Thursday, December 7, 2017


Chanukah may stir up memories of getting gold covered milk chocolate coins used to play dreidel games or just as one of eight gifts for the holiday.   For me, I would rather have chocolate used in the baked goods that was bought at a kosher bakery such as Alan’s Bake Shop, located in Fresh Meadows.

“Parve” is the word that describes the cakes, cookies and bread.  It means that neither meat nor dairy is used so that it does not clash with what you are eating, since the two should not be mixed in the same meal.  Therefore, milk chocolate does not fall into play.  According to Alan’s sales, Jewish people might as well be classified as “chocoholics.”  

As the weekend approaches the challah breads become available both for those who break bread for the Sabbath or just anyone who loves the best French Toast.   Does chocolate have anything to do with it?  Yes, if it is one of many break away challahs made here.   They resemble a round cake with separated buns and can contain fruit, chocolate or a combination of.   

I have often wondered why chiffon cake could only be purchased at a kosher bakery, a cross between angel food and sponge.  Oy, it is so delicious!  Alan told me that it is probably due to it being a labored product as the eggs are separated.   Yolks are first mixed into the batter and whipped egg whites are folded in.  “We don’t use any type of mixes as all of our baked goods are made from scratch.” (Hmmm….is “scratch “on the money market?) Here, the chiffon cakes are sold in loaves and come in plain, marbled and CHOCOLATE.  Other kosher bakeries have a sheet cake displayed where you buy it by the pound. 

Babka is quite popular everywhere.  They are made from a doubled and twisted length of yeast dough and comes in the flavors of cinnamon or CHOCOLATE with crumbs atop.  Hey, don’t remove the big crumbs unless it’s your portion of the cake!   If you crave that combination of chocolate and crumbs, a babka known as a “meltaway” is the one you want.  It is like having a coffee cake shaped babka.   

Chocolate covered brownies dipped in chocolate and covered with marshmallows.  Did you just get sugar shock picturing that? 
I recall eating each separate layer of the seven layer cakes.  Chocolate frosting in between and topped with a layer of hard dark….CHOCOLATE.  

Back to the holidays when fried food is featured.  Time to make the deep-fried donuts called sufganiyah.  Filled with jelly or custard and topped with powdered sugar, they are only available for Hanukkah the way hamentashen is paired with Purim.  I wonder if they can make ‘em dipped in chocolate? 

Let us not forget rugalach.  I have eaten them soft.  I have eaten them crunchy.  I prepare the soft and Alan said that most of his customers feel the same way. What makes the difference is that yeast is used for the small batch and….CHOCOLATE is my top choice.  

If you are looking for a pastry that contains almonds, you won’t find it here.  Nuts to nuts.  It may taste like almond, but is actually a paste made from debittered apricot kernels, sugar and water.  

Alan’s Bake Shop is located at 189-09 Union Turnpike.  718-468-1243. Have a Happy Challahday!!!

Tuesday, December 5, 2017


Eight affordable gifts are just around the corner for each day of Hanukkah or Chanukah (we have been wandering for many years in search of the answer) with the Jewish holiday beginning on Tuesday, December 12 and ending Wednesday, December 20.   Known as the Festival of Lights, and commemorating the defeat of Greek emperor Antiochus by the Maccabees, the celebration is about lighting candles, playing with a dreidel and eating as if you are transferring the oil directly into your body.   The best thing to remember about Jewish holidays is...”we fought, we won, we pray, we eat.”

There is a long standing tale regarding Jewish people’s craving for Chinese food with several purported reasons, one being that Chinese restaurants were the only ones opened on Christmas day.  Another is that Chinese cuisine and eating at a kosher deli have one thing in common: no dairy.   

What better way to turn the tables than invite Yeou-Cheng Ma and her husband Michael Dadap to join me in sampling the food at Ben’s Kosher Deli at the Bay Terrace Shopping Center.  Yeou-Cheng was born in France where she and her brother Yo Yo first learned to play their instruments. While YoY o took up the cello, Yeou-Cheng was given a violin. It was in their early years that the family came to the US.  Michael is from the Philippines learning music and playing various stringed folk instruments.  Taking it more toward the present, Michael and Yeou-Cheng own and run the Children’s Orchestra Society.  Yeou-Cheng, now an accomplished violinist teaches while Michael is responsible for being the Artistic Director and Conductor.  Oh yeah…Yeou-Cheng is also a pediatrician.

David Czegledi is the General Manager at this franchise.  I met him at the recent annual Chicken Soup Cook-off where the deli took second place.  He became the GM at this location this past September.  “I started in 1989 as the manager in the Ben’s Deli Express located at the Broadway Mall in Hicksville. Over the years I have worked in Greenvale, Carle Place and helped with the locations in Kings Plaza, Freeport and Roosevelt Field.” Alex is the chef at this Bayside location. Can David prepare any of the foods?  He can but “since I don’t work in the kitchen every day it would take me a lot longer.”

