Friday, February 19, 2016

A Culinary Black History Month Experience at Red Rooster

Disclosure: Red Rooster provided a complimentary tasting experience to facilitate this review; all options expressed are my own.

I'll never forget the buzz over Red Rooster when I learned Chef Marcus Samuelsson would be opening his now-famous restaurant. As a resident of Harlem at the time, I knew the neighborhood was changing, but the arrival of Red Rooster was a major signal to me. When interviewed, Chef Samuelsson expressed the same sentiment:

“The game changer for me?” he said, pausing during the nine-block walk from Red Rooster to his duplex near Frederick Douglass Boulevard. “That was when I noticed that there were more wine stores in Harlem than liquor stores.”

I first met Chef Samuelsson before I moved to NYC while visiting my former college roommate, a resident of Harlem. I had just hopped off the bus up from Boston and we were catching up over dinner on the patio of the since-closed Native. Mr. Samuelsson, donning a wreath on his head, walked over to chat with me and my friend. I was curious about his wreath and wondered what made him come over to speak to us. Later I connected the dots when I remembered seeing him in one of my food magazines and recalling that he's Swedish-raised, realized that his wreath was in celebration of Midsummer. I also remembered that I was wearing my "Always Hungry" t-shirt which had a Food+Wine magazine logo on it. Yes, I'm a bit slow! 

My sister and her boyfriend were thrilled to meet one of chefs behind the special Black History Month menu
Since then it's been an amazing journey for Chef Samuelsson, and I've enjoyed watching how he's made strategic business partnerships from Macy's to World Market. One of the most recent developments that's intrigued me is the creation of a unique Black History Month menu at Red Rooster. Inspired by Black female chefs, and overseen by Chef Adrienne Cheatham, the $62 prix fixe menu features 5 courses which my sister Ariane and her boyfriend recently got to experience. 

My tastebuds were jealous! 

Amuse: Miss Adrienne's Macarons (a twist on the traditional pastry, it's made with duck liver and balsamic vinaigrette)

1st Course: Broiled Oysters 
Courses 2 through 5 (l to r, clockwise): Charred Octopus//Blackened Catfish//Beer-Braised Pork Belly//Island Frosted Flakes
My sister and her boyfriend were intrigued by the oysters which were seasoned with black olive aioili and fennel, and while she was surprised by how much she liked the octopus her favorite course was the pork belly made with creamed turnips, roasted turnips and smoked vinegar jus. 

I couldn't let my sister and her boyfriend keep all this deliciousness to themselves, so last weekend, Mr. Lovebird and I had our own Red Rooster experience on Valentine's Day. Although I've been to Red Rooster twice before, it was Mr. Lovebird's first time, and we enjoyed a relaxing (kid-free!) evening, with live music and impeccable fare:

We started with the well-known, delightfully creamy deviled eggs - I may have scraped my plate clean and licked my knife! Mr. Lovebird and I also shared corn bread which was dense, almost like a warm pound cake. Topped with butter it could've been dessert! 

For my main course I went for the Fried Yardbird, which had perfectly seasoned and crispy skin and juicy dark meat accompanied with mashed potatoes and collard greens. Mr. Lovebird enjoyed his shrimp and grits (but I'll have to say he was either being brutally honest or just sweet when he confessed he prefers mine!).

For dessert our waiter let us snag the Red Velvet Edition of the Red Rooster Doughnuts off the Valentine's Day prix fixe menu and gave us a bonus plate of fruit, sprinkled with sugar crystals and a ramekin of chocolate sauce. I decided to combine them, dipping the warm doughnuts in the chocolate sauce and whipped cream! It was a delicious ending and not too heavy. 

Right before we hopped in our Uber, we were lucky enough to spot Chef Samuelsson and get a blurry quick picture together. We were back over to my sister's in E. Harlem under 10 minutes where the kids were watching a movie with my other sister Lauren, who generously babysat for us. It was an enjoyable combo of spending time with family and a special date with my homeyloverfriend! 

Have you visited Harlem lately? To learn more about Red Rooster Harlem visit their website and be sure to follow on Facebook and Twitter for the latest events and special menus. The Black History Month menu continues through the end of February!