Caribbean seasonings, savory wines, melodic chords providing a sweet soundtrack, and candid laughter amongst friends is how you can describe the first annual Harlem EatUp! Reminiscent of the good ol’ days, when a night out in Harlem was a guaranteed good time. With an agenda to reincarnate the bold, historic roots of Harlem, internationally acclaimed Chef and Harlemite Marcus Samuelsson, veteran event marketer Herb Karlitz, and former President Bill Clinton, serving as honorary chair, put together this cultural celebration of Harlem’s blend of food, music and art.
Bringing diners a roster of events that commenced on May 14th and closed on the 17th, the four-day festival rocked the streets of Harlem with The Experience at the Stroll in Morningside Park that included walk- around tastings, culinary demos, Harlem Talks and of course, the Friday night Dine In Harlem feature, where a series of special menus were created to indulge the diners’ five senses.
One of the featured Dine In Harlem eateries, The 5 and Diamond, brought the upscale, right in your backyard dining experience to the Harlem EatUp!- with a uniquely blended five course menu created by house chef, Joseph Hayes III, and Let’s Move! campaign Chef Marvin Woods, owner of Atlanta’s Asante restaurant.
Focusing on the element of cultural harmony, The 5 and Diamond created an old and new Harlem culinary experience that told the story of where Harlem has been and where it’s going; but most importantly keeping Harlem’s soul alive.
“Old Harlem is very southern, and new Harlem is very eclectic. I think my food is very eclectic,especially in the African Diaspora. When you look at the folks that were in the dining room tonight it was a mixture of people,” said Woods.
With dishes ranging from a delectable citrus salad, boasting color and flavors of grapefruit, nectarines, and kumquats, that highlight the progressive transition of new Harlem, to the rich Caribbean Seafood Sancocho (Tiger prawns, Sapelo Island clams, Diver scallop, Long Island mussels) that took diners back to the roots of the Middle Passage that connects all cultures.
“Our goal was to tell a story starting from the northeast down to the low country, and we were able to get that message through the food. The way I embody new Harlem is, I’m young, I’m progressive. Old Harlem is just because this is where I grew up in. Everything that I do, everything that I cook. I try to keep it alive by keeping it around in my spirit [and] in my food, added Hayes III.
While the food was the main attraction, the music and fellowship reignited the soul of a night in Harlem. Live performances throughout the evening from New York’s hidden talent included, violinist Kersten Stevens and opera soloist, Gail Blanche-Gill bellowing iconic tunes including Otis Redding’s "Sitting on the Dock of the Bay," the late B.B. King’s "The Thrill is Gone" and closing the evening with a snippet of Richard Smallwood’s "Total Praise."
“We all have one thing in common when we are at the table [and that is to break bread. It doesn’t matter what color or sex you are.],” said co-owner, Lia Sanfillipo.
Donna, a diner from New Jersey stated, she and her girlfriends came out just for the experience. Watching the group of women join hands in prayer before dining symbolized the nostalgic feeling the Harlem EatUp! is striving to re-create.
No one left food on his/her plate. Everyone walked out all smiles, still conversing with laughter.
Harlem EatUp! is a reminder to keep Harlem’s historic tradition alive as the neighborhood continues to transition economically and demographically. Bringing together a mixture of people under the common denominators of food, music and an undeniable, deeply rooted culture, if one didn’t know anything about Harlem prior to attending, one definitely left with a little more acquainted.
For more info on Harlem EatUp!, click here.