Should businesses that serve a local clientele, specifically ones in the outer boroughs catering to a singular immigrant community, participate in large food festivals – who request they give their product away for free?

I’m looking at you: Choice Eats and Yelp

credit: cessemi

This is the question I have had on my mind: Should I encourage the businesses I work with to do free food give-aways at events? 

Participating costs money – not only for product but also for employees, transportation, signage, and the potential shut-down of the main location. This cost plays against the perceived marketing value by showing up at the event and giving people tastes of what you do. For my events, I’ve always tried to bring customers to the restaurants themselves, but it’s possible I’ve been shortsighted. It’s possible fishing in another pond altogether can lead to greater success.

The highest regarded of all restaurant-touting pay-one-price food festivals in New York City is the Village Voice’s Choice Eats. It started in 2008, featuring restaurants largely unheard of, other than being written about in the then-anticipated weekly write-ups from food writer Robert Seitsema.  These picks reached deep into subway lines finding obscure standouts that only locals or flavor liberals were aware of.

Every year since has become grander and grander, with less of a percentage of legends from minority neighborhoods. Looking back, participating restaurants of 2008 like Albert’s Mofongo House would seem way too esoteric for today’s eat and greet extravaganza. In 2013, there were four participating restaurants from Queens (same number, but half the percentage of the 2008 event), one from the Bronx and one from Jersey, with a handful of what one might consider ethnic eateries from Brooklyn. This year, there are six restaurants from Queens (Alobar, Bear, John Brown Smokehouse, Ovelia, Queens Comfort, Zenon Taverna), all based in Queens’ most technologically social savvy neighborhoods of Long Island City and Astoria, catering to an even larger population than the neighborhood.

While it was once the Sietsema show of great obscure ethnic eating, Choice Eats has shifted gears to a general celebration of all things popular in the worldly food scene of NYC.

Switching tabs to Yelp: 

Yelp has a series of events in Brooklyn, Manhattan, and Queens. In each of these boroughs, they conduct about nine events a year inside restaurants providing evenings of eating and imbibing – free of charge – to their Elite members. Once or twice a year they have a larger bash with many restaurants coming in to a common space like the Museum of Moving Image to give away samples of their food. I have always wondered if it was worth it.

I could speculate and talk about it on Facebook all day, but wouldn’t it be better if I made a few calls and email a few emails?

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Astoria’s Gregory’s Corner 26 Taverna participated in Choice Eats 2012 and had all good things to say about the event. I even felt a little clumsy during my phone call because I think they thought I was calling to ask them to participate again. When I asked if it was worth it to do, the woman on the phone gave a booming “Of course!” She said they were proud that they gave her a sticker to put in the window, and how some people came all the way from the other boroughs just to visit them here. Business, whatever, it was a fun experience.

This threw me for a bit of a loop. As my first pace of research, I was expecting to hear something like “ehh, no one really came. We wasted our time.” As I thought about their enthusiasm, and even apart from the good time it was being with all these other great restaurants that they probably wouldn’t normally get to converse with, I started opening up that for a local, immigrant-centered restaurant, this could make them a focal point of the neighborhood for outsiders. I always see that people know generally about neighborhoods of immigrants but aren’t sure where to start. They know Astoria has Greeks, Flushing has Chinese, Jackson Heights has Indians, but specifically it can be intimidating. This leads to the constant grueling question locals get asked: Where should I go? Which place is the “best.” This term “best” unconsciously may be synonymous to the term “safe” which may also be unconsciously synonymous to the phrase “welcoming to non-natives.” People who are traveling in don’t want to take chances. The mention by a trusted source or the connection from a live event might be the introduction people need to feel confident walking in t0 the real location. In an area of uncertainty, just one friend will make you feel grounded. Meeting and eating at one of these events could be the creation of a focal point - it creates a friend. 

But Choice Eats expects 3000 attendees and over 60 restaurants, plus countless beverage offerers. Would one suffer from turning into a needle in a haystack? 

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Zenon Taverna participated in 2013 and are again participating in 2014. Representing the omnipresent family running the restaurant, daughter Elena sees it as an opportunity to reach more of their demographic. Choice Eats not only directly appeals to their core audience of 25 to 40-year olds who are not necessarily Greek, but Village Voice also does a lot of advertising for their own event and as a byproduct, Elena’s family’s restaurant.

