I was beyond excited to attend this event again at Morningside Park in Harlem after my wonderful experience last year. I decided to pace myself so I could enjoy all of the food unlike last year where I over did myself within 15 minutes. Early entry for Citi card holders began at 12pm, and general admission began at 12:30pm. I arrived at Morningside Park a little before 1pm and was a little confused about the entry process. There were two lines on each side of the entrance and after standing in the wrong one, which also happened to be the longer one, I got through the entrance and my afternoon began.
All of the hosts were so friendly and welcoming. After the extended walk into the entrance, I was given my sampling wine glass (made of plastic) and began my tasting stroll!!! I quickly noticed that the event was set up a little differently than last year. Several restaurants stared a small tent and made rows within the event area. This took away from the heavy traffic that was in the main tent. There were tents that bordered along one side of the event including an area for a wine class, bakery, Barilla, pasta samples, and a Macy’s lounge. In the main tent, several beverage companies had booths to serve drink samples, desserts, as well as food. (I did not get a picture, but the Stoli booth had some amazing Vodka Lemonade! Yum!)
The Citibank also had their own tent that was exclusive to its customers. The tent had had tables and chairs, couches for lounging, and its own bartender. But also, each customer was given a blue tray that had a cup holder for the cups provided for tasting. I was very jealous of them for this because it was tricky juggling the tasting plates and a sample cocktail as a regular guest.
The stroll is set up basically like a convention where each Harlem restaurant has a table and decorates it however they choose. They serve their samples at their booth and do their best to attract people to their table as well as gain new customers. Each booth has a sign on the table that states the name of the business and the name of the tasting dish(es) served. It is important that the tasting dishes are served quickly, presented well, and taste good to attract new customers. The two tables that I was looking forward to visiting was Sylvia’s Soulfood, based on my evening before experience, and Red Rooster because of course it was Marcus’s restaurant but also because the Caribbean chicken tacos from last year were outstanding. Here is a view of my experience:
- Sylvia’s: This was my first stop I was still high off of my experience from the night before. I loved their decorations with the black eye peas in the vase with flowers. They served a tender beef taco topped with collard greens and topped it with their hot sauce! The sauce of the beef was quite flavorful and the greens were actually really good. Nothing special about the tortilla, not grilled or toasted. So I just ate the insides of the taco and I was happy. http://sylviasrestaurant.com/
- Barawine: Served a Yellowfin Tuna Tartare on top of a cucumber slice. Wonderful flavors! Amazing that they would serve this at a festival considering the cost of the fish. But I was interested in giving them a try. http://www.barawine.com/
- Ponty Bistro: Served a Poulet Tangine. They get my STAR AWARD for most exciting dish!!! YES!!!! This Chicken wing with the curry sauce and veggies were amazing!! After my first bite, I took another plate and demanded a menu and address. This is a must visit during trip to NYC. http://www.pontybistroharlem.com/
- BluJeen: Served a Smoked Shrimp and Potato Corn Salad. This was a flavorful dish and a great tasting size. I could have had more but I was pacing myself. If someone mentioned visiting this restaurant, I could see myself going. http://www.blujeennyc.com/
- Hendrick’s Gin: I stopped at the Hendrick’s Gin table and had their Cucumber Basil Smash cocktail. I am not a fan of cucumbers but this cocktail was refreshing and light. I so enjoyed this cocktail. Sorry I did not a pic of the actually drink but here is a picture of the recipe above. https://us.hendricksgin.com/
- Henry’s Hard Soda: I tried their hard ginger ale and let’s just say this is dangerous! I could not taste any alcohol, the drink was tasty, and I could see myself drinking several of these at a summer BBQ and getting so drunk that I cannot get out of there. I heard the Orange soda was tasty as well. http://henryshardsoda.com
- Sisters Cuisine: Served Marsala Curried Potato and Chick Pea dish. This deconstruction dish had a lot of flavor. That golden ball was some sort of bread. This dish was good but did not stand out to me. (cannot find a direct link to their website)
- Melba’s Restaurant: Served County Fried Catfish with a Chipotle Dipping Sauce. The presentation was awesome but the way it was presented, the fish will get cold fast. They served this dish last year and it was flavorful. (I met her at the event and she was very personable. People really love and admire her in the community) http://www.melbasrestaurant.com/
- BLVD Bistro: Served shrimp and grits. STAR AWARD!!! This shrimp and grits dish was amazing!! The grits were some of the best I’ve ever had. The shrimp was nothing special but the grits were definitely the star. I look forward to going there for an official meal. http://blvdbistrony.com/
- Charles’ Country Pan Fried Chicken: For some reason, I forgot to take a photo of their sign. I guess I got excited about the plate of Soulfood. Anyway, the chicken was tasty and they had some flavorful mac and cheese. The yams and greens were liked by many. (I cannot find a website but their yelp page describes an pretty good picture of a hole in the wall that is giving you good food) http://www.yelp.com/biz_photos/charles-country-pan-fried-chicken-new-york
