Food Studies

What We Know About Starting (Food) Businesses in Cuba

 

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While the trade embargo remains, President Barack Obama’s recent and unprecedented 21st entury visit to Cuba is symbolic of a new amiable age between the two nations. On December 2014, presidents Obama and Raul Castro simultaneously addressed their nations, promising to restore diplomatic ties between the United States and Cuba, after more than 60 years. In August 2015, the US Embassy in Cuba raised its flag, and since, Cuba has been in the global spotlight, romanticized as a place for nostalgic tourism and economic opportunity.

 

The rapidly changing economic climate comes with business opportunities: the Port of Havana is only 198 nautical miles from the Port of Miami, which would ease exports and tourism between the two countries. European and Asian countries have decreased the barriers to entry for doing business on the island; they have been there for decades. the nation boasts of a population of 11 million, previously secluded and longing for American goods. Illegal satellite TV hardware present in many Cuban homes are eyes into the world of American capitalism.

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Demand is high. The supply is there. But as of March 2016, Cuba isn’t quite ready for capitalism just yet.

 

Removing the embargo would facilitate investments between the US and Cuba — meaning between the US government, US companies, US individuals, and US entities and the Cuban government. See the disparity? Also, only Cuban nationals (excluding expatriates) can ‘own’ property in Cuba — so unless a foreigner marries a Cuban national and opens the business under his/her name, dreams of opening small businesses like restaurants, cafeterias and bars are futile.

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According to the Los Angeles Times, while the U.S. Treasury and the Commerce Department has eased restrictions on remittances, facilitating trade in the telecommunication and agriculture sectors and allowing some U.S. companies to establish a physical presence on the island — most U.S. firms are still not allowed to invest in Cuba.

 

A few American businesses are already operating in Cuba: Airbnb and Netflix uniquely satisfy a preexisting model of ownership.

 

Tyson Foods is perhaps the largest American food business present on the island. It has been doing business with Cuba since 2000, when restrictions on farm products were lifted.

 

I was there just days before the arrival of Obama, and I can tell you that Cuba is not ready yet.

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At a restaurant in the Prado district of Havana, I had a conversation with a waiter, whom I had invited to dinner. It was his first time there. Most Cubans live off government salaries of around $25 a month, the cost of our meal. There, he told me of his dream of going to the US to work on a trucking business, returning with enough capital to open a restaurant in Havana before they let the yumas (foreigners) own property in Cuba.

 

“Havana is where I belong,” he said.

 

Cuba is not ready yet, but if his eagerness is any indication of the omnipresent entrepreneurial spirit that inhabits the island — for better or for worse — capitalism isn’t all that far away.

 

New York City Food Tour #10: The Italians of Manhattan — Little Italy and Beyond

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On Mulberry Street in Manhattan, between Broome and Canal lies the home of all-things-Italian, or at least that once were spanning even larger and longer throughout the area before moving to the suburbs.

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In the late 1800s, at the rise of European immigration in New York City, this area was home to a multitude of Southern Italians from Sicily and Naples. Many of them, not thinking of themselves as Italian, as they don’t speak Italian at the time, find themselves bonding over culinary commonalities.

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For Italians, there was this idea that they would at some point ‘return home’ — also providing the rationale for not fully assimilating into American society. They did return, however, just to bring back their brides.

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Will you come here and able no practice your Italian? —  probably not, unless you cross paths with other Italians tourists.

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They have to advertise their English speaking masses, as English and Vietnamese now, not English and Italian, poignant of the changing demographics.

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The remnants of this rich and delectable history lie of course in this neighborhood, but also beyond where there isn’t as much red, green, and white — but the color is just as much shining through the pastries and sausages on the window.

Long live Italy in New York City.

PLACES OF INTEREST: 

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Pizza @ Lombardi’s

Pizza:

Keste -West Village- This is my personal favorite sit-down pizza place, with a chef/owner who is a Neapolitan pizza “maestro”  — I can certainly taste the “master” in the pizza.

Patsy’s – only ever had it to go, but good god, I think this is my absolute favorite NYC pizza, #ever — great thin crust, mozzarella & basil combo

Johns Brick Oven -West Village- doors down from Keste — it usually has a line

Lombardi’s – Nolita – claims to be the first pizza shop in NYC. Certain Italian charm there that is able to transport you away from Manhattan and straight into a Trattoria in Italy — with a passion for Italian-Americans; Frank Sinatra is king here, along with the imported Birra Moretti, and red and white checkered table cloths. You can totes buy their olive oil for $12.  Note: cash only, but there’s an ATM inside. Don’t come alone because the smallest  pizza has 6 slices; I had to give mine away

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Coffee:

Caffe Reggio – in the Village- claims to have brought over the first cappuccino from Italy, hence having the first cappuccino in NYC — very cool, antique atmosphere in there

La Lanterna – in the Village –  just a few doors down from Cafe Reggio, this place offers a large menu of Italian snacks and food; there’s a winter garden in the back with beautiful lamps (hence the name) that will light up any cold gloomy day

D’Amico Coffee – Brooklyn –

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Bakeries:

La Bella Ferrara – Little Italy -Easter bread, Nutella, Turron

Ferrara -Little Italy- cannoli cream; gelato!

Carlo’s Bakery – Hoboken –  because I’m biased towards New Jersey, but try their Canopus and stuff versus the cakes; I had my sweet 16 cake here (before they were famous and super expensive); I can attest to the better quality of their Italian pastries — i.e. cannoli and biscotti – versus the cakes which actually are the ones that they’re famous for

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Gelato:

Il Laboratorio del Gelato -Lower East Side- SO cool, and futuristic, and my favorite ice cream store in NYC; it really looks like a lab!

M’o Il Gelato  – Little Italy – authentic Italian gelato flavors

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Miscellaneous: 

Eataly  -Flatiron- grandfather of all things Italian-food-store in NYC, from pasta to gelato, breakfast cereals and biscotti — here, you’re in Italy, you’re home.

Mezetto – Lower East Side — Mediterranean/ Italian fusion restaurant

Forlini’s — never been but owned by the family of my college roommate Suzanne — perhaps the last Italian place left in that area of Chinatown

Italian American Museum

San Gennaro Festival 

Lucali — Brooklyn 

Caputo’s Fine Foods — Brooklyn

Espositos and Sons Pork Store — Brooklyn

Christmas Store – It’s always Christmas at this store in Little Italy!

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New York City Food Tour #9: The Japanese of Manhattan — Little Tokyo in the East Village

IMG_1172.JPGYou’ve heard of Chinatown – Little Italy – but what about Little Tokyo?

I was unaware of the vibrant presence of – until I went back with my friend, foodie compatriot & she told me that 10 years ago, what is now a hub for tattoo shops and synonymous with college students was mostly known as being (a) Little Tokyo.

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At a second glance, it’s still there! But perhaps in a very Japanese paradox — of simplicity, zen, and minimalism in juxtaposition to vibrant city lights, video games, and lots of sound — Little Tokyo in Manhattan is on the minimalist end of the spectrum, disguised by the omnipresent dynamism that is the East Village.

I went back a few days ago just to really take a look, on the ground level and above to discover some of the remnants of Japan in the East Village. Here they are!

PLACES OF INTEREST: 

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Photo Courtesy of my Friend and Foodie, Elle

Restaurants:

Ramen Takumi – for ramen, of course

Yakitori Taisho – good for yakitori — Japanese skewers

Cocoron — for soba

Fukurou– really feels like Japan. Great ambience. They have avocado tofu!

Village Yokocho – open kitchen – also holds the doors to the Angel Share speakeasy vvv

Masa – Columbus Circle – 3*** Michelin chef; go here for a very very important date, or a super-mega tread to yourself; imported Japanese stones to absorb sound and smell; have a less expensive bar menu outside of the sushi dinner option

Bars/Speakeasies: 

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Angel’s Share — inside Yokocho, (to the left once you go up the stairs) — it has incredibly seasonal and well-tested cocktails, including a vast list of Japanese whiskies

Kopi  Kopi – on West 3rd street — speakeasy ramen bar behind an Indonesian coffee bar

Yopparai – speakeasy – have to press a buzzer and then be ushered into the bar

 

Miscellaneous: 

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Pearl River Mart – Soho- for Japanese tea and other commodities

Muji – Soho, Times Square – for Japanese stationery, house wear, and some apparel — love their humidifiers! (Sometimes, I go there just for that and to sit on their beanies)

Jupioca — JUICES + SMOOTHIES near school w/ tapioca

Sunrise Mart – for all-things Japanese food and beyond

Nolita Mart – have good donuts + Japanese-style coffee

Japan Day in Central Park soon!

