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Get Ready for N.Y.'s 2011 Vendy Awards

A look back at last year's street food extravaganza.
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The 2011 Vendy Awards date has been announced, which made me think back to my experience last year at this mobile-eats smorgasbord.

It’s not always convenient to catch up with the nomadic meals-on-wheels in a place like New York City where hundreds of gourmet street-eat options abound. But that all changed on a gorgeous Saturday last September when the city’s top food trucks and street vendors gathered on Governor’s Island in the heart of New York’s harbor for the 6th Annual Vendy Awards. The Vendys are a showcase of NYC’s street food scene and a cook-off among the top sidewalk chefs. Last year Chef Mario Batali called the event—hosted by and a fundraiser for the Street Vendor Project (a membership-based nonprofit organization that fights for vendors’ rights)—“the Oscars of food for the real New York.”

The 2010 Vendys marked the nationwide proliferation of food trucks and carts that go beyond traditional greasy street-food options. The Big Apple’s best food vendors offered samples to the 1,500 hungry guests who’d paid $80 for all-you-can-eat tickets at this street eater paradise.

Stunned by the options, I started farthest from the entrance to avoid the long lines. I began my day-long feast with a delicious tofu scramble and a vegetarian pinto bean chili at the 99% Vegetarian van. From there, Cinnamon Snail piqued my curiosity, so I got in line to see what this New Jersey operation had to offer. In a moment my plate was filled with Ginger Island grilled tofu over coconut mashed yams and greens with grilled mango salsa, spiced candied pecans and fried ginger; Korean BBQ seitan with marinated greens and kimchi on a chili butter slathered tortilla; and porcini hempseed-crusted tempeh over white truffle mashed potatoes, arugula and white wine French mustard dressing. With a plate full of vegetarian goodness, I took a seat and enjoyed some of the finest veggie food I’ve ever tasted.

After resting in the sun, I made my way back around to Mexicue where I sampled that truck’s lovely BBQ brisket sliders and short-rib tacos before a quick nosh on Moroccan fare from the Bistro Truck.

Quite full but determined to carry on, I took advantage of the long line for Schnitzel & Things to make room for samples from their menu, including chicken schnitzel, a lamb lollipop, roasted beet and goat cheese salad, chickpea salad and Austrian potato salad. Delicious food, but the Schnitzel truck put me over the edge—I was done with savory for the day. Which meant sweets were up next.

I headed to the Guerrilla Ice Cream cart where I tried a Chai Masala ice cream followed by a refreshing Mango, Lemongrass & Sugar Sorbet. The ice cream was smooth and creamy, but the Chai Masala was too rich to finish. Although sated, I still couldn’t resist trying the Best Dessert Vendy award winner, Kelvin Natural Slush Co.’s all-natural frozen slush. So I ordered a Tangy Citrus Slush with a swirl of strawberry (real fruit puree) for the ferry ride back to Manhattan.

If you’re a lover of food trucks or just plain food, this is an event to experience. The 2011 Vendy Awards are September 24 on New York City’s lush Governor’s Island, nestled between Manhattan and Brooklyn. Early-bird tickets are already sold out, so grab some general-admission tickets at $95 a pop, and get ready to indulge. Visit streetvendor.org/vendys/tickets for more information and to nominate your favorite NYC food vendor. —Deborah Moss

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