Take a Journey Through Washington Heights History Via Dinner at the Rusty Mackerel


There are many communities in uptown Manhattan that are still food insecure, and that became the impetus for the Insurgo Project, an organization that brings together restaurants, farms, chefs, and neighborhood restaurants to nurture the farm-to-table movement in low income communities and to try to find sustainable ways to change eating habits while stimulating the local economy.

Last night, the collective hosted a dinner at Washington Heights’ Rusty Mackerel (209 Pinehurst Avenue, 212-928-4888), and Insurgo’s founder and CEO, chef Harold Villarosa, teamed up with the restaurant’s chef James ‘Mac’ Moran to turn out seven courses that traced the history of the neighborhood’s culinary traditions.

The feast moved through tributes to different populations that have had an impact on the area, honoring the Chinese, for example, via a lap cheong- and black rice-stuffed chicken wing, and the eastern Europeans via vodka-poached halibut with pickled beets and beet dashi. It finished with a wild nettle sorbet, for which the nettles were foraged from Fort Tryon Park. Each chef also presented his vision of dining in Washington Heights; Moran’s version pitted local striped bass against fire roasted cabbage — and the plate was served over dry ice — while Villarosa matched flank steak to crispy sweetbreads, lingonberry sauce, and nori.

As integral to the event as the food was a mixer aspect, which encouraged neighbors to meet each other: Dates were seated at separate tables from one another so that each person shared his or her meal with three strangers.

The Insurgo Project plans to host more dinners like this one as well as several other events (a wine mixer was pouring at a nearby shop simultaneously, for instance) to, as chef Villarosa put it, continue to elevate the food uptown.