Cha-an – Teahouse and Japanese desire place

Kopi  Kopi – on West 3rd street — speakeasy ramen bar behind an Indonesian coffee bar
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New York City Food Tour #8: Palestinians in Manhattan and Brooklyn

I. MIGRATION HISTORY IN NYC POST 1948:

Palestinians:

PA213812.JPGIt is quantifiably challenging to estimate the number of Palestinians present in the United States, as although Palestinians have been known to migrate to the United States soon after 1908, the first significant wave of Palestinian emigration did not come about until after the formation of the Israeli state in 1948, at which point most came as refugees (Every Culture). According to the 2000 United States Census, there were approximately 72,112 people of Palestinian ancestry living in the United States; however, a number of researchers are settling on numbers closer to 200,000 (Every Culture).

In the United States, 46% of Palestinians have a college degree, as opposed to 18% of the entire Unites States Population (Every Culture) and partake in white-collar jobs, with those without college degrees more prone to take up small businesses or lay jobs in the service sector.

 

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III. CURRENT CLIMATE in NYC:             

Palestinian Civic Participation:

When I Googled “Palestine in NYC”, and all of the relevant keywords, unfortunately not much came up, aside from activist groups like the Students for Justice in Palestine at New York University, which aims to “promote justice, human rights, liberation, and self-determination for the Palestinian people” (SJP), or the Palestine solidarity group, which “came together seeking to broaden the work being done on Palestine by opening up more expansive spaces of resistances”

I learned more about the current climate through my interview with Jumana, the owner of the Tanoreen restaurant (included in our food tour below):

“We don’t mix business and politics. Some people come in here to instigate, but we don’t allow it here. 80% of our customers are non-Arabs, and we consider ourselves cultural ambassadors. We’re cooking all of my grandmother’s recipes. We spread our culture through food. ”

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Food:

Let us go back to hummus, but again, only as a symbol of both Israeli and Palestinian cuisine and where they intersect. Across the ocean, nationals in the United States are using food as a source of connection and collaboration: “On Thursday, hummus will become a symbol of peace as 15 Muslim and Jewish activists break bread together and participate in an all-day bus tour of Maryland, Washington D.C. and Virginia with a message of reconciliation. Bearing trays of homemade hummus and pita bread, the activists hope to spread the message that Muslims and Jews refuse to be enemies” (Huffington Post). This happened just this November 2015, really vibrantly depicting the emphasis that is placed on hummus and cross-cultural foods at the pinnacle of unanimity.

Here in New York City, one of my Uber drivers began telling me about how his friend was the owner of the Israeli Maoz vegetarian food chain, which inspired another interview with a Palestinian Uber driver included in this ethnographic landscaping. In fact, in addition to this, he reminded me that the hummus giant, Sabra, was founded by an American-Israeli entrepreneur, reflective of both the entrepreneurial and cultural ambassadorship of Israelis in the United States.

To that end, a 1976 quote on the website of Mamoun’s Falafel shop, which is also included in our tour, reminds us of the dynamism of this idea, which is not a new one in New York City:  “Henry Kissinger can take a lesson in diplomacy. Mamoun has Arabs and Jews sitting at the same table.”

 

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Interview w/ Palestinian Uber Driver:

https://soundcloud.com/kitchen-connection/interview-with-palestinian-uber-driver

 

 

“Most of the Palestinians or Egyptians, Lebanese or Muslim, their concern is to eat something that has no pork, so if I find an Israeli store or a Jewish store, I’m guaranteed 100% that there is no pork, so I go and buy my pork from there because I know that there is no pork, so that’s my priority, #1. No matter if they are from Israel, that’s not my concern now. But if I find some other store that has food 100% pork free- no pork, I’ll go to the other store”

Above all things, this brings us to the idea that consumption — and all aspects surrounding it pre and post-consumption are reflective of who you are and the community at large that you are a part of.

He proceeded to tell me about the process of the food, of what makes something halal as compared to kosher, and of the nutritional benefits of both of them. It’s what ‘we share’, he said.

PLACES OF INTEREST: 

PART I. MANHATTAN:

1. MAMOUN’S

 

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Address: 22 St. Marks Place, New York, NY 10003

Phone: (212) 387-7747

Hours:  Sunday-Wednesday 11am-4am

Thursday-Saturday 11am-5am

Online: http://www.mamouns.com/

 

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About: “Situated in the heart of Greenwich Village in New York City, Mamoun’s Falafel has been serving high quality Middle Eastern Food since it first opened its doors to the public in 1971. It is the oldest falafel restaurant in New York and one of the first Middle Eastern establishments in the United States…Family owned and operated since the beginning, the restaurant is now part of the history and culture of the Village. Its tradition extends to serving the likes of many famous musicians, actors, and other celebrities…

What sets us apart from other Falafel restaurants is our rich tradition and history as well as our commitment to excellence. Our philosophy is simple: authentic Middle Eastern Cuisine served in a traditional environment. Everything we serve is made from scratch using only the freshest natural ingredients, the finest imported spices, and our signature recipes” (Mamoun’s)

 

 

As the self-proclaimed, oldest Middle Eastern Restaurant in New York City, it makes sense for us to begin the food-portion of our tour here. Here we’ll select from a range of classic items, including, hummus and falafel, but also more location-specific specialties like their eclectic baklavas and grape leaf dishes. Both Israel and Palestine are influenced by and contribute to the culinary sphere that is Middle Eastern food, so a taste of the Middle East is likewise a taste of Israel and Palestine. Let’s let our taste buds decide.

 

PART II. BROOKLYN

**Tanoreen

 

Address: 7523 3rd Avenue, Brooklyn, NY 11209

Phone: (718) 748 – 5600

Hours:  Monday: Closed

Tuesday-Friday: 12pm – 10:30pm

Saturday-Sunday: 10:30am – 10pm

Online:  http://tanoreen.com/

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About: “…In 1998, TANOREEN was born to showcase the Middle Eastern home cooking I ate growing up, and reveal how it’s evolved since then… I’m not formally trained, but growing up in my mother’s kitchen I might as well have been…By that token, Tanoreen has varied in its fusions, but never deviated from its roots, a blend of classical Middle Eastern home-style cooking with delicious Mediterranean aromas. My cooking celebrates tradition and embraces change” (Tanoreen). This place embodies Middle Eastern cuisine; it embodies home, travel, a taste of Palestine in New York City, and all of the goodness that a mother-daughter business exudes. I had the pleasure of savoring many of Jumana and Rawia’s dishes, and even chatting with them about their establishment and the Palestinian community in Brooklyn.

 

 

As we end our tour, we will certainly be savoring many of their full-sized dishes, including traditional Mediterranean dishes and Rawia’s specialties. Their squash and lamb plates are to die for. For a souvenir of our tour and to recreate some of these delectable dishes back home, pick up a copy of Chef Rawia’s “Olives, Lemons & Za’atar” cookbook.

 

Mother and Daughter, Jumana (Left) & Rawia (Right)

 

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Additional Locations:

Kalustyans

International Supermarket in NYC – place where spices seem to ‘have their own language’—for Israeli/Palestinian goods :

123 Lexington Avenue
New York, NY 10016
212 685 3451

http://www.kalustyans.com

Hours:
M-S 10am-8pm; SU 11am-7pm

MISCELLANEOUS:

Pita Express– Great pita Bread, ‘The Best in NYC’

HUMMUS FINDS:

http://newyork.cbslocal.com/top-lists/the-7-best-hummus-plates-in-nyc/

http://newyork.cbslocal.com/top-lists/best-hummus-in-new-york/

http://eatupnewyork.com/the-best-spots-for-hummus-in-nyc-recipe/

http://www.villagevoice.com/restaurants/where-you-can-find-the-best-hummus-in-nyc-6549566

http://newyork.seriouseats.com/2013/01/best-hummus-tahini-dishes-new-york-nyc.html

http://www.tripadvisor.com/ShowTopic-g60763-i5-k5701992-Where_s_the_BEST_Hummus_in_NYC-New_York_City_New_York.html

 

 

New York City Food Tour #7: Israelis in Manhattan and Brooklyn

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Adapted from Project on Israel & Palestine Fall 2015

Food is the most ubiquitous human experience. Many, especially those in the field, claim food to be a source of peace, unison, and conviviality. I am no different; however, inspired by my comparative studies of Israeli and Palestinian cuisine, I was motivated to examine the extent to which these claims were true, specifically in the microcosm that is New York City, where, in the land of $1 pizza and Michelin restaurants, there is a space in between for the quotidian, for Israelis and the Palestinians to represent their countries through their cuisines.

