The Meadows Festival’s Food Curator Dishes on Dining in Queens
The three-day Meadows Music & Arts Festival, produced by Founders Entertainment, brings together headlining musicians with Queens-based restaurants. The annual event is the sister festival to the Governors Ball Music Festival and takes place this year at the home of the New York Mets, Citi Field. Previously, major artists like J. Cole, Kanye West, Chance the Rapper, and The 1975 will play its four stages. From September 15 to 17, this year's event will be headlined by Jay-Z, Gorillaz, and the Red Hot Chili Peppers, with Weezer, LL Cool J, Nas, Erykah Badu, TV on the Radio, Foster the People, and Run the Jewels also on the bill.
One of the most delicious parts of the Meadows experience is its “Feastival of Queens.” Curated by food expert Joe DiStefano, the blogger and tour guide known as “The Guy Who Ate Queens,” the Feastival features Queens eateries of all kinds. On behalf of The Daily Meal, I had the pleasure of speaking with DiStefano about his work with The Meadows and what else he has going on.
More on The Meadows can be found at the festival’s website, while DiStefano can be followed on Twitter via @JoeDiStefano.
The Daily Meal: You are known to be among the most authoritative sources about dining in Queens. What drew you to Queens?
Joe DiStefano: Even though I was born in Queens, I grew up on Long Island. About 20 years ago, I moved to Woodside and began exploring the various cultures and cuisines along the 7 line. My nightly walks along Roosevelt Avenue from Jackson Heights to Woodside would include visits to Thai, Mexican, and Filipino restaurants and groceries. This was before [Anthony] Bourdain and [Andrew] Zimmern, back when SriPraPhai and Jackson Diner were still humble haunts for locals.
What fascinated me then and now about Queens and its food and culture was its immediacy and authenticity. When you eat Thai larb, Nepalese momo, Filipino crispy pata, or Mexican tortas in Queens, you’re eating those dishes in places where people of those cultures live, work, and play. I quickly became an avid Chowhound reader/poster and that eventually evolved into me becoming a food writer.
Where did the nickname "The Guy Who Ate Queens" come from?
Ah yes, that moniker was bestowed upon me by Daniel Maurer in a piece for GrubStreet announcing a now-bygone blog called “World’s Fare” that I wrote for Edible Queens.
How did you first get involved with The Meadows?
The folks at Founders came across my site Chopsticks and Marrow when they were researching Queens food. We developed the concept for the Feastival of Queens, an all-Queens food area featuring the borough’s best ethnic cuisines.
You curated food vendors for The Meadows. What criteria did you choose these vendors?
The vendors at the Feastival are all places that are near and dear to my heart and stomach. In many cases these people like Pedro Rodriguez of La Esquina del Camaron Mexicano are like family. I'm excited to add Thai desserts from Sugar Club and Indian chaat from Kurry Qulture to the mix this year. There’ll be everything from Pata Paplean’s soulful Thai boat noodles and Joju’s Vietnamese sandwiches, to the carnitas tacos from Tortas Neza and Colombian arepas, from the crown jewel of Colombian street food Areperia Arepa Lady.
What does curating food for a festival entail?
Eating and more eating! Also lots of outreach. There are some things I would love to have had at the Feastival, but they proved to be too difficult because of manpower. Korean fried chicken comes to mind. Most of all what it entails is keeping a sense of balance. It’s important to have dessert and vegetarian options. With foods from Colombia, India, Mexico, Thailand, and Vietnam, I think we did a good job of representing the world’s borough.
Any artists at The Meadows 2017 whom you're excited to check out?
I’m stoked to see Flushing’s finest, Action Bronson, and the pride of Hollis, LL Cool J. And of course Nas, and Jay-Z, even though he’s from Brooklyn.
Meadows Festival aside, any other upcoming projects that you can talk about?
I just wrapped up a guidebook called 111 Places in Queens That You Must Not Miss. It’s got everything from Harry Houdini’s grave to the largest tree in Queens to Golden Shopping Mall. You can pre-order a copy here if you like.
Are you still available for private food tours?
Absolutely! Interested, adventurous, and hungry parties can e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org to learn more.
When not busy with the food world, how do you like to spend your free time?
Wait, there’s another world? (laughs) I like to go to the Queens Museum and walk through Flushing Meadows Corona Park.
From experience, how does one manage to keep up on new restaurants and food trends while staying thin?
I am blessed with a high metabolism and I exercise frequently. Plus, I do eat such virtuous things as fruit and yogurt, but you’ll never see me blog about that.
Finally, Joe, any last words for the kids?
Enough with the levitating noodles already. Stop it and eat your food. I mean, I like Instagram, but sheesh!