Hi, I'm Rachel.

A few years ago I could barely boil water.

True story.

Determined to be a kick ass wife, I developed a love for football and learned to cook in my tiny Jersey City kitchen. I spend my days working in Manhattan, my nights and weekends chasing after a rambunctious toddler, and the hours in between cooking with my husband and feeding my TV habit...oh, and I blog about it all! 

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Entries in festivals (6)


Before Oktoberfest, It's Italianfest: Part 2 OR How To Do the Festival Circuit

The last in my September series of food and events is my own personal favorite, The Feast of San Gennaro. Held each year in the heart of Little Italy, the streets are lined with cannolis, calamari, fried Oreos, zeppolis, sausage & peppers, cupcakes...the list goes on and on. This year, I hit San Gennaro with a plan. Armed with two companions, my mom and my sister Kimberly (miss you Stiney), 'twas a night of eating and exploring. Now, I'm not sure how many of you have traveled the festival circuit, but in my well seasoned, expert opinion, I find it best to abide by the following rules:

1) Travel in Pairs
Festivals are more fun with a partner. Most of the things I write about can certainly be enjoyed solo, but when it comes to festivals and taste testing, I highly recommend a group. It's really the only way to get the most bang for your buck in terms of most food tasting time/money/stomach room allows.

2) Do a lap before you commit to the food
I cannot tell you how many times I have dove in to the first (few) delicious items that I see, fill up instantly (usually on cupcakes) only to find something that I would have loved to eat but just can't seem to find any more space in the tum. Instead, I realized that I should either a) know what I'm going to eat before I get there (this list always includes mozzarepas...and did I mention cupcakes?) or b) do a complete sweep of the area before stuffing my piehole (this is easier said than done).

3) Pace yourself
I know this seems obvious, but if you want to make the most of your night without your stomach turning on you, take small bites and big steps. The likelihood that these well-stocked vendors would run out of food are slim to none.

The Savory
One of my favorite festival foods are MozzArepas - essentially two corn pancakes (note: I love anything made with cornmeal) grilled and stuffed with mozzerella cheese in between. A sweet and savory food, this cheesy, greasy delight is something I could eat everyday...which is probably why only eating this once or twice a year at festival time is a good move for me.

Next, I sampled some of Kimmi's steak sandwich. This giant $9 sandwich featured crisp, fresh Italian bread (this was Little Italy after all) mozzerella cheese, loads of garlic (yummmm), onions, and steak. Though not necessarily made for walking and eating, this is one sandwich for which I'd be willing to make a quick pitstop.

The Free
Honestly, there wasn't as much as I'd hoped. Bertolli, the maker's of the olive oil sitting in my pantry, had a booth of freebies featuring brownie squares and Italian bread with...you got it, Bertolli's olive oil.
Kim samples free Bertolli brownies!
The Sweet
The first stand I encountered as I walked up Mulberry (starting at Canal) was none other than Snacky's Slices, Ices, & Fun Foods featuring a glass case with cupcakes galore. Remembering my rule #2, I looked, not tasted. The very nice gentleman behind the counter allowed me to take a picture with the promise that I'd be back after 'dinner' for my cupcake dessert. I stayed true to my promise and returned at the end of the night. I went with my standard, chocolate cake with vanilla frosting and it was worth the wait. 4 oversized cupcakes for $10 (no, I did not eat them all) and lots flavors, like red velvet and Oreo cookie, ultimately made this a successful stop for the end of the night.

Backtrack for a moment...in between the above I abandoned rule #2 and put aside my cupcake promise for the moment. I couldn't help but stop and sample at Stuffed Artisan Cannolis. With 3 mini cannolis for $5 and flavors like birthday cake, mint chocolate chip, peanut butter, pb & j, and pumpkin pie, there was no way I could pass this by. (Note: The only food I love more than cupcakes and peanut butter is pumpkin anything...pie, bread, bars, lattes, cannolis...). Kimmi and I sampled the pumpkin pie, birthday cake, and peanut butter. While the pumpkin pie and birthday cake left a little to be desired, the peanut butter was the clear and deliciously wonderful front runner.

Peanut butter, birthday cake, pumpkin pie

A pumpkin pie cannoli? Fall has arrived!
The last sweet for the night is an item that could not go ignored...Fried Oreos. An Oreo, rolled inside a zeppole, fried to crisp, oily perfection and dotted with confectionery sugar...well it doesn't really get much better than that. Need I say more?

The End
After lots of walking, taste testing and a celebrity sighting or two (...it was Bernadette Peters looking mighty fabulous...), we wrapped up the night with tired legs, full tummy's, and cupcakes in hand. Bottom line? San Gennaro '09 provided lots and lots of fab food, only to be followed by lots and lots of days at the gym. Good thing it only comes once a year...


