Puerto Rico Meets NYC
The jaunty piragua cart with it’s bright colors and big umbrella ambles down the street in San Juan with the same awkward agility it does in New York City. A summer staple of both cities, the cart’s pyramid shaped icy treat is a tropical flavored harbinger of happiness. It exemplifies one of the many culinary traditions brought to New York from Puerto Rico via the waves of migrants who have moved to the mainland throughout the 1900’s and well into today. The New York/Puerto Rico connection is a strong one and has spawned a uniquely ‘Nuyorican’ sensibility, transferring language, culture, history, and food from the island to the mainland – and from the mainland to the island.
Yet, on the mainland, the complexity of Puerto Rican cuisine can remain unknown. For those New Yorkers woefully unfamiliar with piraguas, lechón asado, longaniza, arroz con gandules, alcapurrias, or mofongo, this September 30 to October 4, a warm and delicious wind is blowing into town. Over the course of 5 days, Puerto Rico Meets NYC will showcase and elevate the gastronomy of Puerto Rico by pairing the best chefs from Puerto Rico with their peers in New York City restaurants. In a series of multi-course dinners with cocktail and wine pairings, chefs who have crossed paths on the Island of Enchantment or the Island of Manhattan will reunite to marry their culinary talents and express the endless possibilities within Puerto Rican cuisine. The weekend will culminate with a Lechón Asado Block Party Brunch at the inimitable Roberta’s of Bushwick, Brooklyn.
Tickets for all of the events are selling fast at:
An intimate 5 course dinner, hosted by chef Wilo Benet at the Chef’s Club Studio by Food and Wine on Saturday, October 3 has already sold out. Also sold-out is the dinner hosted by Eric Ripert and Jose Santaella at the incomparable Le Bernadin on Friday, October 2. This exclusive event will be held in the restaurant’s private salon where Ripert and Santaella will cook on-site for their 40 person audience.
There are still tickets available for other amazing events, but they are selling out fast. Multiple dinners, some with two seatings, will be held on any given night. Many highlight the warm and intimate nature of this event series – chefs with personal histories joining forces to share with New Yorkers their love of the island and its cuisine.
Kevin Roth of Fajardo’s La Estación perfectly articulated such an interplay of friendship and professional deference when speaking of his collaboration with Sean Rembold, Executive Chef of the Tarlow restaurant group. “We put a very cohesive menu together. Instead of approaching the dinner with the intention of – you doing three courses and you doing three courses – we approach the dinner as: let’s look at what’s available, what’s around, and let’s inflect some Puerto Rican touches on it. Or, let’s take a dish that is inherently Puerto Rican and let’s put some American touches on it. It was a true collaboration – very cool, very natural. I know his food. I know the way they cook there. I’ve known Sean since, wow, 10 years ago. He’s a super talented guy.” Roth and Rembold will be preparing a 6 course tasting menu in the the Reynard Private Dining Room at the Wythe Hotel on Thursday, October 1 and on Friday, October 2. Roth will also be preparing his legendary Lechón Asado at the Block Party Brunch on Sunday, October 4.
A tried and true collaboration will also be making a reappearance – the wildly popular El Nosh Pop-Up Restaurant of chefs Eric Greenspan & Roberto Treviño. This duo has garnered an admirable following and their menu will feature international Jewish-Latino cuisine. The pair will be hosting a 5 course fusion menu at Hotel Americano in Chelsea on Saturday, October 3.
Acclaimed sausage maker Pedro Alvarez and Harlem’s most buzzed about chef, Joseph “JJ” Johnson of The Cecil restaurant will celebrate hand-crafted pork products on Friday, October 2. Their 6 course tasting menu will feature meats made by Alvarez’s AlCor Foods, which specializes in Puerto Rican longaniza sausages and other custom pork products.
The only lunch slated will be on Saturday, October 3 prepared by two culinary icons of Puerto Rico, chefs Mario Pagan and Carmen Gonzalez. Pagan will reunite with Gonzalez, in whose kitchen he trained, at The Fourth Restaurant in Union Square for a 5 course lunch. Pagan will cook a 6 course dinner on his own at Botequim on Friday, October 2.
Chef Juan Jose Cuevas of 1919 Restaurant will also cook solo at the legendary James Beard House on Saturday October 3. On Friday, October 2 he will unite with Didier Elena of Chef’s Club Studio by Food and Wine. Both chefs studied under the tutelage of Alain Ducasse – this dinner will be masterfully sauced.
Visitors to Puerto Rico often remark that the most striking feature of the island is the warmth of its people. Meets NYC founder Marie Elena Martinez has tapped into this spirit and organized truly memorable collaborations for this Puerto Rican installment. A warm and convivial block party vibe at the Lechón Asado Party at Roberta’s of Brooklyn will mark the end of the event on Sunday, October 4. DJ’s, musicians, chefs, and revelers will gather to celebrate the rich Puerto Rican traditions within NYC. Food and drink will be prepared by: Angel Jimenez’s Lechonera La Pirana, MofonGO, Carmen Gonzalez, Pedro Alvarez, Kevin Roth, El Nosh, Tumbador Chocolate, beer by Brooklyn Brewery, and rum cocktails by celebrity bartenders courtesy of Rums of Puerto Rico.
This cross-cultural culinary phenomenon is not to be missed. For a full list of event times, pricing, restaurant locations, chef and bartender biographies, and general information, please visit:
*Images courtesy of Meets NYC and Chef JJ Johnson
Written by: Caroline Johnson
Follow Caroline @puppetpants