Flavor Flav: Harlem EatUp! 5
Can you say- "Flavor Flav"? No, I'm not talking about the rapper. That's just the first thought that enters my mind as I think about Harlem EatUp! 5. Foodies, this needs to be in your food festival lineup. Held in the beautiful Morningside Park, this week-long festival celebrates the restaurant scene in Harlem. There were dinners throughout the week at hot spots in Harlem hosted by celebrity chefs such as Marcus Sammuelson (also the event’s co-founder) and then the festival during the weekend. I hope I can meet Marcus next year. He’s one of my favorite chefs. The festival was made up of an exclusive tasting called the Ultimate Grand Stroll Tasting and then there was the main gate which included plenty of great food to sample and purchase. I was at the Ultimate Stroll Grand Tasting with my friend Ashley. There were sips and bites from over 30 restaurants. Proceeds from ticket sales were donated to Harlem Park to Park and Citymeals-on-Wheels.
There’s some footage from Harlem EatUp! 5 on my YouTube Channel as well. Don’t forget to subscribe to Tori Unscripted while you’re there! Thanks! :-)
Now let’s discuss the food! I’ll give you a rundown of my favorites. I’m going to kick things off on the healthier side with Uptown Veg. You know- eat your veggies first.
Uptown Veg ~Davie Simmons~ 52 East 125th St , New York, New York 10035-1602
Vegan Chicken Stir Fry
Uptown Veg is a dope vegan spot! I spoke with co-owner Jasmine. You can see what she had to say about vegan eating here: https://youtu.be/csE6IjvSgjk Now I tried their Vegan Chicken Stir Fry. Obviously, since they’re vegan- it wasn’t real chicken, but as a proud omnivore, I must say that it was really good! This dish had a chicken substitute along with quinoa and collard greens. Some of you may be frowning at the sound of that, but trust me- this was good and I can be a picky eater. The flavor was great without being salty. The texture of the “chicken” was good without feeling like rubber or plastic. You don’t need to be a vegan to appreciate it. Also if you love meat and desire to become a vegetarian or vegan I recommend eating here especially as you make the transition to a drastically different diet.
Now that we’ve had some veggies, it’s time for a little lamb.
La Chula~Julian Medina~137 East 116th Street, New York, NY 10029
Tacos de Barbacoa
Some of you fellow foodies may already recognize the name Julian Medina or perhaps you may recognize him from Iron Chef America: Mexican Chocolate Battle. I had a brief chance to speak with him and snap a quick picture. Now to the dish. It was insanely delicious. I love tacos. I love lamb. Naturally, this was the perfect pairing in my book. Quick taco stats for ya: steamed lamb, maguey leaves, tequila salsa borracha, onions cilantro and guacamole. My family and friends know that I don’t like guacamole, but in the spirit of Chef Didier from the Queen Latifah movie Last Holiday, “No substitutions”. I ate this taco, gauc and all and I loved it. You take savory and tender lamb, paired with an earthy warmth from cilantro, along with the tequila salsa borracha and all of the other flavors and you have this decadent euphoria. Well done chef. Well done.
Dear Mama~Kevin Thai~ East Harlem: 308 E 109th St/West Harlem: 611 W 129th St.
What’s in it? Housemade green chorizo, salsa verde, soft-scrambled eggs, mozzarella, sweet potato hash and Takis (Mexican spicy corn chips).
Bayybeeee, let me tell ya! The name certainly fits the burrito- okurr? Chef Kevin Thai’s enthusiasm while preparing this certainly added to the experience as well (check out a quick clip of him here https://youtu.be/Zsvtr8wUyRwT) .This burrito was sweet, spicy and crunchy. If I solely went by the description- I would’ve missed out on something good. I’m not really a fan of salsa or the surprise ingredient- Takis. However, combined with the sweet potato hash and the chorizo… just insert various Cardi B. noises here! It’s got a colorful kick and a punch. It's as if all of the ingredients in the burrito were jamming to “Finesse”. The sweet potato hash was Bruno Mars and the chorizo and Takis were Cardi B. Dear Mama “you got it going on got it going on”. Hey, I told you guys “Finesse” was in my head while eating this.