As a foodie herself, Elena payed attention to what worked and what didn’t in 2013. In order to stand out from the rest, this year she is tailoring her menu to better suit the expected crowd. Last year, they served 1. Meatballs of pork and lamb and 2. Vegan Grape Leaves. She realized that because the grape leaves were listed number 2, a lot of the people assumed they had nothing vegetarian to offer. Also, even though the pork meatballs are their specialty at the restaurant, solely offering the lamb meatballs will be more globally agreeable especially for Kosher or Halal leaning people. Adjusting their aim, they hope to bring in more customers to the restaurant and, even more importantly, increase their business in catering.

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Patacon Pisao started out as a local legend in Inwood. A few years ago, they expanded to a local-centric location on Grand Ave in Elmhurst, and now they own a 2nd mobile vending unit (a truck) that mainly operates at festivals. I’ve seen them at Yelp events handing out their cachapas, so I quizzed the business’s progeny, Jonathan, about participating in events like this via email. Here is his text:

Food events are a big factor to the success of our business. We take part in them because it is great to get our product to new demographics as well as food bloggers. Food events have had a big impact on our business because it brings new customers over to new locations. I’m actually opening up a new storefront in the Lower East Side. Reason being because for the past 3 years we have been doing food events and fairs (Grubstreet Fest and Hester Street Fair) down in the Lower East Side and saw there is a demand for our product down there.

As for advice for other business hopping on the food event van wagon, always have more food than everyone else. Also don’t go crazy with the menu keep it simple and showcase why you got invited to the food event in the first place.

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Finally, I sent an email over to Scott from JoJu Modern Vietnamese in Elmhurst. If you have been within their social reach, you’ve seen all sorts of ways they interact with their clients to gain a relationship through contests and price specials and questions for their audience. Outreach aside, they are still are a business deep in an Outer Borough catering mostly to locals. Also, they are my spot for Vietnamese coffee.

Here is our email exchange:

(JO in italics) You have done multiple yelp events, so obviously it’s been working out for you. Why do you do it?

Yelp reviews have always been extremely valuable to us. We are very fortunate that our yelpers have been very kind to us. The events are our way to show our appreciation. Many of these Yelp events are specifically targeted for the elites. By creating a good relationship with them, we hope that they will continue support us with their kind words.

What has been the impact on your business? 

Although we have not been able to accurately measure the direct impact these events have on us, each one has always managed to bring in at least a few new customers. We think that the referrals from these few new customers, whether personally or from their review posts, can be tremendous.

There are a lot of costs involved, with personnel, transportation, food, etc – do you have any tips for food places doing free events like this? 

I think that these events are a good opportunity to introduce a potentially new product that you might want to offer in the near future. Where else can you find such a large focus group, right? But it is also important to have your featured items in addition to your test ones. Guests who have never heard of you still have to know what you do best. As for costs, I think by choosing the right events, the benefits of the marketing aspect of it would outweigh the costs.

Anything else you’d like to add?

Having fun with your staff at these events is essential. I think guests are really good at sensing the synergistic connections of your team, which directly affects how they react to the food you are serving them. Haha…this sounds like a load of crap, but I really do believe in it.

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I did this research and analysis because I was thinking of encouraging one of the restaurants I work with (probably Little Tibet) to participate in this event. After further review of the Choice Eats FAQ, though, I see that “Only restaurants featured in the Village Voice are invited to participate in Choice Eats.”  – and unfortunately, they have not been reviewed yet. But if they were, I would have encouraged them. Showing well at the event and communicating (beyond handing out food) to non-locals is one anticipated result, but also the press and attention from representing our neighborhood in this highly regarded event would help in the immediate area. In this neighborhood, a lot of locals who are outsiders to the Tibetan community would be intrigued and feel safe that the an NYC-wide publication such as the Village Voice thought them to be worthy.  The bread and butter outside Lower Manhattan is usually the people who live in the neighborhood, and for Jackson Heights, the locals>=2nd generation are still looking for an introduction to this cuisine (and many others). I think that from the inclusion and the marketing, many locals would give them a shot. I think it would be worth it for Little Tibet or Gangjong Kitchen to do the event for this reason. Other cultures in other neighborhoods might not be as beneficial, but after further review – and opposing my previous viewpoint – I see the light for some pro-bono events for some niche businesses.

