Kitchen Cray

Let me tell you about my first visit to Kitchen Cray.

I believe the Lobster Mac was carved out of pure butter.  It is rich…and buttery… and creamy… and cheesy…and just good!  It is perfectly seasoned. Each bite is so delicious. Once I started eating, it was difficult to find a place to stop.  Each forkful was better than the forkful before it.

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The Lobster is seasoned and fried with a light crisp.  The sweetness of the lobster adds contrast to the macaroni and cheese.   The dish is very filling. When I ordered, I imagined that the lobster tail would be the only lobster, but I was pleasantly surprised to find lobster throughout the macaroni and cheese.  I would most definitely order the Lobster Mac again.

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If you have starved yourself all day, waiting to eat the Lobster Mac, you will feel it.  I felt the first few bites moved through my body. I could feel the energy from the yummy ingredients.  I would caution you. If you must eat healthy, or eat a special diet, then only have a few bites of this dish.   Although, it is super tasty, I would recommend also ordering biscuits or french toast to accompany it. You will need something sweet to cut the savory richness of this dish.

While waiting for my food, I saw other dishes being served.  Everything looks appetizing at Kitchen Cray. The Chicken and French Toast is wildly popular.  At least 50% of diners ordered Chicken and French Toast. I look forward to my next visit. I want to taste everything on the menu.

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I visited Kitchen Cray because I heard so many great things about it.  I decided that DMV Black Restaurant Week was a great time to dine at Kitchen Cray.  Kitchen Cray is located in an office plaza in Lanham.  Although it is not in a shopping area, it was packed. I waited 1.5 hours for brunch on Saturday.  There was a DJ playing upbeat R&B music. The restaurant was bustling even at 3:00pm.  Go for brunch.  Go for lunch.  Now, on Fridays, go for dinner.  Eat and enjoy!

Bacon & Bellini Presents: A Hollywood Halloween

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Bacon & Bellini Presents: A Hollywood Halloween

Ghosts, Goblins, Ghouls, and Great Gatsby inspired Gowns were all in the building at our first Halloween dinner party.   This year’s theme was “Bacon and Bellini Presents: A Hollywood Halloween”.  Guests were asked to dress as their favorite movie character or favorite movie star.   In attendance was a real life Bond girl, who knew 007 James Bond! There was also a Beyonce look alike in Formation, plus characters from Dreamgirls and Miss Congeniality.  One of the guys brought the movie Stomp the Yard to life.   Of course, the Wicked Witch of the West traveled all the way from OZ to make an appearance.  Gold gowns as seen in Harlem Nights flowed across the floor.   Plus, a certain Prince announced that he was Coming to America.  As for me, I dressed as my favorite superhero, Storm from Xmen.

I greeted my guests with signature Hollywood Halloween punch, made with Bacardi Dark Rum, Cranberry Juice, Orange Juice, and a few other secret ingredients.   Sangria was also available as an additional drink option.

For dinner, we dined on a variety of Italian dishes including Lasagna, Chicken Marsala, Garlic Mashed Potatoes, Caesar Salad, House Salad with Italian dressing, fresh baked bread.   There were a multitude of desserts, including, my world famous homemade Double Chocolate Cupcakes with Chocolate frosting, Chocolate Chip Cheesecake, and a pumpkin yellow cake with buttercream frosting.

Twix and Kit kat Halloween candy was in all directions all around the room.   Take a look at this sneak peak this fabulously frightening dinner party.

National Chocolate Day

Throughout the year, we celebrate many holidays, however, this holiday is one of the best.   October 28th is National Chocolate Day!  Chocolate is wonderful.  Chocolate is one of my best and closest friends.  Sweet, creamy, rich, fulfilling, and always puts a smile on my face.  Chocolate. Is. Everything.

Take a look at some of the Chocolate treats I am enjoying today, on National Chocolate Day.

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Gourmet Chocolates from SPAGnVOLA, a real chocolate factory!

Chocolate Wine

There is something for the wine connoisseur. Have you tasted Chocolate Wine??  It’s good!

Homemade Chocolate Cupcakes

I love to bake.  I made my favorite Chocolate Cupcakes with Chocolate frosting.  mmm mmm mmm

What is your favorite chocolate treat?

