Food is a universal language that everyone understands. Food heals, comforts, educates and fosters a more inclusive social network.
Fashion, on the contrary, can baffle, confound and create anxiety. Fashion is mysterious, aspirational, confusing, abstract and not top on the priority list of most Americans. Food is essentially the opposite of fashion. For me, fashion and food are key elements of society. Fashion and food open avenues of conversation between friends, acquaintances and oftentimes stranger. Fashion and food (and music) are the underpinnings of all culture.
Case in point, my friends (here, here and here) and I, along with the arts organization Haverstraw RiverArts (I’m a founding member!), created the Flavors of Haverstraw Food Crawl in 2015. The objective was to get people outside, walking, sampling food and meeting new people, while bringing more business into a historic urban downtown 30 miles north of NYC. The seminal moment for the event was when we encountered a few ignorant folks on an active local Facebook community page. Because Haverstraw is socioeconomically and racially diverse, oftentimes outer suburban folks use coded language to describe our downtown. Of course, this oftentimes puts me into a blind rage, but I digress. We, like trained pack dogs, used this otherwise terrible Facebook exchange to make REAL change. We put out a challenge to the surrounding suburbanites. Shut your trap and walk. Be around “them” other people. Understand “they” are kind and a lot like you. Oh yeah, and EAT while you’re doing that.
Long story short, the event was a resounding success in its first iteration. #FoodCrawl has continued to fuel excitement on an annual basis. The event has expanded to include additional restaurants spanning nearly the entirety of our downtown, music, live art, and now a Park(let)!
For our fourth installment of the Taste Haverstraw Food Crawl on June 4, 2017, we decided to step it up a notch. It’s no secret that Americans become bored quickly with sameness. To maintain engagement, we needed newness and intrigue. . .
This year, we are very excited to have internationally-acclaimed Bulgarian opera soprano Anna Veleva performing from 1:00pm-2:30pm on the corner of New Main Street and Maple Avenue in Downtown Haverstraw.
My friend, Jared Rodriguez, who was there during that fateful Facebook exchange, helped create the Crawl, and now helps promote the Crawl (and is also the founder/author of the blog HaverstrawLife.com) suggested pairing Anna with the Hudson Valley Ballet and the Balbach School of Dance. Several dancers will perform across the street under the Four-Faced Clock at New Main Street & Maple Avenue. The dances are choreographed to Anna’s opera songs. Insane, right?
In the first year, approximately 400 people attended the #foodcrawl. In our last round on October 16, 2016, we had over 800 attend. On Sunday June 4, 2017 from 1:00p,-5:00pm, we hope to surpass that attendance record. Eighteen restaurants will join us by serving small dish tapas from $3-$6 per plate.
The Village of Haverstraw’s restaurants lack sufficient outdoor seating, so Jared made it his mission to create a Park(let) in a reclaimed parking space in front of a restaurant to accommodate attendees. By definition, a park(let) is a sidewalk extension that provides more space and amenities for people using the street. By its natural, Park(lets) are guerilla reclamation of space consumed by empty cars (empty cars do nothing to create community or boost the economy). This is a great way for more people to dine outdoors and enjoying the downtown area. Ultimately, every community needs Creative Placemaking (warning: PDF Link) to boost business and creative mico-environments that are more conducive to us socializing humans (not cars).
Needless to say, I must interject my personal tips how to dress and be seen at a food crawl.
1. Wear stretchy, comfy clothing, but don’t dress schlumpadik. Keep the sweats at home. You need room to expand your belly as you inhale many “small” plates.
2. Wear comfy shoes. You’ll be walking, remember?
3. Hats make a statement, do wear one. The louder the better.
4. Carry a backpack, because you need to shove all your leftover doggy bags in it. Most people were seen last year toting several shopping bags of goodies from the restaurants. Also, extra weight helps you burn more calories.
So where should one begin their epicurean adventure when you have 18 restaurants to sample from? I encourage people to try unfamiliar cuisine. Downtown Haverstraw’s multi-ethnic options will have you coming back for more, year after year. Here are the mouthwatering choices: 4 authentic Mexican restaurants, 3 Dominican restaurants , 1 French/Latin fusion, an epic Ecuadorean joint, 2 bakeries(!) plus dessert cafe, 1 (insane/oldest in NY State) chocolate shop, 1 pizza/Italian ristorante, 1 waterfront seafood, a Puerto Rican Fusion food truck, Fruit hand-shaved ices and snack shop, and 1 full-on Spanish restaurant.
Keep in mind that you might not have the stamina to visit each and every restaurant. That’s OK. Savor food from half a dozen places, then come back another weekend and sample a few more using the food crawl map as a guide. We want you coming and doing your own private crawl in the future. Don’t wait for the next one!
If you can’t attend on June 4th, sign up for the HaverstrawRiverArts.org newsletter to be clued in on future events. More is coming, and it will be fantastic!
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