Since 2007, Jacqueline Orange has been the founder, owner and operator of Taste Harlem, introducing visitors and New Yorkers alike to the culinary delights, lively art scene and rich history and architecture of Harlem. A major bank merger in 2005 took Orange away from corporate life and inspired her to step away from a desk job and pursue a dream of owning and operating her own tour company. On an early visit to New York, this Chicago native had discovered Harlem and fell in love with the diversity and vibrant energy of the neighborhood. “With the creation of Taste Harlem, I felt as if I’ve been able to incorporate all my past business experience into researching the latest happenings in Harlem. I am spending time with people, sharing something I love- great food, inspiring music art, and a living history.”
On a beautifully sunny Saturday morning (10AM) our group of 6 met at Sylvia’s Restaurant on 126th Street & Lenox Ave. Sylvia Woods, the “Queen of Soul Food,” founded the restaurant in 1962. Her 4 children now operate the family-owned businesses after her passing in 2012. Besides the restaurant and catering hall there is a nationwide line of Sylvia’s food products and two cookbooks.
This was a walking tour. Private tours have the option to tour by bus or trolley with artists, historians, architects and actors as tour guides at Taste Harlem Tours. In addition to the food stops we stopped by The Sol Studio, a local art gallery, where they were setting up a new art exhibit and a privately owned brownstone with a beautiful garden and art collection. We were lucky and found Samuel Hargress at his jazz, blues and R&B club- Paris Blues (founded in 1969). Other stops were at Make My Cake Bakery and Serengeti Teas, Coffees & Spices where we were able to sample several of their exotic concoctions.
Back to the food visits Les Ambassades is a Senegalese café and bakery. Tropical Grill Restaurant (no web site) features Caribbean/Spanish food and was jammed when we arrived. The great part about this tour is there is a table waiting for us at every stop. Each restaurant has samples of their specialties and no one leaves the tour hungry. After the first stop I realized I should not have had breakfast. The walking helped me regain my appetite.
There was a short stop at the tiny Lee Lee’s Baked Goods “home of the world’s most outrageously delicious rugelach.” Prior to entering the bakery they mentioned the ingredients that included nuts (I am allergic to all nuts). There was a moment of panic when I mindlessly grabbed it and had eaten part of the rugelach, Luckily I only had a slight allergic reaction.
On the way to our last stop we stopped at the world famous Apollo Theater (Opened on 125th Street in 1934) and were allowed into the lobby to view a montage of celebrities that had performed in this theater. We walked along 125th Street past the Adam Clayton Powell Jr. NY State Office Building.
Our last stop was at Jacob Restaurant– soul food & salad bar. He is a great businessman who closes the restaurant on Thanksgiving so he can give away food all day without any restrictions. After his first 6 months he was able to open open two additional restaurants in Harlem. His thought behind this was “if you give, it will come back to you.”
This was a great tour. Prices range from $65 to $95 per person. Groups of 4 or more are $75 and 12 or more-$65. One could not duplicate the food for this price. Having Jacqueline lead the tour… priceless. For a listing of her other tours go to Taste of Harlem.
About the Author:
Ron Kapon has over 55 years experience in the wine & spirit field, starting with his first drink (mixed with water) at age 3 having written (with help from his father) his first wine list at 12. His family’s business Acker, Merrall & Condit was established in 1820 and is the oldest wine merchant in the United States. He graduated from Columbia College & the Graduate School of Business at Columbia University and moved to Europe where he developed his love for wine. Returning to operate his family’s business he immediately knew his passion was teaching, writing & lecturing and so moved in that direction.
You can read Ron’s articles in Sports Network, The Fifty Best, Cheese Connoisseur Magazine, Wine Country International, Real Travel Adventures, Everywhere Magazine, North American Travel Journalist Association, Travel World Magazine, AllWays Traveller, Local Wine Events, Tasters Guild Journal, Leisure Travel Report and FabSeniorTravel.
He is the co-author and co-producer of the FDU On-Line Wine Course which was developed for the NY Times Knowledge Network.
“You will learn & have fun and have fun as you learn.”