In my own experience, as a team-member for vendors at two Vendy Awards, I changed my perspective of how to work these events. Working with Tortas Neza in 2012, I saw he and his wife working so hard and putting so much money into the day to constantly feed the people (food cost + missed opportunity + gas). At the event, with the 40-plus person line, it became a never-ending duty to feed the people. Tortas was chopping, slicing, grilling as fast as he could to crank out sandwiches, as the attendees were eating and running to the next truck. The Vendy Cup would have been great to win, but when we lost we were totally deflated. So much hard work, and we were clearly the best, but we just didn’t win. Looking back, I realized that we only served food, we didn’t play to his strengths as a showman, a charming man, and a tastebud destroyer. If we would do it again, which I would hesitate to, I’d lobby him to spend more time in front of the truck and make sure that line is nice and long. Forget about feeding the people, just satisfy them with a taste, entertain them, and make them want to come back. For his business in Corona, a place where it’s rare for even foodies to visit, it just doesn’t pay off as regularly as it would in areas where locals are outsiders such as Astoria, Jackson Heights, or Sunset Park – and especially not for a business that doesn’t partake in catering. 

As opposed to print ads, participation in these types of events are similar in cost but have much more connection. As I tell most of the food places that I try to help, it’s all about communication. Taste is second to connection - and these events can make a connection. It just might be worth it. For now on, for pro-bono food events, I’m abating the red light, moving on to yellow (go faster, yet cautiously).

Posted by: Jeffsayyes | February 25, 2014

New Yorkers Guide to Baltimore

I previously abandoned this post. I thought it was irrelevant, and I wasn’t writing as much as I once had anyways. Lately, though, I have nagging thoughts in my mind that too many people are foregoing permanent posts for fleeting ones on facebook, instagram, and twitter – including myself. While all content may get lost in the shuffle, content on social media is lost forever once it is out of its own recentness. While I am not an expert in Baltimore, I definitely do my research and what I have done could be helpful to the next people of my mindset who go. Plus, it’s an archive that I can send people who say: What should I do in Baltimore?? Here’s what I know:

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Baltimore is a beautiful city. Just how I love Woodside because there is no singular defining characteristic and never a PR push, Baltimore reminded me of the humility. I saw Baltimore as a city left to it’s own devices. I saw things created out of nothing, and other things left to nothing. I saw sprouts of kinetic coming from potential, and others floundering. There was this weirdness that can only come from isolation, and also a filtering of that which comes with time circulating unto itself. I saw plenty of character, and ate lots of good, real food. I love Queens, but after my trip here, it became only the 2nd city where I could see myself living (UPDATE: Los Angeles became the 3rd).

 Here are some places I went: 

AVAM
Some things just ARE Baltimore. When researching the city, I was thinking how they have such unique displays emanating from the citizens. This led me to google “Outsider art museum” — and then I found this out:  THE Outsider art museum in the country is located in Baltimore: The American Visionary Arts Museum (AVAM). I loved it so much, I went TWO times in two days. Later in the year, I joined their Fan Club in hopes it would force me to come back. I didn’t but I still long to go. — And I recommend this Number ONE for anyone who goes to Baltimore.

Credit: Visit Baltimore

Washington Monument
Baltimore has a complex about who has the REAL Washington Monument. The DC one is cool, but it’s simply a stick. This one has a little more to reveal – and I liked it.

Reminds me of the William Penn on the City Hall building in Philadelphia.

Lonnie’s Pit Beef
There is clearly an “other side of the tracks” in Baltimore, and I was warned at least 5 times a day about this. As usual, I didn’t care, and I rode right through the tracks exploring for food. And let me tell you this: I found some really cool stuff!

Like this Pit Beef inside a laundromat.

Taste? It was okay, but the experience was what I travel for. It was exactly how it seems. Through the laundromat, inside is a bulletproof glass is Lonnie. He concedes to make a pit beef sandwich for me and walks to the alley to put one on his little grill out there. 15 minutes later, I ate in front of the dryers, and the laundry customers only slightly eyed me. I believe I was a rare occurrence of the eater. The sandwich was just as edible as left-overs (which it probably was), so I wouldn’t readily recommend Lonnie’s, but I would definitely recommend Baltimore.

