The Greater Harlem Chamber of Commerce, in collaboration with internationally renowned chef and restaurateur Marcus Samuelsson, in concert with Tim Zagat, founder of the Zagat National Restaurant Review, announced that following its breakout inaugural run in 2016, the Cuban Culinary Initiative will return as part of the Second Annual Harlem/Havana Music & Cultural Festival under Samuelsson’s direction.  This year, Harlem/Havana—the international arts, culinary and educational exchange created in celebration of the rich connection between these two iconic cities—will explore the theme, Harlem: Home of Immigrants, Honoring New York City’s International Diversity.  The festival explores the international cultural influences that make Harlem a celebrated home for immigrants from all nations through arts and educational programming. The culinary initiative will also expand this year to include Senegalese and Dominican restaurants, alongside Cuban and Harlem soul food restaurants.

Through this initiative, the Festival has partnered with Samuelsson’s famous Red Rooster Harlem and Streetbird Rotisserie restaurants, along with Sylvia’s, Oso, La Fonda Del Sol, Harlem’s Floridita Cuban Restaurant, Melba’s, Ponty Bistro, Coogan’s, Victor’s Café, Malecon, and 809 Sangria Bar & Grill to feature special selections of Cuban, Cuban-inspired or Cuban-fusion dishes and cocktails as part of this year’s festival. The restaurants will feature menu items ranging from Cuban adobo-rubbed pork and Cubano sandwiches to mojo shrimp and ropa vieja, and will serve a variety of cocktails, including bissap mojitos, rum punch, watermelon lime daiquiris and margaritas in a variety of flavors.

“I have long said that there can be no American food without immigrants, so the theme of this year’s festival–and the inclusion of Dominican and Senegalese restaurants in the international culinary initiative– is something that I find truly exciting,” says Samuelsson.  “My personal experiences, from Ethiopia to Sweden to the US, all influence the chef that I am today and the food that I present. We are thrilled for people to experience how these incredible and diverse restaurant participants will showcase the spirit of Cuba this year.”

The Harlem/Havana Music & Cultural Festival will offer music and dance performances, art exhibits and culinary experiences at renowned venues across Manhattan and beyond. Cuban, Dominican, and Senegalese musicians, visual artists, dancers, chefs and more will be featured as part of the Tri-State region’s annual HARLEM WEEK activities from August 12—23. The festival will continue in February 2018 with a New York delegation of artists, cultural, educational and religious leaders (to be announced at a later date) traveling to Havana to take part in select cultural events and activities.

The Harlem/Havana Music & Cultural Festival is an annual event that brings full circle former Congressman (and current festival Honorary Chairman) Charles Rangel’s tireless efforts for over thirty years to normalize relations between the U.S. and Cuba.  Since 1993, he has pushed for the Free Trade with Cuba Act to allow all Americans to visit the island and enable Americans and Cubans to conduct business together.  Plans for this historic cultural exchange developed over the course of three years, with efforts led by Congressman Rangel and The Greater Harlem Chamber of Commerce, in partnership with New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo, Mayor Bill de Blasio, and U.S. Rep. Gregory Meeks.

This year’s festival will include events at New Jersey Performing Arts Center, The National Jazz Museum in Harlem, Ginny’s Supper Club, Dance Theater of Harlem, The Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine, First Corinthian Baptist Church, Jazzmobile, Harlem Summer Stage, HARLEM DAY, and more.

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