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.

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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.

Posted by: Jeffsayyes | April 22, 2013

Halalathon 2012: Jackson Heights

You can find the winner of the 2012 Halalathon - The TD Bank Cart – at 73rd St, just south of 37th St. It doesn’t actually have this name, but we are just calling it this because it is located in front of the TD Bank.

They just had it levels above the rest. I never realized the depth of Halal food until our crew did the observations. I never respected it as a “cuisine“. Here, at our trials, we tried every Halal food place within a 1-mile radius of the 74th Street station and this TD Bank cart took the top honors.

At the presentation, I called some press for the presentation. It is, after all, a big deal…

I was so happy to get some print publications there to make it a real ‘Event‘. It was great to have these guys who wouldn’t normally think what they do is special, get some attention for what they do.

And now I have respect for the cuisine. Now, I take all of my non-local walking tours here – and they ALL love it. It’s amazing. Here, I always took Halal food for granted, but it’s apparently quite an interesting cuisine in itself – albeit narrow.

Here is the article on the event:
DNAinfo: Halalathon Champion Bests Vendy Winner for Best Halal in Jackson Heights

And here is Rachel Antonio’s impression of the event:
Spam is Better Fried: Part 1 Review

The secret ingredient we found out to be Shan Zafrani Garam Masala

—————–

With the brick and mortardom of Gyro King (74-06 37th Rd), it became imperative to do a Halal cart round-up of the area. I previously shunned it, thought the food was a lesser level of eating… an easy pickup for a foodie. We did the analysis of every Halal combo plate vendor within a mile of the Jackson Heights-Roosevelt Avenue station. Here is what we found:

Halal Food, north side of TD Bank, 37th ave/74th St

The Original American Chicken (78-07 37th Ave) was decidedly the worst. I don’t even like to say that because I’ve been more relentless about them more than I like, and I’d love to have a redeeming cause, but it was clear — the worst. HOWEVER, they had some great chicken decorations!

American Chicken, worst

Gyro King had the most interesting side salad by far, with a nearly uncountable number of pickled vegetables, giving a very interesting overall mouth feel to the dish. The other ingredients were good, though didn’t have an extra level that the top tier Halal carts possessed.

Gyro King, 74-06 37th Rd

The pick of the majority of us, and 2nd place to the few who thought Sammy’s reigned king, was the TD Bank cart. It just had the right balance, and an extra layer of flavoring that hasn’t been fathomed in the other carts.

TD Bank Cart, west side of 74th street/37th Ave

Sammy’s was one of two carts to refuse to put sauce on the side. We’re not sure if this confused the experiment, because it definitely had a different feel than the rest. It was, as expected, really good.

Sammy’s, northeast corner of Broadway/73rd St

America’s #1 Halal Food (73rd / Broadway)

82nd St/37th Ave SW

Sammy’s and the Other Sammy’s (Broadway/73rd St SW)

PBS Cart (outside Elmhurst Hospital on Broadway) – Quite good

83rd/Roosevelt NE – pretty good

82nd St/Baxter SW Moroccan cart

and here’s the winner – TD Bank Cart. Proof:

Posted by: Jeffsayyes | April 16, 2013

Nepalese Ambassador with Sahadev Poudel at Malingo

Our group of 13 listened to whatever Sahadev had to say. It was so interesting to hear his story about coming to America, getting a job through a connected person in a supermarket and working every night, 8pm to 8am for six months straight. Our meal was great, but none of this ambassador stuff is really about the food. It’s about the connection of cultures and people. Queens, NY is the greatest ground for all of this.

This was our 2nd Nepalese ambassador, and we will do as many as possible in the future – this is just too interesting and important an immigration into NYC to ignore. I was so happy to be in my position at the end of the night. Much more to come – we have a lot more to do.

