Friday, January 06, 2012

Chinatown, Flushing Style

As here in DC, much of the Chinese action in New York City has moved out of the center city. We earlier reported on some fantastic Cantonese dim sum we had the chance to savor over Thanksgiving. That was in Brooklyn. Now, once again thanks to Song Wei, we took a jaunt on one of the last days of 2011 out to Flushing, Queens, where a totally different Chinese enclave has spring up over the years.

The Flushing Chinatown, unlike many such communities, is not Cantonese speaking. Rather, it is a place where Mandarin is the dominant language. As a case in point, we overheard a snippet of a conversation in a small merchant stall, where the prospective buyer was speaking very slowly, explaining to the vendor that he does not speak Mandarin very well...Wo...shi...Guangdongren..."I am Cantonese." A classic north-south encounter.

Happy to have the chance to use our own Mandarin, we were in a bakery checking out when I asked if we could use a credit card to pay for our goodies. The young woman behind the counter raised her head, looked at me and said, keyi. "Sure, you can." She then quickly got a confused look on her face, and corrected herself..."No, you can't use a card. It's cash only." After a bit of laughter, she explained that she got flustered when she saw it was an American speaking such didao (authentic) Chinese. I took that as an indicator not of my own ability, but rather of just how few Americans there are, even in the great melting pot of New York City, who have learned Mandarin.

Our final stop was the best of them all. Down a side street, there was a little restaurant that advertised itself as a hot pot joint. Desi, being our resident hot pot fanatic, gave the go-ahead and what followed was two hours of good, old fashioned dipping, boiling, and chowing down on lamb, mushrooms, noodles, sweet potatoes, and lotus root. Desi called it the best hot pot she has had in the United States. Not that there is much hot pot to be had at all over here, but the point is that the place was very good. As Desi put it, there is a certain danger in knowing there is delicious hot pot only a couple of hours away.

Bolt Bus, here we come...


Thursday, January 05, 2012

Sweet Dreams Come True...Kind Of!

During the school year, I am not a big TLC watcher. But for some reason, during the holidays, Z and I tend to watch it a lot. Whether its Say Yes to the Dress, What Not to Wear, or LA Ink, we go on TLC marathons. One of our favorites, though, has to be Cake Boss and its branch show, The Next Great Baker. And since we are always in New Jersey, visiting our grandparents, I'm always trying to drag everyone to Hoboken to visit Carlo's Bakery.

At long last I can say I've been to the Cake Boss shop! But let me emphasize...I've been to it. That doesn't mean in it.

With a two hour line, I resorted to peeking through the shop window to see if I could glimpse Buddy inside with my zoomed camera lens. Although he wasn't there, I did see Buddy's wife, Lisa, the pastry chef, Mauro, and one of Buddy's older sisters.

And so we left, with a New Year's resolution to drag ourselves out of bed early enough to beat the crowds and finally get a famous bite of a Carlo's Bakery cannoli.


PS: As a side note, Hoboken itself is a great little town to hang out in, with a pizza place every ten feet!

Tuesday, January 03, 2012


A post I have written about online regulatory consultation in China is the featured post today over at RegBlog, a leading site for information about regulation around the world. Click here to check out the post, which reports on my ongoing research on the Internet, political participation, and governance reform in China. The Chinese Internet is more than a battle over censorship and freedom of expression (although it certainly is that). There are online spaces emerging where mutually beneficial exchanges between citizens and government officials can occur. The process of tracking and analyzing these exchanges, as I describe in the post, has just begun. Stay tuned...