Dining With Miss Lil: Marcus Samuelsson’s Black History Month Dinner Series

By Lil Nickelson

Chef/ restauranteur Marcus Samuelsson wanted to celebrate Black History Month in 2019 in a different way than he has in the past.

So, on Wednesday, February 27th, 2019 he decided to launch his first dinner in a dinner series that would highlight and honor the legacy of black excellence with untold and overlooked stories in the culinary and beverage industries.

Red Rooster Harlem partnered with Andre Mack, a renowned African American sommelier, wine educator and winemaker who selected five beverages for guests to savor along with the five-course meal Chef Samuelsson selected for the evening’s menu. Two signature drinks were also selected to have along with the passed appetizers as well.

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The Green & Fanny Dinner Series with André Mack debuted at 7pm on that evening at Ginny’s Supper Club located on the lower level at Marcus Samuelsson’s Red Rooster Harlem at 310 Lenox Avenue. Instead of being limited to the month of February, Chef Marcus decided the dinner series would continue throughout the year and will feature a range of musical performers.

Nate Lucas All-Stars opened the evening’s entertainment featuring smooth jazz and R & B sounds along with vocalist Letrice “Cherry on the Top.” Pianist Gary Mitchell, Jr. who regularly collaborates with renowned singers, instrumentalists, artists, and ensembles, ranging from opera to musical theatre, classical, sacred, jazz, and gospel walked over to the piano and tickled the ivories to everyone’s surprise and delight.

Marcus introduced Andre Mack along with Kendra Dandy to the audience. Andre’s wines are featured at Red Rooster Harlem, but this was my first-time hearing about Kendra Dandy, who lives in Philadelphia, PA. I got the opportunity to sit at the same table with these two visionaries. Kendra Dandy is a well-known illustrator and artist whose poppy, modern-day vintage artwork has garnered her editorial features and merchandising opportunities with popular retails stores such as Anthropologie and Urban Outfitters.

The details of each course of the first dinner’s menu were:

  • Amuse – Cured Turnip with smoked peanut Shiro, rice cracker paired with Riesling, Mouton Noir “Bottoms Up,” Willamette Valley 2014
  • First – Tuna with dirty rice, bone broth, aioli, jalapeño paired with Chardonnay, Mouton Noir “Oregogne” Willamette Valley 2014
  • Second – Pickled Arctic Char with hoe cake, avocado black bean paired with Pinot Gris, Maison Noir “O.P.P.,” Willamette Valley 2014
  • Third – Lacquered Duck with all the fixins paired with Pinot Noir. Mouton Noir Mouton Noir “Oregogne” Willamette Valley 2014
  • Dessert – Baked Alaska with sweet potato, marshmallow, pecan paired with Hazel’s Word – Frangelico, Drambuie, Lime Juice

Now, my reaction to the menu choices can be summarized as that every dish served looked beautiful on each vessel it was served on and was delicious in taste and pleasing to my palette, hitting on multiple taste buds at a time; spicy, sweet and tart – like a symphony. I’m not much of a drinker, but for the first time in a long time I drank every beverage put forth with every dish and Andre did an excellent job in his pairings with each course of the meal. I was full and feeling nice when I left the dinner.

I walked from table to table talking with people I knew about the meal and beverages in between courses and taking photos. Chef Marcus gave a shout out to Brad Kilgore, a 2019 James Beard Foundation semi-finalist in the Best Chef South category. He was seated next to my friend Eugenia Foxworth, owner of Foxworth Realty. I invited a new foodie friend I met recently, William Dawkins, a proud member of NYC’s bravest Fire Department and his schedule was such that he attended the dinner. He sent me an email like at 4 am that morning saying he had an awesome time. Harlem’s best-dressed swing dancer Lana Turner was there wearing a very unique hat and her beautiful smile as always.

The food and beverages served up that night would have made Thomas Jefferson’s enslaved female chefs Fanny Hern and Edith Fossett as well as Jack Daniels’ mentor Nathan “Nearest” Green proud because black excellence was on display all throughout the evening.

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Chef Marcus had his back of the house culinary team as well as his front of the house wait staff come out with Andre Mack and Kendra Dandy after the last course was served and consumed to take a bow because the food, the wines, and the service was on point and the evening was one of the best fine dining experiences I’ve been blessed to partake in. What made it so much more satisfying is that it took place in my beloved village of Harlem. Bravo, encore and when is the next dinner in the series?

Photo credit: 1) Nate Luca AllStars. 2) Pianist Gary Mitchell, Jr. 3) Andre Mack and Kendra Dandy. 4-6) 7) Eugenia Foxworth and friend. 8) Lana Turner. 9) Chef Samuelsson with BOH and FOH. By Lil Nickelson.

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