Gothamist spends a great deal of time at the greenmarket in Union Square, so we were thrilled to be able to attend the 9th Annual Harvest in the Square, a fundraiser benefiting the Union Square Partnership, with funds from this year specifically earmarked for the capital campaign for the completion of Union Square Park. The standard greenmarket tents were replaced by several much larger tents, housing staff from over 45 different local restaurants and wineries. We walked in, and despite having received a list cataloguing each restaurant and what they were serving, we were completely overwhelmed. Where to go first? Old favorites, like Union Square Cafe or Gotham Bar and Grill? Or places we haven't yet tried? Should we pick according to the descriptions in the list we were given, making sure we had a variety of veggies, seafood, and meat options, and making sure to leave room for dessert? Panic proceeded to set in.

2004_09_food_barbacoa.JPGLuckily, we were given some guidance from chef Alex Asteinza, from Pipa and Lucy Mexican Barbecue, who steered us to a few stops that he thought shouldn't be missed -- the filet mignon at Angelo and Maxie's, the pulled pork sandwich from Amuse, and the pumpkin custard at SushiSamba. But of course, before we took his advice, we had to start off with Pipa's delightfully spicy seafood salpicon and the the tacos de barbacoa at Lucy Mexican Barbecue, with tangy tomatillo salsa. The panic subsided and we were on our way.

2004_09_food_striphouse.jpgOver the course of the two hours, we finally decided that the best way to figure out what to eat was to wander from table to table and let our senses decide for us. This method resulted in tasting twelve dishes and about five wines; thankfully the portions were large enough to get a healthy taste, but small enough that we could do this comfortably. This also allowed us to take our time and talk to several the chefs, who were all more than willing to chat with us, and genuinely seemed to enjoy taking part in the event. It had the atmosphere of a block party, complete with a live jazz band.

For the chefs, one of the challenges was to decide what to prepare for the event, and everyone we spoke with had a slightly different strategy. Having participated in the event for three or four years, Rene Lenger of Strip House called the event's organizers to find out where the gaps were and decided on an incredibly tender confit beef brisket with a sweet corn tomato salad and red wine sauce. Cyril Renaud of Fleur de Sel selected a terrine of roasted quail and foie gras drizzled with aged balsamic vinegar because he felt that it represented his restaurant well, although he admitted that to some, the foie gras may be somewhat controversial. Not to us -- this was one of our absolute favorites of the evening.

2004_09_food_veratong.jpgJeff Moon and Jason Rivera of Steak Frites seemed to be having a fantastic time mixing and mingling with the crowd while passing out their yellowtail tuna tartlet. "Events like this are great because you can get immediate feedback from the customers, which you don't get ordinarily," noted Moon. Pastry chef Vera Tong of SushiSamba said she "was thinking of Autumn, and what I wanted to prepare" when she created her pumpkin mousse layered with spice cake and a pomegranate reduction. And it was -- a delicate, creamy taste of Autumn with the warmth of cinnamon and cloves.

As the evening wound down and tables began finish dishing out their creations, the chefs were able to unwind with some beer from Brooklyn and Heartland Breweries. Harvest on the Square made us happy to be part of the Union Square community, and we're already looking forward to next year's event so we can taste fall's bounty at the hands of the neighborhoods best chefs.

Full photo gallery at Sweet Blog o' Mine.