Thursday, October 30, 2014


I received a call from “Rogue” the magician, inviting me to a grand opening of a restaurant that was being “redeemed” by the Cooking Channel.  He asked me to bring as many people as I wanted to but letting him know the head count.  The final total was five as we all met up at Panda Asian Bistro in Elmhurst. 

The time period was from 8 to 10 p.m. and showed up at 7:30 due to the prospect of a long line of people having a free meal.  People were invited and whoever came off the street who wished to participate, were allowed to as well.  The checking in process had us signing one form that had to do with being on television as well as that alcohol beverages were going to be served.  Another form had to do with not revealing anything on social media, etc. prior to the show being aired.

I checked in and told the crew or whoever, that I would be writing an article. I also asked if they could get me a chair to sit on for the long wait of what wound up being sometime after 9 p.m. 
We went through a number of conversations with different members of the crew as to being able to get in before and not have to wait on the line.   It was agreed on and even alerted soon before the doors opened.  The doors did open and we were ignored.   I had to push the point of telling them that they just finished saying something.  We finally went into a different entrance and took a table nearby that door. The table was not in the common area and chosen because everyone was seating themselves before we could get to it. 

Lights, cameras and a menu came out.  It read, “Panda Asian Bistro Dumping (not my typo) and Bao Bar Chinese Bar Food.”  The first thing listed were Dumplings showing an assortment of both steamed and fried.   We waited for food to arrive but other people were being served.  I actually had to ask the owner. 

Panda Broth came out, two bowls for five people, no serving spoon and had to ask for something to have it served in.   They brought cups.  Soup had some kind of various balls that tasted mass produced with an awful consistency.  Knife, fork, soup spoon, chop sticks, and a bar napkin!  A BAR NAPKIN?  FOR WHAT?  We were soon informed that although the bottom of the menu cited two different specialty drinks, the only liquid being served was iced water!! At least that is what they told us.  No plates, either.

Cameras were all over the place and in people’s faces to film this completed and staged set up.  It was
“boys night out at the bar” with one token non-Asian as they got to eat, drink beer and watch some of Rogue’s magic which must have entailed making the bartender disappear and take his place. Give me a break!  A group of young Asian men are going to come here and take up the bar space to watch someone perform their magic act?  Sushi bar had about a dozen people set up (I’m certain that they chose who they wanted there as well) with food and beer.

Then out came a basket of two steamed buns with extra balls on the side.  Did they give it all away before they got to us?  This one basket was for the five of us to share.  It was so obvious how the reality was missing.  You know how they say that you can tell how good an Asian restaurant is by seeing how many Asians are eating there?  They obviously couldn’t get enough Asians. 
Another basket came out with three spring rolls and I’m not sure if these were the fried dumplings as listed or fried wontons. 

We kept seeing beer being served to other people.  At one point, I noticed one of the crew members coming into the same door that we came in and carrying four boxes of pizza.   She tried not to make it obvious as she slipped up the stairs. 

Having gone there prior and finding some very pointed bones in my boneless chicken (when I took home the leftovers), I was looking to see the difference in décor that the thousands of dollars were spent on.   I think it was a paint job and some lighting.  I really couldn’t tell due to all the lights being used for the filming.  The menu change was for the restaurant to have this bar menu instead of the prior ayce sushi or regular menu. WHAT?  None of us enjoyed any of the food, except for the broth of the soup. 

Why did the service suck?  They fired the waitstaff and used Rogue’s fiancé and her sister to do the serving…maybe another one that Rogue works with as well. 
At one point I tried to talk with the woman who does the show.  As she was asking me about whether I enjoyed the food, she was taken away by a crew member.

We wound up leaving and going across Queens Blvd. to eat at a Turkish restaurant.  Despite the redeeming atmosphere it appears that many people have given it a thumbs down when it comes to both food and service (as noticed on Yelp).  I have heard that they have been sticking to the menu at hand but may or may not add the Bao Bar offerings. 
The show will air in December.  Will the restaurant stay open until then? This is one “reality show” that’s a total setup and restaurant that will turn out to be a letdown.

