Little Pepper’s Hot Pot Makes Summer Sizzle!

Posted on August 11, 2010. Filed under: Chinese, Flushing/Corona, Off the beaten path |

Not too long ago a friend introduced me to the “hot pot“. Shortly after the introduction I discovered that the traditional Chinese stew prepared with a hot pot is an extraordinary thing. I simply had to try one myself. Salivating heavily, my dining partner and I hopped onto the 7 train en route to Flushing Queens. Our destination: Little Pepper (aka Xiao La Jiao Sichuan Restaurant) Climbing down a dark and dingy stairwell to the restaurant made us briefly hesitate, wondering if we had the right place. Then, we looked up at the smiling happy pepper painted on the sign. The jolly image reassured us that our location was correct.

We moseyed in and sat down, taking a look at our options. The hot pot was not listed on the menu.  Our waitress approached us, although barely speaking a word of English, she understood exactly what we wanted. She returned to our table with a list of ingredients to cook in our stew- one side written in Chinese and the other in English. We checked off a long list of raw food items: beef, bean sprouts, shrimp, lotus root, spinach, and the list went on. After placing our order, she emerged from the kitchen holding a large concoction over flames. It was the first step, the hot pot broth. One side of the hot pot was spicy and the other milky. Next came the raw savory morsels we added into the boiling broth. We marveled at the mysterious brew. Picking up our selected items, we dropped each of the foods one-by-one into the mixtures. I chose to stick to the milky broth, while my dining partner, with no shortage of steam rising from his beet-red forehead, ate from the spicy side.

A beautiful amalgam of tastes and colors were presented as we ferociously bit into every forkful. The foods’ appearances changed drastically as we tossed it into the hot pot. Bright red peppers floated atop the hot side, tempting us with every gleam, turning our mouths into infernos. The gray shrimp went into the pot and surfaced as soft pink and white swirls. The brilliant green of the crispy spinach became a dark wilting forest, woven with shades of red. The tender slices of red beef turned into savory brown curls. And the once full-to-the-brim pot became empty within a matter of minutes. Although it didn’t take us long to devour this meal, eating it was an experience of its own, a “work-out” if you will. The ingredients fuse together to create a kaleidoscope of tastes. In other words, it was really good.

Little Pepper– 133-43 Roosevelt Avenue Flushing, NY 11354 (718) 939-7788

One- We order our raw food items from the bilingual menu list

Two- The hot pot appears over flames- left side is hot, right side is not

Three- Raw food items we checked off the list (top) to add into our pot

Four- Voila! My own personal stew is created!

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Dragon Boat Festival in Queens!

Posted on August 5, 2010. Filed under: Art, Chinese, Flushing/Corona, Free, Music & Dance, Outdoor Recreation, Parks and Recreation, Theater |

It’s the annual Hong Kong Dragon Boat Festival in the heart of Flushing Meadows Park this weekend Saturday August 7th and Sunday August 8th. Watch the as the magnificent dragon boats zip through Meadow Lake while the competing teams race to the finish. You don’t want to miss this once a year extravaganza! Before you rush the kids back to school this year, take them to the event of a lifetime (well at least the event of the weekend) The celebration begins early Saturday and continues throughout Sunday afternoon with The Chinese Music Ensemble of New York, traditional Indian dance, Shaolin Kung Fu demonstrations, kite flying,  jazz performances, the American Bolero Dance Company and much more!

Click here for a full schedule of events.

Dragon Boat Festival Aug 7 & 8 Meadow Lake in Flushing Meadow Park

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Read it and Weep- Save Queens Libraries!

Posted on June 18, 2010. Filed under: Astoria, Elmhurst, Flushing/Corona, Forest Hills, Free, Jackson Heights, LIC, Rego Park, Ridgewood, Volunteer, Woodside/Sunnyside |

The sad little boy on the sidewalk looked up at me as he held his clipboard. He asked me if I wanted to help save the library by signing his petition. Indeed I do, and I did. The Queens Library is not just a place to check-out a book; it’s a place where your neighbors go to learn English. It’s a place school kids whose families can’t afford computers go to conduct research. It’s a place children and adults learn to read. It’s a place where immigrants can go to access employment opportunities. I used to spend countless afternoons at the library using the internet, writing my blog, searching for jobs, and reading. There is a proposed budget cut that would dramatically affect these necessities by shortening the hours of business and increasing lay-offs among library staff. You can help by signing a petition and making a donation on the Queens Library website.

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Local718 Update-May Blossoms Puppetry, Crafts, Fashion and Music in Queens

Posted on May 13, 2010. Filed under: Art, Astoria, Fashion, Flushing/Corona, Free, LIC, Local718 Neighborhood Update, Music & Dance, Outdoor Recreation |

After a harrowing trip to India, inspired partly by Jackson Heights (one of my favorite places in Queens)  I have returned to the comfort of my lovely borough. I normally do not write posts about my personal affairs, but my lack of keeping up with the blog in a timely manner warrants an excuse. A good excuse. I won’t go into detail about the challenges we faced when traveling through this magnificent country, but I will tell you that it is a place of extreme beauty and extreme ugliness all at once. Wealth and opulence like you have never seen and poverty you would never want to imagine. Here is a photo I took that displays communication without words, some of the locals listening to our guided audio tour of the Amber Palace as they are (presumably) also making fun of us in our tourist clothes (you know, just like we NYers make fun of those crazy midwesterners with their fanny packs and mom jeans).

