Take Your Taste Buds Around the World at OZY Fest 2019
WHY YOU SHOULD CARE
It’s a global party for your stomach.
By Carly Stern and Barbara Fletcher
Join us at OZY Fest in Central Park on July 20 and 21 to think, laugh and eat alongside comedians like Trevor Noah, musicians like John Legend, thinkers like Malcolm Gladwell and politicians like Beto O’Rourke and John Kasich. Get your tickets here.
When you go to a festival, you’re of course looking forward to the performances — whether they be music, theater, comedy or debate. But let’s face it, you’re also going for the food. A great gathering is always made more awesome with the bites on offer. And the greater the variety, the happier the taste buds. “We’re very excited to create a one-of-a-kind global food experience at OZY Fest,” says OZY marketing associate Alex Furuya, who worked to match vendors with the event.
This weekend in Central Park, it’s a story of glorious and global nosh. “Food is a chance to learn about a rich culture and to dive into a deep history,” Furuya says. And foods being served up from all corners of the world — including Mexican, French, Italian, Chinese, Japanese and Ugandan fare — don’t just represent the tastes of the countries; they often come with a delightful twist and a good story.
Take Gordo’s Cantina. It was named after owner JR Savage’s French bulldog. And dogs (of the wiener variety) feature prominently on his menu of traditional street food of Central Mexico. El Chapo (which means “shorty”) is a Mexican hot dog smothered in toppings. Gordo’s Cantina started out as a pop-up venue, but there are plans for a new storefront in Bushwick, Brooklyn, where Savage will be serving up his sopas, tacos and platos fuertes.
And sticking with Mexican for afters, La Newyorkina serves up paletas, or Mexican ice pops, in flavors like mango chili, hibiscus and coconut. The chilly treats are made in small batches and infused with imported Mexican vanilla beans, Oaxacan chocolate and more. Founder Fany Gerson, who launched La Newyorkina in 2010, credits her love affair with sweets to her first birthday celebration in Mexico, where her father gifted her a fateful kilo of chocolate truffles.
For succulent tastes of East Asia, four food vendors will be vying for your mouth’s attention, serving up hot and cold options from China and Japan. The Bao Shoppe (Canal Street) is known for their classic baos, open-faced sandwiches on a soft steamed bun with an American twist. The handhelds come with a variety of filling options — such as braised pork belly, Korean style beef, tempura shrimp and crispy tofu — and sides like mac and cheese spring rolls.
Steaming bowls of ramen come out of Tojo’s Kitchen, a popular stop in many of the tristate area’s popular pop-up sites, from Smorgasburg to Midnight Market to Queens Night Market. Beyond a signature hearty pork broth and noodles, the shop is known for Japanese fusion specialties like karaage rice burgers and small bites like shumai and gyoza.
And of course, there are dumplings. Destination Dumplings serves up traditional pan-fried dumplings with a focus on new flavors (like jerk chicken with pineapple salsa and the lamb gyro with yuzu tzatziki). Lifelong friends Tristan Chin-Fatt and Deon Whiskey — who describe themselves as “two kids from Queens” — have been making the homemade dumplings with inspiration from the diversity in their borough and their own heritage (Chin-Fatt is Chinese-Jamaican).
For a cool finish, Eggloo has something special for both the eyes (and as anyone in Gen Z knows, the phone eats first) and the mouth. These Asian egg waffles and ice cream creations — a Hong Kong street-food favorite — are shaped into detailed roses before serving. The treats are filled with a variety of ice cream flavors, some classic (vanilla, mint chocolate chip) and some a little wacky (Ovaltine, White Rabbit Candy). Cool treat lovers can also enjoy cones with ice cream, toppings and drizzle (vegan options are available).
If American nosh makes your mouth water, there are both burgers and BBQ waiting to meet that need for grilled meat. Mighty Quinn’s BBQ is all about meat, meat and more meat (and chicken) that is slow-smoked over wood. The NYC-based franchise is run by pitmaster and co-founder Hugh Mangum, who was also a judge on Food Network Canada’s Fire Masters. And if burgers — and French-American fusion — are more your thing, David’s Café is known for its comfort food. In 2016, the restaurant made the top 20 list of The Infatuation’s best burgers in NYC.
And if you prefer your meat to be made from plants, Hanna’s Meatballs creates vegan (you guessed it) gourmet meatballs in four sauces — marinara, barbecue sauce, teriyaki and buffalo — and topped with crispy shallots, crunchy garlic and other toppings.
Two European offerings take your taste buds to Italy and France. First, pizza. Trapizzinos are soft, triangular pizza pockets stuffed with exotic fillings — such as braised oxtail, tongue in green sauce, Roman-style pork belly and zighinì (spicy meat stew). Oh, and meatballs. Stefano Callegari, one of Italy’s decorated pizza-makers, created Trapizzino in 2008 and has locations across Rome, Florence, Milan and New York’s historic Lower East Side.
For Euro-born sweet treats, there are crepes, which are, of course, delightfully topped with even more sweet things. The family-owned Everything About Crepes serves up specialties with names like Cookies n’ Crepe, Smores Delight and Gone Nutella.
And for something new … ever enjoyed a rolex on a warm summer morning? We’re not talking about a watch, but a Ugandan street food of eggs and veggies wrapped in a chapati. Straight out of Central Florida, Manna International Street Food creates rolexes and samosas from scratch with fresh ingredients and “with love.”
As you take your taste buds around the world, it’s a good idea to pace yourself. But that doesn’t mean the food fun has to stop. Check out celebrity chefs Marcus Samuelsson and Rachael Ray dishing out interactive food demos, and go behind the scenes of Mix Plate, OZY’s latest TV show exploring the history of cultures through the fusion of different foods.