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 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 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 ( 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...

Kick Off Fall with Fashion, Food, and Freebies

Since Fall is my favorite season, and we're having unseasonably fabulous weather here in New York, I'm celebrating by attending some free yet fabulous events going on over the next couple of weeks. From fashion to food to fresh city air, you basically can't go wrong.

Fashion's Night Out
The first of its kind, Fashion's Night Out is a one night event kicking off Fashion Week tomorrow, Sept. 10. Designed to boost the industry and get shoppers (like you) into stores (like Saks & Bergdorf), this event will feature free cocktails and grub and discounted fashion pieces. Stores throughout the five boroughs will stay open until 11pm and word is that every notable designer will be out enjoying the festivities as well - even throwing in a performance here and there. Want the inside scoop? Check out New York magazine's Frugal Guide and Full Event Calendar. Ok, I do find it a little patronizing that suddenly the retail industry is hurting and therefore now the peons are invited to participate and spend their money, but the bottom line is that I really want to go. It seems fab and perhaps I'll score a super deal on some seasonal super trend. At the very least I hope to get some free wine and cupcakes out of it.

Hoboken Italian Festival
Moving on from chic to...not so chic, it's the Hoboken Italian Festival. Also kicking off tomorrow, Sept. 10, this 4 night festival will feature local cuisine (e.g. pizza, cannolis) and live music. Though I've never been, I'm not one to pass up NJ classic foods and will therefore be finding some time this weekend to attend. Check this site for a full schedule of events. My only reservation about this event is that it is unlikely to be as fantastic as...

The Feast of San Gennaro
A September staple in the calendar of Rachel. Each year husband and I attend and try lots of fried culinary delights, from skewered meat to fried corn cakes to fried calamari to tiramisu to...the list can go on and on. Like the Jersey shore boardwalk enlarged and displaced into Manhattan, carnival games, circus freaks, and live cheesy music permeate this Little Italy phenomenon. This is a festival that should not be missed. Running from September 10 - 20, it gets beyond crowded, so if you want to try food of any kind, I recommend a night after work and, I cannot stress this enough, get there early and on an empty stomach! Since my new office digs are in the downtown area, there is a high chance that I will be making multiple evenings of it.

Is that enough to get you started for September? I have a busy week ahead...check back for photos and honest reviews! Anyone else attending any of the above? Let me know if you want to meet up!