Guests at the Taste of Gramercy (Photos by Maya Rader)
By Maya Rader
On Saturday, September 24, about 400 people gathered on Irving Place between 17th and 18th Street for the Taste of Gramercy food festival. There were 22 vendors, most of them from neighborhood restaurants. Caitlin Azzolini, a worker at a stand for the Italian restaurant Paul & Jimmy’s, said the restaurant has had a stand at the event for the past four years. She said the event is a “really great opportunity to be supportive of the neighborhood.”
The Paul & Jimmy’s stand served homemade meatballs and sauce.
Julie Fox, an attendee of the event, commented, “It’s nice to get samples from all of the places.” Her friend, Jess Panos, continued, “I really liked them all, especially the lobster roll and the truffle gnocchi.”
Paul & Jimmy’s, pictured at Taste of Gramercy Neighborhood in 2013, is one of 20 participating restaurants this year. (Photo by Sabina Mollot)
By Sabina Mollot
Taste of Gramercy Neighborhood, an annual food festival/fundraiser organized by the Gramercy Neighborhood Associates, is returning this year on September 26.
This is only the third time the event’s been held, but it’s already become a yearly event due to popular demand of both local foodies and neighborhood restaurants.
Ironically, when first presented with the idea for a food festival by a group member, Alan Krevis, president of the GNA, was against it, thinking it would be too big for the organization to pull off.
On the decision to go for it and then keep doing it, Krevis said, “Truthfully the neighbors like it. The restaurants like it. The restaurants would not come back if they didn’t feel it helped their business. And that’s what it’s about. Promoting our local businesses, promoting the GNA and our love of the neighborhood.”
Paella is served at the Casa Mono table at the 2013 Taste of Gramercy event. (Photos by Sabina Mollot)
By Sabina Mollot
Taste of Gramercy Neighborhood, a food festival and fundraiser that debuted last year by the Gramercy Neighborhood Associates (GNA), will soon return for a second helping on Irving Place.
The event, which was attended by over 400 people last year and had 20 restaurants participating, will be held this year on Saturday, September 13 from 11 a.m.-3 p.m. This time, there are 22 restaurants that will be offering tastings of their signature dishes, including the new Indian restaurant A Spice Lane and Almayass, a Lebanese restaurant. Also involved for the first time is Farm to Me, an organization that distributes farm products to retailers and consumers. The name, too, is new. Originally, the event was just called Taste of Gramercy.
Like last year, Taste will take up one block, Irving Place between 17th and 18th Streets. How much the event costs depends on how much attendees want to eat. A $30 ticket will buy tastings from six booths. (This is the early bird price through August, though. Tickets go up to $40 in September and $50 on the day of. An $80 ticket on the day of the event entitles an attendee to have a tasting from every restaurant. Proceeds from the event will then go towards expanding the healthy lunch options at two neighborhood schools: PS40 and School of the Future. Any unserved food will be brought to the Bowery Mission.
Alan Krevis, president of the GNA, said he’s hoping that the event will appeal to foodies around the city as well as people living within walking distance. “I think there are already more than just local people,” he said. “What we saw a lot of last year, because it was such a beautiful day, people would just happen to walk by and say, ‘This looks great.’ They were primarily neighborhood people, but we also saw a lot of people staying at the W.”
Gramercy Neighborhood Associates volunteers at last year’s event including Gary Horowitz, GNA President Alan Krevis and Antonella Napolitano
The tasting menus have not yet been decided on by the participants, but last year popular dishes included the meatballs, gnocci and eggplant rollatini from Paul & Jimmy’s, tuna tartare cannoli from The Stand and shrimp paella from Casa Mono, all of whom are returning in September. A few other participants are Ichabod’s, Giorgio’s of Gramercy, Ainsworth Park, Jack’s Sliders and Sushi and ExKI NYC. Water will be provided by sponsors Watermelon Water, Fogo and Trader Joe’s and coffee will flow at the 71 Irving stand.
What there won’t be are alcoholic beverages, with GNA board member Ellaine Day explaining the permits were just too difficult to get.
“That’s a nightmare of permits,” she said. “It’s very expensive to sell alcohol.”
“We don’t want to grow too fast,” Krevis added. “That’s why we stayed at the one street level, because we want to keep a handle on it.”
Meanwhile, Taste of Gramercy Neighborhood almost didn’t happen at all. Last year, when a GNA board member first suggested the idea to Krevis, he initially shrugged it off, thinking it would be way too big for a small organization like his to handle. “Honestly, it is a lot of hours for us to put in,” he said, “so we’re just focused on this event right now.”
As a result, another fall event the GNA is known for putting on each year, the Canine Comedy Parade, has been put on hiatus. “It needed a rest,” said Krevis. Instead, the GNA will be organizing an event with Baruch High School and College in October.
Taste of Gramercy, the first food tasting event to be held in the neighborhood on Saturday, was a success, with organizers selling over 400 tickets.
While the nonprofit group that organized it, Gramercy Neighborhood Associates, wasn’t yet sure how much had been raised, since some tickets were $30 while others were $40 depending on if they were bought early or not, the event’s turnout exceeded expectations.
“People seemed to like that everything benefits local schools,” said GNA member Gary Horowitz.
Money raised from tickets will go to two local schools, PS 40 and School of the Future.
For the price of a ticket, guests got to try five tasting plates of food from any of the 20 participating restaurants, with the event held street fair style under an open sky. Anyone could walk into the blocked off area, which was on one block on Irving Place, though to try the foods, guests had to have a ticket.
