Archive for the 'Restaurants' Category

Churros, Chocolate and Champagne

The warm weather this past week (along with the Book Expo America at the Javits Center) brought The Sofrito Girls together for some catching up. As usual, the Girls leave it to me to come up with restaurant reservations, and after some very strong suggestions from the ever tireless Carola (my assistant), and their win for Most Creative Paella at the 3rd Annual Paella Parade at Pier 17 last Monday, I made our dinner arrangements at Nuela in the Flat Iron district.

(From left to right) Daisy, Loni, Violette, Esmeralda

The Sofritos are a pretty energetic, vocal group (ahem!), but when it comes to ordering in a restaurant, they pretty much defer to me, so without much fanfare, I started the evening’s culinary adventure with a variety of appetizers.

Empanada Mendocino

We started out with a delicious short rib empanada garnished with hardboiled eggs that was chunky, savory, and delicious with a slightly tangy-sweet finish. The crust was tender and flaky and the Sofritos agreed that this was a definite candidate for the Empanada Hall of Fame. Okay, we were off to a seriously good start, but could the rest of the evening still inspire the oohs and ahhs that our first appetizer elicited? We were about to ofind out!

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I Left My Heart….in FLORESTA

Many of you have heard me wax poetic about the Argentine chorizo from my buddy Alejandro Cantagallo who ran the family butcher shop, “Don Francisco’s Meats” in Jackson Heights, Queens (they make their own chorizo on site). Well, Alejandro  has since closed the butcher shop, and has opened a new eating establishement, named for a beloved neighborhood in Buenos Aires called Floresta serving mouthwatering Argentine favorites.

I usually start out a review with a picture of the restaurant entrance, and a view of the interior, but I can honestly say,  I was so jazzed about the food that I forgot to document the “front of the house”. I had chosen Floresta to celebrate my friend Jimmy Johnson’s birthday, and it proved to be the perfect choice. Floresta has it’s liquor license pending, so Alejandro encourages BYOB, which I was happy to do.

When you are seated in Floresta, you are welcomed with a basket of bread accompanied by 2 small bowls of Don Francisco’s famous chimichurri sauce, one sweet, and one hot. The stuff is absolutely addicting, and I can say that because I’ve actually taken the Don F tutorial at his butcher shop with His Lordship himself, Don Francisco!

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“BOGOTA Latin Bistro” Shines

Last night was one of those rare evenings that Jerry and I share anymore, where all the kids are out with their own plans, and we are left to our own devices. With the impending scare of the Blizzard of 2010 (we’ve been thankfully spared with a mere dusting!), we decided not venture too far from home, and after much buzz, headed out to BOGOTA Latin Bistro in Park Slope, Brooklyn.

The restaurant looks deceptively small when you walk in, but after being lead through a narrowish (and very well attended!) bar, we entered a beautifully laid out restaurant filled with families as well as couples out on a date. As soon as we were seated, we were presented by not one, but three menus: one Main menu, a Specials menu, and a Drinks menu. I put on my glasses to settle down to read, Jerry and I ordered a drink, and we were treated to complimentary plantain chips with  a vinegary, spicy salsa for dipping. I’d say I was off to a good start!

These salty, spicy little nibbles were the perfect balance to Jerry’s smoky, but refreshing Michelada!

Jerry gets his Michelada on!

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Jason goes to Puerto Rico: Guavate, Thanksgiving-Land

jason-small by you. As Ricardo Montalban in his famous role as Mr. Roarke used to say, SMILES everyone, SMILES!, it’s Daisy’s buddy Jason Perlow again, and you know what that means — welcome back to Boriqua Island. Sorry, no Tattoo.

Last post, we talked about seafood and all the myriad of ways Puerto Ricans like to eat them. But I would be amiss if I didn’t talk about a very special place on the Island — a land where it’s Thanksgiving and Christmas 365 days a year. The place I’m talking about is GUAVATE.

Guavate, Puerto Rico by you.

A view of the Guavate mountain and forest region in Puerto Rico from a popular Lechonera.

Guavate is an area that is designated as a district as part of the larger town of Cayey, which is in South-Central Puerto Rico. It’s a mountainous, forested area that has become known over the years as a favorite recreational spot for Puerto Ricans — and as a result, has created an entire culture dedicated to eating traditional holiday foods, such as Lechon (Roast Pork) and Pavochon (Roast Turkey — see Daisy’s Recipe).

A single road which passes through the town, Highway PR-184, also known as as the “Pork Highway” has many restaurants which specialize in these two dishes and all their accompaniments. Which one is the best? It’s hard to say, but Rachel and I visited two of them and if we picked the two worst ones, then I can’t imagine what the two best taste like. Our best bet — and our overall strategy — was to see which parking lots were the busiest and had the most amount of people eating there.

