Honest Cooking https://honestcooking.com Honest Cooking - Recipes - Culinary Travel - Wine Guides Wed, 19 Jan 2022 00:17:01 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=5.5.8 https://honestcooking.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/08/cropped-HC-Logo-Square-32x32.png Honest Cooking https://honestcooking.com 32 32 182402589 Where to Eat in St. Maartin – From Fine Dining to Fun Dining https://honestcooking.com/where-to-eat-in-st-maartin-from-fine-dining-to-fun-dining/ https://honestcooking.com/where-to-eat-in-st-maartin-from-fine-dining-to-fun-dining/#respond Thu, 20 Jan 2022 17:49:56 +0000 https://honestcooking.com/?p=206795 It had been over a year and half since I boarded a plane. I’m fortunate enough to say, that’s the longest stretch of time since childhood that I hadn’t reached a cruising altitude of above 30,000+ feet; so I was hankering hard to travel. But where could I go that would introduce me to new…

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It had been over a year and half since I boarded a plane. I’m fortunate enough to say, that’s the longest stretch of time since childhood that I hadn’t reached a cruising altitude of above 30,000+ feet; so I was hankering hard to travel. But where could I go that would introduce me to new cultures, fabulous new foods, get me away from the dipping New York temperatures and wasn’t too much of a hassle to fly during these burdensome times of travel regulations? I turned down a few invitations until finally all my criteria was met with a chance to visit Sint Maarten in the Caribbean.  

Harold Jack lookout point on Cole Bay Hill and mural on Front Street in Philipsburg.

3 Nations in one

Part of the Leeward Islands, Sint Maarten was the perfect getaway I was hoping for. Just roughly 4 hours away via a direct flight from the NYC metro area, the island nation is really three-in-one. Aside from being a Caribbean island nation with the rich history and culture that it inherently has, the island is actually two separate European territories, as well. The southern region, Sint Maarten, is overseen by the Dutch and the northern part, St. Martin, is governed by the French. While having those distinctions, it will be difficult to see a clear delineation between the two territories since everyone is free to travel throughout the borderless island. Moreover, so many travelers have fallen in love with the island and have called it home. You’ll quickly notice that the locals are really a melting pot of many cultures; not just the two that govern them.

To really experience the culinary offerings the island had to offer we hit various types of eateries from white-tableclothed dining to the most fast-casual roadside joints; and none were disappointing. In fact, I had to get a recipe for a dish called Souse which you’ll find at the end of the article. 

Fine Dining

Sale & Pepe

Marina at Simpson Bay and Chef Davide Zagami’s beautiful Italian plates

The first stop on our fine-dining tour of the island was Sale & Pepe. There Chef Davide Zagami exhibited his mastery of Italian seafood cuisine. Born in the ancient port city of Catania, Sicily, he essentially grew up in a seaside restaurant operated by his parents for almost four decades. It’s no wonder that Chef Davide’s food (of generous portions) shows an effortlessness and respect for the fresh ingredients that he’s grown a passion for. I experienced this through his Fettuccine “Hennessy” with red prawns in pink sauce. Perfectly cooked pasta made a luscious bed for large sweet prawns in a unique and creamy sauce. No doubt, all of Chef Davide’s seafood was cooked just right, but his non-seafood plates were just as well-prepared. Whether it be the vegetarian Sale & Pepe Vegetariana (vegetarian plate) or the Rack of Lamb Veneziana (lamb with garlic in wine sauce) Italy was well represented. Sale & Pepe sits right on the Marina in Simpson Bay which keeps the Chef in a restaurant right along the water much like his Sicilian upbringing.

Azul at Sonesta Ocean Point

Azul’s breathtaking exterior and Chef Francisco Almonte’s meticulously arranged dishes. top two photos provided by Azul at Sonesta

On the other side of Princess Juliana International Airport we had our next dinner at Azul, part of the luxurious Sonesta Ocean Point All-inclusive Resort. Set on the edge of a cliff overlooking Maho Bay, the views from any seat at the contemporary restaurant are simply magnificent. It’s no surprise then that Executive Chef Francisco Almonte’s plating of his continuously changing Mediterranean-themed dishes have to be as eye-catching as the restaurant’s surroundings. The one-bite caprese salad amuse-bouche was just that – attention grabbing and appetite whetting. We ate fully with our eyes and mouths; and though the portions were made less for sharing, we all left more than satiated. A fellow diner mentioned that the crab-cake he ordered was the best he’d ever had. 

Protip: if they are serving the passionfruit sorbet palate cleanser when you’re there…get two.

Ocean Lounge at Holland House

Generous servings of Chef Wendell Laurence’s gorgeous food. Top Right photo provided by Ocean Lounge

Unlike Azul, you don’t have to be a guest at the hotel to dine at Holland House’s Ocean Lounge (the only meal exclusive to hotel guests is breakfast). Not unlike the last two restaurants, Ocean Lounge is just a stone’s throw away from the water. Moreover, it’s centralized to the main thoroughfare of the historic capital of the Dutch side of the island, Philipsburg. So it’s a great place to land and fuel up in style after walking up, down and around Front and Back street. Reservations are recommended as Chef Wendell Laurence’s food draws in not only tourists but locals, as well. I almost filled up on appetizers because I sat at the center of the table and couldn’t help but grab a bite from each plate passing me from one end to the other. The Crab Wontons were as texturally pleasing as they were delicious. The Wagyu Carpaccio completely had diners pausing their conversations to savor not only the meticulous look of the dish but each rich component and how they combined all together on the tongue. The philosophy behind each dish is that “they are packed with flavor, appeal to everyone…and have hints of the Caribbean in them.” Not only was this philosophy evident in their appetizers but in the entrées, as well. My Grilled Seafood entrée was a gorgeous plate of grilled tuna, salmon, shrimp & scallops. The perfectly cooked seafood came together under a velvety champagne butter sauce that would go well with anything.

Protip: try to grab a seat at a table with an oh-so-comfy couch facing the Caribbean. 

