Latin America and Caribbean flavors join NYC’s International Food Festival

Veronica Turkieltaub thinks it’s her responsibility to bring Argentinian flavor to New York City’s Ninth Avenue International Food Festival.

Her mother started selling empanadas at the festival 43 years ago. Turkieltaub now owns her mom’s store, Mia Empanada, and also sells skirt steak and chorizo sandwiches. The smell of meat filled the air as she prepared chicken and beef chuzos on the grill, cuts of meat on a stick.

As the sounds of Afro-Colombian salsa had New Yorkers from all backgrounds showing off their dance moves at the corner of 52nd street, a crowd gathered that was so large it stopped traffic.

“Its great because there’s so many people from all over the world and they get to kind of learn and taste the Argentinian cuisine that we have to offer,” Turkieltaub said.

The iconic festival takes place every spring on Ninth Avenue, a street known for its international cuisine. There were more than a dozen booths serving Latin and Caribbean food, alongside others serving Taiwanese, Mediterranean, German and Greek food, a cornucopia of tastes at the event’s 46th edition May 18-19.

The festival came on a weekend with clear skies and a gentle breeze, after days of heavy rain. White tents lined the avenue between 42nd and 57th streets, drawing thousands of
hungry visitors who bumped into one another as they sampled tasty tidbits.

Music and aromas from each booth converged in the middle of street in a lively jumble. While grownups enjoyed sangria and unlimited beer refills, their children flocked toward
two blocks jammed with bounce houses and games.

Semi Lopez’s entire family worked relentlessly at the Tacos Carmelita Parientes food truck, selling more than 3,000 tacos a day. It was his first year participating in the festival. “The people love the tacos, they love everything that is Mexican food,” Lopez said in Spanish.

Arturo Silva, who came to the United States from Mexico seven months ago, agreed. “Right now, this tastes like glory,” Silva said in Spanish, as he devoured a taco al pastore, made with marinated pork and pineapple.

Jason Mars, who owns Jerk Off the Grill, stood in front of blazing charcoal cooking jerk chicken as customers lined up in front to buy plates full, along with oxtails, curry chicken and
other Caribbean dishes. It was his third time bringing taste of Jamaica to the festival.

“Its not about the food only, but the culture, too,” he said. “Embrace it, experience, and live it.”

Karla Florez and Valentina Palm are reporters in the South Florida Media Network’s New York City Bureau.

Reporter

Valentina Palm is a broadcast journalism major. Passionate about investigative journalism, she likes shining a light on community issues that sparks change. She is a student reporter for South Florida Media Network's New York City Bureau and is a staff writer for FIU's student publication PantherNow, covering student government and FIU faculty. Valentina is interested in multimedia journalism and focuses on capturing compelling videos and photographs to accompany her written stories. A native of  Caracas, Venezuela, she understands the importance of the freedom of the press and the responsibility of accurately reporting the truth.

Reporter

Karla Florez is a journalism major who will graduate at the end of summer session, 2019. She is a reporter for the South Florida Media Network’s bureau in New York City. Karla graduated from Miami Dade College with a degree in mass communication. She interned for Verity Creative Agency, a California-based public relations agency, for which she covered fashion and beauty topics and currently is an intern with {C}, Magazine, based in Georgia, for which she covers fashion, news and entertainment.