Arepa Lady: Alive and Well (and great new makeover!)
- Jim Leff
Many posters have mentioned the recent scarcity of the Sainted Arepa Lady (for background, see link below). I myself have not found her for months. I was trying hard not to get totally freaked out about it, and kind of shoved the matter back into a dim corner of my brain and simply hoped for the best.
Tonight, I found her and she was in rare form...and she looks GREAT. She was wearing an expensive dress, her hair was all done up, she was wearing makeup. It was like Arepa Lady Starship Mellencamp or something. Kind of surreal.
I had an arepa con queso, and, like the last one I had five months or so ago, it was too soft. Couldn't hoist it without crumbling. But I can't complain because the flavor was, as always, 100% on the money. Eyes rolled, deep involuntary purring sounds poured forth, dingy Roosevelt Ave transformed into the gold-paved streets of Oz. I felt deeply in love with everyone on the street, even the taxi drivers leaning on their horns. The 7 train crashing overhead was like the thunderous voice of God.
I also had a torta de carne, the Columbian deep-fried hamburger (reheated on her chuzo grill). I've had a ton of these things, and usually they pummel you with indelicate spices. The Arepa Lady's torta de carne teased and cajoled, promising herbs but never letting any one flavor crest over the others. So tender, so crunchy, so meaty, so perfect. The interior was moist and soothing. The crust was crisp. It was perfect.
Even the arepita (baby arepa) that came with the torta de carne was good, and those aren't even SUPPOSED to be good (they're just utilitarian starchy flavorless pucks for accompanying meat)!
It was the best supper I've had in a long, long time. If the Arepa Lady doesn't get snatched up by some fashion magazine or something, I'm hoping to visit a lot more often.
re: Jim Leff
OK, I am now a believer but I also wonder if I am a little confused. Over the last few weeks I had noticed a lady vendor on Roosevelt who dresses up a bit. Lipstick, makeup, ear rings, nice dressy looking white Indian peasant blouse with colorful embroidery. When I saw this post speaking of the arepa lady having had a makeover I wondered if that could be the lady.
Last night I was on the street late so I thought I would walk by and see. Around 77th I saw the lady with ear rings and the peasant blouse but didn't feel sure so I walked up another block, past 78th. There was a lady who was in a plaid jacket and a practical, keep-you-warm cap. On her griddle were some 4 inch diameter arepas. I walked past as I wondered which vender should I try.
I went back to Ms. Plaid jacket, between 78th/79th, and asked if she had arepa con queso. As an answer she moved an arepa from the warm side of her griddle to the hot side. OK, I thought, this is it, what can I lose, it's only $2.50. Before handing it to me, she piled on as much crumbled white cheese as could possible fit.
I walked away a little bit before trying it, afraid I might spill it and didn't want to be seen for the fool I am. Fool I am, for before I was a doubter, but no longer. I kept walking slowly eating little pinches. The light crispness of the crust. The soft and sweet interior with soft and warm cheese filling. It was so good that I lost track of where I was. For a short while it was just me and that wonderful package of goodness: the arepa.
When I first sat down to write this I wondered if I had gotten an arepa from the same lady Jim tells us about. I just went back to reread his report. He emphasized "tiny" and Ms Plaid certainly fits this over Ms Peasant Blouse.
Jim's report maps out my experience: I had stuffed myself at Student Biryani and then walked down Roosevelt Avenue too full to want any more food but curious to look even if I didn't really expect to find the Arepa Lady. But once I took one bite there was no doubt that I would eat it all. The taste and texture were so good and thinking back I fear that it would not be so wonderful eaten later after cooling off. And I would not want to try to warm it up.
When I first started writing this report I thought I was going to question if there might be more than one lady serving up great arepas. Meditating longer on the matter, I think not.
A quick report from a first time arepa goer. I just got back from the rainy rooselvet street, and she was there and it was scrummy... little softer and messier than i expected, but really a great light night treat...and not nearly as digestively dodgy as the white castle (an old late night stand-y)