I had stalked Amada for months. After all, croquetas, tortilla, and jamón serrano were a special part of my own food history, regular party fare for many a celebration back home in the D.R. They would round out a festive spread laid out for baptisms, quinceañera parties and weddings. Nostalgia aside, I saw the restaurant as a welcome addition to the Mexican, Southern, and Italian family-friendly havens in Battery Park City in NYC, the neighborhood I currently call my own.
It was around six thirty when G and I walked into Amada on our way to catch a movie. Amada, which means beloved in Spanish, is part of the Think Food Group, a collection of over 15 properties owned by José Andrés, the renowned Spanish-American chef who has been dominating the DC food scene for over 10 years. This is the third U.S. location of Amada and his first foray into the NYC restaurant scene as he warms up to open a New York concept restaurant this summer. more »
#FocusFridays: On Process05.20.16
As my first #30DaysofFocus week comes to a close, here are some major reflections.
Writing, which has been my focus tool, is very much like running (as Murakami suggested in his awesome memoir). It’s a question of sitting your butt down (lacing up those sneakers), and getting into the mind frame to move forward on your decision (do it until your goal time is up, whatever that is). At the beginning of the week, I blocked off two hours for writing each day. Some days it went on a little longer, other days a bit shorter, but every day was somewhat productive. This is something you already probably know, but blocking off your calendar really works.
It felt very liberating to know that I could write about anything that was on my mind or happening in my life at any particular moment. It didn’t have to necessarily be about food. Throughout the last seven years, I’ve always felt like if I wanted to blog about something, it had to be food-related. It is and continues to be a major passion and source of inspiration, but I realized how good it feels to be flexible, especially when it comes to writing. Getting out of your comfort zone is often the best place to find inspiration. more »
Just like a family recipe or a special perfume, a drink can take you to a place in time. For me, it’s the classic Margarita. The bright, zesty cocktail will always remind me of spring in upstate New York. It’ll bring back the Shawangunk Mountains jagged in the distance, and the clean invigorating air. The bright green pastures that pop neon to my city-stained eyes, the gentle sound of the creek nearby. Of the laughter and the good times, of the new friends and the old that always seem to get together around this time of year. To me, it’ll always remind me of my dear New York family.
To help you celebrate the power of friendship this weekend, here’s a #TBT recipe and video. Special thanks to my favorite Margarita-maker Cindy (and excuse the vertical shot) Cheers!
Simple Margarita Recipe
3 shots Tequila
1 shot Cointreau (orange liquor)
1 shot Rose’s Lime Juice
½ fresh lime
1 shot St. Germain (elderflower liquor)
Mix all ingredients in cocktail shaker and pour into salt-rimmed ice-filled glasses
Cuba on My Mind05.18.16
The lights dimmed, the curtains parted. Six sinewy bodies crouched on stage carved by light, and glided towards what appeared to be small blue islands. They slid like honey across the floor, putting on fragments of ruffles – white skirts, arm bands, headdresses – ready to become somebody else.
DanzAbierta, a contemporary dance contemporary, debuting at the Joyce Theatre for its Cuba Festival, tells the story of a country at the crux of rapid transformation. During a short but heart-racing performance last night, they tore vigorously through the stage with raw, vibrant soul, and took my breath away. more »
A Reflection on Love05.17.16
G and I met almost 16 years ago in Miami, Florida. We were two fresh-faced, starry eyed kids who fell in love at happy hour over Tuesdays with Morrie and tequila shots (kidding). How did I know he was “the one”? I didn’t. I was pretty non-committal back (and still am, according to him), but as soon as we met, I felt like we had met before. There was an instant familiarity, like when you see an old friend you haven’t seen and you pick up right where you left off. And we fell in love, hard. I never knew this kind of romance existed. I had gorged on my fair share of chick flicks and dated leisurely until then, but I was pretty cynical about the whole thing during these quaint pre-Tinder days.
G loved love and celebrated it like no one I had ever met. He did outrageous things during our courtship, delivering a singing cow birthday telegram one time; surprising me as Santa on Christmas day with an enormous gift box holding a beret and plane tickets to Paris; escorting me blindfolded through the park for a picnic breakfast. I mean, we got engaged on a deserted beach in the Cayman Islands, for heaven’s sake!
Fast forward 13 years and here we are with our little family. Watching our most precious gift, the daughter that we fought so hard for, grow and thrive every day. Preparing for the future, worrying about our parents, and planning adventures. Every week or two, we have our treasured date nights where we try to go back to the time before we were parents. When we would hop on a plane at the drop of a hat or go clubbing until the wee hours of the morning. Now our outings are a bit more subdued and usually include dinner and music, but during those few hours it’s just us two again and the pressures of life seem to float away.
Today, I celebrate my G and give thanks for teaching me how to love love. Hoping I can make you proud.
If there’s been one thing I’ve always struggled with, it’s Focus. Or lack thereof. It’s my Achilles’ heel that appears Every. Single. Day. It sneaks its sly little head in while I’m playing with my daughter, offering to mold unicorns out of play dough one minute and making paper masks the next. It plagues me as I research the internet, making me forget what I was looking for in the first place: was it a slow cooker or new baby sneakers? Then, it sucks me into another rabbit hole, one filled with luscious images of interior design blogs.
I’ve always been an avid multi-tasker (yes, one of those people with ten tabs open on her browser!), but motherhood has aggravated my secret ADD ways. Although they do come in handy when you’re trying to balance a creative life and parenthood, and become especially useful when you have to get a toddler out of the house. However, my multitasking efforts often come with a price, Focus. Right now, I’m desperately seeking it in hopes that it’ll make me a better writer, a better mom, a better partner, and a better human overall.
Habichuelas con dulce was the dish that had my heart when I left home almost two decades ago. And then I found it — or rather it found me. Right smack in the middle of Washington Heights, from a street vendor who sold it in plastic containers for a dollar. It was an honest way to flee the hardness of the city, if only for a few spoonfuls, and travel to a place where breezes blew salty and flowers shone bright. Right around the beginning of Lent this year, I thought of it again. My Dominican tribe was ready to indulge and secretly fulfill my wish.
Within the tribe was Argentina Diaz, a self-taught cook who began tinkering with the stove by the time she was eight years old. Born in Santiago, Dominican Republic in the late 1950s, she was part of the Dominican exodus who left the island and made its way to New York City after Trujillo’s dictatorship fell in the early 1960s. Her mother ran restaurants in Queens and she learned the secrets of Caribbean creole cooking early on. Today, after a life-long career in finance and still in her 50s, she’s retired and living in a light-filled two-bedroom apartment she shares with a roommate on the second story of a single family home in Ozone Park, Queens.
We had traveled to the Dominican Republic’s Punta Cana last winter to break away from New York’s cold and gray and connect my daughter with the island of Mamá and Papá, where the air blows salty, the greens and blues amaze, and people treat you like they’ve known you their whole lives. For this trip, we were celebrating my husband’s birthday and getting our family and friends together all under one roof.
We stayed at a gorgeous villa in the Punta Cana Resort and Club where we greeted the day with generous cups of Café Santo Domingo, one of the island’s treasures and one of my favorite things on earth, on the poolside terrace and then fueled up with a royal breakfast spread of fresh fruit, eggs, toast, plantains, and batatas (sweet potatoes). Mornings went usually like this: We drove the golf cart to nearby Playa Serena which was an accurately named secluded spot with cool turquoise waters, sand as fine as flour, and a breezy beach front restaurant called The Grill perfect to grab a beer and snack after a dip in the ocean or some golf. more »