 

Happy Birthday Keiristin!

Happy Birthday Queen Keiristin!

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September 28th is a holiday in the Bacon & Bellini world, because it is our Founder’s Birthday.  We picked some of the coolest locations in the Baltimore and DMV area to celebrate.

Here’s a glimpse of Keiristin’s birthday from her perspective.

First stop – Lunch at Gertrude’s
Gertrude’s is located in the beautiful Baltimore Museum of Art.  Lunch on the patio was perfect.  A scenic view of the fountain and scultures was a wonderful backdrop to a scrumptous meal.

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I had Gertie’s Crab Cake.  For those unfamiliar with the area, Baltimore has the best crabcakes in the nation.  Gertie’s is known for their Broiled “all-lump” Baltimore-style cake, served with basil-caper tartar sauce.  I also had bread, homemade fries, and fresh fruit. Simply. Delicious.   I understand why Baltimore’s crab cakes are so popular.

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Lunch was topped off with Raspberry Sorbet surrounded by “Happy Birthday” written in Chocolate!

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After lunch, I viewed the artwork inside of the Baltimore Museum of Art, including the new exhibit “Tomorrow is Another Day” by Mark Bradford.  Other well-known artist, Amy Sherald (known for her famous portrait of First Lady Michelle Obama) also has exhibits in the museum.
I also looked at a few pieces of Art by Picasso, and I fail to realize why his artwork is still viewed as the best. To me, it is just a painting….nothing remarkable.

Next Stop – Dinner
I had dinner with family and friends at The Smith on U Street in Washington, D.C.   The Smith was bustling with people.  I had the Blue Catfish Schnitzel with blackened spice Risotto, melted leeks, and zucchini. The dish was just OK. It was filling, but I will not order it again.

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After dinner, to unwind, we went to Point of View on the rooftop of the W Hotel in Washington, D.C. POV has fabulous views of Washington, D.C. The music was current, the drinks were great, but average $17 each.
Overall, I enjoyed my birthday in both cities. I have a feeling that this new year will be great.

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Queen Keiristin on her birthday

Jay-Z’s Made In America Culinary Competition

Jay-Z’s Made in America Culinary Experience

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Keiristin, Restaurant Critic at Bacon and Bellini attends Jay-Z’s Budweiser Made In America Culinary Competition.

Jay-Z’s Made in America Culinary Competition was the perfect event for food lovers and food critics.   It was held on Sunday, July 29, 2018 at the Fillmore in Philadelphia and was an event was filled with 60 hopeful Food Trucks from Philadelphia, Maryland, Washington, DC and surrounding states vying for a chance to be one of the premiere food trucks at Jay-Z’s Budweiser Made in America Festival 2018.  To learn more about the festival, visit Made In America

The Competition

Each Food truck had their own booth at the competition.  The Food Truck was tasked with making their signature dish and display.  Tasters and judges went to each station to taste the food.  If we like the food, we would give the food truck a ticket.  We could give as many tickets as we want to our favorite Food Trucks.  The winners were based on a combination of taste tickets and judges feedback.  Only the winning trucks in each category will be allowed to participate in the Made in America Festival on September 1st & 2nd, 2018.

The Categories are Finger Foods, Sandwiches, Latin, Italian, Vegan, Desserts, and Miscellaneous.

The Food

My first taste was from ChiWaffles, a Chicken & Waffles Food truck.  I tasted the Red Velvet Waffle with Chicken and honey ranch dressing.  The waffle was sweet and moist. The chicken was seasoned and served crispy.  I didn’t know what to expect with the honey ranch dressing, but it was the perfect cool creamy accent to the waffle.  The dish was so good, I forgot to add syrup.  It was great just as served.  I really enjoyed ChiWaffles.  If you see this food truck, stop what you are doing and go buy some ChiWaffles.  To learn more about ChiWaffles, visit Chi Waffle

My next taste test was Lil Trent’s Grill, who showcased Philly Cheesesteaks with Cheese Wiz.  The steak was tender and juicy.  The crowd will enjoy these classic cheesesteaks. For more info, visit Lil Trent’s Grill on Facebook.

Since the festival will be held in Philadelphia, this Food Truck should be very busy.  Those attending from other cities will definitely get their cheesesteak fix here.

