Diversity Eats to the Finish Line – My reflection, lessons learned, and future plans

Welcome everybody to my latest post for Diversity Eats! For the past three to four months, I’ve treated you all to some of the more diverse ethnic food scenes in the Philly/South Jersey area. Exploring different restaurants in the area, finding out opinions from others on what the ethnic food scene is like, and going over some recipes along the way. However, like all good things, everything must come to an end. And Diversity Eats has reached the finish line.

I started this blog with the goal of expanding and informing people on the diverse eatery scene in the South Jersey area and there has been plenty of ups and downs. Some post I’ve gathered for you all have been easy and smooth to report on. While others were tedious where the process was annoying and drawn out. I guess that’s the price you can pay for trying to do Journalism work right?

I learned a few things while working in the online journalism stratosphere. I learned how hyperlinks are basically wormholes to new information, certain ethics to journalism as a whole such as learning how to acknowledge and correct mistakes accordingly, how to properly form captions, I also learned how my own smartphone is a great utility piece when going into the field, and among others, I learned how SEO is key to online journalism.

I’m glad that these were some of the few tricks/lessons I learned throughout these months and I thank my cool, well dressed, collective professor for that. I will utilize these tricks to my own personal blog as well. Speaking of which, below are my 5 favorite post from this blog.

Audio Interview with the Crisantos family

Profile on food/travel Blogger Jonathan DeLise

Photo Q&A with Christina Sofkos

Philly Food Festival experince

The Reading Terminal Market scene 

As for what the future holds? For now I’ll be walking away from this blog. It was frustrating to keep up with it and I honestly believe I could have done a better job with it.

However, there isn’t a need to go “what if” you know? I’ll be able to learn from my mistakes and plan ahead for future. I may be back on here to post something once in a while. Possibly a few times within the summer but no promises.

And with that said, thanks for taking the time to view all of the post from Diversity Eats! Drame out.

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The Reading Terminal Market – a walk-through of Philly’s finest & diverse food scene

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Welcome all! Today on Diversity Eats, I decided to take a stroll into the city of brotherly love again. Only this time to find the Nirvana for ethnic and cultural foods called the Reading Terminal Market. This place is just a short walk away from the Patco/Septa Market street stations for those who have access to such transportation. The place is pretty much a farmers market, cafeteria, and antique shop all in one. The entire place has been open for well over a century and it has changed rapidly over time. The market has seen everything come and go throughout history whether it’s here in Philadelphia or around the world.

The vendors/restaurants that are with us today offer a whole lot in terms of food diversity in the Philadelphia area. You have ones specializing in Chinese Food, German meats, foreign specialty cheeses, French eatery, Greek eatery, Halal Indian food, and much more. In the slide show above, I took picture of a few of the spots I visited which had an ethnic specialty to them as well as some dishes being made in the process. Some of these dished shown I have mentioned in previous blog post before.

As I took a stroll into the Reading Terminal Market, not only did I take picture of some of these spots, but I also interviewed a few guest who were in the area. I asked folks on what they’re favorite place to eat at the terminal and what type of ethnic food vendor/restaurant would they like to see here in the future. I’ll start off with a couple of friends from high school I saw along the way. Douglass Bardales and Zach Moore. First up would be Doug.

“Well personally I like Olympia Gyro. Gyros is a go to of mine when I visit here. This is the only place where I get one at. I like how the chiefs there are genuine, cool, and not you know, pestering (smirks). I also like Shanghai Gourmet too, they’re cool as well.”

Zach’s answer was very straight forward.

“Nenee’s Kitchen is my place. Halal food? Underrated. It’s fresh and I wonder why it’s not around more if you know what I mean. A matter of fact, I’d like to see another Middle Eastern Halal restaurant in the market. The more the merrier man.”

Next, I asked a couple who were in line at Beiler’s bakery section which is Dutch themed. Their names are Rebecca Williams and Keith Fox. They seemingly agree on their favorite restaurant here, but of course, not all couples agree on everything!

“I like a few places, Hunger Burger, Wan’s Seafood, Wursthaus, and Olympia Gyro off of the top. Plenty of options to choose from. Rebecca is in the similar boat with me except she’s not a fan of Wursthaus.”

