On a spur of the moment trip last week, we flew west. We spent a couple of days in Hermosa Beach, an endless stretch of beach in the South Bay of Los Angeles flanked by swanky Manhattan Beach on one side and chilled out Redondo Beach on the other. By 7 a.m., this beach town paradise would greet me wide-eyed and bushy-tailed with friendly beach volleyball games already underway. A continuous parade of runners, bikers, and skaters rocked the sandy trail known as The Strand, with miles of pristine sand and a dark blue ocean to urge them on.
What started out as a girls’ trip to the Caribbean ended up being an excellent opportunity to check out the food scene in the eastern coastal town of Fajardo, Puerto Rico. We sailed a catamaran and snorkeled in clear blue water, spotted a baby lemon shark swimming on the shore, and fell asleep to the lullaby of the native coqui frog. However, we also tasted Puerto Rican mofongo and alcapurrias, and talked to Brooklyn transplants Chef Kevin Roth and his wife Idalia about their five-year-old Nuyorican restaurant La Estacion. Stay tuned for my upcoming story in The Latin Kitchen about how this couple is turning Puerto Rican food on its head. In the meantime, these are some outtakes from the trip.
The Miami food scene is changing fast, and I witnessed it this past weekend with an unforgettable meal at Yardbird, chef Jeff McInnis’ ode to Southern cooking.
Since supper reservations were pretty impossible to get, we ended up going for a late Friday lunch. The restaurant was friendly and warm – picture a BBQ joint in a Brooklyn loft – with a high exposed ceiling and industrial light fixtures. Chalk art lined the wall above the open-style kitchen, the place where all the magic happened.
We settled into a great table by the window and ordered cocktails. With their extensive Bourbon list, I decided to try one of their signature drinks, the Blackberry Bourbon Lemonade. Made with bourbon, lemon juice, blackberries, cardamom, and sparkling wine, it was slightly sweet and refreshing, and transported me to summer in South Carolina. It turned out to be an ideal compliment to all of the dishes we ordered. The restaurant recommended that we order family-style, and that’s exactly what we did. more »
A Nuyorican at Better Being05.16.13
Whenever you fantasize about comida casera, now you can get the flavors of Puerto Rico in a killer sandwich at Better Being 940, the newest midtown outpost from the creative force behind downtown’s Better Being Underground.
The sunny spot, which opened November 2012, is energizing the area’s food scene with its colorful market-driven menu, funky art, and downtown vibe. But the real headliner, to this Latinfoodie at least, is The Nuyorican, inspired by the Puerto Rican flavors of the Lower East Side and one of the restaurant’s most addictive sandwiches. more »
When I was a little girl, my parents would take us out to eat pizza, usually after school functions, to celebrate birthdays or early Sunday nights. We would go to Pizzarelli, the quintessential Dominican pizzeria, or Pala Pizza, another chain run by Italian family friends. All the pies were wonderful, sweet and tangy, perked up with enough extra local oregano and albahaca needed to satisfy the Dominican palate. The taste and smell of these Dominican pizzas has been forever embedded in my senses, yet it was the way they were created that gave me the most pleasure. I would watch the pizza maker pull and stretch the dough until it was pliable enough to toss in the air, and wouldn’t take my eyes off the flying disk. For a 7-year-old, the process was hypnotic and as cool as the most dazzling magic trick.
I give you this background because walking home today, my memories of pizza pie were stirred up like the particles inside a snow globe. I discovered a new pizza joint in my neighborhood. Even though there is tough competition–a few blocks away pizza is sold by the slice for 99 cents–this place is unique. Capizzi Pizzeria is warm and inviting, with wooden tables, a vintage fridge, and assorted knickknacks on the walls. The restaurant specializes in Sicilian-style pies and features four kinds on the menu plus a list of toppings that includes caramelized onions, sausage, roasted peppers and garlic. Joe, the owner, is a friendly guy, and according to one of the servers, opened the restaurant in honor of his Grandmother. I wanted to stay, but in my haste to finally make it home after a long, strange week, I waited for my pie at one of the tables while I sipped some water. I looked at the chef preparing my pie, happily flinging the dough high into the air and dressing it with the San Marzano tomatoes and parmeggiano before sticking it into the brick oven. Even though I couldn’t hear him, I could swear that he was whistling.
I raced home, hugging the pizza box, in order to keep the pie warm on this nippy night. I bolted through the door and laid the box on the kitchen table. After settling in, I picked up a slice and carried it with me to the couch. With the first bite vibrant red tomatoes popped on my tongue. The cheese was sparse, yet full of flavor. The dough was light and fluffy. As I polished 1, 2, 3, 4 slices, the flavors reminded me of a bowl of spaguetti. It tasted like something Grandma would have made–it was sweet, bright and made with love.
The Culinary Institute of America held a seminar about Latin American food called “Latin Flavors, American Kitchens” in its San Antonio campus, with guest chefs including Rick Bayless and Maricel Presilla, two established chefs and ambassadors to Latin American cuisine in the U.S. More and more, Latin American food appears to be influencing restaurant menus throughout the country. Check out the latest newcomer to the Nuevo-Latino food scene in NYC, Nuela. Also, eaters are moving away from fine dining to more casual establishments, which has given opportunities for more Latin American restaurants to break through the market. That is some excellent news, can’t wait to see what the next knock out will be!
Read more about what happened at CIA here.
an ode to color09.14.10
I promised many things this summer: paletas, cookbook reviews, culinary finds in the city, and even though I haven’t written about them, it doesn’t mean they haven’t been on my mind. The past three months proved to be exhilarating and exhausting. I worked on my thesis for graduate school, which, by the way, ended up being a story about a Dominican restaurant in my neighborhood. It’s called Lali and they serve a mean rice and beans and chicken stew, just like back home. They also have awesome empanadas, tropical juices like chinola and morir soñando, and funny characters (like a sword-swallowing belly-dancer, a Hawaiian performing artist, “Grandpa”). The owners, Lali and Les, were very gracious with letting me hang out in the restaurant all the time, talking to their customers, eating there, taking photos. They made me feel at home.
Now that my project is finished, I miss those hectic days that wouldn’t end until midnight. I would get home full of stories to share, inspired by the strong people that inhabit this city. More than ever, I feel humbled and proud to make NYC home. It’s a generous city that continues to amaze me every single day.
So friends, in honor of home and to kick start the new season (hopefully it will be an especially fruitful one), here are some images capturing the last days of summer.