Wednesday, June 28, 2017


Condos line Center Street in the Hunters Point section of Long Island City, one of the Queens neighborhoods that became an alternative to living in Manhattan.  Some years back a ferry was created to go to and from East 34th Street in Manhattan. Along with living spaces that are still in construction come the eateries from food trucks to fine dining, such as SHI, an Asian Fusion enterprise owned by brother Shih and Skinny Lee, Taiwanese-American siblings.

Enter through a Chinese treasure of wooden doors into a welcoming lounge with cushiony chairs and sofas.  Few seating at the bar encourages people to relax, listen to the music, or even get up and dance.  I would imagine that locals meet up here to socialize.  Yes, they do have a “happy hour.”

SHI is quite large with several areas of dining accommodations.  On a busy night the noise level can be a bit up there.  You can opt for outdoor seating with a view of the Manhattan skyline.  Sunset and after makes it easy to point out the Empire State Building, Chrysler Building and the United Nations as the restaurant is located a few blocks from the ferry landing.  Check out the swing chair in the patio. 

There is a sushi bar on one end. You are welcome to stand and watch the chefs create.  Chef Lai comes from Hong Kong and Seow Chan the General Manager 

of SHI is from Malaysia.  She was most helpful in the selections of food especially in describing the menu items and country influence.  I went with my friend Deveka who loves spicy food.  I have some tolerance. 

Sushi?  That means sake!  That’s an influence I learned from “Rocky” Aoki.  A small bottle of Junmai Dai Ginjo was quite refreshing and smooth, sharing and drinking slowly, toasting with “Kampai.”

We start with some sushi appetizers. There was a special called Thunderdome. Slices of avocado create the dome.  Underneath it is stuffed with spicy tuna. It sits in seaweed salad that wasn't spicy allowing for the tuna to stand out. Topped with red fish roe.

Next is tuna, yellow tail and amberjack sashimi with a Medusa Roll that has salmon, mozzarella cheese and jalapeno topped with caramelized onions. They are certainly not stingy with the size of the sashimi. I loved the textures from the cheese and onions.

An appetizer that intrigued me was the Lychee Calamari. Pieces of lychee nut blended into the batter as well as some batter dipped lychee. Calamari not rubbery and lychee gave a different sweet taste. Dipping sauce is a sweet chili.

Onto the entrees, we first indulged in the Chicken lettuce wrap of chicken (obviously), fried noodles, raisins, and peanuts. They use Boston lettuce. Hoisin sauce on the side (I think it was the right side).  

Fried flounder fillet with sweet chili sauce. Fresh sautéed broccoli accompanied this.  Hey, you have to have veggies. Chili sauce is mild and "spicy tolerable" for me.

Next was a Vietnamese dish of rice noodles with chicken, crushed peanuts, scallions, red onions, carrots and bean sprouts. Sweet chili sauce served with this one, too. 

Beef Beancake. Tofu beancake had some "chew". Beef (Did that surprise you)? Jalapeno peppers. Needed to pick them out. Deveka didn't have to. 

It was at this point that we ordered a drink called “Freshy” which is made with lychee juice, cucumber juice, a bit of lime juice shaken, topped with soda & served on the rocks in a tall glass.  A must to try.  

We did have to save a little room for dessert (There is always a doggy bag).  Banana wrapped in egg roll wrapper, fried and served with ice cream.

Shi also has a “to go” section which is located on the outside with a separate entrance.   Seow tells me that most people ordering tend to get appetizers such as vegetable spring roll, bacon wrapped shrimp, dumpling, or lychee calamari. As for entrees they get the more common sesame chicken, general tso chicken, lo mein or fried rice.  As for sushi the popular ones are California roll, spicy tuna roll, salmon roll, or sashimi.

There is a dj on Saturday evenings playing “house music.”  SHI is not a nightclub setting.  I do recommend reservations (Phone number (347-242-2450) as it is such an “in” place.  Address is 47-20 Center Street.  