Here’s Ambassador loyal Fanny Farkas with her rundown of our most recent Ambassador Program at Malingo with our Nepalese ambassador Sahadev Poutel:

——

Tuesday February 5th 11 of us met with Sahadev Poudel to sample his native food at Malingo, a recently opened Nepalese-Japanese restaurant. We were seated in a tatami room which made for an intimate evening where we got to meet old friends and make new ones.

Sahadev started by explaining that there are at least 70 tribes in Nepal with their own food customs. He comes from a Hindi family who are strict vegetarians; Sahadev has relaxed his dietary restrictions to include chicken and fish, still no beef though. We were most fortunate to have such a knowledgeable Ambassador and our menu was very copious.

The beverages of choice were Sake, Mango lassi, Salt tea with Milk and Butter a very traditional way of serving tea, that in this case was delicious. Sake was served instead of Raksi which is a stronger alcoholic drink frequently distilled at home from different grains.

We started with Vegetable Pakora a deep fried fritter, Chicken Lollipops made from the wing again deep-fried, Chicken Chili, and Aloo Sandero – a delicious cold spicy potato dish. The truly different dish was Bhatmas Chiura. This was full of surprises, soybeans cooked al dente, next to them flattened rice mixed with, what we all thought were scallions, green chili peppers very spicy but quite delicious.

Chicken Lollipop

Bhatmas Chiura

Vegetable Pakora

On to the main courses, I think we all felt as we were guests at Sahadev’s house the way he described the customs of cooking and eating. We had Chicken Thali and learnt that it is perfectly acceptable to ask for seconds in case you finish one of the small plates. A thali is a meal made up of a selection of various dishes served on a metal tray. There are several variations on the theme, in this case there was dhal, a yellow lentil soup, mustard greens, yogurt, rice pudding and chicken. We also tried Dherda or Dhido which resembles poy but is made of corn flour and buckwheat flour poured into boiling water until a thick porridge is formed. This is considered food for the poor, the wealthy eat rice. We were also served the national dish of Nepal, Gundruk thali, which is made of fermented and dried vegetable leaves.

Thalis

Dhido Thali

What is a Nepalese meal without Momos? – this country’s version of dumplings. Ours were filled with chicken and accompanied by several tasty sauces ranging from mild coriander to spicy hot chili.

And What is dinner without dessert? – impoverished to say the least. We ended our lovely evening with a delicious rice pudding and Gulab Jamun fried cheese balls in a perfumed sugar syrup.

Sahadev was not only a gracious host, he is very knowledgeable about food and explained how each course was made and talked in length about Nepalese food customs.

A great evening was had by all.

- Fanny Farkas

Malingo 43-16 Queens Boulevard

Posted by: Jeffsayyes | April 10, 2013

NY Cares Kid’s Take: Taqueria Coatzingo v. Taco Bell

Taco Bell versus Taqueria Coatzingo: Kids’ Take

This was my dream tour. An unbiased comparison between fast food Mexican and real Mexican food – by a group that is supposed to love the fast food version: Kids. I wanted a group who were naive and inexperienced, ones that would have a predilection towards Taco Bell – Unfortunately, this group was too smart.

The Food Writing Project from NY Cares seeks, “in a structured way, to expose students to food and food writing through workshops, collaborative activities and field trips to local restaurants and food vendors.” One of the organizers, Josh Goldblaitt, wanted to do an outing with a food writer, and apparently I was the closest thing he could find… I was asked to show them, as a blogger, how I operate and how to improve their writing swagger. Now, these students were already prepared with hooks and the critic’s nose, but, if you know how I operate, you’ll know that I wanted to break all that down.

For me, the most important thing is to be helpful. There is usually something redeeming about a place, no matter where you are, and as a writer you have the responsibility to advise your peers on this; you should think about if your friends were stuck here to eat: How should they approach the situation?

