Friday, February 18, 2011
Do the Uptown Bounce, Do the Uptown Bounce, Do the Up, Do the What, Do the Uptown Bounce... Harlem Food Fest 2011.
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It went down like this...
Zhigge- Rakin' in the Dough (Uptown Bounce Beats)
Zhigge- Rakin' in the Dough (Uptown Bounce Mix)
Zhigge- Rakin' in the Dough (Headboppers Mix)
The Situation: Between three and four hours to eat at the eminent eateries within the confines of 110th and 155th Streets according to HowFresh. Not samples or little bites, meals. Quality over quantity fams. We're not baby bulls rushing up the grassy knoll. We're Papa Bull status, enjoying the scenery, pacing ourselves to get right with the esteemed spots. And no fish. Yeah, it pissed me off too. My boy, and commenter extraordinaire Buckemdown, had some time away from life obligations and wanted to delve into the epicurean adventures in Harlem World. He reads the blog, he hears me talking about all the conquered eats and he wanted in. "A chicken leg gets eaten in the park, I want in. You guys got fat while everybody starved on the street. Now it's my turn." As long as it's not from the sea.
We had a car so maneuvering was fairly simple, just evading snow dunes and slush puddles. There was some strategy involved. The largest, most satisfying meal should lead off followed by smaller dishes, concluding on a sweet note. It's no surprise Charles' Country Pan Fried Chicken was the inaugural stop for the 2011 Harlem Food Fest. Coat the tummy well for the debauchery that was to follow. Patsy's would be hit and then there was a gray area. Play it by ear. 116th St. is teeming with African spots, some on my hit list, though I worried that fish would pose a dilemma, which it did, but you know how we do, take it back to the drawing board and re-execute. Then take it on home with some sugar, brown sugar. Ya dig!! See how it went down:
I'm on the Northeast Side of Harlem looking for a bust down, make me put my two arms up, touch down!
Charles switched things up and moved the steam table so it's front and center. No longer do you serve yourself now that a glass case protects the food from the nasty germs we bring in from the street. All good, takes a little more time, but at least ock ain't coughing on my collards. For the EXTREMELY thorough review/love letter to Charles read HERE.
You didn't think we were doing all you can eat?? My stomach's grown, but be easy. Meat and 2 sides ($9.99). Of course the fried chicken, opting for collard greens and potato salad. Bliss. Mac and cheese for tasting. A straight diabetes Arnold Palmer (half iced tea/lemonade) and a block of corned bread. Words can't explain my satisfaction with this meal.
Fried chicken sampler (boobie, thigh and leg) on Buck's plate with okra stew and baked beans. Big fan of the okra stew, and the beans were quite impressive. Just really rich, something to be wary of when dealing with all you can eat. Plan accordingly.
Le Pièce de résistance!!
Time for DIGESTION and MENTAL PREPARATION. Then hit the road.
Even though it's Black History Month, we had to pay Italians some love. Blacks and Italians love each other anyway- right? See Do The Right Thing. But pizza cures all differences. Rarely a parking spot to be found on 1st Ave., just double park and run in to place your order. For the record, Rao's was booked and couldn't fit us in.
I feel Patsy's makes one of the best slices in the city ($1.75). I opined a while back. Very thin, with a great char on the bottom. And those bubbles- I miss the days of hot bubbles on the pie. Blemishes are so attractive. Really though, I haven't had a slice from a local pizzeria with bubbles in ages. A tomato sauce that hints at sweetness but pulls away before it becomes cloying. This particular slice was too soggy, but I blame that on the rain. Must have permeated the oven. The slices are small, maybe 8" including crust, but on a marathon eating day there were no complaints.
On the road again.
Things then took a turn towards the interesting. Africa Kine, the spacious, 2nd floor Senegal eatery near the corner of 8th Avenue was the destination. Their lunch menu is limited so the possibility of an audible was very likely. At this point no alcohol had been consumed so we figured this was the opportune time to sauce it up. Mind you, Africa Kine has a BYO beer/wine policy so no laws were being broken.
Got some bottles, ascended the stairs and found an empty booth by the window. There were several diners but no waitstaff. In the past the servers are always far and few so we sat and cracked the Heiny. Finally a waitress came and we learned that only fish and lamb were available. As mentioned earlier, I had a feeling that fish would rear it's ugly, eyebrowless head. Lamb on the other hand just didn't sound appealing. So we put the open green bottles in a jacket pocket and kept looking.
Salimata, around the corner, had been on the hit list, and this was a perfect time to give it a go. 2 storefronts from the Aqsa Mosque, the bare-bones Salimata serves Halal Guinean fare. This posed a minor dilemma with the open bottles and extra brew in the bag. They do not have a BYO policy so we kept the haram liquid tucked away.
The options here were very limited as well but time was short and we weren't in the mood to keep searching. I've learned that many African spots serve a very abridged menu for lunch. And that's being generous- usually a dish or 2. The choices were a fish dish and tomato stew, so that meant tomato stew with goat accompanied by a large plate of rice ($10). The hearty, dark red stew with tender chunks of goat (and bone), carrot and potato had great flavor, but a bit oily, and by this point the Charles' meal was trying to bully the stomach. Buck stopped early, knowing there was more food to go, while my big eyes had me shoveling rice into the mouth. I find it quite difficult to let food go to waste or just sit there. As I begin this gym regimen, that's going to have to change.
One full avenue to the east was Make My Cake. Originally there were two dessert spots planned. Make My Cake and Levain Bakery, the renowned cookie maker from the Upper West Side. We weren't sure if Levain would be possible since their opening dates kept getting pushed back. Turns out that's still occurring as the ribbon cutting is set for March 1st. Very pleased they were closed, because while my eyes would say yes, my stomach couldn't have handled it.
The red velvet with cream cheese frosting at Make My Cake is all you need to know. Moist, decadent, delicious. Unfortunately all the red velvet cupcakes had toasted pecans this day so I went for another favorite, the butter cream, and some cookies for good measure. A perfect way to end a savory journey.
With the time allotted I think we did a great job. Of course there were other spots, but we weren't trying to feel rushed. Four quality eateries were visited leaving a true impression of the total dining experience (sans Patsy's- though an argument could be made that eating your slices in the car outside is the experience). Best believe if fish was approved, either Famous Fish or A Taste of Seafood would have been included. Where my seafoodies at?!?
Eating like this is no joke. Serious, serious business. Got home and passed out. Didn't have a bite of food till Sunday morning. 17 hours with no food is quite the rare occurrence. Already working on the next extravaganza.
Harlem Food Fest 2011 Itinerary:
Charles Country Pan Fried Chicken
2839-2841 Frederick Douglass Blvd. (8th Ave) between 151st & 152nd Sts.
New York, NY 10039
2287 1st Ave bet. 117th St & 118th St
New York, NY 10035
2132 Frederick Douglass Blvd. just south of 116th St.
New York, NY 10026
Make My Cake
121 St. Nicholas Ave. on 116th St.
New York, NY 10026