Before the height and frenzy of the NYC Wine & Food Festival, I received an invitation to attend not one, but two events in East Harlem. It was a busy food day that opened my eyes to all that is available right in our neighborhood. From a famous local market to some great eateries via a trolley full of foodies, the day was filled with laughter and smiles of contentment.

The day started at 115th and Park for an open house event at the East Harlem institution La Marqueta. Until that point, I had not been inside the market. Only during the warm months did I see the outdoor vendors selling their wares.

Once inside, a representative from the NYC Economic Development Corporation greeted me with an outline of the day’s goals: to offer space at La Marqueta and business counseling for small business owners interested in the opportunity (visit for more details). I walked around to see the space of Hot Bread Kitchen and the other vendors.

The most prominent of the vendors was La Bodega Gourmet. Owner John Colon talked about his history with pan-Latin foods and how it fueled his passion for his business. After successfully selling foods from his car, he now has a vision at La Marqueta that is refreshing and inviting. You can find oils, vinegars, tuna, rice, teas and more that hail from the many Latin countries. Colon also works with the adjacent kitchen, developing some delectable morsels to munch.

Later in the day, I rode the Taste of East Harlem trolley ride for food and libation transportation. The fast and furious summer rain prevented me from starting the ride with my fellow foodies at Makana for Hawaiian and Japanese food. No worries though, as the good people at Agua Fresca (207 E. 117th St., (212) 996-2500) made up for it with short rib empanadas that were spectacular, served with their signature cocktail. I will be back soon for those!

The 4 p.m. trolley (there was another run at 7 p.m.) was a little overcrowded, which made staying on time and getting everyone a taste of the Taste a little difficult, but surprise, surprise…after a few cocktails, I don’t think anyone was feeling the pain. Plus, the trolley’s emcee, comedian Vincent Cruz, kept the levity high, especially when Ricardo Steakhouse served calamari to the crew’s dismay. Escandalo!

Other highlights of the tour were meeting Talking SCHOP! readers like Ray Williams and the calm respite of East Harlem Cafe for sandwiches, delicious cookies and some good chai latte. There was also a restaurant whose name precedes it as being a place that I must try: Milk Burger. Their signature sliders with their MilkSauce proved to be something that I must return to have in the maxi form with a hand-spun milkshake.

The next Taste of East Harlem is Dec. 10 and coincides with the lighting of the El Barrio holiday tree. Go to for more details.

Thank you, East Harlem, for representing hard! Keep doing what you do. They will continue to come.

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