These students, like most adult foodie bloggers, were already conscious to paying attention to ingredients, talented people, and authentic food, with quite a number of advanced eating experiences and opinions on the state of dining between them; but, unlike many of my contemporaries, they weren’t annoying at all. The biggest surprise I got was that none had had Taco Bell before. This was amazing to me, because as a teenager Taco Bell was a regular part of my life. In high school, school lunch was a choice between Burger King, Taco Bell, and Pizza Hut (if we feeling fancy that day). In a way, as I got too mature for McDonalds, Taco Bell had this edginess and drought of smiles I was comfortable with. At that time, the only other experience with Mexican food for me was on Seaford Middle School’s legendary 8th grade Spanish class trip to Don Juan’s in Massapequa. I can still taste the blandness.

As for the corporateness of it all – while I do love the brands of White Castle and Nathans, with a fast declining affection towards McDonalds and KFC, I appreciate Taco Bell for bringing Mexican food into the common American’s lexicon. If I never had Taco Bell in high school, gorditas and quesadillas would have remained a completely foreign dish for me for much longer than they did. Yes, it took some reinventing for my brain to realize the actual Mexican forms of the foods, but at least it created something of a foundation – at the very least I became familiar with the concept of a chalupa.

——————————–

I wanted a completely fair assessment from the group. We would order the same items at Taco Bell and Taqueria Coatzingo (40-18 82nd St Elmhurst), giving a comparison to the interpretations the foods at the each location. I made sure not say anything negative, and I asked them to evaluate what was happening and what they were eating. As a food writer, I wanted their objective to be to advise their peers how to have a good time at either place. I did not want them to get hung up on “authenticity” and scolding chefs for not being authentic Mexican because that is a different issue altogether: Food is always evolving with limitations, neighbors, and availabilities so we should not exclude our own culture in the US from having influence on something. We cannot say how it’s supposed to be done, only if we like it or what we can relate it to.

I gave them tips for my process, like taking pictures of signs to remember addresses and menu details. Taking pictures of actual items next to their names. Using the menus for my notes, etc – just as a way to be efficient and accurate with their notes and thoughts.

I gave them forms for them to fill out, to guide them on what to think about. They had questions like:

What is this neighborhood like?
Who is eating here?
What is being in the restaurant like?
Did we wait long for the food?
Did it seem like a long time to wait?
What was your favorite item and why?
What would you not recommend and why?
If you had to come here again,
– what would you order?
– when would you come?
– where would you sit?
What is the best way to have a good time here?

And on top of each form to fill out, I gave them pieces of advice:

  • Remember: Be constructive, help your audience enjoy it!
  • Remember: Be fair, you’ve only visited once!
  • Remember: Write for you!

We ordered tacos, gorditas, chalupas, quesadillas, burritos, and nachos. See below.

Gordita, Taco Bell. Thick tortilla with taco filling plus cheeses

Gorditas, Taqueria Coatzingo. Fried masa shells with fried pork skin pieces cooked inside, then opened up and stuffed with lettuce, cheese, and other ingredients.

Chalupa, Taco Bell. Basically a gordita with a fried shell.

Chalupa, Taqueria Coatzingo. Similar to a taco with a fried shell (comes with rice and beans).

Burrito, Taco Bell. Rice, beans, meat, fixins.

Burrito, Taqueria Coatzingo. Large flour tortilla with rice, beans and meat fillings, and other ingredients inside.

Quesadilla, Taco Bell

Quesadillas, Taqueria Coatzingo

Nachos, Taco Bell. More of what Coatzingo would consider “chips”.

Nachos, Taqueria Coatzingo. Flat shells fried and topped with cheese, lettuce, and other flavors

Soft taco, Taco Bell

Tacos, Taqueria Coatzingo

Results:  At the end of the session, we compared our two experiences. We found that most of the dishes at Taco Bell resembled each other; Apart from the nachos, everything was basically meat in a wrap form of different sizes and either fried or not fried. At Coatzingo, the items were distinctive from one another.

