Effectively curating a New York food festival means assembling a roster of vendors as uniquely diverse as the city itself. And Grub Street, New York magazine's food and restaurant blog, more than answered the charge during their seventh annual takeover of the Hester Street Fair. Located in the Lower East Side, the bustling marketplace gathers popular food and shopping vendors from across NYC every Saturday from May to October. On this particular Saturday, the gastronomic celebration featured over 50 culinary artisans, serving everything from Chinese bao to Malaysian roti and manousheh from Beirut – and we've rounded up nine of the most memorable multicultural bites.
That co-mingling of culinary traditions is perhaps most intriguingly expressed in Kartoffelkucha – a dense potato cake with Alpine cheese.
1. Babu Ji
The critically acclaimed Aussie import located in the East Village brought simmering pots of their heralded Butter Chicken – marinated in yogurt and swathed in a ginger, tomato and fenugreek-scented sauce – to the festival. They also showcased other contemporary Indian creations, such as spicy Beef Korma seasoned with cardamom and cumin, and Cauliflower Coconut Curry – pebbled with pungent mustard seeds.
2. Harry & Ida's Meat and Supply
This modern Jewish deli pulled out the big guns, offering a semi-scaled down version of the beloved pastrami sandwich offered at their East Village general store. Served in a half sub, and sold for almost half the price, it was still immense by anyone's standards, and otherwise identical to the original – boasting a thick layer of fire-engine red brisket, rounds of buttermilk-fermented cucumber, a slick of fermented mustard, and a sheath of fresh dill.
3. Baby Brasa
The owner may be a male model, but the fare offered by this healthful Peruvian spot (which opened on nearby Allen Street this past summer) was every bit as pretty, including the Sanguche de Durazno – lengths of toasted French baguette cradling rotisserie chicken salad and bright slices of peach, and ladled with purple onion-flecked salsa criolla.
4. Catmint Wheel Cake
One of the first NYC street vendors focusing on the wheel-shaped cakes of Taiwan, the Catmint team put on quite a show – continuously flipping vanilla, banana and matcha-flavored pastries in their giant, many-holed griddles, and piping their still-warm centers with cream custard, red bean paste and silky chocolate ganache.
What is Hong Kong French Toast, you ask? It starts with hulking, crustless squares of snow-white milk bread (the kind commonly found in Chinatown), which get dunked in eggy custard and arrayed in all manner of photo-ready permutations. Add pumpkin with whipped cream, brie, apple and honey, and oozy chocolate hazelnut banana – and (if you like) top with chocolate sauce, condensed milk or anise-imbued syrup.
With NYC's steady proliferation of single-dish vendors and restaurant concepts, it was only a matter of time before a crew of enterprising youngsters homed in on matzah brei; the classic Jewish scramble of eggs and matzah. While blessedly simple, it's also tremendously versatile, which is why they've taken it into the 21st century by transforming the savory pancakes into sandwiches – we were duly won over by an Israeli version, packed with roasted peppers, mint, tahini and beets.
7. Rudy's Chilaquiles
Festival-goers not quite ready to chow on pastrami at 11am made a bee-line for this Queens-based, family-run eatery, which crafted the Mexican-American brunch staple from freshly-fried tortilla chips and floppy, sunny-side up eggs, showered with salsa, queso fresco, and crimson coins of chorizo.
8. Sweet & Salzig
Onion cake with Tyrolean speck? Sauerkraut cake served with bratwurst? You won't find pedestrian chocolate pastries at this South German bakeshop, which draws inspiration for its goodies from the Schwabenland region of Germany, which borders Switzerland and Alsace. And that co-mingling of culinary traditions is perhaps most intriguingly expressed in Kartoffelkucha – a dense potato cake with Alpine cheese, taken to the next level with a swirl of Mike's Hot Honey.
What else to call a food stand that serves yummy dumplings? Made with hand-rolled skins wadded with pork and garlic chives or vegetables, and finished with a verdant bed of chili oil, cilantro and scallions, they proved a fitting addition to an eating event situated in NYC's premiere Chinatown.
Grub Street Food Festival was just one of the many events presented by Citi that offered dining perks to Citi cardmembers. For more information on upcoming dining events in your area, visit https://www.citiprivatepass.com/dining.