Bar 314 ~ Andrew LoPresto~ Bruno Molfetta~1260 Amsterdam Avenue New York, NY 10027 (on the corner of 122nd)
Yesss honeyyyyy! This. Was. The. Truth. And nothing but the truth!
Arancini is a risotto croquette with beef and pork ragu, scamorza (similar to mozzarella, but firmer) , grana (more cheese) and pecorino (even more cheese). So a quick note about these cheeses if you’re not a cheese connoisseur, they’re Italian cheeses that are typically dry, firm and salty. That’s just a brief summary. Now back to the Arancini. It was crunchy and bursting with flavor.The savory factor was through the roof! Since they used firmer cheeses, the inside of the croquette was ooey gooey goodness. Leave the pizza rolls* back in junior high and “level up, level up, level up, level up, level up” with Arancini! Bravissimo. Check out some of the fun that we had with Co-Owner and Mixologist, Bruno here: https://youtu.be/WN3gpKX1WHg . I loved chatting with him.
Kingston Restaurant & Bar~Neca Bryan~218 W 116th St, New York, NY 1002
This jerk chicken was everything! Spice Spice Spice baby. They did not go light on the spice and and I loved every bit of it. I needed a shot of almond milk to cool down! The chicken was tender and juicy. So yeah it’s a 10! I am definitely going to see them when I’m back in Harlem.
Now it’s time for a little dessert.
Lloyd's Carrot Cake~ Betty Campbell-Adams~1553 Lexington Ave, New York, NY 10029
I would make a special trip to NY to get this carrot cake. There’s something special about this cake. It was an excellent balance of flavor and texture. Cake in general is like my favorite food of all time, so trust me when I tell you that this at the top of the list for carrot cake. The cream cheese icing was perfect. Sweet, but not so sweet that your right eye would twitch. The cake was firm, yet moist. They nailed the fundamental elements of carrot cake that many places have ruined. This was perfection. The cake legacy of Lloyd Adams continues. I can see why they’ve won various awards and were featured on hit TV shows such as The Best Thing I Ever Ate. We got to chat with some of the crew too:
Harlem Chocolate Factory~Jessica Spaulding~2363 Adam Clayton Powell Jr Blvd~New York, NY 10030
Milk Chocolate Mousse
Listen Linda, listen. This chocolate mousse made we want to slap somebody. This isn’t your ordinary chocolate mousse. It’s made with HH Bespoke Rum Caramel Sauce and crispy pearls. The flavor of this was sweet warmth. My taste buds were singing like Jill Scott, “living my life like it’s golden, living my life like it’s golden”. Chocolate lovers rejoice. See more of the Harlem Chocolate Factory at the festival here: https://youtu.be/OWMjbxs3f7A
Mountain Bird~Kenichi Tajimi~2162 2nd Ave, New York, NY 10029
Sticky Toffee Fig Cake
So I really wanted to take home a whole sheet of this! If you’re not a fan of fig, you may be a little skeptical at the sound of this, but trust me- it’s good. It was sweet, sticky and a little bit salty. The toffee definitely set this off. With each bite, I craved another bite. This was simply mmm, mmm good.
Needless to say, I truly enjoyed myself at Harlem EatUp! 5. Shout out to my good friend Ashley for the fun and laughs. Shea Moisture was in the building too! I left with a nice freebie from them (review on YouTube coming soon). We also ran into a couple of cool individuals near Shea Moisture’s booth:
The actress Vanessa Williams (also a writer, producer, director, and singer/songwriter):
Producer, writer, and casting director Sidra Smith (also the identical twin sister of Tasha Smith).
They were both so nice to meet!
I look forward to going to Harlem EatUp! again next year and I hope to see some of you there too!
*Note: No pizza rolls were harmed during this review. You guys, I’ll never be a food snob. I will still eat pizza rolls since I can’t get Arancini whenever I want it lol. ;-)