Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Some Spicy, Some Sweet, and Some Half-Sours

Chile Pepper Fiesta
I've been spotting bills all around Brooklyn advertising a one Chile Pepper Fiesta, and wondered what it was all about until last week when Matt Tims reminded us of the upcoming Lamb Takedown. Looking on his site, I noticed a blurb about six celebrity Chile Takedowners competing at the Chile Pepper Fiesta; my interest was peaked, I had to know more.

This Saturday, Brooklyn Botanic Gardens will host the 18th annual Chile Pepper Fiesta, an event that I had no idea was going on for the past 18 years. These things happen when you live in Queens. There will be music from Mexican to bhangra-I'll be doing the lightbulb; cooking demonstrations including one from Saeri Yoo Park of Moim, and another from Fatty Crab's executive chef, Corwin Kave; desserts galore (Roni-Sue, Mast Brothers, Abby Denson, Kumquat Cupcakery...) in the Chocolate Chile Cabana (where the mini Chili Takedown is happening); and workshops. All parts are free with admission to the gardens: $8 for adults; $4 for seniors students, kids under 12 are free. The day's events go on from noon to 6:30pm. For more info and a complete run down, visit www.bbg.org/vis2/2009/chilepepperfiesta.

More fun than a barrel of pickles
Lately, I've been having a pickle thing, just craving them all the time. I've even taken to keeping a jar of pickles at work. With this ongoing pickle craze, Brownie and I got an email last week notifying us that the American Museum of Natural History is going to be having a pickling event on Tuesday, October 13 with Lucy Norris, author of Pickled: Preserving a World of Tastes and Tradions, and Bob McClure of McClure's Pickles aka my current work stash! I wasn't aware that AMNH put on food events as a part of their Global Kitchen series, but I hope to check this one out, even if it is to eat more pickles! Tickets are $20 and the class will be held in the Linder Theater; you can buy tickets here.

McClure's Pickles at the UnFancy Food Show
But that's not all. This Sunday is New York Food Museum's International Pickle Day Festival down on the Lower East Side. All the big names will be there like McClure's, Rick's Picks, Pickle Guys, and Guss'. Check this out between 11am an 4:30pm in the parking lot on Broome between Essex and Ludlow.

The Chile Pepper Fiesta will be at the Brooklyn Botanic Gardens
900 Washington Avenue
Brooklyn
(718) 623-7200
www.bbg.org

The pickling class with be at American Museum of Natural History
Central Park West and 79th Street
www.amnh.org
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Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Travels with Brownie: Street Food in Naples

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As a city, Naples gets a bad rap, but for all the chaos, it’s a great town for eating. And if you’ve spent time in the big cities up north you’ll appreciate the vast amount of tasty food that’s a good bit friendlier on your wallet. Street food in Naples is cheap and plentiful and there’s nothing better than munching your way around a new city...

Here are some of Lawman and my favorites from our snack time wanderings:

Fried baby potatoes from Friggitoria Fiorenzano on Piazza Montesanto. Perfectly fried. Perfectly salted. These bitty potatoes come 5 to an order for under 1€.

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Fried bread stuffed with proscuitto and cheese from Friggitoria Fiorenzano. This proscuitto is more of the regular ham variety, so don’t get your Parma hopes up here. Still this was wonderfully fried and filling and only 1.20€.

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Up the street from Fiorenzano there’s a bakery with a glass enclosed counter that faces the street. In the morning it’s full of fresh big, soft, sugar coated doughnuts that are only .50€. My idea had been to save this doughnut for a few minutes while I obtained coffee, but when all that stands between you and a fresh doughnut is a little napkin, well...one bit turns into two, and two bites turn into three. Delicious. I could go for one right about now.

