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.