The 13-year olds came to a heavy consensus that Coatzingo had better food, was more traditional, and had a fun atmosphere - but an interesting thing happened when I asked them where they would rather take their friends – nearly all of them said Taco Bell. They thought their friends, who they didn’t perceive to be as educated as they were in the culinary sense, would prefer the fast food of Taco Bell more. Even as this whole group thought Coatzingo had better food, was better for you, and more appropriate for their family, their after-school hangout with classmates would still be Taco Bell. I definitely understand. Kudos, Taco Bell.

For a complete view of the fill-out sheets from the kids, click here.

Highlight from Taco Bell sheet: What would you not recommend and why?
All because they all tastes the same or similar

Highlight from Taqueria Coatzingo sheet: What is being in the restaurant like?
plants, decorations, religious decorations

Highlight from Taco Bell vs. Taqueria Coatzingo sheet: What can Coatzingo learn from Taco Bell?
To expand like Taco Bell.

Which do you think is better for your health? Why?
Probably Coatzingo because theres no preservatives and they make it to order.

[all sic]

I have to admit, Taco Bell was fun. They have great signage, and they make the menu look like a lot is happening there. The space is updated, and there is a good stream of people coming in and out. And the tacos, actually, weren’t that bad.

One of the interesting responses I got was when I asked the students was What could Coatzingo learn from Taco Bell? Based on Taco Bell’s apparent success, this was an important question. Most of them remarked that the seating was comfortable and the price was more agreeable (though the portions were much larger at Coatzingo). This low entry price gives them a greater amount of people who will walk in their doors.

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This was kind of like the Kramerica tour. Where a group of people take a few steps in the life of a crazy maniac. In this case, it was me. Personally, this tour was a lot of fun, a great experiment, and a dream come true. As a forever researcher into the tastes of people, this is such an interesting audience to study. I would love to do more programs with the youth of today because they are so creative and fun to work with – also the structure of a class gives a wide range of personalities which creates an interesting challenge as an organizer. Last year, I also did a tour with a charter school of the area and that was soooooo eye-opening for all parties too – they even took me on a tour of their school to return the favor. Kids are awesome.

Special thanks to the 82nd Street Partnership who contributed to the NY Cares program in order to make this excursion happen. This organization helps the area with advocacy, marketing, sanitation, beautification, and working with the government – it’s also the organization that I did the Viva La Comida festival with.

And for the kids from NY Cares, here are some of their interpretations:
Alex’s Food Adventure, Taco Fun
Gnaw’s Taste of New York, Mexican Restaurant Comparison

and the chaperones:
Professor Van Shmackelpop, Taco Tour
A Teacher’s Taste, TacosTACOS

Thanks NY Cares!

Posted by: Jeffsayyes | January 28, 2013

‘NOther top 8 from New Orleans

Second trip to New Orleans in as many years, and this time I had some help eating. We got to go to some of the more sit-down places, and did that just about non-stop. The weather was rain, so other activities were more out of the equation – like bicycle tour from Confederacy of Cruisers or visiting a preserve like Jean Lafitte or the Bayou Sauvage. Here are another Great 8 of the Louisiana State; My top list of the trip:

Brandito’s Burritos (1200 Saint Roch Ave)- No picture, so you’ll just have to go there yourself. I didn’t anticipate eating Mexican food in Nola, but I knew it would eventually happen - it always does. And it was beyond excellent. Simple, real food, from a small kitchen in the back of St. Roch’s Tavern. The chef/waitstaff is a CIA grad and worked around the area in great restaurants  but his current incarnation is this little non-descript back room. I have no idea if this is a secret or a foodie find but whatever. And I don’t care if it is or is not, but I would like to see Brandon making the money that he pleases. The tavern was great too – We saw JD Hill & the Jammers blasting on the Harmonica with his band…..

The level of musical talent is so high in this city. Even the street musicians were so smooth, refined, and bad-ass. Coming back to NY, it’s like walking onto the short bus. There is something along the Mississippi River which breeds soul.

