Mini version, massive deliciousness

My mom does this thing that probably only I find irritating: the woman loves to speak in diminutives, which in Spanish, exist for every freaking word. In English, a small table is just that, a small table. In Spanish, it’s una mesita. A small dog? Un perrito. A small house? Una casita. I don’t know why, but it just gets under my skin.

img_7896So when my roommate told me about these things called mofonguitos, the diminutive of the Carribean dish mofongo, I grit my teeth for a second and maybe got a twitch in my eye. When I saw the pictures, however, my only question was when are we having these?

And so we found ourselves at the very tippy top of Manhattan, squeezed into a small table at a no-frills place called Bombonada, while Spanish music blared from the kitchen and we stuffed our faces with one of the most delicious things I’ve ever eaten, handheld versions of the normally plated mofongo.

img_7893Traditionally served as a heap of mashed fried plantain, topped with a stew-like sauce, cheese, rice and a protein of your choice, here the plantain mash was used to make palm-sized cups that were then filled with all manner of tastiness: shrimp, ground beef, pork, chicken, all saucy and juicy, topped with a thick layer of gooey, melted cheese.

At first glance, they kind of look like the potato skins from Friday’s that I so dearly loved as a kid, but these, totally different, were worlds better. We had a few different kinds, (not all photographed because honestly, they just weren’t on the table long enough to get their photos snapped before being devoured) but I think my favorite might have been the ground beef, because it was so rich and hearty, completely over the top and gluttonous.

Yes, the name still kind of grates on my nerves but when something is as ridiculously good as that, I could forgive an annoying name any day.

A burger for these impossible times

Now that the seemingly impossible’s actually happened, I need to take a break from all the doom and gloom and talk about something else for just a minute. Food’s always been a respite for me, and writing a form of therapy and distraction, so indulge me, will you?

Last week, when the world—while troubled and strange— didn’t seem quite as broken as it does now, I got around to eating something I’d been wanting since earlier this summer when it made its New York debut: an Impossible Burger.

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Oh, that flag.

Made by the creative wizards and scientists at Silicon Valley startup Impossible Foods, their burger’s only available at three restaurants in California (two in San Fran and one in LA) and now at  Momofuku Nishi in Chelsea, where I had it.

The crazy thing about this burger, the impossible thing, is that even though it’s made entirely of all natural ingredients and not a single animal, it also looks and tastes like a regular ol’ hamburger made of ground beef. It has the same consistency, the same juiciness when you bite into it, the same reddish-pink inside and the same charring on the outside.

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Would you believe it? Not real meat!

Now, everyone who knows me knows I eat meat and burgers are some of my favorite, but I also love veggie burgers. To me though, they’re two different things. Until now.

Nishi’s burger is served on a soft potato roll and dressed like a pretty standard burger: lettuce, tomato, pickles, a smear of special sauce, and in my case, a slice of American cheese. A heap of crispy shoestring fries comes along next to it.

While I don’t think it’s the best burger out there, I do think it’s the closest thing to a beef burger that I’ve ever tasted in the world of veggie burgers. If I was trying to be vegetarian I would eat these all the time. Even as a meat eater, I’d definitely eat this again.

The fact that it uses way less natural resources like gas, water and land to create it, and also has  none of the crap like antibiotics and hormones that so much of our beef unfortunately has, makes it all the better.

In these impossible times, something enjoyable and less harmful to the world around it sounds pretty freakin’ good to me.

Out with the old and in with the calories

Ok, hear me out. This time I have a good excuse for my latest disappearing act. My dear, sweet computer, my ol’ Italian girl with the keyboard that used to trip everybody up except me, finally gave up the fight and went peacefully in her sleep one night.

We had a good long run together, about 8 years, so I think I need some time alone, no? Blogging on my phone, however, is a nightmare and doing it at work isn’t really an option either at the moment, so there you have it: radio silence.

But don’t you worry, it’s been gluttonous business as usual here. Below, a look at the things I’ve been eating and drinking and just not writing about:

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The phenomenal leek bread pudding from Cassette‘s brunch menu wasn’t what I was expecting (since I didn’t really know what to expect) but it was damn good. Oh and the restaurant, in Greenpoint, is adorable. You should go.

