FoodLocalNews

Crafted with grit and care
Confeccionado con cuidado

Crafted with grit and care

Story and photos by Mónica Barnkow


The Jumbo Shrimp and Grits.
The Jumbo Shrimp and Grits.

He started making breakfast at age 4.

By the time he was eight, he was baking, and he was stir-frying at 11.

Today, the culinary prodigy is the chef and co-owner of BLVD Bistro, a charming, family-run restaurant at the corner of Malcolm X Boulevard and 122nd Street in Harlem.

Born in Natchez, Mississippi, Carlos Swepson always knew his passion was food. He honed his culinary skills by watching Julia Child and Jacques Pepin’s television shows.

But his first and central inspiration was his grandmother, Mamie, who worked as a maid for a white family in Mississippi.

For his own college-educated African-American parents, Swepson’s career choice wasn’t what they expected.

The restaurant is located at the corner of Lenox Avenue and 122nd Street.
The restaurant is located at the corner of Lenox Avenue and 122nd Street.

“They were looking for their children to do better than they did, and you do that through education,” said Swepson, noting that as a child, the profession was not seen as one worthy of serious aspiration. There was no Food Network or celebrity chefs then.

But he persevered – sticking close to what was an undeniable passion.

After graduating from culinary school and working in the restaurant business for over 20 years, his dreams of having his own restaurant came true in March 2014.

“It has always been the goal,” said Carlos’ sister, Joi Swepson, whose role at BLVD Bistro is to oversee marketing and business development. “His dream was to share the food he grew up with.”

The restaurant offers continental American food with a Southern influence. The chef single-handedly created the menu, which features traditional soul food dishes rendered with an elegant touch.

“I found my second home,” says manager Ruth Pagan.
“I found my second home,” says manager Ruth Pagan.

“I like to call it ‘crafted American food,’” said Swepson, stressing that soul food should be recognized as part of the American culinary canon.

Swepson chose the Harlem location because he wanted to find a natural home for his menu, and sought to create an environment within which his culinary choices would most likely find discerning patrons.

“He wanted to focus on a neighborhood that could appreciate this kind of food,” said Joi. “It is a beautiful neighborhood.”

The restaurant offers both indoor and outdoor seating and is outfitted with colorful, dramatic artwork and warm, intimate lighting.

Among the popular main courses are the Seven Cheese Macaroni, topped with apple-smoked bacon; the Fried Chicken Sliders on buttermilk biscuits; and the Jumbo Shrimp and Grits, a decadent combination of pan-seared shrimp, cheddar buttery grits, topped with jalapeño and bacon bits.

Even the side dishes receive lavish attention.

“The collard greens are phenomenal,” said the chef, with no discernible need for modesty. “You literally get chunks of smoked turkey.”

The restaurant is located at the corner of Lenox Avenue and 122nd Street.
The restaurant is located at the corner of Lenox Avenue and 122nd Street.

Desserts include cheesecake with whipped cream and berries, banana bread pudding with bourbon-pecan ice cream and Mamie’s German Chocolate Cake, named after two influential people in the chef’s life: his grandmother and his mother.

At the bar, BLVD Bistro offers wines and beers, including Sugar Hill and Coney Island Overpass IPA, brews from Harlem and Brooklyn, respectively.

The ingredients for the dishes are chosen with great care and are locally sourced.

“What makes this place different is that is very ingredient-driven,” said Joi. “We take the time to source them from places where we know they are going to be high-quality.”

This is where the tea is always sweet.
This is where the tea is always sweet.

The eatery employs about a dozen people. Among them is seasoned restaurant manager, Ruth Pagan, who lives in Chelsea. From the moment she set foot in the restaurant, she fell in love and soon was hired as general manager.

“I found my second home,” she said.

Harlem resident Jared Brewer said the restaurant ranked high on his list.

“I like the feel of the place. It is a quiet little establishment,” said Brewer, after enjoying a succulent turkey meatloaf. “The service is wonderful.”

 

BLVD Bistro

239 Lenox Avenue (at 122nd Street)

New York, NY 10027

212.678.6200

www.boulevardbistro.com

BLVD Bistro is open Tuesdays through Sundays, and serves lunch, dinner and brunch on weekends.

Confeccionado con cuidado

Historia y fotos Mónica Barnkow


 

“I like the feel of the place,” said patron Jared Brewer
“Me gusta el sentimiento del lugar”, dijo el cliente Jared Brewer.

El comenzó a hacer desayunos a la edad de 4 años.