We begin with a picturesque exploration of the situation of both nations, in respect to their joint food history, the populations’ migration history to New York City, and lastly, an examination of the current climate for both Israeli and Palestinian nationals in New York City via a food tour.

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 ISRAEL/PALESTINE FOOD NEWS: 

Hummus can be representative of the overall culinary sphere of Israel and Palestine. As both nations have acculturated, appropriated and evolved mutual aspects of their cultures, their food has also been subject to this metamorphasis. Both Israelis and Palestinians claim hummus to be a national food, a claim, which is deeply embedded in questions of the genesis of the dish, as well as in the level of consumption by the respective groups.

This interest was promoted by my readings of Ari Ariel’s “The Hummus Wars”, where he details the extent of the Arab-Israeli conflict over the appropriation of hummus as a national icon. Hummus has been in the midst of wars, both literally and figuratively, which Ariel argues are representative of the importance of hummus. The war is twofold, 1. Involving a debate over which nation is able to produce the largest serving and 2. Involving an attempt by Association of Lebanese to Industrialists to halt Israel’s globalization of the dish. Ariel mediates this argument by maintaining that the ‘authenticity’ and ‘ownership’ of a dish is not a question of custom, as this is fluid and flexible, but a question of practice: “Culinary culture, then, is not a question of heritage or tradition, but rather of performance and practice. Hummus is Israeli because Israelis eat hummus”  (Ariel 41).

Using hummus to stand as a symbol for the food that Israelis and Palestinians share (as both countries are in the Middle East and in the Mediterranean), with a vibrant, albeit conflicted history, we can begin to look at recent attempts by the nationals to unite both communities over food, for example, the promotion that began on October 13th, 2015 by the Hummus Bar in Kfar Vitkin in Israel. The bar began offering a 50% discount to Jews and Arabs who sat at the same table: “By us we don’t have Arabs! But we also don’t have Jews … By us we’ve got human beings!” the restaurant posted on Facebook. “And real excellent Arab hummus! And great Jewish falafel” (Zion 2015).

Another individual, a member of the World Association of Chefs in Israel and a friend of my colleague started a ‘Taste of Peace’ organization, whereby both Israeli and Palestinian chefs came together as one umbrella association, competing in culinary competitions together.

I reached out to my colleague at World Chefs, and she got back to me about this exchange between the chefs who headed the Taste of Peace Association in Jerusalem:

 

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Z: Could you please tell me how things are between Israeli and Palestinian Chefs Associations? I remember you’ve had a great collaboration and have been always mentioned as a prime example of how Chefs and even countries should manage their relations.

S: Well the answer of your question is not quiet easy because the conflict between both countries is increasing and the hatred to each other is getting more visible day by day unfortunately,

As a taste of peace association, we are blamed from the Palestinians that we are supporting Israelis and from another side the Israelis blaming us for supporting the Palestinians as terrorists,

Any way I should tell you that there is no Israeli chefs association any more and the story is long to make it short I did sue them for theft and twisted leadership and nowadays they are establishing new association under the name of ISRAELI MASTER CHEFS ACADEMIC ASSOCIATION

The Palestinians did stop activities for their lack of knowledge and actually all events I did support was costing me a fortune and as you know I have no sponsors

So all I can say taste of peace is leading all activities with its loyal members Israelis and Palestinians

Together and mostly our activities is exchanging cooking traditions

I hope I did give you a short answer to make the situation clear.

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Z: So basically, Taste of Piece, which is based in Jerusalem and is led by the Chef I talked to, did manage to make the two (Israeli chefs and Palestinian ones) collaborate in the recent past, but apparently it didn’t last long. Still, as I understood, Taste of Peace still has its loyal Israeli and Palestinian Chef members and is eager to serve as a “bridge” between the big two, aiming at their cultural exchange and obtaining and maintaining good relations

As this exchange suggests, food is a great starting point, but there seems to be a need for a more strategic implementation of objectives surrounding the unity over food in order to transcend the political climate and bring about change.

 

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II. MIGRATION HISTORY IN NYC POST 1948:             

Israelis: 

Israeli migration to the United States began shortly after the state was formed in 1948. The migration of Israelis to the United States was one that was slowly trickling, in comparison to that of earlier migration groups.

According to the Pew Forum, “the 1950s 21,376 Israeli immigrants came to the US and the 1960s saw 30,911 Israeli immigrants, often seen as the first wave of Israeli immigration to the United States when 52,278 Israelis emigrated to the. A second wave of modest immigration continued with a total of 36,306 Israelis during 1970 to 1979, 43,669 in 1980 to 1989, 41,340 in 1990 to 1999 and 54,801 in 2000 to 2009. Since 2010 Israeli migration to the U.S. and has continued at around four thousand a year since” (Pew).

To date, there are approximately 30,164 Israelis in New York City, which holds the highest concentration of Israelis in the entire country.

Israelis in New York City mostly engage in professions of business and academia. According to CNN, Israeli companies are establishing in New York City and are initiating ventures at a rate of 10 new startups per month.

III. CURRENT CLIMATE in NYC:             

Israeli Civil Participation: 

Israelis are active in many aspects of Israeli national events, the largest being the Celebrate Israel Parade in New York City, which claims to be the world’s largest celebration of Israel: “This year marks the 50th anniversary of the annual parade, which draws thousands of spectators to show their support for the Jewish state. Sponsored by the UJA Federation of New York, Jewish Communal Fund and Consulate General of Israel in New York, the event regularly attracts New York politicians and political candidates, as well as Israeli Knesset members” (North Jersey 2014). The fact that this parade has been a staple in Israeli-NY life is representative of the prominence of the community in the city.

In a recent interview with Natalie Lisak, the Executive Director of the Israeli Business Forum, Natalie helped me to navigate a bit deeper into the cultural and culinary sphere of Israelis and Palestinians in New York City:

According to Natalie, “most of the food chains are trying to be Middle Eastern, not trying to be Israeli. There is no political view. I mean, they’re not trying to hide that they’re Israeli either… occasionally there can be a political conversation about the situation back home, but when it’s about food, it’s about food; people here (NYC) are less radical; they’re more open to other opinions”

From this short glimpse into Israeli civic life in New York City, one can assume that political conflicts from Israel and Palestine are diffused when it comes to the table in a public sphere. The disguising of foods, probably for marketing purposes, under the ‘Middle Eastern’ umbrella versus a particular Israeli or Palestinian one may also contribute to this effect. According to Natalie, her personal bias towards Israeli food stems from nostalgia for the food of her home, so if she can find an Israeli-specific restaurant that is where she prefers to eat.

 

Food: 

Let us go back to hummus, but again, only as a symbol of both Israeli and Palestinian cuisine and where they intersect. Across the ocean, nationals in the United States are using food as a source of connection and collaboration: “On Thursday, hummus will become a symbol of peace as 15 Muslim and Jewish activists break bread together and participate in an all-day bus tour of Maryland, Washington D.C. and Virginia with a message of reconciliation. Bearing trays of homemade hummus and pita bread, the activists hope to spread the message that Muslims and Jews refuse to be enemies” (Huffington Post). This happened just this November 2015, really vibrantly depicting the emphasis that is placed on hummus and cross-cultural foods at the pinnacle of unanimity.

Here in New York City, one of my Uber drivers began telling me about how his friend was the owner of the Israeli Maoz vegetarian food chain, which inspired another interview with a Palestinian Uber driver included in this ethnographic landscaping. In fact, in addition to this, he reminded me that the hummus giant, Sabra, was founded by an American-Israeli entrepreneur, reflective of both the entrepreneurial and cultural ambassadorship of Israelis in the United States.

To that end, a 1976 quote on the website of Mamoun’s Falafel shop, which is also included in our tour, reminds us of the dynamism of this idea, which is not a new one in New York City:  “Henry Kissinger can take a lesson in diplomacy. Mamoun has Arabs and Jews sitting at the same table.”

