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2012 NYC Vendy Award Finalist: The Cinnamon Snail

Our VideosBy Liza de Guia on Aug 27, 2012
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Over the past two weeks, I’ve been in and out of all sorts of food trucks throughout New York City, filming profile videos for the 2012 NYC Vendy Awards. This week, I’ll be releasing them. It’s been a pleasure spending time with very passionate, very dedicated food makers who’ve chosen to make a living in a very difficult and demanding business. Like one vendor explained: “Having a truck is like every issue a restaurant has to deal with AND every issue a drug dealer has to deal with…” 

Though their food comes out quick and effortlessly, it’s not easy doing what they do. They’ll admit it too: the long hours, the prep work, the inevitable collection of parking tickets. However, each finalist also convinced me why it’s all been worth it to them, and that’s what I hope to show you in my video stories this week: the love and the passion put into each and every bite of food.

Today, Meet Adam Sobel of The Cinnamon Snail Vegan Organic food truck. A 2012 NYC Vendy Award Finalist. 

Congrats to all the finalists! Be sure to get your tickets to the big event on September 15th.

Thanks for watching food. curated.! Happy eating!

Letting Salt Just Be Salt: Amagansett Sea Salt Co.

Our VideosBy Liza de Guia on Aug 20, 2012
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“I was very surprised when we first went into this that no one was making salt in New York, and very few on the East Coast; but, as we’ve become more involved in the business, I think there are very few people who are crazy enough to start a project like this.”

Meet Steven and Natalie Judelson, sea-salt fanatics and husband & wife team behind Amagansett Sea Salt Co. in Long Island, NY.  They are New York State’s only sea salt makers and one of only four artisan salt makers on the entire Eastern Seaboard.

The Judelsons’ love of salts came naturally: they’ve always preferred savory over sweet, a preference that got them addicted to tasting and collecting all-natural sea salts over 20 years ago. What they learned is that real salts, salts not heavily processed in factories, don’t all taste the same. They have their own unique “terroir” – nuanced flavors that give a product a special sense of place. So, given their fascination and proximity to the ocean, they started making their own sea salt, for fun, out of their beach home in Amagansett. Over the past ten years, Steven has slowly perfected his homemade sea salt harvesting and “farming operation”, to the point where in 2009, they took “a leap of faith” and decided to share their passion with others.

Right now, Amagansett Sea Salt Co. offers 10 different sea salt blends. You can find them in various farmers markets out in the Hamptons, or at specialty stores, like Shelsky’s Smoked Fish, here in New York City. I recommend trying the East Hampton Blend with Herbes de Provence. It goes great with eggs, grilled seafood and meats. I also really like their Montauk Blend with lemon zest, which is a nice compliment to vegetables and fruits, and also goes great as a salt rim for margaritas.

Enjoy Steven and Natalie’s story! I think you’ll be surprised how much work and beauty goes into salting up your food.

Thanks for watching food. curated.! Happy eating!

A Reason to Kiss the Sea: Montauk Pearl Oysters

Our VideosBy Liza de Guia on Aug 5, 2012
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“I’m a dreamer. I’ve always been a dreamer, and I like to dream. And this company, which we’ve started on a dream, is going to continue on a dreamy kind of path. It’s heaven. This is heaven.”

Meet Mike & Mike. Mike Martinsen and Mike Doall, the founders of Montauk Shellfish Company, a commercial fisherman and marine biologist who’ve teamed up to give back to their community and pay respect to the Earth by launching Montauk’s very first oyster farm: Montauk Pearls.

Montauk Pearls are new to the oyster scene, and the success of their operation has given the East End a new found interest in aquaculture. The two Mikes started their surface grow out system in 2009, leasing out a very unique and hard-to-come-by plot of private land in Lake Montauk.  A plot of land that just-so-happened to be underwater.   As the story goes, Mike M happened to be living on the property and asked his landlord if he could use it for farming.  Luckily, his landlord said yes.

“It just seems like things all just lined up, almost like fate.” – Mike Martinsen

Feedback has been so positive that demand for the “pearls” has already exceeded supply. Five-star chefs in New York and Long Island are featuring their oysters on menus, as are select seafood joints, like Maison Premiere in Brooklyn and The Lobster Place in Chelsea Market.  According to Mike D, “once you open one up, they basically sell themselves.”

