Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Harvest in the Square 2015

The sight of white tents erected in a city park immediately conjures up a sense of excitement.  All to often it's something exclusive and inaccessible, but this time it was Harvest in the Square's 20th anniversary, and I was lucky enough to procure tickets.  Funds raised go to an excellent cause (the Union Square Partnership), and plus, it's like dinner and a show.  There were a ton of participants, filling th eentire north end of the park, with a dj spinning catchy tunes and an ebullient energy spilling out onto the streets.

This Harvest put (in increasing order of interest) Javelina, Tasca Chino, Barbounia, Adalya, The House, Union Square Cafe and Black Barn on my hit-list, amongst others I already know and love well... and yeah, a couple of flops.  But overall the food was great- far too much to list
Matteo Bergamini's Cauliflower
comprehensively, along with beverages alcoholic and non-.  Some of the highlights were as follows:

Black Barn surprised with a scrumptious softened, curry-spiced cauliflower atop a fresh, crisp salad of cucumbers and nectarine.  Sour-sweet pickled raisins and toasty pignoli added even more interest, cooled with a thick smear of thick, creamy cilantro raita.  Look forward to great things to come from chef Matteo Bergamini as Black Barn opened up just three days ago in the old SD26 space at 19 E. 26th street.

Alex Urena's Shrimp Dumpling
Alex Urena created a perfect edible illustration of the Chinese-Spanish fusion they've got going on at Tasca Chino-  flavorful shrimp bound in pleasantly chewy dumpling skins, artistically pleasted and kicked with zippy heat and the garlicky tang of sundried tomato.  The Pavilion's
Mario Urgiles's Shrimp Crudo
shrimp crudo nestled tender morsels of shrimp into chunky smashed avocado, piled on top  a thick slice of meaty, market-fresh tomato, enriched with a daub of zesty aioli.

Jesse Schenker's grilled corn and heirloom tomatoes
Derek Miles' Gazpacho
Tomatoes and corn ('tis the season, after all), took their final bows of summer in Oscar-worthy style: Jesse Schenker took advantage of both in a grilled corn and heirloom salad, perky with pickled onions.   Three gazpachos vied for the top spot, but chef Derek Miles from Adalya nailed it with a creamy, brilliantly yellow rendition.  For a full bowl, I prefer my gazpacho chunky, but this one shone like thick liquid gold, deepened by onion and garlic.  Of course, it was served in tiny, clear plastic cups, but I could've eaten the whole serving tureen had I been left with a spoon and my druthers. 
Sean Olnowich's Heirloom Tomatoes
The House chipped in their tomato sensibility paired with both compressed watermelon and watermelon radish, along with cool, milky knobs of buffalo mozzarella and syrupy aged balsamic.

Carmen Quagliata's Croquette with Mussel
Union Square Cafe is at the top of its game in preparation for its move across the park to Park Avenue South, with a stellar one-bite potato croquette, ripping hot from the fryer with an oozy creamy center cloaked in a crunchy bronze crust, and topped with a fresh, fat mussel.  Its pickly brine and fresh minced kernels of sweet market corn cut the richness of the croquette, creating a morsel that fired on all cylinders and then some.

Marco Moreira's Corn Soup
The Fourth, who's dinner  I was not thrilled with at all upon my visit last year, showed strong with a creamy corn soup, pure drinkable greenmarket cobs.

Big Daddy's chicken-and-waffle cone
There were more strong dishes like Barbounia's seared tuna, Junoon's fiery murgh tikka and Javelina's barbecue lamb tacos.  The flops, on the other hand, came mostly from predictable suspects:  Big Daddy's Diner served nuggets of fried chicken in a cloying slaw piled into a standard waffle cone... an unsuccessful riff on both dinner-as-dessert and chicken & waffles.  Too gimmicky, too big and far too sweet.  A bland doughy crabcake slider from Union Square Ballroom (is this a restaurant?) tasted of little but krab and generic bun.

Fany Gerson's Doughnuts
Dough provided a cornucopia of seasonal doughnut flavors- a visually impressive array, but, while the glazes were delicious, the doughnuts themselves were starchy and dry.  Better to finish off with a few bites of Hill Country Chicken's mini pies, quartered into manageable portions (even though their pies are easily good enough for a full-size slice on a normal occasion).  If you're smart, you'll pre-order their pumpkin for Thanksgiving and have two months to revel in what a good decision you've made.  They also had their famous whisky-butterscotch and tangy key lime- all worth the splurge.

Speaking of treats, I spotted Danny Meyer was making his rounds, sort of an ambassador  of the area, congenial and gracious to all the enthusiasts that approached him (myself, included).  Hey: when the opportunity presents itself to rub elbows with the best, take the bull by the horns.  Like Harvest in the Square: a can't-miss kind of deal.

Harvest in the Square


No comments:

Post a Comment