PLACES OF INTEREST: 

Boroughs: Manhattan (Lower East Side) + Brooklyn (Williamsburg + Bay Ridge)

Duration: 4 hours

Best during: Spring/Summer/Fall

Day: Any day, Sunday mandatory for Brooklyn Flea Extension*

Time: 12pm – 4pm (optional 1-4 hour extensions)

Alcohol: Optional

Need: Metro Card, 4-6 trips

NYC boasts of a culinary mosaic so bright, that even the newest of countries have a presence here.

 C. Timing Details: 

12 minute walking commute + 30-45 minute brunch in Tompkins Square Park + 1hour between the locations picking up our goodies

Total  in Manhattan= 1:42  

  • Tompkins Square – Brooklyn flea = 34 minute commute + 45 minutes walking around Flea= 1 hour 31 mins
  • Brooklyn flea to Tanoreen = 24 mins + 45 minute dinner = 1 hour 9 minutes
  • Brooklyn Flea to Taboon = 37 minute commute + 45 minute dinner = 1 hour 22 minutes
  • Tanoreen to Taboon = 52 minute commute + 45 minute dinner or drinks = 1 hour 37 minutes

Total in Brooklyn=             

  • w/out Brooklyn Flea – (Just Tanoreen) = 51 minute commute + 45 minute dinner  = 1:36 
  • w/out Brooklyn Flea – (just Taboon from Tompkins Square Park) = 28 minute commute + 45 minute dinner  = 1:21 
  • w/ Tanoreen as the end after Flea= 2:39 
  • w/ Taboon instead of Tanoreen after Flea= 2:54 
  • w/ Taboon + Tanoreen = 5:39 

Total tour = 3:03, 3:18, … ,7:21 minutes 

1:42 in manhattan + Brooklyn (1:21 minutes — 5:39) 

            

PART I. MANHATTAN:

 1. ASTOR WINES

Address: 399 Lafayette St, New York, NY 10003

Phone: (212) 674-7500

Hours:  Sunday 12pm-6pm

Monday 9am-9pm

Online: http://www.astorwines.com/

About: “We’ve got quite an astute team of buyers choosing which wines we’re going to sell…There are amazing wine bargains to be found all over the world, and it takes talented, open-minded, diligent buyers like ours to locate them” (Astor Wines).

Astor Wines is in the heart of New York City. The location’s affinity for global wines makes it a perfect start to our tour, where we will pick up a bottle or two of Israeli wines. In the last decade, Israel has become prominent in global viticulture, but, as we learn, “Israel’s wine history is perhaps one of the richest on earth, dating back thousands of years. There are numerous biblical references to local vineyards, grapes being transformed into juice that provided an intoxicating effect, and the vine itself was deemed to be a blessing on the children of Israel” (Buzeo 2011). Wine is one of the few products that can easily be preserved across borders, so it makes perfect sense to take some along for our adventure.

 

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        2. MAMOUN’S

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Address: 22 St. Marks Place, New York, NY 10003

Phone: (212) 387-7747

Hours:  Sunday-Wednesday 11am-4am

Thursday-Saturday 11am-5am

Online: http://www.mamouns.com/

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About: “Situated in the heart of Greenwich Village in New York City, Mamoun’s Falafel has been serving high quality Middle Eastern Food since it first opened its doors to the public in 1971. It is the oldest falafel restaurant in New York and one of the first Middle Eastern establishments in the United States…Family owned and operated since the beginning, the restaurant is now part of the history and culture of the Village. Its tradition extends to serving the likes of many famous musicians, actors, and other celebrities…

What sets us apart from other Falafel restaurants is our rich tradition and history as well as our commitment to excellence. Our philosophy is simple: authentic Middle Eastern Cuisine served in a traditional environment. Everything we serve is made from scratch using only the freshest natural ingredients, the finest imported spices, and our signature recipes” (Mamoun’s)

As the self-proclaimed, oldest Middle Eastern Restaurant in New York City, it makes sense for us to begin the food-portion of our tour here. Here we’ll select from a range of classic items, including, hummus and falafel, but also more location-specific specialties like their eclectic baklavas and grape leaf dishes. Both Israel and Palestine are influenced by and contribute to the culinary sphere that is Middle Eastern food, so a taste of the Middle East is likewise a taste of Israel and Palestine. Let’s let our taste buds decide.

3. Café Mogador 

Address: 101 St. Marks Place, New York, NY 10003

Phone: (212) 677-2226

Hours:  Sunday-Thursday 9am-12am

Friday-Saturday 9am-1am

            Online: http://www.cafemogador.com/

About: “Opened in 1983, Café Mogador is a family owned and operated restaurant that throughout the decades became a landmark in the heart of the East Village…Mogador’s search for palate-pleasures goes beyond hearty dishes, indeed, the drink menu offers a myriad of wines meticulously selected from around the globe, a full-bar and an assortment of effervescent cocktails. Open from breakfast to late-night-supper Café Mogador is suitable to any kind of agenda and convenient for early birds and night owls. Café Mogador also distinguishes itself with its lively Brunches hailed ” the Best in the East Village.”

 

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Café Mogador is an Israeli-owned establishment, which prides itself on Middle Eastern cuisine. We can confirm – the cocktails and drinks are as reminiscent of a distant Mediterranean, as the color of the sea itself. They range from an orange blossom gimlet or even a Goldstar Israeli beer. Feel free to stop in for a quick cocktail with us at their cozy bar, or just partake in some of the Middle Eastern desserts that we will take along with us for our picnic.

 

4. HOLYLAND MARKET

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Address: 122 St. Marks Place, New York, NY 10003

Phone: (212) 477-4440

Hours:  Saturday-Thursday 10am-12am

Friday 9am-12am

            Online: http://www.yelp.com/biz/holyland-market-new-york

About: A Pitzutziya is the colloquial term for a sort of “get anything you need” Israeli store. “The impression of colorful unity, upon examination, reads as a microcosm of Israeli history and society with its diverse and at times fractious mix of nationalities” (Rothschild). For the New Yorkers out there, it’s basically an Israeli bodega, where you can find Israeli-exclusive imports from freshly baked foods to packaged goods and even cleaning supplies otherwise unavailable in New York. We’ll stop in to savor some traditional Israeli sweets like lemon pops and Tim Tam chocolate cookies.

 PART II. BROOKLYN

6.  **BROOKLYN FLEA —Ft. Greene— Saturday or Sunday

Address: 1 Hanson Place, Brooklyn, NY 11243

Phone: (718) 928 – 6603

Hours:  Sunday: 1pm – 10pm

Monday-Wednesday: Closed

Thursday-Saturday: 1pm-10pm

    Online: http://brooklynflea.com

About: “Founded in April 2008, Brooklyn Flea has grown into one of New York City’s top attractions, operating flea markets every weekend of the year that feature hundreds of top vendors of furniture, vintage clothing, collectibles and antiques, as well as a tightly curated selection of jewelry, art, and crafts by local artisans and designers, plus delicious fresh food” (Brooklyn Flea). Here we will walk to the market, focusing on the three (subject to date and time) following Israeli stands:

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Photo Credit: NYSHUK

A. NYSHUK: http://www.nyshuk.com (Sephardic and Middle Eastern Jewish Cuisines) 

About: As name alone suggests, NYSHUK is a blending of cultures coming alive in New York City: “As two Israeli-natives, living and cooking in New York City, our mission is to elevate and share the vibrant traditional foods we grew up eating…The word shuk means “market” in Hebrew, and for us the marketplace represents the center of a community – the meeting point where commerce and culture come together. We try to bring this communal energy, as well as the freshness of a bustling outdoor market to everything we do” (NYSHUK). We will pick up some spreads for the fresh-baked breads that we will enjoy along the way.

B.  SHNITZ NYC: http://www.schnitznyc.com (Israeli selection of pickled veggies, schnitzel, fries) 

About: “Schnitz is a food business based in New York City dedicated to serving your favorite comfort food: Schnitzel! For those who didn’t get the memo, schnitzel is a thin cutlet, dipped in crunchy breadcrumbs and fried to golden, delicious perfection” (SHNITZ NYC). Enough said.

C. BROOKLYN SESAME: http://brooklynsesame.com (Halva Spread)

About: Just this fall (2015), Brooklyn Sesame launched at The Brooklyn Flea: “Although Brooklyn Sesame founder Shahar Shamir had been cooking since he was eight, it wasn’t until after he had a slice of fresh halva during a visit to his native Israel that he thought about making the traditional Mediterranean sweet himself” (Brooklyn Sesame). We will take the spread with us, as a small treat, paired with our baked goods on the train. 