Back to the tables where my friends bring in their own ceramic soup spoon and chopsticks. Say “what?”  Due to Dr. Ma working at the Albert Einstein School of Medicine since 1980 and it being a part a Yeshiva, she had become the keeper of the Jewish Holidays since she had to work those days.  Yeou-Cheng gained a knowledgeable background of kosher laws.  She told me that she first boiled and buried the utensils.  Come on…let’s have fun with this.  Yes, she even brought utensils for me and that is how we dined. 

David was now all on board with what we were doing.  Table first gets set up with dishes of half sour and sour pickles and another of Ben’s made-on- the-premises cole slaw.  A take on having wonton soup is the chicken soup with kreplachs.  

As we await a plate, Yeou-Cheng hands me a Hanukkah gift saying that this is the first of eight.  It is a can of olive oil not necessarily for cooking but for the burning. Having conquered, Judah Maccabee obtained a menorah to serve as a memorial. A small amount of olive oil was used, and expected to burn for one day. Instead, the menorah burned for eight days and declared a Miracle.  Although most menorahs are made to burn waxed candles, there are many that use oil. 

A platter arrives with three signature dishes.  Stuffed cabbage Hongroise: “a generous cabbage roll filled with lean ground beef, a little rice and our special seasonings, in a sauce that cries out for rye.”  We were already given breads to accompany the food.  Hey, but why dip in bread when you have a spoon? 

Chicken Fricassee: “succulent chicken pieces and meatballs in a flavorful grown gravy.”  When I was growing up my mother made this but using only the wings of the chicken.  It wasn’t an expense in those days.  Delish!

Hungarian Goulash: “cubes of lean beef, gently spiced and simmered with peas and fresh garden carrots. Served on a bed of egg noodles.”  David had told me that he is of Hungarian background and therefore a maven on this savory item. 

Chanukah’s most significant fried food is latkes noted for using potatoes with a consistency similar to hash browns.  Potatoes are usually grated adding onions, eggs and matzo meal.  We each had a bountiful sized served with apple sauce.   I have personally never figured out why it is served this way since we don’t top any other potato dish with this nor dip French fries in it.  It works, and is a “tradition.” 

Latkes can be prepared with other added vegetables such as zucchini, spinach or sweet potato and will be available only for the eight days.  

Being at a deli, we have to sample the deli meats all prepared on the premises.  Ben’s Kosher Deli is known for their pastrami and having their sandwiches “stuffed.”  We sampled: brisket, corned beef, pastrami and tongue which has become a “delicacy” the way chicken wings have emerged.  Years ago cows still had only one tongue and chicken two wings.  Nu?

Just like derma we were stuffed.  For me, a meal is not a full meal until I have dessert.  Mini-rugulachs of raspberry and chocolate. 

What I enjoyed about these was the soft texture.  I noticed some bars of chocolate covered halvah in the dessert display.  Another item that has become a “delicacy.”  

Incidentally, Ben’s Kosher Deli has a bright new party room as well as a special Chanukah family dinner for 6.  Call: 718-229-2367 or check out the menu on their website   They are located at 211-37 26th Avenue. 

Note: I later found out that Esther and Eunice came by for food to go. 

Party room


Socializing can become boring doing the “same old thing.”  Once a year, the Spring St Social Society accepts new members to its club to experience four seasonal dining events along with cabarets, salons and original theatre such as Secret Supper: The Musical.

You don’t get the information on the locale of the event until the morning of it…other than it being in Manhattan.  It was co-founders Patrick Janelle and Amy Virginia Buchanan’s first attempt in incorporating a full-scale musical and dining production.  Judging by the attendees, myself included, the entire extravaganza was a huge success. 

The event was created in a “space” vs. a restaurant, set up with a bar area on one end where the first gathering took place.  Specially made gin drinks were prepared, one of which was a very tasty gimlet.  As people socialized, waitstaff came along with two different canapes:  a shot glass with a piece of halibut and avocado in lemon juice; a cheesy cheese puff.   Actors walked about as if they were just part of the group.   Lights focus on one actor who begins to speak and sing.   

Patrick and Amy introduce the evening as we are escorted to the dining area, elegantly created with white clothed tables and decorations that include books…not necessarily to be read.  We are given a menu of “A Play in Five Courses,” the first being Arcade Bakery Sourdough, Scene 1: Crying.

Above the seating area there is white clothing hanging as if out to dry.  I wasn’t exactly sure of why, but they seemed to be clothing of chefs...lots of white undergarments, too.   High atop at the far end sat the group of musicians.  Music, composed by Alex Thrailkill and Jeanna Phillips, Evan Johnston claimed the synthesizer and electric bass, while Michael Hunter took on the violin and acoustic guitar, Ada Westfall on drums and Karaoke Bradshaw…no Karaoke Bradshaw is not the name of another musician.  

