Each year in early June, a 9,000 square foot tent is hoisted up along Long Island City’s waterfront, a temporal challenge to visual impact created by the the ever-looming Gantries. In it, a spirited affair known as a Taste of LIC unfolds as an annual benefit party for local experimental theater, The Chocolate Factory.
Now in its 8th year, the event has grown from a small event with 12 prescient vendors, to an impressive cadre of over 50 food and drink vendors excited to show off their skills and culinary expertise to the ravenous crowd.
A Taste of LIC, which happened on Tuesday, June 3rd, is one of my favorite events of the year. This is due in part to the location, with Manhattan’s grand skyline as a backdrop, and in even greater part because the participants are restaurants and vendors that we Queens residents know and love. And while it was difficult to choose amidst an embarrassment of riches, below are my favorite bites from this year’s event.
Not the biggest ice cream fanatic, I was a late to the game in recognizing just how good the homemade ice cream is at Malu in Long Island City. Making up for lost time, the Taste of LIC provided the opportunity to sample their outstanding Blueberry Honey Graham flavor made with fresh blueberries and squares of crumbly honey graham crackers. A few weeks ago, at the Strand Smokehouse Block Party, I tried Malu’s Maple Bacon ice cream floated in SingleCut Beersmith’s Hank The Strand Lager, which is the stuff of epicurean dreams. Malu may turn me into an ice cream person yet.
Another outstanding bite at this year’s Taste of LIC was provided by neighborhood favorite LIC Market. They served up a unique and delicious chilled coconut and parsnip soup, served with black sesame and wasabi peas, which was a perfectly refreshing match for the warm Spring evening. This addictive cold soup is currently available on LIC Market’s dinner menu, with the intriguing addition of smoked mackerel to the recipe. And I can also happily vouch for their Market Burger and Truffle Fried Potatoes.
The surprise bite of the night at a Taste of LIC came by way of Woza, who serve South African Street food on the pop-up and food festival circuit (including Hester Nights in Midtown Manhattan and the new LIC Flea which starts right here in Queens in June 15th). Woza was serving up Ouma’s (Grandma’s) Malva Poeding, a traditional South African caramelized apricot sponge pudding, that was freshly drenched in cold cream. South African cuisine is new to me, but if Woza’s Malva Poeding is any indication, I will be stalking them at street festivals all summer long.
My favorite bite of the night at Taste of LIC were the extraordinary sweet, savory and gloriously fatty Candied Bacon Lollipops from the relative newcomers, Van Alst Kitchen. The newcomer tag belies an incredible, local depth. Van Alst is a collaboration by the talented team behind Astoria’s Vesta Trattoria and Wine Bar and Pachanga Patterson, and Astorian Tamara Reynolds of the Sunday Night Dinner in Astoria and the Cooking Channel’s Unique Eats. Van Alst Kitchen creates traveling feasts for special occasions and events, and I can only imagine that any such occasion would be improved by the presence of their Candied Bacon Lollipops.
Keep an eye out for next year’s Taste of LIC. It’s a fun night for a fantastic cause, and it locates Queens food where it should be, on an great stage, with the rest on New York looking over and wondering how we got so incredibly lucky.