Jersey City Phagwah / Holi Day Parade Saturday, March 22, 11:30-??? Proceeds from Audobon Park to the festival site in Lincoln Park, Jersey City www.Facebook.com/events/760146503998116 Note: Chow situation unclear; also take care about wearing nice clothes Free admission
World Water Day Interactive Benefit Saturday, March 22, 11:00-5:00 Outside two offices of Warburg Realty: 451 Columbus Ave. (81st-82nd Sts.), and 100 Hudson St. (at Leonard St.), Manhattan www.WarburgRealty.com/world-water-day Free admission; "each time a participant carries a jerry can, we'll make a $2 donation in their honor to Charity: Water"
...on an all-too-brief hunt for biscuits and gravy, meat-and-threes, and smoked specialties on and off the bone. Eating In Translation will return next week; in the meantime, follow me on Foursquare and Twitter for the early word.
The poppy-seed bagel that frames "The Sinatra" ($7.35) adds a chewy counterpoint to Genoa salami, ham, pepperoni, provolone, lettuce, and roasted peppers, dressed with oil and vinegar. Toasting the bagel first might be pushing your luck; this Italian-American-Jewish mashup strikes the right balance exactly as served.
Brooklyn Bagel & Coffee Company 35-09 Ditmars Blvd. (35th-36th Sts.), Astoria, Queens 718-932-8280 (One of several locations, none of them in Brooklyn) www.BKBagel.com
"Try this pudding in a leaf," the flyer urges. Duckunoo and blue draws are two names, each with several variations, for this Jamaican confection, but for the nonce let's employ the prosaic yet charming appellation tie-a-leaf ($3). Steamed and untied, the pudding — made from "cornmeal, coconut, spices, and sugar" — exposed many moist, glistening bits that had insinuated themselves in the wrapper leaves, and that didn't go a-begging. The bulk of the tie-a-leaf had a grainier texture, perhaps an unavoidable artifact of the cornmeal; the shop's sweet potato style might be another story.
Char kueh teow or Indian mee goreng? When I couldn't decide between two favorite Malaysian noodles, the kitchen cobbled together a half-and-half lunch special with a full share of wok hei (regularly $9.50, this day on the house). Though off-menu, the combo is available anytime on request; as long as you're asking, don't be shy about kicking the spice up a notch.
Also available on request, but as of now only to go: kaya ($10 per pint; best reserved by calling ahead). Rasa's version of this coconut egg jam has a more caramelized appearance than most; the closest comparison in my experience might be with the kaya at Yut Kee, in Kuala Lumpur. It's shown with a fresh-griddled roti (different day, but once again complements of the house) as part of a contemplated breakfast set.
Rasa 25 West 8th St. (MacDougal St.-Fifth Ave.), Manhattan 212-254-1888 www.RasaNYC.com
Samsas are standard fare at Central Asian restaurants. Chopped lamb is the customary filling; a savory version featuring pumpkin is a welcome alternative. But until I'd set foot in this shop — which at a glance seemed to offer baked goods rooted in several Jewish communities — I'd never come across a walnut samsa ($1.50), and a sweet one at that. Hot from the oven would be even better.
Yosef Kosher Bakery III 73-15 Main St. (73rd-75th Aves.), Kew Gardens Hills, Queens 718-575-0077
Sputnik was raised into orbit in October 1957; this Indonesian brand of seaweed-based gelatin powder took off in 1958. Rarely can one date a decades-old logo so precisely based on its appearance alone (in truth there are several variations, but all recognizably from the same era). Occasionally such logos are relaunched; more often they're scrapped. During the past 50-some years, however, the Satelit logo seems to have come full circle — from timely, to tired, to retro-chic. Satelit vanilla agar-agar powder (7 g., $1).
More from the annals of overseas package design: Below, a jar of Parrot brand bumbu buah pedas, or spicy fruit seasoning (150 g., $1.90) blends black pepper, white pepper, chili, and salt. The label, printed in Indonesian, Chinese, and English, also features a two-panel illustration of its use, though I can't fathom to what end. In any language, what could be more self-evident than "season food, eat food"?
In addition to imported and domestic packaged goods, this Indonesian grocery — affiliated with nearby Java Village — stocks an intriguing selection of locally prepared items. One of the most portable is a dense, not-too-sweet square of rice imbued with brown sugar ($2). No instructions necessary.
Taste of Seventh Saturday and Sunday, March 8-9, during regular opening hours for each shop Seven locations near East 7th St. and First Ave., Manhattan www.LukesLobster.com/shop/tasteofseventh Tickets: $25
The murcott ($2.49 per pound) is a hybrid of the common sweet orange and the mandarin, though evidently with much more of the mandarin's genes. This compact fruit has a thin, easily removed peel and minimal "rag" around the segments; it's seedless, or nearly so. For a citrus this California-raised fruit has a rich flavor, with just a little acid to take the edge off the sweetness.
Also shown: two views from the roof deck, of solar panels, wind turbines, and Lower Manhattan, and of a familiar Brooklyn skyline. Come a season when we don't need citrus fruit to remind us of sunny weather, the deck will be much more inviting.
