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.

Fat me and The Fat Elvis

Sometimes, when I’m bad, I’m really bad. And when a trusted source recommended I try The Fat Elvis burger at Atlanta’s Vortex Bar and Grill a towering behemoth of a burger topped with peanut butter, bacon and fried bananas I knew it was time to throw caution to the wind and be very freakin’ bad.

The Fat Elvis

The Fat Elvis

The Fat Elvis, ever so appropriately named after the King in his later years when he was known to wolf down peanut butter, banana and bacon sandwiches, is as serious as the heart attack it’ll cause you if you eat too many in one lifetime. It’s a massive beast, definitely not for the faint of heart and certainly not for anyone with a delicate stomach. My sister seemed mildly disgusted by the idea and and when it showed up at our table, on a plate filled with tater tots (Cause what, was I supposed to get a salad to go with it?) she just looked appalled.

You have to bring your A game when ordering this bad boy.

You have to bring your A game when ordering this bad boy.

Sandwiched between two doughy, soft buns was a big ol’ hunk, a hunk of juicy beef (See what I did there?) cooked to just the most perfect tender pinkness, smeared thick with a melty, creamy peanut butter, deliciously soft, sweet fried bananas, and everyone’s favorite: thick, wavy, glistening strips of bacon. Clearly, there was no neat, civilized way to eat this thing. It oozed peanut butter out one end and all sorts of juices out the other. It was messy and obscene, a crazy mix of flavors and textures, and absolutely delicious in all the worst ways.

Will the Fat Elvis be filed under sensible meals or healthy living options? Nope, not ever. But like so many things that are bad for you, it was damn good.

Side note: in case you were wondering, my sister ordered a burger topped with a heap of blue cheese spread, which isn’t something I’m totally crazy about so no, there are no pictures. My attention was completely devoted to The Fat Elvis. Nothing else.

Mary Mac's Tea Room on Urbanspoon

A whole lot of comforting

My sister and I are separated by roughly 1,200 miles (1,276.3 if you ask Google) and because I have a slight aversion to Miami, where she still lives, and she’s been to New York a bunch of times, we thought we should get together in a whole new city.

Our requirements were that our destination be no more than a couple of hours away by plane, have fun things to do (the younger De Angelis isn’t one for poolside lounging or beach bumming) and have lots of good food. So off we went to Atlanta, to do our sister bonding with a side of southern comfort.

Many a calorie was consumed by way of fried, butter-laden southern specialties, but we both agreed the best meal of the trip (though possibly the worst for our waistlines) was at Mary Mac’s Tea Room, the kind of bright, sunny restaurant that fills up with bustling families and church ladies in their Sunday best, all packed in for heaping plates of artery-clogging southern goodness and tall glasses of sweet tea.

Plain table bread? Psshh, not here, folks!

Plain table bread? Psshh, not here, folks!

Right out of the gate, Mary Mac’s starts you off with a basket of sweet morning buns and cornbread in place of regular ol’ bread. Morning buns, with their sweet cinnamon bun-like swirl of brown sugar, were an interesting way to start things off, almost dessert-y and a nice complement to the more savory butter-slathered cornbread.

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Oh you know, just a little light lunch.

While the options were many, with seemingly endless combinations of carbs on carbs on carbs, I went with the shrimp and cheese grits with fried green tomatoes and my all-time favorite, sweet potato soufflé, as sides. The cheese grits were all of the creamy, buttery, cheesy perfection I needed them to be, with fat, juicy shrimp plopped on top, and the fried green tomatoes, tangy and juicy inside their crunchy, battered shells were the ideal companion. But by and far, my heart was won over by the sweet potato soufflé, all creamy and smooth, caramelized marshmallow sitting on top like a dream.

Fried chicken, dumplings and mac and cheese...trifecta of deliciousness.

Fried chicken, dumplings and mac and cheese…trifecta of deliciousness.

The other De Angelis went with fried chicken (because really, when in Rome…), mac and cheese and dumplings. The chicken, a giant, hulking affair of crispy, crunchy skin and tender white meat paired well with the softer, creamier sides. The dumplings, thick and soupy in their gravy like sauce were like the ooey, gooey, cheesey mac and cheese in rich, over the top southern goodness.

Peach cobbler, cause there's always room for something sweet.

Peach cobbler, cause there’s always room for something sweet.

Finally, even with all of that in our systems, we squeezed in dessert: a shared portion of Georgia peach cobbler. Unlike the cobbler I ate in bed back at the hotel, this one was all fruit, no crust. It was good, the stewed, spiced peaches soft and warm, but definitely could’ve used at least a little bit of ice cream. Cause hell, after you’ve had that many calories, what’s another couple hundred?

