The Oscars have nothing on The 2nd Annual Independent Food Festival and Awards and if you don’t believe me check out and click the snazzy logo (which, apparently, I’ve been able to wrap my text around. Whee! It’s text wrapping!)
Oh how I love the Independent Food Festival and Awards. No, it’s not because of all the wonderful food bloggers posting their recommendations to thousands of food blog readers around the world, it’s because I love power. I love that finally I, the guy who always got picked last, get to pick FIRST… or at least in the first group of food bloggers selected to pick awards, which–incidentally–isn’t a function of how great we are, I think it was just randomly done. But still: it’s power and it’s corrupting me absolutely. Après moi le Deluge!
Actually, there might be a deluge when people catch wind of what I’m awarding. Despite my love of power, when it actually came down to what I wanted to award I was a bit flummoxed. “I’m a bit flummoxed,” I told the cashier at my local CVS when pondering my award. “Try some Benedryl,” she suggested. I did and that’s when it hit me: I’m not one of those fancy pants food bloggers who knows about things like “quality” and “authenticity” and “cultural significance.” I can’t recommend artisinal ham cured in the basement of a former communist dictator living on the Lower East Side: that’s just not me. I’m a simple lad who enjoys simple things. Like lemonade.
I love lemonade. It’s my favorite drink next to iced tea. It’s bright, it’s refreshing, and when it’s made well it can perk up the most mundane of lunches. Lemonade is the wine of lunch: you can’t get drunk on your way back to school or work, so you drink lemonade. And on my way to school (which involves a walk down 23rd street to board the NR train) I make a weekly stop at Rickshaw to eat dumplings and to enjoy their Meyer lemonade.
The deluge mentioned above comes from the fact many people loathe Rickshaw’s dumplings. “I loathe Rickshaw’s dumplings,” says my friend and colleague James Felder. “They taste like styrofoam.” Others, apparently, feel the same way: “The Chowhound message boards are filled with people who hate Rickshaw’s dumplings,” says James. “I can’t believe you like them.”
But to these people (James included) I say: “You’re crazy!” The dumplings are great: they’re packed with exciting ingredients (my favorite are the shrimp “with jicama, scallion and a hint of wasabi served with a miso dipping sauce”) and they’re served however you want them: in clusters of six or nine, fried or steamed, and in soup or in salad. Most importantly, though, they are the perfect complement to my new favorite lemonade, the Meyer lemonade: made fresh daily with real Meyer lemons. [This was fact-checked when I asked the guy at the counter how they made it. “Made fresh daily with real Meyer lemons,” he said.]
What is it about chasing those hot, greasy dumplings down with that sweet and tart citrusy elixer that causes me to come back again and again? Here’s the thing: I can’t imagine eating dumplings at Rickshaw without the Meyer lemonade and, inversely, I can’t imagine sipping Meyer lemonade without the dumplings. This is a bizarro musical romance that’s enacted on my tongue on a weekly basis with Lea Salonga playing the role of “dumplings” and Tommy Tune playing the Meyer lemonade. If a helicopter landed on my head while chewing, I wouldn’t be surprised.
Look: I don’t want my award to motivate you to fly here from Des Moines tomorrow in order to eat the dumplings and the lemonade, that’s not what I’m trying to say. There might be better dumplings in New York, there might even be better lemonade. I’m not giving this award because I think it’s a “must try” New York experience. I think, culturally, Rickshaw is less than authentic: especially with Chinatown only a few subway stops away. Why am I giving it? I’m giving it because it’s an expression of me, the award giver, and my own personal tastes and obsessions. I like the quirky combination of these two unexpected partners in taste crime: in this case, the crime of deliciousness. My tastebuds do a dance of joy when Rickshaw’s on the menu and if that’s not good criteria for an award, I don’t know what is. And should you accidentally fly here from Des Moines tomorrow and should you accidentally sample the dumplings and Meyer lemonade, might you accidentally do a cartwheel back on to the street? I think, perhaps, you might. But I’m not paying for your airfare if you don’t!
Thanks for reading my award. Check out all the other awards over the next few days and thanks to the tasteeverything crew for putting this all together! It makes me proud to be a food blogger.