On a separate issue.  F. Ottomanelli Burgers and Belgian Fries.   Did you see them on Food Network’s new Hungry Games?  I don’t think so.   Food Network was there.  I could barely see part of the restaurant’s logo out of focus in the background.  They certainly made use of the place but never mentioned the name or even gave credit at the end of the episode.  I’m guessing that owner Frank Ottomanelli had to shut down his store for several hours and lose the business from real customers.  WHAT A RIPOFF and I’ll bet that the Food Network’s attitude is, “Oh well, it happens”.   Interestingly is that they featured a burger place in Manhattan that they said that they “took over”.   Perhaps there was a money deal with that place saying that no other burger place could be featured or named in the episode.  LET’S HEAR A NON-HALLOWEEN BOO FOR THE FOOD NETWORK!!!!

Wednesday, October 29, 2014


There are those of us that have perhaps 202 “friends” on facebook.   There are those that may boast 10,202.   It’s not that you know them all but rather each connected to a large group that you add either by their wanting to “friend” you or looking to up your numbers.  

Such is a woman named Sharon A.S.  who used her middle name so that that those born after the year 5710 would recognize the “nee” name.   It was 45 years ago that she finally married the boy that she played with in the sandbox and perhaps played “doctor” as well.

Life was so rare as she grew up in the Bronx, had kids, grandkids, and retired to Florida.  One day, she lost her husband.  They put out an alert but nobody could find him.  Oh, I forgot  “lost” means “no longer alive”.   In the Jewish religion you either lose someone or they pass (gas? A football? Hors de ouvres?)

Sharon found herself now being a widow and posted the status on her facebook page.   She received thousands of condolence emails, notices, and an occasional snail mail card.  It did make her feel comforted since as the years went on many close online friendships developed.    

Sharon A.S.  decided to change her status back from “widowed” to “married”.    Being such an elderly woman and marriage no longer an option in her life….the other Barry in her life, Barry Manilow, is spoken for.

So, out went the status change that read, “Sharon is married today”.  Thousands were feeling guilty about not reading her facebook page to find out when she got engaged.   These were not the friends who really knew her.   Each of them sent gift cards or catalogue gifts of food with preservatives. 
Thousands more sent a facebook congratulations and placed her info on a mailing list of sexy undergarms  as they did not remember how old she was.   

Not all was good.   She received thousands of tweets regarding accusing her of having an affair during her original marriage. After all, Barry died only recently and she’s getting married so soon?   Was it a shotgun wedding?  Those that asked were unaware of her age.   Was this new guy peering at her and Barry from a nearby sandbox while writing, “I will wait for you forever” with his little nubby fingers?

Her closer friends were quite upset as none of them were invited to the wedding.  Actually each thought that the others were and felt so left out that they “unfriended” her. 

Sharon now remains friendless of her true friends in her home with a shit load of disgusting food and what looks like a “hoarded” house.   This is what happens when you change your status on facebook!

Friday, October 24, 2014


photo by John Tsiavis.

 A musical rocking good time is expected as singer Melissa Etheridge begins her tour to debut her new album entitled “This is M.E.”  with eleven brand new songs.  At present her hit single is called “A Little Bit of Me” and it’s simply a coincidence.   I interviewed Melissa getting some inside details. 

“It’s funny, I didn’t put that together until after I was calling it ‘This Is M.E.’ {regarding the single}.  Then we decided to use the photos of my fans as the album cover.  If you look closely you can see that my portrait is a makeup of digital photos of thousands of fans.”  ‘A Little Bit of Me’, keeps repeating, “There’s a little bit of me, in a little bit of you”.  Melissa points out “There is an activist part of me that believes that we realize that our diversity and uniqueness come together in one beautiful family.”  In the case of the photo, it is also a little bit of the fans in a little bit of her.  

“I just finished my solo tour and it was a blast.  Now, I’m going out with my full band in support of this record. Actually, most of my backing band is from New York City.  Jerry ‘Wonda’ Duplessis, who has an incredible studio, Platinum Sound, in the Theatre District, was a bass player for the Fugees and having done an amazing amount of stuff.  I talked him into going on the road with me as well as doing a couple of songs for me on the record, such as Monster and Do It Again.  I kept my drummer Blair Sinta.”  The rest is Wonda’s Platinum Sound consisting of: guitarist, Brandyn Porter; Arden Altino on the keys; and backup singers Angela Hunte and Ashley Loren. “This is the first time having background singers and I’m so crazy excited about it.”

“My brand new tour is full of insanely moving music.  I will be doing ten of the eleven songs since they have gotten such great reactions from my fans saying things like ‘This could be my possibly favorite album of yours.’ These fans go back 20 years and give me confidence to perform them.”