We left completely stuffed, ready for deep, long naps, and happily bordering on discomfort by the amount of good ol’ Georgia comfort food we put back.

Mary Mac's Tea Room on Urbanspoon

Alive and well…fed

I’m back! Here I mean. Back to blogging!

I did that thing where I kind of disappear from the ol’ bloggity blog and keep thinking about how I need to get back to it, and then I just keep procrastinating, and stockpiling food pics, and  feeling bad about not writing and then BAM! I get my act together and I come back.

So yea, here I am.

So where’ve I been? Oh, around. Getting properly settled into my new apartment, working, hosting out of town friends, spending a weekend in Atlanta with my sister, and most recently, traveling to the Dominican Republic for a good friend’s destination wedding. All of that with the usual gallivanting in between.

Peach cobbler? Good. Peach cobbler in bed? Great!

Peach cobbler? Good. Peach cobbler in bed? Great!

I’ll get into more detail about ATL and the DR over the next few days, cause I did some really good grubbing in both, but for now I’ll leave you with a snap of the freakin’ delicious peach cobbler a la mode I had in Atlanta. Not only was it perfectly warm and gooey on the inside with a delicious crumbly streusel top and a fat scoop of vanilla ice cream, but it was a thousand times more decadently delicious cause I ate it in bed, in my PJs, with my feet propped up while watching Wedding Crashers in my hotel room.

Absolutely freakin’ delicious, like so many nights I’ve had in the time I’ve been away. Wait till I tell you all about ‘em.

Breakfast of (gluttonous) champions

Behold: the French toast bagel. Cue the choir of angels.

Behold: the French toast bagel. Cue the choir of angels.

Some people incorrectly believe that I live off a diet of pizza and Cadbury eggs. And hey, listen, I get it. I see how my endless blabbering would make anyone think I eat only the most unhealthy of foods, but those are really just a small (ok fine, medium) part of my diet. The other parts just aren’t as exciting, so I don’t talk about them much. Who really wants to hear about my spinach smoothies and undying love for steamed Brussels sprouts? No one.

But who wants to hear about the insanity of deliciousness, the monstrosity of gluttony, and the several thousand calories of over-the-top breakfast ridiculousness I ate this weekend in the form of a french toast bagel with maple bacon cream cheese from The Bagel Store around the corner from my place? Well, way more of you than want to read about green smoothies, I’m sure.

Let me repeat that so you can take it in again: a french toast bagel, stuffed no, oooooozing with thick globs of maple bacon cream cheese. A true beast of a breakfast. But so, so delicious.

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What you might call the antithesis of a healthy breakfast

The bagel itself was a big, round, doughy affair, slightly more yellow than the average bagel, and with a sweeter flavor, like the love child between a plain bagel and challah bread. Dusted on the golden-brown top crust was a sprinkle of cinnamon and sugar, and inside was an admittedly obscene amount of cream cheese, probably enough for at least one whole other bagel to be properly smeared with.

Just when you thought cream cheese couldn't get better. Bam! BACON.

Just when you thought cream cheese couldn’t get better. Bam! BACON.

So, let’s talk about this maple bacon cream cheese. It wasn’t bacon flavored, or speckled with crummy bacon bits. Oh no, this cream cheese had generous strips, huge chunks of actual bacon, what someone clearly cut very generously and threw into the mix. Was it a bit excessive? Yes. Did I care? Nope, ate every last bit of it, in fact.

But I followed it up with a green juice later in the day. I swear.

The Bagel Store on Urbanspoon

Lunch amongst the lucky ones

The four years I spent in Gainesville, Florida during college were filled with a lot of the same when it came to food: pizza (of the cheap, greasy, late night variety), burgers, pitas (Pita Pit what what!) and all manner of microwaved garbage when I ate at home.  So earlier this week, when I passed a large group of kids in Greenwich Village who I assumed were in town for NYU orientation (the purple “Class of 2018″ stickers gave them away…and also horrified me), I thought about how nice it must be for them to have so many amazing food options, manycontrary to popular beliefnot even that expensive.

Think of it as the burrito's Indian cousin.

Think of it as the burrito’s Indian cousin.

Case in point: the cheap and so very delicious lunch I had at The Kati Roll Company on MacDougal Street, in the thick of all things NYU.

Quick, easy and tasty, what's not to love?