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I hated it the first time I tried it but over the years, the Negroni has become one of my favorites. At Extra Fancy in Williamsburg, they have a frozen one. Clearly, I was in love.

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In all the years I’ve lived in New York so far, I had never been to Carnegie Deli so when I heard that the local institution was closing at the end of the year, I had to go. Not wanting to wait an hour and a half on the sidewalk for a table inside, Stas and I got our order to-go and ate it in the park. The Woody Allen (“lots corned beef and lotsa pastrami”), the most delicious knish I’ve had yet, a fat slice of banana cream pie and a thick wedge of the richest, most dense cheesecake I’ve ever eaten, and the two of us were done for.

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And lastly, a special shout out to the pretzel dog at my favorite bar in my old hood, the Rusty Knot. It’s nothing fancy, just a hot dog in the loving embrace of warm, salty dough, but dammit it fills my heart with all the feels every time. Or maybe that was the drinks. Who knows. It’s all delicious.

It’ll be ok, there’s matzo ball soup

Ever have one of those days that feel like you’re riding the struggle bus and no matter how many times you try to get off, it just seems to be going express, making no local stops as it barrel asses down the road, hitting all the pot holes along the way and giving you the worst car sickness ever, and you just can’t get off? Well I’m having one of those months.

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Even in hot weather, this soup is a bowl full of comfort.

I must’ve looked especially green-in-the-face and in need of a hug the other day because the struggle bus managed to give me a break and dump me outside of Frankel’s Delicatessen and Appetizing, Greenpoint’s newest Jewish deli, where I found exactly what I needed, the edible equivalent of a back rub and a “don’t worry, honey, everything’s gonna be fine.” Matzo ball soup.

The weather that day was muggy and hot (insert shocked face here), it was soup and not ice cream or a cold beer, that did the trick for me. Frankel’s matzo ball soup is the kind of deeply comforting, belly nourishing, spirit warming affair of broth, chicken, carrots, dill and a big, soft carby goodness matzo ball that can make you forget your troubles, even if only momentarily.

As I slurped the hot broth and carved out soft spoonfuls of the tennis ball-sized matzo ball, I swore I felt the struggle bus roll by and man, was I happy to  not be on board.

Rainy day beach feast

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You know, just a colorful day at the beach.

If I’m at the beach and the sun is out in all its glory and so am I, letting it all (or most of it) hang out in a bikini and sunglasses,  I try to watch what I eat. (Puppy belly’s not a sexy look for me.)

But if I’m at the beach and the sky fills with dark clouds and then bursts open with buckets of rain, the way it did last time I was at the beach with friends, the only thing to do is head for cover… and food.  Since we were near the cluster of food stalls on Rockaway Beach’s boardwalk at 97th St., that’s where we ran, huddled under umbrellas while the rain blew in sideways.

There were lobster rolls, arepas, grilled cheese sandwiches and tacos, each stall sounding more appealing than the last, but it was the farthest one, the one tucked away at the very end, that we beelined to: the Bolivian Llama Party. (I told you I love llamas, no?)

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Nachos, Bolivian style.

First out were our Bolivian nachos, a gorgeous, colorful mountain of quinoa tortilla chips and plantain chips under and over pools of black beans, creme fraiche, cheese sauce, scallions, Llajua (a fiery Bolivian hot sauce) and magenta hued pickled onions. And to make a good thing great my friend added pulled pork. While I’m a fan of good ol’ fashioned lowbrow nachos, these were a fun twist, full of zest, flavor and spice.

To take our rain induced gorging up a notch (or three), we ordered the enormous triple pork sandwich, a delicious behemoth of tender roasted pig, thick-cut home cured bacon, and my favorite indulgence, pork belly, this one with just the perfect crackling edges to complement the fatty meat. Topping it all was a spicy mayo like sauce, shredded pickled carrots and cilantro, making this one of the messiest yet most-worth-the-juices-running-down-your-arm sandwiches I’ve encountered.

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A hot mess… in the sloppiest, best ways

For good measure, we also had a few orders of BLP’s papitas, or fries, some of the cilantro kind, crunchy and piping hot, tossed in garlic, white wine and pecorino and drizzled with a bright green sauce made from quiquina, a Bolivian cilantro, and then the queso papitas, also crispy and crusty, coated in a thyme, salt and aji mix.

