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):

—-

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/

Posted by: Jeffsayyes | May 17, 2013

Momo Crawl Update

AND THE WINNER IS….

Be there at the Momo Crawl to vote and present to the winner

Sunday, May 19th
1:30pm
Jackson Heights Diversity Plaza – 37th Rd b/w 73rd/74th St.

BKgVzY2CEAEGpj5.jpg

Facebook event listing https://www.facebook.com/events/371564282950274/

At the start, you will get a mandala map in exchange for 2 bills of any denomination. People may organize into groups or go rogue. Many momo stops will sell a momo individually for $1. At 4:30pm, we will regather at the Diversity Plaza to vote, then immediately present the momo trophy.

The momo trophy is currently on view at Bombay Chat AKA Cafe K2 (73-13 37th Rd).

Posted by: Jeffsayyes | May 8, 2013

The Momo Crawl 2013 – Announcement

Momo Crawl on Sunday, May 19th. 1:30pm.

This must be done.

With the opening of Friends Cafe last week, there are now 19 places serving momos in the Little India vicinity of Jackson Heights. These Himalayan dumplings quietly have become the most popular dish in Queens.

To celebrate this influx of Himalayans to the area, I am organizing my 2nd Momo Crawl. This population of Tibetans, Nepalese, and the surrounding cultures have had such a positive effect on our area, I want to be strong in welcoming new immigrants to New York City. These entrepreneurs of our area, these locals who have the courage not to open up a Subway, need our support.

Last year we kept it to 30 people because of space limitations, but this year we have use of the Jackson Heights Diversity Plaza thanks to co-host Sukhi NY and are now aiming for MASSIVE.

Meeting place: Jackson Heights Plaza (37th Rd between 74th Street and Broadway, or 7301 37th Rd, Jackson Heights, Queens)

At the meeting point, attendees will be given a map of the area in exchange for 2 bills of any denomination they choose. You will be organized in groups of 8 to facilitate momo eating. Costs for momos will be split amongst the group.  At each stop you make, your map will be stamped.  Upon your return to the plaza, we will all decide on a winner. The winner will be presented with a giant momo trophy - which in the meantime will be displayed somewhere on 37th Road by the end of next week.  (see progress of momo trophy here).

 

We must find the greatest momo.
It’s a dream come true. 

 

 

You can find me on Twitter Facebook Vine
Co-Host: Sukhi NY
Media Partner:
Village Voice’s Fork in the Road: Second Annual Momo Crawl Launches in Jackson Heights
BoroMag: Pay-what-you-want Momo Crawl this weekend
NY1 – airing Monday(4/13), Saturday (4/18)
Tasting Table – Momo Magic

Epoch Times – A Himalayan Dumpling Tour in Queens
Queens Chronicle – Who serves the best Jackson Heights momo?
New York Times – Weekend Fare

Being a vendor an event means that you’re always working and never able to walk around and visit the other businesses. My friend Noah Arenstein recently opened the newish Jewish food Scharf & Zoyer stand at Smorgasburg (you may have been following his path on Serious Eats as Chris Crowley has been documenting). I felt bad that he never was able to see the competition and learn from them; So I decided to photograph every vendor at the Saturday Smorgasburg event.

You can see the full set ON FLICKR … but below I want to point out a few awesome marketing set-ups and other comments. Commence!

Some vendors are sad, some are out of touch, some are a bit commercial, some are rustic, and just have the magick:

Big block of ice in front, chalkboard with cute graphics. Huge popsicle stick as the logo. Great design. I kinda just want to talk to these people – look how friendly it is


Mighty Quinn and their tremendous line. The set-up isn’t much, you can barely see the brisket from within the Smorg. However, their reputation precedes themselves and the price is not terrible either ($5 little, $9 big portion).

Huge turkey leg. It’s not anything artisan but it’s a spectacle. I saw people walking around with them and I was like “Who’s selling that???”

Wow, check out how big Milk Truck is! It’s like a complete city in 2 stalls. It’s like one of those movies like Waterworld or Mad Max or Demolition Man where it’s a fully running underground city within the city. I couldn’t even get close to the thing with the snaking lines for order and pickup. Good menu though, all very comforting stuff like mac&cheese or milk shakes. I could definitely go for a milk shake.

 

The guy from S’more Bakery was torching the s’more’s right on the table beside the cashier. The product is literally campy, but it’s a great spectacle – Very attractive process.

 

These guys sell the farm eggs right up front, and ALSO sell sandwiches. You know these sandwiches gotta be good b/c of the farm eggs and the farmer looking dude behind them (or at least you’d definitely think so).

But the best set-up is from Porchetta

It’s so simple. All they have is a table (tables pay less than half what full booths pay, but also have no electricity), and it’s 2 people (vendors pay for every staff member present). One takes the cash, one cuts the porchetta. The fresh porchetta sits on top of a box on a cutting board, nearly at chest height to the customers – not even a pane of glass separating us. The sweat off the thing you can nearly feel in your fingers. The process is incredibly quick, as they just cut the thing, put it in a bun, and wrap it. And they make a good tick of money, $7 for a one handful sandwich. Quick, simple, tasty, and very visible. They are the perfect vendor.

And that’s my opinion.

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