I'll admit to buying a tote bag that boasts the Tastykake rocker; any guilty pleasures that might have filled it will remain my secret. Also shown: the mural outside, two panels densely populated with brand mascots.
Phagwah (Pog-wah), an Indo-Caribbean celebration of spring, is better known as Holi in India and among the country's worldwide Hindu diaspora. It's also known as the festival of colors, which are playfully applied, generally in powdered form, to friend and stranger alike. In the parade photos shown here, anything that might look like a puff of smoke is actually a cloud of powder, which may be directed with intent or simply tossed to the shifting winds. (First-time celebrant? Don't wear your best clothes.)
Outside the park that hosted a post-parade stage show, a handful of food vendors employed a similar palette, in the forms of stiffened, pre-bagged cotton candy and shaved ice drowned in syrup. The only vendors who caught my fancy, however, were several Guyanese woman at a table of assorted fried sweets. They also sold a single savory item that, at least in name, is color-free: black pudding (small, $5).
Phagwah celebration in Richmond Hill Parade proceeds west along Liberty Ave. from 133rd St. to 125th St., then north to the festival site at Phil "Scooter" Rizzuto Park (also known as Smokey Oval Park), Richmond Hill, Queens www.PhagwahParade.us (The 2016 celebration was held on March 26)
The name is as compact as a txt msg. The hut itself, as you might expect, is none too large either, and takeout orders are the norm; a precious few sidewalk seats appear in the warmer seasons.
T&T, of course, stands for Trinidad and Tobago, a two-island nation just north of Venezuela, and the BBQ is Caribbean-style, no relation to low and slow. My lamb (large, solo — that is, no sides — $13) was sliced thin, grilled fast, and well-lacquered, bones and all. The sauce is the customer's choice from a palette of West Indian flavors; mine was guava.
Also shown: 7Up (12 fl. oz., $2), made in Mexico and so, typically, corn-syrup-free.
In the Andes, "ojotas" (oh-Hoh-tas), or sandals, usually connote a thrift-minded alternative to factory-made shoes. Originally they were fashioned from leather; rubber from recycled tires was used as early as the 1920s and is the default today. The ojotas and the feather — perhaps an eagle feather? — suggest a fellow who proudly identifies himself with Peru's indigenous population, or simply with country folk, and who hungers for good cooking without affectation. The roasted body of a second bird, held aloft, would be a morbid touch if not for those big blue eyes. See also chullo-wearing chicken.
One door shuts, another opens. The fellow who related the details of Dutchie's closing — he was seated outside the neighboring barbershop whose clientele had supplied many customers to the tiny Surinamese storefront — recommended 3 Sisters, a Guyanese restaurant not far away. "Their food is always on point," he proclaimed, adding that further seasoning was not needed.
Indeed, at the tables in the back room of this cafeteria-style restaurant, a nondescript bottle of hot sauce is the sole condiment, and ultimately I did without. My vegetable sampler over rice ($8) included an exceptional smoked eggplant (closest to the hot sauce) as well as pumpkin, potato, callaloo, another eggplant dish, okra, long beans (cut down to size), and kerela, or bitter melon.
3 Sisters' & Shanta's Restaurant & Bakery (also called 3 Sisters Liberty Bakery) 107-04 Liberty Ave. (107th-108th Sts.), Richmond Hill, Queens 718-845-3570
If your next-door neighbor is decked out in colorful fashion and your own stock in trade is rather drab, how's a store to stand out? Persaud (and to a lesser extent the All Seasons variety) has discovered that greenery can be a great-looking line of business. As befits a hardware and housewares store, the potted plants are practical as well as decorative: They include basil, peppers, and other edibles for brightening up the family dinner.
Persaud Hardware & Housewares 123-15 Liberty Ave. (123rd-124th Sts.), Richmond Hill, Queens 718-843-7382
If your first thought is peach cobbler, the first taste will make your head spin. You'll encounter some stiff remnants of rind, too, tougher than any peach fuzz. Side dish, or dessert? From this Trini shop's menu of housemade "sweets and treats": curry mango ($5).
Sonny's Roti Shop 118-06 Liberty Ave. (118th-119th Sts.), Richmond Hill, Queens 718-835-7255
(This venue is closed.) No, not Jamaican; the colors of the awning are all wrong. This tiny storefront serves takeout food from Suriname, a South American country whose colonial heritage is still evident in the names of many menu items. Listen to the pronunciation of garnalen as often as you like; for any but native Dutch speakers, the precise sound of that initial consonant may prove elusive. It's easier to stick with English and order the shrimp sandwich ($4), modestly sized but given bulk by potatoes that are curried with the crustaceans — the spiciness has a sweet undercurrent — and complemented by crunchy pickles.