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Lawman is a regular customer of DiPaolo’s in Little Italy and he heard raves about
San Benedetto Pesca The while waiting in line for his lunch, apparently DiPaolo‘s is one of the few places in the city that carries it. The tea had a really strong peach flavor and is made with acqua minerale natuarale aka still mineral water. In Naples it goes for about .49€ a can at the supermarket and about 1.50€ at the various minimarkets around town. If you’re going to be drinking a lot of bottled water while visiting the city you’ll do well to stop by a supermarket and pick up your bottles there for significantly cheaper than at little stores or cafes.

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With only a few days in the city Lawman and I confined our pizza eating to some a few sit down places in the city, but street pizza is readily available as a snack by the slice, as a pizza roll, fried dough pizza, and in the form of a small pie. Lawman and I had a meal at Di Matteo and noticed as we left that they had little pizzas for 1€ and 1€ take out arancini, meat and pea stuffed fried rice balls.

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Gelato is plentiful in Naples and rather than hit up a gelataria, we decided to try a cone at Gay Odin, the city’s famed chocolatier. Like Jacques Torres they are known for their cioccolato e pepperoncino or chocolate with chiles. We paired this with a creamy latte e cannella a sweet cinnamon flavored gelato. The chocolate almost tasted like it had a rum base. Upon first lick you didn’t really taste the chili, but if you wait a few seconds you get a bit of a fiery kick.

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Cappuccino, Café Nonno, Café Freddo, Granita...there’s a wealth of ways to drink coffee in Naples. You can grab a seat at on outdoor café and make it a leisurely affair or have your drink right at the espresso bar. Neapolitans like their coffee sweet so any pre-made beverages like the creamy Café Nonno, the chilled Café Freddo, or the icy granita are going to be sweetened. Coffee drinks ranged from about 1€ to 2.501€ at the places we stopped in. Cafe Mexico had a particularly refreshing Café Freddo.

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One local tradition that we didn't partake of was tripe. Sorry guys, I don't eat the beefs and their stomach lining is no exception. I did take this video of water cascading down the tripe in the window at Tripperia Fiorenzano. I must admit it's kind of mesmerizing...



What are your favorite street foods in Naples or elsewhere in Italy?
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Monday, September 28, 2009

Red Hook for the Win!

Mmm, Trix Ice Cream
I woke up Saturday morning incredibly groggy-I'd had an awesome time the evening before-but incredibly excited. It was time for the annual Vendy Awards! And for me, it was time to repeat my Vendy volunteering. With eleven carts, and four different awards up for grabs, I know it would be an amazing day, and oh, it was. (Early 'I'm sorry' for not eating everything and not a great photo montage, I was too busy trying to raise money for the Street Vendor Project.)

The Unisphere
The morning runners were still going down the paths of Flushing Meadows Corona Park as I walked from the 7 to the Unisphere. As I rounded the corner to the space where the Vendys would take place. There was definitely more room than last year, but with nothing set up yet, it was hard to imagine how it would all come together in a matter of hours.

Setting Up
Amazingly enough, some trucks were already there. Of course, as the morning progressed, more vendors showed, but I was so busy focusing on helping out, I didn't even realize the hubbub around me.

The Line Forms
Before I knew it, the Vendys were to begin in mere hours, the tables and chairs were set up, and vendors were whipping up the eats. And the nominees are:

The Awards

For Main Entrees:


Chef Meru!
Biryani Cart-Meru Sikder, 46th Street and 6th Avenue, Manhattan

Spicy Biryani Cart
Anybody who knows us knows that we love kati rolls, and Chef Meru. His offerings were similar to last year: a kati roll, some chicken tikka, and chapli kebab. As the 2008 People's Choice winner, Meru isn't new to the Vendys experience. He brought a small army of helpers making the line move exceptionally fast.

The King of Falafel
The King of Falafel-Fares "Freddy" Zeidaies, 30th Street and Broadway, Astoria

The King of Falafel's Meal
This was my first time eating from The King of Falafel and I was amazed by the size of his servings. Three of these falafel in a pita is definitely a meal worth getting, you Midtown carts better take note! And it was seriously delicious and crispy.

