By Maria Rocha-Buschel
Community residents and local restaurateurs came out in full force last Thursday night to celebrate the impending arrival of fall at Union Square’s 19th annual Harvest in the Square event.
The food tasting festival raised $334,000 and Jennifer Falk, executive director of the Union Square Partnership, said that she will be speaking with the Parks Department soon to discuss goals for the coming year and determine how the money will be spent. Tickets were $125 and $400 for early VIP entry.
Danny Meyer of the Union Square Cafe and Eric Petterson from The Coffee Shop are the founding members of the event and have been participating every year. Other returning participants included the Union Square Whole Foods, Blue Water Grill, Rosa Mexicano, Almond, Blue Smoke and others, with nearly 50 local restaurants in all. Some new restaurants participating in the event for the first time included The Pavilion, All’onda, The Gander, Cevich, 201 Bar and Restaurant and Botequim.
Richard and Kamille Serna, residents of the Financial District, are in the area frequently because they manage a building on 15th Street. Although they’ve been working in the area for a while, this was the first chance they got to partake in Harvest in the Square.
Kamille said they were impressed with what they tried so far but were particularly looking forward to sampling what Blue Water Grill had to offer. The Union Square restaurant’s Executive chef Luis Jaramillo was serving Maine lobster deviled eggs with tarragon.
Student volunteer Anthony Evans was stationed at the table for One Five Hospitality’s The Fourth, which offered a corn soup with creme fraiche, radish and jalapeno. Evans, who hopes to own his own restaurant someday, wasn’t familiar with The Fourth before Harvest in the Square but he said the soup made him a fan.
“The corn is just so good,” he said.
There was a wide range of both meat and vegetarian options available at the event, as well as desserts. Devi on East 18th Street was offering goat keema on mini naan. A few different spot offered steak options, including T-bone steak from Knickerbocker Bar & Grill, sweet and sticky spare ribs from Blue Smoke and roasted dry aged New York strip steak from BLT Prime. SD26 Restaurant and Wine Bar featured panna cotta with tristar strawberries and a balsamic reduction, courtesy of Chef Matteo Bergamini.
Drinks available were beer and wine from local breweries and vineyards, as well as Gus Grown-Up Soda and hot or iced coffee from Irving Farm Coffee Company.
“Last year, the money we raised paid for the replacement of the safety surface in Evelyn’s playground, which cost $150,000,” Falk said, adding that the Partnership was able to use some of the money for landscaping and new tables for the plazas as well.
Some of the money was also allocated for additional fitness classes that were available in the park during the last few months.
“Based on community feedback, we wanted to start offering more classes in the evening, and we had well over 100 people at each fitness class that we offered this summer,” she said.
Since tickets were available until the beginning of the event, Falk didn’t immediately know the total amount that had been raised, but she was still happy with the turnout.
“We had a full tent tonight,” she said.
“We get great support from a lot of residents who come out every year. It’s a celebration of community and it’s the only time of year when we bring everyone together for tastes of the Union Square Greenmarket.”
(Photos by Maria Rocha-Buschel)