I came, I saw, I ate

For an introvert who spends almost an hour riding crowded subways every morning and then again every evening, has a job that entails answering emails, calls and in-person questions/requests/demands all day, works out at a gym where people hover around treadmills like sharks in the water, and who in the entirety of her life thus far has only ever lived by herself for six months, going on vacation alone is a deliciously selfish  indulgence.

Sure, I love traveling with my boyfriend, select friends, and for short periods of time even my sister, but let me tell you, my favorite travel companion is ME.

Traveling alone means I wake up when I want to, go only where I want to, spend as much time in museum gift shops as I want to, and best of all, eat whenever, wherever and most importantly, whatever I want to.

Last month, in a move that was part anniversary trip (ten years since I left a two year stint in Italy for NY) and part desperate need for at least a temporary change of scenery/weather/daily routine, I went to Puglia, the part of Italy known as the heel of the boot. It was one of the best trips I’ve ever taken, in large part because of all the great things I ate… alone.

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All the company I needed. 

In Polignano a Mare, a beautiful little town perched up on the cliffs overlooking the Adriatic, I had one of the best meals of the trip, one that I’m pretty sure would have sent my boyfriend head first into the ocean had he been there with me.

The fried octopus sandwich at Pescaria had been recommended to me before I left but when I showed my boyfriend photos of it, he recoiled in disgust. He’s what I call a closeted picky eater (because he vehemently denies being one) and specifically refuses to eat octopus. (Something about the little suckers.) I, of course, couldn’t wait and went my first night in town, and then just because I could and had no one to even suggest otherwise, I went again the next day for lunch.

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It was huge, this octopus sandwich, with a thick smear of creamy ricotta, peppery turnip greens cooked in garlic and olive oil, fig compote, a drizzle of anchovy oil and several large, fat, fried octopus tentacles (suckers fully visible) bulging out from underneath a large, bumpy topped roll that resembled a turtle shell. I held it with two hands, my fingers spread wide to get a good grip, and with every bite, something delicious toppled out or smeared on my face.

With no one there to interrupt me with conversation, look at me funny because I had ricotta on my chin or a stray crumb in my hair, or judgily ask me if I was actually going to finish all that (the answer is always yes, ok?) I was able to happily wolf down my sandwich in peace.

Sure, there were times on this trip when I wished someone had been there with me to share a particular moment, but eating that fried octopus sandwich—both of them I should say— was not one of them. That meal required my undivided attention and I was all too happy to provide it.

The land of Milk and Honey… soft serve

I grew up going to church as a kid, pretty much up until I moved out and went to college, so I’ve read a decent amount of the Bible over the years.

Of all the things to take away from the Good Book, it was one repeated mention that always struck me: milk and honey. It seemed someone was always being delivered from oppression and being promised a land of milk and honey. Streets would flow with milk and honey. If you were good, you could have eternal salvation… and all you can drink milk and honey.

The combo always confused me. Was milk and honey a thing? I was more of a chocolate milk girl myself. Wouldn’t that be weird, to live somewhere flowing with milk and honey? I mean, are we talking waterfalls? Rivers? Could there be floods if there were too much milk and honey?

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Cue the trumpet-playing angels!

Well, let me tell you, dear reader, I’ve come to spread the good word: I FINALLY GET IT. After having the milk and honey soft serve at Made Nice, I can now fully imagine what kind of idyllic paradise would be flowing with the stuff.

The milk flavored soft serve at Made Nice is rich and creamy, like a cold glass of whole milk, and not extra-sweetened like a vanilla soft serve might be. And really the subtlety here is in support of letting the toppings shine because along with adding lots of interesting, fun textures, they’re what make this a delicious godsend. Honey brittle and shortbread add a crunchy, crumbly richness while the milk meringue plays up the cream flavor with a crispy edge, and the buckwheat honey and sprinkle of sea salt round everything out and give it an earthy, flavorful depth.

Everyone imagines heaven differently, but it’s safe to say in my version, there’s definitely an endless supply of these milk and honey soft serve sundaes. Calorie free, obviously.

Limited time only collab? Fine, I’ll get in line

Every time I find myself waiting in some absurdly long line for something—which in NY is often since we’re always queuing up for a pastry or an art gallery or even Metro cards— I swear it’s the last time I’m gonna do it.

And then I go and read about a limited time only special collaboration Dominque Ansel breakfast sandwich at Shake Shake in the West Village and I think, “OK FINE. One more time. And then that’s it!”

Just a couple of days ago I read about the special edition egg katsu sando being sold only Friday and Saturday and until supplies lasted each day.  I knew there was no way I’d make it there on Saturday morning so I made a detour on my way to work instead.

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Home with a croqueta preparada

I have yet to hear a compelling enough argument to make me want to move back to Miami, (especially when I keep reading headlines about the city facing serious climate-related issues and one day sinking into the ocean) but let me tell you, Cuban food always gets the closest.

Cuban is pretty much the unofficial cuisine of Miami and as I’ve said several times here before, I miss it all the time. For as many and as varied as the food options are in New York, there just don’t seem to be that many Cuban ones so I’m often left wishing I had what’s so easy to get in Miami.

