But I’m weak. When a friend wanted to go, commenting that I’m the foodie – I’m supposed to be going, I caved. And so I found myself headed back to the 69th Armory on Tuesday, March 29th for an evening of what promised to be entirely too much good food.
This year, unlike last year, they’d added food trucks located around the outside of the venue. It wasn’t super clear from the emails beforehand or the website, but the idea was for us to visit the trucks while in line. I arrived at 6 for the 6:30 start but would have arrived well before that if I’d understood the set-up. On my way to meet my friend, I stopped at the Korilla BBQ truck, which was serving Korean BBQ tacos. The chicken taco was spicy, offset with ironically flavorful slaw. Definitely wasn’t a bad way to start the event.
And then I saw something calling my name off in the distance… Wafels & Dinges. For years, I withstood their call as I promised myself I’d just go into Trader Joe’s and back out sans waffle, as if I had on blinders to all things sweet. I did finally have something from them at the Food Drive In, but it was a more savory option. The sweet side didn’t disappoint. I wasn’t particularly wowed by the whipped cream, which turned fairly quickly into a soupy mess, but the Spekuloos sauce? That’s where it’s at.
When the doors finally opened, we were slowly funneled in. For the venue to be so nice and open inside, the entry process always seems to move painfully slow. Unlike last year, this year we’d printed out the floor map, highlighting our must-hit spots.
My first stop was The Meatball Shop, a LES staple I’m sure I’ve passed by many times without realizing. They were sampling a reuben style turkey meatball. Fresh, hot, and flavorful.
Next up was settling a question I’d always had. How would Red Hook Lobster Pound stack up against Luke’s Lobster? I’ve been a long time fan of Luke’s but, to be fair, Red Hook isn’t exactly close and brings up memories of late nights, lost cabbies, and being stranded in shady areas. To start, I had Luke’s take. Just the right amount of butter on the roll. The bread is fresh without overwhelming the lobster. The lobster itself was juicy and plentiful. Each time I have their lobster roll, it’s consistently just like this.
To compare, I waited in the long line at Red Hook. Their roll also had a generous portion of lobster. However, their roll was barely buttered (if at all), the lobster itself was too bland for my taste, and they didn’t add any seasoning to further bring out the flavor of the meat. It wasn’t bad, but gotta say my heart still belongs to Luke. I think their secret spices are the kicker.
City Winery was on hand as one of the alcohol vendors. I’m not usually a fan of locally sourced wines (with the exception of Martha Clara Vineyards) but both their red and white they were serving were excellent. I will be paying them a visit in the future.
Later in the evening, the desserts were unveiled out in the entry hallway. I liked this approach better than last year, where dessert vendors were scattered throughout the main floor. It was a nice change to be able to collectively enjoy desserts at the end. The dessert vendors were split into those accessible to the general public and those you had to have a VIP pass to access.
The Good Batch was there serving up stroopwafels (delicious and more fresh than the packaged variety – made me feel like I was back in Amsterdam) and oatmeal cookies.
Kumquat Cupcakery had several varieties of their mini-cupcakes. I tried quite a few of their offerings. I tried three of their five (shhhh they were small!): maple bacon, chocolate with salted caramel, and cherry port & ricotta. All were quite good, though the chocolate with salted caramel was my favorite (perfect balance of sweet and salty) and the cherry port & ricotta gets a nod for creativity. So good. I skipped the red velvet since I heard the icing was not cream cheese. Call me a snob. That’s ok by me! They definitely have the right sizing though for an event of this magnitude. (Apologies for the blury photo – let’s say I was a tad distracted!)
My friend was kind enough to utilize her VIP pass to snag me my first ever taste from Robicelli’s. They were serving halved portions of their Fiesole cupcake: polenta olive oil cake brished with honey butter, gorgonzola buttercream, roasted hazelnuts and warm honey. I was amused to later read that the buttercream involved gorgonzola. I hate blue cheese with a fiery passion, but didn’t find the flavor overwhelmingly noticeable here (clearly, as I really liked the cupcake!). It was a very interesting take on a cupcake – probably the most savory and only slightly dessert-y cupcake I’ve ever seen. I was pleased to have the opportunity to try something which was so unique, defintitely representative of their interesting mix I’ve watched via their Twitter and Tumblr stream. I will have to track them down to try some more soon.