Belly Dancers!
Another Vendys veteran, he was a 2007 finalist, he knew he should rely on more than food for votes. About halfway through the awards, he whipped out two belly dancers to give the audience some entertainment. In a matter of moments, Freddy was dancing along, much to our enjoyment.

Rickshaw Dumplings Team
Rickshaw Dumplings-Kenny Lao, check their Twitter

Rickshaw Dumpling's Meal
I'll admit, I've never been overly impressed by Rickshaw Dumplings. I do give them credit though for having a huge following, one that got them into the Vendys. Their crew was very energetic, excited to be there, and dealt with some long lines during the day. I got their Chicken & Thai Basil dumplings at the very end of my day, only managing to have a bite or two.

Jamaican Dutchy
Jamaican Dutchy-O'Neill Reid, 51st Street & 7th Avenue, Manhattan

Jamaican Dutchy's Meal
Finally, finally, finally, I had a chance to eat Jamaican Dutchy. They served different types of chicken, minced beef with cabbage, and rice and beans. For dessert, you could get squash bread or carrot cake. Erin Zimmer, that wonderful lady, managed to pick me up a plate and bring it over to the booth. Unfortunately for me, I didn't get a chance to try any until it had turned cold! I will have to work in a Jamaican Dutchy lunchtime trip stat!

Country Boys/Martinez Taco Truck
Country Boys/Martinez Taco Truck-Fernando & Yolanda Martinez, Red Hook Ball Fields & Saturday Brooklyn Flea

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When I talk about huaraches from Red Hook, I'm talking about Country Boys/Martinez Taco Truck. These were the first huaraches I ever had in my life, and since that first one, I've craved theirs on a regular basis. Mmmm, huaraches, I want one right now. And just like at the ball fields, the wait for a made-to-order huarache topped 45 minutes from what I hear. No, this is another I didn't get to try, but I'll rely on my food memories, and they are awesome!

Now onto the Desserts:

Mmm, Trix
Big Gay Ice Cream Truck-Doug Quint (with Bryan Petroff), check their Twitter

Wasabi Peas Sampler
Doug has managed to come between two girls. Brownie has a tendency of visiting him and eating ice cream without telling me. This makes me upset. I planned on getting back at her with some crazy Big Gay Ice Cream mash-up, but that never happened! The horrors! My only bite was a sample of the wasabi peas. No Thanksgiving Sundae for me, epic sad.

Wafels & Dinges
Wafels & Dinges-Thomas DeGeest, check their Twitter

Mm, waffle covered in chocolate
Brownie & I haven't visited Wafels & Dinges in many moons, but for me, I still have a soft spot for their Liege waffle, especially when it's smothered in Nutella (food of the gods.) Wafels & Dinges was one of the few vendors dishing out samples to the volunteers right before opening. And true to their personality, they included a Vendy haiku!

Cupcake Stop Getting Ready
Cupcake Stop-Lev Ekster, check their Twitter

The Mini Elvis Cupcake
As you can see, Cupcake Stop brought every flavor they could pack on the truck. I decided to try their version of the Elvis cupcake, a banana cake with peanut buter frosting, and of course, bacon. I was surprised how moist the mini was, those wee ones can be tricky, and when the Great New York City Elvis Cupcake Competition occurs, and it should happen if only to find out "The King" of the Elvis', this is definitely in the running.

And here are the Rookies:

Cravings Opening Up
NYC Cravings-Thomas Yang, Diana Yang, Eric Yu, check their Twitter

Argh! Another truck I've been dying to try thanks to all the amazing things I've heard from Zach Brooks. Blasted! They brought their Taiwanese-style fried chicken, rice, meat sauce, and dumplings.