This was during the daytime, so I felt safe. I never traveled in that neighborhood at night, but if I wanted to I would definitely bring a guide. I am always of the nature where if you come in with an open mind and a smile, people will welcome you – and they definitely did with me. But at night on empty streets in an unfamiliar city is another story. I can’t say what it’s definitely like, but many people have strong opinions on it. One guy told me they will knock me off my bike then take it from me. I read the police blotter in the newspaper, it didn’t have any stories about hipster kids from NYC getting mugged, but what it did have (repeatedly) was stories like: argument between two black youth, one shoots another in the head and dies. Sickening stuff.

Cinco de Mayo
Excellent. Just like when I went to Philly, I promised myself I wouldn’t get Mexican food, but I just can’t help myself. On the way to Matthew’s pizza, providence gave me and my couch supplier to Cinco de Mayo, so we went in. In the back of the grocery store was a little hallway of a restaurant. We got 2 tacos (de cabeza, and a carnitas like thing). It was AWESOME. Fantastic stuff.

As I rode around the area the next day, I saw Honduran, Salvadoran, and Mexican places popping up along Broadway. Let me tell you something… this area has extreme potential for growth of immigrant foodstuff. My foodie senses were going off like crazy. It’s a small city, so with my bicycle, I was able to visit about 3/4 of the city. Hampden, the antique shops and the quaint vibe, along with progressive farm to table restaurants – it all adds up to a wonderful mosaic.  There is extreme potential here for a food explorer like me.

Hoehn’s Bakery
Had a bismarck. Fantastic.

 

 

Went to the touristy section, along the water. Watched a performer, and it was humorous how regular she was. Later, when a local tattooed guy let out an F word, she went conservative on him and asked the nearby police officers to remove him. I was astounded!

The curser was part of a big element of tattooed people in Baltimore. So distinctive, this group, that as I was looking at posters of musicians later in the week, I was reminded of one of the coolest performers I have ever seen - Daniel Higgs, player of the mouth harp. I had a strong feeling about this, and later it was confirmed – Yes, Daniel Higgs is from Baltimore. There definitely is a feel about Baltimore.

Daniel Higgs courtesy Seth Tisue

Bruce Lee Wings
This was a recommendation from chowhounders. The business card says “we kick ass!” – how awesome is that? And how were the wings? Pretty damn good. They are smaller wings, which are more sought after by wing aficionados, and are heavily breaded with a sweet and very soy sauce. Good stuff – though I’d rather come just for the market Bruce Lee is located inside.

Another interesting experience was at Eastern Takeout (1927 Eastern Ave). This was seemingly a nothing store, but the whole time my foodie senses were tingling. Filled with regulars of questionable sanity, this tiny counter shop had only Mama working there. The Korean owner has been behind the counter for almost 30 years. With the most humble cooking and refrigeration apparatuses, it was definitely an experience. She was crazy and she treated me like a neglected son. I can’t say it’s a destination, but I will say it’s an experience and after it’s imprint on me, I would definitely come back if I were ever in town again.

And leave it to ol’ JO to find the only street food in the city.. Bean Pies. I had never heard of this before, and in this little corner just outside the Lexington Market, that unknowledge was out of this world. Here was this well-dressed man selling pies beside a rack on wheels filled with newspapers. 3 dollars each, of course I got one. It was sweet, with a great texture from the bean mixture. I asked him if it was a Baltimore thing; he said Nope, it’s all over the place. Later I looked it up, and found out its association with the Nation of Islam. They sell them to fund-raise and strike up conversations to spread the word about the religion. Was I offended that he didn’t try to convert me? A little. I liked the bean pie though.

Matthews Pizza
Great Middle America stuff. Some people love it, some hate it. I loved it. The sausage was excellent.

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One of the things which made me feel so at home was the seafood culture. Every third spot you look are signs of oysters and crabs. One woman I saw in a market had a crab tattoo on the outside of her hand between her thumb and her pointer finger. I went wild over that.

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A group of Chowhounders invited me on a trip to the legendary Grace Garden. Chinese is another cuisine I promised myself I wouldn’t try in another city… but I did. On their urging, I let go. It was excellent. This small restaurant had a quality and passion that made it such a rarity. It doesn’t matter if there is a big Chinese community or not, if it is run by a skilled and passionate person, it is worth the trip – and they have a steady number of clientele who agree. See exhibit A:

The cost at Grace Garden was actually more expensive than what I’m used to in NYC. The chef does go out of his way, for example the $30 (or so) duck he gets from a local farm because it is so much better than from the market, and it is priced as such. I was fine with that.