Para cuando tenía ocho, estaba horneando, y friendo a los 11.

Hoy, el prodigio culinario es el chef y copropietario de BLVD Bistro, un encantador restaurante manejado por la familia en la esquina del Boulevard Malcolm X y la Calle 122 en Harlem.

Nació en Natchez, Mississippi, Carlos Swepson siempre supo que su pasión era la comida. Perfeccionó sus habilidades culinarias mirando a Julia Child y Jacques Pepin en programas de televisión.

Pero su primera y central inspiración lo fue su abuela, Mamie, quien trabajó como empleada doméstica para una familia blanca en Mississippi.

Para sus padres afro americanos educados en universidad, su elección de carrera no era lo que ellos esperaban.

“Estaban buscando que sus hijos hicieran mejor de lo que ellos hicieron, y hacer eso a través de la educación”, dijo Swepson, señalando que cuando niño, la profesión no se veía como una aspiración seria. Entonces no existía el Food Network o celebres chefs.

Pero el perseveró – quedándose cerca de lo que era su pasión.

Luego de graduarse de la escuela culinaria y trabajar en el negocio de restaurantes por más de 20 años, sus sueños de tener su propio restaurante se hicieron realidad en marzo del 2014.

Colorful and intimate.
Colorido e íntimo.

“Siempre ha sido la meta”, dijo la hermana de Carlos, Joi Swepson, cuyo papel en BLVD Bistro es el supervisar mercadeo y desarrollo comercial. “Su sueño era compartir la comida con la cual creció”.

El restaurante ofrece comida continental americana con una influencia sureña. El chef solo creó el menú, el cual ofrece platos tradicionales con un toque de elegancia.

“Me gusta llamarlo ‘elaborada comida americana’”, dijo Swepson, subrayando que la comida ‘soul’ debería de ser reconocida como parte del canon culinario americano.

Swepson escogió la ubicación en Harlem porque deseaba encontrar un hogar natural para su menú, y buscó crear un ambiente donde sus elecciones culinarias se encontrarían con la mayor cantidad de clientes exigentes.

“Deseaba enfocarse en un vecindario que pudiera apreciar esta clase de comida”, dijo Joi. “Es un vecindario precioso”.

El restaurante ofrece acomodo tanto dentro como afuera y está equipado con coloridos y dramáticos trabajos de arte, cálida e íntima iluminación.

The greens are prepared with smoked turkey.
Las ensaladas son preparadas con pavo ahumado.

Entre los platos principales más populares está los Macarrones con Siete Quesos, con tocineta ahumada; el Pollo Frito en Biscuits de mantequilla; y los Camarones Jumbo y maíz molino, una combinación de camarones empanados, maíz molido con queso, jalapeños y trocitos de tocineta.

Aun los acompañantes reciben mucha atención.

“Las ensaladas son fenomenales”, dijo el chef, sin necesidad de modestia. “Literalmente tienes pedazos de pavo ahumado”.

Los postres incluyen ‘cheesecake’ con crema batida y bayas, budín de guineo con helado de ‘bourbon-pecan’ y el Bizcocho de Chocolate Alemán Mamie, nombrado luego de dos personas importantes en la vida del chef: su abuela y su madre.

En la barra, BLVD Bistro ofrece vinos y cervezas, incluyendo Sugar Hill y Coney Island Overpass IPA, marcas de Harlem y Brooklyn respectivamente.

Los ingredientes para los platos son escogidos con gran cuidado y localmente.

“Lo que hace de este lugar diferente es que es bien guiado por los ingredientes”, dijo Joi. “Nos tomamos el tiempo de traerlos de lugares donde sabemos van a ser de alta calidad”.

Original artwork.El lugar emplea cerca de una docena de personas. Entre ellos la gerente del restaurante, Ruth Pagan, quien vive en Chelsea. Desde que puso un pie en el restaurante, se enamoró y pronto fue contratada como gerente general.

“Encontré mi segundo hogar”, dijo ella.

Jared Brewer, residente de Harlem dijo que el restaurante está clasificado alto en su lista.

“Me gusta el sentimiento del lugar. Es un pequeño y callado establecimiento”, dijo Brewer luego de disfrutar un suculento pavo. “El servicio es maravilloso”.

 

BLVD Bistro

239 Avenida Lenox (Calle 122)

New York, NY 10027

212.678.6200

www.boulevardbistro.com

Related Articles

Back to top button

Adblock Detected

Please consider supporting us by disabling your ad blocker