**from Brooklyn Flea – take R to 77th street 

7. TABOON

Address: 773 10th Ave, New York, NY 10019

Phone:  (212) 713-0271

Hours:  Monday-Friday: 5pm – 11pm

Saturday-5pm-11:30pm

Sunday: 11am – 3:30pm; 5pm-10pm

Online: http://www.taboononline.com

About: “In February of 2004, partners Danny and Ayala Hodak and Gadi and Sheila Ruham open the doors of Taboon Restaurant on a quiet corner in Hell’s Kitchen where the star of the show is the blazing white domed oven that has been serving up its original wood fired “Middleterranean” cuisine ever since… Inspired by the vibrant spices and flavors of the Middleast and the Mediterranean, with fresh hand made food from an ancient oven, bold and articulated flavors, and a driving passion for food and love for hospitality, Taboon quickly earned a loyal following and a well respected place in New York’s culinary landscape.” (Taboon). I had the pleasure of coming to this restaurant for Yom Kippur this year, a lucky catch, too (tables were not easy to get)! Among the iconic Israeli and Middle Eastern dishes, what stood out the most was the extensive variety of wines, including Israeli and Greek wines, which the bartender graciously assists you with. Depending on the group’s preference, we may end our tour here if only doing a Manhattan tour, and/or an exclusive Israeli tour.

 

———— 

         Additional Locations:

 Kalustyans

 International Supermarket in NYC – place where spices seem to ‘have their own language’—for Israeli/Palestinian goods : 

123 Lexington Avenue

New York, NY 10016

212 685 3451

http://www.kalustyans.com

Hours:

M-S 10am-8pm; SU 11am-7pm

Bnai Zion – America-Israel Friendship House

136 East 39th Street

New York, NY 10016

212 725 1211

bnaizion.org

Hours:

M-Th 9am-5pm; F 9am-5pm

MISCELLANEOUS:

Kingston Avenue, Crown Heights Brooklyn – Jewish/Israeli Neighborhood 

Chocolatte – coffee shop- where young Israeli/Jewish community congregates

Kahan’s Superette – Jewish/Israeli Supermarket in Crown Heights, Brooklyn

Pita Express– Great pita Bread, ‘The Best in NYC’

ISRAELI COMMUNITY IN NYC: 

http://celebrateisraelny.org

http://israeliamerican.org/new-york

http://www.israelimappedinny.com

 

New York City Food Tour #6: Dominicans in Washington Heights

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Traditional Dominican Candies

In his book, Drown, Junot Diaz was right. Washington Heights = Little DR.

Washington Heights, “WAHI” as it is now coined by real estate moguls is synonymous with “Dominican” in NYC. As a Domininican-American myself, this is where I would go to visit my dad’s side of the family. Personally, WAHI was synonymous with baseball, Merengue oozing out of barred windows, apartments where the sazon from some grandma’s cooking formed part of the festival of Dominican-food-smells that emanated from the hallways. Sancocho. Habichuelas con dulce. Empanadas. Tostones. All together in one big cloud in front of apartment 9A.

Welcome to the Heights.

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Because we pronounce it “jonron” and not “homerun”

Once a Jewish, Irish -turned- Greek neighborhood in the 80s and 90s, Washington Heights gained popularity among Dominican immigrants who one could say found a similar island home on the tip of Manhattan, one bounded by two rivers.

According to a CUNY monograph, “Washington Heights serves as an intermediary point of settlement, a place where Dominicans can speak Spanish, meet fellow Dominicans, attend mass in Spanish, shop in bodegas, listen to merengue, and remain encapsulated within a Hispanic culture. Voluntary associations and organized public events are not the primary expression of the migrants’ transnational identity, but rather the informal practices of everyday life. Through popular culture, especially through spoken language, music, food, and religion, Dominicans celebrate their sense of belonging to a transnational group. In essence, Washington Heights rekindles the spirit of a moral community among Dominican immigrants in New York City, thereby reinventing Quisqueya on the Hudson.”

With over 66% of all individuals in Washington Heights being Dominican, it forms part of the single largest ethnic community in New York City — one that spans 50 blocks of the city.

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Coconut Milk for Days

In one of these 50 blocks, you can indulge in Johnnycakes – in DR pronounced “johhny-ca-kae” — which interestingly enough is a cornmeal flatbread which originated from Native Americans in the US and is still eaten in the West Indies, Jamaica, and in parts of Colombia, the Bahamas, and Saint Croix.

PB033887.JPGAll Kinds of Empanadas

Find yourself a chicharron (pork rinds) street cart — don’t forget to ask for a lime slice and some guineitos (boiled bananas).

PB033884.JPGTraditional Dominican Bizcoho (cake)

Also have some Kippes – an adopted dish from Lebanon– thanks to the Lebanese migration to the island in the 19th century.

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And of course, some Mofongo at either the Malecon or La Casa Del Mofongo — yes, it is a traditionally Puerto Rican dish, but we have adopted it and adopted it well.

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Just get ready to practice your Spanish.

Places of Interest: 

Take the A or C to 168th Street and Broadway

1.    El Monantial Bakery: 1220 St. Nicholas Ave (between 171st St & 172nd St)

2.    Empanadas Monumental: 4093 Broadway (between 172nd St & 173rd St)

212-923-9300, Hours: M-T: 9 am -11 pm, F & Sa: 9-2am, S: 10am-11.30pm

3.    Malecon Restaurant: 4141 Broadway (between 175th St & 176th St)

212-927-3812: Hours: M-F: 7-1am, Sa & S: 7-2am

4.    El Panadero Bakery: 1380 St. Nicholas Ave (at the corner of 179th St)

5.    Esmeraldo Bakery: 538 W 181st St (between Amsterdam Ave & Audubon Ave):

6.    Habichuelas con dulce Carts: St Nicholas Ave (at the corner of 182nd St)

7.    Malady Chicharrones Cart: St Nicholas Ave (at the corner of 182nd St)

8.    Fresh Shaved Ice or Delicioso Coco Helado Carts (seasonal): St. Nicholas Ave (around 181st St to 183rd St)

9.    La Casa Del Mofongo: 1447 St. Nicholas Ave (between 182nd St & 183rdSt): 212-740-1200: Hours: 24/7

10.Tu Pais Supermarket: 1464 St. Nicholas Ave (between 184th & 183rd St): Hours: M-Sa: 7.30am-9am, S: 7.30am – 8am

 

New York City Food Tour #5: South America and Southeast Asia in Jackson Heights, Queens

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This was absolutely my favorite tour of the six. South America and Southeast Asia meet in Jackson Heights, as is common with many cultures converging in New York City. Tibet, Ecuador,  Sri Lanka, Colombia, India — WELCOME to Queens.

Jackson Heights is, according to the book Gastropolis ‘..united by language, colonialism, immigration, and exceptionally flavored food’

What I found interesting is that nothing specified a particular cuisine — or categorized a dish by country, and if not by region/continent then sometimes never at all — hinting at the potency of transnational dishes as markers of being ‘latino’.

I agree.

In Jackson Heights, marketing is loud + proud — hinting at nationalism and gastronomic iconography.

After a mass-migration to Queens since the 1970s, in 2016 Jackson Heights is gentrifying faster than ever, from within the Latino community.

Here, you’ll find street food, often coined to be the best in NYC, always on the hub of the different subway stations.

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Here, you can have tamales for breakfast, plantain-based like the ones from Oaxaca where the patrons hail from.

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Here, you’ll find the supermarket, Trade Fair, which only has about 15% of the same ingredients across its supermarkets, since they change their products to fit the ethnic communities in which they settle

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What that means is providing 5+ different types of corn-based tamales, varying for the use of Mexicans or Argentines and everyone in between the continent.

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Cheese too.

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And, as if they weren’t the same thing, Colombian fresh cheese and Dominican fresh cheese because #nationalism.

 

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And my grandma’s favorite coffee — the Colombian coffee, Cafe Bustelo.

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82nd Street is where the divide is between all that is Asian and Latino. It is here where I saw a dog wearing a kimono. And no, I’m not exaggerating. The sad part is that the pup ran away too quickly before I could grab a pic.

74th Street in Jackson heights is little India. Need a sari or a specific Indian spice? Come here.

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And let’s not forget about this handsome man who wanted me to take  a picture of him and include him in my blog #wish #granted.

 

Places of Interest:  

 Take #6 to Grand Central, then #7 to Junction Blvd.

