It’s done! Fini! Finito! Terminado! The inaugural Harlem EatUp! festival has come to a close. Though the weather was a little touch-and-go at times over the weekend, the show went on and the people showed up. There were art and culture events, talks, music, drink and, of course, copious amounts of food from Harlem restaurants, eateries and food makers. For this jaded food-festival goer, Harlem EatUp! was just my size, in the right place at the right time with tons of “firsts” I won’t soon forget.
The fun started for me at Friday night’s “Dine In” series, where guest chefs and personalities were welcomed at dozens of Harlem restaurants to create a unique one-night-only experience. I, along with a small legion of my food friends, hit up @VinateriaNYC, @TheCecilHarlem and @GinnysHarlem Supper Club. Oh, if I could only have been at them all.
Starting with Vinateria, we arrived at the Italian-Spanish celebration to glasses of Lunetta prosecco, passed hors d’oeuvres and the intoxicatingly rhythmic sounds of Albert Alabedra Flamenco Fusion. After seating all of the guests, the dapper host, Ted Allen of Food Network’s “Chopped,” took to the mic to welcome everyone to Harlem EatUp! Owner Yvette Leeper-Bueno invited us to “sit back, drink a little, talk a little, laugh a little” while host chef Gustavo Lopez and guest chef Linton Hopkins of Restaurant Eugene in Atlanta took to our palates with baked clams with sunchokes and scarlet shrimp and Carolina rice grits. Bravo!
My next stop was the Cecil for chef Joseph Johnson’s and guest chef Nick Anderer’s (of New York City’s Maialino and Marta) take on Afro-Asian-American/Italian food. Guests were held at bay in front of the restaurant until exactly 7 p.m., when the doors were opened to allow the crowd to find a seat before taking in cocktails and passed hors d’oeuvres. My highlights came by way of the first-course wine from R de Rieussec, a 2011 white Bordeaux (@VinsDeBordeaux), the bright cavatelli pasta course and that dastardly good goat cheesecake with candied cashews and yuzu meringue and curd from pastry chef Mame Sow. Whoa!
Saturday marked my first “Harlem Talks” at the Studio Museum. Of the full schedule of talks, I attended “The Good, the Bad and the Unknown: How to Open a Restaurant,” with panelists from New York City, Atlanta and Los Angeles, including Harlem’s Melba Wilson of Melba’s. Although they encouraged those passionate about hospitality and food, they cautioned the audience about all of the foils of restaurant ownership. Wilson, now appearing in CNBC Prime’s series “Consumed,” reminded aspiring restaurateurs the name “restaurant business” should be inverted, because “it is ‘business’ that comes first.”
There is more, more, more to cover from the first annual Harlem EatUp! festival. Tune in next week for all the haps in Morningside Park as they hosted “The Stroll” and “A Sunday Afternoon in Harlem” events, bringing together foodies from near and far.
And don’t miss a bite of the new Amsterdam News food section, #AmNewsFOOD, by following us on Twitter and Instagram at @NYAmNewsFOOD for all things food in and around Harlem and greater New York City, too.
Happy eating and thanks for reading!
Kysha Harris is a food writer, culinary producer, consultant and owner of SCHOP!, a personalized food service offering weekly and in-home entertaining packages. Questions? Comments? Requests? Feedback? Invitations? Email her at kysha@iSCHOP.com, follow her on Twitter and Instagram @SCHOPgirl and on Facebook www.facebook.com/SCHOPnyc. For even more recipes, tips and food musings, subscribe to her blog at www.talkingSCHOP.wordpress.com.