More than any other neighborhood, Harlem can have a one-dimensional reputation when it comes to its culinary scene. But there’s so much more than comforting soul food being made in its kitchens, and that’s a big part of what the second annual Harlem Eatup! Festival showcases.
"The festival represents the incredible community of Harlem which is extremely diverse and rich in culture," says chef Marcus Samuelsson, who started the event last year.
Harlem EatUp! really highlights the variety and the vibrancy that the neighborhood has to offer. Harlem is known worldwide for its music and its art, and now it will be known for its food."
The four days of food-focused events, both free and ticketed, begin today through May 22. We asked six participating restaurants, whose cuisines span the globe, to tell us about one dish that exemplifies their culture.
Row House (2128 Frederick Douglass Blvd.)
The restaurant: Though fairly new, this American tapas restaurant is already a winner with groups who want a casually upscale but not stuffy meal.
The dish: A gussied-up deviled egg takes a bath in a beet brine before, swaps plain old yolk for chicken liver mousse and tops it off with pickled shallots, candied mustard seeds and cilantro
The philosophy: “We love to put unique spins on classics,” says owner Cameron Fagan. “The purple really pops and the pickled shallots and candied mustard seeds give the dish a bit of crunch and depth of flavor.”
Babbalucci (331 Lenox Avenue)
The restaurant: This small well-regarded Sicilian restaurant is run by a third-generation pizzaolio and also serves as a showcase for local artists, including one who created the restaurant’s soundtrack.
The dish: Arancini ai frutti di mare mixes together some of the season’s freshest seafood inside rice croquettes, with squid ink and aioli for a kick that’s both visual and palate-tingling.
The philosophy: “Our arancini is a traditional Sicilian street food found at any open-air market in Sicily,” says chef Andrew LoPresto, making it the perfect bite to serve during The Stroll, this weekend’s walk-around tasting in Morningside Park.
Seasoned Vegan (55 Saint Nicholas Avenue)
The restaurant: Seasoned Vegan is run by a mother-son team who wanted to give comfort classics a vegan spin, both as an easy way to introduce sceptics to veganism, and a way to keep in touch with nostalgic dishes for those who have made the switch.
The dish: “Crawfish” in garlic basil sauce is actually made with burdock root, common in Japanese cooking.
The philosophy: “Our ‘crawfish’ pays homage to my New Orleans culinary roots,” says chef Brenda Beener. “Our burdock root is bursting with flavor and is hard to tell apart from is shellfish inspiration!”
Lolo’s Seafood Shack (303 West 116th Street)
The restaurant: The best of New England gets stirred into the Caribbean at this breezy tropical outpost, where Johnny cakes and soft-shell crabs share a menu with bake & shark sandwiches (made with dogfish, relax) and steampots brimming with peel-and-eat shrimp.
The dish: Conch ceviche with Indo ghost pepper, plantain chips and pineapple salsa
The philosophy: “Conch ceviche celebrates the myriad cultural influences and authentic flavors of the Caribbean islands,” says chef Raymond Mohan. The ghost peppers’ heat plays off the natural sugars of the salsa, while the crunch of the plantains pairs with the chew of the conch.
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