Talking SCHOP! Boricuas in Harlem

KYSHA HARRIS Food Editor, @SCHOPgirl | 10/22/2020, midnight
Thank you to all who are staying vigilant in these unpredictable times. Wearing a mask has nothing to do with ...
LoLo’s Shack “Taste of Puerto Rico” Kysha Harris photo

Thank you to all who are staying vigilant in these unpredictable times. Wearing a mask has nothing to do with religion or politics. Period, end of story. Get your FULL life and let me have mine. This is called tempered anger. Wear a friggin’ mask!

Last week, after a full day of cooking, my friends and LoLo’s Shacks owners, Skai and Chef Raymond, invited me to the safe reopening of their backyard cabana. To celebrate, they invited their friends and fellow chefs Eric Brown and George McKirdy to prepare a multi-dish, four-course dining experience entitled “Taste of Puerto Rico.”

After arriving to LoLo’s, getting my temperature checked and sanitizing my hands, I walked to the back remembering all the times I had done it before. The former Chinese food kitchen was abuzz with sous chefs and staff.

As I emerged to the back-room, Chef Raymond and the guest chefs were plating the first course with masked smiles it seemed. “It feels so good to be back in the restaurant cooking again and collaborating with fellow chefs,” said Chef. Although, LoLo’s did the absolute most, feeding frontline workers and the food insecure early into the quarantine.

I snapped a couple of pictures of the chefs at work and quickly continued out and down the stairs to the vibrant open cabana filled in-and-around with socially distanced guests. I sat down to dine alone with LoLo’s signature plantain chips and habanero salsa, both wrapped for individual consumption, at the ready. Additionally, all the food would be served on compostable service ware.

General manager Jose welcomed me with a mango mojito, one of the evening’s cocktails, while DJ Algreato was spinning the music of PR and Skai piped in the sounds of indigenous coqui frogs. Without having to even close my eyes, I was transported to island life.

The first course included four tastes: malanga and pepper escabeche salad with avocado, fried cheese with guava paste, conch salad and, my favorite, baked kale and cheese empanada with avocado crema. These need to be added to the menu stat and I need to bathe in that crema.

The second and third courses were absolutely beyond…in order, open face pastel with king crab and chicharron, then a “surf and turf” of bone marrow, crispy octopus with pepper escabeche with lobster mofongo and cracklings. WHAT?! Puerto Rico! Hoooooo!

Now dessert (brace yourself), a triptych of sweet heaven…with clouds! Pumpkin pudding with pepita brittle and gooseberry, tres leches cake with delicate merengues and, my favorite, simply called “White Clouds” (…I told you). It was a transcending gelatin-fortified whipped sweet cream puff topped with crispy rice and quinoa brittle, slivered blueberries and basil. I mean…I scraped my platter to within an inch of its compostable life.

LoLo’s and chefs, you did it again! Thank you for all you are and do for Harlem and your guests. I am always looking forward to your next sprinkling of magic. Abracadabra!

Stay safe, wear a mask, eat well and thanks for reading!

Kysha Harris is a food writer and editor, culinary producer, consultant and owner of SCHOP!, a personalized food service in NYC for over 15 years. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram, @SCHOPgirl, on Facebook, /SCHOPnyc, and her blog, www.talkingSCHOP.wordpress.com. Questions? Comments? Requests? Feedback? Invitations! Email AmNewsFOOD at AmNewsFOOD@SCHOPnyc.com. Follow us on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook @NYAmNewsFOOD and tag us with #SoAmNewsFOOD with your food finds!