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 »
Smoky cardamom and fiery chilies perfume the air, while brick red curries and fragrant Biryanis lure me in with their spicy warmth. A laboratory of desserts with wondrous incarnations of milk and sugar are dizzyingly enticing, and aromatic cups of chai ground me with a sense of place. This is India – and she’s still on my mind.
Throughout our journey, I found new and unexpected flavors in dishes that have secured a place in my memory. Dal Makhani, smoky black lentils that simmered for 24 hours until reaching a rich and velvety consistency. A triangular jewel of a dessert made from slivers of pumpkin dyed a psychedelic green and filled with dried fruit and nuts. Emerald Palak Paneer, a mild spinach curry balanced by cubes of light soft cheese and served with crispy papadum cones and golden garlic naans. Golden masala dosas folded over perked up potatoes and paired with black tea for breakfast, and Anarkali sweets molded from cashew nougat, spiked with saffron, and wrapped in edible silver in the late afternoon. more »
On how I felt at home, in Mumbai03.28.14
If you’ve been following me on Instagram @50Bottles you know that I kicked off the year spending six weeks in Mumbai, India and returned to NYC with a baby girl in arms. My husband and I were pregnant via surrogate and traveled halfway around the world to make our dream of a family a reality.
It was my first time in India and I didn’t know what to expect. Friends who had visited had warned me that it was a country filled with extremes, where sprawling high-rises neighbored makeshift slums, cows and elephants sauntered down traffic lanes, and kids played in dirty water. In reality, what got me most weren’t these observations, which seemed matter of fact once I arrived, but its volume, and especially the human density. With about 13 million inhabitants, to say that Mumbai is a congested city is an obvious understatement and makes NYC’s eight million inhabitants seem paltry by comparison. Everywhere you turned, things came in droves: people, cars, animals, buildings. I had stepped into another dimension, a parallel universe that captured the entire spectrum of humanity in one single place. more »
It’s hard to believe that a week ago I was flying home from one of the most exhilarating food journeys of my life. I was at Mistura, the largest culinary festival in Latin America held in the culturally rich and historically fascinating country that is Peru.
This year the festival took place beneath a flurry of white tents in Costa Verde, a stretch of land bordering the Pacific Ocean and the dusty side of a hill that leads to the Magdalena district of Lima. Weaving through the countless stands, markets, and fascinating talks hosted by some of the world’s most celebrated chefs, I was (almost) able to grasp the dizzying diversity of Peru’s cuisine. Of the country’s 700 native dishes, I dove into luscious ceviches and light-as-air tamales from the capital of Lima, but also studied more obscure plates from other regions of the country, like seco de cabrito or stewed goat served with rice and beans and champús, a warming dessert made with soursoup and pineapple.
There was the vibrant and welcoming Gran Mercado, or grand market, with its endless varieties of potatoes (over three thousand in Peru), quinoa grains of every shade and size, olives as plump and briny as Greek kalamatas, Amazonian fruit whose twisty names tripped up my tongue, medicinal herbs, and more keepsakes to tuck away in my trunk of sensory treasures. more »
Last Saturday night, top bloggers from all over Latin America gathered together at La Mar Cebichería in Lima, Peru to celebrate Chowzter’s annual Latin American 50 Tastiest Fast Feasts. I had my first Pisco Sour in Lima that night (which was much stronger and sweeter than I had anticipated) and met international food personalities and bloggers from Venezuela, Chile, Brazil, Colombia, Mexico, Argentina, and London. The night was chilly and drizzly, but inside the restaurant was as warm as the pisco in my belly. Imagine being in the company of a room full of kindred spirits – everywhere I turned to, people spoke in the universal language of food. We washed down classic Peruvian dishes like ceviche, tiradito, and papa a la huancaína with pisco sours and white wine. I thought to myself, it can’t get any better than this, until my name was called to speak about a Dominican dish that was chosen as a runner up.
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.
All this adrenaline made me hungry. Fortunately, the food in Jaco was consistently fresh and delicious, premium grade fuel for body and soul.
Every morning around seven, I would leave my room to be greeted by majestic waves rumbling beneath our balcony. I would cut up some fruit – whether papaya, watermelon, mangoes, plums, or a native fruit called guaba – to find they were always ripe with sweetness and juice. We had purchased the brightest ones at a dusty fruit stand by the side of the road on our way to Jaco, where we picked up pipa fria, cold young coconut, to sip on our way to the beach. For breakfast, I would crack some eggs, mesmerized by their plump orange yolks, and fry them into omelettes to create a hearty egg sandwich or serve them with mashed plantain, fresh local cheese, and avocados. A rich cup of Costa Rican coffee with its smooth notes of nuts and fruit would end our feast.
I’m not an adrenaline junkie. Except for one crazy experience at 18 that involved hanging upside down over the Atlantic Ocean from a Hammer ride in Santo Domingo, I generally get a kick out of the swirling teapots at Disney World.
But suddenly there I was, in my 30s and having left a cushy corporate job, carrying a surf board into the wave factory that is Jaco Beach, a Costa Rican surf town located on the Pacific coast and a straight 1 ½ hour shoot west of San Jose. Though it’s close to noon and the sun beats down on my face and arms, the water is surprisingly cool. I strap on my leash and start piercing the incoming waves with the front of my board until the water reaches my chest. At this point, I jump on the board and start to paddle.
A Chance to Savor Dallas04.17.12
Last month, I had the chance to visit Dallas for the first time to attend Savor Dallas, the city’s food and wine festival. Not only did I witness southern hospitality at its finest, but I had a chance to meet a ton of wonderful people and taste a lot of yummy food, including sublime beignets, whiskey cake, Thai ceviche, and rustic taquitos.
Want to see what’s happening in the Dallas food world? Take a look at the new video! more »