was saving my appetite for lunch at Saji-Ya at 695 Grand Avenue. Need I say what type of cuisine? I read, "Long-time sushi lovers know that Saji-Ya serves only the freshest fish and has an experienced team of chefs lead by our executive sushi chef 'Manny' Ortega. Yet this destination hot spot, located on St. Paul's Grand Avenue, serves more than sensational sushi,fabulous lunches, excellent Teppanyaki (grilled Japanese cuisine) and Japanese entrees grace Saji-Ya's exotic menu." I naturally engaged in some sushi and maki rolls.

Passed on dessert as Grand Ole Creamery was just down the block. This old fashioned ice cream parlor serves up super-premium ice cream and lots of flavors.

Back on Summit Avenue to tour the James J. Hill House. "Rugged stone, massive scale, fine detail, and ingenious mechanical systems recall the powerful presence of James J. Hill, builder of the Great Northern Railway. Guides lead tours that help you imagine family and servant life in the Gilded Age mansion. Completed in 1891, the red sandstone residence was the setting of the public and private lives of the Hill family."

Heading in to the downtown area, there was an exhibit at the Minnesota History Center about the year 1968. "The social forces that swirled through the turbulent 1960s crested in 1968. It was a turning point for a generation coming of age and a nation at war. The year saw the peak of the Vietnam War, the assassinations of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert Kennedy, riots at the Democratic National Convention, assertions of Black Power at the Olympic Games and feminist demonstrations at the Miss America pageant. Hair opened on Broadway, Laugh-In debuted and became the number-one show on TV, Bonnie and Clyde and The Graduate picked up Oscars and Johnny Cash gave a legendary performance at Folsom Prison. President Lyndon Johnson spoke of a country “challenged, at home and abroad” in his State of the Union address; his successor, Richard Nixon, promised in his nomination acceptance speech that 'the long, dark night for America is about to end.' In the closing days of the year, we saw Earth in its entirety for the first time from the window of the Apollo 8 space capsule." The exhibit goes until February 20th, then tours other cities.