Food TV: Left of the Dial

The Baron eating a cemita (a sandwich with chorizo, the Mexican herb papalo, avocado, onions, tomatoes, spicy salsa, and queso Oaxaca) at Tacos El Poblano.

Don’t miss our web exclusive slideshow, narrated by Julia Sexton, on her Yonkers food crawl with The Baron.

The shoes hit the tarmac first, and they were excellent shoes. Plum-colored size 12s, long and tapering of toe, with a gleaming snakeskin vamp; definitely not animal-based, but that really doesn’t matter—especially when paired with sumptuous purple socks. It was The Baron, of course, hitting this dreary Yonkers corner like the pure violet beam of a black light.

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In Bronx Flavor (airing Wednesdays at 9 pm on NYC Life, Cablevision channel 22), Baron Ambrosia, the fictional construct of Justin Fornal, a serious 32-year-old guerilla filmmaker, travels through the gritty streets of the Bronx, chasing romance and adventure through the avenues of ethnic food. West African fufu, Kosovan burek, Mexican cuchifritos, it’s all his beat. Passionate, ridiculous, he’s a gourmet Gomez Addams.

South Broadway is The Baron’s “playground of authentic foods”.

Food is his Morticia, driving The Baron through contorted plots filled with lust, carnality, and (usually) shame. One episode ends with Baron Ambrosia stripped of his finery, wandering strung out, and begging for a fix of Jamaican curried cow foot. And, yes, Bronx Flavor celebrates outré eats (like goat’s stomach stuffed with chopped kidneys, intestines, blood, and chilies), but The Baron—eyebrows tweezed into a Nike swoosh, beard razored into a chinstrap, fingernails glossed, eyes tweaked with liner, and long hair twisted into a bouffant bun—never resorts to circus geek gulping. “Everything I do is done with love and respect.”

Stefy’s patacon misto is, according to the Baron, “a fat, juicy freakout filled with a triple threat of spicy chicken, slow-cooked steak, and pernil all served between two giant tostones…um, crack”.

Praised in the New York Times and online in New York magazine’s “Grub Street,” Baron Ambrosia vibrates with the excitement of a cult on the edge of explosion. Indeed, there’s a poignant feeling about The Baron at this moment, like the Clash in 1976 or Nirvana on Sub-Pop. Will success spoil this foodie rock star?

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It hasn’t been an overnight success. Fornal’s campaign started with self-produced series titled Underbelly, released as a video podcast on iTunes where it quickly became the number one food-based podcast. Today, with a third season of Bronx Flavor shooting, The Baron is planning to expand his footprint with Spice Hunter, an NYCLife program exploring restaurants citywide. And what after that? “We’re taking baby steps, hopefully leading up to a national show. If anyone questions what we’re doing, we’ll say, ‘Why not? It’s worked so far.’”

Tacos El Poblano is a modest spot for killer goat tacos.

We asked Baron Ambrosia, to guide us on a tour of Yonkers, to share with us his favorite foods in a city of great ethnic cuisine. “I love the South Broadway food scene. It’s such a playground of authentic foods.” We savored goat tacos and slurped balut (Filipino fertilized eggs), all the while witnessing the Baron’s bizarre charisma. Maybe because he manifests cartoonish archetypes—Byronic hero manqué, hapless romantic, a bit of hissing vampire—civilians that he meets instantly get into the act. In fact, much of Bronx Flavor’s cast is made up of people that the Baron encounters on his culinary travels. Being with Baron Ambrosia is like casting a cloud of silly dust; he spreads viral playfulness.

 

 
The Dance Card of Decadence
Our crawl through Yonkers with Baron Ambrosia

Though Baron Ambrosia is firmly rooted in The Bronx, he feels real affection for the gritty streets of Yonkers. “I love the South Broadway food scene. It’s a playground of authentic foods.”

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La Fonda Poblano el Mexicano
200 New Main St
(914) 476-2509 
Goat taco
“I love the finish of goat because it’s almost more meat than any other meat. Funky, a little gamy, it’s really just intensely meaty.”
Cartimar Filipino Market
287 S Broadway
(914) 376-2910
Balut (fertilized Filipino egg), Jackfruit
“Tony [Cartimar’s owner] is like the Teddy Pendergrass of Filipino food. You might be nervous looking around at first, but he’ll talk you through the whole experience.”
Stefy’s Restaurant
486 S Broadway (914) 457-9087
Patacon misto
“Bread, in some instances, is like a necessary sandwich evil. By using tostones [fried plantain] instead, it makes the sandwich much more satisfying. Sometimes, after a shoot, we’ll hit Stefy’s for a bunch of sandwiches—it’s the kind of food that you just grab in your hands and go, ‘Aaaarghhhhh,’ as you bite in.”

 


 


 


Papusa Loca
297 S Broadway
(914) 376-1437
Papusa Mixtes
“I love the way the cheese melts into the pastry, and pupusas are always all about the curtido [shredded, pickled cabbage relish]. The flavor of the cheese peeks through the pickle—and don’t forget the maranon [cashew apple] juice. It’s a little funky with a beautiful fragrance.”
Chim Pum Callao
490 S Broadway
(914) 375-6039
Ceviche
“I go here all the time and get the mixed ceviche ‘extra picante.’ This dish is all about contrasts to me, with the soft snapper and crunchy dried corn, big creamy choclo, and tart citrus. It’s just very refreshing after a long day of heavy eating.”
Lusitania Restaurant
15 Lockwood Ave
(914) 969-4093
Friday Night Portuguese Buffet with live band and dancing
“I love the octopus and the paella with little bits of lobster in it, and the clams and sausage; it’s not easy to pull off a buffet, and I think Lusitania does it well. And dancing! It’s one of those things we’re able to do as humans, like sex, that’s an actual activity. It’s freeing. It’s the sort of thing I want to do after a great meal, anyway.”

 

 

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