Kysha Harris | 10/12/2012, 4:19 p.m.
Ah, fall ... it seems to have come at the appropriate time this year. The air gets a little crisper, a little livelier. Sleep becomes a little deeper. Ovens become a little warmer. Appetites become a little heavier. Root vegetables, gourds, dark greens, cranberries and long-roasted meats. Fall has arrived.
Last week, on a rainy Tuesday night, Harlem celebrated the season's harvest with the first annual Savor the Season Uptown! at Dinosaur Bar-B-Que, hosted by Harvest Home and chef Marcus Samuelsson. A consortium of old and new Harlem chefs and restaurateurs gathered to showcase their culinary contributions to the community, highlighting in-season farm fresh produce. The event was to celebrate Harvest Home's 20th anniversary and benefit their works.
Harvest Home Farmer's Market is a New York City nonprofit organization dedicated to increasing access to local, farm-fresh produce in low-income neighborhoods. Founded in 1993, the markets create a community gathering place that educates the public about health and nutrition, supports regional agriculture and provides job opportunities six days a week during the summer season. Harvest Home Farmer's Market currently operates markets in the Bronx, Brooklyn, Manhattan and Queens and accepts food stamps/EBT cards, WIC Farmers' Market Nutrition Coupons (FMNP), Senior Coupons and Health Bucks.
The night started with a VIP reception with Samuelsson and moved into a three-hour event in the upstairs space of Dinosaur. Decorated with all the markers of the season--gourds, hay, corn--tables for each of the eateries ran the perimeter of the room, as guests mingled, sipping on wines curated by the Winery and listening to the sounds of bluegrass musicians Tumbling Bones.
After grabbing a seasonal beer from the bar, I had to start my tasting experience at the host's table to try the Red Rooster offering. I missed the dirty rice and shrimp--a signature dish--but was thankful to have chilled summer vegetable ragu with teff noodles--the same grain used to make Ethiopian injera bread. I enjoyed how that dish came together as something familiar to the palate but with a new ingredient.
My modus operandi was to try Harlem staple restaurants' offerings first. Melba's zucchini and corn pie on a stick made me smile even before it touched my lips. I could have popped a couple of those sweet corny morsels in my mouth while I moved on to Creole's shrimp-roasted chicken dish and Mobay's vegetarian collard greens and pickled smoked ham hock topping.
Of the "newbies" (relatively speaking), I zeroed in on Jin Ramen's table for their seasonal vegetable ramen in smoky shoyu soup. 'Tis the season for a hot bowl of that fresh, savory, slurpy goodness! And while I missed 5 and Diamond's beetroot-cured salmon, I was happy to taste Hudson Valley foie gras terrine with candied beets and carrots, radish sprouts and blueberry dressing from LeMonde. The candied root vegetables balanced the fatty gaminess of the terrine. Et voila!
Of course, Dinosaur Bar-B-Que set it off with sliced beef brisket sliders with pickled onion and their signature sauce. If it weren't so saucy, I would have tried to fit some of that tender beef into my purse for later.
To cap off the evening with something sweet, Tonnie's Minis offered "very berry" cupcakes while Levain took their signature dark chocolate, chocolate chip cookie and added seasonal cranberries to the mix. The tart addition was the perfect foil for an otherwise rich and decadent cookie. Hopefully they will make them again for the second annual Savor the Season Uptown!
Welcome, fall! Thank you, Harlem!
For more information on Harvest Home and farmers markets locations, go to www.harvesthomefm.org.
Enjoy, get eating and thanks for reading!
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Kysha Harris is owner of SCHOP! which is available for weekly service or for home entertaining. Questions? Comments? Requests? Feedback? Email kysha@iSCHOP.com.