Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Leave the gun, take the cannoli! Cleo Coyle takes you to New York’s Vendy Awards

Cupcake Crew's "Cousin Vinny" Cupcake:
vanilla chocolate chip cake, topped with
cannoli frosting and rolled in bits of fried
cannoli shell. Mama mia, she was good!

I'll start with dessert. That's what my husband and I did when we attended the 7th Annual Vendy Awards this past Saturday on New York's Governor's Island, and it is my pleasure to take you there with this post. 

Note to my readers: Yes, this was also a research trip! Update 2012 - I thank the Vendy's and several of its food trucks for partly inspiring my (now) bestselling Coffeehouse Mystery - A BREW TO A KILL. For more info on the book, click here.

So what are the Vendy's? A cook-off that honors the best street chefs of New York. Members of the public pay one price and eat all we like for five hours at 22 different food vendor tucks and carts. (These are the finalists who were nominated by their nom-noming customers.) At the end of the day, we attendees loosen our belts a notch and then vote, along with the judges, and the Vendy Cups are awarded in several categories, including the Dessert Cup.

The Cupcake Crew did not win a cup this year, but their showing was spectacular, as these young ladies can attest. Their offerings included... 

Red Velvet Cupcakes with Cream Cheese frosting; 7-layer Rainbows; Maple Bacon; Fig and Whiskey; and Samoas, based on the caramel, dark chocolate, and coconut Girl Scout cookie.

The La Bella Torta truck didn't win, either, 
but that didn't stop us from admiring their truck...

...or enjoying their delicious
Chocolate and Bourbon Panna Cotta...

La Newyorkina was there with
her signature paletas

These little Mexican ice cream pops were (in a word) magnificent. Each one was "handmade with love," and that promise was even beautifully inscribed at the bottom of her pink chalkboard menu!

Pictured left is a Newyorkina paleta that she's made with Cajeta and Pecans. Cajeta is caramelized goats milk, which tastes like a dulce de leche. Very, very good! At the right, you see her handwritten menu.

Some of the most exciting foodie surprises of the day for us were also Vendy Cup winners, and I am happy to tell you about them, too. First up, the Rookie of the Year Cup went to Korilla BBQ

The staff of this truck is comprised of enthusiastic, young Korean-American guys, who worked like a well-oiled (many-headed) mechanized beast! With menu offerings like "The Porkinator" and "Ribeye of the Tiger," Marc and I knew we'd be tasting something original, and we did. The Porkinator reminded me of a spicy-good moo shu--sweet, tangy, and crunchy (from the kimchi). The Ribeye of the Tiger was even better, and I'll let one of their crew tell you about it himself... 

Time for the Korilla BBQ truck to make a snack
for you, a "Ribeye of the Tiger" burrito! 

Click the arrow below and watch a
food truck master at work...

Ready for something sweet again? Good! Because the Vendy Dessert Cup ultimately went to Wooly's. I have to admit, hearing the words "shaved ice" did not thrill me, but when I sampled Wooly's soft, fluffy, chilly treat, I FLIPPED. So did Marc. 

Like a cross between ice cream and cotton candy, this is one unique, melt-in-your mouth dessert. 

If you find yourself in New York's Chinatown or Little Italy, stop by their cart. Congrats to everyone at Wooly's for earning the Cup this year! (Visit Wooly's facebook page here or their twitter page here.)

This baby is the Wooly's "original" flavored ice
with chopped brownies, strawberries, and sea-salt caramel sauce. How sweet it was!

Makers' Mark ice, shaved, sprinkled with
freshly grated nutmeg and topped with
bourbon maple syrup.
Full already? You can't be because we saved the most prestigious winner for the finale. The Vendy Cup winner for 2011 is...Solber Pupusas! Below is a photo of their truck and one of their staff finishing Marc's dish...

What are pupusas? Traditional El Salvadoran grilled corn mesa patties, hand shaped and stuffed with fillings; and, dang, are they delicious! Here's my photo of Marc's second helping of the day, a crackling pork pupusa...

Crackling pork?! Did somebody say pernil? Because that's my own recipe for you today. Click here to download a recipe PDF of the famous Latin American pork shoulder known as pernil. This is the version that Marc and I make and enjoy. We hope you do, too!

As for the award-winning Solber Pupusas, this street food business is owned and operated by an adorable, close-knit El Salvadoran family, and if you watch their short "Vendy finalist" video below, you will see exactly how these traditional grilled corn cakes are made... 

Congrats to all the Vendy Cup winners...