Sunday, June 11, 2017


Sing for Hope brings painted pianos to the sidewalks of Queens

Paul Joseph, founder of the Queensboro Symphony Orchestra, plays the Sing for Hope piano placed outside Flushing Town Hall, accompanied by Bo Yeon Hong, Second Violin from the orchestra.
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Place an artistically decorated piano at high traffic locations in New York City and you never know who will stop by and tickle the ivories.
Sing for Hope is back on the streets with 60 painted pianos in communities all over New York City, and Paul Joseph, founder of the Queensboro Symphony Orchestra, showed off his musical chops outside Flushing Town Hall on the pianos where Long Island City artist Gilly Gil-lugo showed her talent with the brush.
With the orchestra headquartered in downtown Flushing, this was the perfect spot to woo a crowd and encourage people to try out the piano, or just enjoy the music.
And as luck would have it, Bo Yeon Hong, second violin from the orchestra was passing by on her way to a practice session. Joseph had already composed a classical piece on the spot when Hong took out her violin and asked Joseph to accompany her.
Onlookers applauded, and everyone stopping by took out their cellphones to video the preformance or take a photo with Joseph. Parents were encouraging their sons and daughters, children and adults alike, to play just for a photo op. There were some who sang as well.
Gil-lugo’s decoration of the piano was also strikingly apt for the setting in the heart of the borough’s Chinatown. She adorned the front of the piano with a beautiful quote: “Music in the soul can be heard by the Universe,” attributed to Lao Tzu, the founder of Taoism, China’s most ancient philosophy.
The Sing for Hope pianos were placed at nine different locations across Queens June 5, and will remain in place until June 26, when they will be donated to local public schools for their music programs.
To ensure the instruments remain in good condition after three weeks on the streets, the hosting institutions agree to take care of the pianos, according to Amin Sardar, who works at Flushing Town Hall and is responsible for watching over the piano there.
“The pianos have a special cover for when we close it to the public or if it is raining,” said Sardar.
The piano is so popular with passers-by that he has some difficulty at closing time.
“Although there are specific hours, closing time is by far the hardest to do. There are so many people coming toward the evening that want to play. Lines are formed.”
The Sing for Hope pianos initiative is the city’s largest annual public arts project, which reaches about 2 million New Yorkers annually across the five boroughs. You can find a map of all 60 pianos across the city at
In addition to the one outside Flushing Town Hall at 137-35 Northern Blvd., you can find the other eight Sign for Hope pianos in Queens in the following locations:
• Queens County Farm Museum, 73-50 Little Neck Pkwy., on the raised platform in the herb garden.
• Roy Wilkins Recreation Center, 177-01 Baisley Blvd., on the right of the center entrance.
• Sorrentino Recreation Center, 18-48 Cornaga Ave., outside, in front of building in courtyard.
• Paul Raimonda Park, 20th Ave., between 47th and 48th streets, along the fence in the middle of the park.
• Hunter’s Point South Park, Borden Ave. and Center Blvd., on the right side of the concession stand.
• Kaufman Astoria Studios, 34-12 36th St., at the Kaufman Astoria Studios entrance.
• Yellowstone Park, 68th Ave. and Yellowstone Blvd., mid-level in park, looking over basketball court.
• Rockaway Beach, Boardwalk at 86th, 8601 Shore Front Pkwy., across from the Building 86 restrooms.
Posted 12:00 am, June 22, 2017


I had heard about the new New York City ferries and with a perfectly clear and only warm day (no blast of heat), friends and I decided to take advantage of what is the cheapest “cruise boat” ride going.  Okay, you’re not going to hear anyone call out the sights, but for the price of $2.75, the same as a bus or subway, who cares? This is the first of many articles on this new NYC treasure! 
We drove to the Rockaway landing located at Beach 108.   There is a parking lot that charges $8 for the whole day, or you can park on the street.  Most of the commuters are in the lots as they are traveling from this spot to Wall St.  The ferry first stops at Sunset Park in Brooklyn in case you work around that area and there is a free transfer if you want to continue to Wall St.  

Personally, I was seeking what one could do on off-hours.  The four of us boarded the Lunch Box ferry (They were all named and that’s another story) for the 2:15 pm ride.  You can sit downstairs or upstairs, although there are not many seats at the top.   If you can’t climb stairs, stay on the enclosed main level.  

At present there is a food and drink service area.  They were serving snacks and beverages including wine and beer.   If that’s not what you want to have during your trip, then bring your own. 

