Here’s to another year of fun and fancy foods.
The Queens Economic Development Corporation’s 13th annual Queens Taste festival drew attendees from the whole city Tuesday to sample some of the borough’s most diverse and delectable dishes and drinks.
The New York Hall of Science hosted a total of 67 vendors providing every imaginable flavor to attendees, who jumped from crunchy, creamy, spicy and salty, and from bite to bite. Live Afro-Latin jazz music drifted over the crowd as food from 20 different countries was eaten, a considerable growth since the event’s first year of only 12 vendors.
“We’ve got a little bit of everything, which, to me, is the beauty of Queens: its diversity,” said Rob MacKay, director of public relations, marketing and tourism for the QEDC, which works to create jobs by promoting tourism and business development. “And it’s not just diverse people; we also have diverse cuisine.”
Local eateries had to keep up a quick pace to satisfy the appetite of the 650 guests. Many of the booths featured chefs creating fresh dishes from raw ingredients as if by magic, flipping burgers, frying chicken and slicing beef tenderloin for passersby to admire. With so many options available, anyone lucky enough to attend left the night with a very full stomach.
“It was full. There were a lot of people,” said Christina Nastasi, pastry chef at Rudy’s Bakery and Cafe in Ridgewood. “I totally finished everything. I had 500 [desserts], and it’s gone an hour before the event is even finished.”
For many restaurateurs, the event was an opportunity to reach out to new audiences who had not yet tried their styles of cuisine. Luccas Leite of Beija Flor, a family-owned Brazilian eatery in Long Island City, said that the event was a chance to introduce people to the culture of the South American nation, which can also be experienced as a total package in live music performances at the restaurant.
“Brazilian food isn’t very popular but we’re very happy to be able to expose people to not only the food but a couple of drinks too,” Leite said.
While guests may have had their head spinning because of all the excitement surrounding the event, most knew which flavors stood out as their favorites.
“I really like spicy food,” said Sarah Kam, who said that one of her favorite flavors was the Tango Chili hot sauce, a tangy and salty Central-American-born condiment with a hint of lime. Kam also enjoyed a cocktail made with fresh cucumber, celery and Queens Courage gin from Astoria Distilling Company.
Craig Tamamoto said that while he enjoyed being able to taste the more unusual culinary fare at the festival, his favorite flavor was the classic burger from Bareburger, which sells organic and gourmet hamburgers in Astoria, Bayside, Forest Hills and LIC.
“It had a bacon jam on top of it, which I’d never heard of before,” said Tamamoto.
Perhaps the only person in the room who did not eat anything was QEDC Executive Director Seth Bornstein. He said that he enjoys going to all the restaurants throughout the year, but he was so busy hosting that he would have to settle for a late-night snack at home later that night.
“I’ve got to be on to speak to everybody so I’m busy chatting,” said Bornstein. “That’s the irony. It’s all this wonderful food and I’m told it’s great, but my role is to be the host and make sure everybody has a good time.”