Cake Cafe (2440 Chartres St) – As a new promise to myself: Every time I go to Nola, I will come here. Not only the food, but the neighborhood is one of the quainter and more interesting places to walk around. In my return trip from last year, it again proved to me that the food does nothing but satisfy. This time, we got a crab sandwich and boudin & eggs. The crab sandwich was pure crab with purposeful and limited accouterments – I could eat it for days and days.

La Pettite Grocery (4238 Magazine Street) – I’d eat here every night of the week. Just a French restaurant that has everything down pat, and they make it all themselves. Even the ketchup.

Camellia Grill (626 S Carrollton Ave), where I was introduced to clarified butter as a condiment…

… and their great omelets and waffles. This whole time, we split most of our meals. Nearly every place was so accommodating, as each time we said We’re splittin’ it, they made two plates of the shared meal. This hospitality was noticed and appreciated. Thank you, Nola. Here is one half of a portion of Camelia Grill’s Mexican omelet:

Beignets at Cafe du Monde (800 Decatur St) and Morning Call (3325 Severn Ave). Beignets are one of those New Orleans things that every tourist HAS to do. Initially, I dragged myself to going in, but in finality it’s a quick, cheap bite with a pick-me-up. Both beignets were good, not too much different from a zeppole, but whatever. Only Morning Call will get you to dine with majority locals, but Du Monde is usually on the walking path of any traveler to the area. A coffee is always functional when on vacation to get you out of lethargy, so greatness or not I have to recommend either stop.

Also, at the park, there is a second Morning Call. That could be a good stop – especially if you are here on a Wednesday when the New Orleans Museum of Art is free.

Self-powdering moment at Morning Call

Lemon Tart from the Crescent City Farmers Market. Visiting farmers markets in other cities is such a refreshing activity to do. It was great to have satsuma oranges as a local treat. I got a lemon tart from some nice lady, and it was fantastic. With only about 15 stalls, this was the biggest local farmers market in the area. It has a long way to go, but it was a good experience.

Russels Marina Grill (8555 Pontchartrain Blvd)- This diner was the perfect local experience. It was humble and real. Zero tourists and just as much catering to them. We had crabcakes with a shrimp remoulade. If that sounds fancy, you’re not from the area.

Dong Fuong (14207 Chef Menteur Hwy) “egg cream”. The pate chaud was good, and the banh mi was decent (I liked the Hong Kong supermarket one better last year), but I loved my introduction to a Vietnamese egg cream aka Soda sữa hột gà at the attached restaurant. A little intimidating at first, where the ingredient list is: seltzer, condensed milk and an egg yolk. Instead of receiving the finished product, they give it to you separated, with a 10 oz bottle of club soda, a glass with 2 inches of condensed milk and an egg yolk sitting on top it.

You pour the seltzer in and mix. I did, and it was awesome. It tasted like I’ve always wanted an egg cream to taste.

New York doesn’t have much Vietnamese, so exploring this neighborhood was fun and interesting.

—————-

We went to others. They were good, like Jacques-Imo’s and Elizabeth’s, but these listed were my favorite bites. My “other advice” is for Dragos in the French Quarter; where you’ll get  good chargrilled oysters but zero experience. It’s eating in a hotel. I don’t care that much about flavor, so I’d recommend skipping or going to the original.

We stayed in the Irish Channel through AirBnB. Thank you Penny for putting us up. Here is the location, I would definitely recommend her and her place. AirBnB is great in general, especially if you’re not alone. I have always done couchsurfing before, but lately I’m valuing AirBnB more – where I can sleep in an actual bed with potential for actual rest.

Here are some helpfuls to get you going around New Orleans:
Getting Lost in Louisiana
Nola Problems
Holly EatsSerious Eats

Next time, I’d like to go to:
Creole Creamery, bike tours, the Jefferson Parish Oyster Trail, bayou, more nightlife, some bar with red beans and rice, Crabby Jacks or something with a great seafood po’ boy, Cafe Atchalafaya, Bacchanal Wine Store, Nola Food Fest, and Luiza by the Tracks. And where else??

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