Like a Benetton Ad in Your MouthMarch 29, 2010
This weekend my belly was full of food from around the world – some new items I’d never seen before, some good, some not so good…but it was all free, and you can’t complain about that.
The Albany Academies hosted the 2nd annual International Taste of the World Festival, featuring food and culture from Ireland, France, England, Norway, Poland, Bulgaria, Italy, the Philippines, Mexico, Ecuador, Nicaragua, the Caribbean, Senegal, Dominican Republic, India, Japan, Korea, China, Greece, and maybe one or two others that I forgot about. Besides the food, students performed songs and dances from the various cultures. It was a fun event all around, but of course my focus was on the food. First, the highlights:
France – fresh-made crepes are hard to beat…and these were terrific.
Philippines – a marvelous chicken adobo, tasty rice muffins and lumpia (like little egg rolls). It was all delicious.
Mexico – they had an amazing homemade roasted tomatillo salsa.
Nicaragua – this was probably the best table overall. A great avocado salad, baked (or steamed?) yuca, chicarrones, plantains and plantain chips, and Jamaica. Yuca, or Cassava, is a staple in Latin American cooking – it’s a root tuber, like a potato or squash. I’d never tried it before – the texture was almost like spaghetti squash. It did not have much flavor on its own, but some spices made it a decent dish. Chicharrones are basically fried pork rinds, and they were pretty good. Jamaica (pronounced “huh-my-kuh”) is an iced tea of sorts made from dried hibiscus flowers, sugar and spices…very tasty.
Senegal – they had a delicious chicken dish with couscous, but the most interesting item of the whole event was their ginger “lemonade.” Made from just ginger, lemon juice and sugar, this baby packed a wallop. The ginger was quite intense, burning the back of the throat, but in a good way (for me anyway). I loved this concoction – I went back for fourths!
India – terrific butter chicken, rice and seekh kabobs (rolled up ground lamb and spices). Good stuff.
And now, the unfortunately not so good:
Greece – usually one of my favorite cuisines, the Greek table was very disappointing. They had some breads, some veggies with tzatziki (a cucumber-yogurt dip), and some feta cheese. Really boring, especially given the amount of good Greek food in the area.
China – the general consensus is that there is no good Chinese food in Albany, and this table unfortunately did nothing to dispel that idea. Bland lo mein noodles and a steamer full of store-bought frozen potstickers. Very sad.
Poland – I had high hopes for the sausage (Polish sausage is usually great), but this one was flavorless and dry. They also had a pastry with some sort of fruit filling that was quite unappetizing.
Next year I recommend getting there right when the event begins – we got there about an hour into it and already several tables had run out of some of their food. But overall, I got to try some things previously untested by my taste buds, and got lots of free food. So kudos to the Albany Academies for a great event – the Mouse House Kitchen will see you next year!