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Speaking of markets, I’m going to write about this in another blog post. It’s a unique thing about Baltimore, and it deserves much more attention from tourists. The experiences held in these markets are pure Americana, pure Baltimore.  This is my only other MUST SEE part of Baltimore – the Markets. There are five of them – here is a run-down. 

Orioles
Baseball is so essential.

Camden Yards is such a beautiful stadium. Walking around the grounds gives you great views of the city; it’s completely open air. Wonderful stuff. I’m so glad I caught a game.

New Wyman
Real Baltimore experience. Here I had an encounter with scrapple, which is pretty much a less expensive name for boudin. Excellent tasting food, real people. sweet staff. If I were a foreigner, I would definitely come here.

NEXT TIME:
Sunday Farmers Market
Jakes
Krakus
Peabody Library
Northeast Market
M&J’s Soul Food
Hip Hop Fish & Chicken
Bill’s Terrace Inn
Beefalo Bob’s

RESOURCES
Crab Cake Review

And look forward to my follow-up rundown of the markets.

Posted by: Jeffsayyes | December 26, 2013

Woks and Lox 2013 – This Saturday

We’re working on something good for Saturday night…. Our 3rd Woks and Lox. Hope you can make it!

Here’s what we’re sending the press:

Woks and Lox is upright and banging this year. We’ve made it a late night event, kicking off at 10pm, where there’ll be a steady flow of Szechuan peppercorn & matzoh lager from SingleCut Beer and, returning from our very first year of Woks and Lox, Genesis and Messiah ale from Shmaltz Brewing Company. We’ll also have a variety of our favorite almighty Bruce Cost Ginger Ales by the bottle.

We’ve moved out of Queens (temporarily), and will be setting up shop in the legendary, first dim sum in NYC, Nom Wah Tea Parlor on Doyers in Chinatown. Our chefs Chichi Wang (Serious Eats, W&L 2011, 2012) and Noah Arenstein (Scharf & Zoyer) have created a whole new menu, drawing influences from Jewish and Chinese cuisines and cultures, for a truly “only in New York” experience.

Here’s a sneak peek at what we’ll be serving:
*Menu items subject to change

  • Classic Pickle Plate
  • Corned Beef Reuben Wontons with Beet Russian Dressing
  • Sephardic Dan Dan Noodles with Lamb, Tahini, Pistachios & Mint
  • Roasted Squash Salad with Soy Maple Vinaigrette and Bialy Croutons
  • Gefilte Fish Stuffed Eggplant
  • Noodle Kugel with Vegetarian XO Sauce
  • Bubbe’s Chicken Fried Rice
  • Almond Halva Cookies
  • Marinated Oranges

*Our menu includes ingredients from some of our sponsors: Pickle Guys, Ben’s Best of Rego Park, Fleisher’s, Gefilteria, & Kossar’s Bialys

It doesn’t just stop at food. We’ll have our Bar Mitzvah sign-in board, live portrait drawing by artist Monica Ramos, Chinese-Jewish inspired games, and our Chinese auction with great prizes from generous sponsors.

The night begins at 10pm this Saturday, December 28th. Come midnight, we’ll draw winners from our Chinese auction, whose proceeds will go towards Typhoon Haiyan relief. 50% of whatever is raised will be matched from WorldFoodsthat’s value!

Our supporters and sponsors:
Ben’s Best Deli of Rego Park, Brooklyn Delhi, Brooklyn Kitchen, Bruce Cost Ginger Ale, Fleisher’s, Gefilteria, Hail the Right Brain, Jeffrey Tastes Food Tours, Katz’s Delicatessen, Kosher Chinese by Michael Levy, Kossar’s Bialys, Kuma Inn, Lucky Peach, Memories of Philippine Kitchens by Amy Besa, Michael Ruhlman, Monica Ramos, OXO, Pickle Guys, Plate and Pencil, Scott’s Pizza Tour, Shmaltz Brewery, SingleCut, Turnstile Tours, Twin Marquis, Uber, WorldFoods*
* Matching 50% of proceeds from Chinese Auction

Tickets are on sale at woksandlox2013.eventbrite.com
$68 in advance
$75 at the door
More information can be found at woksandlox.comWoks and Lox
Saturday, December 28th, 2013
10pm
Nom Wah Tea Parlor
13 Doyers Street New York, NY 10013
Posted by: Jeffsayyes | September 20, 2013

Viva La Comida 2013 – TONIGHT!

