From A to B in NYC

Eating, exploring and reporting in New York City

Under the guise of reporting for class, I got to be a tourist in the city; learning about the many fascinating neighborhoods and eating my way through some of them.

Ali El Sayid can be found throughout Astoria, but more frequently inside Kabab Cafe. He is the owner and chef of this intimate restaurant, popular amongst locals and travelers alike. El Sayid is an old Egyptian man with youthful energy.

Making everyone feel like they are the most important person in his restaurant, he cooks from the heart — and also the gut as he doesn't plan any of his dishes. His meals are inspired by what he finds in the local markets on that day.

I started this because of my passion, the cuisine mainly. Cause I want to put Egyptian cuisine on the map,” El Sayid said.

This seemingly haphazard approach to service should not fool you. El Sayid has been a chef for over 30 years and masterfully plates dishes that draw from his life experiences. From Alexandria to Paris and to New York, he has had a long and illustrious career in food.

Towards the end of the day, El Sayid began cooking a spinach dish. The food was a inspired by an earlier conversation he had regarding a traditional South African spinach dish. Showing once more, just how seriously he took the business of his customers and their satisfaction.

You can find experimental Egyptian food in Astoria and if you take the train down into Brooklyn, you may be lucky enough to find a block party too.

Block Parties and Drumlines

Bedford Stuyvesant in Brooklyn is always alive in the summer. On Saturday, Aug. 26, Halsey Street was closed down for its annual block party. A DJ spun the latest urban hits to a crowd of children who danced to every song. Several food stations were set up where one could pick up free a plate, everything from hotdogs to BBQ chicken.

From Top to Bottom; Young girls participating in the dance competition, a street vendor sells blow up balloons and toys, boys line up at the start of the street race. Halsey Street Block Party. (Photos by Kopano Gumbi)

Drumming to their own beat

In the late afternoon, the Blue Angels drumline, a main attraction on the day’s agenda, prepared for their performance. The group of nine, lead by team director Samuel Toussaint, entertained the crowd with their mix of “southern-style” drumming and beats.

This is the second year in a row that they had been invited to perform by Kafe Louverture, a Haitian restaurant on Halsey street. Being Haitian himself, Toussaint said every time he comes to perform at this particular block party he feels like he’s at home.

“I’m Haitian, so every time I come out here I feel like I’m at home. I’m smelling good food and the music is amazing, it’s just always fun every year.”
A video shot of the Blue Angels performance. (Shot by Kopano Gumbi)
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