DINING OUT: A Vendy-licious 2014 Vendy Awards

September 15, 2014 Helen Klein
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These kitchens on wheels can take you around the world and back again, and many of them bring their eats to Brooklyn, where hungry borough residents line up to sample everything from pupusas to pub-style meat pies and sweet waffles.

On Saturday, September 13, some of the crème de la crème of the city’s food vendors gathered on Governor’s Island for the annual Vendy’s Awards – a day of overeating for attendees and a chance to bask in the spotlight for the mobile chefs, all of whom start the day in the running for one of five different awards: Best of Market, Masters Cup, Best Dessert, Rookie of the Year and the coveted Vendy Cup, as well as the People’s Taste Award.

Not surprisingly – given Brooklyn’s lively food scene – several of the winners have ties to the borough, including Ice & Vice (Best Dessert); Snowday (Rookie of the Year), and Calexico, which took home the Masters Cup.

Snowday, a newcomer to the food truck scene, greeted Vendy ticketholders with maple syrup-drenched Grilled Cheese for a counterpoint of sweet and savory that was slightly messy and utterly delicious. It was served alongside a shot of spicy cool gazpacho studded with chopped veggies, and was washed down with a shot of refreshing cucumber mint slushy.

Equally impressive is Snowday’s socially-conscious mission of training, employing and mentoring formerly incarcerated youth in food service and entrepreneurship. The employees on hand exuded enthusiasm, courtesy and professionalism as they dished up their culinary creations.

Over at Calexico, which has locations in Park Slope and Red Hook in addition to their roving food truck, a mouth-watering beer-battered tilapia Baja Fish Taco was topped with spicy slaw and mango salsa, and competed for space in a large paper bowl with homemade plantain and tortilla chips and a slow-roasted Chipotle Pork Rolled Quesadilla that had both comfort and kick with Calexico’s chipotle ‘crack sauce.’

At Ice & Vice, intensely creamy ice cream secured their prize. Milk Money, which combines toasted milk ice cream with a sea salt chocolate ganache swirl, blew us away with its depth of flavor and density, and Tea Dance’s black tea with lemon-charcoal caramel was both bitter and refreshing. As for Farmer Boy’s blackcurrant ice cream made with goat milk and sprinkled with buckwheat streusel, we slurped every last drop.

Other gastronomic standouts included the vegan Pondicherry Masala Dosa – a Sri Lankan pancake served up by NY Dosas, crispy on the outside and tender on the inside, stuffed with cooked vegetables and served alongside a spicy sauce and savory and satisfying Lentil Soup – and Dub Pies’ yummy New Zealand-style Vegetable Curry and Chicken and Vegetable Pies, whose crispy exterior cradles a stew of meat and veggies.

While you have to go to Manhattan for the dosas, the good news is that Dub Pies is Brooklyn-based, with a brick and mortar location in Park Slope, and truck stops in DUMBO, Park Slope and Williamsburg.

Also to be found in Brooklyn are the Salvadoran pupusas served up by Solber Pupusas, one of the food trucks normally stationed at the Red Hook Ballfields. In these warming delights, sweet masa dough is filled with savory goodness, beans or cheese, garnished with a slice of fried plantain, pickled slaw, jalapenos and curls of red onion, for an amazing array of flavors in a single paper plate.

Zha Pan Asian, a vendor to be found at the Astoria Flea among other places, offered up a duo of savory rice balls – one stuffed with beef bulgogi, a traditional Korean preparation, the other with Thai Green Curry Chicken.

And, for those craving dessert, Craffles Food Truck – another Brooklyn entry – dished out thick waffles topped with Nutella, and strawberry and banana slices. Yum!

With 25 different trucks dishing out their specialties, the event was truly an eater’s delight, at least until the sense of having sampled too much sets in.

“Being a native New Yorker, I know the importance of vending culture here [which] gives young vendors a chance and a supportive leg up,” said one of the 201 Vendy’s judges, Adam Richman, who hails from Brooklyn. “You have a Desi cart next to Shanghai dumplings next to vegan donuts. This is the perfect opportunity to test out concepts and recipes while reflecting culture.”

Of course, there’s always next year.

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