Archive for April, 2010
Juan Zapata is just 19 years old, but he already has some big shoes to fill. In 2007 the Colombian native started the Queens based dance troupe, the World Class Dancers, a group that teaches kids about improving themselves through hip hop dance classes. Every weekend the group gathers at the Long Island City YMCA to practice their moves for hours at a time in preparation for their upcoming dance competitions. I was lucky to catch up with Juan and the group to ask them a few questions and watch them showcase their talents. I had a great time while making the video. I could see that the kids bonded and saw each other as a second family. They were not only interested in bettering themselves on the dance floor, but also by applying their dance strategies to the real world. Read my conversation with Juan below to find out what the World Class Dancers is all about. Watch the video to see them in action!
Q & A With Juan Zapata:
What was your motivation?
Basically we were just tired of settling and not really challenging ourselves when we knew we had it in us to make it happen. We also watched other crews starting to rise to the top and we knew deep down we had the potential to make it as well.
How do you go about choosing dancers- ie what is the rehearsal
process, ages of dancers, what level of dance skills?
Every few months we hold auditions but we’re pretty selective with the audition process… we always provide weekly workshops for the beginners-level dancers or ones that just want to improve. We also encourage our advanced dancers to take weekly workshops in various locations all over the city in order to challenge them and sharpen their skills as well as their experience. The beginners practice once a week in a two hour class, the advanced rehearse three days for a four-to-fice hour session, sometimes more depending on competitions and such. Our dancers range from 11 to 22 yrs old, and our youngest member is actually one of our stars in the advanced class. Everyone’s experience varies, but it depends on how hard the dancers are willing to work to improve on their skills; as choreographers we can always tell who’s practicing and receiving training on the side.
What does your organization do for the community?
Well we began doing a lot of charity showcases for the church we started in, helping them raise funds for a huge renovation project they have committed to. We have also performed for local hospital/police events at Hoffman Park in the summer. Last year we were involved in a dinner to benefit AIDS awareness day, and this Christmas we are planning to visit the Children’s Hospital and make some of these kids’ holiday season memorable.
Some neighborhoods have stray dogs, Sunnyside has Stray Vintage. Similar to small furry animals, you will want to scoop these cute and unusual vintage items up in your arms and whisk them away to a good home. Sure they can’t take the place of man’s best friend, but you will want to go out on the town to show it off! The shiny costume jewelry and polyester shirts are just a few of the things this tiny shop has to offer. You will also find antique furniture, kitchen ware, postcards, magnets, and novelty items.
Stray Vintage & More 48-09 Skillman Ave 718-779-7795 Sunnyside, Queens
Luckily, the drunken noodles (also known as pad kee mao) at the Green Curry Thai restaurant in Astoria won’t give you a hangover, but they will give you a reason to adjust your belt. Diners will find it difficult to keep from devouring the entire dish in one bite. The tender pieces of chicken and broad noodles doused in a spicy fish sauce intermingle with red peppers, scallions, sprouts and chili. Green Curry makes this dish to satisfy palates that have moderate spice tolerance, but if your taste buds crave the heat you can ask them to make the entree hotter. I like the dish prepared spicy, but not sinus clearing. This version did the trick. There is more about this place than the food that will keep you coming back. The set-up is trendy, but casual. It’s a great place to either take a date or dine with a friend. Cutomers will also find that the servers are friendly and on the mark. They don’t ask you if you are still working. After all we’re not working, we’re eating and eating is an experience that should not to be rushed. Besides offering traditional dishes and lunch specials, Green Curry features authentic spicy salads, Yums- like larb gai ground chicken marinated in chili and yum goon chieng, a chinese sausage soaked in lime juice, cucumber and chili. I am sorry it took me such a long time to try this place. I will surely return.
