By Maria Rocha-Buschel
Supporters of Union Square Park and devout foodies from around the city gathered at Harvest in the Square, the Union Square Partnership’s annual food festival and fundraiser that this year raised $367,000.
The event, held under a tent in the park on September 14, offered guests tastings from 50 restaurants in the area. The event featured neighborhood newcomers such as Nur, Bowery Road, Daily Provisions, Fusco, Ando and others, in addition to mainstays like Aleo, Blue Smoke, Union Square Café, Blue Water Grill & Metropolis and more.
Many of the neighborhood restaurants use ingredients from the Union Square Greenmarket on a regular basis but especially showcase the locally-sourced foods at the annual event. Almond chef Alex Nieto said that he has been working with the restaurant for about 15 years and has a close relationship with the farms at the greenmarket.
“We always focus on what’s local and what we can get around here,” he said. “I know a lot of the farmers (at the greenmarket). For me, it’s important to know the names of the farms where all the ingredients come from.”
Ngam, a Thai restaurant on Third Avenue in the East Village, focuses much of its menu on seasonal offerings and uses fresh ingredients in their curries, which were colorfully displayed on their table in their raw form at the event.
Manager Carlos Dejesus said that the restaurant changes its menu every spring and fall, so new dishes are being added this month.
“This year, we were trying to do what we started with in the beginning,” Dejesus said of the decision to feature one of the restaurant’s curries at the event, noting that in previous years, the restaurant offered dishes like papaya salad and mango crab.
Other local restaurants used the opportunity to showcase their more unusual offerings. Contrary to what their name implies, 5 Napkin Burger on East 14th Street didn’t feature a burger but instead went with a tuna poke dish.
“There’s a misconception that we don’t have anything besides burgers so we’re trying to get the word out,” said Julianne Savoy, the restaurant’s marketing manager. “We’ve done burgers in the past (at Harvest in the Square) but poke is very fresh and very in right now.”
Union Square restaurant L’Express offered a classic French delicacy: snails.
“Escargot doesn’t have a lot of flavor originally but we add a lot of butter and chives,” said hostess Maryna Vdovtsova said of the dish, which is a popular appetizer at the restaurant. “We didn’t know how it would go but it makes us stand out. We started with 500, though, and only have 60 left, so it was a good decision.”
More than 1,300 people attended the 2017 Harvest event, which has raised more than $6 million over the last two decades.
“From chefs to foodies to the city’s business leaders and elected officials, it was great to see the entire Union Square community all together under one tent for the 2017 Harvest in the Square,” Union Square Partnership executive director Jennifer Falk said. “The funds raised at this year’s food and wine festival will enable us to expand our community programs and beautification efforts throughout the Union Square district.”