Hey all, Lena here. I've been super busy painting my new apartment, so I thought, what better time to have a guest blogger entertain you all? Here is she is boys, here she is world, Ana Hurka-Robles of Geekanerd.
As a proud resident of Hell's Kitchen, I spend the entire year in anticipation of the The Ninth Avenue International Food Festival. Ninth Ave in the HK area has a highly concentrated selection of good restaurants, and at the Food Festival they set up little booths and sell their top dishes in small, cheap portions. I had a great time on the first day of the Festival, if you can make it on Sunday (11am to 7pm, 9th ave between 42nd and 57th) I highly recommend it!
I went to the Festival with my girlfriend Sarah (a frequent commenter on this very blog). She started off our culinary adventure with a $5 sangria from the Eatery booth. It had a good amount of fruit as well as liquor, and there's nothing like freely walking down a NYC street with a plastic cup of booze in hand.
Eatery was also serving $5 dollar portions of their Asian Chicken Salad, which is my personal favorite salad in Manhattan. It's made with super-sweet citrusy dressing and tender strips of chicken breast. I had to document the behind-the-scenes magic...
The mixed greens and secret spices...
Strips of jicama, chicken, and spicy toasted peanuts. There's also a fried wonton involved, but it's not pictured.
Next was the booth from Old San Juan, a Puerto Rican/international (??) restaurant I'd never been to before. I got the Puerto Rican tamale without even asking what was in it, cause I live on the edge.
They gave it to me tightly wrapped up in wax paper, so all the steamy goodness was kept inside the banana leaf wrapper.
The corn meal was totally soaked in the juices from the meat on the inside and the banana leaves on the outside. It had a kind of midly sweet taste, more flavorful than the tamales I'm used to. There were big, meaty pieces of pork inside, and it was surprisingly filling for such a little package. Best thing I ate all day.
At the Kyotofu booth, the lady behind the table was telling everyone about how New York Magazine named their chocolate cupcakes the Best Cupcake in New York. I've been to Kyotofu several times (it's an eccentric, fancy but affordable place to take out-of-towneres) and the most remarkable thing about the cupcakes are how dense and rich they are. No frosting, but what can you do, they're minimalists.
Breeze is a Thai-French fusion place, though most of what they had on offer where straight-up Thai appetizers; meat on sticks, dumplings, and rice dishes. The little one dollar dumplings caught my eye.
These little steamed dumplings were called "Golden Bags", which me and Sarah were both too embarrassed to say to the vendor. We're not mature.
So cute! They put a little spash of soy sauce on the top, making for a salty little bite of shrimp and veggies, which a mildly spicy aftertaste. Yum.
Bali Nusa Indah is an Indonesian restaurant I'd never tried before. They too had an impressive display of $1 appetizers, and the golden brown fried stuff caught my eye. Most NYC street fairs are flush with all sorts of fried things (cheese, dough, oreos) and even though the Ninth Ave festival is substantially classier, it's hard to argue with tradition.
I got a vegetable corn fritter, which I believe is a spin on their Perkedel Jagung appetizer, usually made with shrimp (they had those too, but I wanted to pretend I was being healthy). The only vegetable I noticed inside were peas, but you can't really go wrong with a fried ball of corn meal. More tender and moist than the hush-puppies I'd had before at the Delta Grill down the street, so score one for Indonesia.
Mitchell London Foods runs two great restaurants down at the southern edge of Hell's Kitchen, Burgers and Cupcakes and Mitchell London Pizza. They represented at the fair with a bunch of little items including these sliders. Unfortunately these little guys were going for five bucks. What! They serve actual burgers at B&C for only a dollar more (UPDATE: Sarah tells me they may have in fact been only $3-4. Though I'm not convinced.) Sarah has on multiple occasions professed her love of mini-burgers, but even she skipped 'em.
Lucky Burger to the rescue! Lucky Burger is HK's local answer to corporate fast food chains, they serve junk food in a brightly lit space that tastes great, even though it usually takes them about twenty minutes to get me my order. That wasn't an issue at the fair, since they had a whole bunch of burgers on the grill, ready to go. And only $3 bucks!
Oh man, look how good that looks! Fresh lettuce, tomato and onion, and "lucky sauce" which is tangy, creamy, light orange, and extremely delicious.
While we sat and ate a woman at our table asked what the Festival was all about; she'd just moved from San Francisco to New Jersey, and had just stumbled upon the fest while taking a weekend visit to Manhattan with her family. Since I too am a Bay Area transplant, we chatted about what all Californians love to complain about while in NYC; how there's no good Mexican food on the east coast. Then again, how can we whine about a lack of one particular kind of cuisine in a middle of a fair FULL of international foodstuffs? I have no reason to complain, Ninth Avenue rules.