For the second year, I was honored to attend the James Beard Foundation Harlem EatUp! dinner at the James Beard House. This year brought together another awesome collection and representation of Harlem’s culturally diverse community.

Walking in, as per usual, through the infamous kitchen gauntlet, I peeped chef Marcus Samuelsson (Red Rooster Harlem) and the staffs of Melba’s and Chaiwali prepping their courses and readying the passed hors d’oeuvres. Chaiwali prepared green plantain chaat with pomegranate and spicy yogurt dressing, and garam masala tuna cakes with habanero cream. Melba’s reinvented their fried Gullah catfish into tacos with tomato-mango salsa plus jerk chicken spring rolls with Thai chili sauce.

The dinner bell called guests upstairs to the dining room of dressed tables with a sea of wineglasses, all for the wines of Germany pairings. Salutations, introductions and some words about the Harlem EatUp! Festival, and we were off

to food coma land.

Our first course, Skuna Bay salmon ceviche with pomelo, soursop granita, masala oil, chives and chervil, from LoLo’s Seafood Shack chef, Raymond Mohan, was the perfect start. Bright, tart and sweet, complex with the added texture of fried salmon skin, it was outstanding and highlighted Mohan’s Guyanese roots. My table

ate the whole bowl.

Vinateria proprietor Yvette Leeper-Bueno must have known I would be there that night because my favorite dish on their home menu was put before me—black spaghetti with octopus and breadcrumbs. First I vibrated, then the rest of my table and soon the whole room was eating every bite, be damned the courses to follow.

BLVD Bistro served their jumbo shrimp and grits with applewood-smoked bacon and jalapeños and buttermilk biscuit with organic cane syrup butter for course three. Then Red Rooster dropped the last course of the most tender jerk lamb with black-eyed peas, seasonal ramp pesto and peppercress. Didn’t even need a knife!

Finally, Make My Cake flew a hummingbird cake with mango cream cheese frosting and praline ice cream straight to all of our hearts. The dried caramelized pineapple slices certainly made me want to spread my wings and fly. Brava!

Another stupendous Harlem EatUp! memory was made at the James Beard House. Cheers to all!

Get a 15 percent discount for Sunday’s The Harlem Stroll Ultimate Grand Tasting $85 ticket by using code HEU17AMN at checkout, at

Happy eating 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 more than 15 years. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram, @SCHOPgirl, on Facebook, /SCHOPnyc, and her blog, Questions? Comments? Requests? Feedback? Invitations! Email AmNewsFOOD at Follow us on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook @NYAmNewsFOOD and tag us with #SoAmNewsFOOD with your food finds!