Vendy Cup: Solber Pupusas 
Rookie of the Year: Korilla BBQ 
Dessert: Wooly’s 

Best of N.J.: Taco Truck
People’s Taste: Souvlaki GR

Vendy Hero: Patty’s Taco

Maker’s Mark Street 
Food Challenge: Cinnamon Snail 

...and a big 
THANK YOU to all the street food chefs who works so hard, 
all year long, to make our days delicious...

Time to go home? 
No worries, we can still catch an East River ferry. 
Walk with me to the edge of Governor's Island.
Nice views here...

Thank you for coming, everyone! 

Me (Cleo Coyle aka Alice Alfonsi) with my husband,
Marc Cerasini, who collaborates with me to write
The Coffeehouse Mysteries...

Would you like to take a *virtual* ferry ride with us? 
Click on the arrow in the window below and come along
for the ride up the East River.

I'll even point out some sights along the way...

See you next week!
~ Cleo

To get more of Cleo's recipes, sign up to win free coffee, or learn about her national bestselling mystery series, visit her online coffeehouse by clicking here.


  1. What a fabulous post! Except, I'm hungry now. :)

  2. Wonderful post! I want to go! I am so jealous.

  3. I can't wait to see how you add this to your next book, I'm already excited to see how the plot thickens. :)

  4. Research is hard, but someone has to do it. Thanks.

  5. What a fun day. Colorful with fabulous foods. Thanks for the pictorial post! Fun! Love those pajetas. Must have the recipe. Hmmm.


  6. I feel like I was there with you, Cleo! What fun. All those photos and the one I like best is of you and Marc!

    ~ Krista

  7. This was so much fun to see, listen to, and experience. Almost felt like I had been there, but no smells. Could we provide that?? LOL

    Thanks for the tour of New York. It's kind of hard for those of us who have never been there to place all the different locations in our minds.

  8. Street chefs! How cool! I'd love to experience that. And cute picture of y'all!

  9. This was too much fun! I felt like I was there enjoying all those wonderful flavors with the two of you. Thanks so much for the mini-vacation, I mean, research trip, Cleo!

  10. I knew this was going to be a really fun blog, and I loved, loved, LOVED it! Your descriptions, photos, videos, comments--felt like we were right there (ah, except that I believe YOU actually got to do the eating....ahem....). And then to finish up with that adorable picture of you and Marc completed it perfectly. Thank you for taking us with you!

  11. Oh my gosh ... I think I gained 10 pounds just looking at the pictures. Yum!

  12. I've never heard of the Vendy awards, but now that I know about them, I want to go next year.

    Love the tour of the city. I spotted the Chrysler and the Citicorp building.

  13. I'm drooling all over the keyboard. And I can't wait for the book that will feature the Vendy Awards!

  14. Thanks to everyone for your comments -- and thanks to the Vendy Awards for re-tweeting this post. That made my day.

    @Sarita - Apologies for making you hungry. I hope a food truck rolled by you today to help you with that. :)

    @Sheila - Thank you, and, hey, it's a quick trip from MA to NY for next year's awards!

    @Jean - I'm so glad you're looking forward to next year's mystery. The Vendy's provided Marc and I with a lot of inspiration. (And we will be thanking them in the acknowledgments, of course!) I hope you enjoy what we "cook up" for you. :)

    More replies to come...
    ~ Cleo Coffeehouse Mystery.com
    Cleo Coyle on Twitter

  15. Replies to...

    @Liz - Oh, yes, *tough* job I have, sampling cupcakes and chocolate panna cotta, lol. :)

    @Avery - "La Newyorkina" was a sweetheart, and her ice pops were truly magnificent. I'll be looking for her cart again, for sure!

    @Krista - Aw, thanks for the sweet note about our photo. (Notice I kept it from the neck up. We were feeling pretty round in the belt by the end of the day!)

    ~ Cleo Coffeehouse Mystery.com
    Cleo Coyle on Twitter

  16. Reply to...

    @Kay - Thank you so much for your comment. It means a lot to me that the post helped bring NYC a little closer to your heart. And I'll work on the "Press Here to Smell" button! I think a Taste Here app would go over well on this blog, too!

    More replies to come...

    ~ Cleo Coffeehouse Mystery.com
    Cleo Coyle on Twitter

  17. New York New York...what a yummy tummy town :-)!!!

    Great post and wonderful tour...I could feel the mist on my face and hear the seagulls calling...now if I could taste the food I would be one happy tourist.

    I forgot all about that yummy pork recipe, good thing it is on sale this week.

    Thanks for a wonderful tour and tasty treats!!