Tonight’s the big night.

Viva La Comida! by the 82nd Street Partnership

Date: Friday, Sept 20th, 2013
Time: 4pm-10pm
Location: 82nd Street between Roosevelt and Baxter Ave, Queens, NY
Subway: 7 to 82nd Street / EFMR to Jackson Heights-Roosevelt Avenue

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/events/595799207139049/
Price: Free. Pay at vendors for food and market items.

Food Truck Tours: https://vivalacomida2013.eventbrite.com/ $35, free food, skip the lines, meet the vendors

I have a feeling that none of us even know how great this thing is. There are lots of elements which are draws to so many different people. I think the food people are going to love the art exhibition/demos and dance, and the music people are going to love the food represented. The kids will love the huge picnic tables, and the parents will like the market we are putting on. It’s a big collaboration and it’s gelling real hard.

My main responsibility as co-organizer was for assembling the food trucks. Being my area of exploration for the past 6 years,

My advice for the hungry? 
Find the truck with the least line. You can’t go wrong with any choice here because the line-up is All Killer, No Filler. I’m serious. I won’t even believe this is happening until it happens because it’s just so strange to see all these legends of their own neighborhood uniting on one street at the same time.  How did we do it? We treated the food trucks like the entertainment. We didn’t charge them, told them just “To be awesome.” We think that this assembly of vendors will send reverberations throughout the NewYorkisphere saying that 82nd Street is the heart of Queens, the heart of New York City.

There are so many stories that went into putting on this festival, and what is making is so special. I will leave that for another post. For now, some pictures and song.



Posted by: Jeffsayyes | August 15, 2013

The Conclusion of the 2nd Annual Momo Crawl

The 2013 Momo Crawl was awesome! Everything came together just right. From the $1 momo price, to the mandala map, to the trophy and the trophy presentation. Great format this year – only the weather could and did dampen the day.

For the price of 2 bills of any denomination, everyone was given a map, in the shape of a mandala, which laid out all 19 momo locations in the area. Groups were organized and told they could have momos at almost all the locations on the map for the price of $1 each – as opposed to the normal 8-at-a-time order. Participants did the crawl, finding and eating as many momos as they could, then came back to the starting point under the Jackson Heights Food Court marquee.

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3 hours later, at the return point, we used part of our mandela maps to vote on a winner. The vote was a 3-way tie! The most votes went to Gangjong Kitchen, Tibetan Mobile, and Phayul. I couldn’t believe it. Of note is that these three are all Tibetan, with Gangjong being a bit more worldly than the others. It could be the Tibetan flavors do better with an American audience, or it could be that these all had their momos freshly made, which makes a big difference. Who would get the Golden Momo???  We did a run-off, making everyone vote between these three. A winner was determined, then we all walked as a group to deliver the trophy…

Phayul emerged as the winner! The staff tried immensely hard to win, and were extremely accommodating – but most importantly they had a great momo. I’m happy they won (and I am certain they have gotten better ever since). Congratulations!

The only thing I wish I could have done was gone on the crawl. I was so jealous of everyone who got to meet all the nice people, and sample all these different momos for the first time. Running the thing, I never get to participate. But in the end – everyone wins. The vendors make money, the area gets a name for itself, the attendees loved it. I don’t love doing events more than once, but this is just too good of a thing not to do again. See you next year ?

Special thanks to my helpers Malcolm and Diane Chang, and my Nepali Ambassadors Sahadev Poudel, Tshering “Phoolmaya” Gurung and Tshering Gurung. All photos courtesy Brian Yarvin.

Lhasa Fast Food c/o Tibet Mobile
37-50 74th St, Jackson Heights, NY 11372

Gangjong Kitchen
72-24 Roosevelt Ave

Phayul *Winner of 2013 Momo Crawl*
See the trophy next to the picture of the Dalai Lama
4-06 37th Rd

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There is a lot that went into this crawl. Lots of meanings and process to create the map and the trophy. I will detail this in another, much longer post. Until then: Enjoy momos!