We needed something to wash down all those delicious carbs and calories, so we also tried both of BLP’s homemade sodas, the golden maracuya, a bright, bubbly passion fruit lemonade and the I-want-a-lip-color-like-this mora-hibiscus soda made from blackberries and hibiscus flowers.

Sure, no one’s tan was any better than at the start of the day, and our hair was more rained-on frizzy than wind-swept beach wavy, but our bellies were happy and full, and mercifully hidden under our rain-spattered shirts.

Left my heart at the bottom of an empty margarita glass

We’ll just accept that somewhere along the way I became terrible at maintaining a blog, ok? That way I can spare you the excuses and spare myself the guilt of feeling like a slacker.

Now, that we’ve gotten that cleared up, I’ll make it up to you with talk about Texas.

Avocados, will they ever stop proving their awesomeness?

Avocados, will they ever stop proving their awesomeness?

Yes, Texas. Or really to be exact, Austin (since everyone’s been quick to point out that they’re two very different things). I went there last week and it was awesome. Really great food and drinks, sunshine for days, warm, friendly people and just all around goodness in every direction.

I didn’t eat or drink a single thing I didn’t love but my favorite was definitely the avocado margarita at Curra’s Grill. That’s right, let that soak in: avo-freakin’-cado margarita.

After a day spent floating down Austin’s Comal River, baking under the relentless Texas sun, a thick, cold creamy avocado was basically a pat on the back from God himself. “Good job, kid,  you’re livin’ this life right.”

Best tasting nachos ever... and total lookers too!

Best tasting nachos ever… and total lookers too!

And because I’m also a firm believer that you can never have too much of a good thing, I also had some of the best nachos of my life when I ordered the house special with pulled pork in mole sauce. Not only were they gorgeous (Just look at those colors, that composition! Perfection!) they were absolutely delicious. Each big, crunchy corn tortilla chip was loaded up with sweet pulled pork in a smoky, rich mole sauce, creamy black refried beans, tangy, juicy pickled beets and a sprinkle of crumbly queso fresco, all around some of the sweetest, softest fried plantains and insanely hot, roasted green peppers.

I mean, it doesn’t get better than all of that. Add a couple of friends to the mix, a bit of shade from the sun, and you’re looking at a pretty perfect afternoon. Austin, consider me a fan.

Where it all comes from

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Delicious, fresh picked carrots

These days, there’s a lot of talk about knowing where your food comes from. It’s why people join CSAs and shop at farmers markets, why some people won’t eat meat unless they know the animal was treated well and had a good life.

I’ll be honest and admit I’ve never been super concerned. I kind of just trust that my food’s not coming from a terrible place, that my fish weren’t caught from a river next to a nuclear waste plant or that my veggies didn’t get their water from the likes of Flint, Michigan.

But during the two weeks I spent volunteering at an orphanage in rural Pokhara, Nepal, I not only saw where every veggie and grain of rice I consumed came from and petted the cows that provided our milk, but I met the people who planted, cared for, picked, cleaned and prepared everything I ate. And I have to say, it was nice.

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Learning what’s what from the kids

I have a hard time keeping houseplants alive (RIP orchid I got for Christmas and small cactus in my kitchen) so to see a group of about 30 kids, ages ranging from two to 17, and a handful of women, run a self sustaining orphanage that feeds everyone several times a day, and feeds them well, was impressive and humbling. (And made me feel slightly incompetent for my own black thumb.)

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Learning to milk a cow… and failing

The orphanage had cows and goats (for milk only) and a small plot of land where they grew seasonal vegetables— broccoli and cauliflower while I was there— and then a separate, larger farm space  further into the country where they had rice, more vegetables, herbs and more cows and chickens (for eggs, not meat.)

The kids, from the little ones to the older teens, were involved in every part of keeping things going: watering plants, milking cows (which they taught me to do one day… and I was horrible at it), rinsing vegetables, cutting, cooking, cleaning, serving, all of it.

It all helped me appreciate the actual food in a way that I hadn’t really thought of before, to feel gratitude for actually having it and being able to eat it, for knowing that it wasn’t grown in a lab kitchen or sprayed with toxic chemicals. And any time I can further appreciate food, well that’s a great thing.