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Red Hook Vendors: Safe for Six Years, But in What Form?

The forces of good have triumphed! The Parks Department has issued a permit to the Red Hook food vendors, ensuring deliciousness at the Red Hook ball fields for at least another six years. But the vendors aren't out of the woods yet. "Two hours ago I got a call from Parks saying we won the bid," Carlos Fuentes, the vendors' leader, tells us. "This has been an uphill battle. It's by no means an end. It's a big victory though. Now the biggest challenge is DOH compliance. In winning the bid we understood that we need to comply with health regulations. It might change the character of the affair — the ethnic, rustic, mercado style. We may have to turn into a more generic type of activity. We need to look at options in hopes of trying to find a way to preserve what we already had."

Mexican Chef Returns to Queens in High(er) Style

A good chef thought long gone has (lucky for us) returned: Benita Areola is at a new Pan-Latino restaurant in Astoria called Luna de Juarez. Areola cooked at one of the better Mexican restaurants in Queens in recent years, the late Fiesta Mexicana, a no-frills BYOB favorite in Jackson Heights. (She also worked at a restaurant called Fiesta Mexicana in Mexico, where the name is less promising.) Her light and refined food is expected to surface again at Luna de Juarez, but look for a more ambitious menu, live music on weekends, and a liquor license. This venue sounds better and better. Luna de Juarez, 25-98 Steinway St., nr. 28th Ave.; 718-274-4350.

Is This the Last Saturday for the Red Hook Vendors?

Things have looked dire for the Red Hook vendors for much of the summer, with first the Parks Department and then the Department of Health threatening their future. As Porkchop Express reported last week, the DOH popped in for a surprise inspection and was shocked — shocked! — to find no running water there. So will the situation be remedied by this weekend, when inspectors are rumored to show up again? Doubtful, says vendor representative Cesar Fuentes. “They want us to have hot and cold running water, a refrigerated truck to store food in, all the food prepared either in a restaurant or in a DOH-approved preparation facility, and a lot of other things.”

Merkat Busts Out Its Own Secret Room; Red Hook Vendors Safe Through Fall

Merkat has its own secret, PDT-style back room, Merkat Negre, with a chalkboard menu and a “young, pleasantly noisy crowd.” [Restaurant Girl] A typical weekend for a Red Hook soccer-fields vendor involves endless prep work, setting up by 7:30 a.m., cooking all day, and breaking the stand down at night … [NYT] But the vendors' rituals are safe until October 28, thanks to the intercession of Senator Chuck Schumer. [Serious Eats]

Tre From ‘Top Chef’ Lets Texas Down; Momofuku Ko Still On for Fall

Some Texans aren’t happy about the Lone Star State’s Tre Wilcox losing the barbecue challenge on Top Chef: “The fact a Texan didn't finish in the top three in a barbecue challenge is, alas, troubling and disappointing.” [Dallas Observer] Related: Adam Platt Is Willing to Bet Against Howie on ‘Top Chef’ [Grub Street] David Chang, looking for an assistant, is aiming for a fall opening of Momofuku Ko. [Eat for Victory/VV] Related: David Chang Going Upscale — Again [Grub Street] A new blog about Latin food in New York, Nueva York Guide, just launched. It was created by two undisputed experts, Carolina Gonzalez and Seth Kugel, who wrote the book on the subject. [Mouthing Off/Food & Wine]

Your Limousine-Riding Chef Friends Don’t Impress Me

Dear Grub Street,
I’m glad that you got all your yuppie-ass chef friends to “vouch” for the ball fields on Grub Street. It’s so nice to see a bunch of privileged jerks who probably take a limo down there slumming it and “gettin’ real” with the working class of New York … It’s funny that I have been going to the ball fields nearly every weekend for seven years and until last summer never saw more than a few Anglos there. I certainly never saw you there or any of these famous “chefs.” Why should I care about what Tom Colicchio, Aaron Sanchez, and Zak Pelaccio say about the ball fields?
Jason