Schnitzel Setting Up
Schnitzel & Things-Oleg Voss and Jared Greenhouse, check their Twitter

Schnitzel's Meal
Brownie has brought me random things from the Schnitzel & Things truck before, but schnitzel is fried, and fried doesn't hold up well. For the Vendys, they brought an incredible spread of food including beet & feta salad, Austrian potato salad, braised sauerkraut, cucumber salad, and of course, pork, chicken, & eggplant schnitzel. I liked mine though I thought it would be better fresh. I liked that they offered some semi-healthy sides, and I'm a sucker for beet & feta salad no matter how ubiquitous it gets.

Picnik Smoked
Picnick Smoked-Kevin Pomplun and Will Goldfarb, Mannahatta Park in front of 120 Wall Street fountain

BBQ, Good For You's Meal
Picnick Smoked, Good for You BBQ gave out little pulled pork sandwiches, cookies, and Arnold Palmers, not what you usually expect from a truck. Their vinegary pulled pork was good, but I don't think it was enough of a taste for me. I also wasn't too fond of their addition of the cole slaw-I'm not a mayo cole slaw fan.

And the winners are:

Schnitzel & Things Wins!
Best Rookie Vendor went to Schnitzel & Things.

Wafels & Dinges Wins Dessert!
Best Dessert Vendor went to Wafel & Dinges

Biryani Cart Repeats!
Grey Poupon's People's Choice went to Biryani Cart (a repeat!)

Country Boys Wins!
The Vendy Cup went to Country Boys/Martinez Taco Truck!!!! Tacos for everyone!!!

I'd like to say thank you again to everyone at the Street Vendor Project including Sean Basinksy and Ali Issa; all the committee members including Amy, JoAnne, Morgan, and Merv; all the volunteers including Julian, Samantha, Lilly, and last but certainly not least, Maya. And congratulations to all the vendors for being nominated, but of course a HUGE congratulations to the winners! I cannot wait until next year (and yes, I'll bring back the sign if you want me too!)

For some great coverage complete with spectacular photos from two people who could try everything, check out SE:NY's coverage here.

Or if your interested in dessert only-who needs savory!-check out Dessert Buzz.

Lastly, for my full set of pictures, check out my slideshow.
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Friday, September 25, 2009

A Horchata Head-to-Head!!!

Momofuku Horchata
Horchata is the new in-style flavor of the moment. Horchata is a rice-based drink common in many Spanish-speaking countries, and of course each region has their own variation. The most common variety in the US appears to be Mexican horchata, which can contain cinnamon, vanilla, sugar, and sometimes almonds and/or lime zest. And right now, it's available in ice cream form as dessert at two major places, Shake Shack and Momofuku Milk Bar. To the head-to-head.

Momofuku Horchata
My first stop was the Milk Bar, the main reason being that they don't run on a schedule so it's easier to just stop by. I got a cup of the horchata soft serve ice cream, and for giggles, the cinnamon sugar tortilla topping. It was delicious, something that would be the perfect ending to a Mexican meal. This version did taste a bit too one-note favoring the rice side. I felt it could use a bit more cinnamon, but the topping made up for this. My real problem, and this is my BIG problem with Milk Bar, is that the cups don't allow for drippage. It's soft serve, it's going to melt fast; within moments, it was melting all over my hand. Major con.

Shake Shack Horchata
Then on Wednesday, I stopped by the Shack to taste their Cinnamon Almond Horchata. No, this isn't a true head-to-head since one's an ice cream and the other's a custard, but they are both dessert. Shack's was a little more rounded, the rice, cinnamon and almond flavors were more pronounced. Of course, this one was more eggy, it is custard. I did wish for some more of the cinnamon sugar tortilla topping though.

Over all, I'd eat both. When pressed, my true winner would be the custard with the topping, but that just wishful thinking. Remember that the custard is on Wednesdays in September only; there's no saying if it'll ever come back after the 30th!

For a good article on the regional horchata variations that appeared in the June 18, 2008 edition of The Washington Post, click here.

