Vendy Awards 2009

After Donny and I completed our Food Truck Odyssey, he suggested that we attend the Vendy Awards, the annual event celebrating street vendors and the food they serve. I said I didn’t want to go; it was too expensive to attend, and I could get food from the trucks/carts any time I wanted. Then, about a week before the Vendys, Donny told me he’d be going as the photographer for Schnitzel & Things, nominee in the new Rookie-of-the-Year category. He asked me again if I wanted to go, and this time I relented. I’m glad that I did.

The Vendys were held in front of the Queens Museum of Art, in the shadow of the old World’s Fair globe. There were over 1000 attendees this year, and 11 finalists with food for all of us. I had a lot of fun, and we met a lot of our fellow bloggers, including Dan Delaney form Vendr.tv and Ed Levine, Erin Zimmer, and Robyn Lee from the Serious Eats crew. We also spotted Anita Lo, Pichet Ong, Zach Brooks, and Jacques Torres. There was even a performance by the Rude Mechanical Orchestra, a sort of alternative marching band.

We got to participate in the voting, and the audience chose Wafels & Dinges as best dessert truck, Schnitzel & Things as Rookie-of-the-Year, and the Biryani Cart as the People’s Choice. The judges chose Red Hook’s own Martinez Country Boys cart as the overall winner, which was a nice surprise — a lot of attention has been given to the new, flashy trucks opening this year, so it was great to see some veterans getting their due. I didn’t eat at every truck (some of them didn’t have vegetarian options), but below you can find my impressions of the food I did eat.

Schnitzel & Things

The sides were all fresh tasting, the eggplant good and crispy. It was a hard decision to make, but I think this was my favorite savory truck of the day. The pesto mayonnaise was a nice touch.

King of Falafel

Really good falafel, and to my delight they even put pickled vegetables into the sandwich. Not many places do this. Plus, they brought belly dancers!

Big Gay Ice Cream Truck

This had no line at the beginning of the awards, and then it turned into the longest line. I’m partly to blame — I went twice. I make no secret about it, the Big Gay Ice Cream Truck is my favorite of the trucks. The ingredients are part of it, but mostly it’s because Doug and Bryan have so much fun with it. I had the wasabi pea topping on my first visit, which was nice and sharp but not overpowering. On my second stop I got the Gobbler, aka the Thanksgiving sundae. Topped with graham cracker crumbles, pumpkin butter, whipped cream, and dried cranberries, it was amazing. The cranberries were what made this something special; it tasted like when everything on your Thanksgiving plate gets mixed together a little bit.

Cupcake Stop

They were quite stingy with the cupcakes at first, not wanting to run out, but later they had people wandering the grounds giving them away. I had the key lime flavor, which had a surprise filling of key lime goop in the center. Really sweet, but quite good.

Biryani Cart

The vegetarian biryani was excellent, the rice was soft and fragrant and really well seasoned. I made a mistake and ate a whole chile pepper, and it made my eyes water. The white sauce and the vinegary hot sauce matched really well with the rice.

NYC Cravings

I’d heard a lot about this Chinese food truck, but never eaten there. The only vegetarian item they had was a vegan dumpling, which was disappointing. The dumpling skin was too thick and the filling was not my cup of tea. I heard good things about the pork gravy and the other meat products

Jamaican Dutchy

No vegetarian entree options, but I got a piece of bread pudding. It was ok, very dense and very chewy.

Rickshaw Dumplings

Donny said he preferred the Cravings dumplings to these, but I liked the Rickshaw ones better. Not that they were the best dumplings I’ve ever eaten, but they had much better flavor. The cold noodles along side weren’t so good.

All in all, it was a really fun day. Not worth the $80 admission, despite the free beer, but fun nonetheless. As always, meeting new people and talking to all of the vendors was the best part of the day; the fact that there was good food was just icing on the cake.

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