Friday, March 28, 2014


I've heard people say, "That's Jewish food".  Italian food comes from Italy, German from Germany, Irish from Ireland.  I've never heard anyone say, "That's Catholic food". So, what country comprises Jewish cuisine?  Certainly not Israel, since that is considered to be Mediterranean cuisine.  Jewish cuisine must be mistaken for food that is served in a kosher deli who's origin is mostly that of Ashkenazi Jews, those being Poland, Germany, Russia, and Austria.

With Jews immigrating to the United States, so came the foods that they cooked.  New Yorkers learned to dine in the kosher deli's to seek the delicious specialties. What makes a deli kosher? Aside from the meat being kosher, you would not be able to order anything made with dairy.

Most of the delis no longer exist, although "kosher style" may be the cuisine.  One company has latest for many years and still remains; Ben's Deli.  With various locations, I sought out the one in Bayside and spoke with Hal Simon, the manager.

After sharing his thoughts about working for Ben's we talked about the food.

Cole slaw and pickles are automatically placed at your table.  Do not expect "dill pickles" even though they somehow got representative of Jewish cuisine.  The true pickles are either "sour" or "half sour". 
Chicken fricassee is a dish composed of chicken parts and meatballs cooked in a brown sauce. It is common to use paprika for the coloring.   Beef tongue is a delicacy.  At Ben's it is served with a sweet and sour Polonaise sauce.
Chopped Liver is a staple.  Think of it as a chunky pate made with chicken livers, onions, hard boiled eggs and chicken fat.  Gone are those days as the chicken fat has been 86ed.
Rye bread can be gotten with or without the caraway seeds. 
Stuffed cabbage.
Stuffed derma.  No more is the casing composed of the cows intestines, which no matter where you buy it, has changed the true flavor.  It is stuffed with vegetables, oat meal, and beef fat. 
Gefilte fish...the meatloaf of fish.  Ben's recipe uses white fish and yellow pike.  Other recipes call for the addition of some carp as well.  Must be eaten with the traditional red beet horse radish.  It is served with carrots as the recipe calls for first boiling the fish in water, onions, and carrots. 
What's a Jewish meal without the challah bread?
Ben's has two kinds of knishes.  There is that one company out there that makes the square ones. Ben's has some of that assortment as well as making their own round ones that are bakes.  It is typical to place deli mustard on it. 

Ben's has "overstuffed sandwiches that will certainly hit the hunger spot.  I had one made with corned beef and pastrami. Same brisket of beef is used. Pastrami has spices added. 
If you are not sure as what you want, you should have the "chicken in the pot".  You'll not only have the boiled chicken, but also kreplach (dumplings), matzo balls, noodles, peas and carrots that is actually served in a pot but on a plate. 

Potato pancakes are a given.  Of interest is that we tend to eat french fries with ketchup, potato knishes with mustard, potato pancakes with apple sauce and a baked potato with butter and sour cream.  Nu?
Kasha vanishkas is made with kasha, a buckwheat oat, pasta shapes in bow ties, and onions
Noodle pudding varies with either a sweet made with fruit such as raisins or the ultra caloric, artery clogging one that I make with not only the eggs but pot cheese, and lots of butter. 
Ben's has a variety of dessert that are not made on the premises.  One of the Ben's locations is responsible for baking up the delicious rugalah. 

Tuesday, March 25, 2014


The 2014 Left Out Festival
Stage Left Studio
Offers Something From EVERY letter in LGBTQ

Produced by Cheryl King

This annual festival features the work of LGBTQ artists and benefits Bailey House, which provides housing and support to people living with HIV and AIDS.

This year’s festival features award-winning playwrights and performers, with a special focus on transgender issues.

Ms. King, artistic director, says, “I’m delighted that this year we have plays from all five of the letters in LGBTQ.

We have performances featuring gay experience, lesbians trying to get green cards, queer identity in teens, T-gurls in NYC, gay questions and bigotry in Shakespeare, gay identity in classic literature, marriage equality, and both male-to-female and female-to-male transgender issues.

It’s a rich soup and a stellar group of talented playwrights and performers.”

In the 7 years since the Left Out Festival began, Stage Left has donated nearly $10,000 to Bailey House and produced over 200 plays and solo shows by LGBTQ artists.