Roosevelt Avenue and Junction Blvd

SOUTH AMERICAN

1.    Street food – best in New York

2.    Confiteria Buenos Aires 90-09 Roosevelt Avenue – Argentinian bakery with sweets and pastries; good for breakfast

3.    Assorted Botanica stores along Roosevelt Avenue – poignant of the influence of voodoo and other religious representations in South America; symbols of religious and physical relief

4.    Tierras Salvadorenas (94-16 37th Avenue, 718-672-0853) – Salvadorean establishment

5.    La Risaralda – (91-02 37th Avenue) — meat market

6.    Carnicera Hispanoamericana 89-22 37th Avenue – meat market

7.    La Gata Golosa Bakery 89-01 37th Avenue – Colombian Bakery

8.    Pique al Paso Bakery 88-22 37th Avenue – CLOSED

9.    La Nueva Bakery 86-10A 37th Avenue – great empanadas and “dulce de leche” desserts

10. Don Francisco 2000 85-17 37th Avenue – meat market, CLOSED

11. Café Bakery ice cream 83-03 37th Avenue – Colombian Bakery

12. Aqui Colombia 81-08 37th Avenue – Colombian Bakery

SOUTHEAST ASIAN

13. Patel Brothers Market 37-24 74th Avenue – For Indian Spices and teas

14. Delhi Palace Sweets 37-33 74th Avenue – CLOSED

15. Subzi Mandi Market 72-30 37th Avenue – incredible Southeast Asian supermarket

16. Rajbhog Sweets 72-27 37th Avenue – have an online store!

 

NYC Food Tour #4: From Arabia to the West Indies in Brooklyn

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Step onto Atlantic Avenue in Flatbush, Brooklyn, and leave the United States. You’re welcome.

I’m biased towards Mediterranean foods, so when my class toured a community that was primarily Lebanese, Syrian, and Yemeni, you bet my tummy was having a party.

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On this Avenue, you step foot in what was once home to the royals and the elites of Brooklyn — try to picture a Brooklyn where there are horse-drawn carriages and gentry. Servant’s quarters and all.

Now, think of a Brooklyn which bleeds Middle Eastern spices, where you can find halva of all kinds, where finding the right pita bread is actually quite the challenge in the best of ways.

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This is the Brooklyn that we’re talking about.

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This is the Brooklyn that we’re talking about. #yes

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Now, take a train to Flatbush Avenue, also in Brooklyn. You’ve left the Mediterranean. Here, you’re hit with the aroma of the Caribbean. I invite you to walk up and down the streets, trying whatever food appeals to your senses.

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I’m talking about #jerk #chicken here!

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And pastries. Oh, the pastries.

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Coconut Buns and More @ Errol’s Carribean Bakery

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Oh, and please, don’t forget your roti, and the art that is Indian-Caribbean food.

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Because you need Coffee, Water, and Ginger in Your life

Places of Interest: 

Atlantic Avenue between Henry and Court Streets

1.     Sahadi Importing Company – 187 Atlantic Avenue – all kinds of Mediterranean and Middle Eastern goods

2.     Oriental Pastry and Grocery Corp – 170 Atlantic Avenue

3.     Tripoli Restaurant – 156 Atlantic Avenue – for Lebanese food

4.     Damascus Bread and Pastry Shop – 195 Atlantic Avenue

Take the 4 Train for Borough Hall to Atlantic Avenue, Transfer to the B to Church Avenue

5.     Flatbush Caton Market – 814 Flatbush Avenue – for traditional West Indie Goods and products

6.     Peppa’s Jerk Chicken – 738 Flatbush Avenue

7.     Errol’s Bakery and Catering – 661 Flatbush Avenue – for coconut buns and all kinds of pastries

8.     Ali’s Roti Shop – 589 Flatbush Avenue – Trinidadian Rotis

9.     Culpepper’s – 1082 Nostrand Avenue – Caribbean food

New York Foodie Tour 3: Coney Island – Brighton Beach: From the US TO the USSR

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It’s fantastic. The way that New York City morphs and transforms itself from one subway stop to the next, its food flowing with it.
Coney Island: the perfect example.
It was once a place for the elite and only them. Land purchased from Native Americans by the Dutch. An island destined for peoples of economic stature. After all, you could only get there by private boat.
The subway changed everything, making the beach destination one-for-all, pushing the elites towards the Hampton’s.
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It has suffered through recessions and depressions, crime and hurricanes, but the magic is still there.
The magic that brought German immigrants from Frankfurt to sell frankfurters on the boardwalk, since transforming the name to what looked like a hot dog. The birth of Nathan’s Famous.  
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The birth of the boardwalk as a culinary destination and a hotdog eating contest, which 100+ years later is still the largest in the world.
A few steps down the boardwalk later, and you’re in Brighton beach – Little Odessa, welcome to Russia. The Washington Heights of the USSR.
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It is here where you can find everything from Russian beer to sausages.
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Russian Sausage
PA063594.JPGRussian Soda

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Assortment of European Beer
Georgian bread and Russian night clubs.  Walnuts on everything.
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It’s the unique way in which the Russian Community post USSR became even more unified here in New York City!

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Georgian Bread
Places of interest:
**Take the train to Coney Island and Walk to Brighton Beach along the boardwalk
1. Nathan’s Famous – place of original hot dog stand, where contest takes place each 4th of July – celebrating 100 years!
2. Brighton Bazaar – Russian Supermarket — buffet of fresh foods each day, including blinis – Russian pancakes
3. Toné Café— place to find Georgian bread
4. National — Russian restaurant and Night Club — Level: Fancy!
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New York Foodie Tour 2: Asian Flushing via the Iconic 7 Train

P9293539.JPGYes, this is NYC (I know the traffic light gives it away ;))

According to the latest census, New York City had more immigrants in 2 neighborhoods than in all cities of Pennsylvania. With the gentrification of both Brooklyn and Manhattan, Queens is to thank for this statistic. So, thank you, Queens!

 

This is embodied on the 7 train, where once it goes underground, writers are known to call it the ‘orient express.’

In Queens, ethnic solidarity becomes a logical strategy to social mobility. So what may seem like a lack of assimilation to all things Americana, is actually a stronghold of values and culture, facilitating assimilation.   

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Rice cookers by the tons at an Asian food mart

A sense of nationalism is rewritten when people come to the U.S. — Chinese and Koreans communities, which are historically not on friendly terms congregate as one in Queens due to even the slightest cultural similarities.

New York Times Article describes the 7 Train: “Rather, it is the signs, window displays, performances, restaurants, street foods, faces and, when they are revealed, newcomers’ stories that make for engaging visits. This is the Lower East Side of my immigrant grandparents, updated, magnified, translated into Hindi, Cantonese, Italian, Thai, Spanish, Korean and many other languages. On these streets the perpetual struggle between clinging to the old country and embracing the new is often visible. In a Mexican party store, the best-selling pinata is a Pokemon.”

Clearly, it’s not just on paper that Queens is the most diverse county in the entire United States. Queens is Jewish. Queens is Mexican. Queens is Thai. Queens is… what isn’t it?

The best part about this imminent diversity is that you can eat it.

“The history of the world is that when people are exposed to different cultures, they adopt and adapt as their own whatever appeals to them…Here, the process happens more intensely.” One of her favorite examples is a sign in an Indian restaurant on Thanksgiving advertising tandoori turkey”

The newspapers talked of the communities lining the streets in the 1800s, separate, but equal in their differences: ‘the Chinese were casual about smoking, eating, and walking in the middle of operas’ // ‘the French smelled of garlic, the Germans, of sauerkraut and beer; the English, of roast beef and ale; the Americas, of corn cakes and pork and beans; and the Chinese, of opium, cigars, and dried fish’

P9293533.JPGChinese Dumplings

And it’s not just about the sights and tastes, but also the smells. The 7 train gives you a unique perspective into this diversity via an intercultural olfactory tour.

These are the stories of the 7 train, representative of the “great narrative of the immigrant experience in New York City, and America.”

P9293516.JPGFruit at a Flushing Market

Another storyteller writes: “Returning to Manhattan on the train, I’m lucky to hit the right time of day, when the setting sun bounces off the tracks and casts a glow, a reminder that the No. 7 train is not only the spine of Queens but its soul.”

To that end: our tour begins at the very end of the 7 train on Main Street in Flushing.

Enjoy!