Before Oktoberfest, It's Italianfest: Part 1

Italian festivals are in full force this month, from Hoboken to Manhattan. I spent a rainy, yet food-filled night exploring the Hoboken Italian Festival: The Feast of the Madonna Dei Martiri. Located just north of Sinatra Park (a beautiful spot - if you have the means, I highly recommend checking it out), the festival replaced generic streets with local food vendors, live music (of the pop and Italian persuasion), a cannoli eating contest sponsored by 'Cake Boss' Carlo's Bakery, and fireworks.

Though the day was rainy, and it was misting as I used the fancy new Waterfront Walkway to get from my JC digs to the 'boken (see Rants), somehow we managed to not get soaked and my hair stayed in perfect order. As a well-traveled New York festival goer, I have to say that this was significantly smaller than NYC's San Gennaro. But for a rainy Saturday night in Hoboken? I was pretty impressed. Due to the significant quantities of food, husband and I shared just about all of our purchases in the interest of doing the most taste testing without overstuffing ourselves.

Food Consumed:
1 Mozzerella-stuffed Corn Pancake, $4
1 Cheesesteak Sandwich, $7
1 Bottle Dasani
Water, $2.50
1 Bottle Diet Coke, $2.50
1 Beef Patty, $2

1 Beef Shishkabob, $5

1 Banana Nutella Crepe, $5
Total Dinner for 2: $28

Favorite Food of the Night:
Banana Nutella Crepe

So it's not even an Italian food, though I think the Nutella counts. Either way, this won by a landslide.
Close second: Mozzerella-stuffed Corn Pancake

Least Favorite Food of the Night:
Beef Shishkabob

I hate this category and I always hope I can yell 'Nothing! This was all the best food I've ever eaten!' but sadly that is not the case in this instance. A grizzly cut of meat (I'm still not convinced it was even beef) with some bizarre sweet & sour mixture drizzled on it trying to pass for BBQ sauce...it just doesn't make the cut.


Big Appetites Only at the Big Apple BBQ Block Party

On Sunday, I attended the much-hyped (by me) Big Apple BBQ Block Party where I battled crowds and ate pulled pork until my insides cried out in despair. It was a huge turnout with lines as far as the eye could see. I was lucky enough to score a free Fast Pass from a pass-carrying man who had eaten his way through the entire festival and generously gave me his as he was exiting. What did this magical pass, retailed at $100, do for me? It provided Disney World-style line cutting, exponentially improving my experience as I sailed past the long lines and into the 'Fast Pass Area'. While he had used up all of the 'money' the pass had to offer, just accessing the VIP area in itself was a treat.

Seeing pitmasters from across the nation come together for this event was fantastic. I skipped most of the New York-based offerings and went for The Pit from North Carolina (and also featured on Throwdown with Bobby Flay) and Ubon's "The Champion's Choice" from Mississippi (oh, the wonderful bbq sauce...). 2 pulled pork sandwiches later, I was full and happy. Hubby went with the brisket and cucumber salad from NYC's The Hill and after a little taste testing, we decided that this is a restaurant we must try at some point. Unfortunately I didn't have the will power to keep eating...but that's what next year is for, right?

I report live from Big Apple BBQ!

I heart barbeque! Especially pulled pork!

The fest entrance at Madison Square Park

A man from Rack of Ribs giving out free (and fantastic) rib samples!

Multiple bands played throughout the day...bluegrass, folk, & country style!

Ubon's "The Champion's Choice" pulled pork & coleslaw...my pick for best bbq sauce!

The Hill's BBQ'd brisket & cucumber salad...yum!

The Pit truck, featuring Ed Mitchell, Throwdown with Bobby Flay champ!

Tips for next year:
1) If I plan to make a weekend of it, getting the Fast Pass seems worth it. The lines were way longer outside of the VIP area, and the pass came with some punchable pig icons denoting spending money...that's where your $100 goes...to endless amounts of pork.
2) Do a full sweep before launching in to the first sandwich you come across. While I'm sure every stand had delicious food, I went to the first stand with a reasonable line. The sandwich was great, but by the time I got to number 2, I was filled to the back of my throat.
3) This is for the BBQ Festival organizers: GET BETTER DESSERTS! The only desserts offered in the 12 block radius was at the Blue Smoke Desserts stand. If you remember this article, you'll recall that I raved about the apple crisp being one of the best I've ever had (and I've had a LOT of apple crisp). Unfortunately, the 'dessert' stand only offered watermelon, cookies, and a brownie with ice cream that looked average at best. If you want me to spend $4 on dessert after I've eaten my way through 2 pulled pork sandwiches, a strawberry iced tea, one delicious rib, a free sample bite of grilled pork, a few stolen bites of brisket from hubby's plate, and 2 side dishes of coleslaw, you're just going to have to do better than that.

Coming up:
Tonight I'm hitting up the Third Annual Food Film Fest at the South Street Seaport. Featured food films include: Come Have an Omelette With Me, Clam Pie, The Sacred Food, Celeriac, Eat Your Fill, & 24 Hours, 24 Million Meals: Feeding New York City. Free food offerings: Clam pie & Deep fried on a stick. Check back later this week for full report, pending my heart still works after deep fried food fest...

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