Little bits of heaven

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These prices are in good ol’ AMERICAN dollars

Without much exaggeration, the gorgeous beaches of Koh Rong, a small island off Cambodia’s southern coast, are a tiny bit of heaven sent down to earth. Stunning stretches of clear, turquoise water, powdery white sand and an untouched, laid back, breezy vibe that soothes the soul and forces you to relax, are the obvious reasons you’d call this place paradise but really, the fruit salads are a big part of that as well.

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Delicious fruit and beautiful scenery

All along the main stretch of “town,” right when you get off the boat, vendors sell fresh juice and fruit salad, made with pineapples, mangoes, bananas, oranges and dragon fruit (that’s the white, seed-speckled one) chopped right in front of you. And the kicker? A huge heap of this perfect deliciousness costs only ONE dollar. One freakin’ dollar.

Koh Rong, you were downright magical. You and your crazy cheap fruit.

Beach bum tacos

The beach was nice, but I was there just as much for the tacos as the fun-in-the-sun.

The beach was nice, but I was there just as much for the tacos as the fun-in-the-sun.

I’ve lived in New York over five years now and have spent six summers in this city, and in all of that time, never once, up until last week, had I gone to the beach here. Crazy, right?

This year though, I finally decided to get my act together, throw on a bathing suit, and head to Rockaway Beach, the official beach of Brooklyn hipsters and cool kids alike.

However, dear reader, I have to tell you I’d be lying if I said I was entirely motivated by any desire to feel the sun baking my already brown skin while damn near naked in public. A stronger motivating factor was tacos. Delicious, summery tacos from Rockaway Taco, the small, whitewashed stand just a few blocks away from the beach that draws crowds just as much as the ocean does.

So, yes, I went to the beach and did the whole sun-and-sand thing but once that was done and crossed off the bucket list, I went and had tacos. After roasting in the sun for a few hours, first on my list was something cold, in the form of a fruity, refreshing pineapple and mint juice.  It took everything in me not to guzzle it in big, greedy gulps.

Pineapple-mint juice and tacos: perfection on a summer day.

Pineapple-mint juice and tacos: perfection on a summer day.

To go with it, I had two tacos, one fish and one chorizo.  The  fish taco had a plump, perfectly-golden-on-the-outside and tender-on-the-inside hunk of fried fish and a delicious spicy mayo type sauce that I licked off my fingers like a gross little animal. The chorizo taco, topped with thinly sliced radish and zesty cilantro like the fish taco, was juicy and flavorful, and consequently gone in just a few bites.

Rockaway Taco was the perfect end to a fun, relaxing summer beach day that I should’ve had dozens of times already and not just once. Guess that means that as the summer quickly starts to wind down, I’ll have to make up for lost time and squeeze in as many trips as I can to Rockaway Taco… and the beach, of course.

Sweet and dandy and damn good

The Sweet & Dandy

I’m not all late-night cookie runs, pizza binge fests and mountains of pork belly. Sometimes, believer it or not, the things I obsess over are actually… healthy! Gasp! Yes, I know! Insanity.

My latest food crush, for example, is neither chocolatey nor from any part of a pig, it’s totally vegan and made fresh the day I buy it, and get this, it’s ridiculously delicious. I’m craving some just thinking about it. I’m talking about the beautifully colored, bursting-with-flavor, oh-so-freakin’-good “Sweet and Dandy” at Melvin’s Juice Box.

You can get lots of healthy, fresh, fruit and veggie juices at this colorful little Greenwich Village juice bar attached to Miss Lily’s, but ever since I tried the Sweet and Dandy, I just can’t bring myself to buying anything else. A rich, deep fuchsia color, it’s a perfect blend of beets, carrots, apples, pineapple and ginger. They all come together to make a vibrant, sweet drink with a subtle ginger spiciness that’s so good I swear I could down a gallon of it in one sitting.

At about $8 a juice, it is a bit on the expensive side but when I think about how good it tastes and how healthy and natural it is, and how I won’t have to spend 3 hours burning it off at the gym like I would if it were a chocolate shake, I don’t mind spending the money. (Milkshakes, I still got love for you, though.)

On the road again

We had been driving down a hot, barren road toward the Mayan ruins at Chichen Itza when there she appeared, quite literally like an oasis in the desert: a short, round faced, brown skinned girl sitting alone under a white tent, only a large cooler sitting on the table next to her. The hand-written sign on the gravel road said: NIEVES.

After breezing past her, we pulled over and turned back around toward the tent. A couple of minutes and a few dozen pesos later we were back en route with strawberry and pineapple-mango nieves, slushy, bright sorbets scooped into Styrofoam cups.

An easy way to make a good roatrip great

Like fun music and good company, snacks are crucial to a successful car trip, and those frosty, fruity nieves did just the trick. More like frozen blended fruit than just sorbet, each nieve in its modest Styrofoam cup was refreshing and bright, the pineapple and mango basically the food embodiment of a beach holiday, and the strawberry one less loud and showy, but just as sweet and tangy.

If I was that poor girl, sitting out there in the heat, bored and alone for God knows how long, I don’t think I’d be able to resist eating all those delicious tubs of nieve inside that cooler. Then again, no one would trust me with that job in the first place for that very reason.

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.

 

Wish you were here

It’s not always about trendy gourmet food and fancy restaurants. I’ve found that the best food memories can sometimes come from something as simple as an an afternoon snack on a lazy day. Something small, easy, cheap. Shared with good company and a nice setting, the smallest thing can turn into one of those memories that you look back on and think, “Man, I wish I was there right now, having that again.”

Pineapple and piña colada fruit bars and fish ceviche

Such was the case during my recent trip to Miami, when Flaneur and I spent one afternoon walking around Key Biscayne along a quiet, empty stretch of beach on Cape Florida. We stopped at the Lighthouse Cafe, one of only two places to eat in the state park, and picked up a couple of fruit bars to enjoy in the warm weather. But because there was a minimum for credit card purchases (and I am perpetually cash-less), I added a small serving of fish ceviche to our order.

Sitting on the cafe’s wooden deck while the breeze blew and the warm Florida sun beamed down on us, I couldn’t have wished to be anywhere else. Cold, sweet fruit bars with hunks of pineapple and coconut followed by the zesty, juicy fish ceviche made for the absolute best snack I can recall having in a long time.

Now as I sit looking out the window at the steely blue of a late, winter afternoon in New York, I can almost taste the warmth of that peppery fresh ceviche and the bright, colorful flavors of a piña colada fruit bar. Man, I wish I was there right now, having that again.