Asking about as to whether she wrote all of the songs on the album, Melissa said that she collaborated somewhat with the musicians but wrote all of the lyrics accept for “Do It Again” and “Ain’t That Bad” co-writing with Angela Hunte, a hip-hop artist.  “’Ain’t That Bad’ is more of a hip-hop-rock tune”, Melissa remarked.  For the song “Take My Number”, the original single, she said that she was trying to think which song should first be released before the album itself.  “Feedback was that it sounded more like an older song of mine that I would have done in the 90’s.  A comfort song.  It’s a sweet song with a story that I solo with my acoustic guitar.  “It’s a grown up ‘call me, baby’ song of how we’re going to date after a divorce.”

What is behind each song that she composes?  “It starts with an inspiration whether musical or an event going on giving me that feel of ‘I want to sing about this’.  Each song on this album was driven by my own personal idea”.

“’Who Are You Waiting For’, the only ballad on the record, was written for my wife, Linda, for our wedding. I actually sang that to her during our vows.  It was a wonderful moment. She is an amazing woman and we both cried.” The lyrics seem to point to Linda’s asking who Melissa was waiting for.  They had been friends for several years prior to their marriage this year.  “I’m not going to do that song as it is intimate and this show is pushing out! I’m going to keep that song for a while.”

Melissa also commented on her health being “just fine”.  “Ten years this October of being cancer free” and feeling that her food regiment is what keeps it that way. 

Melissa Etheridge will be performing at Town Hall in Manhattan on Wednesday, November 5th.  Check out her website:

Tuesday, October 21, 2014


If you are interested in getting a feel for Germany you won't need a passport when you take in Zum Stammtisch Restaurant and its abutting Pork Store.   Werner Lehner and his brother, Hans are the owners of the Pork Store.  

There are lots of condiments at the front of the store as well as jars of items such as red cabbage.
You can get various cheeses and items such as pickled fish.

If it's a cold German beer you're looking for, you'll have many to select from. 

Leberkase is like a warm bologna. Pork, pork fat, and spices are emulsified into a paste (kind of like a pate), put in a loaf pan and baked.  Adam is slicing it up just the way one might order roast beef at a buffet.  People love to come in for a slice and eat in on the way home.  They sell about 30 loaves a week.  I personally found it to be less salty and less "garlic-y" than  mass made bologna.I fried it up and topped it with an egg, over easy.  Dipped pieces of the pretzel bun in the yolk. 

This area has the salads.  German sauerkraut had added ham, bacon, onions, caraway seeds, some fresh apples and just a bit of wine.  Goes great with the Leberkase!

German potato salad has a bit of bacon fat and bacon rather than mayo.

Then there are potato dumplings, red cabbage, rice pudding, and a best seller of a "blt" salad.  Instead of bread, it's replaced with pasta.  

 Hilda Kiefer comes in here at least once a week. She lives in the neighborhood.

Zum makes some of their own sausages but mostly uses "wursts" and products from other large companies that are well-known.  However, they do make their own Sulze, better known as Head Cheese.  It's a meat "jelly" made with what seems to be ham, pickles, and carrots .  There is no cheese.  Zum makes their own liverwurst. Don't expect it to appear like most as it is in a jar. It cannot compare to any of the packages liverwursts, being both smooth and made with pork livers. 

Gelbwurst are made here.  Traditionally they are made from veal and pork. Werner makes a special wurst from chicken.  Kind of like slices of an extremely mild chicken bratwurst.  Incidentally, they sell lots of those pretzel buns that are not only perfect for taste and texture, but make for great sliders and small sandwiches.

Now I go to the area of the butcher cuts.  If you don't want to make sauerbraten from scratch, you can buy the "fixings" beginning with the marinaded beef.  This cut of eye round gets to sit in a brine mostly of vinegar and pickling spices.  The brine is injected and it sits for 7days (in a fridge, of course). They will give you the brine to cook it in as well as the gravy.  It should be cooked as if you are making a pot roast for about 3-4 hours.   Goes great with the potato dumplings.

Here is one of the customers buying pork chops.  Potato pancakes and Frikadellen, a meat patty that combines both beef and pork, are up there on the counter.   Zum prepares a meatloaf often enough to have some to sell as well.  The taste and contents are different from the meat patty.

Rouladen is another big seller.  It's sort of the German version of braciole but what goes into it is quite different. The beef is sliced and pounded to get it thin.  Your putting carrots, onions, bacon, ham, pickles and mustard in it.

Frozen dinners and soups are always available.  No preservatives and can last a week or two in the freezer in its container.