Pure Ocean at Divi Little Bay

Executive Chef Anil Yadaf and his exquisite dishes. pictures provided by Pure Ocean at Divi Little Bay Beach Resort

As we approached our farewell dinner at Pure Ocean, pangs of melancholy penetrated our tans and I could sense a collective unsaid resistance to return to our 9-to-5 mentalities. But that was quickly swept away by the remarkable hospitality that greeted us at the restaurant. We were quickly reminded why St. Maarten is called the “Friendly Island”.  At Pure Ocean Executive Chef Anil Yadaf’s skills were well displayed. He’s highly inspired by local flavors and fresh ingredients which I look for when learning about a new destination’s culture. In Chef Yadaf’s own words, “I have always focused on more traditional methods of cooking with combinations of different spices and herbs where I can innovate food by keeping the soul of the dish very authentic and traditional. In my opinion, food should bring the ultimate joy to guests.” And that it did. My proteins (scallops for the appetizer and filet for entrée) were tender and well-seared. The accompanying vegetables and garnishes could have stood alone on their own but balanced the meats deliberately while completing the visually stunning dishes.

Protip: Don’t sleep on vegetarian/vegan options. we passed around the vegan dish (chana masala and roti) because our fellow vegan was so impressed by it. After tasting it, we understood why.

Food & Fun

The island isn’t just about wine lists and tweezer-plated dishes. In fact, if you visit the folks at The Dutch Blonde and Pyratz Gourmet Sailing you’ll see that you can enjoy their culinary offerings with a side of fun, as well.

Dutch Blonde

Sunil Vaswani’s Dutch Blonde Ale and Beach Bar that is way more than just a bar/restaurant.

If you think Dutch Blonde is just a beach bar in the middle of Philipsburg’s famed boardwalk, you’d be quite wrong. Helmed by entrepreneur, Sunil Vaswani, Dutch Blonde is more of a convivial exhibition space where the ardent entrepreneur can showcase his passion and love for Sint Maarten; it’s a place where his ideas come to life. Naturally, the second story beer garden that overlooks the beach serves the international award winning beer of the same name. “Dutch Blonde” the beer is an easy to drink yet full-flavored golden ale that is deserving of its award. It is brewed by Vaswani’s Caribbean Brewing Company located close by in Pointe Blanche. Visitors are welcome there to visit the Brewery’s sustainable operations where his other beers are brewed, as well. Back at the beer garden there’s plenty to keep you occupied. You can unwind at the bar, grab the mic during karaoke nights, and try one of the escape rooms that Vaswani recently opened. My group partook in the 1920’s themed room (with Dutch Blonde Ale in hand, of course) and to my surprise, it left me wanting to do the other rooms in subsequent visits. 

But back to the food… with an award winning ale, Vaswani couldn’t skimp on the quality of his food items. Whether it be the burgers, wings or nachos, each dish seemed to be given the close attention that Vaswani gives all his guests. Eating at Dutch Blonde allowed us to taste Dutch favorites like Bitterballen which are also known as Dutch meatballs, but are more akin to croquettes than your typical meatball. New to the menu are Pannenkoeken (Dutch pancakes) which we were lucky enough to be one of the first to try. Pannenkoeken are large in size (over a foot long) and are more similar to crepes than American pancakes. These large flapjacks can be topped with vegetables and a savory sauce or with fruit and sweet condiments. Natrually, we had to try both.

With all Sunil Vaswani has built for himself and Sint Maarten, he should stand as proud as the windmill that sits atop the Dutch Blonde Bar while it watches over the Great Bay.

Pyratz

Pyratz Gourmet Sailing, where food and fun meet on the water in a grand catamaran. bottom right three pictures provided by Pyratz

Pyratz could have fallen under the “Fine dining” group because they are billed as “Gourmet Sailing” (and the food quality was certainly of that category). But since we did eat in our bathing suits, with cocktails in hand while we let the sea air wash over us, it had to fall under the “Fun” category. With so many things to distract you while on the gorgeous power catamaran, make sure to take a moment and savor the fresh drinks and food prepared below deck. Freshly made finger foods, dips and spreads are practically necessary to help temper the refreshing and oh-so-boozy cocktails you won’t be able to resist. Guests can also enjoy entrées such as duck or lobster, freshly grilled on the boat.  We were a bit full before we boarded, but then worked up an appetite when we reached the bay where we would snorkel with fishes, paddle-board to shore and hang out on the giant floating mat that the crew provided. Before leaving that bay we experienced an unforgettable sunset that could melt anyone’s worries away.

Roadside Lolos

Though “fine” and “fun” dining is something I look forward to when I’m travelling, I never feel like I’ve gotten to know a country or region until I’ve eaten like a local and tasted the food that they grew up with. In Sint Maarten, a great way to experience just that is by visiting a “Lolo”. Lolos are small roadside eateries that can look like little shacks, a converted shipping container or food truck but are typically open-aired stalls where food is barbecued in a free-standing grill. While some can be a bit rough-and-ready, others, like the two we ate at, were a bit more established.

Captain’s Rib Shack

Delicious BBQ with a great view of Simpson Bay

Literally our first stop upon arrival, Captain’s Rib Shack gave us our first taste of the island with heaps of fresh BBQ, baked mac n’ cheese, rice and a national staple: the Johnny Cake. Supposedly, “Johnny Cakes” evolved from “Journey Cakes” that were widely eaten on-the-go. These days the fried flatbreads are eaten for breakfast, alongside barbecue, as a snack or dessert. When eaten with the piles of grilled meats, baked side dishes and rice the only journey you’ll be taking is to the closest lounger to sleep off a self-induced food coma.

Sexy Beef

Top left: Chef Coeurich Pierre Top Right: Assistant Chef Shereen Arrindell.

The other Lolo we stopped to eat at will put a grin on your face even before you get there because just saying its name, Sexy Beef, will lighten your mood. Your smile will just get bigger when you try the wonderfully grilled barbecue served on actual dinnerware (for those “dining in”). I ordered the hurricane conch which was a real taste of the Caribbean. A popular choice was the skewered bbq with velvety, peanutty satay sauce.

