Thursday, January 5, 2017

NYC Mini-Food Tour #1 (Di Fara Pizza, NY Dosas, Bolivian Llama Party)

With the family gone for the weekend, I took it upon myself to cross some food venues off my lengthy to-do list.  First up, I traveled to the far reaches of Brooklyn to get some of New York City's legendary pizza at Di Fara (1424 Avenue J).

Di Fara opened in 1965 and founder Dom Di Fara has been there since the beginning, making pies one at a time.  Now in his 80s, he's a little slower, but no less masterful with his craft.  Waits can extend past 90 minutes if you happen to arrive at peak times, which is why my friend/local fixer Adam and I came out 30 minutes before the doors opened at noon.  We were fortunate to be among the first patrons of the day and received our pizza slices in only about 5 minutes.

(that's Dom Di Fara doing his thing)

My understanding was that the house thin crust and the Sicilian (which is a little thicker) are both Platonic ideals of pizza, so, of course, I had to try each of them.  The Sicilian is on the left above, studded with fresh basil leaves, and the regular thin crust sported a handful of tomato chunks and a drizzle of chili oil that I added from an unmarked jar sitting at the counter.  After one bite, I now get the appeal - Dom Di Fara belongs in the Smithsonian as a national treasure (if not a concessionaire).

Next up was a subway ride back across the East River and over to Washington Square Park, home to the city's famous dosa man and his trusty food cart.

Thiru Kumar is a native of Sri Lanka who came to America in 1995 and worked several odd jobs before starting his food cart in 2001.  It took a little while for his rendition of South Indian cuisine (which includes samosas, crepe-like dosas, and pancake-like uthappams) to catch on, but now he's one of the most popular food cart vendors in NYC, especially with vegans and vegetarians.

Customers get a small cup of spicy lentil soup (good for clearing your sinuses) with their purchase, which in my case was the hearty and delicious uthappam filled with veggies like carrot/eggplant and an interesting-looking can of lychee-flavored soda (I don't need to have another one of these for a while).

There was one final stop for the day after our park visit.  Adam has been wanting to try out a very hip Bolivian food stand that opened earlier this year in the TurnStyle (a shopping center in the subway tunnels underneath Columbus Circle, between 57th and 58th Street along 8th Avenue) called Bolivian Llama Party, so we popped in on our way to his condo for a snack.  The snack item in question here is something known in Bolivia as a saltena, similar to an empanada (just don't call it that unless you want to start a border war with the staff) in that it's a thick, braided pastry filled with a combination of meats, vegetables, and spices.  There's also a slab of gelatin that gets included during prep, which melts into a gravy during baking (not unlike Chinese soup dumplings).

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