The first-ever East River International Food Festival will be held Sunday beginning at noon on the Long Island City waterfront, bringing together around 20 restaurants that survived the paralysis that overtook the hospitality sector during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The curated tasting event with chef stations, a cash bar and beautiful views of the East River and the Manhattan skyline is meant as a celebration of the Queens multicultural food scene coming back stronger than ever.
The East River International Food Festival, at the Anable Basin Sailing Bar & Grill, supports participating restaurants, food pantries with Zone126.org and food relief efforts by Queens Together, according to its founder and Astoria resident Jonathan Forgash.
“We want everyone in NYC to be at Anable Basin in LIC on May 22 to experience 20+ restaurants serving up tastings from around the world,” Forgash said. “It’s something you can find only in Queens.”
As the borough became the “epicenter of the epicenter” of the pandemic more than two years ago, community-based organizations moved mountains in the mad scramble to provide relief to their neighbors. Queens Together was able to organize faster than most to feed frontline workers and families in need while helping local restaurants stay in business while re-employing restaurant workers to pack produce and make deliveries.
Forgash, a chef for more than 25 years, formed the coalition of restaurant owners and volunteers. Queens Together provided prepared meals, groceries and fresh produce for more than a quarter of a million people. Additionally, the organization funded more than 60 restaurants and businesses to prepare food for neighbors, pay bills and keep employees working. Queens Together established a food pantry at Variety Boys & Girls Club in Astoria with satellite pop-up pantries across the borough.
“We built an organization to empower, represent and support our restaurant community and a ‘plate it forward’ program to feed frontline workers and people facing food and economic insecurity,” he said. “Now is the chance to finally do something fun to celebrate our amazingly diverse restaurant community of Queens. This is not a fundraiser for Queens Together, rather the participating restaurants and food relief programs are funded by ticket sales and our sponsors.”
Quontic Bank, Champlain Hudson Power Express and Stop and Shop are sponsors along with VP Records, a Jamaica-based Reggae label that will provide music from DJ Shortman. Iconic Queens restaurants such as M. Wells, Zaab Zaab, Queens Lanka, Lhasa Liang Fen, Taste of Surabaya, La Adelita and Sultan Dine are participating along with Nourish Spot, Parva Coffee, Island Breezes and others.
Tickets to attend the event are $50 and can be purchased here. Children under 12 years of age will be able to attend the festival for free if accompanied by an adult.
“Discounted group ticket sales are available for high school students,” Forgash said. “This is a fun way to learn about the diverse multicultural community that is Queens, New York.”