Not to be outdone, the Food Truck, Grubaholics also offers cheesesteaks.  However, they serve cheesesteaks with a twist.  Grubaholics is the home of the Jerk Chicken Cheesesteak.  They season and marinate their boneless chicken breasts for 24 hours.  The chicken is then grilled and served on a fresh Italian roll with pepper jack cheese and signature jerk sauce.  This jerk cheesesteak was hot!  I had to find water immediately after taking the first bite.  If you order this cheesesteak at a festival, be sure to have both napkins and water.  Visit Grubaholics at
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Sum Pig food truck was up next.  Sum Pig served 14 hour hickory smoked grass fed beef brisket topped with their signature tangy BBQ sauce.  The brisket was tender and the sauce was tasty and tangy.  For more info visit Sum Pig

Let me tell you about this next booth.  Gigi & Big R Caribbean American Soul Food has some really good food.  They do not have fancy promotional products, but it does not matter.  Their food speaks for itself.  Their food tastes so authentic, and reminds me of eating dinner at someone’s home.  The meat was the star of the booth, as it was tender, juicy, and full of flavor.  They also served rice and beans and Macaroni and cheese.  The macaroni and cheese was just ok.  I think I got the bottom of the pan.  I imagine a fresh, hot pan of macaroni and cheese would taste a lot better.  For more info call (215)471-0164

I turn the corner and arrive at the Mama’s Meatballs, who served turkey and broccoli meatballs stuffed with Asiago cheese topped with pesto, arugula, parmesan and marinara.   The meatballs were juicy and taste like a full meal all in one.  For more info visit Mama’s Meatballs

Now to my favorite booth FMK, Frankie Mae Kitchen, which is booth #11 and the winning booth.  Their food is delicious! They were by far my favorite booth. I predicted they would win the competition.  Guess what…..they won!

Now I will tell you why.  Their menu consists of Chicken Delicioso, described as finger lickin’ Honey-Glazed Grilled CHicken served over a Cilantro Jasmine Rice and Sauteed Vegetable Medley.  The next dish is Shrimp Boat, described as Sweet Cherry Pepper Herb marinated Gulf Shrimp served over Cilantro Jasmine rice, Sauteed vegetable Medley and topped with Pico de Gallo.

The also serve a Slammin Salmon, a 5oz Grilled Atlantic Salmon, lightly dusted with the chef’s spices.

FMK’s food is served hot.  The food is visually stunning.  These are dishes you expect to see at a restaurant, but they pull it off effortlessly in a Food Truck setting.  Be sure to visit their booth.  You will be pleased.  Be sure to check them out online.  They are also available for catering! FMK

The next booth was Epicurean, the Jamaican food prepared by the makers of Epicurean Jerk Sauce.  This sauce can be found at Wholefoods. It is a very tasty, and very spicy. It will add character to your jerk chicken.  For more info visit Epicurean Jerk Sauce

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Laughing Crab Catering sells crab cakes that are average at best.  They have lots of filler, and are just okay.

Next, I visited Trips Tasteful booth.  Trip is a wounded veteran who has the heart of a champion.  His BBQ sandwiches are great.

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Now to desserts.  Ice Cream anyone?  What about homemade ice cream?  Well, there was ice cream galore!  Check out Bassetts Ice cream, established in 1861.

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The best ice cream was from Dre’s.  They even had sweet potato pie flavored ice cream! Find out more about Dre’s at Dre’s Ice Cream

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Of course, at the Festival, you will find the best natural popsicles from King of Pops.

The purpose of the culinary competition was to select the food trucks who would be able to participate in the MADE IN AMERICA music festival on September 1st & 2nd, 2018.

Live the festival and Experience the food.   Have a great Labor Day weekend.

