Day: November 13th, 2007

Found in Translation

Tuesday, November 13th, 2007 | All Things, Eats, Friends

JL (who knows all about such things) had alerted us to this food event taking place at NYU’s Cantor Film Center tonight: Found In Translation: An Exploration Of How Asian Cuisines Become Part Of The American Culinary Landscape. The evening was billed as an examination of three Asian cuisines (Chinese, Indian, Filipino) and how they each have been “translated” into mainstream American culture. The sell-out event was co-sponsored by the university’s Asian/Pacific/American Institute and the James Beard Foundation, with support from the Food & Wine program at NYU’s School of Continuing and Professional Studies, the Black Culinarian Alliance and the Museum of Chinese in the Americas.

After a brief introduction by author and A/P/A Institute founding director John Kuo Wei Tchen, each of the three panelists gave a 15-20 minute presentation on her respective cuisine of expertise, ordered more or less from the most assimilated (Chinese) to the least (Filipino). Grace Young, author of The Breath of a Wok and The Wisdom of the Chinese Kitchen, gave a brief history of Chinese food in America, a subject no doubt of considerable interest to fellow HCHS alum Jennifer 8. Lee, who sat tapping away on her keyboard behind us, and whose book on a related subject is due out in March, 2008.

Next up: Maya Kaimal [Macmillan], author of Curried Favors: Family Recipes from South India. Kaimal focused her presentation on how the majority of Indian restaurant offerings do not reflect Indian home cooking, and how despite a trend towards increasing sophistication, most menus continue to be rather limited in their regional representations. My impressions of Kaimal’s talk were marred somewhat by the blatant shilling of her eponymous line of jarred chutneys, pastes, glazes and sauces — available at Williams-Sonoma stores near you!

Rounding out the group: Amy Besa, owner of Cendrillon, a Filipino restaurant on Mercer Street, and co-author of Memories of Philippine Kitchens. Throughout the evening it was suggested that the cuisine of the 7100-island archipelago is poised to become the next Asian food to be “discovered.” Most of this self-selecting crowd, though, seemed already quite familiar with the unique joys of Sinigang, Adobo and Kare-Kare. (I was definitely among the novices, having only just made it out to Ihawan for the first time a few weeks ago.)

A/P/A panel

Afterwards, there was a brief panel discussion and a Q&A, moderated by food writer and personality Kathy Gunst. We slipped out after one particularly insufferable question from the audience. You know the type: a “question” that doesn’t seek actual information, but is rather a prelude to some overlong commentary whose sole purpose is to show off how very much the “asker” knows. Ugh. We exchanged a few eye rolls amongst ourselves, and telepathically communicated our mutual willingness to skip the post-event nibbles in favor of some heartier fare.

Moon House

After such a build-up, where else would we go but Chinatown? JL had suggested dinner at Moon House on Bayard, a restaurant I’d yet to hit despite near weekly visits to the neighborhood. Once again, we were happy to hand over the ordering reins to his capable hands. Despite the notable lack of green on the table — prompting an amused comment from our waitress — JL did a stellar job hooking us up with a rich representation of Shanghai specialties.

Fried Tiny Buns (Sheng Jian Bao) — similar to the soup-filled Pork Steamed Buns (Xiao Long Bao), a tray of which we also ordered, but with a doughy, pan-fried outer skin:

Moon House bao

… a wonderfully flavorful Salty Pork with Bamboo Shoot soup, somewhat misleadingly listed on the menu as a “casserole.” (Those are tofu skin knots breaking the surface.):

Moon House soup

… a Lion’s Head — so named for the plated appearance of these oversized pork meatballs ringed with a “mane” of braised bok choy:

Moon House lion’s head

… and a plate of Fresh Bacon with Preserved Vegetable — meltingly tender (read: fatty) and sweet:

Moon House pork belly

Is it any wonder that despite a tempting post-meal visit to the Chinatown Ice Cream Factory next door — accept no substitutes! – I could not eat another bite?

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Broadway Sings the Phone Book

Tuesday, November 13th, 2007 | All Things, Events, Music

Broadway stagehands went on strike over the weekend, effectively shuttering 27 Broadway shows, and crippling a $939 million local industry. 8 shows playing in theaters that have separate contracts with the union remained open, including The Ritz — playing at Studio 54, where tonight’s event was scheduled. (The strike would last 19 days, and cost the city some $38 million in lost revenue.)

Broadway Sings the Phone Book” was created by a trio of young producers (Sarah Melissa Rotker, Joe Tropia and Jonathan Tessero), inspired by the sentiment that fans would be willing to listen to their favorite stars “sing the phone book.” The gala concert was sponsored by the KeyZe Company and organized as a fundraiser for the Metro New York Chapter of the The Make-A-Wish Foundation. Since its founding in 1983, the Metro New York chapter has granted nearly 7,000 wishes; in 2007, the organization granted 481 wishes for local children, and facilitated 238 wish assists for children from Make-A-Wish chapters around the world whose wishes involved travel to New York City.

Studio 54

Julie White emceed the festivities. The actress is best known to television audiences for her supporting role as Nadine, the quirky neighbor on ABC’s mid-90s sitcom Grace Under Fire, and was last seen on stage in The Little Dog Laughed for which she won the 2007 Tony Award. I didn’t see White in either of those roles, though I did catch her turn as the mom in this summer’s Transformers movie — Autobots, roll out!

Tonight’s line-up included Avenue Q’s Stephanie D’Abruzzo, Sunset Boulevard’s Alan Campbell, The Drowsy Chaperone’s Mara Davi, Grey Gardens’s Erin Davie, The Threepenny Opera‘s Brian Charles Rooney and Brooke Sunny Moriber, and two eliminated contestants from television’s Grease: You’re the One That I Want! : Austin Miller and Kate Rockwell.

Broadway Sings cast

The cast of Broadway stars (and would-be stars) sang familiar songs… with the lyrics replaced either Mad Lib style (the word game, not the DJ/producer) or with the contents of pages ripped randomly from a phone book or dictionary. Performers were given the option of experimenting, or delivering their selections straight; most chose to embrace the challenge of spontaneity, to varying levels of success and hilarity. Hence: “Suddenly Sanchez.” “There’s a Fine, Fine Line” (one of my favorite songs from Avenue Q) became “There’s a Hot, Hairy Line.” And “Maria” from West Side Story segued into a listing of Marias in the Manhattan phone book (names and addresses only).

Maria.  Say it loud, and ten thousand Marias will answer.”

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