Restaurant: Red Rooster, Harlem, New York
I totally broke tradition. I did. I was in New York City to run the TCS New York City Marathon…and so far I had managed really amazing gluten-free pizza the night before the race. Normally, after I race, my friends and I go to a pub to celebrate the occasion.
Not. This. Time.
But, it was of my own doing that we ended up in Harlem just after 6 p.m. on Sunday evening.
Well…since we were going to be in New York City, I thought it might be fun to check out a restaurant that belongs to one of my favorite chefs of all time.
The venue: Red Rooster.
The chef: Marcus Samuelsson.
After all, we were celebrating my finish at the marathon earlier that afternoon. Why not make it special. So, yeah…I broke tradition and decided to forgo the pub for something…a little different. And I have never made a better decision in my life.
Prior to heading to New York City, I had told Cathy that I really wanted to go into Harlem and eat at Red Rooster. She knows how much I adore Marcus Samuelsson. And, honestly, we’re both foodies…she was right there with me. So, she went ahead and called the restaurant and talked to them about reservations on marathon eve. She mentioned that I was a gluten-free vegetarian and they said that food for me would not be an issue. With that done, Cathy set up a reservation for 6 p.m., giving me plenty of time to run, shower, walk around, come back and change, and get there with my group of friends. We had reservations for 4 people…me, Cathy, Heather, and my good friend Marisa.
So, that night, I dressed up in this elegant vintage dress…but kept on my recovery compression socks (and wore them with my heels, HA!), and my three friends and I went down to the subway and hopped the train to Harlem. We emerged steps away from Red Rooster. Literally.
And about 10 minutes late. Whoops. But…we got there…before they handed our table away.
We were seated near the kitchen, which was fantastic for me because I could see the people bustling around in there, working hard at the various stations. I loved the feel of Red Rooster…very chic casual. A fun, vibrant, laid back, but classic vibe. It was the kind of place I would want to return to and bring everyone I know…at least once. Totally my style.
Our server, Ryan, came over to greet us. He said that if we had any questions regarding the menu to let him know. I mentioned that I was a gluten-free vegetarian, and he said that wouldn’t be a problem. In fact, he would go and talk to the chef and see what they could do for me. I thanked him and we all studied the different menu options. At one point, I know Cathy was trying to convince Marisa to try the soup with tripe in it, but that wasn’t happening.
Ryan returned, and said that he mentioned that I had run the TCS New York City Marathon and was a gluten-free vegetarian, to which he said the chef would like to create a dish for me. I was thrilled and thanked him for checking.
With that said, Cathy took one matter into her own hands. We were, after all, celebrating. So, she ordered a bottle of wine for the table. We went with a sweet wine (Heather prefers dry…but she was a good sport), opting for a local Riesling – the 2013 Brotherhood from Washingtonville, New York ($48.00).
We were ready to order, it seemed. Ryan already had mine. He said the chef was going to do up a Vegetable Plate ($21.00) for me. So, I was excited to see what would emerge from the kitchen. Cathy went with Marcus Samuelsson’s signature dish – Helga’s Meatballs, which are served with lingonberries, braised green cabbage, and buttermilk mashed potatoes ($23.00). Heather ordered the Triple-Double Burger, which is served with bacon, jarlesburg, and rooster sauce ($19.00). Marisa did a little picking and choosing, and went with the Upstate Farms Squash Soup, which includes yogurt, honeycrisp apples, and lentils ($12.00) with a side of the Cornbread ($4.00). And, because they sounded good…Heather and I split a side of the Hearth Roasted Brussels Sprouts ($8.00).
Ryan went to put or order in and we all got down to talking about New York, about work, about life, about the race, about food, about events…whatever we wanted to talk about. We were in no rush and the restaurant was not rushing us. I loved being able to just drink in the atmosphere.
Just before the food arrived, Ryan returned with our Riesling bottle, pouring a little bit into Cathy’s glass. Cathy lifted the glass and took a sip. And it was love at first taste for her. So he poured some in each of our glasses, and I made sure to keep drinking my water too. No dehydration here.
And then…our entrees arrived, each one settled down in front of us carefully.
The plates…were gorgeous!