- BTH (By The Hudson): They served their delicious pulled pork slider that they also served last year. I remember enjoyed the dish this year and last year and I forgot about them. Plus, I drove by their restaurant in Harlem that night and the red hue that came from the building made it look so sexy and cool. They have huge TVs to watch a game. I will definitely visit this place soon! http://www.bythehudson.com/
- Icelandic Fish and Chips: Served Fresh Icelandic Cod. What was frustrating about this booth was that they took far too long to serve. Their line was ridiculously long. But they were placed way away from others so it gave them room for their line. The fish was a generous portion and crunchy. Not the most flavorful fish I’ve had but the sauces were pretty good. (they have not opened their NYC location yet so the website only has the foreign location) https://www.fishandchips.is/
- Red Rooster: After having a quick sit down to eat the fish and chips, someone helped me located the Red Rooster booth. This one was located in the main big tent all the way in the back. I realized that there was a long line to get to them so I waited. But the line was a bit unorganized and hard to follow with all the people. They had a person standing to direct the line but he was not making sure that people were not cutting up front. And when I asked him about it, he was like, well they can come from that direction too. So what is the point of the line? I would recommend that they move that booth outside of the tent in order to give people more space and clearly define where the line is a line. They served pasta and cheese, sorta like mac and cheese but bigger noodles, with collard greens and fried chicken with bourbon sauce and hot sauce. The portions were generous and the food was awesome! I went back for more before they ran out. I very much enjoyed their food but they have to do better with the line. http://redroosterharlem.com/
- Settepani: Served Arrosto di Vitello which basically translates to roasted beef and potatoes with cream. The beef was flavorful and tender but the potatoes were undercooked and hard!! Like, you had one job! Next! http://www.settepani.com/
- Solomon and Kuff: Served Escovitch which was fried porgy skewers with warm onions and peppers. This dish was flavorful but did not stand out to drag me to the restaurant. They also had a curry goat shooter that was amazing! So maybe I may go after all. Stay tuned. http://www.solomonandkuff.com/#solomonandkuffsrumhall
- Lolo’s Seafood Shack: Served Conch Ceviche and Indo Ghost Pepper with Plantain Chips with House-made Pineapple Salsa. I’m sure that people may enjoy this dish, but it is not for me. That green salsa I got was good to me. However, the ceviche was flavorful and I enjoyed that. http://www.lolosseafoodshack.com/#about
- Zoma: Served Ethiopian Chickpea Stew and Kik (Ethiopian Split Pea Stew). I really like Ethiopian food but this was not exciting to me. But I would give them another shot because their pictures on their website look pretty good. http://www.zomanyc.com/
- Babbalucci: Served a Crostini with Duck Prosciutto and a Falafel looking item that they called a Risotto. I came across this booth on accident waiting in the ridiculously unorganized line for Harlem Shake. Both of these dishes was pretty good but the crostini was amazing! Duck Prosciutto is quite tasty. https://babbalucci.com/
- Harlem Shake: Served Hot Honey Fried Chicken Sliders and Fried Codfish and Grits. So, these were both very good but the chaos of the lines and the amount of time it took to get the dishes served made it hard for me to take pictures, so they are blurry, and it was just rushed. But they need to get organized in presentation. https://www.harlemshakenyc.com/menu/
- Miss Mamie’s Spoonbread Too: Served Louisiana Catfish and Jalapeno Cornbread. They kept running out of food and having to turn people away. But once I got up there, the catfish was pretty good and the cornbread was just alright. I could give this another shot if the opportunity presented itself but I would not go out of my way. http://www.spoonbreadinc.com/miss_mamies.htm#
- Harlem Chocolate Factory: Served a Chocolate Tart. This little dessert was divine. I just find this place and get more chocolate. Yum!!! http://www.harlemchocolatefactory.com/
- Lady Lexis Sweets: I loved this lady’s t-shirt! Her shirt got me to her booth. She served rum raisin oatmeal cookies and bread pudding with bananas. These desserts did not stand out to me but the t-shirt alone lets me know that there may be more to this place. So I would give it another try. http://www.ladylexissweets.com
As you can see, I truly enjoyed myself. This was a great event. I did not get to every booth though I did do a lot. There was a tomato salad on a crostini that looked good, a pasta dish I missed, Barilla had some things I did not try, and the list goes on. Nothing is perfect and there are always room for improvements but I look forward to attending this event next year! Finally, I got to see my fellow Hamptonian Tren’ness around the event. She greeted me every time and was so very kind to me. I have to get to Sylvia’s during my next trip to NYC!!!
Please keep reading as I travel around trying knew food and making knew memories. I may be at a restaurant or festival near you! And keep reading for Baltimore’s 50 Best Challenge. I am still at that. And remember: It’s a big world and we are going to eat our way through it!