Protip: Order extra satay sauce. You’ll want to dip your fries or tostones into it.

“Snack Bar”

Two Lolos that we just picked up food at actually had probably my most memorable dishes because they were brand new to me. Looking for a quick bite, we stopped at “Snack Bar” on Longwall Road to get large meat pies. There I noticed a sign for their special of the day “Bullfoot Soup”. I could not resist…and i’m glad i didn’t. The soup was more like a hearty stew that had root vegetables, sticky gelatinous beef and pillowy dumplings. The soup itself was rich, slightly herby and everything i look for in a homemade stew that is cooked for hours. It was like a Caribbean Goulash or Callos. 

Ketty’s Kitchen

Ketty’s Kitchen’s Pigfoot Souse

Probably my favorite dish of the trip had to be from a roadside Lolo called Ketty’s Kitchen on the Pondfill. It is Souse which from the look of it is far from the meticulously plated dishes we enjoyed at hotel restaurants, but it’s just as tasty. Made by slightly pickling pig’s feet and tails, the finished product may look too boney to be a dish, but to me that instantly translates to flavor. This traditional, slightly tangy dish, is not a dainty one. I dove in and ate with my hands to make sure I got all the sticky goodness off each bone. No doubt, Ketty’s Kitchen knows knuckles. 

 

‘Til I Return…

I am so glad I chose St. Maarten as my post-lockdown maiden voyage. It has awakened my fervor for new flavors and innovative cooking. It reminded me of all the beautiful and friendly people and cultures I have yet to encounter. Special thanks to Marla Chemont & the Sint Maarten tourism bureau and all the wonderful hosts who made us feel uber-welcome.

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Hermanos Torres: A Life-long Master Plan https://honestcooking.com/hermanos-torres-a-life-long-master-plan/ https://honestcooking.com/hermanos-torres-a-life-long-master-plan/#respond Mon, 17 Jan 2022 17:27:53 +0000 https://honestcooking.com/?p=206767 The story of twins Javier and Sergio is as unique as the dishes they serve in their Barcelona restaurant Cocina Hermanos Torres, where the brothers have brought a life-long dream to reality and turned it into a success. The dream? To translate the feeling of their childhood family kitchen into a Michelin-worthy experience, and not…

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The story of twins Javier and Sergio is as unique as the dishes they serve in their Barcelona restaurant Cocina Hermanos Torres, where the brothers have brought a life-long dream to reality and turned it into a success. The dream? To translate the feeling of their childhood family kitchen into a Michelin-worthy experience, and not with a traditional dining room but with a kitchen with tables.

Even after a lot of closings and the fall of some of its most iconic star restaurants, Barcelona remains one the world’s most exciting food cities. A big part of that is thanks to Cocina Hermanos Torres; an industrial factory turned into a sleak, modern “kitchen with tables” that the Catalan brothers opened in 2018 and directly accumulated two Michelin stars and recently a green Michelin Star for their sustainable approach to fine dining. 

Yes, it’s an undeniably fast triumph but none of it happened by coincidence or by a strike of luck. It’s the result of a life-long master plan that started in the 80s, in the kitchens where their grandmother Catalina worked as a cook to Catalonia’s high society. It was after that time, just at the beginning of their teenage years, that the twins realized what they wanted to do for the rest of their lives and became each other’s biggest allies to achieve it. A team of twins with a shared dream.

The grand kitchen and dining room at Cocina Hermanos Torres in Barcelona. Photo by Jordi Play.

Their Bond and Inspiration

I’ve always been fascinated by the human dynamic and the deep bond that twins have. It sparks my curiosity and I’ve often wondered how it would feel to see yourself, or someone so similar to you in front of you. Interviewing the Torres-twins was just as interesting and it only took me two minutes to realize the remarkable relationship between Sergio and Javier. Not because they talk too much about it, but because they organically show it as they answer the same questions, finish each other’s sentences and even seem to be 100% sure that they both realized that they belonged in a kitchen at the exact same time. 

Like the slow cooked sauces and broths that give power and flavor to the current dishes at Cocina Hermanos Torres, their grandma Catalina slowly and inadvertently combined all the ingredients to motivate her grandsons. What started as trips to the market and assisting her with cleaning and peeling onions or peas—two ingredients that stand out during the menu that they serve todaybecame an actual desire to become chefs, and for the twins, that desire meant that they had to team up and convince their family to go to culinary school. They achieved that at 14 years old and so began their professional careers.

“From a very young age we wanted to be cooks and nobody believed in it. But after a lot of insistence they took it seriously. We got to that point thanks to our grandmother Catalina who was a cook in the houses of the Catalan bourgeoisie. In a household of 4 siblings she took great care of us because our parents worked every day. Our grandmother Catalina, without knowing it, planted in us a love of cooking by taking us to the market and asking for our help.” explains Sergio with some help from his brother.

Javier and Sergio Torres with their grandmother Catalina.

The Master Plan

It shouldn’t come as a surprise that Javier and Sergio were at the top of their classes at the Arnadí Cookery School in Barcelona. That drive and determination made them stand out to their teachers who in return helped the young students when the time came to jump into the real world of fine dining restaurants. But that wasn’t an experience that they could do together and share, like everything else in their lives up to that point. For the first time they had to separate, and instead of building different paths for themselves, they decided to face the upcoming years with a strategy.

In 1986 Sergio went to Reno de Barcelona* as Javier went to Alicante to work at Girasol de Moraira**. Right from the beginning their plan was clear: They would learn as much as they could from the best restaurants in Spain and Europe to then pass that knowledge to each other. 

“The thing is, it was all a strategy. When we started in the kitchen we told ourselves: you are going to do half of the best restaurants in Spain, Europe or anywhere in the world, and I will do the other half, and then we’ll get together and continue learning. Everything was always a part of a bigger plan that we had from a very young age”, Javier explains

To keep the plan on track Sergio and Javier communicated constantly and even agreed to experiment in different stations of the kitchen if they had the possibility. If Sergio was working with fish, Javier would try to spend a season working in pastry, if one was working with a grill, the other would work with cold dishes, and from time to time they would meet up, go to dinner, share their experiences and plan the next steps on what ended up becoming more than a decade of training and learning in houses like Le Jardin des Sens, Alain Ducasse, Akelarre, El Racó de Can Fabes, Neichel and Philippe Rochat.