Winners

Miscellaneous Category

FMK – 1st place winners, Brotherly Grubb, Laughing Crab Catering, The Dump N Roll,  The Cow and the Curd, Epicurean

Finger Foods Category

Chewy’s, The Little Sicilian, Humpty’s Dumplings, Trip’s Tasteful

Latin

El Tlaloc, Tica’s Tacos, Mi Pueblito Tacos

Sandwiches

Grubaholics, Mama’s Meatballs, ChiWaffles, Sol Kantina, Innovative Catering, Lil Trent’s, GiGi’s & Big R’s Soul Food

Italian

Authentik Byrek Food Truck

Vegan

Paper Mill Spuritto, Skinny Buddha

Desserts

Bassett’s Ice Cream, Ben & Jerry’s, Dre’s Water Ice & Ice Cream, King of Pop’s, The Snowball Experience, Lil Pop Shop

Check out Bacon And Bellini on Bacon and Bellini Youtube to watch video coverage of the event and to see an exclusive interview with the winners who received the most votes FMK!

 

Milk and Cheese

I am already a fan of Milk and Honey, and today, I became a fan of Milk and Cheese.  Milk and Cheese is the latest restaurant in the Milk and Honey restaurant empire.  I had lunch with some of my Eat the City Dmv friends.  We had a great time and shared a lot of laughs while eating a hearty lunch.  We were all pleased with our meals.

Milk and Cheese is located in the former Milk and Honey location in Beltsville, is a good restaurant for both quick lunches and extended lunches.  There are a few differences. First, there is no set menu, as the menu changes often.  You must follow their instagram page (milkandcheesedmv) to see the new menu items of the week.  I ordered a Shrimp Po’Boy,  which is a footlong, and only costs $10.99.  The shrimp are large, hot and crunchy.  The bread is fresh, the sauce is on point.

I also ordered the housemade truffle chips, which are $4.99.  These chips are a hit.

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I finished my meal with the Cap’n Crunch Milkshake.  It was delish.  I’m convinced it was made with at least a ½ cup of cereal.  This milkshake is thick!

Overall, I enjoyed my visit to Milk and Cheese.  I will certainly be back.

 

Le Diner En Blanc DC 2018

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Imagine getting dressed up in a fabulous white dress to go to an upscale dinner party at a secret location.  Now, imagine spending the evening eating in a hallway/tunnel then walking around on dirt.  But then imagine sharing this experience with 5,000 friends, old and new.  That sums up Le Diner En Blanc DC 2018.

This was my first time ever attending any Le Diner En Blanc event.  I was so excited.  I anticipated attending for years, yet never got past the waitlist.  So here we are, 2018.  I received an invitation, and excitedly bought tickets without fully understand what the tickets actually cover.  The event is BYOE (Bring Your Own Everything).  The “everything” guests need to bring include table, chairs, table linens, white plates, cutlery, decor, food, etc.
The prep is serious.  The weeks prior to the event are spent selecting all white attire, all white decor, deciding on a menu, and logistical planning.
Our arrival time was 4:30pm.  We arrived at 4:30pm, exited and ready to experience this event of the summer.

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My group began walking to our destination around 5:30pm.  My group leaders were wonderful.  They were organized and gave good directions.  Everyone in my 50 person group was happy and bubbling with anticipation of a lovely evening.  We were 3 blocks away from Washington Nationals Ballpark.  This is where the trouble began.  As my group walked up to the park, the police kept telling us to move out of the street.  People who were parked at the Ballpark tried to drive through the crowds to leave.  It was really hot, as the sun beamed down on us.  We all had carts and baskets, and dollies, and just a lot of everything needed for our Le Diner En Blanc experience.  We waited for over an hour just outside the ballpark, waiting to enter.

All 5,000 guests had to go through the security check ONE AT A TIME.  Security went through our bags and made us partially unpack our carts.  Once inside, we were ushered to the dark concourse where we were instructed to set up.  I guess I am lucky, since I had a view facing the field.  Those who sat across the table were facing the restrooms and the walls.

There were 2 rows of tables around the concourses.  We could only see a few tables in either direction, since the ballpark is curved.  This was far from what I expected.  It felt as though we were isolated.  I almost missed the waving of the napkins, due to the awkward layout at the ballpark.

The band was dressed in white and played on the field.  The band was so far away, I could not decipher what they were playing, I just heard muffled sounds.
After the band left, the DJ set up and people started filling the baselines.  Well, only 500 people that is.  They only let 500 people at a time (out of a total 5,000) on the field at once. If you dared step on the grass, you were ejected from the park.   I saw a lady get ejected for dancing on the grass.  I saw another guy get tackled by three employees because he ran down the steps, onto the field and stepped on the grass.  It was a sight to see.
There were no real sparklers this year.   There were some battery operated sparklers. Nice, but not the same as actual sparklers.