“Yeah he’s right ahahaha! But yeah sub out Wursthaus for say Nanee’s Kitchen and now we’re talking. They have delicious kabobs so I’m sold on them. Another vendor I’d like to see here is something Caribbean or African based. They have plenty of spicy recipes I think so it’d be nice to see that here.”

“I’m definitely on the mild side of things haha. I wouldn’t mind seeing an Irish vendor here. I’m curious because my ‘little’ in my fraternity back at school is actually from Ireland and he tells me how his mother’s recipes are delicious so the curiosity draws the cat.”

And last but not least, I asked a young woman who seemed like as if she was getting off of work and ready to unwind. Her name is Toni Leonard and she had an interesting answer.

“Hmmm, my favorite place period is The Original Turkey. Ethnic food wise, I’d say the Dutch Eating Place (I gave her a blank stare and then asked what place). No really, that’s what it’s called (we both then laughed). I like it because you get sort of a triple threat that comes with being in that area, which is Beiler’s, the bakery and doughnut place. It’s like you have your main meal and if you want dessert, boom its right there. That vicinity is convenient. Now as far as what more I’d like to see in the market? Possibly another Latino delicacy vendor. Not another Mexican place exactly but something different like El Salvadorian, Colombian, you know!”

These few answers were pretty good ones and diverse as well. You can tell that the folks who visit the Terminal Market, usually come in with an open mind in addition to an open stomach. If you live in the Philly/South Jersey area, I’d suggest you take a trip towards there. I did and walked away with some goodies from Beiler’s. It’s a cool place that not only is good on food but there are also plenty of other merchandising nonfood related going on over there. And again, make sure you guys check out the photos I snapped above on a few of the vendors/restaurants I took interest to. Trust me, take the trip, you’ll enjoy it!

Food Festivities – Getting the heads up on Philly’s Food Festivals

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A Chef pictures with a few recipes for the Philly Travel & Culinary Expo event last year/Photo from the Philadelphia Travel & Culinary Expo Facebook page

We’re deep into spring and summer is upon us. You know what that means? Warmer weather, late nights, cooler drinks, and for some, more free time! If you live in the southern New Jersey area, you could visit some of the beaches or one of the countries biggest cities right next door in Philadelphia.

Philly is a city with plenty of diverse sightings and activities to take apart of. That includes plenty of ethnic festivals which feature plenty of foreign food and dishes. I do plan on visiting a few once I have more time opened up. If you haven’t either, this post should help you out on what to look out for. If you have, I’d still recommend to stick around to see other people’s experiences with food festivals.

I had asked a few friends who’ve been to a few food festivals or events on their experiences and favorite foods they’ve eaten. I was pleasantly surprised at their answers to those questions. My co-worker Donald Nesmith tells me an experience of his.

“Last year I went to a few events sponsored by PECO Energy. They had a multicultural series in Philly where on certain days or weekends, they dedicate that day to having a festival themed around cultural traditions. I’ve been to an Indian event, an Ireland event, and a Brazilian event. Each of them were pretty dope. I especially enjoyed the food. My favorite dish from each event would have to be the Pao De Quejo, Dublin Coddle, and Dhokla. As far as budgeting goes I don’t care too much for it. I just go off and see what I can pick up to be honest.”

Another friend of mine, Marcus Williams, who resides in Northern Jersey but often comes by the South Jersey area, is a fan of the food festival scene around the area. He attended the South Jersey Caribbean festival last year in Camden, NJ  and was impressed by what was featured.

“Yeah, it was definitely a cool experience with the music, activities, and especially the food. I’m pretty sure we all enjoy food no matter where it comes from. I really enjoyed the jerk salmon specifically because of the seasoning added. I also enjoyed plenty of their smoothies offered. They were quite wavy and colorful, haha! If they do it again, I recommend anyone who lives in the area to go because the food they have is pretty authentic. I come around the area here and there to visit some friends I go to school with and we try to find stuff to do. Searching for some food festivals happens to be one of goals.”

I did some additional research on what foreign food festivals would be featured in the area in the coming months. If you live in the area and are interested in checking them out, take a look at some of these links I have posted up! Scroll through and decide which would be worth your attendance!