Service at Cocina Hermanos Torres. Photo by David Egui

The Dream Restaurant

The Spanish culinary world is like a microclimate filled with talent but in some ways isolated from the rest of the world. A big part of that comes from a language barrier, one that seems to be maintained on purpose and with a safety net of more than half a billion Spanish-speaking people. Sergio and Javier are recognized not only amongst the Spanish and Latin American gourmands and experts but also are a part of a very exclusive group that everyone—from grandmas to little kids— know thanks to a very successful TV career that will continue in 2022. However, this doesn’t save the Hermanos Torres from being a part of that disconnected microclimate and for that reason their restaurant is still a culinary gem for surprised international foodies when visiting Barcelona.

One of their intentions when creating “the restaurant of their dreams” was to break this disconnection and to claim a well deserved position on the international culinary scene, not by making noise, but by hard work, quality and an undeniably unique project. A restaurant that elevates the idea of a kitchen as the centre of the experience, as a display of knowledge and a way of opening the doors of their lives to their guests, using the interaction with them as an extra ingredient for a perfect meal. 

To transform an old 800m2 industrial building they hired the famed Office of Architecture in Barcelona, whose main goal was to break down the usual walls and lines that separate the staff from the guests. After bumping into the huge mural in the front of the restaurant painted by Catalan artist Regina Suara, guests enter into an intimate bar separated from the main room by a wine cellar. After a welcome drink it’s time to enter the grand kitchen and dining room, where the light clouds created by Pete Sans and the withe tables and staff uniforms stand out of a completely black background. It is then, sitting down in the heart of the restaurant, that guests notice that they also are surrounded by other kitchen sections; pastry section, the research and development section, the chef’s office, a cold section and more – five different kitchen stations help to create the magic.

Sergio and Javier Torres in front of the mural by Catalan artist Regina Suara. Photo by David Egui.
The grand Kitchen and dining room at Cocina Hermanos Torres.

The Torres Flavor 

One of the very first dishes you would get if you sit down at Cocina Hermanos Torres today is a consommé, a clarified broth made out of game meat and seasonal mushrooms. Simple but complex. With that seemingly simple dish the brothers set the tone and summarize their DNA. It’s meant to make you feel at home, to remind you of your childhood, to warm you up, to open your appetite and most importantly, to let you know that every single serving will be all about flavor. 

Consommé to start the menu at Cocina Hermanos Torres. Photo by David Egui.

The brothers explain: “Cocina Hermanos Torres represents our memory, our upbringing, our experiences, our traditional flavours but very up-to-date and refined. Very clean and extremely emotional. It is very much a cuisine of flavor and we’re very proud of what we’ve achieved with this menu. The bases and sauces, the timing of every element, the temperatures, the cooking, the seassonings. Everything is very well controlled. This, added to the fact that this is a very grateful season in terms of the product, makes it a very special menu.”

Like a compilation of short stories, Sergio and Javier send their personal experiences in the form of amazing dishes to the table, like the cured squid with caviar and poultry broth, inspired by one of their trips to Japan where they first tried a salt cured squid. Or the powerful and creamy mussels “moqueca” with prawns, king crab, saffron and coconut noodles, traditional from Brazil however redone with Mediterranean produce to represent their years and projects in Brazil, where they opened restaurant Eñe in Sao Paulo in 2007 and then in Rio de Janeiro in 2009. 

Cured squid with caviar and poultry broth. Photo by David Egui.
Mussels “moqueca” with prawns, king crab, saffron and coconut noodles. Photo by David Egui.

The only time I could get a different answer out of the brothers was when I asked about their favorite dish from the current menu. Javier answered quickly and without hesitation that he loves the peas. Maresme peas with iberian bacon and sagú, a starch extracted from tropical palms that’s similar to tapioca. Sergios response was more diplomatic.From time to time Javier and I try the menu with the team and it is always an interesting exercise, but choosing a favorite dish is like choosing a favorite son. I’d say I like all of them.”

One of the favorite dishes from Javier Torres. Maresme peas with iberian bacon and sagú. Photo by David Egui.

A Dish, A Story

An already classic dish at Cocina Hermanos Torres is the Onion from Fuentes de Ebro, a creamy and rich onion soup created as an homage to the twins’ father. It was on a trip to his farm in Zaragoza that Sergio and Javier first tried this special onion, the only one with a Protected Designation of Origen in Spain. It stands out for its quality, its sweetness and balance, qualities that inspired the brothers to take them to Barcelona and create.

Our creative process is complex because we not only have to please ourselves but also the other. Let’s say that creating with four hands and two minds will always be a more complex process. An orderly chaos. Javier has a very good base and I have another. We trust that and we know each other very well. It does not matter who brings the seed of that idea, we work as a team to elevate it with no conformism and this makes the final result better.

That’s how with no complexes or egos, an onion from their father’s farm becomes a soup made out of caramelizing the onions for 18 hours served with bread, black truffles, vinaigrette, truffle water agar and black garlic puré. That is how all the values that represent Cocina Hermanos Torres unify in a spoon; history, memory, family, beauty, refinement and on top of everything; flavor.

Cocina Hermanos Torres, Carrer del Taquígraf Serra 20, Barcelona www.cocinahermanostorres.com

Onion from Fuentes de Ebro. Photo by David Egui.