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Jason goes to Puerto Rico: The magic word is MARISCOS!

jason-small by you. Hola amigos y amigas, it’s Daisy’s buddy Jason Perlow again, and you know what that means — another juicy installment of food in Puerto Rico.

In my first post, I talked a bit about the basics of Puerto Rican and Caribbean Latino cuisine, and focused particularly on the platano — the plantain fruit, and tostones, one of the most common but tasty staples you will see while while visiting the island. Today, we’re going to talk about seafood — or as Puerto Ricans like to say, MARISCOS!

Palmas del Mar, Humacao PR by you.

Fisherman’s dock, Las Palmas, Humacao, Puerto Rico.

In the States, you don’t normally think of seafood being an integral part of Latino cuisine, but in Puerto Rico, being an island and smack right in the middle of the Caribbean, seafood and shellfish are extremely common and are amongst the most loved things to eat, although much of it unfortunately has to be imported from other countries, such as the Dominican Republic and the Bahamas. A small amount of fish and other creatures are caught locally, but the Puerto Rican fishing industry is relatively small nowadays. Still, this doesn’t stop a huge amount of the stuff from being consumed on the island itself.

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Jason goes to Puerto Rico: You WILL eat Tostones. And LIKE it.

jason-small by you. Greetings, Daisy’s webmaster and good friend Jason Perlow here. I know Boriqua Blog is a site for all things Daisy, but trust me, you’re really gonna like this series of posts. I can’t promise to have Daisy’s sense of humor and bubblicity, but I can definitely show you some good food.

Some of you may know me from my food blog, Off The Broiler, and the culinary food discussion site eGullet which I co-founded in 2001. Daisy and I met three years ago when she did a podcast for my blog which if you’re a big Daisy fan I encourage you to listen to. At the time we did that podcast, I was a big fan of her show, Daisy Cooks! on PBS. We became great friends, and eventually, I helped her build and Boriqua Blog.

I’m sure of you many of you are aware that Daisy is of Puerto Rican heritage. I, on the other hand, am an estadounidense — an American, and specifically Jewish and of Eastern-European descent. While I can speak Spanish semi-fluently — I studied it in college and I grew up learning it in my household because my mother has a masters degree in Spanish, I never truly understood what it meant to be a Latino. Sure, I’ve travelled to several Spanish-speaking countries, including Spain, Mexico, Colombia and Panama, but in those trips, I’ve never truly “gone native”. Even in my previous travel to Puerto Rico, I stayed within the confines of the Caribe Hilton and the tourist areas of San Juan, and never ventured out to see what America’s foremost tropical island was really all about. The next time I went, I vowed that it would be different.

Palmas del Mar, Puerto Rico by you.

Palmas del Mar, Puerto Rico.

I recently returned from a trip to Puerto Rico with my wife, Rachel, and we stayed in the Palmas del Mar resort near Humacao, which is on the Southeast side of the Island. The majority of the places we visited were along the Southern and Eastern side of the island, so if my report looks a little skewed for not featuring cuisine and culture on the West and Northern parts, you’ll understand.

While not as large in terms of landmass as the two other Caribbean islands such as Cuba and Hispaniola in the Greater Antilles, Puerto Rico is still pretty big and is really too large to try to get a full sense of in just one week — it’s still the size of Connecticut, and despite having several autopistas it still has a lot of one lane roads which prevent fast cross-country travel. A trip from Humacao in the east to Rincon or Aguadilla in the western part of the island can easily take more than 3 hours, particularly if you need to go thru mountain roads for part of the trip.

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Jose Can You See…Me Gasping With Anticipation?

I spent this past weekend visiting a friend, Barbara, in Washington, D.C. with my friend and partner in crime, Loni. I was hoping to visit some of the local eateries, and between Barbara”s suggestions and Chris Styler’s intercedence, I was all set up to visit two of Jose Andres’ restaurants; I would visit Oyamel on Saturday night, and Cafe Atlantico on Sunday afternoon for their Latino Dim Sum.

Barbara, Loni, and I arrived at Oyamel around 7:30 in the evening, to be whisked off to our table. Almost at once, as if by magic, we were served an Oyamel margarita, Jose’s favorite margarita, made with “salt air” instead of a salted glass. It was absolutely divine; the margarita itself was the perfect balance of sweet-tart, and the “salt air” gave you just enough salt to make it interesting…and it was pretty!

Oyamel Margarita

We had barely had a couple of sips, enjoying the decor, when our waiter appeared table side to make  our guacamole , served with warm corn tortillas and crispy tortilla chips. I was loving this place already!

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Maybe it’s Just Me…

This past week I’ve been hearing a lot of buzz about a place in the West Village called Panca, in the space where Pardo’s of rotisserie chicken fame was. With the heat wave that we’re experiencing in the Baked Apple these last few days, it was the perfect excuse I needed to head on over, and try some of the ceviche that everyone is talking about.