Odunde Festival June 16th, 2016 in Philly

Pennsylvania Dutch Festival August 6th-8th, 2016 in Philly

9th Street Italian Market Festival May 21-22nd, 2016 in Philly

Philly Travel & Culinary Expo April 30th-May 1st in Philly

 

The elegance of El Mariachi – My Interview with the Crisantos family

Today on Diversity Eats, I give you all my brief interview with the owner of El Mariachi Mexican Restuarant, Maria Crisantos. Being voiced in the interview, is her son Efran Mozo-Crisantos who was translating for her. This Restaurant is located in Glassboro, NJ which is a short drive from Rowan University (They also have another restaurant located in Philly which is ran by her brother). They serve authentic Mexican food and strive to give guest a good experience once they walk through those doors. The delicious cuisine included would be Cubana Tortas, Chorizo Burritos, the Alambre, Pollo Asada Tacos, and Churros among others.

During my interview, I ask the two on the process of being involved in the restaurant business, I ask on what they’re future plans entail for the restaurant, I ask them on some of their favorite dishes from their hometown to eat among other things. The two natives from Mexico were very kind in addition to welcoming during my visit. And those two qualities in the restaurant business are key. They even served me food afterwards (which was so delicious, I felt like I was reborn). So take the time to hear what they had to say in my interview! And I encourage everyone in the area to visit their restaurant!

Building Blocks to the Bento – A short interview with Jonathan DeLise

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A  long shot of Jonathan in Moscow/Photo owned by Jonathan DeLise

For Diversity Eats this week, I have a special interview for you all! The owner of Building My Bento was kind enough to donate his time in talking to me this week. Jonathan DeLise is the owner of the blog and his blog goes over a plethora of areas to cover. He is enthusiastic on all things food, travel, architecture, and culture.

I was floating around in the world wide web and spotted his blog which I found interesting. Some of it ties into what I’m trying to do but on a bigger broader scale. He currently (and originally) resides in the NYC area which has a prominent/interesting diverse food scene itself. Prior to that, he has spent most of his time in East Asia.

Here is my full conversation with Jonathan DeLise.

When did you start blogging about this topic involving food of
diverse background?

I started the blog in January 2012, at the insistence of a friend who
was curious about my often- bizarre adventures.  Writing about a
diverse array of food comes naturally; I’m from NYC, and I’ve lived in
various places in East Asia in the past.  Eating something local/new
is always a priority in my travels, whether that means walking a few
blocks in Manhattan or flying to China.

Why did you start this blog?

A friend thought I had a lot to say about living in East Asia. She
may yet be right, but the blog also serves as a nostalgia trip
whenever I post photos.  The name, BuildingMyBento, stems from my
seminal trip to East Asia. I lived with a host family in Kanazawa,
Japan for a month during high school.

What do you find is the most challenging thing about maintaining this blog?

In the beginning, it was finding time to write a post, but now that
I’ve been at it for a while, my biggest issue is having a library of
very low res. photos.  Seriously!

What role do you think blogging should play in the future of
journalism as a whole?

I’m very cynical about media.  Any form of it is way too powerful and
increasingly, quite toxic to one’s ability to possess sound judgement.
Blogs aren’t an exception to the rule.

What’s the most interesting or exciting aspect of running this blog?

Rehashing various events that happened years ago, and sharing those
experiences with anyone interested, whether it’s a regular reader or
someone merely amused by the photography.  Attending food events to
try new flavor combinations/ideas also has its moments, but in NYC, I
don’t think the fire department would be too pleased with how many
occupants are typically in attendance.

What advice do you have for someone like me just starting to maintain
a beat blog or anything related?

Learn a bit about SEO; find online forums which correlate with your
blog’s content, and create a presence among those spheres; take
higher-resolution photos; have patience with the stats; and add
new/original content at least twice a week.  Enjoy it too, it’s your
brainchild!

Aside from Philly & NYC, what other cities in the U.S. have a prominent food scene like the other two?
There are a number of good food
cities in the US these days…Chicago, both Portlands’, LA, SF,
Charleston, SC, New Orleans, and although I haven’t been, Austin first
come to mind.

What are you thinking? I’m thinking Greek; An interview with Greek Cuisine restaurant Owner Christina Sofkos

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Outside view of Think Greek Grill & Yogurt Bar/Photo taken by the owner/Yelp.com

This past weekend I was able to get a hold of one of the owners of a local restaurant here Glassboro, NJ. However, it’s not just any local restaurant. This restaurant is home to some homemade, old fashion, and fresh Greek recipes. Think Greek Grill & Yogurt Bar which is owned by Christina Sofkos is one of her pride and joys. The love for food and her own Greek heritage is what inspires and drives her to keep her business going strong. She also owns and operate a similar restaurant in Greece on the island of Lipsi which is pretty neat on its own. She has owned it for the past 7 years.