Home Sweet Queens’ wrap-up
Chopsticks and Bone Marrow’s wrap-up

*If you would like a copy of the Mandala Map, email me jeffsayyes -at- gmail , and I will give you the info to send 2 bills of any denomination in exchange for a map.*

Posted by: Jeffsayyes | August 7, 2013

Iftar Box Rundown

This has been a dream of mine for years – A rundown of every Iftar box in Jackson Heights. These boxes have been an item of intrigue — the to-go box of food, set up for sale outside the food establishment, only during the month of Ramadan (ENDS TONIGHT, AUG 7TH!).

What I learned when documenting is that Iftar is awesome. During the month of Ramadan, Muslims fast from daybreak until sundown. No water, no food (but people still work during the day). This leads to lots of cranky Muslims around 5pm, and then ravenous delight as soon as approximately 8:15pm rolls around. Food – what a celebration.

In the Jackson Heights area, most of the Muslim businesses are Bangladeshi, with a minority Pakistani. I learned that there is more or less a standard Iftar box – but all are intriguing. I learned that there are some specials (like at Premium Sweets who had some awesome jalebi with all sorts of toppings like pistachio, coconut shavings, etc). And I learned that the process of fasting and relieving is a wonderful exercise in the body and spirit.

Here is the Iftar Rundown:

Premium Sweets, 3714 73rd St – $8 —–

Haat Bazaar Grocery, 3711 73rd St ($8):

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Khaabar Baari, 37-22 73rd St ($6):

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Cafe Taj, 7306 37th Ave ($6):

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Merit Farms, 3767 74th St:

Iftar Special, $5.99

Iftar Deluxe, $7.99

Al Naimet, 3703 74th St ($6):

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Jackson Heights Food Court, 73-07 37th Rd rear (Bangladeshi) ($6):

Kabab King, 7301 37th Rd ($6)

Old exterior, courtesy Joseph Aranha RIP

There are others, but the boxes weren’t as readily available. Visit the area and find a box of your own – or better yet, stay for a meal and see the madness.

Posted by: Jeffsayyes | July 1, 2013

Announcing: The Ambassador Plates

This has been my dream for many years. It may be my best one yet…

The latest evolution of the Ambassador is taking place at restaurants throughout Jackson Heights, Queens. At these participating restaurants, the chef is your Ambassador. All you have to do is pay $10 (or $20) and the staff will give you their picks of the day for your meal. It’s easy to employ, and the restaurants are happy to show off their best stuff for a fair price. Look for the sticker around the neighborhood – even if they don’t speak English, just point to the sticker and your ordering will be taken care of. We’re crossing all barriers of communication here. 

See the main page for updated list of participants
Participants:

 

All of these eateries have been specifically chosen for this program. I am very lucky to be in this neighborhood, where the owners are very frequently the cooks, servers, and owners. This is a highly Himalayan list so far, but that’s because it’s the make-up of our mom-and-pop shops. In fact, Juju’s is the only place not South Asian – It’s a bagel shop with homemade salads, desserts and it’s hard to choose so this will be helpful for everyone. But for someone from Nepal, I’m sure this will help them navigate Juju’s too.

Which would I pick? I have no clue. All of these businesses I work with are such nice people, working hard and happy to show you around what they do. There are a few that I’m most intrigued with that this would be particularly helpful in – like GangJong Kitchen and Chilli Chicken, places where I know they are great but I still have no idea what to order. I def want to check out what’s new with Little Tibet; I can’t choose, every one of these places I want to learn from. I’m lucky to live here. Really, everything I do is entirely selfish – I made this so I could relieve myself from the burdens of choosing in my own neighborhood, but I hope many other people like you will take advantage of it too.

I am very excited to see what each one will do with this. Some might fail, but some will flourish. At the time, this is limited to Jackson Heights, but I would love to help make this happen in other neighborhoods throughout the city or the country, working with gov’t orgs to make it happen. Even if I am not involved, I would love to see this method employed elsewhere just to make it easier for everyone.

Please let me know about your experiences, and if you have any issues, please tell me right away and I will check in on the situation. This is all supposed to be as easy and beneficial for all parties involved. I hope this works…


 

Above, the brand new Little Tibet Restaurant

 

For more information: iwantmorefood.com/ambassador/

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