I cooked and no one was harmed in the process

Anyone who doesn’t believe in the transformative power of the new year and the promise of better things to come, should’ve tasted my chicken on Tuesday night.

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Not a great pic, no, but only cause I was in a hurry to eat this beauty

You guys, it was good. Even I— ever the self-deprecating kitchen pessimist— am taking a moment here to toot my own horn, cause let me tell you, I not only made dinner from scratch but I made a damn tasty dinner at that.

The stakes were high. I was cooking for my roommate/best friend and the guy I’m steady wooing these days, neither of whom I wanted to send to the bathroom in the middle of the night with food poisoning or even a mild upset stomach. (Especially since we only have one small bathroom and an ancient, temperamental toilet.)

When I saw a simple enough yet delicious sounding recipe for a spicy roasted chicken and cauliflower mash on one of my go-to blogs last week, I knew what would be kicking off my commitment to cook a proper meal at least once a week in 2017.

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There is hope for me yet!

I sourced all my ingredients, updated our spice cabinet and put my thinking cap on. A couple of hours later, with only some barely noticeable hiccups along the way, I had made one damn good looking, Portuguese inspired, charred (on purpose!) roasted chicken surrounded by shiny, oven-roasted baby bell peppers, served alongside a bowl of steaming, creamy, garlic-and-butter-laden cauli mash.

The chicken was juicy and tender, the flavors of lime, garlic, cilantro and crushed red pepper making it spicy and colorful, and the cauliflower had the consistency and very similar and oh-so-comforting appearance and taste of mashed potatoes. Everything looked good, tasted great, and went down easy with nary a tablet of Pepto or Immodium in sight! (Though I had them on hand, cause you never know…)

 I told you 2017 was gonna be great!

The Cronut

Behold, the Cronut

Behold, the Cronut

Let’s cut right to the chase: the Cronut is awesome.

I didn’t wanna say it. I didn’t wanna like it.  I wanted to think New Yorkers were silly and obsessive, constantly looking for an excuse to spend hours in line waiting for something. I wanted all the hype to be just a bunch of hot air.

But it wasn’t, New Yorkers are actually on to something this time, the hype is deserved, and the Cronut is, in fact, awesome.

I showed up at 7:30am on a Sunday morning when Dominique Ansel Bakery doesn’t even open till 9, and there were already about 50 to 75 people ahead of me in line, some sprawled out on picnic blankets, others sitting in camping chairs like they were at a tailgate. I stood on the sidewalk, checked Facebook and Instagram a few hundred times, finished my book, had a lenghty phone conversation with my sister, and finally, after two hours, walked away with a shiny gold take out box, two Cronuts (the max you can buy) waiting inside.

I felt like Charlie with the golden ticket to the Wonka Chocolate Factory.

I felt like Charlie with the golden ticket to the Wonka Chocolate Factory.

On first inspection, they were pretty, definitely winning full points for presentation. Plump and round, like the part doughnut that they are, they were also sparkly with a dusting of sugar and topped with a creamy layer of purply-pink frosting on top for the flavor of the month, blackberry lime.

The Cronut, what a beaut!

The Cronut, what a beaut!

But it was the moment that I actually bit into it that I was completely won over by the Cronut. With sugar immediately clinging to my lips, chin and fingers, I chomped into the still slightly-warm-from-the-oven Cronut and was met not only with layers of soft, buttery pastry but an amazing burst of rich blackberry jam and a thick, custardy cream filling. It wasn’t just a wimpy little bit way in the back either. No, no, this delicious jammy-creamy combo oozed out of every bite, making each bite an amazing one.

A sticky, creamy, jammy wonderfully delicious mess I made

A sticky, creamy, jammy wonderfully delicious mess I made

If you’re wondering whether I ate both Cronuts I bought, the answer is yes, you bet your ass I did. I’m single and my roommate is out of town. No one else but me was getting their grubby fingers on my Cronuts. And after wolfing them both down, I am totally and completely on board the Cronut fan bandwagon. Those bad boys are awesome.