Friday, April 18th @ 7:30 and Wednesday, April 23rd @ 7:30 pm

Selected Short Subjectsthree short plays
The evening’s performance opens with Yesterday was Dramatic, written by Alex Beck, the director of William LoCasto’s brilliant NY/XY in the 2009 Left Out Festival. Cassandra Sandberg directs this premiere of the play, performed by Mr. Beck, who plays Charlie, a casually neurotic New Yorker. We are allowed entry into the mind of Charlie, who speaks his stream of consciousness aloud on three subway rides to and from dates with the same boy. Moments of clarity punctuate the serio-comic storytelling, and Charlie finds himself stronger by processing the events of yesterday’s drama. Today is going to be OK!

Old Man In Sorrow, the second show on the bill, is written by William LoCasto, a perennial favorite playwright in the Left Out Festival. Inspired by Vincent Van Gogh’s painting of the same name, it is performed by Desmond Dutcher and KC Weakley. In this beautifully distilled study of a relationship, Gregory and Jeff, a gay couple, are about to embark on a journey to visit Gregory's dying father, during which Gregory’s long-standing resentments towards his father rise to the surface.

Rounding out the evening is Sherilyn Fenn at the Hamburger Hamlet, a 25-minute play written and performed by award-winning playwright and actor Joe Hutcheson, and directed by Cheryl King. After moving to Los Angeles to pursue his career goal to work at a better restaurant, Joe finds himself face to face with the Hollywood starlet of his dreams.  In this one-man show, his fourth to appear in the Left Out Festival, Hutcheson explores themes of hope and disillusionment while trying not to forget the mustard.
Running time – 60 minutes

Wednesday, April 16th at 7:30 p.m. and Saturday, April 19th at 7:30 p.m.


In Manuel Igrejas’ new play, NSA, Monty and Luis have had a happy romantic partnership for ten years. Their only issue seems to be whether or not to get married. A chance encounter with Stefan, a sexy, mysterious waiter, disrupts their cozy lives: both Monty and Luis have a secret connection to him. Monty comes from a happy Italian family; Luis was raised over a bar by his shady Grandma.  Stefan has trouble pinning down exactly where he came from, though parts of his past are on display all over the internet. The three men’s lives intertwine in a number of surprising, romantic and potentially devastating ways.  The cast features Casey Burden as Monty, Afrim Gjonbalaj as Luis and Kevin Perez as Stefan.

Running time – 90 minutes

Saturday, April 19 at 2:00 pm

Death in Venice in First Person is written and performed by Rory Lance, and directed by Robert Ellman. This theatrical presentation of the classic tale by Thomas Mann won Best Period Piece at the 2012 United Solo Theatre Festival. Join Aschenbach on his summer holiday and watch as his brief vacation quickly becomes a journey of self-discovery and an exploration of the very depths of loneliness and obsession. Of the 2012 performance, Troupe Theatre Blog writes, “The play’s success hinges on the duality of the incredibly detailed inner monologue spoken aloud and the moments of silence in which Lance’s physicality drives the narrative.  The ease in which Lance slinks back and forth between protagonist and supporting characters is both charming and endearing.”

Running time – 80 minutes

Saturday, April 26 at 1:30 pm and Sunday, April 27 at 7:30 pm

A Kiss in the Dream House, written by Ashley Lauren Rogers, an outspoken transwoman, is the world premiere of this five-act play. It’s the story of a Vietnamese engagement ceremony in crisis because of one partner's transition. This poignant and funny story intimately explores young romance and the transitions we all make falling in love. Two actual real-life sisters, Keeko and Aki Nakadai, play sisters in this drama, which also features Niki Buchanan, Peche Di and Noah Parks.

Running time – 120 minutes

Tuesday, April 15 and Thursday, April 24 at 7:30 pm

No River Between Us is a staged reading of a new play written by Michelle Ramoni, and directed by Kate Holland, featuring Jeffrey Coyne, Cheryl King, Maria Payramaure, Shawn McLaughlin, Jessica Solce and Renee Erikson-Wong. It’s a story about true love, and the restrictions on freedom imposed by restrictive immigration law and the state’s refusal to sanction same-sex marriage. Ariana is an illegal immigrant, Shannon is her lover, and Steve is their gay best friend. In a scenario all too common in the US, Steve and Ariana marry, so that she can get a green card and stay with Shannon. After a dicey INS interview, Steve’s redoubtable mother pays them a visit, and the sparks fly. Will true love find a way? Or will the forces of repression allow the “river between them” to grow into an ocean?

