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.

Yes, this is about a salad

The makings of a damn fine salad.

The makings of a damn fine salad.

Folks, I’m happy to report that I’m alive and well. Not only because I survived going vegan for a month but also because I managed to not overdose on mountains of bacon and cheese on February 1st, my first day back to non-vegan eating. (Maybe I’m finally getting a hang of this whole self-control thing. Doubtful, though.)

Even though I’m back to the dairy wonderland that is my life, I’ll be keeping a few of the things I picked up during my brief stint as a vegan. Tofu cream cheese for, example, and veggie breakfast sausages are sticking around, as is hopefully the Spicy Sabzi from trendy salad chain, Sweetgreen.

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The Spicy Sabzi, mmm mmm mmm!

I know what you’re thinking. A salad? Really? Yes, really. The Spicy Sabzi, a colorful, delicious and actually filling beauty of baby spinach and kale with spicy quinoa, spicy broccoli, carrots, raw beets, basil, sprouts and roasted tofu, is no freakin’ joke. Dressed with a carrot chili vinaigrette and a squeeze of one of my favorites ever, sriracha sauce, this salad is something I’d gladly eat again and again. It’s chunky, spicy, zesty and full of great tasting and great-for-you ingredients. What’s not to love?

My one concern was that because Sweetgreen’s only New York location was in a part of town that I don’t typically find myself in often I probably wouldn’t be eating there that much, but then I read  that another Sweetgreen is on its way to Brooklyn, not far from me, so it looks like there are definitely more Spicy Sabzis in my future. Vegan or not, I’m looking forward to that.

Sister, sister

DNA is about where the similarities end between my sister and me.  She’s loud and sassy. I’m quiet and sarcastic. She says I dress like Mr. Rogers. I say she dresses like a hoochie. She drives fast with the music up and the windows down. I prefer to walk.

We speak differently, live in different states, have different hobbies, listen to different music, date different types of guys, and don’t even look alike, if you ask me. (Further supporting my theory that I am, in fact, adopted.)

And now, because life’s dealt her a particularly bad hand, we don’t even eat the same. Because of a serious health problem she’s developed in recent years, my sister— brace yourself cause it’s ugly —is on a sugar-free, fat-free, wheat-free, gluten-free, vegan diet.

I kid you not, folks. My heart breaks a thousand times for her. No sugar, fat, wheat or dairy. That leaves what, air??

This presented major food problems for my visit to Miami. We’d be going to eat but where the heck could we both go?

“Don’t worry,” she said drearily. ” I can usually find white rice and grilled chicken on any menu.”

Uhm. No. Not happening. Not on my watch.

I turned to my vegan and vegetarian friends in Miami, and found just the place: Metro Organic Bistro.

With the beau and our mother also with us, we set out for the design district eatery that boasted lots of fresh, organic, healthy and vegetarian friendly options.

I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a tad bit skeptical. I can’t help it. It’s the sugar-crazed, fat-loving carnivore in me. But Metro Organic Bistro, I’m happy to say, completely floored me. If this is what being super healthy was like, sign. Me. UP.

Dinner went like this:

Entree 1: my mom’s

My mom ordered the braised chicken (free range and natural, thank you very much) with truffled polenta and organic green beans. The polenta wasn’t as creamy as I like it, but the truffle flavor made it buttery and smooth.

Entree 2: my sister’s (not vegan)

My sister ordered the tuna Nicoise, though not a vegan option (hey, she’s new to the game). Fat, juicy hunks of yellowfish tuna came on a bed of organic greens, potatoes, tomatoes, green beans, boiled eggs, onions, Nicoise olives and anchovies. She doesn’t like anchovies but I do, so guess where those little guys wound up?

Entree 3: Mine

I went for the Mahi-Mahi, a tender, juicy, lemony, grilled (and wild caught) steak topped with shaved fennel and watercress, topped with a zesty cilantro drizzle. Everything was organic, but more than that, everything was vibrant, colorful and crazy delicious.

Entree 4: the non-De Angelis at the table

Last but not least was Flaneur’s. He opted for one of the specials not listed on the menu: a plump and wonderfully juicy and smooth piece of salmon, so perfect it seemed to just melt on your tongue. Underneath it was a mound of red quinoa and broccoli florets, to lend it an earthy, veggie goodness.

Dessert 1

And because no meal, healthy or otherwise, is every complete without dessert, we got two to share amongst the four of us, though I’m pretty sure the boy and I did most of the damage. First was the chocolate bouchon a la mode, a warm chocolate lava-cake paired with a creamy scoop of vanilla ice cream and topped with some of the fattest blackberries I’ve ever seen. When the gooey, warm chocolate inside poured out, it was like dying and going to healthy food heaven.

Dessert 2

Our other dessert was another special not on the menu: a fig tart with mascarpone and more juicy blackberries. The tart was sweet and nutty, with a taste reminiscent of roasted chestnuts, and fat little chunks of figs throughout. Being the fig-fiend that I am, this was perfect.

In the end, there was no pork belly or lard, nothing deep fried or oozing with cheese, but everything was delicious, clean and healthy. And that’s something my sister and I, different as we are, both agreed on.