As the temperatures begin to increase day by day, we can always anticipate late nights and early mornings, bar hopping, swanky rooftop soirees and of course there’s food festivals! Particularly one of the highlights of most New Yorkers’ summer days is attending fascinating (and salivating) food festivals! But the one we suggest you MUST attend is Harlem EatUp! Today is the kick off and goes until May 21.
PHOTO: MATT DUTILE
Founded by award-winning chef, international restaurateur, and cookbook author Marcus Samuelsson, the four-day festival offers an exciting sampling of Harlem’s sights, flavors and sounds, from artists of the kitchen, canvas, stage and streets. Already in its 3rd year, Enjoy Dine In Harlem, Eat Up’s signature one-night-only multi-room dinner party experience, featuring Harlem’s hottest restaurants and chefs hosting some of the biggest national culinary stars in their kitchens. Spend a day uptown on The Harlem Stroll, where food, art and culture will converge all in the backdrop of one of the neighborhood’s most beautiful parks. Watch Harlem and national top chef cooking demos on the EatUp! Main Stage. And lucky for us, Marcus was able to give us insight on what to expect, some of his favorite times during the festival, and how to navigate easily. See our Q&A below.
DH: What initiated the idea of Harlem eat Up!
MS: Festivals are a great way to celebrate the community by spotlighting the food, drinks, art, and music of the neighborhood. They are also a great way to introduce the area to a new audience and increase foot traffic. Harlem is one of the most fun and dynamic neighborhoods in the country. There’s so much history and diversity in food, art, and fashion, so we wanted to bring people together to experience the best of Harlem.
DH: What can attendees expect this year from the event?
MS: This year we are bringing back the dine-in events where we pair an out of town chef with a Harlem chef at their restaurant. This is a fun way to bring downtown to uptown and chefs outside of NYC to Harlem. We also have The Harlem Stroll event happening at Morningside Park on May 20th and 21st with The Ultimate Grand Tasting featuring over 25 food vendors, wines by Bordeaux Wine Council, Wines of Germany, Hendricks, Stoli, and much more. Citi, our founding sponsor is back again this year and they really do so much for guests. In the Ultimate Grand Tasting they have a cardmember lounge serving special cocktails and bites from Harlem chefs including my own green apple sorbet as a popsicle. In the Harlem Marketplace, an area open to all, they are featuring the winner of their cooking competition– you’ve got to try their winning dish. ALSO, we have a special concert at the Apollo theater to kick off the week. It’s a Billie Holiday tribute featuring 10 acts and the Alvin Ailey dance company. We are thrilled and it’s a milestone to have the Apollo have some part of the festival.
DH: For first timers, how should one navigate the many vendors to indulge in its entire experience?
MS: The Ultimate Grand Tasting at Morningside Park is laid out well and has a good flow to it, so people will be able to see and experience everything they want to with food, wine, beer, and cocktails. There’s even a whole slate of Bordeaux Wine seminars that fill up quickly. The Marketplace is free to enter and is pay as you go. The Main Stage is where you’ll find the chef demonstrations, panel discussions, and live entertainment. Citi has also created this great Harlem Cuisine map that highlights past and present-day restaurants.
DH: How do you determine which busineses participate in the festivities?
MS: We reach out to restaurants all over Harlem. Some have been part of the festival since the beginning, so they get invited back, and some are new, which we are excited to have.
DH: On average, what is the longest wait time for the popular vendor(s)?
MS: The lines move quickly and even if you have to wait a few minutes, it’s not bad because there’s music, and drinks to sip on, and food everywhere to snack on.
DH: Are there any cooking seminars that take place with crowd participation?
MS: Yes! Bordeaux Wine Council will be offering wine classes at The Ultimate Grand Tasting at The Stroll event on May 20 and 21 throughout the day. People really love that because they are learning from experts and tasting the best wine at the same time. We also have chef demos at the main stage including chefs: Donatella Arpaia from Prova Pizzabar, Darryl Burnette from Belle Harlem, Daniel Holtzman from The Meatball Shop, Brian Washington from Sexy Dirty Taco, and more. We also have performances in between demos. Guests will be entertained throughout the day.
DH: Besides food, what’s the second thing you find that guests enjoy?
MS: The live music, artwork, dance performances, and just the feeling of a community coming together.
DH: Will there be any mixologists at the event?
MS: A few! Harlem’s own Karl Franz from Orange 67 and Solomon & Kuff will be mixing cocktails at the Streetbird Dine-in event on Friday May 19. He makes some of the best cocktails in the city and we are very excited to have him back this year. That Dine-In also features the 4’Js (Jimmy Bradley, Joey Campanaro, Jonathan Waxman and Jason Giagrande).
DH: How many vendors usually participate?
MS: About 8-10 restaurants host Dine Ins and bring in a visiting chef. The Ultimate Grand Tasting in the park has over 25 restaurants each day and that’s not including the wine, beer, and liquor brands such as Stoli who are also there. The Marketplace has at least a dozen restaurants and vendors plus sponsors who always do fun things for guests.
DH: What do you ALWAYS look forward to during this time?
MS: Just the sense of community and hospitality that is one of the best things about Harlem. Guests love the food and dancing, but it’s the welcome that they remember and that makes HarlemEatUp! so special. I just see this electric look on so many people’s faces, people from the neighborhood and people new to Harlem. It makes me so happy that this festival exists.
BE SURE TO CHECK OUT THE SCHEDULE OF EVENTS HERE!
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