Sizzling beef is easy to find at this late-summer celebration — just follow your nose. By keeping a sharp lookout, however, our scouting party also turned up a colorful combo platter, which married that familiar carne asada to pale caracol asado. Caracoles, or snails, are the featured ingredient in a much-loved Honduran soup; in New York, local whelks are often the shellfish of choice. These were tender as can be.
At a previous year's festival, while considering a chicken platter (shown below): The first indications that this Honduran stall might sell Garifuna food were the frocklike dresses worn by several of the women; their hair was wrapped, as well. A second sign was the grayish-brown mass tucked in one corner of many platters.
Also shown in extreme closeup, darasa consists of grated banana and coconut milk, plus salt and black pepper, steamed in a banana leaf. Though sometimes described as sweet tamales or dumplings, the impression was more starchy. With pickled onions, rice and beans, and shredded cabbage, darasa was an additional accompaniment to juicy, fresh-grilled chicken or beef.
In years past this event was specifically a celebration of Honduran independence, declared from Spain on September 15, 1821. Despite the current, pan-Central American name, the sky blue and white of Honduras are still the most common colors at this festival and its accompanying parade. For more photos from multiple years of this event, see my slideshow.
"Bishop's nose," in Southeast Asia, is one colloquial name for what also might be called "the last part of the chicken to fly over the fence." Some years ago I enjoyed these delicious fatty nubbins, four to a skewer, on an evening walk through a Ramadan bazaar in Kuala Lumpur.
Bigger birds, of a different feather, frequent many of New York's Ghanaian restaurants. From my perch on a stool at the counter, I spotted a hot-holding case filled with fried turkey tail; a snack plate landed before me soon after. Shall we call this "archbishop's nose"?
Also shown: kontomire (kon-Toe-mih-ray) stew, which at Mama G includes spinach but in Ghana would feature some analagous West African leafy green, such as cocoyam. The bright yellow bits on top are the product of frying ground egusi, or squash seeds, in palm oil, which lends the stew its predominantly orange color. My order also included goat meat, most of it swamped by the stew; a side of fufu; and a little something to wet my whistle. Both turkey tail and kontomire stew were compliments of the management.
Mama G African Kitchen 3650 White Plains Rd. (at East 215th St.), Williamsbridge, Bronx 929-222-4813
Cheebu jen, the national dish of Senegal, is prepared in two principal versions: red and white. The first, colored and enriched by tomato sauce and palm oil, is more common; this afternoon it was my good fortune to find the second. Like many Senegalese restaurants in New York, Fouta maintains a rotating lunchtime menu and serves both versions, though never on the same day.
My plate ($11) sported a wan-flavored portion of tilapia (and a much-needed half-lime), a tender quartet of eggplant, cabbage, cassava, and very sweet carrot, and the obligatory fearsome hot pepper. But it was the moist, broken grains of rice — insinuated, I believe, with chicken stock — that made the meal.
Chiles en nogada, poblano peppers stuffed with a fruit-laced picadillo and draped in walnut sauce, are associated with Mexico's Independence Day, on September 16. Back home, September is the traditional high season for fresh pomegranates, whose crimson seeds are essential in evoking the green, white, and red of the Mexican flag.
Nowadays, pomegranates are more easily imported from South America, where the fruit ripens between March and June, and chiles en nogada are more easily to be had. This one, by a Veracruzana chef, was featured on the specials board during the long weekend surrounding "Día Mamá" ($10). Does Father's Day get the same tricolor treatment?
Patron Mexican Restaurant 835 East 152nd St. (Union-Prospect Aves.), Woodstock, Bronx 347-590-0570
My lunch special, meat loaf and yams ($6), also included a square of sweet cornbread. For shelter from the elements, I ate in the dining room (which I'm told is much livelier during happy hour than at midday), but with the advent of sunnier, warmer weather, nearby Franz Sigel Park looks very attractive. So do many entrees on the steam table, which is open well beyond lunch-special hours, and on weekends, too. How about that juicy roast pork?
Sam's Soul Food Restaurant & Bar 596-598 Grand Concourse (150th-151st Sts.), Concourse, Bronx 718-665-5341
"Swanson's Cafe" and "Drink Coca-Cola" appear on opposite sides of the same building in Mount Vernon, just north of the Wakefield section of the Bronx. The Swanson's sign is visible when you're headed south, toward the city, so it's likely that this long-gone cafe was located in the Bronx, or perhaps in nearby Yonkers. Though this particular Coca-Cola sign is visible only when you're headed north, toward Westchester County, the slogan is at home just about anywhere.