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.