Here is what a Rouladen frozen dinner looks like. It comes with red cabbage and spaetzle (German egg noodles).

Burger patties are made with a combo of shell steak for the fat and chuck steak. 

Strudel is must!  Today they had apple and cherry cheese. Option for crumb cakes lovers as well.

There is a large variety of imported chocolates, chocolate bars and other sweet goodies near the front of the store. If you are into Ritter, you can choose one bar or a package that has a variety of small ones. 

Monday, October 20, 2014

Saturday, October 18, 2014


We crave a good burger, especially ones made with beef.   Sure you can get a “fast-food” burger on the “sort of cheap” if you don’t care what’s in it or whether it comes from a frozen patty.   100% beef can use any part of the animal.   That “juiciness” would most certainly relate to the amount of fat content and although the craving is about the meat and grease, it certainly isn’t the healthiest way to eat.

If you crave ice cream you will most likely not go to a restaurant but a place that simply sells ice cream. No soup. No salads. No entrees.   It’s only logical to get your burgers at an eatery such as F. Ottomanelli Burgers and Belgian Fries.  

Are they the best burgers in Queens?   Let’s look at the facts.   This burger joint, located at 60-15 Woodside Avenue is located less than a block away from S. Ottomanelli’s butcher shop.   Where do you think the fresh patties are made?  You got it.  Three separate cuts of their quality beef go into these gems to compose that perfect savory hamburger.  

Much of the crave centers on your taste buds and what you put in or on the burger.   We no longer want a simple burger with ketchup.   Owner Frank Ottomanelli creates some special burgers with the seasoning already mixed in.   If it’s “spicy” you crave, there is the Chipotle Burger and the Jalapeno Cheddar Burger.   Some people love carmelized onions on the top and some want them cooked into the burger.  Then there is the Bacon Cheddar Burger and Roast Garlic Burger.  

Have it your “crave” by building you own starting with either an un-seasoned (no salt or pepper) 4 ounce single or 8 ounce double or options of a cheeseburger, bacon burger, bacon cheeseburger, or chili burger.   It’s a lot less expense to get a double than two singles unless you’re intent on the amount of free toppings.   Here is the list: ketchup, mustard, mayo, hot sauce, BBQ sauce, lettuce, tomato, grilled onions, raw onions (of the purple ilk), pickles, relish, sautéed mushrooms.  
My suggestion for those who love a spicy experience is to get the Chili Burger with hot sauce.  Yes, it’s homemade chili with beef, beans, and veggies.   The chili isn’t chilly but not very hot, either.   OMG on the chili?  You can get a cup of it for $2.  

I don’t know about you but I’m drooling on my computer.  Excuse me, while I get a few napkins before I continue with this. 

“Want fried with that?”  Do not expect a bunch of thin pre-frozen fries here.  I have a potato test.  Can I eat it without anything on it, including salt?   Notice the name of the restaurant?   Belgian fries.   They are fresh cut, thick, and served in a cone- shaped basket.   Regular size will cost you $2.99 and large, $3.99.  You can have ketchup, mustard and malt vinegar as a freebie.   Add $.79 for cheese, a homemade sauce (bacon ranch, chipotle, rosemary parmesan, honey mustard, spicy BBQ) for $.59 or go gourmet with the white truffle sauce for an extra $.99. 
A plain single 4 ounce burger goes for $4.79, a double for $6.39.  Most expensive is a double chili burger at $7.89.   

I don’t know about you but I tend to crave a good thick chocolate milk shake with that.   They are certainly not small and made with ice cream. Yes, you can get vanilla or a “black and white”.  They don’t sell desserts, so this would be the best substitute. 
Did I tell you that you can buy these freshly made patties and cook them at home?   They are $3 each. 

Just in case you have never been there…it’s Restaurant Week in Queens and they are participating.  Same price for lunch or dinner for two.   Two Regular burgers, two small Belgian fries and two fountain sodas for $14. Restaurant week goes until October 30th.   There are tables and chairs for you dining in pleasure.  Sorry, you have to dine in for this.  

Suggestion:  call ahead if you are going late at night.  When they run out of burgers, they begin cleaning up.  I am also told that since the chili is a biggy you should call ahead to make sure there is any left.  This place is REALLY popular for a mouth-watering reason!!  718-446-7489.  

Incidentally, they are listed on the Food Network’s website.  “On The Road”?  Perhaps it's their new show called Hungry Games.  Tune in on Monday, October 27th at 8 p.m. to see.