Martha Stewart visits Forest Hills
By Michael Perlman
EEEEEATSCON can be considered a festival like no other, especially at the nearly 100-year-old Forest Hills Stadium, a breeding ground for tennis and music history.
After a three-year hiatus due to the pandemic, the festival made a strong comeback, building upon the success of the 2018 and 2019 events.
Throughout the afternoon of Oct. 8 and 9, an estimated 10,000 guests made their way through the stadium and its accompanying grounds, where every turn had a surprise in store.
With 32 restaurants, families and friends discovered a highly curated selection of culturally diverse foods that are both locally and nationally sourced.
Additionally, they dined to the beat of unique bands and a DJ, enjoyed activities, picked up souvenirs and attended presentations by industry pioneers and culinary and creative professionals, including the legendary Martha Stewart.
“This is a special event for The Infatuation and Chase Sapphire, since we really take the time to consider the community experience,” said Michael Sinatra, chief of staff of The Infatuation x Zagat. “Ensuring that we have a wide offering of food representing so many different cultures, interesting panel discussions that merge food and culture, and some incredible entertainment, make it a truly unique experience.”
Sinatra pinpointed behind-the-scenes facts. “The Infatuation curates all of these restaurants using insights from our food writers across NYC, the U.S., and London. We’re not just bringing any Cuban sandwich up from Miami, but rather we connect with our Miami writer and ask what the best option is, as in this case, Sanguich De Miami. The same can be said for our options from Los Angeles, London and beyond.”
The festival is the product of imaginative teamwork. “In some ways, we’re planning for these events throughout the year, as we do it with our partners at Chase Sapphire in Los Angeles in the spring and Forest Hills in the fall,” Sinatra said. In 2021, The Infatuation was acquired by JPMorgan Chase & Co. “The aim was accelerating their investment in dining, and it further demonstrates JPMorgan Chase’s commitment to meeting customers where they are with exceptional benefits, useful content and one-of-a-kind experiences. Consumers can expect to see more partnerships between the brands, as we continue to grow together,” he continued.
Food vendors felt like a “who’s who” in the culinary industry.
Apollo Bagels, whose team originated in June with sourdough bagels in Williamsburg, is now popularizing their bagel halves with toppings including lox, heirloom tomatoes and red onions.
All the way from L.A. is Harold & Belle’s, which has a 50+ year history, and they are renowned for classic Creole dishes.
Shake Shack x Hoppers marks an exclusive EEEEEATSCON duo featuring the London-based Sri Lankan restaurant.
Attendees were advised to anticipate a burger with spice, curry and punchy flavors.
West African style grain bowls were also on the menu, thanks to Teranga in East Harlem.
The legendary Sally’s Apizza was established in 1938 in New Haven, CT, and served scrumptious brick oven pizza, earning it a spot in the “Pizza, A Love Story” documentary.
Detroit-style pizza could be found by visiting the kiosk of the Williamsburg-based Ace’s Pizza.
If one was craving home-style South Indian specialties, Semma made the cut and is rated a Best New Restaurant of 2021.
Not so far away, Zaab Zaab came from Elmhurst to serve highly regarded Isan dishes from northeastern Thailand, prepared with chilies, herbs and lemongrass.
The vibe further comes alive through guests from not only New York, but numerous states.
Dr. Jaimee Hazel of Jamaica, Queens attended with her mother, Dr. Donna Elam, and her daughter Jazzi Rhodes. “The highlights were trying food from all around the country and some from NYC that I never heard of, but the best experience was exploring the event with my mother and daughter. We had a blast at the La Croix experience. We acted like kids at a carnival and received some nice swag in the process,” she said.
As for the presentations, she added, “I learned that Martha Stewart is a down-to-earth person and willing to share her culinary expertise with anyone who asks.”
When she thinks of EEEEEATSCON, “unique” immediately comes to mind.
“People from different cultural backgrounds, living in all boroughs, from all walks of life, were able to mingle in a beautiful setting while being unified by their common love of food and merriment,” Hazel said.
“I passed this train stop multiple times and never knew Forest Hills Stadium existed,” she continued. “What a gem. I look forward to attending more events.”
“It’s so great to be able to attend events like this literally in our own backyard,” said East Meadow resident Jhoesly Santana, who attended with friends Tim and Carmellie and brother-in-law Irfan.
Santana enjoyed the exposure to great food from all over without having to leave NYC.
“We came prepared with a list of places to try, but were pleasantly surprised with the additional places. The best parts included the authenticity of The Wiener’s Circle crew featuring the best hotdog I ever had, the Peppa’s Jerk pork, and the catfish nuggets at Harold and Belle’s, and I don’t even eat seafood, so that should tell you a lot.”
