Saturday, November 15, 2014


When a community theater production needs to cast two characters who speak Chinese, there is always the fear that performers will overact to the point of offensiveness.
In “Thoroughly Modern Millie,” now at the Free Synagogue of Flushing Community Theatre Group through Sunday, writers insisted that the characters of brothers Ching Ho and Bun Foo be totally authentic and not portrayed in any stereotypical fashion.
Neither Clarence Ilanan nor Edwin A. Palacio, who play the characters, has ever spoken the language or are of Chinese descent, but each keeps their parts authentic with English subtitles flashed atop a high curtain.

“The company supplied us with CDs, enunciations and pronunciations,” said Ilanan. “I then had to observe the culture for the movements.”

They portrayed cohorts to Mrs. Meers (Angel Vail), a Chinese-appearing character who owns a rooming house for young actresses during the 1920s. Appearances being deceptive, she was a leader of a white slavery ring, shipping orphans, who tend to be alone, off to Hong Kong.
Vail appeared to be having a fabulous time portraying a villain — which she later revealed was the case. Going in and out of characters certainly made for quite amount of laughter, not to mention her attempts to speak with Ching Ho and Bun Foo.
Millie Dillmount (Mary Kate Carter) pops into town on her own looking to become independent and modern.

Forgetting the silly plot, this was one of the best productions I have seen at FSFCTG.
Maryellen Pierce has once again delivered in both her direction and co-choreography.
Both music and lyrics were added to the original movie musical, including a number called “The Speed Test” in which Mr. Graydon (Erik Neilson) tests Millie’s dictating speed as part of a job interview. It is a sort of rendition of “The Pirates of Penzance’s” “Modern Major General.” Millie’s reading it back simply adds to the faultless number.

Neilson is not new to FSFCTG. His role shows off both his singing and comic talents. Carter, on the other hand is one of a number of players who are new to the group.“I moved to Astoria and hearing about the production, decided to try out,” said Carter. “I felt as if I was introduced to a new family of support.” Which included a few old members of her family, her husband Andrew Murano portrays Jimmy Smith, Millie’s love interest. Whether acting or not, the two display perfect chemistry.
Cheers also to soprano Lisa Bondi (Miss Dorothy), also making her FSFCTG debut. Her duet with both Carter in “How The Other Half Loves” and “I’m Falling In Love With Someone” with Neilson, showed a smoothness as well as her harmonizing ability.

The major standout to the production was that each cast member was right on point with timing that had Sunday’s audience cheering throughout the entire performance.
Kudos goes to Musical Director Paul L. Johnson and the entire cast and crew for a production that should not be missed.

The final performances are Saturday, Nov. 15, 8 p.m., and Sunday Nov. 16, 3 p.m. Reserved seats may be purchased by calling (718) 428-8681.

As published in the Times Ledger.


Thursday, November 13, 2014


Executive Chef Michael DeGeorgio held a cooking class that focused on fish, The Feast of Seven Fishes, to be exact.  For those of you that are not familiar with the Italian celebration, it is a traditional meal served on Christmas Eve.   Whether you were looking to do your own holiday cooking or just needed some great tips for preparing fish, the sold out class offered both knowledge and the highest quality seafood. 

There might have been some couples that were not even interested in cooking on the holidays.  For a price of $125 per person (all inclusive) you were able to indulge in a relaxed dinner that included three appetizers, pasta dish, entrée, and 3 desserts, plus paired white and red wines and coffee along with the full recipes for everything but dessert.  Hey, it was at least three hours of demo and eating. 

Needless to say, Chef Michael did not work alone as Chef Luis Enriquez did his “sous chef-ing”.   


What did we have and what did I learn?  Let’s start with a Frutta De Mare (seafood salad) of poached lobster, shrimp, calamari (squid), pulpo (octopus), dry sea scallops and scungilli (conch).

First things first, prepare a poaching liquid consisting of water, pickling spice, white wine and lemon juice, onions, celery, parsley and carrots.  You can always freeze this in portions for future use as is or it can certainly make for a great poaching liquid with that added seafood flavoring. 

Chef Michael gave us lots of great tips.  For instance, the best shrimp to use would be a 26/30 white, peeled and deveined.  Fresh squid is much better to use.  You can clean it yourself or buy it already done for you.  I used to think that calamari was rubbery due to the amount of time cooked.  Wrong.  Fresh counts the most.  Dry scallops do not have added water and chemicals.  Hint, hint.  

Fritto Misto (mixed fish) consisted of lemon sole, calamari, shrimp, fresh asparagus, and zucchini.  This is of the fried ilk and should be chilled overnight (before frying) to allow the marinade to soak in.  Tip?  Soaking food in milk tenderizes it.  In fact, Michael prepares a turkey by marinating in milk and butter.   Another tip on this is to dust with Wondra Flour.  The fish, not the turkey. 

Baked Clams Oregenata were next.  Littleneck clams baked with bread crumbs and white wine, along with things like roasted shallots and garlic and a few cheeses (I’m not going to give away the secrets).  He suggested that you can either open the clams or have your fish monger do it for you.  

We’re up to the pasta dish.  Personally, I do not like “al dente”.   Chewing pasta is just not my thing and I’m not Italian, so I don’t care.  Linguini Con Granchi contained: blue crab and Alaskan King Crab in a light tomato sauce.   Use a can of imported San Marzano whole tomatoes.  You might be better off having the monger kill and clean the crabs so that they don’t bite your tongue or grubby little fingers.  Alaskan King Crabs are easiest to get the most of the meat without most of the fuss. 

The entrée, hand-carved whole roasted fish with fennel, endive, broccoli rabe and bread crumbs was served with truffle potato croquettes.   Michael’s staff had prepared two different fish in the kitchen; American snapper and halibut.  I tried the halibut and it was extremely tender, but “meaty”.  This was due to the added liquids such as white wine and chicken stock as well as some other tasty additions. Not to miss out on the preparation, Chef Michael showed us how to prepare it using a smaller snapper.    

Seconds of everything were offered.  However, I was getting quite full on the “firsts” and wanted to save a bit or room for desserts.  One was Panettone topped with vanilla gelato and raspberry sauce (seedless). Another was a warm apple cobbler.  Last (and not on the menu) was a fried ravioli.  Fried ravioli for dessert?  It depends on what’s inside.  This one oozed chocolate!!

Here are just some of the folks that attended.

Joining us were the Almonte family, owners of the new Keyfood Supermarket located at 163-20 Cross Bay Blvd. 

Russo’s recently put out their own brand of gourmet food now being sold at this location. All you have to do is heat it up…unless it’s something you would serve cold, such as a seafood salad.  Each day, the food is prepared at Russo’s on the Bay and brought over to Keyfood’s deli department.  Along with salads and main dish items, there is an area just across the deli called “Grab and Go”.  Here you can get two sauces, ala vodka and marinara as well as appetizer sizes of: Russo’s original meatballs (Michael’s recipe), Chicken Francese  meatballs, Asiago rice balls, Potato Croquettes, Stuffed mushrooms, and Mozzarella Carozza (kind of a fried mozz sandwich). 

With Thanksgiving coming up Chef Michael is doing the preparation of turkey packages that you can pre-order at Keyfood and get it delivered to your home.   As an idea, the cost of a $229 (plus tax) would feed 12-15 people.  718-835-4100. 

As for cooking classes, check Vetro’s website of   for future classes and other tidbits of information.