At the Just Food fundraiser at Water Taxi Beach tonight, courtesy of M, who picked up a pair of pricey tickets to the sold out event. Proceeds benefited this non-profit organization whose focus is to develop a sustainable food system in New York City. In addition to fostering opportunities to support local family farms and community gardeners, Just Food partners community-based organizations with regional farmers to advance the growing movement of CSAs — mine among them.
NB: My involvement with the organization this season is the primary reason that this blog has fallen by the wayside of late. Only so many hours in a day…
The gritty edge of Long Island City is not the typical venue for these types of fundraising events, but given the haute barnyard vibe, it felt appropriate somehow. The rain, which had fallen steadily through most of the afternoon, cleared out in time for our evening at the “beach.” As we checked in, I was tickled to be presented with a selection of flip-flops — pink for me! — more suitable than my office pumps for traipsing around on the still-wet sand.
The event, dubbed “Let Us Eat Local“, began with an awards presentation honoring local leaders and farms. M and I hardly heard the announcements, perhaps because we were happily distracted by the ice cream and Long Island winery tables, which the organizers had positioned in the outer tents, farthest from the podium. (Later, Adrienne Young and her band would provide the musical entertainment from the same stage.) Over two dozen restaurants and purveyors were represented here in all — each offering tastes of their wares, emphasizing local, organic ingredients. All presented with biodegradable servingware and utensils, of course.
We quickly assessed that it would not be possible for us to sample everything. Highlights included the offerings from Cleaver Co. & The Green Table, Candle 79, and Craft. Chef Tom Colicchio, though, was nowhere to be found; perhaps he was otherwise engaged with the new Top Cheftestants in town.
Egg salad on chive biscuit from Tiny’s Giant Sandwich Shop on Rivington:
Both the Telepan and Jean Georges tables ran out of food by the time we made our way their direction towards the end of the evening — we’d heard their dishes were delicious — but we did manage to get to the smokey homemade kielbasa from Gramercy Tavern, artfully presented on skewers, while chatting up their three-starred chef Michael Anthony.
After all the unique gourmet bites presented to us — tasty all — M and I agreed that the most satisfying of all was the humble Harry Hawk burger. After all, very few things can compare to the simple pleasures of a great burger.
Tropical storm Hannah blew in late this afternoon, dumping 3-4 inches of rain onto the city in a matter of hours, flooding the streets of Flushing and halting play at the U.S. Tennis Open Tournament nearby.
At the corner of Prince Street and Roosevelt Avenue sits Sifu Chio, an unassuming restaurant which my parents introduced to me as one of the best places in town to get a bowl of authentic Hong Kong-style wonton noodles – a simple thing, done very well. (Chowhounds like the dumplings.) The restaurant isn’t quite a dive, but the aesthetic is rather plain and utilitarian: open kitchen, florescent lights overhead, menus on the table under glass and every dish served in disposable plasticware. We were the only ones in the shop this evening, probably owing in no small part to the river of wretched rainwater coursing along the sidewalk in front.
What had started out as an order of a few bowls of wonton noodles expanded to include a side of Chinese beef brisket, a dish of Chinese broccoli, a bowl of noodles and fish balls, and a bowl of shrimp watercress dumplings. As the driving rain pounded against the darkened windows, we eagerly scarfed down every bite.
Hard to pinpoint precisely what sets these noodles apart from the hundreds of other bowls I’ve eaten over the years. Dumplings made to order — delicate, tender skins with deliciously fresh filling — are certainly one factor. Mostly, I think, it’s the perfectly textured noodles. In Cantonese, the word to describe them is “song,” a wonderful adjective which has no true English equivalent. Song can be used to describe a bitingly crisp wedge of fruit, a firm yet succulent shrimp, or here, snappy, springy noodles. Al dente in this context comes close, I suppose, but doesn’t quite get to the heart of the irresistibly pleasurable sensation: of tooth meeting initial resistance, then bursting through to tender, juicy center. “Toothsome” (definition 2) is the best general English translation, though I find it lacking in the poetry of “song“.
Later that night, the second annual Sunnyside Shorts Film Festival, which had been scheduled to take place at The Sunnyside Gardens Park, was driven indoors to the newly inaugurated Sunnyside Senior Center at Sunnyside Community Services (Note to self: 39th Street — not the same as 39th Place. A girl raised in Queens should know this. I plead temporary rain-blindness.)
We sat at round formica-topped tables to watch the 16 submissions by filmmakers hailing predominantly from New York — among them a few Sunnyside locals — with contributions from Europe and South America. Several of the short films were set in New York City, and covered an array of genres: animation, documentaries, comedic skits, one painfully earnest teen film student exercise, a sock puppet music video…
Quality varied widely. My favorite was Yolanda Pividal’s 16-minute “Two Dollar Dance” — a poignant examination of the Latino clubs dotted along Roosevelt Avenue in Jackson Heights where a clientele of immigrant men, isolated from mainstream society, gather in the evening to pay for female companionship, if only for the duration of a song — an update of the “dime a dance” girls of the taxi-dance halls of the 20s and 30s. (Unsurprisingly, the workers at these places are often exploited.)
But as credits rolled on the experimental “interpretive dance” short (oof), I discreetly slipped out with SH and AP, in search of the less challenging pleasures of frozen yogurt: green tea and blood orange for me.
The 7 train wasn’t running all the way out to Main Street, which wreaked quite a bit of havoc on my travel plans all this weekend. As the wave of passengers spilled out in Corona where the fleet of shuttle buses were waiting on the street below, I spied a curiously costumed crew directing people to the Queens Museum of Art. I had to investigate.
Turns out that they were members of The NYC Decom Team, promoting NYC Decompression 2007 — the city’s official Burning Man offshoot. Like that annual eight-day long art event that draws tens of thousands to a remote lake bed in the Nevada desert, the Decompression Party was intended to draw creative-types to Flushing Meadows Corona Park–a place so chosen (according to the downloadable survival guide) as “like the Black Rock Desert… a location that may deter the casually curious but pique the interest of [the] genuinely committed.”
Count me among the “casually curious” then. I snapped these photos and continued on my way.
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