Running time – 60 minutes

Tuesday, April 22 and Friday, April 25 at 7:30 pm

The Pink Unicorn, written and performed by Elise Forier Edie

Based on real events, "The Pink Unicorn" is an award-winning solo theatre piece. It tells the story of a Trisha Lee, a Christian widow, living in a small, conservative Texas town, whose life is thrown into turmoil when her teen-aged daughter announces she is "gender queer" and starting a chapter of the Gay and Straight Alliance at the local high school. When violence erupts in her community, Trisha must reluctantly embark on a journey from ignorance to advocacy, trying to make sense of what is right and what is safe for her daughter, with persecution and prejudice closing in on all sides. <>


Running time – 90 minutes

Monday, April 21 at 7:30 pm


Cheryl King presents the results of her ongoing workshops with Bailey House transgender clients. It’s a riotous combination of audio and video clips, with live commentary by Ms. King, an in-depth conversation with the “T” part of the Left Out Festival’s featured demographic – LGBTQ citizens of our fine city. Topics include make-up and moms, fantasies and fetishes, and the hopes and dreams of T-gurls in NYC in 2014.

Running time – 60 minutes, plus reception.

Thursday, April 17 and Monday, April 28 at 7:30 pm

Antonio and Shylock: Monsters

A work in progress based on Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice by Dikran Tulaine, this exploration of hatred of the “other” explores anti-Jewish and anti-gay bigotry. Was Antonio gay? Scholars differ on this important issue, but it’s clear that his love for Bassanio was so profound that he was willing to sign a bond to Shylock for a “pound of flesh”. Two live video feeds add a touch of contemporary “media feeding frenzy” to the making of the deal and the trial. Directed by Dikran Tulaine, this one-hour adaptation features Mr. Tulaine as Shylock, KC Weakley as Antonio, plus Liam Bobersky, TC Corwin, Cheryl King, and Karen Sklaire as other dramatis personae. Karin Kearns and Cheryl King are the videographers. A brief audience conversation with the cast is planned after the performance.

Running time – 60 minutes.

All performances are at Stage Left Studio
214 West 30th Street, 6th floor, NYC.

Tickets $22 (includes $2 ticketing surcharge) and $25 at the door.
Discount codes STUDENT and SENIOR get $5 off (ID required at box office)

Monday, March 24, 2014


It’s not “Louis Armstrong the Musical”.  In fact the one-man, three character show is called Satchmo at the Waldorf and the actor never plays the horn.  John Douglas Thompson portrays jazz great Louis Armstrong as it takes place in March of 1971 in his dressing room of the Waldorf-Astoria hotel just after a performance. 

He enters the dressing room in an obvious state of exhaustion and heads straight to his oxygen tank.  We know that his health is not good.   The truth of it is that Armstrong died a few months later in July in his home located in Corona, Queens.   

The entire production has him talking to the audience about his career and the two people who helped form it: Fletcher Henderson and Joe Glaser the two others that he portrays.

Armstrong’s dressing room is equipped with a tape recorder as at times, he records some of his experiences.  That’s when you will hear bits of his music as well. 

Before you get shocked, it’s important to know that Armstrong is using quite amount of the “f” word as well as the infamous “n” word.   It does add for the effect of his emotions.  

Thompson is totally outstanding with the acting especially when he goes back and forth from Armstrong to another character.   Do expect humor in this production based on Terry Teachout’s book entitled, Pops: A Life of Louis Armstrong, who wrote this play as well.

If you are not a history buff on Louis’ life, the Broadway Playbill cites a Louis Armstrong Timeline as well as “This is a work of fiction, freely based on fact”.  

Satchmo at the Waldorf is being performed at the Westside Theatre/Upstairs.   The theatre itself is wheelchair accessible.  However, there is no elevator to the second floor.  

Sunday, March 23, 2014


March 22nd weekend marked another annual GLBT Expo at the Jacob Javit Center with loads of entertainment, information, some food samples and what I heard was less booze.  Personally I thought there were enough free samples to make the high.   What was most humorous about it?   There was a company sampling and selling a canned drink aimed at dealing with your hangover, while two tables down, a wine company.   