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A Chef Tasting at Nice Matin https://honestcooking.com/a-chef-tasting-at-nice-matin/ https://honestcooking.com/a-chef-tasting-at-nice-matin/#respond Thu, 30 Dec 2021 20:43:18 +0000 https://honestcooking.com/?p=206730 Nice Matin has offered the Upper West Side residents a space to enjoy French Provençal-inspired cuisine for nearly two decades. Upon researching, I found Provençal cuisine is “high-spirited but straightforward.” In other words, the food focuses on preserving the taste and texture of seasonal, fresh ingredients like tomatoes, garlic, saffron, peppers, anchovies, olives, olive oil,…

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Nice Matin has offered the Upper West Side residents a space to enjoy French Provençal-inspired cuisine for nearly two decades. Upon researching, I found Provençal cuisine is “high-spirited but straightforward.” In other words, the food focuses on preserving the taste and texture of seasonal, fresh ingredients like tomatoes, garlic, saffron, peppers, anchovies, olives, olive oil, and wild herbs. Expect to find a menu offering dishes like; Panisse, bouillabaisse, and duck confit.

On my first impression, I’ll admit that Nice Matin did not shatter my expectations. The restaurant’s interior boasts elegance and sophistication–ideal to what I recall a French Brasserie to be like from my trip to Paris a couple of years ago. At Nice Matin, the diners also seemed “fancier”; people fitted in suits and fancy dresses while going through rounds of wine at a private wine tasting. It was opposite to what my guest Jordi and I wore: sneakers and sweaters. Yet, we both felt comfortable and welcomed, thanks to the excellent staff service. Moments after we found our table, Chef Eric Starkman, the person helming Nice Matin’s kitchen, introduced himself and asked if we’d instead try a special chef tasting or make personal choices from the menu.

Here’s the thing with chef tastings, sometimes they can be long drawn out, and at a certain point, there is no room left to try yet another round of red meat cooked in a different method or a foaming shrimp. Both diners and chefs have described chef-tasting menus with the same hesitation Jordi and I have about long commutes to the Upper West Side. There are loads of eye and side eye-rolling involved. Yet, I went with my gut and decided to try Chef Tasting because it would allow me to genuinely explore the Chef’s skills and what Nice Matin offers. Long story short, we chose the chef tasting, and I am glad to share it did not disappoint.

The Chef Tasting Menu was a fusion of favorites of the traditional menu. To start, the lovely waiter brought The Panisse and Broccoli Soup. Panisse is a golden chickpea fritter, and in my opinion, it can give potato fries a run for its money. I found it to be the perfect way to kickstart my tasting experience and highly recommend dunking it into the creamy broccoli soup for more sumptuous flavors.

Another dish I was deeply impressed with was the stuffed pumpkin filled with butternut squash gnocchi and duck confit red simmered in red wine jouge. Jordi mentioned it would be great to recreate this dish at home using leftovers. Overall, this dish had quite a presentation. Half opened, the miniature pillows of gnocchi and duck confit spilled out onto the white platter.

Next on the table was the Speck Wrapped Atlantic Cod. I love a good land and sea combo, and the pairing white flaky fish wrapped in salty bacon layered on a bed of sauteed spinach, and creamy warm emulsified butter sauce did not disappoint.

For a lighter, more refreshing dish, the Chef then presented a French classic, the Endive Salad. He then brought out another more complex dish, his Hanger Steak. Truthfully speaking, I am not the greatest fan of steak, and guess what, it’s completely ok. We all have different taste buds and pallets! However, based on my experience, I found the meat was super tender, and I enjoyed the grilled romaine, creamy garlic – lemon dressing, parmesan, baguette crisps. I now plan to add grilled romaine to home-cooked winter menus.

Last but not least, I am an enormous chocolate flan and felt overtly elated about the Chef’s rich chocolate souffle. I give it all the stars. There’s no doubt that every bite of the souffle will melt in your mouth. With every taste, there will be bright bursts of rich chocolate flavors. With every bite, you will be thinking about your next visit to Nice Matin.

Sometimes trying something new– like French Provencal cuisine or commuting to a new area code to experience its culinary offerings– is worth the trek. Additionally, while I still believe tasting menus aren’t worth the money, I think these menus will become more appealing across the board as soon as more experts like Chef Eric Starkman bring their expertise to the table. Most importantly, if the diners leave and lust for more, then something is getting done right, right?

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Mulled Wine Infused with 100 Proof Vodka https://honestcooking.com/mulled-wine-infused-with-100-proof-vodka/ https://honestcooking.com/mulled-wine-infused-with-100-proof-vodka/#respond Sat, 25 Dec 2021 20:42:31 +0000 https://honestcooking.com/?p=206728 In summer its margaritas, in the fall pumpkin spice lattes, in the holiday season, its mulled wine. And who doesn’t love a warm beverage that smells like a bakery. For those unfamiliar, Mulled wine is a warm drink made from red wine, some citrus fruit, a sweetener and spices. Sometimes it is additionally spiked with…

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In summer its margaritas, in the fall pumpkin spice lattes, in the holiday season, its mulled wine. And who doesn’t love a warm beverage that smells like a bakery.

For those unfamiliar, Mulled wine is a warm drink made from red wine, some citrus fruit, a sweetener and spices. Sometimes it is additionally spiked with vodka or rum. In Europe, mulled wine has different names. The Germans call it Gluhwein or “glow wine” and use spices and citrus flavor. Some say they even spike it with rum or amaretto. Following the Germans, The Swedish call it Gløgg. Their recipe uses a combination of red wine, port, and brandy steeped with aromatic spices.

Here in New York City, the festive beverage takes many shapes either in traditional form or can be completely unique. Take for example Our/New York’s Bar Manager, Kaddy Feast who adds in a cup, of vodka, distilled right in the city. Initially when Kaddy mentioned the recipe uses vodka, I thought it would be too harsh or would clash with the spices in mulled wine. However Kaddy says the recipe is lovely and offers exceptional smoothness. What makes this recipe smooth is the unique vodka. Our/New York’s vodka is complex, offers a subtle flavor followed by a clean and smooth finish–making it an exceptional addition to the mulled wine recipe.

While Kaddy’s recipe is not a traditional to any of the regions mentioned earlier or any other traditional recipe for that matter, it’s really home to New York because one of the star ingredients – vodka – is made in the city. As mentioned, the recipes for Mulled wine vary greatly depending on the country, region or personal tastes. Most recipes you will find suggest you use a a mixture of port and red wine. In addition to the vodka you’d need wine of course, it’s recommended to opt for a cheaper one as the wine will be combined with a medley of spices and flavors.