Mission (Chinese Food) Accomplished

Man oh man do I love the satisfaction that comes with crossing off things on my to-do lists. Even better still when that satisfying feeling of completion comes along with the happy, stuffed high of a great, big delicious meal.

Such was the case earlier this week when a friend and I finally, after talking about it over and over and meaning to go for the past year or so, went to Mission Chinese Food, the tiny, much-raved about Americanized Chinese food joint made famous in San Fran and now also located in the Lower East Side.

Dinner service starts at 5:30pm and hungry folks line up outside before the door’s even unlocked and neon sign turned on just to claim one of the few spots in the no-reservations restaurant. Right there in that line, was us, ready to scarf down our hipster Chinese grub version of an early bird special. Even though I hate early dinners, especially when the sun’s still out, I’d gladly do it again because the food totally, if you ask me, lived up to the hype.

Chili margarita

Chili margarita

To celebrate our success at A.) getting our acts together and finally making it to the restaurant and B.) actually getting seated right away, we ordered ourselves some drinks. The chili margaritas, with their orangey pink color, citrusy bite and toasted chili kick were the perfect way to start things off.

Mapo ramen

Mapo ramen

Food at Mission Chinese comes out as the kitchen finishes it and for us, first out was the mapo ramen, a generous bowl of fatty pork broth, seaweed, coddledegg, mapo tofu and ramen noodles. Like many of the dishes here, this one wasn’t shy about being packed with bright bold flavors and a fiery kick that had me breaking out in full on nose sweats. (You know, when the bridge of your nose beads up with spicy food induced sweat. Not exactly my best look.)

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Avocados for dessert? Yes, please.

When a friend told me recently, albeit half jokingly, that she wanted to open a restaurant where everything would feature avocados, I was one hundred percent behind her. It might not happen anytime soon, unfortunately, but dear sweet baby Jesus I hope it happens sometime in my lifetime, cause I LOVE AVOCADOS.

I love thick wedges as a side with rice and beans, and creamy slices stuffed in my sandwiches. Fresh-made guacamole makes me go batty, and even when it’s just plain and being scooped out of its shell with a spoon (something that always gets a “What are you eating??” from someone around me), I LOVE avocados.

So you can imagine what happened when I read about a new Cuban luncheonette/ 24-hour diner named Coppelia that recently opened and had avocado ice cream on their dessert menu. My mouth started to water and I could just feel the crazy look in my eye. The antsy dance (you know, like when you really need to pee) may have been involved.

My love for avocados just reached a whole new level: dessert.

Yea sure, there were other things to eat at Coppelia including ropa vieja, Cuban sandwiches, fried yucca and all sorts of other staples, but I’ll be honest, being from Miami (i.e. Northern Cuba) I’m kind of picky about my Cuban food. I like it cheap, abundant, and usually served by a little old woman with an attitude. It’s just part of the experience. So yes, I had dinner there, and yes, it wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t anything to write home about… especially when home is Miami.

But the dessert, the whole reason I went to Coppelia, was great. I’m not sure how Cuban avocado ice cream is, but I don’t really care either. I LOVE them, remember? And here was a whole dessert centered around it! The actual ice cream, a pale yellow-green color similar to the very inside of an avocado, the part closest to the pit, was buttery and smooth, almost the same consistency of a perfectly ripened avocado. The flavor, which I think is what would worry most people (though definitely not me) was much more subtle and delicate, so that really it was more of an avocado aftertaste that was left lingering on the tongue. To play up the avocado’s sweet notes, a couple dollops of fluffy whipped cream made it seem more dessert-like while crumbled panela, a hard, molasses-like, unrefined cane sugar, added a nice little crunch amongst all the soft sweetness. And finally, just to bring out a tiny bit of the avocado’s other, less desserty flavors, coarse Maldon salt and a few drops of lime juice. Sweet, avocado deliciousness.