Tabodowe, the eleventh month of the traditional Burmese calendar, typically in February, is the occasion of this harvest festival. (Yes, harvest; the rhythms of the seasons in Brooklyn and in Burma are very different.) One customary festival activity is the communal preparation of the namesake htamane (tah-mih-Nay), a concoction of "glutinous rice, coconut slices, sesame seeds, peanuts and a generous amount of cooking oil."
Preparing htamane is very labor-intensive. In addition to oversized woks, the most notable tools are paddle-like ladles used to stir-fry shredded ginger, then to mix it with soaked glutinous rice. The real muscle work begins, however, when a given batch (this was the sixth of twelve) has thickened enough to be removed from direct heat. The wok is moved to a relatively shimmy-free location, in this case atop an old automobile tire resting on the floor, and held fast by several gloved hands. What was vigorous paddling becomes even more concerted as coconut, peanuts, and ultimately sesame seeds are combined into the increasingly coagulated mass. Typically, more strong hands hold each ladle near the business end, both to guide it and for extra leverage.
The resulting savory snack, shown with a fork but commonly eaten with fingers, is then portioned out; most will be eaten on the day of the celebration itself, or afterward. It's not appreciably better warm than cool, with one exception — the slightly burnt scrapings from the wok (not shown) are "the best part," several of the htamane crew told me. I don't disagree. Though I can't provide the transliteration of its Burmese name into English, should you ever find yourself at a htamane-making event, ask for "joe."
Htamane Pwe At the America Burma Buddhist Association and Meditation Center 619 Bergen St. (Vanderbilt-Carlton Aves.), Prospect Heights, Brooklyn 718-622-8019 www.MahasiUSA.org (The 2014 celebration, held a day after these preparations, was on March 2)
A coffee shop only on account of coffee to go, tiny New Kam Hing specializes in sponge cake. The flavor evokes an eggy angel food cake; the lightness and springy texture also hint that it is steamed rather than baked. (Ovens were not so common in traditional Chinese kitchens.)
When the elderly owner retired, this shop might well have closed in the absence of a younger generation willing to take on the workload. May May, once of Pell St., is a case in point. But at New Kam Hing, a longtime Mexican-born employee took the reins; he speaks not only English and Spanish but also sufficient Cantonese to manage a multicultural staff and fill orders from loyal customers. The roster of sponge-cake flavors, however, may be up for review and expansion. This one ($1), a special on the day I stopped in, is chocolate chip.
New Kam Hing Coffee Shop 119 Baxter St. (Canal-Hester Sts.), Manhattan 212-925-0425
Kedgeree ($10 per pound) is a distant relation of South Asian khichuri (one of many spellings), which often comprises rice and lentils cooked together and eaten with fish. Common wisdom maintains that returning British colonials brought the dish back home, where smoked haddock and hardboiled egg soon took hold as typical if not defining ingredients. Kedgeree does commonly employ one seasoning, however, that hearkens back to the days of the Raj: curry powder.
Though the dish was once widely employed to transform last night's leftovers into this morning's breakfast, at Mermaid's Garden — which cold-smokes its own haddock — kedgeree is the very point.
As for the shop's pristine (and well-annotated) display of seafood, the striped bass shimmer as brightly as any you'll see, and the periwinkles are still nimble enough to hobnob with the whelks.
The first time I set foot inside the trailer of La Piraña (the nickname of the proprietor, though he appears as even-tempered as you would hope of anyone whose principal tool, used in the normal course of chopping lechon, is a machete), I was only up for snacks. An exceptional golden crab pastelillo (also shown in biteaway view) was not long out of the deep fryer; I chased it with a darker ground-beef-and-green-plantain alcapurria.
A platter of the roast pork called lechon ($8) is exceptional, too, provided you give the nod to several ladles of gravy on top. Cheek by jowl with rice and pigeon peas are tomato, onion, celery, and mysterious additional tidbits of flavorful protein — perhaps smoked meat, perhaps bacon, one dining buddy conjectured.
Note that the trailer itself is not labeled Lechonera La Piraña. Look for the Puerto Rican-themed mural on one side (Aguadilla is the proprietor's previous home) and the "Pan, Tierra, Libertad" logo on the other. Note, too, that quarters are very close inside. If the weather is brutal, consider waiting to pay a call during the annual, amiable Festival de la Calle 152.
Lechonera La Piraña East 152nd St. near Wales Ave., Longwood, Bronx Saturday and Sunday only
NYC Craft Beer Festival: Spring Seasonals Three sessions: Friday, February 28, 8:00-10:30; Saturday, 2:00-4:30 and 7:00-9:30 Lexington Armory, 68 Lexington Ave. (25th-26th Sts.), Manhattan www.NYCraftBeerFest.com Tickets: per session, $55, or $75 for hour-earlier VIP admission; ages 21 and over only
Much rarer is this style of semolina-based halva
(about 65 cents per piece, at $12 per pound), made here by Bukharian Jews of Uzbek descent. (The photo with the edge-on view shows a halva of similar make, in an unlabeled container at a Rego Park grocery, provenance unknown.) Bits of almond and walnut, but not pistachio, are embedded within; I imagine that cardamom takes credit for the greenish-gold coloration. It's sweeter than the sesame-based stuff (how could it not be?) and to my taste more tempting. It's also much less messy to divvy up, should you be so inclined.
Avraham Kosher Bakery 77-47 Vleigh Pl. (77th Rd.-78th Ave.), Kew Gardens Hills, Queens 718-969-1074