Harvest in the Square raises $367G for park

A seating area alongside the tent (Photos by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

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.

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Second bar planned for Maialino

Maialino (Photo courtesy of the Gramercy Park Hotel)

Maialino (Photo courtesy of the Gramercy Park Hotel)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

Danny Meyer is hoping to give his Gramercy Park restaurant Maialino a partial makeover with the addition of a bar.

General manager Andrea Czachor appeared before the Business Affairs and Street Activities committee for Community Board 6 last Thursday with the proposal, which will require the restaurant to alter its existing liquor license. The committee approved the request, although the community board’s role is only advisory and the change will have to be made official through the State Liquor Authority.

Czachor, who has been working in the restaurant since it opened at the Gramercy Park Hotel, said that the space where the bar will be going is already a counter but the restaurant previously used it for storage and to prepare food. Since the restaurant is no longer using the space for storage or food preparation, Czachor said that management decided to add five seats to the counter in order to convert it to a bar and serve alcohol directly to customers.

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$378G raised for Union Square Park from record-breaking Harvest event

Rooda Shankar of sweetgreen

Roopa Shankar of sweetgreen

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

The Union Square Partnership raised more than $378,000 for the 21st annual Harvest in the Square that took place at the end of last month, raising more than in any previous year. The amount brings the fundraising total to more than $5,728,000 in the last two decades.

Since it started in 1995, the event has grown to include more than 50 local restaurants and 15 wineries and breweries, including old neighborhood favorites like Gramercy Tavern, Union Square Cafe and Blue Water Grill, as well as newcomers like The Poke Spot, sweetgreen, Cava Grill and Flats Fix.

Salad-focused sweetgreen has only been in the neighborhood since last December but Roopa Shankar, who attended her first Harvest this year, said that she talked to attendees from previous years who noticed a definite increase in restaurants similar to the DC-based chain.

“There’s a lot more fast-casual food that’s also healthy this year,” she said.

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Shake Shack gives away burgers to promote 100th location

The line before 10 a.m. on Tuesday at Madison Square Park (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

The line before 10 a.m. on Tuesday at Madison Square Park (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

By Sabina Mollot

On Tuesday, Danny Meyer’s Shake Shack empire offered free ShackBurgers to customers at the restaurant’s various locations in celebration of the opening of the 100th Shack at the Boston Seaport. However customers were warned to come early as only the first 100 burgers would be free.

So, by 9:55 a.m., at the original Shake Shack at Madison Square Park, the line had already snaked around the park’s south end to over 50 people long, each individual clutching a flier advertising the promotion. The shack wouldn’t open until 10:30. Meanwhile by 12:45 p.m., the line was still about as long, which is a typical lunchtime line the shack, the promotion having ended.

The Shake Shack, which is now a publicly traded company, started as a hot dog cart in Madison Square Park to support the park’s first art installation, “I (Heart) Taxi.” It officially became the shack in 2004 when the Union Square Hospitality Group won a bid to open a permanent kiosk in the park.

The company has since opened locations in 15 states and the District of Columbia as well as overseas, including in London, Tokyo, Moscow and Dubai.

Gramercy Tavern chef puts spotlight on vegetables in new cookbook

Michael Anthony, chef and partner at three restaurants in the Danny Meyer empire, at home (Photo by Maura McEvoy)

Michael Anthony, chef and partner at three restaurants in the Danny Meyer empire, at home (Photo by Maura McEvoy)

By Sabina Mollot
The executive chef as well as a partner at three Danny Meyer-owned restaurants, including Gramercy Tavern, has just released a cookbook devoted to the art of cooking vegetable-based dishes.

For Michael Anthony, this book, V is for Vegetables: Inspired Recipes & Techniques for Home Cooks from Artichokes to Zucchini ($25 at bn.com, hardcover), is his second. The first, published in 2012, was The Gramercy Tavern Cookbook.

This time, Anthony said he wanted to focus on dishes that, while not necessarily vegetarian, are cooked around vegetables, instead of relegating them to sides. Both he and Meyer will be discussing the so-called “vegetable forward” concept, now a norm at two of Meyer’s restaurants, at an event at Barnes & Noble on November 30.

Anthony also discussed the concept with Town & Village this week, saying the idea of the book was to make veggies enticing — and easy — for anyone to cook at home.

“V is for Vegetables is not about restaurant cooking,” said Anthony. “We all lead busy lives. It’s hard to work a full schedule and then have to get to a cutting board and cook for a hungry family. I have three kids and if it’s not done in 25 minutes, everyone’s upset.”
Additionally, he said, “Cleanup shouldn’t take more time than it took to cook the dinner.”
V is for Vegetables is not however, a vegetarian cookbook.

“Meat and fish are in some of the recipes to show it’s not a style of cooking that involves any deprivation,” he said. “It’s about pleasure, but vegetables dominate the idea.”
For Anthony, the effort to highlight vegetables came from wanting to prepare foods that were distinctly New York.