If my friend ever opens her avocado eatery I’ll root hard for an ice cream dessert like Coppelia’s. And hopefully, as one of her most ardent supporters in her avocado endeavors, that’ll mean there will always be a table with my name on it.

Guacamole greatness

Every now and then I meet someone who doesn’t like guacamole and it really just blows my mind. Unless you’re allergic, how could you not love guacamole?

Were you pelted by bullies with unripened avocados? Were your parents killed by a truck carrying a shipment of avocados? Does the green make you think of the time you were posessed and had the messy incident with the green vommit and the spinning head? What HAPPENED?

The best guacamole I've ever had

I love guacamole and would be perfectly happy eating it at least once a week from now until, well, always. Cause I just love it so. Which is why I was beside myself with gluttonous joy when we had the delicious heap of guac pictured above at a small, beachy cafe in Playa del Carmen called Caiman Tugurio. Flaneur and I were there for a couple of afternoon margaritas after spending the day lounging on the beach (God, I miss being on vacation) and decided to get something to munch on while we drank. Little did we know the guacamole at this unassuming, laid back bar would be the best I have possibly ever had.

It was chunky and thick with hunks of tomato and little sprigs of cilantro, yet creamy and smooth on the tongue. Whoever made it must have used a perfectly ripened, soft avocado because it had the wonderful, buttery taste of an avocado that just screams to be eaten. They also didn’t hold back on the lime juice which was a good thing because it madethe guacamole just tangy and zesty enough to almost demand being enjoyed with a margarita.

I’m pretty sure that this guacamole could make a believer out of anyone, even those random people out there who say they don’t like it.

( ::Sigh:: I’ll never understand you people.)

I’m waiting on you, Spring

I don’t know what the groundhog saw when he made his big appearance a couple of months ago but it must have been dark, scary and apocalyptic because there has been no sign of spring in New York. Well, no, there have been signs, I guess, but they were just a tease, just a fleeting peek into what feels like what will never come. Every one day of sunny weather is followed by a week of either icy rain and grey skies, or if you’re really unlucky, actual snow.

I would make this my favorite spring drink if spring would ever get here...

So what I want to know is, just what the hell did you see, groundhog? Maybe if you’d seen a frosty and delicious drink like the one I had recently at Vandaag in the East Village instead of your shadow or more winter or the grim reaper or whatever it is you saw, we wouldn’t be in this predicament.

Because how, after having such a bright, cheery drink as the Radler I enjoyed with a group of girlfriends recently, could you want it to be anything other than that never-long-enough season where it’s no longer cold, but not infernally hot yet either, that wonderful happy time in New York called spring?

The Radler, with its warm sunny color, and bright, zesty sweet notes of ginger, pineapple and lime, mixed with the slight bite of alcohol from the Belgian wheat beer and the pineapple infused aquavit, was like spring itself had been liquefied and poured into my glass.

Spring, I’m not sure where you are, but until you’re ready to come hang out, I’ll be at the bar, with a Radler if I’m in the East Village.

 

Chicken soup for the soul, but pho for a cold

Move over chicken noodle, this is MY cure for a cold!

I started to feel it Thursday, the watery eyes, the slight tickle in my throat, those familiar symptoms that could only mean one thing. Then Friday it was officially there: a cold. Saturday, though, I managed to take it one step farther. I woke up with a cold and a hangover. And I had to work. Needless to say, it was a very long day, full of coughing fits, dozens of balled up tissues, and maybe about 25,000 sneezes.

As I sat there at work, my nostrils like two little cherries from being rubbed raw every time I blew my runny nose and my mouth gaping open to breathe in the place of my congested nose, I knew exactly what I wanted. While most people would seek comfort in a bowl of chicken noodle soup, the quintessential drink-when-you’re-sick soup, I wanted something just slightly different. Continue reading