Santana took pride in how a multitude of vendors set up their stations creatively, as well as the exclusive collaborations, several bars, various lounges and performances.
“There was always something going on. We were having drinks while waiting in line and could watch the marching bands or The W.A.F.F.L.E. Crew dance, or take pictures with the decorative displays which made everything interactive. The caviar lounge was also very nice.”
First-time festival attendee Rosa Maria Lazon of Forest Hills enjoyed the afternoon with her family.
She said, “It is a unique event that offers and supports diversity, where there is something for everyone to enjoy. It is meaningful for such a historic site as Forest Hills Stadium to host it.”
She praised the variety of food, the music, the DJs, emcee, the drummers, the drinks and ice cream, topped with delightful, sunny weather.
Another resident, Joseph Gasso attended with friends. His highlights included the Wiggle Room pop-up, which featured house cocktails such as the Slam Dunk Disco with mezcal, under a disco ball, and having big eyes for variety.
He said, “This is an affordable festival for foodies that’s coordinated by one of the most reputable food sources, The Infatuation. I loved that most of the food vendors were close to the entrance. There was plenty of space to walk around and the vibe was great. This was my third EEEEEATSCON and I can’t wait to come back.”
The lineup of musicians transcended attendees to far corners of the world.
On Saturday, as patrons were sitting at picnic tables on the stadium’s court, dining in the exclusive Chase lounge, or making their way up to the multi-tiered food kiosks on the stadium’s stage, FogoAzul NYC offered one of the most rhythmic experiences.
Based in Queens, they are characterized as NYC’s all women/non-binary Brazilian American drumline.
They feel that “music and rhythm is in every human, if you give them the means, very loudly.” On average, they perform at 150 events annually, including parades.
Red Baraat, which originated in Brooklyn, prides itself on initiating unity and joy, and consolidates hard-driving North Indian bhangra with hip-hop, raw punk and jazz elements.
Also from Brooklyn, the nine-piece band, Brass Queens, draws inspiration from New Orleans music with modern pop.
Some of their performance spots include “Good Morning America” and the 2021 Met Gala.
Another show-stopper, W.A.F.F.L.E. Crew (We Are Family For Life Entertainment), made its way around the stadium campus.
They explained, “In the LiteFeet dance community, there are different teams; we knew with the platform of dancing on the subway, we can start our own. What makes us unique is everyone’s individuality and talents. We are great by ourselves, but better together.”
DJs played various genres including Latin, hip-hop, 1980s rock and dance, thanks to DJ OP!, DJ Matthew Law, DJ Perly and DJ Lovelisa.
Saturday’s guest speakers included Martha Stewart, Bun B and Black Thought of the Rappers Who Cook panel, whereas on Sunday, Hasan Minhaj and Ramy Youssef were also attractions.
Bun B is known for impacting the hip-hop scene over 25 years ago as one half of the acclaimed UGK.
Black Thought is co-founder of “The Roots” and is a most prolific voice in hip-hop, who won three Grammy Awards.
Minhaj originated the weekly Netflix comedy series, “Patriot Act,” with Hasan Minhaj.
Award-winning Egyptian-American Youssef is a comedian and actor who produces and stars in “Ramy,” a popular Hulu show.
Not a seat was left empty when it came to Martha Stewart, who spoke in a tent for over 45 minutes, which also consisted of a Q&A session.
She is an Emmy Award recipient TV show host and an entrepreneur who founded the first multi-channel lifestyle company, Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia, and is also a best-selling author of 100 lifestyle books.
She maximizes everyday living by capturing audiences with cooking, gardening, healthy living, pet care and collecting among other topics.
“One of my mottos is to learn something new every day,” said Stewart. “I have a new show coming out on Roku. We signed a new contract for 39 shows a year for the next three years. It’s divided between cooking, holiday and gardening. Talking to interesting people every day is so important to me.”
She also discussed The Martha Stewart Podcast on iHeart.
“I’ve had everybody from Snoop, who I find extremely interesting, to Kris Jenner, Clive Davis, who’s an old friend. I try to get people that I actually know. I want to talk to them about what they’re doing and what interests me about what they’re doing. Sometimes we go over an hour and a half or almost two hours, and I don’t even realize that we’ve been talking so long. When that happens, you know you had a good conversation.”
When asked if there is a form of media that she has yet to tackle such as a documentary, she responded, “Well, I’m working on that. You’re going to love this documentary. Netflix bought it. It will come out within a year.”
It will be produced by R.J. Cutler, who is associated with Billie Eilish and also focuses on legends such as Elton John.
“It’s unusual, but then the fictionalized version will come out after that. It will be me exaggerating my life. It hasn’t been announced yet, but wait for that,” she continued.