Blog: Taste of Long Island City
The rain threatened for a bit but managed to hold off on Tuesday night, allowing the 7th Annual Taste of Long Island City to go off without a hitch. A massive white tent was erected in the center of Gantry Plaza State Park on the Long Island City waterfront, exposing the neighborhood’s picturesque views across the river at Manhattan. With more than 40 different food and drink purveyors, the evening was a veritable party celebrating some of the area’s finest eats, fully equipped with live music, a silent auction, and special guests to bring folks from all five boroughs out to this rapidly expanding metropolis.
With plenty to offer ticket holders on this night, their admission fee would go to benefit The Chocolate Factory Theater, an environment that supports aspiring artists with access to free space and services in a multitude of different creative disciplines. The tent was packed with hungry patrons upon our arrival- some loading different foods atop orange frisbees used as makeshift plates and some nibbling here and there, with both hands full, taking in the energetic atmosphere inside. Attendees were handed a complimentary t-shirt and an LIC Passport filled with local restaurant discounts as they reached the tent’s entrance, a nice touch to encourage repeat business.
Inside, space proved diminutive but was not a deterrent for making the rounds to each and every stop. Surrounding the silent auction tables smack in the center of the tent was every vital neighborhood joint serving up generous portions of sampled food, and boy, were there a ton of different options to select from. Our perennial area favorite, craft beer bar Alewife was plating bowls of their hearty “Jalapeno Mac and Cheese,” a smoky and spicy concoction paired with pourings of Dale’s Pale Ale. The creamy, smothered pasta, served with sprinkles of pulled pork croutons was our first taste once inside the tent and quickly became the evening’s highlight for our tastebuds. Also worthy of high praise was Alobar’s full sized “Buffalo Sausage.” The chipotle infused meat was topped with a substantial spoonful of tasty beans and a ladle of soft white cheese. The inventive restaurant was also dishing out bags of “Maple and Bacon Popcorn,” with the recipe affixed to the bag and actual strips of cooked bacon inside, atop the sticky, sweet popped kernels.
Without naming every food we sampled throughout the course of the two hours we spent inside, our other favorites included the LIC Market’s refreshing “Gazpacho,” Manetta’s Ristorante’s savory “Meatballs,” and Manducatis Rustica’s absolutely incredible “Truffle Ham Sandwich.” Served on rustic white bread, the rich black truffle flavor complimented the cured meat wonderfully as we devoured every inch of flavor in the handheld sandwich. With our appetites fully satiated after some desserts courtesy of Antidote Chocolate and an inventive “Watermelon Mallow” from Mitchmallows, it was time to take a breather. Luckily, the live music of Doll Parts, a Dolly Parton cover band was banging out hits from “Jolene” to “I Will Always Love You.” Special guests and speakers like NYC Councilwoman Christine Quinn, Queens Borough President Helen Marshall, and NYC Council and Chairman Jimmy Van Bramer, schmoozed with locals and enjoyed some tastings of their own as crowds swarmed around them. Even Howard Stern Show staffer and Charred Walls of the Damned drummer Richard Christy was spotted out on the pier chatting up some excited revelers, as the evening drew toward a close.
While the Taste of Long Island City certainly drew us across the river (just a 7 minute ride from Grand Central Station), the event served to shine a spotlight upon some of the best parts of the area’s surroundings. For those of us unfamiliar with the bustling neighborhood, the walk from the subway to the park was an eye opening one. With modern high rises popping up seemingly on every corner and with a strip of fun bars and restaurants that is only going to expand, Long Island City is likely to undergo a new surge of popularity over the next few years, perhaps enjoying a similar renaissance to that of Astoria or (gulp) Williamsburg. Although rents are hardly cheap as a result of the close proximity to New York City, there are certainly bargains there to be had. And if this year’s Taste of Long Island City was any indication, the future certainly seems bright just a stone’s throw across the East River.
- Jane Van Arsdale