As temperatures cool down and fireplaces heat up, mulled wine is an apt libation to pair with the season and beyond. Feast spilled her secrets for drinkers make it at home. Check it out below!

  • 1 cup Vodka ( recommends using Our/New York’s)
  • 2 750ml bottles of Red Wine
  • 1 750ml bottle of Port Wine
  • 2 slices of Fresh Ginger
  • 1 tsp Vanilla Extract
  • Spice Mix (4 crushed Cinnamon sticks, 1 tsp Cardamom Seeds, 16 Whole cloves, 2 tsp Nutmeg)
  • 2 Orange Peels
  • Handful of Raisins & Almonds
  • ¼ cup Organic Brown Sugar

Method: Combine vodka, vanilla extract, half of spice mix, orange peels and infuse for 2-3 days. In a pot, combine red wine, port wine, fresh ginger, raisins & almonds, and second half of spice mix. Drain infused vodka into wine mixture. Add brown sugar. Heat over medium-low for 30-40 minutes. Do not boil, allow to steam.

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Goat is The New Black: Birriereria Jalisco in Pico Rivera https://honestcooking.com/goat-is-the-new-black-birriereria-jalisco-in-pico-rivera/ https://honestcooking.com/goat-is-the-new-black-birriereria-jalisco-in-pico-rivera/#respond Sat, 04 Dec 2021 23:06:26 +0000 https://honestcooking.com/?p=206720 Dan Bercu ventures to Pico Rivera in the search for an ancestral goat stew at Birrieria Jalisco. In the Odyssey, Homer does not allow Odysseus to rest until he has travelled so far inland from the sea, that the natives cannot tell an oar from a willowing fan. On a similar quest for authentic ethnic…

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Dan Bercu ventures to Pico Rivera in the search for an ancestral goat stew at Birrieria Jalisco.

In the Odyssey, Homer does not allow Odysseus to rest until he has travelled so far inland from the sea, that the natives cannot tell an oar from a willowing fan. On a similar quest for authentic ethnic food, I travel east from the beaches of Los Angeles to the sweltering interior. Only when one journeys beyond the reaches of fog, the fear of spice, and the satisfaction with mediocrity; can pure indigenous food be discovered.

Birriereria Jalisco is a perfect example of pure food, found far from “home.” Pico Rivera sits in the geographical center of Los Angeles. Birriereria Jalisco sits in front of a Db’s discount store and across from a high school. Concrete floors and dark wood tables, greet the diner; the obligatory wall, painted mustard yellow.

“Birria” is a Spanish word that connotes something of little value. It originated in the Mexican state of Jalisco where meats are cooked for long period, at low heat, in an ancestral stew of chili pepper adobo, garlic, cumin, bay leaves and thyme. Birrereria Jalisco is a shrine to Goat birria. Never tried goat before? Too gamey? A third world meat?

A greater percentage of humans ( 70 %) eat goat than any other meat on earth. The taste is as rich as any short rib. The animal requires very little space, will consume almost anything , and produces little waste. I like Impossible Burgers as much as Greta Thunburg. Yet if we really want to reduce animal produced methane, switching from cow to goat might be the swiftest conversion to help save the planet.

Anyone can make a $40 Wagyu steak taste great. But a large hunk of lean goat meat? At Birrereria Jalisco, skilled chefs use the alchemy of time, to turn gristle into gold. The menu is very focused and offers three main options: roasted goat shank, goat birria, and beef ribs.

The Chamorro, goat shank, was as vast as a tomahawk steak. The meat was “fall off the bone” tender, finished with nice roasted char. It tasted softer than lamb with a slight wild game type nose. When I grabbed the bone to eat like a Viking, it pulled away from the meat. and I came up empty. The Chamorro is served with a ceramic cup of its own broth, for drenching or dipping.

Next, a half order of “Roasted Kid” arrived with a bowl of consume . It was accompanied by heat- blasted tortillas “Hecho a Mano”- made by hand. These luscious ovals were soft and pliable, not dry like most corn tortillas The smaller cut of meat than the whole shank, involves more surface area so an even darker char develops.

It was as good as any brisket I’ve eaten in LA.

About to burst, “The beef Birria de Res” was placed on a plate in front of me. As with the goat, all the meats are stewed for hours, then finished in a blast furnace oven to seal in the flavor and singe the outer layer to a crunch. All the cuts were short ribs, providing lots of nooks and crannies for meat and marrow to hide within.

In the end, I washed it all down with a towering glass of “Tepache,” an aged pineapple juice sweetened with picilocino. Sweet, yet not over bearing, it possesses a Brazilian “Caipirinha” type of tropical taste. Satiated, I ambled past the Pokémon machine at the exit, and emerged from the darkness of the restaurant, into the bright light of the San Gabriel valley, I had two last things on my mind, Paul Newman and a way home…

Birrieria Jalisco
Website
6105 Rosemead Blvd C, Pico Rivera, CA 90660

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Meet Chef Suzanne Loving of Trio Restaurant & Market https://honestcooking.com/meet-chef-suzanne-loving-of-trio-restaurant-market/ https://honestcooking.com/meet-chef-suzanne-loving-of-trio-restaurant-market/#respond Mon, 22 Nov 2021 16:28:14 +0000 https://honestcooking.com/?p=206631 Meet Suzanne Loving, a Virginia native, who doesn’t mind pushing the culinary envelope in any kitchen she commands. From opening a successful pie shop in Nashville to becoming the executive chef at Kitty Hawk’s Trio Restaurant & Market in the Outer Banks, Suzanne constantly thinks outside the box as an active player in evolving the…

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Meet Suzanne Loving, a Virginia native, who doesn’t mind pushing the culinary envelope in any kitchen she commands. From opening a successful pie shop in Nashville to becoming the executive chef at Kitty Hawk’s Trio Restaurant & Market in the Outer Banks, Suzanne constantly thinks outside the box as an active player in evolving the culinary landscape of the islands she now calls home.