Senator Schumer Stands Up for the Red Hook Ball Fields; Di Fara Set to Reopen

Senator Chuck Schumer visits the Red Hook ball fields and stands up for the vendors in front of rolling cameras: “Removing this for something that might make a little more money for the City of New York makes no sense. We don't want McDonald’s here.” [NYDN] Earlier: Senator Schumer Springs to the Red Hook Ball-Fields’ Defense Di Fara will reopen by the end of the week. But it isn’t clear what owner Dom DeMarco will be doing to prevent another closure. [AMNY] FreshDirect has a rival in tiny, Long Island City–based Bread-n-Brie. Unlike FreshDirect, with its vast inventory, Bread-n-Brie goes to good markets and gets things for you upon request. [NYT]

Senator Schumer Springs to the Red Hook Ball-Fields’ Defense

Apparently, the righteous outrage over the threat to the Red Hook ball fields has reached beyond Grub Street to Washington, D.C., causing Senator Charles Schumer (N.Y.) to leap into action. The senator, flanked by Assemblyman Felix Ortiz and a brigade of top New York chefs, will appear at the ball fields tomorrow at 1 p.m. to criticize the Parks Department’s decision to make the vendors bid for permits. According to a media alert, Schumer feels these vendors “are a Brooklyn treasure … that should be preserved and supported, not subject to the City’s bottom line.” We and our friends in the food world said as much earlier this week. But we’re glad to have Senator Schumer on board. The vendors need all the help they can get. If you’re wondering what the fuss is all about, make sure to check out the Grub Street video tour of the ball fields. Earlier:The Threat to Red Hook’s Street-Food Paradise Unites New York Foodies Tour the Red Hook Ball Fields With Chef Aaron Sanchez

Tour the Red Hook Ball Fields With Chef Aaron Sanchez

The ad hoc Latin American food court at the Red Hook ball fields is one of New York’s great cultural centers, a place where anyone can go to experience South and Central American home cooking. The ideal person to guide you through it is Aaron Sanchez, one of the city’s top Latin chefs (Centrico, Paladar) and the author of La Comida Del Barrio: Latin-American Cooking in the USA. Aaron gave us an insider’s tour. If this doesn’t inspire you to get out to Red Hook this summer (here’s a map!), consider the following: The permit for the ball fields, which has been given to the vendors for many years, will be opened up by the Parks Department for bids from all comers in the fall. That means this summer could be your last chance to taste some of the best Latin American food in the city. Related: The Threat to Red Hook Unites New York’s Foodies

The Threat to Red Hook’s Street-Food Paradise Unites New York Foodies

When we heard that the Latin American food vendors in Red Hook Park might lose their temporary-use permit at the end of the summer, the news hit us like a goat taco after a night of heavy drinking. And we weren’t alone. An animated Chowhound thread immediately formed (and was almost as quickly censored), and a protest site sprang into existence. Hidden within Red Hook, the vendors have created a community of cooking, a cultural exchange as much as a place to eat. (Click here to take a video tour with Paladar chef Aaron Sanchez.) We canvassed the city’s food elite for their take on the situation; here is what we heard.

Is This the Last Summer of the Red Hook Park Vendors?

Brace yourselves, Latin-food lovers: The Red Hook ball fields, home to the city’s most beloved cluster of food vendors, may be closing for good in September. The city, eager as ever for the fat stacks that only a bidding war by commercial concessions can offer, has given the vendors notice that their Temporary Use Agreement, the permit given to them by the Department of Parks and Recreation, won’t be renewed. The city wants to open the parks up for concession bids, which will almost certainly mean an end to the makeshift food stalls that have been operating there for over ten years.

Pinkberry Isn’t Yogurt, Suit Claims; Yankee Stadium Gets Latino at Last

A lawsuit filed against Pinkberry claims the chain isn’t actually serving yogurt but some kind of powdered mix. [Defamer] Zagat surveyors, asked to rate the nation’s fast-food options, declare Wendy’s the No. 1 burger, Outback Steakhouse top full-service restaurant, and Panera Bread Co. the top fast-food outlet overall. [MSNBC] Yankee Stadium finally wakes up to its massive Latino customer base and starts serving foods like empanadas and papas rellenas. [NYT]