*posted by em*
*posted by em*
The TripAdvisor reviews for La Cevicheria didn’t stack up quite as highly as some of the other restaurants in Cartagena, but seeing as it’s somewhat of an institution here (Gabriel Garcia Marquez used to frequent the spot), we decided to give a whirl. It was Sunday anyhow, when few restaurants were open. The exterior of the restaurant was the picture of charm: brilliant turquoise doors and window frames and a balcony enmeshed in pink flower bushes.
Sven ordered the Vietnamese Rice dish, which came in a coconut shell overflowing with ‘mariscos’ and with two fried plantain discs propped up in an endearingly designed wooden box tray.
I opted for the Tropical Paella dish, which was super flavorful and generous in terms of seafood. The only drawback was how sugary the dishes were — in some of my bites, you could almost crunch on the sugar crystals in the rice.
*posted by suzi*
A radly designed Devil’s Backbone Dark Abby Ale… which I enjoyed at Estadio in DC for the first time. After hearing a good bit about this place from my trusty foodie friend Buddha, it certainly lived up to its reputation. The tables are tightly packed into the small space. Prolly had something to do with the large wooden tables and chunky throne-like chairs hehe. I loved that it was dark in there.
It was a particularly memorable dinner. Maybe it was the good company we kept Charlie and I met up with old comrades Uday and Buddha (collectively, Buddhay, as we like to call them sometimes hehe). And we had a grand old time trying the delectable tapas dishes. Really, every dish seemed like it was well thought-out and immaculately executed. It’s one of those places where you couldn’t go wrong if you just closed your eyes and pointed to something on the menu. You can trust that the chef wouldn’t allow something on the menu as filler – a dish would only make it on the menu because it earned its way there Below are the pretty food porn pictures I came away with.
Foie Gras Scrambled Eggs & Black Truffle Butter My choice, and everybody at the table loved me for it the moment they bit into it. It might not look quite as heavenly as it tasted (unless squishy brains look tasty to you). And it occurred to me what an amazing brunch dish it would make, since it’s essentially scrambled eggs! Also, the toasted bread underneath wasn’t just regular toast, it was toasted with that sinful Black Truffle Butter spread. I almost didn’t think it was real it was that good.
Grilled Octopus, Potato-Caper Salad, Pimenton I usually stay away from grilled octopus for obvious reasons… it’s a fricken alien tentacle with suction cups! How can it not make you think of the movie Aliens. Anyway, despite all my juvenile commentary, I was a good girl and ate my share of it. Again…delicious.
Blistered Shishito Peppers & Sea Salt Damn these were scrumptious. Sizzling hot with generally a pretty mild flavor, except when you picked a randomly ridiculously torturously spicy one. Buddha had to stop eating for a few minutes and stare into space to get over one of those. Then a few peppers later, I was doing the same thing.
*posted by em*
On the morning of Day 3 in Cartagena, I finally reached the Holy Grail of our trip — feasting on an authentic Colombian arepa! For breakfast, we ordered the “arepa con huevo” (something I didn’t know even existed until I saw it on our hotel breakfast menu). In New York, we’d only ever had the traditional arepa con queso. Here’s a shot of my fried deliciousness, with a side of “crema.” Everything here seems to be served with some kind of cream, milk, dulce de leche, or arequipe.
Check out the pics — evidence of a perfectly cooked egg, crispy fried arepa skin on the outside, gooey and runny on the inside.
Here’s what we’ve yet to try this afternoon: street arepas con queso!
*posted by em*
I made it a mission to check out the famed Portal de los Dulces in Cartagena (the town’s portal of sweets). On our way out to explore Getsemani (the emerging, but once seedy neighborhood of Cartagena outside the Walled City), we found it: a slew of two dozen tiny vendor stands along an entire block of colorful Spanish colonial-style arches, each one operated by a little old wrinkled Colombian woman. I had to see this place for myself, after learning that it was the setting for many of Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s works of magical realism, including Love in the Time of Cholera. (OK, I was also pretty durned excited about the 50-cent “munecas” made of dulce de leche that I’d read about over the Internets.)
So before we procured any goods for the fam back home, we wanted to taste test the goodies. Here’s what we picked up, for a measly $3,000 Colombian pesos (~$1.75US). The coffee came separately from the original Colombian Juan Valdez Cafe (the one with a location in Washington, DC).
Each stand had variations of the same things — large glass jars and plastic packages of color — more amenable to the sight than their actual taste, as we would learn. Boy, do the Colombians like their sugar and cream.
*posted by em*
In less than a day, I’ll be hopping on a jet plane with Sven for a 5-hour JetBlue flight to Cartagena, Colombia — by all online accounts a charming, romantic fisherman’s town with horse-drawn carriages and open air cafes on the northern coast of South America. People have shot me some puzzled looks about our vacation destination, for good reason I guess. I did spend several years in school studying the grisly modus operandi of the FARC, paramilitary, and Cali & Medellin cartels (read: Colombian neckties, kidnappings and other such monstrosities).
But apparently they’ve turned a corner in the last 5 years or so. With firsthand confirmation from Sven’s boss back in December, Cartagena will soon become (if not already) the “It” place for travelers. We decided against making it a beach vacation, since Boca Grande is oft-likened to Miami (blech). So we’re opting to stay in the historic Walled City, also a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site. Think Istanbul… in the tropical climate of the Caribbean!