We were greeted outside (there have cute little cafe type tables set outside for alfresco dining) by a lovely hostess who showed us to our table (inside, where it was airconditioned!). We had a waiter bring us menus and ask us for our water preference. He left us to peruse the menu which is not overwhelming, but offers a nice variety of ceviches and starters in Tapas and Appetizer size portions. We opted for the taps portions, leaving us free to sample more dishes.

Our waiter came back and asked us if we wanted a cocktail…I ordered my usual, although  was sorely tempted to try a libation called a Cholotini. I actually tried to convince Jerry to try it, but he was craving a beer, and so went with the Cuzquena. Note to self: The day that I open my restaurant, the waitstaff will be drilled with the understanding that if a customer has to wait more than 10 minutes for their drink, they (the waitstaff!) will suffer a slow and torturous death. I could maybe understand if the place was packed, but it was us and two other couples inside! But ok, I was about to forgive all when they brought me (finally!) a martini that was big enough to swim in…and it was perfect. The bottled sparkling water, on the other hand, was room temp warm, and I needed to ask for ice.

I thought we’d start with the ceviches, and follow that up with a couple of appetizers before going on to the entrees. I ordered the Tiradito Mosaico, while Jerry decided on the Green Mango-Shrimp Ceviche. For our Appetizer course, I ordered the Jalea and the Yuquita Frita, and the Grilled Octopus. The waiter brought all the plates at once.

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Pomme de Terre…the Local Apple of my Eye

It’s been a long time since Jerry and I had a date night, but Erik bought tickets to Hairspray for Angela’s birthday, so they went off to the theatre, and Jerry and I headed for the new spot in the neighborhood, Pomme de Terre, which is brought to you by the same fine folk from The Farm on Adderley on Courtelyou Road. Cute and cozy as a button, we arrived without reservations at 6:30 to fine the place already packed with a cheery crowd from the neighborhood. Wow….I’m thinking good news travels fast! It has a charming exterior painted blue and yellow, and pretty tile bistro floors with exposed brick walls, making it feel inviting right off the start…but I’m not here for the decor, right?Dining Room at Pomme de Terre

After enjoying a glass of Cahors at the bar, we were seated at an intimate little table for two, and presented with menus that were full of lovely bistro fare. Jerry enjoyed a bottle of Thierry Blonde French beer, while he perused the menu.

Everything sounded so very good that we decided to order three appetizers. I went for the Cream of Cauliflower Soup with Rock Shrimp garnish, while Jerry opted for the Potato-Leek Tart, and the Mixed Greens with Bacon and Blue Cheese. The soup arrived nice and hot (you know my pet peeve about soup that’s not hot!), with a velvety texture, and perfectly seasoned. One might argue that cauliflower is nothing to get excited about, but I am here to tell you, I could have easily made a meal out of that soup…it was that satisfying!

Cream of Cauliflower Soup

The Potato-Leek Tart did not fail to impress, either. Crisp and flaky, the crust stood up to the filling of Potato and Leek, offering the perfect contrast to the creamy filling. The mixed green salad with crispy, salty lardons, crunchy, bitter radicchio and a perfectly poached egg, was also good enough to serve as a meal. Pass the crusty bread, and a glass of Cahors and this girl is good to go. With the appetizers scoring a grand slam, I could barely contain my excitement while waiting for the entrees.

Mixed Green Salad with Bacon and Blue Cheese

Potato Leek Tart

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Jonesin’ for Jones on a Wild Weekend

My family and I found ourselves in sunny Philadelphia yesterday for Arcadia University‘s production of The Tempest, which just happens to be my son Marc’s Senior year production. Shakespeare always makes me hungry, so after such stellar thespian performances, we decided to stop in town for a nice dinner before we headed back home to Brooklyn.

Marc as Antonio in The Tempest (on the far right)

Where to go? Philadelphia offers such an array and variety of fabulous restaurants, but nothing quite says comfort food to me quite as eloquently as Jones Restaurant in Central Philly, one of Stephen Starr’s “theme” eateries in town. The fact that Executive Chef Steven Petrecca is married to that doyenne of fabulosity known as Jennifer Cohan, might have influenced my decision to go there, but no argument was as compelling as this:

Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the incomparable Luca Petrecca! There is no way I can even start to tell you how wonderful and delicious this baby is! But I digress…

Chef Steven sent out some extraordinary mac and cheese that was so inviting, I never got a chance to take a picture. My family descended on those two bowls like a hoard of beasts, I’m sorry to say, but I can guarantee you that the mac and cheese alone was worth the trip. When the following apps of Cobb Salad, Chicken and Rock Shrimp Dumplings, and Seared Tuna Tacos, I warded them off long enough to get the picture, before those, too were devoured.

Cobb Salad (The blue cheese in combination with the bacon is what makes me wax poetic about this salad!)

Chicken and Rock Shrimp Dumplings with Sweet Soy and Chile Oil

Seared Tuna Tacos

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