Here it is, my first blog post on my BIG trip to New York as a finalist in the Extended Stay America Away From Home Cooking Contest with Sunny Anderson.
I’ve been promised a bunch of professional pics of the experience, so I plan on doing a post about the deets of the contest when I get those. I’ll just tell you now that it was a blast and the dream of a lifetime to meet Sunny. Still pinching myself.
But for now, I wanted to share with you the ins and outs of a food truck tour I participated in while I was in the City.
Extended Stay sent the four finalists on a tour with a company Called Sidewalks of New York.
There is nothing like walking through downtown Manhattan. You must be on foot to take in all the sights, smells, and the unique vibe of the city. It is truly a world all it’s own-one that must be tasted to fully be discovered and understood.
I inquired about the price of the tour and it’s around $50. Not bad for getting a guided walk through a few blocks of the city, having tidbits of history spoon fed to you, and sampling delicious food from five different trucks. I actually think it’s quite a bargain considering that we got full sized portions of food from each truck. We were told we’d be full, but I’m a big eater so I thought, “well, we will see”. I literally had to ROLL into a cab afterward and I didn’t even eat everything-though I tried…I desperately tried.
We were met by our tour guide Dante Mercadante from Yonkers.
Dante was an enthusiastic host, with abundant knowledge of the city, and great taste in street food.
The first stop we made was at Biryani House.
I just love Indian food, anyway. It’s so vibrant, colorful, and so intensified with flavorful spices, that there just isn’t anything like it in the world. To me, it’s comfort food at is very best. The item we sampled here is called a Kati Roll.
It was almost like a taco, but the bread was a thin, chewy, greasy masterpiece. It was filled with chicken, fragrant spices, and a delicious sauce. I snarfed this thing down like there was literally no tomorrow. Shamelessly, right there on the street, smearing paper napkins across my chin between bites. I. Loved. This. Thing. It was truly delicious, memorable, and something I would insist on getting again.
The next stop was Tacos Morales.
You can’t really go on a food truck tour without having a street taco, now can ya? This truck had all your basics covered: chicken, tender carnitas, spicy chorizo…but, I chose the Barbacoa, a tender, steamed goat taco with all the fixins. It was really wonderful. The meat was tender, the spices bold, the lime cut into the rich guacamole perfectly. I have never had such enjoyment standing in the middle of the street chowing down, with stuff dripping everywhere.
Our third stop on the tour was an Ecuadorian truck called San Luis.
We had pork that was cooked for hours and hours, some delicious sweet potato cakes, and the freshest, lightest guacamole that I’ve ever had. It really was a treat.
Now by this time, considering I ate the above three items in their entirety, I was slowly descending into a food coma. By the time we got to the next truck, I was only able to have a nibble. But oh, the nibble it was.
This truck is called Absolute Greek.
The chef named John told us that he uses chicken thighs instead of breasts for the souvlaki so the meat stays moist. The oregano is imported from Greece. I was so full, I actually forgot to take a pic of the dish, but just think of beautifully cooked, moist chicken, slightly charred on the outside, with the fragrance of lovely herbs, and cool tzatziki sauce. Real quality food, right there on the streets of New York City.
So, last, but certainly not least, was our visit to Waffles and Dinges.
This was super cool for me because I’d seen this truck on TV a few times. I often watch Eat Street on the Cooking Channel when I have insomnia. When this truck has been featured on the show, I notice that people are just simply passionate about it. They rant, they rave, they Tweet…all about this waffle truck from heaven. I am just not a sweets person at all..sweets just don’t excite me. BUT…even I could appreciate this crispy, hot, divine waffle covered in speculoos spread, whipped cream, and a dusting of powdered sugar. Good God Almighty. I literally could have cried.
What is speculoos spread you ask? It’s like peanut butter made from Dutch shortbread cookies. It is sinful and you will want to bathe in it. It is literally the kind of food you’d risk being thrown in a foreign jail for smuggling it across the border.
I am a big believer that tasting the local fare is one of the most important things you can do on a vacation. Whether you scan the local markets for unique ingredients to prepare your own meals, or you hit the streets and find out where the locals go to dine, you must taste, ingest, and indulge in the place around you in order to know what it’s really made of.
Food trucks have some of the most appetizing, authentic food you will ever try. I hope this trend in food keeps growing. It’s a wonderful way to make beautiful fare without a brick and mortar place. I have such respect for food truck chefs-they work very hard in a tiny space. They fight everyday for a little piece of the street on which to do their business. They also take the ultimate pride in what they serve you. I find that they love to talk about their food…they want to tell you where the recipe is from, what their special take on it is, and how much you will enjoy it. It’s food flavored with love, and you are not going to find that in some chain restaurant.
New York to me is the ultimate melting pot of cultures, a feast for the senses, a bustling menagerie of people. It is impossible to describe fully unless you’ve experienced it. I find myself thinking back to what it was like 50 or 100 years ago…how some of the facades have surely changed but the heart of it still as it has always been…the center of the universe, the place of big deals, hopes, and dreams.
But oh, how I was excited to get back home, into the arms of my family, and back to my life. I’ll visit again someday!
Thanks Sunny Anderson, Extended Stay, Tenth Wave, and Sidewalks of NY for truly memorable experience.