Some of the culinary offerings included tuna tartare cannolis from The Stand, compressed apple with smoked tomato from Gramercy Tavern, paella with shrimp from Casa Mono, oyster shooters in a chilled coconut ginger soup from City Crab and raw macaroons and other desserts from Pure Food & Wine. Paul & Jimmy’s was a popular stop with guests getting their plates loaded up with helpings of meatballs, gnocci and eggplant rollatini.
The event was coordinated with the company PTG, which has also organized events like Taste of Sutton and Taste of Tribeca.
“I just love this one. This is cute,” said Jackie Palmer of PTG about Taste of Gramercy. “For their first year, it looks great and we’re already talking about next year.”
The vendors also seemed happy with the event, which they donated their food to.
Adele Carollo, general manager at The Stand, a comedy club and restaurant on Third Avenue, said the event was a good opportunity to showcase the club’s menu, since most people don’t think of comedy clubs when considering where to go eat.
“Most comedy clubs have a really bad reputation for food,” said Carollo, adding that at The Stand, a focus has always been the menu as well as the entertainment. “So when we heard about this (event), we were into it.”
Eric Sherman, owner of the new Irving Place restaurant Ichabod’s, said it was a good opportunity to market the business to area residents as well as for the restaurant community to network.
“You create a camaraderie with local businesses. It’s nice to know your neighbor,” he said. Sherman, who became a restaurateur with Ichabod’s, which features an American bistro menu, in February, added, “Your neighborhood is everything. You’ve got to do what your neighborhood calls for. I’m looking forward to doing this next year.”
GNA board member Antonella Napolitano said the only downside to ToG was that a couple of local restaurant owners ended up feeling slighted when they weren’t asked to participate. However, she said this was only because the organization was limited to one block for the event.
“We’re probably going to expand it next year,” she said.
Bedford Cheese will be one of the participating businesses at Taste of Gramercy. (Pictured) The store also participated in Tuesday’s Harvest in the Square event in Union Square. Photo by Sabina Mollot
By Sabina Mollot
The Gramercy Neighborhood Associates, a group best known for its events such as the annual Canine Comedy Parade and historic preservation awards for beautifully maintained local buildings, will now also hold a food tasting festival.
In the tradition of other local food tasting festivals such as Harvest in the Square and Celebrate Flatiron Chefs, this event, Taste of Gramercy, will showcase dishes by chefs at restaurants in the Gramercy neighborhood. The first of what GNA is hoping will become an annual tradition, set for October 12, will also be a fundraiser for the nonprofit organization, which has a mission of historic preservation, collaborations with local schools and more recently, the promotion of local businesses.
Admittedly one of the group’s more ambitious projects to date, Taste of Gramercy was the idea of new GNA board member Mary Showstark.
Showstark, before joining the organization, had been to similar events such as Taste of Tribeca and then searched for something similar in her own neighborhood, only to find out there was none. After joining the GNA, she pitched the idea, later learning how much detail would have to go into planning it, such as the lengthy process of getting permits from the city.
“There are a lot of things to do, like tests for the Fire Department,” said Showstark.
GNA President Alan Krevis added that when he first heard the suggestion, he almost said no.
“I was a skeptic; I thought it was a lot for us to handle,” said Krevis.
However, the work has seemed to pay off due to the overwhelming interest from local eateries. So far there are around 25, including Gramercy Tavern, Barbounia, Wildwood BBQ, Paul & Jimmy’s, Pure Food & Wine, Ponty Bistro, City Crab, Big Daddy’s Diner and The Stand.
Other businesses such as Bedford Cheese, NYC Bike Share, Seamless, Nate’s Pharmacy, the Bowery Mission, Con Ed and Verizon FiOS have signed on as sponsors.
“It’s going to be fabulous,” said Krevis. “The response has been amazing.” So much though, he added, that some of the sponsors came by word of mouth after talking with other participating businesses. “It shows you the excitement of the merchants,” said Krevis.
Those who order tickets early (before October 10) will pay $30, a steep discount from the $50 admission fee the day of the event.
The day’s menu (though subject to change) will include such fare as an artisanal North African chicken dish from Ponty Bistro, cheese plates with cheeses that are especially ripe during the month of October from Bedford Cheese and meatballs, lasagna, and possibly a veal dish from Paul & Jimmy’s. Restaurant chef Greg Azzollini said he was happy to participate in an event that celebrates Gramercy.
Azzollini noted that when Paul & Jimmy’s opened in 1950, his grandfather worked there. Later his father did as well, and still works in the dining room.
“So we’re proud to be a part of the neighborhood for such a long time,” he said. “Aside from Pete’s Tavern, we’re the oldest establishment in Gramercy Park.”
The event will be held street-fair style, under the open sky with each exhibitor under a small tent and TOG will be held rain or shine.
Gramercy Neighborhood Associates board member Mary Showstark and Alan Krevis, president, in front of Irving Farm Coffee, a participating business in Taste of Gramercy Photo by Sabina Mollot
A portion of ticket sales will benefit local schools, including PS 40 and School of the Future. Any food that doesn’t get served will be donated to The Bowery Mission, an organization that helps the homeless.
The GNA has, in the past year, held a smaller tasting event, though it was in collaboration with one business, Bedford Cheese on Irving Place. The event was a hit though, attracting over 100 people.
Bedford marketing director Laura Archer said throughout the year the Gramercy location has been open (there’s an older shop in Brooklyn), locals have been extremely welcoming.
“The neighbors have really taken to it as a neighborhood shop,” said Archer. “So we’re really excited to be a part of Taste of Gramercy.”
For more information about GNA or to get tickets for Taste of Gramercy, visit gnaonline.org.