Here, Chef Loving discusses why she believes Trio continues to grow, the importance of teamwork, the joy of being good at what she does, and the satisfaction of proving a female can compete successfully in a male-dominated industry. (Quotes have been edited for clarity.)

Tell me a little bit about yourself?

I moved to Nashville, Tennessee almost fifteen years ago and that’s where I began my culinary career. I went to culinary school there, worked in different restaurants, and eventually opened my own successful restaurant. During that period, I began to reevaluate where I was and decided I wanted to be closer to my family. So, I moved to The Outer Banks and I built a house out here. That was two years ago.

What made you choose Trio?

I wanted some place that was gender blind. Often, a female chef is typecast to pastry roles, or anything that’s not an executive chef. I uprooted my whole life and I wanted to enjoy what I was doing and I didn’t want to be pigeonholed into what others wanted. Trio offered me that opportunity.

Trio had a female kitchen manager. So, they were kinda softened to the idea of a female chef, which worked in my favor. It’s hard to connect with other female chefs. It would be great if there was a network but those women are probably busy running every aspect of the kitchen.

How’s it going at Trio?

Trio is such a great space and it has great potential. It’s been open for 10 years. But in the two years I’ve been here, the kitchen has been remodeled and expanded two to three times. Now we’re working on another expansion, because we’ve just outgrown the space. Before the pandemic, our sales essentially were about 40% food and 60% alcohol and that’s that’s kind of standard, but since we reopened in June of 2020, it’s been the opposite. It’s about 60% food to 40% alcohol. We are just crushing the food game. There’s not one day that we’re not getting our butts kicked in the kitchen.

What dishes have you added to the menu and what changes did you make as the new executive chef?

I started working here just as a cook. And I knew that this is where I was supposed to be, like it felt right. The management, leadership, and owners just made so much sense. And I knew that I wanted to be here to see what we could do with Trio and how we could grow. There was so much more that we could be doing with the menu being this close to the ocean. So, since I started, we’ve been using as much local seafood as possible.

Is there a specific Outer Banks ingredient that you enjoy using?

Just the fact that we have such great access to local food is incredible. And here, everyone pretty much loves seafood. If you don’t, we have other options, which is nice.We try to use as much local produce as possible with local farms and artisanal vendors . And I think that it’s important to support other people in the community. There’s room for everybody. None of the restaurants around Trio are the same. We all have different specialties and I think that’s really cool.

Let’s talk about how you’ve helped Trio to thrive during a challenging first couple years.

When I started here, I was just a cook, but about six months later, I was offered an opportunity to run the kitchen. That’s when I asked to be the executive chef. Then, two weeks later we shut down because of the pandemic. We were closed for about three months, but during that time, I met almost daily with one of our owners, our retail manager, and our general manager to figure out what was next.

Trio is not just a restaurant, it’s also a marketplace where we sell thousands of wines, hundreds of beers, and many cheeses from all over the world. So we kind of pivoted our focus and our owner Kenny designed $100 cases of wine for curbside pickup. We started doing big family meals, so people could place their orders, grab some wine and they could heat up their food in the oven when they got home. We also did a mystery cheese bag that we continue selling to this day. You get almost a quarter pound of different cheeses and a little mini baguette for 20 bucks.

Kitty Hawk is very much a town whose businesses thrive on people visiting from all over, but we got a lot of support from our locals who felt safe during the pandemic because we had strict protocols in place and we were diligent about enforcing them.

Are there any upcoming events that locals and tourists alike can enjoy?

We did an Oktoberfest this October and hopefully our fall menu change will be up and running by then. Even at half capacity, we are breaking sales records that we had at full capacity. Last year, with everyone working from home or working remotely, everyone went to the beach. I mean, I would want to come to the beach, if I worked remotely. The volume just stayed, it just stayed the course.

I know you owned a pie shop in Nashville, so are you doing pies here?

We will have some new pies on the menu now that it’s pie season. I’ve done a few exclusive Trio pies. We’ve had a peanut butter and jelly pie and we turned this blackberry cider that we have in house into a reduction and it’s like grown up PB&J.

What makes a restaurant successful in your opinion?

I think that if you’re having a good time with what you’re doing, it’s going to show and people will appreciate it. And then they will tell other people about it and they will bring them by, as well. I think that’s the definition of success for a restaurant.

What does your ideal Outer Banks day off look like?

I mean, there are a couple restaurants that I love. The one in particular is called Green Tails. It’s a little seafood market not far from my neighborhood. They go down to the docks every couple of days and get whatever they can. The owners make really unique specials with fish that restaurants aren’t necessarily going to put on the menu.

Do you have any advice for people in hospitality starting out?

Be willing to learn from a female leader and be willing to be coached. At my old pie shop, I had college kids come work for me, and once they bought into what we were doing, they stayed and learned so much. Everybody working towards the same goal and supporting each other is the most important part of the kitchen. It’s never going to be me versus them. It has to be a team effort and here it absolutely is. The kitchen is so small, so everyone does everything. Usually, it’s two of us doing three hundred covers a night, and if we can do that, we can do anything.

Trio Restaurant & Market
3708 N Croatan Hwy.
Kitty Hawk, NC 27949

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The Holiday Table – What These Culinary Experts Are Dishing for Season https://honestcooking.com/the-holiday-table-what-these-chefs-are-dishing-for-season/ https://honestcooking.com/the-holiday-table-what-these-chefs-are-dishing-for-season/#respond Sat, 20 Nov 2021 14:47:17 +0000 https://honestcooking.com/?p=206687 Spiced Spaghetti squash, Conch stuffing  and Mom’s Candied Yam’s…Yup, it’s already that time to start thinking what you’re serving at this year’s Holiday Table. For a fresh take on your favorite festive foods, get inspiration from the Holiday Table from these culinary experts. From Chef Rolle’s Caribbean-themed stuffing to Chef Belknap’s four cheese Egg Souffle, these…

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Spiced Spaghetti squash, Conch stuffing  and Mom’s Candied Yam’s…Yup, it’s already that time to start thinking what you’re serving at this year’s Holiday Table. For a fresh take on your favorite festive foods, get inspiration from the Holiday Table from these culinary experts. From Chef Rolle’s Caribbean-themed stuffing to Chef Belknap’s four cheese Egg Souffle, these culinary experts share what they are dishing for the most wonderful time of year.