Thanks for reading and enjoy your weekend in Queens! Here are some great things you won’t want to miss!

Step into Summer in style with he help of Kristees Boutique in Astoria. Join her for the Summer Warm-Up Thursday May 13. There will be music, her new collection, and live sketching of guests by NYC artist Mieko Anekawa.

Waltz Astoria is hosting their second Ultimate Singer Song Writer Competition that starts May 13th. Like an Astorian version of American Idol, the performances will go on throughout the weekend until Sunday, when the audience votes for the winners. Join and play for prizes or just watch and vote.

Local Astoria artist and friend of mine Pam Bertini is using her free time to create some fantastically creative cards and sculptures, and she is telling you all about it in her new Seventh Life blog site. She explains what inspires her and how she makes her beautiful crafts- if you’re into DIY this is a must see! Purchase her one-of-a-kind items on Etsy.

Flushing Town Hall is hosting Puppetry Workshops throughout May and here’s what they say about it: “Puppetry Workshop 2: Tasty Puppets Saturday, May 15, 2010, 2 p.m. Maximum 30 participants.Food is a great way to explore and celebrate the different cultures in our neighborhoods. Don’t be surprised if you end up making a talking hamburger, taco or dumpling in this workshop! Puppetry Workshop 3: The Puppet Next Door Saturday, May 22, 2010, 2 p.m. Cities and neighborhoods need people. In this final workshop, participants can make a local neighbor or hero/heroine. It could be your teacher or coach, a parent or shopkeeper, an artist, friend, or even yourself”  For more information on how you can take part www.flushingtownhall.org, or call the Box Office: (718) 463-7700, ext. 222

Queens County Farm hosts Farm Fest May 16 Sunday 11:00 a. m. – 4:00 p.m. “Celebrate the return of spring with a visit to the farm! Sheep shearing demonstrations, cultural exhibits and spring plant sale. Country Western Band, Hayrides, historic house and greenhouse tours, food, pony rides and petting zoo.” ADMISSION:  $3.00 per person

Coming up: Saturday May 22 Astoria Music and Arts will host AMandA in the Garden- an all day fundraising event for Astoria Music Now with music, local artists and bloggers, June 3 Blogger BBQ from Queens Council on the ArtsWNYC presents Battle of the Boroughs featuring Queens bands in June and Ornella Trattoria owner will soon host Italian cooking classes in his upstate farm.

Thanks for reading! Want to make a suggestion, contribution or list your event, email me at local718queens@yahoo.com

Yours Truly,


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Basil Seed Drink, Fungus & Cuttlefish for Dinner?

Posted on March 8, 2010. Filed under: Astoria, Flushing/Corona, Grocery, Jackson Heights, LIC, Off the beaten path, Specialty Food Markets |

In this ordinary borough there are extraordinary things. Here are some interesting edibles found in Queens.

DeDe Floating Basil Seed Drink

Found: DeDe Basil Seed Drink with Honey

Location: Freedom Deli & Supermarket international grocery & halal meat- 32-09 36th Ave Astoria/LIC 718-726-6323

A product of Thailand, this unique basil seed drink has the essence of honey and a texture like no other. The soft gelatinous bubbles of basil seeds create an unusual texture, comparable to bubble tea.


Candy Shop Usa

Found: Cuttlefish

Location: Candy Store USA 3803  Main Street Flushing, Queens (718) 886-8866

This candy store is one of my favorites in the borough. It is rich with dried snacks like salty cuttlefish and sweet elder flower.


Red Mukhwas Green Mukhwas

Found: Mukhwas

Location: Patel Brothers 37-27 74th St. 718-898-3445 Jackson Heights, Queens

This gigantic Indian supermarket has almost anything you’ll need to prepare a homemade dish of eastern cuisine. After dinner  you can freshen your breath from a handful of fennel seeds covered in a colorful candy coating.


Dehydrated Fungus at Hong Kong Supermarket

Found: Dehydrated Fungus

Location: Hong Kong Supermarket 3711 Main Street, Flushing – (718) 539-6868

Some markets sell mushrooms. Hong Kong Supermarket sells dehydrated fungus, almost every kind imaginable. You can spend hours browsing the isles of this market in search of various unusual foods, spices, teas, live seafood and just about everything else you can and cannot think of.