But after moving to Crown Heights last fall I’m now just a couple of stops away from a Cuban spot I had been meaning to try for some time, Pilar, the Bed-Stuy restaurant named after the Brooklyn-built boat Ernest Hemingway had in Cuba. (Is that not a great name and explanation?)

The restaurant is cute and laid back, with a mellow vibe and just enough cool factor to remind you that you’re still in Brooklyn, but not so much that you wish you’d worn something different (’cause that’s a thing, for me anyway). The menu hits all the classics: cafe con leche, maduros, Cubanos (as in the eponymous sandwich), ropa vieja and vaca frita to name a few, but I knew what I was getting the second my eyes landed on it, the croqueta preparada.

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It’s a slightly ridiculous thing really: ham, roast pork, Swiss cheese, pickles and my favorite part, croquetas de jamon (ham croquettes), all smeared with mustard and sandwiched between two pieces of Cuban bread, toasted and pressed together to make one tight, dense, absolutely delicious meal.

Pilar’s croqueta preparada was great, getting the combination of different flavors and textures just right: the crunchy buttery bread, bright, tangy pickles, the spicy bite of mustard, gooey, melted cheese, juicy ham and tender roast pork, and then the soft, breaded (’cause it’s the weekend so I say, yes carbs on carbs!) ham croquetas to round everything off.

I’m not exactly ready to move back to Miami after eating at Pilar, but that croqueta preparada was definitely to make me want to check out flights for a potential weekend there in the near future. And as my mom can attest, it’s not just anything that makes me want to do that.

The greatest guavas

We were meandering through the Mercado de Coyoacan, the large market in the Coyoacan neighborhood of Mexico City, strolling through rows of stalls filled with all manner of colorful tchotchkes, home goods and clothing, trying to make our way to the heart of the market where the food was. Along the way, we passed tubs piled high with candy and dried fruit, butchers at refrigerated cases, lunch counters selling tostadas and quesadillas prepared on the spot, and wandering singers and musicians serenading the lunchtime crowd.

In that blur of near-sensory overload, between the colors, sights, sounds and smells, I spotted something out of the corner of my eye as we passed a produce vendor: guavas!

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If you could only smell these beauties!

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Wish I was eating pastries instead

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Oh hello, paradise.

In an effort to both clean up my eating while I train for a couple of upcoming half marathons, and maybe-possibly-fingers-crossed-would-love-it-if-I-could-but-not-a-top-priority lose a few extra pounds I’ve been carrying around since the holidays, I’ve been trying intermittent fasting.

Basically, after dinner each night, I don’t eat again until lunch the next day. It’s supposed to have all sorts of positive effects on your body and brain, boosting cells and helping facilitate weight loss. Oh, and it sucks. No really, it’s the worst.

I’m on week 2 of this new eating pattern and if I’m being honest, some days are borderline torturous for me. Today, as I went through my photos from Mexico City for the billionth time, trying to decide what to write about next, I was flooded with warm and fuzzy memories from breakfast at Panaderia Rosetta and I cursed intermittent fasting. Continue reading

Delicious destination: Mexico City

IMG_1435When I convinced my friend Daphne to come with me to Mexico City for a long weekend, I had no doubt in my mind we’d have a great time.

I’d been to Mexico before, back what feels like three lifetimes ago in 2011, but to the Quintana Roo region known for its beach towns along the Carribean.

This time, however, I swapped the shorts and bathing suits for gym leggings and forgiving jeans with a lot of stretch because my plan to explore Mexico’s capital involved doing so mostly through as much of its delicious food as we could get through in the few days we were there.

Let me first say that three and a half days is barely enough time to put a dent in the neighborhood we stayed in, Roma, much less the whole city. But if you get the chance to visit Mexico City, be it for three days or three weeks, take it. GO. Eat everything.

From the tacos and tostadas to the pastries and sweets, the fruit and even the convenience store snacks, everything we ate was delicious (and so cheap!), but it was the first meal we had, molcajete at the Mercado Roma, that really set the tone for the rest of our trip: awesome.

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Made from porous volcanic rock, a molcajete is the Mexican version of a mortar, and the one we ordered was filled with wedges of grilled queso blanco, an assortment of meats— pork, steak, chorizo, nopales (cactus), charred peppers and onions, all served with a stack of warm tortillas. Like me, our molcajete was shaped like a little pig.

IMG_1433Assembly was DIY and deliciously simple: grab a floppy tortilla, plop down a bit of meat and maybe a little something else, an onion or a pepper, drizzle some salsa on it, give the whole thing a squeeze of lime, and enjoy. Almost every table we sat at had the same selection of condiments: a bowl of lime wedges and a few salsas and hot sauces for flavor tweaking and adjusting, and they never went unused. Our molcajete was delicious on its own, everything juicy and tender with a subtle char from the grill, but a little lime juice and hot sauce added just the perfect, zesty finishing touches.

A little sloppy but worth every bit of saucy, juicy mess, I couldn’t have planned for a better first meal in the city. And if you check back in over the next few days, I’ll tell you about some of the other great things we ate, which I’ll probably still be daydreaming about for months to come.