Jello shots with vodka infused whipped cream came in several flavors at another booth from Temperance Distilling.   One of the beer companies offered a full glass sample.   Don’t worry though.  Alcoholics Anonymous had a booth at the opposite end of the expo space.
The wine company is called TMRW.  It could stand for “tomorrow” but it’s the acronym for The World’s Most Romantic Wine.  I guess it looked better without the “world” in it.   I don’t know if I would describe it as being “romantic” unless you throw in the atmosphere.   The sampled wine is known as “ice wine”, a “more than” dessert wine.  It is produced from grapes that have been frozen while still on the vine. The sugars and other dissolved solids do not freeze, but the water does, allowing a more concentrated grape must to be pressed from the frozen grapes, resulting in a smaller amount of more concentrated, very sweet wine. With ice wines, the freezing happens before the fermentation, not afterwards.

There was a section devoted to same-sex weddings.   Great idea since it’s now legal in New York.    Russo’s on the Bay in Howard Beach took a booth.   Their other venues included Vetro   I noticed that they actually had a brochure picturing male couples.    Some places tend to advertise their services just to get “gay money” but ask them for photos and they don’t have.   Kudos to the Russo family for being supportive.

Many exhibitors take advantage of the expo simply due to the space and amount of people that attend.   I don’t blame them as it’s a chance to feature your product.   For instance, a chocolate company called Chupon.   They were featuring their spicy Mayan chocolate.   Just enough “hot” to give it a bit of a kick.

Lots of tourism offices or travel marketing companies to tempt your fantasies. 

 You know it says, "Kiss my Vermont".

You might as well connect Ellen Degeneres to the expo by giving out samples of Halo cat food.    I’ll let you know if either of my cats enjoys it.  

Well…look who’s here!   Fairway Market!   They are sampling their EVOO and balsamic vinegar.    Also, giving out their shopping bag and a t-shirt!    I think they should have been in with the wedding group to brag about their catering!.   

Oy vey, I’ve been on my feet too long.  Time to go home.

Got this shot on the way. 

Tuesday, March 18, 2014


The Bridges of Madison County is a novel, movie and now Broadway Musical.   Not reading the book, seeing the movie nor having any knowledge of the plot, I saw this new Broadway Musical.   

For those of you who are on my page, I will give you the plot…one that seems to have no surprises.
Francesca (Kelli O’Hara), an Italian war bride, is married to a boring Bud (Hunter Foster) and living in Winterset, Iowa  (It is the year 1965) with their noisy teenage children Carolyn (Caitlin Kinnunen) and Michael (Derek Klena).  We also have the neighbors Marge (Cass Morgan) and Charlie (Michael X. Martin).   For those of you who have watched the tv show Bewitched, there is a commonality between those neighbors and these.  At times you could not be sure as to whether Marge is being nosey or understanding. 

Going to the State Fair, fishing and local entertainment is fine for Francesca’s family but she dreams of the romance of Italy and one day returning.

Along comes Robert (Steven Pasquale) a photographer who seems to be on the assignment of taking photos of….the bridges of Madison County.  Scruffy long hair and jeans emphasizes the “hunk”.    He actually enters via the right aisle and stops just in front of the stage (I was seated at the end of the third row at that aisle).   The scene is in front of Francesca’s home as he asks directions from her.  
With hubby and children away the “surprise” romance begins.  Will the neighbors figure it out?  Will she tell her husband?  I’ll leave alone to those who don’t want the “spoiler”.  

Let’s get to the rest of the cast.  The townspeople.  Some of them sit along the sides of the stage…just sit there.   When the sets get changed, the townspeople do the work without lights dimming.   They are also the ensemble.   There are times when it calls for one or more of the ensemble to play an instrument and actually do that.  I asked someone in the orchestra pit if they were simply looking as if they were playing but covered up by an orchestra member.  

Now, the cast beginning with O’Hara.  Not knowing about the Italy thing, I thought that her accent was more Irish and could not figure out why she was talking about Italy.  It cleared up as the show continued.  Both she and Pasquale captured the emotions and excellent vocal abilities of the songs.
Solos were given to Foster and Morgan to show off their voices.   As for the songs, I wouldn’t say that it is a “hit score”.  There were a few tunes that will hang in your head. 
All in all, I wouldn’t term Bridges of Madison County as a “must see” but if you want a Broadway Musical that’s light on the brain and totally pleasant, this is worth a ticket.