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Take the #7 train from Grand Central to Main Street Flushing

1.    Hong Kong Supermarket 37-11 Main St Flushing

2.    Han ah Reum 141-40 Northern Blvd

3.    Yi Mei Bakery Corp 135-38 Roosevelt Avenue

4.    Shun An Tong Helath Corp 135-24 Roosevelt Avenue

5.    Ten Ren Tea & Ginseng Co Inc 135-18 Roosevelt Avenue

6.    Good Luck Market 135-08 Roosevelt Avenue

7. Kam Sam Food Products 41-79 Main St

8. A & C Supermarket 41-41 Kissena Blvd

9. Joe’s Shanghai Restaurant 13621 37th Avenue — great dumplings!

10. Mini Mall — reminiscent of malls I had been to in Tokyo

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New York Foodie Tour 1: Lower East Side

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***As an assignment for my Food Writing class, I will be incorporating my learnings from my previous “Field Trips in Food Studies” class into an ethnographic culinary landscaping of New York City. First stop: The Lower East Side

To be in the ‘Bowery’ was to be down in the dumps. The imprints of expired tenements and rectangled buildings now home to ‘hip’ and ‘hipster’ establishments preserve the structure of what used to be the homes and businesses of newly emigrés — those of the Jews and Eastern Europeans.

A trip to the Lower East Side is a trip to the 1800s and beyond.

A walk through the Lower East Side for my Field Trips in Food Studies class was actually a trip to my past. I remember driving up and down the Bowery  as a child with my mother, as she sought after supplies from the hundreds of restaurant vendors that line the street. Bari was particularly memorable for me. I can’t forget about the gold coffee machine that was always displayed on their fogged-up window. It looked like it had been there for 90+ years, but there was nothing old about it.

I learned that Allan street used to be a giant latrine. That – as China Town gets bigger, so does NYU, in an unspoken battle to take over the LES.

Anyhow, back to what we came for: food. Here’s the list of places we went to on our first tour, along with a bit of what I could gather from my lovely professor.

Enjoy!

—-

STOP 1: Doughnut Plant — another one just opened on 23rd street – owned by the grandson of a Jewish baker who took recipe it and modernized place — succeeded first in Japan and now this new one in Manhattan

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STOP 2: Kossar’s — sell Bialys — difference between a bagel and a bialy = a Bialy is just baked vs. a bagel, which is boiled and then baked — they come from Bialy, Poland; associated with Jewish food — it can’t be frozen so this is a reason why bagels became more prominent and bialy’s died out after the Post-Modern Era. Kossar’s has just reopened in Manhattan after a 6 month renovation period!

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STOP 3: The Pickle Guys — Essex street – only sell pickles – completely kosher – pickled veggies and fruit too i.e good mangos

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STOP 4: Essex Street Market — for me, where east meets west – “the Turkey of NYC”; lots of small-scale, but good quality food vendors

STOP 5:  Economy Candy — Candy and drug stores used to be the same thing, which is what this was in the early 190ss; I had a halva there

STOP 6: Il Laboratorio del Gelato – next to Katz’s — made fresh-daily; a scientific-approach to gelato

STOP 7: Katz’s —  when Jewish left — rebranded the place as a hip place where politicians should come and hang out; to this day, newly elected politicians need to come and take a pic with a pastrami sandwich; used to send some of their salamis to soldiers at during WWII; they have iconic New York egg creams here

STOP 8: Russ and Daughters — Jewish owned — as Jews left the LES, Puerto Ricans and Dominicans began working as butchers, slowly but surely integrating them into the ethnographic landscape of the LES

STOP 9: Yonah Shimmel’s Knish Bakery — sell a sort of “Jewish Empanada”

51oXmEwmo6L

Response to Jerusalem: a cookbook 

Ownership is a really interesting concept. When I start thinking about the world in a purely materialistic way, my mind starts to delve deep into a conundrum that makes thinking about basic concepts a challenge. In a purely idealistic context, I would love to be guided by what my mother would always say to me: ‘what’s mine is yours’ (Mom). When you are 22, though, and you wear the same shoe size as her, this ideology can become a problem, and the same applies to the world, I guess. People need to have ‘things’ and keep those things in their own command, in order to keep the peace. Interestingly enough, though, when it comes to food, sharing ownership of it – all aspects of it – seems to be the norm. This thought specifically came to my mind as in Yotam Ottolenghi’s culinary journey, Jerusalem: A Cookbook, he describes how one of his favorite recipes, also happens to be one of his friend, Sami’s favorite recipes. And then this inspired a question: how does something that belongs to someone, also belong to everyone else? This is what I will be exploring in this paper.

Ottolenghi’s culinary journey is a nostalgic journey to his childhood. He begins the book by describing how one of his favorite recipes is also one of Sami’s favorites: “Over on the west-end of the city, Yotam had a pretty similar experience: school-day end, a massive falafel sandwich, tahini-stained shirt, no appetite, angry mother” (Ottolenghi 98). This beginning is representative of Jerusalem, as, in one sentence, it is able to explore the city’s vibrant culinary history as one that is shared among individuals, specifically relating to what is consumed. So, how can something that belongs to someone belong to everyone? Quite simply, if something is consumed by more than one individual – despite, and in spite of any cultural, religious, or geographic boundaries that may alienate one from the other – the unanimous act of eating, and specifically consuming these particular foods is something that both ‘own’ as part of their lives and their physical bodies. They say that ‘you are what you eat’ – I would argue that if you eat the same things, then perhaps, in some idealistic way, you are both the same.

The idea of shared ownership continues through the idea of a shared consumption of foods in the way that Ottolenghi speaks of salad in Jerusalem: “Arab salad, chopped salad, Israeli salad… Wherever you go in the city, at any time of day, a Jerusalemite is most likely to have a plate of freshly chopped vegetables” (Ottolenghi 32). The ubiquity of salads on the table of Jerusalemites speaks to the nature of not only ‘owning’ a food – but reproducing a tradition. Perhaps, for many in Jerusalem, a meal is not complete without the presence of a salad. This idea penetrates any exclusionary ideas of ownership. More specifically, the way that he describes ‘beets’ is very distinctive to me: “beets also cross cultural lines with the flexibility of an acrobat” (Ottolenghi 32). They are such a simple root vegetable, but the fact that they have the power to ‘cross cultural lines’, makes them powerful in a way that some humans or institutions are unable to. Beets do not ‘belong’ to me or to you; they belong to everyone and anyone who wants them on their table.

On a personal note, these thoughts of sharing dishes and the ownership thereof reminded me of the stuffed grape leaves, kipes, that my Dominican grandmother made on special occasions. While conducting some research on Arabic cuisine, I came across a similar recipe, which led me to learn about the Arabic influence on the Dominican Reoublic. In essence, the Arabic influence on me. So are the kipes Dominican or Arabic? According to Ottolenghi, “…nobody ‘owns a dish’ because it is very likely that someone else cooked it before them and another person before that” (Ottolenghi 16). I argue that everyone can ‘own’ a dish – meaning – incorporate it into his/her diet, but that this ownership is fluid, as it was with the Arabs who brought their culture to the Dominican Republic, and similarly, in the way that Italian and Lybian food have a shared morphology: “A dish just like Michael’s is part of the Jewish Tripoltan cuisine. It is called shorba and is a result of the Italian influence on Lybian food during the years of Italian rule of the country…”(Ottolenghi 8). A place like Jerusalem is attractive for large groups of religious and cultural individuals hailing from all corners of the globe. This contributes to the development of shared cuisines like the shorba, and even the sharing of food shopping processes: “you can see people shop together in food markets, or eat in one another’s restaurants” (Ottolenghi 18). The geographic concentration of individuals – eating similar foods, but also migrating and food shopping at the same places is conducive to the geographical concentration and amalgamation of foods all falling under the umbrella of ‘Jerusalemite cuisine’. In fact, simply the usage of the word ‘Jerusalemite’ implies unison and shared ownership.

In addition to the consumption and preparation of similar foods, an arguably shared ownership of cuisines occurs when shared practices of preparation and etiquette are used. I often hear people speaking passionately about what a dish cannot live without – ‘it’s not a true _____ if it doesn’t have ______’, said every passionate cook, ever. For Jerusalemites, this shared passion is towards salads, “everybody, absolutely everybody uses chopped cucumber and tomatoes to create an Arab salad or an Israeli salad” (Ottolenghi 10). I read this as: ‘I don’t care what you call it – or what ethnicity claims to own it – it is not a salad unless you have cucumbers or tomatoes!’ Perhaps I am being a bit reductionist in my interpretation here. I am sure that there are other Jerusalemite salads that do not contain or require these two ingredients, but the shared ownership of importance applied towards these specific ingredients is pervasive and significant. By the basis of being together geographically in Jerusalem, and the citizens there sharing the delicacies of their culture, it becomes their mutual culture.