The chef created a fantastic dish for me. In a bowl on my left was Curried Black Eyed Peas. And on the platter beside it…Charred Broccolini, Berbere Carrots and Parsnips, and Roasted Brussels Sprouts. Oh…I will note, these Brussels Sprouts tasted different than the side that Heather and I were splitting. It was chef magic. And it was a beautiful and gorgeous plate. One that I looked forward to eating.
Let’s start with the Curried Black Eyed Peas. Just…WOW. WOW! So much flavor. Lots going on. And yet…simple. I like to traditionally have black eyed peas on New Years Day…and this is how I would want them this year. For real. Just this incredible depth of flavor with the curry spices. Not hot…just simply bringing out more of the peas themselves. One of the best dishes involving peas of any sort I have ever had in my life. And, trust me, I’ve eaten plenty.
The vegetables that the chef prepared were a delicious and filling treat for me. The broccolini was gorgeously cooked and vibrant green. It had the right amount of crisp to it, yet, still soft and easy to bite through. I love broccolini, and this was just as it should be…simple and delicious. The Brussels Sprouts were roasted to perfection, giving that outer layer some depth of flavor, yet keeping the vegetable itself soft on the inside. Fork tender perfection.
My favorite thing, however, on that plate was the Berbere Carrots and Parsnips. HOLY COW! This side is exactly why I rushed out to a spice store in order to purchase berbere. This spice is awesome. It has this great flavor to it, followed with a little bit of heat at the end. It paired beautifully with this root vegetables. In fact, these were what I saved for my last bite. Completely in love with a plate of vegetables. How amazing! My compliments to the marathoning chef. My meal was sheer perfection.
And I know you’re wondering about the Hearth Roasted Brussels Sprouts that Heather and I split, right? Of course you are! These were different from the ones that were on my plate. These sprouts had this amazing char to them, but also hit up with a bit of a lemon or citrus flavor. Sprinkled on top were macadamia nuts. It was a combination that I hadn’t had before with Brussels sprouts…and I liked it.
But, wait…there is more!
Because when we celebrate we get dessert too! We were handed the menus so we could peruse the options. Ryan was taking care of another party at that moment, so I asked the new server about gluten-free options. She highly recommended The Green Apple Viking Delight ($11.00). I was game. Heather actually ended up doing that too. Leave it to the Scandinavian Minnesotans to order something with the word “viking” in it. HA! Cathy knew she wanted to have cheesecake in New York City, so her choice was the obvious one…Vanilla Cheesecake, served with yogurt, a granola crumble and pomegranate sorbet ($11.00). Marisa went for the signature dessert of the restaurant, the Red Rooster Doughnuts, which are filled with sweet potato and coated in cinnamon and sugar ($12.00). It came with an icing to dip them in as well.
Desserts arrived shortly after and…yeah…we were quite happy with our choices. I thought The Green Apple Viking Delight was like a cold crème brûlée. It was a green apple sorbet set on top of a white chocolate fennel cream. On the side was chopped apple and fennel. And a little tuile was set on top, giving it a little crunch and texture. I was totally in love with the flavors, even though I wasn’t completely certain, at first, that they would work. They complimented each other perfectly and each bite was a burst of sweetness, with a bit of richness from the white chocolate. Divine.
Cathy loved her cheesecake (it looked deconstructed…so cool!) and Marisa was more than pleased with the doughnuts. Needless to say…we are girls. Desserts are awesome. But these…these took awesome up to the next level. Which I guess is phenomenal. Or, in the culinary world, a sweet note to end the night on.
We left the restaurant completely satisfied with the meal. The ambiance of Red Rooster was like no other restaurant that I have been in to date. A live jazz band had started to play during our desserts and we really just took a moment to not only savor the food, but savor the experience as well.
I have been a Marcus Samuelsson fan for years…being able to eat at his restaurant was a dream come true. Having a dish created for me, and having a careful and very caring staff made it unforgettable. I was congratulated so many times on finishing the marathon. It was an amazing day, but that night really just sealed it as one of the best days of my life. Good race…good friends…good food…good times.
Thank you, Marcus Samuelsson and Red Rooster.