I’m not familiar with the Sunset Park area, but will do so.  There is another free transfer location to Red Hook as well.   I’m going to look into that one. 
The NYC Ferry is owned by Hornblower Cruises with a location at South Street Seaport.   It is around 6 blocks from the landing.  We did not take advantage of touring the seaport but waited for the next ferry to go back.  It takes one hour each way from Rockaway to Wall Street.  

Although we drove from the Woodhaven area, an alternative for those living in the Rockaways is a free shuttle bus that has several stops both East and West of the dock.  

We decided to have an early dinner at Thai Rock, located at Beach 92nd as I was celebrating my birthday.   Robert and Metta Haskell are the proud owners.  Rob told me that it is quite walkable from the dock via one of the schools in the area, in case you don’t have a car.  I love the food and my relative was being introduced to Thai cuisine.  

Having gone here and writing about this restaurant prior, I decided to taste some foods that I hadn’t delved into beginning with the Chicken Satay.  It was not overly seasoned and came with an excellent peanut sauce thanks to the head chef, Metta’s sister.  

Not everyone can make the perfect duck.  Rob told me that they cook it twice.  The second time delivers the crispiness of the skin resulting in having most of the fat cooked out but still maintaining both the juiciness and crunch.
There are a number of styles and sauces to choose from.  I do not like spicy food, although I find their Massaman Curry quite delicious enough to tolerate the “kick.”   The curry is made with potato, red onion, peanuts and bay leaves in a dried chili coconut sauce. 

My relative ordered the Pad Thai with shrimp: stir-fried rice noodles, eggs, bean sprouts, scallion, black tofu and peanuts with sweet fish sauce.  “Yummy” was the reaction. 

A candle was placed atop the Sweet Roti, thin fried bread rolled with sweetened condensed milk and sugar and sliced. Looked like a flat sweet pizza and tasted divine. 

Best drink to order (if you don’t want alcohol) is the fresh honey-ginger tea.  I requested it “iced.”  Most refreshing!

Is the NYC Ferry the best “invention” since sliced bread?  Here are some ideas about food and places to visit (for now).  On your way to the ferry via Cross Bay Blvd, stop at Cross Bay Sea Shell Fish Market for some steamed goodies to bring onto the boat.   I am talking about lobster and shrimp (You can purchase the cocktail sauce there, too).  You have to call in advance: 718-835-2987.     

Refreshments are available on the ferry or bring your own.  Just in case you didn’t get the info….the ferry costs $2.75 one way with lots of connections. 
Don’t always expect to board “the next ferry” as crowds of travelers have heard much about this inexpensive and easy way to get around the city.  The original idea of this ferry was an alternative for commuters to get to work and alleviate both time and packed trains and buses.  If you have to wait for another boat, then rather than complain take Mass Transit.  If the amount of people on line at a movie filled to the capacity, you would have to wait for next one.  But then again, these are probably the same folks that honk their horns as soon as the light turns green.

It takes about an hour to get to Wall Street where the South Street Seaport is just blocks away.  Explore the seaport and especially the museum where there is a new exhibition entitled Millions: Migrants and Millionaires aboard the Great Liners, 1900-1914, opening June 23 and running through January 7, 2018. It is one of the first exhibitions to examine, side-by-side, the dichotomy between First Class and Third Class passengers aboard ocean liners in the early 20th century.

Ships such as Titanic, Olympic, Lusitania, Mauretania, Aquitania, and Imperator transported thousands of people as First-Class passengers luxuriously sailed across the Atlantic while Third-Class passengers made the voyage in the stuffy lower decks.

According to information given to me, “From 1900 to 1914, nearly 13 million immigrants traveling in Third Class arrived in the United States. During this same period, America's wealthiest citizens, totaling no more than a hundred thousand passengers each year, traveled to Europe in First Class, spending over $11.5 billion (2017) on luxury vacations. Even though First Class and Third Class sailed on the same ships, their journeys were worlds apart.”

“This exhibition will feature both original and reproduced artifacts from the South Street Seaport Museum's permanent collection including ocean liner memorabilia and ephemera, ceramics, and luggage trunks from both immigrants and First Class passengers. The exhibition will highlight a few ship models of New York Harbor working vessels that played critical roles in immigration, including a model of the Museum's lightship Ambrose (LV-87).”