Quick, easy and tasty, what’s not to love?

Kati rolls are an Indian street food of sorts, basically different meats, veggies and other fillings rolled into crepe like flatbreads called paratha. I ordered the unda shami roll, a delicious rolled up mix of minced lamb, lentil croquettes and a thin layer of beaten eggs. The paratha was thick enough to hold everything but light and soft in taste and texture, and didn’t take away from the heartier, spicy filling inside. The spices in the lamb and in the lentil croquettes made for bright, rich flavors and the egg was just enough to give it a softer, almost buttery flavor without making it taste like a full on breakfast wrap. (Though I might point out that I would gladly eat this for breakfast, lunch or dinner.)

If I could do college all over again, I wouldn’t change a thing (because crappy pizza aside, my days in Gainesville were some of my favorite) but man, would it have been nice to have delicious things like Cambodian sandwiches, Ukranian pierogis, italian bomboloni and now Indian kati rolls. I hope all these new kids in the city know just how good they have it.

 

The Kati Roll Company on Urbanspoon

Thai Market, daydreamed and real

When my newly married friends Vanessa and Jon recently honeymooned in Thailand, I went along with them. Well, not really, not physically in the third wheel sense (cause how awkward would that be?) but vicariously through the Instagram pictures Vanessa posted daily.

In my Thai reveries I lounge around deserted beaches, play with baby elephants and feel small before giant Buddha statues, just like my married friends did, but mostly in my daydreams, I roam around the food markets, eating all sorts of things. And because it’s a daydream and not real, nothing has a single calorie. (In the beach part of my daydream, I look damn good in my bikini.)

Vanessa’s street food stories, like the ones I read on another favorite blog, The Londoner, left me with not only more wanderlust than ever, but with a ravenous hunger for Thai food. So when I asked a friend for a lunch recommendation on the Upper West Side earlier this week and she suggested a place called Thai Market, it was just what I needed.

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Tom yum goong soup. Emphasis on the yum.

To start, I had the tom yum goong soup, a reddish-brown blend of tangy, zesty lemongrass, tamarind, juicy shrimp, and plump, soft mushrooms.  It was colorful and warming, with just enough spicy heat to give my tongue a tingly little prickle without breaking out into full on nose sweats.

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Pad kee mao… that means give me more, right?

After it, at the server’s suggestion, I ordered the pad kee mao, large, flat rice noodles with tender strips of chicken, Thai basil, chili, tomato and bok choi. It wasn’t crazy hot but this time I definitely had to guzzle cold water throughout eating it. The flavors, like the colors of the different ingredients, were bold and bright, with chunks of bright green peppers, juicy tomatoes and red swirls of chili oil all mixing around in the most delicious way.

The restaurant’s overall look is supposed to transport you to Thailand, with giant photos of markets as a backdrop, along with Thai street signs and large red umbrellas that kind of make you feel like you’re outside. I popped in for lunch, and while I don’t doubt that the food sold by street vendors and at markets is way better and cheaper, Thai Market’s $8 lunch special makes it a pretty good alternative for being on the UWS.

Thai Market on Urbanspoon

Mission: perfect burrito

I’m not sure how I’m ever supposed to eat burritos again, not after the absolute-perfection-in-burrito-form I had for lunch today.

All other burritos will live in the shadow of the delicious one I had at Danny Bowien’s California style taqueria, Mission Cantina, in the Lower East Side, not far from his short-lived (but hopefully soon to be resurrected) Mission Chinese Food.

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Mission Cantina’s carne asada burrito

Before bringing his restaurants to New York, Danny Bowien was a big deal in San Francisco, where phenomenal tacos and burritos are easy to find, and clearly he picked up a thing or two and brought it to the east coast, cause the burrito I had today was a 10 clear across the board.

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So much awesome in just one handful

For starters, instead of being filled with tons of gut-filling rice, sad wilted lettuce and mushy tomatoes, this bad boy (easily shareable between two people if you don’t have a the bottomless pit of a stomach that I do) was stuffed, generously and evenly throughout, with  carne asada, beans, guacamole, crema, queso blanco and salsa fresca. The carne asada, which I went with on the server’s recommendation (other choices were lamb, carnitas, fried skate, veggie, chicken and al pastor) was oh-so-soft and juicy, tender and full of flavor. The guacamole lent a creamy freshness to balance the hearty, rich beans, and the cheese did what it always does, made everything better. It was a wonderfully messy, saucy affair with juices running down my hands and my cloth napkin working overtime, and I loved every minute of it.