Stay tuned for tales and snapshots of the 5-day expedition (arepas, exotic fruits, tortuga eggs and other top culinary delights of Colombia). I already dug up Anthony Bourdain‘s episode of No Reservations in Cartagena:
*posted by suzi*
Mama Hsu came back home from an excursion in Dubai and she brought back these delicious-effin’ candied dates, stuffed with pecans. They were ABSOLUTELY scrumptious. I don’t think I’ve tasted anything like it before. Unfortunately the little bag of delicacies didn’t last very long in my household. I was a little sad when I popped the last one in my mouth. Don’t worry I made sure to turn the experience into 5 exhilarating bites and savored every last moment. Thanks Mom!!
*posted by em*
Last Thanksgiving, we returned from our visit to the Caribbean with a newfound love for the traditional Jamaican breakfast — saltfish and ackee!! Being of Jamaican descent, Sven’s secretary was kind enough to surprise him this week with a care package of salted codfish, a can of ackee (see suzi’s description of this fascinating Caribbean tree fruit), and a package of breadfruit (another strange tree “fruit” with the consistency of a potato, apparently accessible only in Caribbean markets in the outer boroughs of NYC). Yay. Check out Suzi’s past blog posts about our Jamaican escapade.
*posted by suzi*
Simple dishes are the best. I recently rediscovered this miso and honey salmon dish and I was so delighted at how easy it is that I made the dish several times over several consecutive weeks. The best part (besides the taste) is that it starts and ends with three ingredients miso paste, good ole honey, and a filet of salmon.
And mixed them together in a bowl. But feel free to add more honey if you like it sweeter, or more miso if you want to bring out more of the savory. 1 tablespoon of each is enough to coat the fish, but I found over several dishes that doubling or tripling the portion will help really smother the filet and let the flavor soak in! If your dinner partner is anything like Charlie, his/her joy is a function of how much sauce you put into anything hehe.
Using a basting brush, coat the filet on both sides with the paste. As you can see, ahem, I substituted this time for a catfish filet. Fresh salmon from Whole Foods can add up and your wallet will take a hit hehe.
Then wrap it up in plastic wrap and stick it in the fridge overnight! When you’re ready to prepare it, place it on a sheet of aluminum foil, pulling out enough foil to loosely fold it over the top of the fish. This will keep the moisture in so that the fish meat is juicy and sizzling with all that coveted omega-3 fish fat. Bake it at 375 for 15 minutes-18 minutes. Check it often so as not to overbake and dry it out!
*posted by suzi*
I love eating out! hehe. The whole experience of being seated at a cozy table, being in good company, ordering a coffee if it’s breakfast or yummy appetizers on a special occasion, etc., etc. But there’s also something about making food at home that’s equally satisfying, in a very different way. It just feels … efficient It’s the same kind of feeling you get from making something you need with your own hands, as opposed to ordering it from a store. By eating at home, I don’t necessarily mean making the meal completely from scratch. Even cobbling leftovers into a strange-ass but totally delicious meal can be rewarding to me. Or, in the case of this past Saturday, making an “instant” meal from this Japanese rice mix packet.
This was our instant “kamameshi,” a Japanese-style rice dish that’s typically eaten from a communal “kama,” hence the name. “Kama” translates into “rice cooker” or “kettle,” and “meshi” means rice. According to Wikipedia: “Kamameshi came to refer to a type of Japanese pilaf cooked with various types of meat, seafood, and vegetables, and flavored with soy sauce, sake, or mirin.”
You just mix the content of the packets with dry rice, then cook it up in an electric rice cooker. We ended up using two kinds of rice since we didn’t have enough of any one kind: 1) this awesome Yam and Multi-Grains Rice (the GreenMax brand from Taiwan is my favorite!) and 2) arborio rice. I was a little worried about the arborio rice in the cooker, but it turned out perfectly yummy. In fact, it might have made the kamameshi even chewier and creamier than usual.
Then we added a piece of samma fish on top (marinated canned fish that is kind of like the Asian equivalent of sardines). Here was the full meal – refreshing, cold, paper-thin bamboo from a can and a side salad of spinach + feta cheese with Japanese sesame salad dressing. YUM!
In case you’re interested in trying this yourself, this is the rice mix we used, which you can get from the heaven-sent Japanese Hana Grocery store at 17th & U St NW. It’s a tiny, cramped little store full of fun Asian goods like furikake, yama and instant ramen. Last summer, Charlie and I biked over there pretty regularly to pick up essential ingredients. And Chops would carry on with the little Japanese lady behind the counter. “Ohayou gozaimasu!” “Genki desu-ka?” “Genki desu!”
This is the Green Max rice we used and that I recently discovered and swear by. It’s healthy, full of multi-grain nutrients and doesn’t use color pigmentation or artificial flavorings. Unfortunately the rice mix above does include a little MSG, but I guess you gotta pick your battles hehe.
Mentai Mayo Pasta
While we’re on the topic of instant Japanese meals to make at home, here is another one that is DEE-licious to me hehe. You can also get this at Hana Grocery. It’s a delightful, slightly spicy cod roe sauce (pink in color) that you mix into cooked pasta, along with bits of dried flavorings and nori flakes. This one actually doesn’t have any MSG in it. It’s pretty dangerously tasty, as I often end up overeating because I don’t know when to stop!