Momofuku Bakery and Milk Bar
207 Second Avenue
(212) 254-3500
www.momofuku.com

Shake Shack
Madison Square Park
23rd Street and Madison Avenue

Upper West Side
366 Columbus Ave (at 77th Street)
www.shakeshacknyc.com
Shake Shack's Twitter
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Thursday, September 24, 2009

The Leaves are Turning like Bratwursts on a Spit

Shacktoberfest
Yesterday, I stopped by the Shack not only for a little taste of their Horchata Custard-more on that later-but also to see about the upcoming Shacktoberfest aka the official beginning of fall. Brownie and I have been fans for years, and were a little concerned that not a word had been heard about this year. I knew all was well in the world when I got there and saw that Shacktoberfest had been saved!

Shacktoberfest Menu Top
Friday, October 2nd (next week!) will make the opening day of fall and this time, shock of shocks, Wisconsin is representing alongside a New York institution. Yes, Danny Meyer is using Usinger's and Schaller and Weber on this year's menu. Out are the andouille sausage, the Polish sausage, and the Sheboygan-style beer-soaked bratwurst; in are a Currywurst, a Cheddar Bratwurst, and a Weisswurst topped with red cabbage. Oh yeah.

Shacktoberfest Menu Bottom
To drink, you can choose between Wolaver's Will Stevens' Pumpkin Ale, Otter Creek's Oktoberfest, Schneider Weisse's Oktoberfest, or, for $15, you could just get a whole stein of beer. Awesome. Lucky for us the desserts will be relatively the same, that is, delicious. Mayhaps we'll see the elusive Apple n' Honey or Pumpkin Pie Concretes?!

The smart money's on Serious Eats: New York to bring you full opening-day coverage; until then, you'll just have to drool over their 2008 report.

Shake Shack
Madison Square Park
23rd Street and Madison Avenue

Upper West Side
366 Columbus Ave (at 77th Street)
www.shakeshacknyc.com
Shake Shack's Twitter
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Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Robot Monkeys, Take Two

Robot Monkey Take Two
Because you know you didn't get enough the first time. I know there's something SUPER important going on in the NYC food scene this Saturday, and yes, I will be at the Vendys for most of the day, but afterward I may need to unwind and WATCH A ROBOT MONKEY CHAMPIONSHIP!!!!

Dan Walker's interactive art installation is making its way back to t.b.d. in Brooklyn yet again. This time around Manhattan and Brooklyn are going to fight to the death! I know who's side I'm on, and I do hope to see this all go down. For things Robot Monkeys in Brooklyn related, please check out Miss Heather's coverage at New York Shitty.

For more on Dan Walker and his art besides monkeys, visit www.danwalkerart.com.

t.b.d.
224 Franklin Street, at Greene Street
Greenpoint
(718) 349-6727
www.myspace.com/loungetbd
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Germanic Striptease?! I'm There!

Oktoburlesk
One the highlights of The Brooklyn Cheese Experiment, well besides the cheese and beer parts, was seeing all the upcoming events at The Bell House, and one REALLY caught my attention. Oktoburlesk. Brillant!

OktoBurlesk
Polka, beer, sausage, and Germanic themed burlesque care of the ladies from Wasabassco Burlesque. I mean really, for $10 on a Thursday night in October, what could be better? I know what I hope to be doing Thursday, October 8th at 8pm. Tickets are available here.

Lamb Takedown
Another upcoming event involving meat is The Lamb Takedown, brought to by Matt Timms, the genius behind the Chili Takedown among others. He has not been idling around since the Bacon Takedown, in fact he's probably busier than ever. He's taken the Takedowns nationwide, most recently doing a Bacon Takedown in Nashville. The Lamb Takedown will take place Sunday, October 4th at 2pm in The Highline Ballroom. The contest is only open to 20 contestants so if you're a lamb expert, you should sign up RIGHT NOW! Tickets are available on Ticketweb, click here. For all the recent Takedowns, please visit Matt's site at chili-takedown.com.

The Bell House
149 7th Street
(718) 643-6510
www.thebellhouseny.com

The Highline Ballroom
431 West 16th Street
(212) 414-5994
www.highlineballroom.com
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