Every week, I document another dish that impressed and satiated me during my food adventures around New York City

VENDY AWARDS 2013When I was younger, my favorite day of the year was the night of the Academy Awards. I even got more excited about the Oscars than I did for my own birthday.  All day long, at school, I couldn’t focus on anything but who would win the major awards and what funny things Billy Crystal would say. Unlike some people, I wasn’t as interested in the outfit that Winona Ryder would be wearing.

It’s fitting that some people call the Vendy Awards the “Oscars of food trucks” because it is currently my favorite day of the year. The afternoon is hosted by the Street Vendor Project, who we work very closely with at Turnstile Tours. They fight for the rights of the vendors, a group who are seemingly harrassed by the city for just doing their jobs. The Vendys act as both a fundraiser and a marketing tool, but also as a day of celebration. While the Vendys do hand out official awards, it’s truly  a celebration of the perserverance, hard work, and delicious food of NY’s street vendors.

Every year, vendors from all over the city come together to offer up their food and compete for the coveted Vendy Cup. This year the event happened in the middle of Industry City, far away from the subway in Sunset Park. But it was well-worth the hike because in this outdoor industrial space, you could taste Irish nachos from Bronx’s The Chipper Truck, cheesy pupusas from champion El Olomega, and vegan gutbombs from uber-popular truck The Cinnamon Snail.

But, for me, the most interesting dish on offer was from Cholita Cuencana, a surprising nominee for the Dessert category. Maria Crespo is an Ecuadorian immigrant who has been serving a traditional dessert on the streets of Corona, Queens for over 25 years, The dessert is called espumilla and it’s unlike anything else.

Espumilla from CHOLITA CUENCANA at THE VENDY AWARDS

Well, that’s not exactly true. It’s like a lot of different things, but you have to taste this to fully understand. The foamy concoction looks like ice cream, but is soft and airy like a mousse. But the texture is more like a melting marshmallow or a firmer meringue. Made of just egg whites, sugar, and fruit (the flavor was guava but berries were also hiding throughout), it’s deceptively simple but a real delicious and unique treat.

No doubt the Vendys are better than the Oscars. You might not see as many celebrities (although the judges included Food Network’s Justin Warner and Brooklyn Brewery’s Garrett Oliver), but I can guarantee you the food is better.

CHOLITA CUENCANA
Corner of Roosevelt Avenue and Junction Boulevard
Corona, Queens
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About the Author

Brian Hoffman is a classically trained actor who is now a full-time tour guide, blogger, and food obsessive. He leads food and drink tours around New York City, which not only introduce tour-goers to delicious food, but gives them a historical context. He also writes food articles for Gothamist and Midtown Lunch in addition to overseeing this blog and a few food video series, including Eat This, Locals Know, and Around the World in One City.

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