The Vendy Awards took place on Governor's Island last Saturday (Sept. 25th!--wow, time is flying) and boy was it an exercise in gluttony. I mean, it was also a celebration of the best of NYC street food, sure, and a fund raiser for the Street Vendor Project, but mostly it was a test of your stomach capacity and your ability to stand in a line under the hot sun. Actually, standing in line turned out to be a good thing, it allowed you to digest a bit before you continued to stuff yourself!
Our first stop after we checked in (we didn't have to wait in line, woohoo!) was the King of Falafel and Shawarma. I don't know why I didn't get a photo of my falafel ball or my brother's falafel sandwich, but holy cow was it delicious. Definitely the best falafel I've had (sorry, Crisp, you lose). Unfortunately this truck is usually parked in Astoria and I'm not there very often! I may have to make a special trip the next time I have a craving...Obviously we weren't the only people to think so, as they won both the People's Choice and the Vendy Cup.
Our next stop was Yao's Dragon Beard Candy (usually found in Chinatown); that's one half of the couple above making the candy. I've read that this is a dying art, so it was especially nice to get to see it being produced. It's basically a form of candy floss, with a sugar mixture being pulled until it forms very fine strands which are then wrapped around a filling of coconut and crushed peanuts. The finished candies kind of look like cocoons! Again, delicious, and something you don't see very often--the couple running it were also very sweet and gave us a box to take away with us.
Next, we made a beeline for where the Rookie finalists were stationed, starting with A Pou's Taste, a newish food cart that's usually found on Astor Place (whoops, I see that they now also have locations on the UWS and the financial district) and and serving up Taiwanese snacks, including these potstickers and some yummy corn chowder! The hot and sour soup was also pretty good. I am very, very picky about my dumplings (and generally speaking, prefer my own), but I thought these were pretty good!
This was probably my biggest surprise; everything on this plate is vegan, and everything was pretty delicious! Cinnamon Snail is based in NJ (currently vending in Hoboken) and quite honestly, I was not expecting much from this. But! everything on this plate was pretty yummy, although my favorite was the Korean bbq seitan taco. I know, meeee, eating seitan? They were also handing out S'more donuts (too sweet for me) and had theme outfits going on--what's not to like?
Next up was Mexicue, which I had been looking forward to trying. But honestly, I was kind of disappointed in the short rib taco, which was surprisingly dry.
I did greatly enjoy the pulled pork slider, though. I should also note that by this point I was already starting to fill up (having eaten a falafel ball, 2 potstickers, a little cup of soup, a giant plate of vegan treats, a taco, another slider...).
Which is why I went with a stick of chicken souvlaki at Souvlaki GR, rather than the whole sandwich (and I also passed on the fries, which looked delicious. Sob.) I LOVED this! It was juicy, very flavorful, a little charred (a good thing)...my brother had good things to say about the pita, too. They won Rookie of the Year, which I thought was well deserved.
At this point, we started looking for dessert, and how can you resist the Big Gay Ice Cream Truck? I love their name and their logo. They have ice cream cones named the Salty Pimp and Bea Arthur, which I think is hilarious.
The Salty Pimp! Vanilla soft serve with dulce de leche, sea salt, and chocolate dip.
Bea Arthur! Vanilla soft serve with dulce de leche and crushed Nilla wafers. Their ice cream is more about the toppings, it seems like, because at the end of the day, it's still just vanilla soft serve. I liked the idea of the Salty Pimp, but I think it would have been awesome if it was dulce de leche ice cream rather than vanilla! After this, I also grabbed a tiny square of tres leches cake from Patacon Pisao; I really wanted to try their plantain sandwiches, but argh, my stomach could not take anymore. (We also skipped El Rey de Sabor. I am clearly not a champion eater.)
So, we got in line for a stomach-soothing slush. Oh man. It was a long line. This is about half of the line that we were in (the other half you can't see because I had a prime lens and not a zoom)...and by the time it was our turn, I was REALLY REALLY ready for my slushie! They have a choice of three bases which you can add mix-ins too (mostly fruit based).
Here's my ginger and mango slushie. Oh, it was so good. I don't know if it was the heat, or the fact that I had waited on line for approximately a century, but YUM. (They won the Dessert Vendy!) By the way, as we were walking away with our prizes, the line had at least doubled, and people were starting to eye our drinks covetously.
The ginger must have helped our digestion a bit because somehow, we were ready to taste more food, and our final savory stop was the Bistro Truck (meaning that we also skipped 99% Vegetarian and Schnitzel & Things. Boo. Must seek these out separately.) I really enjoyed the merguez and the lamb & prunes over couscous, but I also definitely was no longer interested in eating. Sigh. This was starting to feel like work!
Fortunately, there is always room for (more) ice cream, so we hit up Guerrilla Ice Cream as our final stop of the day. This company is interesting because according to their website, 100% of their profits go to support marginalized populations in NYC and around the world. I sort of wish there was more info on this on their website! Anyway, above is the Libertacao (72% chocolate and port wine, with bruleed bananas and cashews). They were torching the bananas on the spot, which is always fun to watch (heh, fire!) I tried a bit of the ice cream (this was my brother's choice) and the chocolate was very intense and very, very good.
Aaaaand finally, my choice, the 8888 Uprising (mango, lemongrass, and palm sugar sorbet with lime zest and coconut). I really wanted to try the masala chai flavored ice cream, but I didn't think I could handle any more rich food. The sorbet was refreshing and I managed to finish my whole cup. And then we rolled ourselves home.
Phew, that was a really long post. Looking back now, I can't believe that I ate as much as I did--and I can't believe the people who were able to try every single cart! You people are true food warriors. Congratulations to all the finalists and especially to the winners (since they were all *my* favorite picks too ;)). Thanks to my brother (hey, it's his birthday today!) for coming along and being my cooperative hand model. Next year, I might have to starve myself for a few days first....
(Boy, I haven't baked anything in ages. Will remedy that this weekend, if I am still standing after karaoke and Comic-Con! Woohoo!)