“For the last nine years at Gramercy Tavern we’ve been challenging ourselves to cook vegetables, which we consider a direct gateway to looking at how distinct eating can be in New York and in our region,” he said. “What’s different about eating in this city compared to all the other wonderful places we’ve eaten? How do we create lasting memories? At Gramercy Tavern, we do this in the main dining room menu using vegetables that are seasonal, not necessarily vegetarian but expressing our feelings of what it is distinct of here at this time and in this place. It’s not just an option out for people who don’t eat other stuff. If we talk about vegetarian, we’re talking about excluding some things we love to eat.”

In keeping with eating locally, shopping for groceries at greenmarkets or through a CSA is something Anthony recommends, adding that this can be done affordably with some planning.

“For less money than it takes to go to the supermarket, you can actually cook for your family using fresh food from the greenmarket,” he said. “People leave (the greenmarket) with a big heavy bag of vegetables. How do you then turn it into three meals instead of one recipe from a cookbook? We need to look at food not as a collection of recipes, but a continuation, a constant. That allows us to eat economically and healthily. There should be a continuation from the last meal. Re-purposing and preparing foods that make the next meal easier and faster.”

Anthony also delved into the subject of organic vs. inorganic vegetables and whether it really makes a difference.

“It’s a question I get all the time,” he said, adding that while “it is a big deal,” he feels buying locally grown produce is more important than whether an item is organic.

“The organic movement historically has always deserved our attention,” he said. “But we’ve been cheated as consumers. The American organic label has been so watered down, so twisted, it’s no longer a source of confidence. What I tend to do is encourage people to eat real food from close to home. If you buy at a farmer’s market you can ask questions and decide for yourself if you like how it’s grown without pesticides. It’s very expensive (for farmers to get organic certification) so I do not use the organic label as a reference point for making my decisions. The story of what it is to eat in the northeast is much more important to me than what its carbon footprint is or what its label is.”

Anthony is also a fan of CSAs (Community Sponsored Agriculture) and gets a box of produce from a CSA he belongs to every Friday.

Nov26 V is for VegetablesIn V is for Vegetables, he included recipes based on some of those items.

“People pull vegetables out of their CSA box and say what is this?,” he said. “I’m not sure everyone’s familiar with a Jerusalem artichoke or a kohlrabi.”

As for the latter vegetable, “Not only is it grown all over the northeast, it’s one of the most delicious things you can eat because it’s super crunchy and mouth watering, kind of like water chestnuts,” said Anthony. “You can throw it into a stir fry or cut it into wedges and roast it. Just the way a potato is irresistible when you take it out of the oven, kohlrabi is, and it’s not as starchy.”

He hasn’t forgotten about more traditional foods though. The book includes a recipe for coleslaw, which is actually inspired by a recipe from his wife’s grandmother.

“I make big batches of coleslaw so it’s easy to pull out for a quick lunch or a side dish with dinner. It’s a very practical dish.”

He couldn’t choose a favorite recipe but noted that in cookbooks the recipes that tend to get duplicated the most are soups. His favorite in that category is a soup made from carrots “with coconut and radish to make it zippy and exciting.”

Anthony is hoping that the ease of the recipes will help home cooks resist the urge to cater to picky eaters by making different things for different members of the family, or just giving up and ordering out.

He cited statistics that show Americans today eat more out of their kitchen than they do in their kitchen.

“We go to restaurants or order out more than we cook our own meals.” The veteran chef added that he recognizes that for many, himself included, “It takes courage to cook.

“If you’re the one to cook and put your ideas out there for your friends and family, you’re up for all kinds of criticism. I have three daughters and my white chef’s hat doesn’t mean a thing to them. We need people to be encouraged and confident so they’ll do it more often.”

In V is for Vegetables, over 140 recipes are laid out from A to Z, and also include colorful illustrations painted by Anthony’s wife, Mindy Dubin.

Dubin, Anthony and their children live in midtown Manhattan. When not there or at Gramercy Tavern, Anthony can also be found at Untitled, a new Danny Meyer restaurant at the Whitney Museum, as well as another less formal eatery in the same building, Studio Café.

Anthony will be discussing and signing copies of his book and speaking with Meyer at the Union Square Barnes & Noble, 33 East 17th Street, on Monday, November 30 at 7 p.m.

Harvest in the Square, now 20, raises $350K

Lillie’s Chef Thomas Contessa (Photos by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

Lillie’s Chef Thomas Contessa (Photos by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

The Union Square neighborhood gave fall an early welcome last Thursday at Harvest in the Square, the annual culinary event that raises funds for the park’s maintenance and programming, this year bringing in $352,000 and over $5 million since the event began.

The event celebrated its 20th anniversary this year and Coffee Shop co-founder Eric Petterson, who worked with restaurateur Danny Meyer of the Union Square Hospitality Group to launch the event in 1995, said he was happy with what it’s become.

“It’s just an amazing event as far as raising money for Union Square Park,” he said. “It’s weird how time flies. This was really hard work when we started.”

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Harvest in the Square raises $334,000 for park

Breads Bakery at Harvest in the Square (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

Breads Bakery at Harvest in the Square (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

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.

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