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We were allowed to walk around the outskirts of the field.  Yes, all of these people dressed in their best white, were walking along the dirt path of the ballpark.  We were not allowed on the grass, remember.

I was highly disappointed in my first Le Diner En Blanc experience.  I was hoping for an outdoor location where we could see everyone.  What’s more, Saturday night was an absolute perfect night as far as the weather is concerned.  It was hot, but not humid. There was a nice gentle breeze at times.  I could not have wished for better weather.

There were some good parts of the evening.  I loved my outfit, and the way it blowed in the wind.  The highlight for me was socializing with other guests and viewing their extravagant decor.  Plus, I always have fun whenever I am with my cousin and friends.  We shared lots of laughs and made memories at the National Ballpark.  The Nationals Mascots were available for pictures.  We also had access to the dugouts.  There was a popular photobooth set up in one of the dugouts.  The DJ was good, and played a great selection of music.  It was cool to dance around the bases, while waving sparklers.  The sparklers actually make really cool souvenirs.

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In general, it was really neat to attend a private event at Nationals Ballpark where guests could go into the dugout, walk around the bases (if you were in a lucky group of 500).  I just think this was the wrong venue for Le Diner En Blanc DC.  I heard lots of people complaining that the venue was much too “casual” for the Le Diner en Blanc DC.  Plus, who wears all white to a baseball park?

Despite all of the surpises of the evening, I learned one important lesson about Le Diner en Blanc. The people are what make Le Diner en Blanc special.  throughout the evening, most guests remained in good spirits.  We had fun despire the wait times, despite the limited field access.  Despite it all, everyone seemed to have a good time.  The joy of attending Le Diner en Blanc is the joy felt just being around everyone else.  We all looked fabulous in our all white attire.  Even though the ballpark had red dirt in all directions, everyone’s white remained white.  Even my dress stayed white.  It was quite a remarkable site to see.  Just as out outfits remained clean, so did our desire to enjoy the evening.  And enjoy the evening we did.  I look forward to next year, where hopefully Le Diner en Blanc DC will return to an outdoor venue.  I will admit, Le Diner en Blanc DC 2018 was definitely an adventure!

 

The Federalist Pig

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I enjoy discovering new unique restaurants.   What’s more, I really get tickled when I find a restaurant that I have seen before….on TV.  Well, both happened Saturday in the same visit. I walked into the BBQ joint where the outer walls were covered in red, rust, and blue tin.

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I walked inside to the smell of smoked meats.  This place wasn’t fancy, and didn’t pretend to be.   However, one thing they took seriously was the BBQ.

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“This place looks really familiar,” I thought. I asked Shawn,  an employee if this restaurant had ever been filmed on TV? I thought aloud, “Was it Scandal?”  “No, that’s not it.” “House of Cards” Shawn and I both said and laughed.

I still remember the first episode where Federalist Pig was featured.  Federalist aping lived up to its reputation. I ordered the Two Step, which is 2 meats & 2 small sides for $15.   For my meats, AJ chose St. Louis Ribs and Brisket. For my sides, so choose the Crispy Brussel Sprouts and the Smoked Cheddar Mac & Cheese.

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The Ribs were well seasoned and could be eaten without any sauce at all.   The Brisket was fat and tender. The Brussel Sprouts has a slightly sweet, yet Smokey crispness with only a hint of the bitter aftertaste (as to be expected with Brussel Sprouts).

Now to the sauce.  There are 6 sauce options, including: Mild BBQ, Hot BBQ, Mustard BBQ Carolina Vinegar, Sticky Garlic, and Ranch.  All of the sauces are self explanatory, except for the Sticky Garlic. It is a thick molasses based sauce with garlic infused throughout.  The garlic is in every drop. It creates an interesting taste, and I imagine this sauce takes the place of Honey BBQ. Rob, the man in charge told me that the sticky garlic sauce is their own creation.  I mixed the Mild BBQ and Sticky Garlic for use on my meat.

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Overall, I enjoyed my visit.  I will return.