Think Greek; is located on 21 E. High Street in Glassboro, NJ. Just a short walk for Rowan students in the need for something more different yet delicious to eat. I took a visit over there and tried out the Gyro with special Tzatziki sauce and I could say that I was pretty impressed. I’m not too accustomed to Greek cuisine but thanks to this place, I think I will become well acquainted with it. However enough about me, here is my Q & A with Christina herself.

 Q: What made you want to operate this restaurant here in Glassboro as opposed to the city?

A: Wasn’t my first choice, but I saw the growth in the area. There are no similar restaurants in the 30 mile radius.

Q: One of the themes or ideas restaurants like these try to push is a sense of authenticity, tradition, and homemade. Would you agree with that sentiment for all places of foreign distinction?

A: Yes, this is the cuisine that I grew up with.  I use all my families recipes

Q: The recipes featured on your menu is full of options. How much preparation does it take to make sure your dishes are up to top quality?

A: For everything to run smoothly you have to have a well-stocked pantry and must have backups of all the items that you are serving. The biggest and the most time consuming job in here is the prep work.

Q: What recipe would you recommend myself and others to try?

A: You have to try the Gyro. It is the most popular. I have to say that that the sandwich is made by the tzatziki (yogurt cucumber spread). We pride ourselves on the Tzatziki. I get the yogurt imported. It is the thickest that you will ever see. We base everything off the yogurt. The tzatziki, smoothies, yogurt parfaits. I have customers purchase the yogurt as it is. You will not find another authentic Greek yogurt like this. Love it!!

Q: At what times does this restaurant become busy during this time of year (spring)?

A: It has been pretty steady in all seasons. I think spring is great because we take the tables outside and people tend to love to sit outside and have some wine or beer that they have brought with them and enjoy their dinner.

Q: Any special memory for you that’s associated with any of this restaurants recipes?

A: I have to say the tzatziki and the memories with my daughter helping me make it. She is 10 and has grown up in the restaurant. She loves to cook and she begs me to work at the restaurant.

Q: On your menu what could you say is one of the healthier choices on it?

A: All our dishes are healthy. The Mediterranean diet is one of the healthiest. We only use fresh ingredients. We only use olive oil. The only thing we fry is our chips, ff and falafel.

Q: Name me five of your favorite recipes within Greek cuisine?

A: I am a foodie. To ask me 5 favorite dishes in the Greek cuisine, would be mostly fish based. We are surrounded by the ocean in Greece anything grilled octopus, fried fresh calamari, sea urchin with lemon and oil, a special type of clam found in Greece called “spinalo” with lemon and oil and fried haloumi cheese. If I have any one of these I am happy.

So there we have it! As you can see, she seemed down to earth, genuine, and proud as one could imagine. If you haven’t already, check the place out and have a bite on some of their delicious food!

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Meat being carved out for a Gyro by Manny Sofkos/Photo by Lori M Nichols/NJ.com

Around the World Rowan Goes!

Don’t you love it when something good comes to you unexpectedly? I sure do and with everything that has happened to me this week, I say my recent discovery was pretty good.

This past Friday, I was scheduled to be apart of an event crew for my TV club RTN (Rowan Television Network). And I admit, all week I was so busy that I was not exactly sure what the event was about or what it entailed, I was just going with the flow. So as the day came and me and the others were packing up our audio/camera equipment I asked about the event we were assigned to cover. I found out that it was RAH (Rowan After Hours) event called Around the World. 

The event’s purpose was to celebrate cultural diversity featured on Rowan’s campus. Some of the featured services/activities were performances by Russian/Native dancers, Cultural Crafts, Dance lessons, Henna Tattoos, and most importantly, an all night cultural food table!

I thought it was neat that they had a food table there all night from when the event started. And as each new hour started they switched the food corresponding to each country. My position for the event was being the roaming camera and that job entitles that I walk around and get some camera shots on what’s going on and trust me, I got some good shots of the food table. The food that were featured during this event were Falafel & Pita w/ Hummus, Bratwurst, Empanadas & Plantains, and the all worldly Sushi Rolls. Down below, I took a few shots of the food table which was featured all night. Take a look!

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