Alas, it will be a quiet post-season for the city’s baseball fans. Last week, the Yankees bid farewell to their old stadium amid much fanfare; by contrast, the Mets final loss to the Marlins was marked by familiar frustration — yet another late season collapse and an ignominious end to a 44 year run at Shea.
(Half an hour before the Mets’ final out, The Brewers did their part to clinch the NL wild card with a 3-1 win against the Cubs.)
This night in late August, though — my second game of the season — the Mets’ playoff hopes were still alive. J and I arrived during the second inning to find our team had already posted up five runs in the first against the Braves. It was a perfect night for sitting in the stands — unseasonably cool for late summer — and what followed was probably the quickest game I’d ever seen at the stadium. Just about 90 minutes later, we found ourselves chiming in on the eighth inning sing-a-long song: The Monkees’ “I’m a Believer“. (Bitter irony there.)
From up in the nosebleeds, we had a prime view of the Amazins’ future home, whose construction progress we’ve been watching all year.
Soon this will all be reduced to a pile of blue rubble. While Shea was hardly ever a paradise, it will be strange riding the 7 next year, and finding it paved over to put up a parking lot.
Tropical storm Hannah blew in late this afternoon, dumping 3-4 inches of rain onto the city in a matter of hours, flooding the streets of Flushing and halting play at the U.S. Tennis Open Tournament nearby.
At the corner of Prince Street and Roosevelt Avenue sits Sifu Chio, an unassuming restaurant which my parents introduced to me as one of the best places in town to get a bowl of authentic Hong Kong-style wonton noodles – a simple thing, done very well. (Chowhounds like the dumplings.) The restaurant isn’t quite a dive, but the aesthetic is rather plain and utilitarian: open kitchen, florescent lights overhead, menus on the table under glass and every dish served in disposable plasticware. We were the only ones in the shop this evening, probably owing in no small part to the river of wretched rainwater coursing along the sidewalk in front.
What had started out as an order of a few bowls of wonton noodles expanded to include a side of Chinese beef brisket, a dish of Chinese broccoli, a bowl of noodles and fish balls, and a bowl of shrimp watercress dumplings. As the driving rain pounded against the darkened windows, we eagerly scarfed down every bite.
Hard to pinpoint precisely what sets these noodles apart from the hundreds of other bowls I’ve eaten over the years. Dumplings made to order — delicate, tender skins with deliciously fresh filling — are certainly one factor. Mostly, I think, it’s the perfectly textured noodles. In Cantonese, the word to describe them is “song,” a wonderful adjective which has no true English equivalent. Song can be used to describe a bitingly crisp wedge of fruit, a firm yet succulent shrimp, or here, snappy, springy noodles. Al dente in this context comes close, I suppose, but doesn’t quite get to the heart of the irresistibly pleasurable sensation: of tooth meeting initial resistance, then bursting through to tender, juicy center. “Toothsome” (definition 2) is the best general English translation, though I find it lacking in the poetry of “song“.
Later that night, the second annual Sunnyside Shorts Film Festival, which had been scheduled to take place at The Sunnyside Gardens Park, was driven indoors to the newly inaugurated Sunnyside Senior Center at Sunnyside Community Services (Note to self: 39th Street — not the same as 39th Place. A girl raised in Queens should know this. I plead temporary rain-blindness.)
We sat at round formica-topped tables to watch the 16 submissions by filmmakers hailing predominantly from New York — among them a few Sunnyside locals — with contributions from Europe and South America. Several of the short films were set in New York City, and covered an array of genres: animation, documentaries, comedic skits, one painfully earnest teen film student exercise, a sock puppet music video…
Quality varied widely. My favorite was Yolanda Pividal’s 16-minute “Two Dollar Dance” — a poignant examination of the Latino clubs dotted along Roosevelt Avenue in Jackson Heights where a clientele of immigrant men, isolated from mainstream society, gather in the evening to pay for female companionship, if only for the duration of a song — an update of the “dime a dance” girls of the taxi-dance halls of the 20s and 30s. (Unsurprisingly, the workers at these places are often exploited.)
But as credits rolled on the experimental “interpretive dance” short (oof), I discreetly slipped out with SH and AP, in search of the less challenging pleasures of frozen yogurt: green tea and blood orange for me.
On SYB’s actual birthday, we headed into Flushing for a Spicy & Tasty lunch. Only this time, unlike the last a couple of weeks ago, I managed to snap a few photos of the food. We love this place almost as much as Bruni does.
Sesame Cold Noodle. The first time I tasted a version of this dish was in the late-1980s, at my classmate DLW’s apartment on the Upper West Side. A few bites of those slippery noodles bathed in sauce that tasted like sweet, spicy peanut butter — which it probably was — and I was smitten. His mom, who had placed the order from their neighborhood Szechuan (now: Sichuan) joint was surprised by my unfamiliarity with this take-out staple. I tried to explain that it just wasn’t the type of Chinese food that came out of my Cantonese parents’ kitchen.
Spicy & Tasty’s version tastes nothing like Skippy®Creamy, but is just as addictive.
Our (mostly) meatless menu: Eggplant with Garlic Sauce and Mapo Tofu. ‘Til next time, Lamb with Chili Pepper…
And for dessert, we strolled around the corner to the Flushing Mall. Stepping inside this place is like a portal into another culture, with its maze of shops hawking gaudy fashions, cell phone accessories, Asian home furnishings, glittering jewelry, dry goods, CDs, DVDs and Daewoo and Haier electronics. But we were here for the popular food court on the lower level.
The set-up is reminiscent of the type of eateries found in Asia, worlds away from American suburbia where “food court” conjures images of Mrs. Fields, Cinnabon and Orange Julius (yes, it still exists! — just no longer in New York.) And this afternoon, as part of the ongoing New Year’s celebrations, there was even a concert, featuring erhu and pipa.
The bounty of regional specialties is served from stands that line the walls, fast food style: hand-pulled noodles, dumplings, congee, crepes, shabu shabu… We located the drinks and desserts stand and considered our options. Most of the food court’s posted menus don’t bother with English translations; this one did, but it provided precious little guidance.
I placed an order for “Red Bean Ice,” expecting a small dish along the lines of what is served at Otafuku. A minute later, I was summoned to the counter and handed this styrofoam bowl heaped with a mini-mountain of fluffy white ice shards, red beans, multi-colored flecks of agar-agar jelly and a scoop of red bean ice cream. Gadzooks, the whole concoction could have fed three or four, easily.
On a hot day — which, this being February, it most definitely was not — this super-sweet, frozen treat probably hits the spot. One can also customize the ices from a fixins bar spread of day-glo colored toppings: candied fruits, tapioca pearls, various beans, condensed milk, syrups and jellies.
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