A Perfect Afternoon in Harlem with David Burtka
I walk through my hot, buzzing neighborhood and I know that this is the Harlem that inspired Duke Ellington and Countee Cullen and Langston Hughes, Harlem in the spring. And what better way to celebrate the return of spring than with great food and Bordeaux wine!
My perfect Sunday afternoon would go a little something like this;
First, it’s 72 degrees outside and somehow I get my whole family ready to go and out of the house with no fussing! We walk to The Studio Museum in Harlem and wander thru the color and chaos of the Ebony G. Patterson exhibit and cross our fingers that they’ll have one of our favorite artists, Kehinde Wiley, on display in the permanent collection.
Once we feel appropriately inspired, we head to the legendary Sylvia’s, to get some grilled shrimp and corn bread to go (I’ll tell them to sneak a little fried chicken in there too!) and we will head to the swings at Marcus Garvey Park for a picnic. There is no question that the perfect wine for our picnic is Chateau Auney L’Hermitage, actually it is the perfect wine for our entire afternoon but unfortunately the Studio Museum isn’t BYODeliciousWhiteBlend. This incredible vino is really amazing to pair with seafood due to it’s mineral, flinty notes. It’s got a honeyed, complex taste but a really smooth finish and is ideal for talking about art in the afternoon sun. Just see if it doesn’t remind you of one of those bright, blue, floral backgrounds in one of Kehinde’s masterpiece paintings.Now, we really MUST talk about Rosé.
The Les Roses De Marie is so good it could make Marcus Samuelson blush. I honestly can’t remember when I”ve tasted a rosé wine so delicious. It is the epitome of spring; crisp, light, so refreshing that it makes me believe that I could forget the gym for the day and just outside and drool over the desserts at Red Rooster. I mean, have you ever heard of anything so good as rum cake with red berries and caramel and vanilla bean ice cream melting in the sun while you drink rose. I sure haven’t! It reminds me of my favorite Langston Hughes quote, “Melting pot Harlem-Harlem of honey and chocolate and caramel and rum and vinegar and lemon and lime and gall…where the subway from the Bronx keeps right on downtown.”
Now for you night owls who come to Harlem looking for the ghost of Duke Ellington, the only place to go is Bill’s Place. It’s a cozy little jazz club open every Friday and Saturday night that got it’s start during prohibition in the 1920’s. Fittingly it is still BYOB, so I recommend taking a bottle of Légende with you and settling in for a night of soul moving jazz.
Légende is so round and complex that its only pairing should be good jazz music, it can stand alone without a meal and the warmth and elegance of the taste, while you’re being serenaded by Bill Saxton on saxophone will make you feel as though you’ve stepped back in time to the Harlem of Miles Davis and Fats Waller. This is where Billie Holiday sang as a young upstart!
Can you think of anything cooler? I can’t wait to hear your thoughts on these exquisite Bordeaux Wines, I’m curious to know what you think they pair well with and I hope to see you exploring the rich and tasty culture of Harlem during these beautiful spring months!
David Burtka, is a Harlem resident, father of two, and husband of the legendary Neil Patrick Harris. Burtka is a well-known actor-turned-chef who received his culinary degree from Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts after retiring from acting to pursue his passion for all things gourmet. Recently Burtka returned to the stage, performing in the musical, It Shoulda Been You, which ran from March until August 2015.Words and photos by David Burtka.