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Szechuan Gourmet in Flushing

Posted on February 22, 2010. Filed under: Chinese, Fine Dining, Flushing/Corona | Tags: , |

Roaming around Flushing on a quest for some good Chinese food isn’t a difficult task. After checking out a couple of places, my dining partner and I decided on the Szechuan Gourmet. Although the name suggests an unimaginative standard in the category of Szechuan cuisine, the reality was anything but.  We made our way into the casual dining room, decorated with paper lanterns and linen clad tables. As we settled into our seats our wandering eyes peered through an endless menu of enticing and intriguing items. We opted to start with the chilled, but spicy, diced rabbit and peanut with chili-garlic black bean jam. An amalgam of tastes rushed together leaving the mouth with a slight tingly sensation. At first bite this dish seems spicy, but then the cooling garlic and ginger take over while the peanuts dull the intensity of the chili. It was a feast for the eyes as well, with colorful bursts of reds, oranges and greens. The second appetizer was a refreshing mixture of cucumber slices doused in chili pepper sauce. For the main course we devoured the shrimp and yellow leek entree. Unlike the previous dishes, this meal was a delicate combination of stir fried shrimp and leek with a slightly smokey essence. The Szechuan Gourmet is a great place to eat an afternoon lunch or weekend dinner. Service is friendly, prices are moderate for quantity and quality of the food and they offer week day lunch specials.

Szechuan Gourmet Flushing Queens 135-15 37th Ave 718-888-9388

diced rabbit peanut and chili dish

shrimp with yellow leek

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February Fodder- Lunar New Year, Art, Theatre, Dance and Saving Money

Posted on February 19, 2010. Filed under: Art, Astoria, Entertainment, Flushing/Corona, Free, LIC, Music & Dance, Theater, Woodside/Sunnyside |

One of my favorite weeks of the entire year is the last week in February. Although it’s the shortest and coldest let’s make it last like one long leap.

Flux Factory LIC– Friday February 19th Art Gala Here’s what they have to say about House Broken (left-flyer from Flux Factory)- We’re handing our modest abode over to dozens of artists in celebration of our newest home, an 8000 square foot greeting card warehouse.

Eclectic performances and unparalleled reverie start at 8 pm 
Suggested donation: $15 (tax-deductible) 
Open bar courtesy of Campari, 21+ 
Please rsvp to rsvp@fluxfactory.org

Housebroken will remain on view every Saturday and Sunday from 12 – 6 pm until March 21st.


Flushing New Year Parade

Flushing Lunar New Year Parade-The Lunar New Year was last weekend, but Queens is celebrating Saturday February 20th with a colorful parade on Main Street in Flushing. Join the fun in the cold to ring in the year of the Tiger. Festivities start around 11am with marching bands, dancing, dragons and martial arts demonstrations. Afterward you can take some time out to explore the neighborhood with tasty Korean food, warm ginger tea at Sago Tea Shop, baked goods at Yi Mei Fung bakery and sweets and cuttlefish from Candy Shop USA.


Queens Symphony OrchestraBach to Dreams of Flying Saturday February 20th 7:30pm “Queens Symphony Orchestra and Musica Reginae, led by Music Director and Conductor Constantine Kitsopoulos, continues its 57th season with Bach to Dreams of Flying – part two in the Masterworks Concert Series “Strings Attached”  at the Queensborough Performing Arts Center in Bayside.


Tide Seminar Feb. 24th 6:30 with journalist and TV personality Maria Antonieta Collins and the national organization “Las Comadres” teaches families how to save cash and economize on a low budget. Queens Flushing Library 41-17 Main Street Flushing, NY 11355 718-661-1200 FREE

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Tortilleria Nixtamal Naturally A-maize-ing

Posted on January 13, 2010. Filed under: Cuisine in Queens, Flushing/Corona, Mexican/South American | Tags: , |

Much too often New Yorkers devour their beloved Mexican fare with a grain of salt.  Skeptical palates graze the city landscape for that perfectly authentic tortilla, taco, tostada… thus creating the never-ending debate of what is real Mexican food versus what is merely fodder. Tortilleria Nixtamal will give these folks yet another matter to chew on. Situated on a quiet street in Corona Queens set far from the noisy Roosevelt Ave, where Mexican food abounds, this small tortilleria is popular among converse clad diners who enjoy watching the tortilla production in process. The red and yellow picnic tables are reminiscent of Mexican street-food stands. The menu is brief, but exhibits well prepared, inexpensive meals like tamales, tacos, tostadas and soups. They even have a recession special– tamale, pozole and soda for $6. The Chile Relleno with Tuna is a tasty roasted jalepano pepper stuffed with albacore tuna, delicately arranged to resemble a butterfly on your plate. The food here is good and the service is friendly. They offer tours of the tortilla production and there is even a small factory in the basement where they grind the maize. The restaurant touts healthy and natural tortilla preparation. Nixtamal is an Aztec word to describe corn that has been partially cooked and treated with calcium hydroxide (otherwise known as cal or lime). Nixtamal can be used for grinding into masa (or corn dough) used for tortillas (finely ground) or tamales (coarsely ground), or can be kept in its whole form to make hominy, typically used in pozole soup. (courtesy Tortilla Nixtamal website)

Tortilleria Nixtamal (104-05 47th Ave Corona 718-699-2434) is a worthy field-trip for those adventurous borough dwellers and Manhattanites alike. Here you can get a glimpse into how your food is made from the crushing of the corn to the mixing of the dough. As for its authenticity, well we will have to just leave that topic to the corn pundits. Meanwhile I’ll savor my tasty plate for what it is.

Chile Relleno with Tuna

The Daily Grind

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