The Queens Economic Development Corporation celebrated the fifth anniversary of its Entrepreneur Space in Long Island City on 30 March 2016 with a lively networking party that featured spicy, savory, and sweet food samples from some 30 vendors. There was much to celebrate: the incubator has helped more than 500 small businesses, generated $6 million in revenue, and created more than 100 jobs in its five-year history.
Five Alive: Cooks Kickin' It In Queens video
The Entrepreneur Space opened officially on 19 January 2011. Sponsored by the NYC Economic Development Corporation, the 12,500-square-foot space comprises a fully equipped commercial kitchen, offices, and classrooms. In addition to providing space and equipment, QEDC offers business counseling, technical assistance, and financial classes on site. The E-Space also provides an area for culinary skills training to The Fortune Society, an organization that supports successful reëntry from prison.
Beginning in Studio 4, my first taste was a St. Louis-style gooey butter cake from Gooey&Co. Since introducing his Gateway City staple to Gotham (via Smorgasburg) in 2014, Matt Swanston has never looked back. The St. Louis native makes his cakes with organic, all-natural ingredients.
I made the transition from sweet to savory with samples of DILL-icious Salsa Verde (medium) and Fire Roasted Red Salsa from the husband-and-wife team of Danny and Bella Mayans of Casa Maya.
At the next table, Phoebe's Sourdough Bakery gave rise to my next nibble. Phoebe Goh's sourdough bread varieties—SuperSpelt, SimplyRye, and Omega3Bomb—are made from ancient grains that are grown locally, certified organic, and non-GMO.
And the sweet cycle begins anew …
What appeared to be tortiglioni were actually confections handcrafted by Andrea "Sweetcicle" Patel. Sweetcicle's Soft Chews are available in chew, er, two flavors: Meyer Lemon and Peach with a hint of Elderflower.
Little Luna cookies were inspired by a little girl with type 1 diabetes.
8 Bit Bakeshop's pastry chef Hannah Maldonado and Matthew McNamee created these special treats for their diabetic daughter, Luna—and others with food allergies and special dietary needs.
On to Kitchen A …
My first sample in this large space was a snack from itskale. The chips, made from kale and chia seeds, and baked with organic ingredients, certainly seemed healthful.
Yu Bakery offered some healthful snacks as well. Using a modified Brazilian recipe, Kurt Schwarzbauer and his wife, Daniela, bake their yucca-based puffs and buns without artificial colors, chemicals, and preservatives. Because yucca is naturally free of gluten and GMOs, YuPuffs and YuBuns contain neither.
Just out of the oven, these warm Cheese YuBuns melted in my mouth.
The bruschetta from Little Pleasures, a dining event and catering concern, was smokin'—literally. Scott McCullough's antipasto was prepared with smoked sea salt, seared with fresh feta on top, and infused with hickory smoke. Where were the mirrors?
Around the corner, British Guyana-inspired food samples—Chicken Curry, Roti, Chicken and Vegetable Patties, and Almond Cookie Cakes—from Veda's Cakes and Catering beckoned.
In Kitchen B, across the aisle, Judy's Knishes offered a vegetarian taste of old New York.
At the neighboring table, emphasizing healthful ingredients and "no empty calories," Lydia Fiorentino's baked goods tasted every bit as good as they looked.
Of course, beer goes with everything. Student-run Bayside Brewery poured some fine suds to accompany my cake.
Kitchen C, in the center of the large space, offered dumplings, pretzel balls, and a witch's brew.
Asian Farmer's dumplings contain all-natural, local ingredients only—from the vegetables to the grass-fed beef, pasture-raised pork, and free-range chicken. Owner Michael Zhang prepares them by hand using recipes and techniques passed down from generations of dumpling makers.
Pretzel Man Mike Panara Jr. rolled out cheese-stuffed, soft pretzel balls. He makes six flavors in all, and sells them to bars and restaurants in New York.
Forest Witch teas are based on the Wiccan belief that nature possesses magical powers. Thus, Stephanie Sanz's tea blends comprise herbs that have particular magical properties in common. Additionally, a unique incantation is affixed to the back of each package to facilitate casting a spell before drinking the tea.
Over in Kitchen D, a familiar vendor served a familiar dessert along with one that was new to me. Pilar de Guzman won top honors at Queens…A Taste of the World in 2011 (video) for her Date and Walnut Thins, known in the Philippines as "Food for the Gods."
While I don't wish to seem impious, I found Bonne Fête's Apple Cake to be just as heavenly as the Date-and-Walnut bar.
To the best of my knowledge, Biggie's Crack Toffee hasn't anything to do with plumbers or cocaine. It has everything to do, however, with Stephanie Golden, innovative toffee, and a large cat.
Biggie's thin, crackly, crunchy treats are "not your grandmother's toffee." (Full disclosure: my grandmother did not make toffee.) Several flavors were available for the tasting: Toasted Almond, Toasted Pecans & Bourbon, Pomegranate, Espresso, and Peanut Butter & Wild Blueberries—each speckled with sea salt.
In the classroom space, Megan Sipe danced her way into my sweet tooth. The colorful choreographer-chocolatier steps into cacao to create a multisensory experience called Chocolate Dances.
The tasting portion included three dark-chocolate Wild Women Mediants: Zoey (ginger, toasted coconut flakes, pumpkin seeds), Michelle (pistachios, sea salt), and Rachel (almonds, sea salt, cherries).
After a taste of Wild Women chocolates, what could be better than a little more caffeine? COFFEED poured samples of cold-brewed Burundi, their medium-roast house blend, imported from Africa. More than a coffee roaster, COFFEED is a charity-minded food-and-beverage company that supports the communities around its stores.
Sergey Golosinkiy, co-founder of Oaks & Co Foods, served diminutive pancakes to accompany my cup of joe. The tasty, high-protein flapjacks—free of gluten, soy, and GMOs—went like hotcakes.
At the next table, I spotted another familiar face. Rosangela Arnold introduced me to her yucca-based, gluten-free Viva Natural pão de queijo (cheese bread) at the first E-Space anniversary celebration four years ago (video).
On this occasion, she crafted little sandwiches from her cheese rolls, filling them with a choice of salami, dulce de leche, or smoked wild salmon.
To end my classroom visit on a sweet note, I tried Buenos Angie's Argentine Alfajores (dulce de leche cookies).
One of my favorite vendors, Little Bird Curious Confections, has left the building.
I first met owners Corey and Sarah Meyer at Queens Taste 2013 (video). They started at the E-Space in May of that year, whereupon, they tweaked their recipes and learned how to transform a treat they made at home into a product that could be mass produced. In the incubator, the Meyers honed their marketing skills, refined their packaging, and developed a professional website.
Over time, they added staff as well as shifts. In the past year, demand for their FIRE BITES has risen so sharply that Corey and Sarah have outgrown the Entrepreneur Space and, consequently, moved into their own space.
The Little Bird is now fully fledged and has left the nest; may it spread its wings and soar.
36-46 37th Street
Long Island City, N.Y. 11101-1606 (map)