“Ambrose , a floating lighthouse, stood watch at the front door to New York Harbor during the greatest period of immigration in US history. Her official duty was to mark the entrance to the Ambrose Channel, a deep channel dredged between 1900 and 1907 to allow larger ocean liners, the largest of which had doubled in size in those same years, safe access into the harbor. But Ambrose had another vital role; her light was the first thing an immigrant would see as they entered New York Harbor, long before the buildings and piers on the waterfront, long before the Manhattan skyline, and long before the lighted torch of the Statue of Liberty.”

“Evoking the spirit of First-Class grandeur, a piece of wood paneling that once adorned the interior of the Smoking Room of the RMS Mauretania will be recreated by master woodcarver Deborah Mills throughout the run of the show. This work-in-progress will be on view in the exhibition space during regular hours Thursday through Sunday. Each Wednesday visitors can visit the Museum's Maritime Craft Center at 209 Water Street and watch as the artist brings the piece closer to the original. Throughout the exhibition, there will be screenings of films which feature ocean liners and immigrants in their critical roles in New York Harbor life at a time when this city was the busiest port in the world.”

The exhibition is included with Museum admission: South Street Seaport Museum members: FREE, $12 for adults, $8 for students and seniors, and $6 for children ages 2 - 17.  Tickets can be purchased online at or in person at 12 Fulton St.

Hornblower is the company that has provided the ferry boats.  They are located at dock #15, where you can purchase tix to a boat tour. 

The Rubin Museum of Art is not in walking distance but still considered “downtown” with its location at 150 W. 20th Street.  They are having a new exhibit that’s all about music, entitled The World Is Sound. Here is what it says: “Learn to listen with your whole body. Visitors will explore how sound and our sense of hearing shape our daily lives, our traditions, our history, and all of existence. The World Is Sound employs sound in new ways to animate and intensify the experience of art in the Rubin’s collection.”

Take in a free concert at the base of the spiral staircase on Wednesday, July 5 from 6 to 9 pm as Yael Acher-Modiano performs her flute-solos. According with info on the site, “A native of Tel Aviv, Yael graduated with a BA in Classical Flute from the Rubin Academy in Jerusalem. After living in Copenhagen for a decade, she moved to New York City as a Fulbright Scholar to study composition at NYU in 2005. She has resided in New York City ever since. She works in contemporary, classical, free, meditation, electro-acoustic, jazz, and hip-hop music as a soloist, with chamber groups, and as leader of her progressive jazz band “Kat” Modiano Quartet. Acher-Modiano also collaborates with choreographers and composes live electro-acoustic soundtracks to screenings of legendary silent films.”   I have heard her perform and well worth enjoying even at a cost!
Take advantage of the Green Market locations, one of which is located in Union Square.  You can find them all around NYC.  I can’t stress how Ronnybrook Farms is like the best source for dairy.  There is nothing like having milk that has not been homogenized.  It only means that the cream comes to the top of the container.  You can get a better price on all their products than going to the stores.  Ice cream, drinkable yogurt, cinnamon toast butter, crème fraiche and so much more.  Breakfast idea: French toast cooked in the butter.  Top with Ginger Crème Brulee ice cream.  They don’t make their Chocolate Raspberry Truffle all of the time. Get it while it’s around now.  Lines are long so you have to get their early.  Check them out at

Fairytale Brownies is something you can’t get in New York.  I was first hooked on their brownies.  They are like “fudge” and use Belgian chocolate.  Then they came along with cookies. Soft batch cookies. Soft batch chocolate mint cookies…with drizzles of chocolate atop.  Tell me, what would you do for “brownie points?”  If you don’t want any of their products for yourself, think about someone you love or someone you owe a favor to.  Good news is that they are coming here in October for a chocolate show.  Don’t wait until then.

Truth be told…birthday….I put a candle atop a mint chocolate cookie and “nursed” it with a glass of really cold whole milk.  I cut the cookie in half and spread the cream at the top of the milk in between the cookie. OMG. You really have to try it!!!