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.

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.

Love and happiness… and goat

Here’s a little fun fact about me: I love weddings.

Another fun fact: I loooove vacations.

And you know what I really, really love? Destination weddings! Cause BAM! You get a two in one combo of things I love!

So when my good friend/coworker Vilmarie announced she was  getting married in the Dominican Republic, where her family is from, I verbally RSVP’d monts before she even sent out her save-the-dates. Wedding, out-of-town trip, friends, fun, DONE. I’m there.

And as I expected, it was loads of fun. We went rafting, saw waterfalls, ate mangoes straight off the tree, laughed till we cried,  made new friends and cemented old friendships, danced like fools (or maybe that was just me), got misty-eyed during the ceremony, and for the purposes of this blog: ate a ton of delicious Dominican food.

But of all the tasty eats I had, without a doubt my absolute favorite was the traditional plate of chivo con tostones I devoured at the beautiful Jamaca de Dios, a restaurant nestled high up in the hills, overlooking lush Jarabacoa.

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Weddings are about love, and I love this goat.

Chivo, or goat, might not sound appealing to some, and the three other people at my table looked at me with that slightly skeptical look I should be used to by now, but let me tell you, when everything came out and everyone’s dishes were tasted, mine was the one to garner all of the food envy. The goat, similar in texture to stewed beef, was cooked in a rich, red wine sauce with peas and red peppers, and was so unbelievable soft and tender that each bite was a little cloud of meaty deliciousness. The tostones, crunchy, salty golden plantains, fried and flattened, were a great complement in texture and taste.

I’ll always remember Vil’s wedding as the beautiful celebration of love, family and friendship that it was, but in the back of my mind I’ll also think fondly of that delicious goat.

An old favorite in a new way

Even though I was born in Costa Rica and raised in Miami, mine wasn’t the typical Hispanic household. (My dad, a crotchety old Italian-American, is to blame for this.) We never salsa danced,  celebrated Noche Buena, or had abuelitos and dozens of assorted family members.

But if there’s one stereotype we absolutely perpetuated, it’s eating sweet plantains, or platanos maduros as my mom calls them.

They’re usually a side dish, served alongside rice and beans as I most frequently had them growing up, but really I could eat a whole mountain of plantains just on their own, I love them so much. So recently, during my visit to San Francisco, when I saw a burrito at The Little Chihuahua that was stuffed with plantains instead of meat, I HAD to have it.

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A not-so-great photo of a fantastic burrito stuffed full of sweet plantains

The Little Chihuahua’s plantain burrito is first of all, anything but little. It’s a hold-it-with-two-hands heavy affair of sweet fried plantains, black beans and rice, pico de gallo, roasted red peppers, sour cream, cheese, salsa, cilantro and onion.  And as I thought it might be, this burrito was freakin’ delicious. The plantains added a nice sweet flavor to the otherwise savory, zesty, spicier flavors and a soft, almost creamy consistency.

As a lifelong plantains lover, I would order this kind of burrito every time if places other than The Little Chihuahua had it. Add a plantain burrito to my long list of reasons for loving San Francisco.

The Little Chihuahua on Urbanspoon

Bargain brunching in Boston

Everything in New York, from the tiny apartment I live in, to the subway rides I take, to the groceries I occasionally try to stock my mini-fridge with, is exorbitantly expensive. But believe it or not, there’s actually something good about that, and it’s that almost everywhere I go outside of the city, everything seems outrageously cheap to me.

But I realize that it’s not that everything is super cheap, but just that everything in New York is so  ridiculously overpriced. But still, it’s nice to think I’m getting a deal. And sometimes, like during a recent brunch in Boston, things really are that cheap and I really am getting a deal.

Sweet plantain empanadas with cinammon cream cheese

Masa, a southwest style restaurant in Boston’s South End, would have been great even with New York prices, but with a Saturday brunch special for $8.95?? Including an appetizer/small plate and an entree aaaand coffee or tea? God, that just makes my mouth water.

And it wasn’t some Denny’s Grand Slam kind of deal either. No cold, rubbery eggs or greasy little sausage links. This was good food. Food that in New York would’ve cost at least double.

From the small plates/starters I went with the sweet plantain empanada with Mexican cinammon cream cheese, a delicious combination of two things I love. The doughy shell was full of sweet, caramelized plantains, just like the kind I grew up eating with almost every meal, and the sweet, soft cream cheese was the perfect touch to make a good thing better.

Santa Fe Style Eggs Benedict

The entree, a turn to savory after the dessert-like starter, was also delicious. I had a hard time choosing between all the amazing sounding menu items, but finally went with the Santa Fe style eggs Benedict, which came on top of soft, fluffy biscuits, buttery chunks of avocado, home fries and green chile hollandaise.

I love getting out of the city and eating in new places, and even more than that, I like being reminded that doing it doesn’t always have to be ridiculously expensive.