And it’s true. I was sold from the first super briny slurp: a snappy crispness to the meat (and there’s a lot of it), and a finish that tasted of slightly-sweet, fresh watermelon rind. Really, it’s Mike M’s surf-related description that makes me smile most:

“It reminds me of being out in the ocean at sunset…a double-overhead swell, perfect off-shore winds, a little rainbow blowing off the back of the wave. It’s like that salt taste of the mist when you’re coming down a wave in through a barrel. It’s that sea taste: misty, salty, ocean bliss”. You really can’t say it better than that!

Enjoy their beautiful story, shot just a few weeks ago. And thanks for watching and supporting food. curated.! It’s been a slow start for me in 2012, but good things are happening again and, thankfully, I’m back on track. Happy slurping!

Wooly’s Ice: Pimping Out Mad Flavas of Taiwanese-Style Shaved Ice

Our VideosBy Liza de Guia on May 17, 2012
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“In my head, I just know that if our business failed, it’s not because of the product, it’s definitely because of our business acumen – that’s how much I believe in this product.”

Meet Danny Che, David Sat and Kenneth Sa, the founders and owners of Wooly’s Ice, a Taiwanese-style shaved ice food cart based in New York City’s South Street Seaport. This is a story that doesn’t need much of an introduction. I’ll let the video just speak for itself! Just go ahead, sit back and enjoy the silly seriousness of it all.

Wooly’s Ice won Best Dessert at the 2011 Vendy Awards in New York City. And if you’re heading to The Great GoogaMooga Food Festival in Prospect Park this weekend, be on the lookout for the gang of cousins. I hear they’ve got some nice new threads on showcase.  Plus, summer is right around the corner too! So, if you’re smart, and need something uniquely textured, cool, healthy AND refreshing, you’ll hunt these “ballers” down. I recommend trying an overflowing cup of their new mango-flavored ice with sea salt leche syrup and freshly sliced mangoes. It’s dope.

Thanks for watching food. curated.! Happy brain freeze!

Kasadela Izakaya: The House That Chicken Wings Built

Our VideosBy Liza de Guia on May 15, 2012
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“We wanted to be known as a sake bar more than a chicken wing place; but, somehow now, people from all over the world come just for our chicken wings.” 

Meet Azuki Yamashita, the owner of Kasadela Izakaya in NYC’s East Village, the place to go for an “addicting” platter of Tebasaki, a very specific style of umami-infused Japanese fried chicken wings. When Azuki first moved to the U.S., she was very surprised that many Americans thought Japanese people mostly ate sushi, ramen and shabu-shabu. She explained that in her culture, those foods were usually reserved for special occasions, which is why she felt compelled to expose New Yorkers to real, everyday Japanese food, the kind of food she grew up on. So, in 2005, she came on board to manage Kasadela, a newly-opened, authentic, casual, Japanese home-cooking establishment, where the food was as important as the drinks.

But, it was a hard sell. Back then, it was unfamiliar food. People were tentative to try it. The restaurant wasn’t doing well financially; they knew they needed something special on the menu to draw in customers. But what could that one thing be?

Well…believe it or not, as always, a mom saved the day. The original owner’s mom had the brilliant idea to introduce Tebasaki to Americans, thinking that no one could resist the flavor of her very own Nagoya-style chicken wings recipe. True home-cooking! And since then, it’s been bringing in repeat local customers, fried chicken connoisseurs, and Japanese clientele into their doors just for the taste of it. Funny enough, Azuki, who became the new owner in 2009, and Stanley, the bartender, love talking about the instant effect of Tebasaki on diners: that as soon as the plate hits the table, everyone goes silent. Customers temporarily enter this “transcendental state” of meditation and focus on the chicken wings – a reaction that always makes them laugh. So, get on it and enjoy the video already!

Now, I might be new to Tebasaki, but the feeling of fried chicken satisfaction I felt, when I first ate them, won’t get old. I was introduced to Kasadela by my friend Tiffany who helped curate the vendors at this year’s GoogaMooga festival. GoogaMooga will be showcasing Kasadela’s Tebasaki wings at their food festival this weekend. I hope you seek them out!

Thanks for watching food. curated.! Happy Eating!