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Even the chips are delicious!

The tortilla which let’s be honest, no one ever cares about was more than just a vessel for burrito goodness. Tortillas are made in house, and it shows, because instead of being bland and rubbery, this one actually tasted like something you’d want to finish, or to use as a sponge for all of the burrito juice run off. And to really push itself into the realm of greatness, the tortilla had a slight golden crisp to it, from where the burrito had been lightly seared for a perfect finish.The burrito alone was enough to make me an instant fan but Mission Cantina really sealed the deal with its accompanying tortilla chips. Usually an afterthought or distraction, these were anything but. Each one was thick and crunchy, fried in house and dusted in a punchy, colorful blend of spices that made it impossible not to each every last crumb of them. Two salsas, a tangy, avocado filled green sauce and a thicker, smoky red one were served with them, but almost not necessary because of how good they were on their own.

Burritos of New York, I’m not sure things will ever be the between us. Mission Cantina, I’m all yours.

Mission Cantina on Urbanspoon

Saltie state of mind

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The Captain’s Daughter

My mind’s been elsewhere recently, and until this afternoon, I wasn’t really sure where that was. I thought it might’ve run away in light of my recent apartment drama (yup, my roommate and I are moving. Again.) or maybe checked out after my latest pseudo romance turned out to be another dead end (cue the T-Swift playlist), or possibly just felt drained from the House of Cards binge I’ve subjected it to (woa, season 2, WOA).

Likely, it was all of those things and more that drove it away, but today at lunch, the second I bit into a beautiful, sloppy sandwich at Saltie, I figured out where it had been all along: on a seaside vacation.

The way a certain smell or song can trigger a specific memory, so can certain foods, or more specifically flavors, just as easily conjure a place in my mind. Today, as I chomped away on a lemony, garden-worth of arugula, plump, juicy sardines, briny capers, creamy slices of pickled eggs and a zesty smear of salsa verde, all between thick, golden focaccia flecked with sea salt, my mind immediately went to a sunny day on a coastal town somewhere.

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A tasty mess

The carefree ease I felt while eating (and making a mess out of) that sandwich, listed at Saltie as the Captain’s Daughter, made me think that’s where my mind’s been all along. Maybe it wasn’t a lazy beach getaway that my mind took. Maybe it’s just been hanging out at a small sandwich shop in Williamsburg this whole time. Either way it’s good to know where I can turn to get my head and my stomachand consequently my heart on the same page.

Really, I should’ve known a great sandwich would’ve made everything better all along.

Saltie on Urbanspoon
 

Bodega Finds

Ah, Half Baked. One of my favorite movies of all time.

Ah, Half Baked. One of my favorite movies of all time.

Living in New York can be a pain in the ass and every one of us that lives here has a million things to bitch about, but if there’s one distinctly New York thing I’m actually thankful for it’s bodegas.

That’s right, bodegas. Convenience or corner stores for those of you that don’t live in this zoo.  You can find them on almost every block in every neighborhood in this city and if you’re ever in a pinch— be it for ice cream, dishwashing soap, condoms, or any other random thing— you can almost always just run down the street and they’ll have what you need.

Sometimes, they even surprise you with things you didn’t realize you needed but then wonder how you lived without them. That’s what’s happened to me anyway the last few times I’ve popped into one of the million bodegas in my neighborhood.

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I already love Ritters, and then they went and made a coconut macaroon type. Ah-mazing.

Take this Ritter Sport, coconut macaroon holiday edition, for example. I originally stopped in for coffee but walked out with a delicious chocolate bar that I hadn’t seen anywhere else and made my crappy, cold morning precisely a thousand times better.

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I gotta tell you, this cookie on cookie action works for me.

Then there was the time last week when I ran into a bodega to use the ATM and spotted these insane Oreos with chocolate chip cookie dough flavored creme. What?! How do you pass those? You don’t. You buy them and you take them home and you devour them with your roommate. Happiness ensues.

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I’ll admit it, I’m a sucker for gimmicky M&M’s.

And then there was the recent time when said roommate and I ran to the nearest bodega for bottles of water to squash our awful hangovers, when we spotted these at the register: birthday cake M&M’s. I mean, really, it’s like each one is filled with a core of chocolaty deliciousness, happiness and sunshine.

So thank you bodegas of New York. Sometimes you’re weird, sometimes your clerks are creepy, and sometimes I’m convinced you’re just fronts for God knows what kind of illegal activity. But most of the time you just have exactly what I need exactly when I don’t even know I need it. And for that, I thank you.