Green Curry Thai Restaurant 35-13 Ditmars Blvd Astoria 718-777-7013
The Shin Chon Kalbi Korean restaurant in Sunnyside looked safe enough. It had a clean though drab atmosphere and a kind but somewhat disengaged staff. The menu appeared affordable and palatable, featuring many traditional entrees, casseroles and lunch specials. Brillo pad wire wasn’t listed on the menu, but unfortunately made its way into our dish. The do-it-yourself-bbq is strictly offered with orders of two or more, which is typical for this kind of dish, so my companion and I ordered the pre-grilled marinated tender prime sirloin beef. The succulent pile of beef strips graced our table shortly after we gobbled up our kimchi. We dug into the sizzling heaping of meat and then nestled the juicy strips between a folded lettuce leaf. After eating our first helping we noticed a shiny object swimming in the plate. Could it be!? Yes, a thin wire that appeared to have fallen from a brillo pad. Yuck! We informed our server and she apologetically returned the dish to the kitchen and brought us a new meal. I will eat practically anything, but consuming a metal wire will involve some serious indigestion. We proceeded to eat the newly prepared dish with some caution. The food hear tasted good but overall there was nothing that really stood out to make the restaurant exceptional. The kimchi was ok, but there was no bite. The main dish although edible was nothing exceptional. This place is ok if you are looking for a standard Korean BBQ place to do the trick, but if you want a meal that is top-notch you are better off hopping on the 7 train to Main St Flushing, where you can find Korean fare that is prepared better and bolder.
Shin Chon Kalbi Korean BBQ 43-01 Queens Blvd Sunnyside, NY 718-706-9205
Walking by the Himalayan Yak Restaurant in Jackson Heights, Queens produces all sorts of images in my mind. One image that stands out is that of a giant hairy cow wearing wooden bells and trudging slowly up a Nepali mountain range. I was curious. Did this place actually serve Yak? Was the name a mere trap to lure in adventurous diners? Whatever the case may have been, I persuaded a friend to check it out with me. Upon entering the large wooden doors into the dimly lit restaurant, we noticed a bunch of empty chairs that seemed to beckon us to take a seat. Our kind waitress lead us to our table. Needless to say, the dinner rush had yet to catch up with us. We sat and grazed the two menus, one with traditional Nepali entrees and the second with the yak specials. Being fond of worldly soups, we started the evening with the Chasha Kho-wa, a chicken soup with ginger, corn, and cilantro (tomato and spinach were printed in the menu description but failed to make an appearance in the actual bowl). This was a refreshing precursor to the heavy yak dumplings that came next. Steamed and slightly chewy, the dumplings were filled with ground yak meat. For those who have not tried the delicacy, it is similar to pork and ground beef but with a more chewy texture. The little pieces of dough wrapped up a big taste that filled our stomachs for the entire evening. For diners that are less experimental, they have several chicken, beef and vegetarian dishes. We ended the night with a traditional, though not highly recommended, dessert of Bkaktcha Marku. In the menu it is described as a handmade pasta lightly rolled in a roasted barley, sugar and grated cheese sauce, like a Nepali twist on the American favorite, macaroni and cheese. This was a delightfully sweet end to our dining adventure. Be sure to check out this wondrous place Friday through Tuesday, when you can hear live music.
The Himalayan Yak Restaurant- 72-20 Roosevelt Blvd Jackson Heights
Authors of Forking Fantastic, Tamara Reynolds and Zora O’Neill began cooking for friends about six years ago, for what has now turned into the famous Sunday Night Dinner club. With over 600 members, the club has Tamara opening up her home and kitchen to twenty strangers and friends each month to share her recipes and company with them. This twice monthly dinner is now run by Tamara out of her Astoria apartment. All diners need to do is sign-up, wait for her email invitation and the first twenty who respond will get a seat into Astoria’s most popular dinner party! I was fortunate to meet with her and ask her a few questions about her club. Watch this video to get a candid look into her culinary journey as she shares tips for creating your own dinner party!
Keep up with Tamara and Zora:
Tamara will teach you how to cook April 25 at 2pm at the Brooklyn Kitchen
Listen to them speak at The Brooklyn Museum as guest speakers for Target First Saturdays about their cookbook Forking Fantastic! Put The Party Back In Dinner Party.
May 7 Tamara will be cooking the first dinner in the new Dinners on The Farm series at The Queens County Farm Museum.