 

Duck, Duck, Donut?

There has been a lot of buzz around Duck Donuts.  I have heard a lot of good things it. To begin. Duck Donuts was founded in Duck, North Carolina by Russ RiGilio and his family.  The RiGilio family also cares about the community. So, each Duck Donuts location has the opportunity to partner with local non-profit organizations to aid them in fundraising efforts.

The custom donut concept is simple.  Start with a freshly made donut, select a coating, select a topping, then select a drizzle.

I tried three of the featured flavors.  My first bite was of the Maple flavored icing topped with chopped bacon.   The donut was very sweet. The donut itself is a cake doughnut. The maple icing is thick and opaque.  I could taste the sugar as I bit into the icing. The icing thoroughly covers the donut. I would prefer a thinner maple glaze, instead of icing. For this reason, I can only eat one of these donuts at a time.  The chopped bacon was actual bacon It was thick cut bacon. The sweet and salty contrast meshed well with the cake donut. It was an all in one breakfast experience.

The second donut I had was another featured donut, the S’Mores donut.  This is a classic s’more. Chocolate icing, topped with graham cracker crumbles and a marshmallow drizzle.  Very sweet, very good!

My third Duck Donut was the featured Blueberry Icing with Lemon drizzle.  This is an upgrade to the regular blueberry cake donut. The blueberry icing was thick and sweet.  The tart of the lemon drizzle is a perfect match to the sweetness of the blueberry icing.

Overall,  Duck Donuts is really good.  It’s the perfect dessert. It may be a bit too sweet for breakfast, but I could eat one every evening.  Next time, I will experience the creative joy of making my own duck donut creation.

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Red Rooster: A Taste of Home

One of the highlights of my first trip to New York City was my visit to Red Rooster in Harlem.  It was a comfortable Saturday afternoon. Just walking up the street approaching Red Rooster was an experience in itself.  There were artists, photographers, painters, and musicians lining the sidewalk in front of Red Rooster. Music from live instruments matched the vibrant colors of the artwork, which also matched the jubilant nature of everyone in the vicinity of Red Rooster.  My excitement grew, the closer I got to the front door. This is Harlem. This is it. This must be the reason everyone LOVES Harlem. As soon as my cousins and I arrive, we were greeted with laughter, smiles, and good wishes from those people who decorate the scene with their presence.   I knew I was experiencing history. There was an old man sitting in front of the door. He seemed to have many stories to tell. I am already having a good time, and I haven’t even walked inside.

Upon entering, there was even more energy on the inside.  Red Rooster was full of people. Everyone was dressed for an occasion.  I loved seeing everyone’s styles. From hats to sundresses, to suits, bow ties.  Everyone was here. Everyone was having a good time. Well, we arrived just as brunch ended, so we made reservations for dinner.

Red Rooster is the creation of America’s most well known Black Chef, Marcus Samuelsson, who was born in Ethiopia, reared in Sweden, and apprenticed in Europe.  Chef Samuelsson’s story is so unique.  His life began when food was scarce, yet his life’s work is intrically woven around food.  He shares his passion for food through his many restaurants.  He opened Red Rooster in Harlem in 2010.

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I was so excited to experience dinner at Red Rooster.   While waiting for our table, a live second line band played through the restaurant.  Everyone clapped, danced or bobbed their heads as the band made its way through the restaurant.  Some people (probably tourists like me) tried to follow the band. There was just so much energy in the building.  We sat near the bar, which was filled with people sitting and standing. They were talking, drinking, laughing.

Now to the menu.   I didn’t know what to order, because everything looked good.  I finally decided to order the famous Yardbird, the Mac & Greens, and Marcus’ Cornbread.  All of the food lives up to the hype. After tasting the food, I understood another reason why everyone loves Red Rooster.  One bite of your meal will remind you of home. For me, home is Mississippi. This is the closest you will get to Grandma’s cooking in the big city.

Overall, I enjoyed both of my visits to Red Rooster.  I will certainly return whenever I am in Harlem. It’s at the top of my list of favorite places in Harlem, New York City.

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The Red Rooster experience with my cousin!

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My cousin lives in Harlem and took me on a walking tour.  This was one of my most memorable stops.  We returned later that evening for dinner.