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.

Mojo between sisters

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You really do.

No one eats with more reckless abandon while on vacation than I do. Add my constant treat-yourself mentality and you’re looking at a lot of calories consumed on any given out of town trip. Case in point: my recent jaunt to South Florida.

When my sister announced we were having donuts for breakfast Sunday morning, I was fully on board and off we went to Mojo Donuts in Pembroke Pines, the otherwise barren desert of strip malls and gated communities.

While I’m a lover of just a plain ol’ French cruller or a classic Boston cream, my sister loves really over-the-top  donuts, filled with jams and custards, crusted with all manner of confections and drizzled with syrups and sticky, sugary things.

Mojo was one hundred percent my sister’s kind of donut shop, but you know what? I thought it was pretty great, too.

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You really do.

For a light breakfast to start off a day that would end up with me in a bikini by the pool, we went with a red velvet, banana cream pie, pistachio mousse chocolate, cannoli, guava and cheese, and Nutella and bacon assortment of donuts.

Completely over the top? Uhm, yea. Gluttonous as all hell? Duh. Finger lickin’ good and a perflectly acceptable way to bond with your sibling over your shared love of carbs and sugar when you have little else in common? Absolutely.

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.

Burrata brilliance

Let’s just get right into it cause every moment you spend reading about anything other than BURRATA SOFT SERVE is a moment of your life that you are not living right.

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Burrata in a whole new delicious form.

Slight exaggeration? Yea, maybe, but let’s go back to that and repeat after me: burrata soft serve. Cue the clouds parting and a choir of angels singing and blowing their trumpets and the one playing the harp actually busting strings, cause again: burrata soft serve.

On the off chance you don’t know what burrata is, it’s a milky, semi-soft Italian cheese, kind of like mozzarella’s slightly sexier, cooler cousin. It’s actually made from mozzarella, but it’s creamier and more spreadable on the inside. If you don’t have lactose allergies and have functioning taste buds, you know how awesome burrata is.

It’s completely wonderful on it’s own but at Dominique Ansel Kitchen you can revel in its deliciousness in an untraditional form: soft serve ice cream. Piled high into a beautiful swirl of creamy goodness with just a subtle hint of tanginess in place of a more common vanilla base flavor, but not as sour as plain yogurt, the soft serve comes in a thick, not too crunchy but almost cookie like cone, delicately drizzled with balsamic caramel and sprinkled with little sprigs of microbasil. I wasn’t sure whether the teeny basil leaves were decorative or not but I ate them with my big mouthfuls of creamy, cold soft serve and they were delicious, bright and peppery.

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I don’t normally like surprises, but strawberry confit? I’ll take that any day!

But then, just as I approached the bottom of the cone, that sweet container of the final remnants of ice cream, I was hit with one last surprise: strawberry confit. Several juicy, plump, roasted strawberries just sitting in their milky, sweet soft serve. It was like an encore at an already awesome concert or an after-the-credits hidden scene after a great movie.

Cause if you ask me, there’s no such thing as too much of a good thing when it comes to ice cream. Just keep it coming. I’m looking at you, burrata soft serve.

Move over, madame

I hold as a universal truth in my heart that almost everything is improved by being topped with a fried egg. (Maybe not desserts, but you know what, if someone were up to the challenge of making one work, I’d be happy to try it.)

It was in the picturesque little town of Sintra, just outside of Lisbon, that for the umpteenth time, this proved to the be the case. A friend and I were a perusing the menu at Estrada Velha, a small bar along the main tourist-packed road, wondering if the shop owner who’d given us the recommendation had steered us wrong, when  amidst the sandwiches and salads, I saw something that caught my eye: a francesinha.

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Allow me to introduce you to the francesinha

A sandwich originally from Porto, on Portugal’s northern coast, a francesinha is basically a Portuguese spin on a croque madame or croque monsieur (madame being with a fried egg, monsieur without, though the francesinha doesn’t have different names for this.) Instead of ham and béchamel sauce, the francesinha, has different kinds of meat inside. The one I had in Sintra had thin slices of salami, roast pork and ham, and instead of béchamel, there was a layer of gooey melted cheese. Plopped right on top? My favorite and yours (or possibly just mine), a fried egg. Finally, taking one step farther away from the croque madame/monsieur, the francesinha came in a shallow pool of a slightly spicy, sauce, almost like a tomato soup.

The whole thing was a saucy, sloppy, wet, delicious mess best attacked with a fork and knife. The sauce,  really more of a tomato and beer broth, was perfect for soaking the bread in, softening everything and blending the flavors.

I’ve always loved a good croque madame but I think I just might like this Portuguese francesinha a bit more. Maybe my universal truth about fried eggs needs to also include a good sauce.

I miss cheese

Smitten Kitchen's beautiful and delicious hunks of parmesan, ready for her parmesan, kale and bean soup. I'm eating NONE of it.

Smitten Kitchen’s beautiful photo of delicious hunks of parmesan, ready for her parmesan, kale and bean soup. I’m eating NONE of it. (Cue the tears.)

It’s the 15th of the month, the halfway point of my vegan challenge.

In the spirit of full disclosure, I’ll admit I did have one teeny tiny little bit of a slip-up the other night when my coworkers and I had dinner at the always delicious ABC Kitchen, where everything with the exception of about two sides, includes something non-vegan. There was no getting around it. I had to eat cheese, and some butter, and some cream. But I didn’t eat anything that used to have a face, so that counts for something, right?

Minor relapse aside, I’ve been a good little vegan. I haven’t been craving meat (not even bacon, really), daydreaming about ice cream or had the hankering for eggs that my roommate has been struggling with.

But dear, sweet, 8-pound, milk-loving baby Jesus do I miss cheese. Ugh, it kills me. Pecorino, cheddar, camembert, freakin’ Trader Joe’s light string cheese! I want them all. Alas, I’ll fight the urge. I’ll be strong. I won’t eat any more cheese for the rest of the month. But you better believe when February rolls around, me and cheese are getting back together, in a big way.

In the meantime,  here are some cheese related posts from the interwebs. Hope they make your heart all aflutter, like they did mine:

  • A caprese salad from Emiko Davies that almost makes me wish it was summer.
  • Cup of Jo’s skillet lasagna, because mascarpone and mozzarella are the stuff dreams are made of.