Actors were seated along the sides of the area: Nikki Pettus; Audrey Hailes, Amma Tattenbaum-Fine; Molly Mcaddo; Preston Martin; and Ronald Peet.  They sang and talked about their experiences of socializing each maintaining their own character while we, the audience sympathized.  

Scene 2: Cold, the topic, might have been the perfect name for the evening as well….no heat! Were we supposed to feel as if we were eating al fresco abutting an apartment building?  However, the email sent told us to bundle in layers.  Raw Scallop was the course.  The scallop was thinly sliced, acid to “cook” and served in a scallop shell.  

Karaoke became the topic for Scene 3 while Fall squash and mushrooms were being served by the choreographed waitstaff.   A bowl of squash and separate bowl of mushrooms were placed to serve four people.  

Scene 4: Subway had the entrĂ©e of chicken pot pie while Scene 5: Snow gave us our dessert of Tarte Tatin.  Snow was the clinch to the idea that it was an outdoors scenario.  Chef Daniel Eddy set up the menu and recipes of which the food might be categorized as a take on Novelle Cuisine, characterized by lighter, more delicate and savory dishes with an increased emphasis on presentation. Wine was served throughout the dinner.  

Let’s get to the show itself beginning with the music.  I loved it.  It was upbeat but not overwhelming.  Actors were always in character, delivered well and quite talented in their vocal abilities.  Although you might not have ever heard of them, Niesler chose a very talented cast and an extremely courteous waitstaff were obviously a part of the show. Kudos goes to the playwright T. Adamson whose book combines humor into the socializing experience.  The show, for me, had reminiscence of “Spring Awakening.”  I classify Secret Supper: The Musical as a well-executed Off-Broadway show combined with fine dining.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017


Etched on the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty are the words, “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.”  Emma Lazarus was the author of a sonnet for which this quote was taken.  Lazarus’ family background stems from Sephardic Jews originally from Portugal.   Let’s face it, unless you are a Native American some member of your ancestry immigrated from another country.  On November 9, the Times Ledger celebrated 25 of the nominated immigrants with an Ambassador Award.  

New York State Assemblyman Ron Kim, the first Korean-American ever to be elected to the NY State legislature, was the keynote speaker.  Among the honorees were: Tahl Leibovitz, born in Haifa Israel; Yeou-Cheng Ma, of Chinese descent born in France; and Marlene Tseng Yu who arrived in the United States from Taiwan.  

Forty one years ago Tahl moved to New York with his family, including his twin and older sister.  His maternal grandparents were Holocaust survivors.   As a young teenager he and his friends spent time at a Boys and Girls Club in Richmond Hill where he began competing in table tennis.  Despite suffering from a condition known as osteochondroma, which limits his range of movement, Tahl excelled in “ping pong” taking him to winning world-wide championship games that include the Paralympics.  With long years of schooling, Tahl earned two undergraduate (Philosophy and Sociology) and two master degrees in Social Work. Thanks to the support of his wife, Dawn, he is able to continue his table tennis coaching, competitions and social work.  

Violinist Yeou-Cheng Ma and her brother Yo-Yo started music lessons at a young age in France.  Her mother Marina Lu was a singer, while her father Hiao-Tsiun Ma was an established violinist, composer and professor of music. It was after a concert in 1961, during a visit to the US that their father Dr. H.T. Ma was recruited to teach in America, where it soon became their home. 

Yeou-Cheng now teaches violin at the Children’s Orchestra Society that her father founded. “Upon his retirement my brother was his first request,” Ma said. “However, at that time Yo-Yo was busy touring. He then asked me, to which I replied, ‘Yes, but not this year since I’m interning pediatrics and working 120 hours out of 168.’”

“I spoke very little English and was most proficient in math and science. Entering college I decided to major in chemistry,” Ma said. “I then applied to both graduate and medical school. Accepted in both at Harvard University, I chose medical school first. It was through the advice of a mentor along with my love for children that I opted to be in the field of pediatrics.”

Ma finally took on the role of the executive director of the Children’s Orchestra Society after getting married and having a child. Her musician husband, Michael Dadap, said he dreamed about having his own music school. It was then that Michael became the artistic and music director.

World renowned artist Marlene Tseng Yu departed Taiwan at the age of 26 to pursue her talents here in America first heading to Colorado to earn her masters in Fine Arts.  Before coming to the US her father said, “Don’t stand on the shore to go fishing.  Just go into the water and catch the fish.”  Marlene met James Yu and moved to Jackson Heights.  Her love of nature inspired her paintings and at the age of 80 continues to create murals.  Inspired by nature’s beauty she became concerned about Global Warming and the importance of the rainforests being cut down.

In 2008, she and James founded the Rainforest Art Foundation to support her and other like-minded artists.  One of the locations is at her studio in Long Island City.  The other is the Marlene Yu Museum in Shreveport run by her daughter, Stephanie.