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.

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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.

Why yes, I am a Fat Pig

Sometimes I really over do it. Total overkill in the eating department. Really.

Saturday night at Brooklyn’s Fette Sau, a small, buzzy barbecue joint in Williamsburg where people gladly wait 30 to 40 minutes—outsidejust to get their grubby little fingers on smokey flavored, dry rubbed meat and cold beers was one of those nights. It was one of those nights and then some.  It was not for the weak of heart, the dainty of diets, the graceful, the delicate, the disciplined, and certainly NOT for the non-carnivores.

For size reference, each one of these trays is about 2 ft. wide. So yea, that’s a whole lotta meat piled on there.

There were four of us: three girls, one guy. To eatbrace yourselves cause this is where  things get out of handthere were two giant, paper-lined metal serving trays topped with a pound of pork belly, a pound of beef brisket, a pound of pulled pork,  four generously sized pork sausages, six soft potato rolls, a heap of tangy cole slaw, and a tub of baked beans the size of my studio apartment’s kitchen sink. Oh and for good measure, there was also a small key lime pie tart (just about the only thing we didn’t go hog-wild in ordering).

All joking aside, a good 24+ hours later I was STILL full. Really! It was such an intense amount of food, so much sticky fingered, saucy (meat was all served without, but there were an assortment of bottles at the table),  smokey, gut-sticking, artery clogging goodness. The only thing I was less than crazy about was the pork belly which was a bit on the fatty side (though I guess it’s to be expected of BELLY!) but everything else was delicious. So much so that no one could stop digging in, arms crossing over the table, scooping, squirting, sandwiching, dripping, slopping. Oh! It was gluttonous and awful and… incredible.

I spent the rest of the night (and most of the following day) in a pork and beef induced haze, feeling fat and slow, repulsed by the mere thought of food.

And the best part? Fette Sau means “fat pig” in German. Appropriate? You bet your fat ass.

Comfort food for hot weather

Even though it’s not officially summer for almost another two months, Sunday in the city felt like summer had come early.

Up till now, warm days have still brought a cool breeze with them, the kind that have you toting around a light sweater or give you goose bumps if you sit in the shade. But not this Sunday. Even as the sun slipped away for the night, the air felt thick and hot. The slight breeze, like when you turn a fan on in an unairconditioned New York City apartment, didn’t do a lot in the way of cooling.

When the weather starts to get hot like this, I generally don’t like to do much. Movement equals sweating and sweating equals cranky, frizzy haired, shiney-faced Angie. But if there’s one thing I think is only made better by rising temperatures and sticky afternoons, it’s eating barbeque. The sweet tanginess of barbeque sauce smothered over a hunk of meat and the refreshing bite of a cold beer were absolutely made for enjoying in hot, humid weather. When the weather gets sloppy, turn to sloppy food.

Which is why on Sunday, when the sun poured into our bedroom while dust bunnies collected in the kitchen cabinets, Flaneur and I decided to venture north to Harlem for lunch at Dinosaur Bar-B-Que.

The walk to and from the subway and through the quiet streets of Harlem under the Riverside Drive Bridge was enough to get a healthy sheen of glistening sweat going on our foreheads. As we turned the corner on Dinosaur’s street, the thick, sweet smell of barbeque wafted out, heavy on the warm air. This had been the best idea ever.

We started off our uninhibited Sunday lunch feasting with an order of fried green tomatoes, a Southern staple, and another food that conjures up images of slow, summer afternoons for me. They came battered and fried in a golden, not-too-thick layer of crispiness and were topped off with shaved Pecorino romano, a strong, salty cheese that played off deliciously with the unripened tomatoes inside. Usually I’m not crazy about ranch dressing, but the cayenne buttermilk ranch dipping sauce that came with these added the perfect little kick to each fried tomato bite.

Fried green tomatoes

With every server that walked by, arms extended and strained under plates stacked high with ribs, mounds of potatoes and cornbread rolls, my stomach growled louder and louder.  The smell alone was driving me crazy.

So crazy in fact, that the first thing I did when our food arrived, on two large sectioned plates loaded with barbeque comfort deliciousness, was to accidentally knock my cup over and send the last couple inches of ice water remaining gushing over Flaneur’s half rack of ribs. Clearly, the heat does things to me. Bad things. Things that result in hot meals being doused in cold water.

Luckily, due to some fast thinking, quick spooning out of ice cubes and the speedy response of a dozen napkins, the ribs were salvaged and we got to eating.

I opted for the pork brisket plate, which came with both pulled pork and sliced brisket in addition to two sides of my choosing. I’ll be honest and say right now, that while I enjoy barbeque, I’m more of a sides-fan than a meat lover. I went with the mac and cheese, which was thick and creamy with a warm, off yellow color, instead of being a garrish school-bus yellow. The thick cheese baked on top was a nice contrasting touch in textures and was topped off with just a light sprinkle of deep red cayenne pepper. My other side was roasted whipped sweet potatoes laced with a spicy hint of cinnamon and topped with ground nuts. It was almost mousse-like in its consistency and the taste was buttery and smooth. But the main attraction at this celebration of meat was the soft, juicy pork. The pulled pork, which came topped with a bit of salty, sweet barbeque sauce, was tender and flavorful. Each bite literally melted in my mouth and seemed to soak deep into my taste buds.  The sliced brisket was just as soft and juicy, with the rosy pink color I love in meat. (Well done? Blegh, yuck.)  Just a little bit of fat on the side made it burst with flavor without being too fatty or gummy. And finally, there was the cornbread roll, which although it was a little dry, still had a sweet, buttery taste. By the time I got around to it I was so stuffed, it wouldn’t of mattered how good it was. I had to stop eating.

Pulled pork and sliced brisket with whipped sweet potatoes, mac and cheese, and cornbread

Flaneur, never one to shy away from getting down and dirty with his food, ordered the messiest of all menu items: ribs. The half rack of pork ribs were wide and intense, a meal only for a serious carnivore. He gave me a rib and I ripped off a chunk of meat, getting barbeque sauce all over my fingers and face. It was thick and juicy, dripping with the smoky flavors of carefully seasoned meat cooked over a fire. I think I made the better choices when it came to sides selection but his weren’t bad either. The Creole potato salad was chunky and thick, with fat hunks of potato rolling in an onion-y, spiced mayo, sprinkled with “Creole powder” which tasted like a blend of spices like cumin and cayenne pepper. His other side, another Southern classic, were greens, cooked and served in a buttery, oily blend of spices. These were much better than the potato salad because of how packed with deep, rich flavors they were. Plus, you can get potato salad at almost any deli on any street in any neighborhood in this city, but good greens, now that’s not as easy of a find.

Half rack of ribs, potato salad, greens and cornbread

I had originally wanted to get dessert because there seemed to be some promising items on the list (including a banana and coconut cream pie) but after our plates were taken away with only cornbread crumbs, faint smears of sauce and in Flaneur’s case, clean bones, there was no way I could fit anything else in my stomach. As the sun beamed down on the concrete outside and the warm air blew in through the window, all I wanted to do was take a nap in a hammock somewhere, preferably on someone’s wrap-around porch. But there was none of that. We were a pretty decent way from home, and so with the content lethargy of people who’ve eaten entirely too much,  we started a slow meandering walk on a hot afternoon in Harlem.