Relating to process, locality is key. For example, “Jerusalemites tend to eat seasonally and cook with what grows in the area” (Ottolenghi 12). Again, the usage of the word ‘Jerusalemite’ implies   that all people in the land ‘own’ the practice of be eating locally grown produce. Shared ownership even applies to etiquette and the values instilled around the process of eating:

“…in the way that Jews and tabs shower guests and relatives with delights…for  Jews and Arabs alike, the idea of dining alone is abhorrent. Eating is a celebration, a feast, it is about breaking bread and about conviviality. It is about abundance and sharing” (Ottolenghi 12, 60).

Again, shared practices of processes and the etiquette surrounding all-things-food create a shared ownership of being. It is not what ‘I’ do, or what ‘they’ do, It is what we do. The specific usage of the word ‘abhorrent’ specifically implies an unacceptable, almost offensive act that may be limited to a very small population. In large cities, for example, this is a norm, but these two cultures both ‘own’ the idea of sharing food as the norm. 

Food is engrained in our DNA – it literally creates us – it owns us. So how does it allow us to ‘own’ something that is by definition not ours? Well, in Ottolenghi’s account, I reveled in his examples of geographic ownership, leading to shared food and etiquette practices that procreate a unanimity of ownership – and a fusion of existence.

RE: Ottolenghi, Yotam, and Sami Tamimi. Jerusalem: A Cookbook. Berkeley: Ten Speed 2012, Print.

Response – The Gaza Kitchen: a Palestinian Culinary Journey

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             I reveled in every bit of Laila El-Haddad and Maggie Schmitt’s picturesque journey to Gaza, as they not only allowed me a taste into the spices and palatable dishes of the region – they gave me an opportunity to vicariously learn about a culture that I, quite frankly, knew very little about. In their ethnographic cookbook, The Gaza Kitchen: a Palestinian Culinary Journey, one particular phrase captivated me, and replayed itself in my mind, as I continued throughout the first pages of their book: “food — growing it, preparing it, sharing it with friends, family and strangers — is a vital cultural marker, one of the most significant ways we have to identify ourselves as a member of our own tribe and of the great tribe of humanity…” (El-Hadad and Schmitt 4). I wondered: ‘but how? How is it that the way that something is grown, prepared, and shared is specifically representative of who you are and more broadly, of your place in humanity?’ In response to this statement, I went back through the reading, finding instances that describe these phenomena, which I am happy to share with you.

The first question at hand: how is growing food representative of the Gaza Tribe, and more ubiquitously, of the Tribe of Humanity? I would argue that the converse is also true: that what is not growing is also representative of the Gaza tribe and of its current position in the ‘Humanity’ tribe. In her foreword of the book, Nancy Jenkins explores this: “And this is a place where politics enters the kitchen to unhappy effect… since exports are forbidden, the market is strictly local, within Gaza itself” (El-Hadad and Schmitt 4). Displacement has led to the lack of production of homegrown tahina, which is directly representative of Gaza cuisine, and how the dislocation of the Gaza Tribe has impacted it. The authors seemingly continue to emphasize Jenkins’ point, by asserting:

“In culinary terms, too, Gaza’s location places it at a crossroads: while it forms part of the greater Mediterranean food-universe … it is also a bridge to the desert culinary worlds of Arabia, the Red Sea and the Nile Valley. Within the region, the cuisine of the urban coast— noted for sophisticated seafood —- is clearly distinguishable from that of the farming interior, rich in vegetables and legumes” (El-Hadad and Schmitt 9).

Very clearly, what can grow in the region is representative of what the people eat, which in turn is representative of their tribe, not only within Gaza, but also within their regional tribe, and the tribes within those tribes. By mentioning that, ‘the cuisine of the urban coast is noted for sophisticated seafood’, El-Hadad and Schmitt explore the ways in which a community is multilayered by both regional and cultural influences. The individuals on the urban coast are part of the Human Tribe at large, of which the Gaza Tribe is a subset, but it can be further broken down into an ‘urban’ tribe, and perhaps, even further into a ‘sohpisticated’ tribe. In essence, these terms are nothing more than a means of understanding through categorization.

And how is this representative of the Tribe of Humanity? Well, as humans, we cannot (directly) control what grows on the land that we are a part of; therefore, the human act of being one with the land, by consuming the fruits of the land therein, is something very human. For my parents, farmers from the Dominican Republic, this meant eating the rice and cultivating the produce that grew across from our home. Arguably, this story is changing with the rise of globalization, but, from Gaza to Japan, our story is not a unique one.

The second question at hand is: how is preparing food representative of the Gaza Tribe and of the Tribe of Humanity? There seems to be an extreme correlation between what is grown and how it is prepared. Essentially, various products that are grown are often combined in order to put together the final dish:

“In many ways, food in Gaza is classic Palestinian, Middle Eastern cuisine, but it is unique with its own regional diversity, which includes a deep appreciation for the kick of red chili peppers, the zest of eastern spices, and the soothing calm of fresh dill and dill seeds” (El-Hadad and Schmitt 5).

Here we have yet another ‘tribe’ come into the picture – although Gaza is part of the Middle Eastern community, the Gazan unique preparation with red chili peppers, dill and dill seeds is representative almost exclusively of the Gaza Tribe, as they mention how infrequently it is used in other Middle Eastern cuisine. The usage and incorporation of cuisines from other regions and past historical and religious associations is innately a human characteristic. Creating our own ‘Gaza’ rendition to a traditionally ‘Palestinian’ dish is something inextricably human –translated to our nature experimentation and adding our ‘own spice’ to it. For my mother, for example, this means adding the fat from the traditional Carribean pernil (shredded pork) into the moro (Dominican rice and chickpeas), while it’s cooking. (Don’t tell her I said that!)

The excerpt on the ubiquitous usage of the zibdiya in Gaza kitchens is particularly interesting because its use transcends economic disparities: “[it] is the most rudimentary and most precious kitchen item in every household in Gaza, rich or poor” (El-Hadad and Schmitt 13). A zibdiya – the Gaza version of a mortar and pestle – is a fundamental tool for all people in the Gaza tribe. In my household, it is the pilon, and in that of my Mexican friends, it’s the molcajete —, from Gaza to Mexico, we all need something with which to grind our condiments and spices.

The last question we have at hand is: how is sharing food representative of the Gaza Tribe and of the Tribe of Humanity? Well, I like to think that food is shared even before it is cultivated and prepared. It starts at the very idea of food. The book begins detailing how, “while all hands are at work, the conversation ranges from thyroid problems to daughters-in-law, from the ravages of the most recent war to the correct candying of carrots” (El-Hadad and Schmitt 7). This could be any cooks, anywhere in the Human Tribe, sharing in the experience of cooking together and sharing their stories and their lives through the act of cooking. This is furthered by their assertion:

“It is a reflection of all of us, of our common humanity… To talk about food and cooking is to talk about the dignity of life — food is ubiquitous…our hope in this book is to share this food with you and in so doing, something of the indefatigable spirit of the people we interviewed” (El-Hadad and Schmitt 6, 9).

When I think of the word ‘dignity’, I think of a fundamental human essence – one that transcends economic, political, religious and any other barriers that may impede humans from coexisting. To parallel food and human dignity could not further emphasize the importance that this basic human act has. Yes, we, as part of the Gaza Tribe, or the Japanese Tribe, etc. may share the same food, grow it, eat it and prepare it in the same way, which fundamentally unites us as part of that religious, or political tribe, but in its most basic form – food – and everything that surrounds it is a vehicle for human dignity, furthered by El-Hadad and Schmitt’s own reasoning for even sharing the book.

Laila El-Haddad and Maggie Schmitt’s, The Gaza Kitchen: a Palestinian Culinary Journey, evoked a very specific set of questions in my mind. I like to think that food is omnipresent, and in fact a ‘human’ thing – this, however, is just an innate feeling that probably stems from an irrational love of all-things-food. But how? By venturing deeply into just a few pages of this book, I was able to experience another ‘tribe’ – another culture, that validates some of my previously unfounded assumptions — I am looking forward to trying the recipes out for myself, and vicariously being a part of the Gaza Tribe.

RE: The Gaza Kitchen: A Palestinian Culinary Journey. Charlottesville, VA: Just World, 2012. Print.

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