On Chef Gavin Pera’s, Playa Largo Resort & Spa’s Holiday Table: Cannot Beat Mom’s Candied Yams

"

While the turkey is cooking and preparing the meal, I like to set out a little charcuterie, cheese, and some pickles to snack on while we watch the game and cook the main dishes.

As for my holiday lineup, we have some traditions in my house. Those include andouille sausage-cornbread stuffing, bacon braised collard greens, and cranberry jam. But my favorite is candied yams–the the way my mom made them. She made them with marshmallows and brown sugar butter. Can’t beat it!”

On Culinary Director Robert Mason’s, SkyBar at AC Hotel Orlando Downtown’s Holiday Table: Sugar, Spiced Spaghetti Squash and Everything Nice.

“Autumn is my favorite time of year to cook. Especially around the holidays. The flavors of ginger, nutmeg, and cinnamon are personal favorites and add to the feel of the season. While all holiday dishes at my house are different, we have a few staples, including autumn harvest salad, butter-basted turkey, spiced spaghetti squash, a nice charcuterie board, and fresh cranberry sauce. 

One of my personal favorites (and not very common) is spiced spaghetti squash. If correctly done, the squash comes out of the husk in strands that resemble spaghetti! I start by halving the squash and removing the seeds (yes, leave the skin on!) I roast it face down in the oven for about 30-40 minutes, until the squash is softened and pliable and then allow it to cool. After cooling, scrape the squash out of the husk with a fork. This process will remove the flesh and create the strands. After removing, I season liberally with nutmeg, ginger, cinnamon, brown sugar, and whole butter and fold together and serve!”

On Executive Chef David Belknap, VASO Rooftop Restaurant & Bar at AC Hotel Columbus Dublin’s Holiday Table: An Extra Special Egg Souffle

“Growing up, my family always makes what we call “Egg Souffle,” which is simply an egg bake with four different kinds of cheese, breakfast sausage, and sage and a vegetarian version with dill and thyme. It’s funny because it’s relatively simple to make, but we only ever make it around the holidays because that just has always been our tradition.”

On Executive Chef Heinrich Hortencia’s, Bario Urban Street Food’s Holiday Table:
Baked Ham with Pineapple Croquettes.

“I was born in Curaçao, but lived in the Netherlands for 15 years. It’s also where I developed my culinary skills. But the truth is food has always played a significant role in my life. In my experiences of growing up, enjoying the holidays and other family celebrations, food served as an indispensable and a source of lots of smiles. Ultimately, food brings people together. Learning recipes from my grandmother and my mother inspired me. There are many dishes that I still prepare from my childhood, and the upcoming holiday season will not be an exception.

I must say that the Ham di Pasku (baked ham with pineapples)Ayaka a Plancha (corn-based pastry stuffed with meats), the Salmon den Zuur (Salmon Ceviche), the Pan de Jamon (flaky bread loaf filled with ham and olives), and Oliebollen (Dutch fried donuts) are my all-time favorite holiday dishes. But it is not only preparing and eating that food that is special to me, but especially the family getting together is what makes it special to me. Since becoming a chef, I have, of course, given my all-time favorites my touch. At Bario Urban Street food, we do street food with a local touch, and I am looking forward to doing something new this holiday. I was thinking about doing ham di pasku croquettes with a piccalilli chutney and an Ayaka street food style. So if you want to taste my newest holiday creations, I invite you to visit Bario Urban Street Food in Otrabanda!”

On Executive Chef Dani Osorio, The Santa Maria Panama Hotel & Golf Resort’s Holiday Table: Plantain Temptations

“In Panama, the holidays are celebrated with an abundance of food and our traditional eggnog known as ‘Ron Ponche.’ Made with Ron Abuelo, the national rum of Panama. This drink is a must-have for a Panamanian holiday table and consists of pasteurized eggs, milk, condensed milk, and lots of cinnamon. When it comes to the Panamanian holiday table, a true feast means an endless assortment of holiday dishes. In addition to a traditional turkey or baked ham, another must have local dish are tamales–stuffed with pork, beef, or chicken. But it doesn’t stop there. Other local dishes include:

  • ‘Carimañolas’ —  similar to a potato croquette, except made with yuca and meat.
  • ‘Rosca de almendras’ — a version of a pound cake with sweet almonds.
  •  Traditional ‘Arroz con gandu’ —rice with pigeon peas.
  • ‘Platanos en tentacion’ — translates to temptation plantains. It’s a sweet plantains topped with sugar, cinnamon. Then baked at a low temperature and topped with butter and vanilla.
  • Another plantain favorite are ripe plantains stuffed with cheese and baked in the oven.
  • Other Panamanian holiday staples include fruit cake, pork rinds, ‘Arroz con pollo’ and a hearty chicken stew.”

On Executive Sous Chef Ceyo Rolle, Resorts World Bimini Holiday Table:
Stuffing With An Island Twist.

rw-bimini-ceyo-rolle

“My favorite part of the holidays is being able to cook for my family. When I’m in the kitchen, I combine my learnings from being a hotel chef for 20+ years. I spent eight of those years at Resorts World Bimini, and always add my twist of Bahamian flare. My holiday table at home always includes a traditional oven-roasted turkey and glazed ham. As well as my baked macaroni and cheese recipe, and Bahamian dishes. These dishes include peas and rice, candied sweet potato, and – a personal favorite – Conch stuffing.

I typically prepare the turkey and ham the day before Thanksgiving. On following morning, while the turkey and ham are in the oven at 350 degrees, I’ll make the stuffing and pineapple glaze for the ham. My recipe is different from the traditional mac and cheese because I use onion, bell pepper, celery, and thyme. Those ingredients add a delicious earthy flavor in addition to the cheesy goodness that we all love.

Then, it’s time to cook the peas & rice made with onion, tomato, celery, thyme, tomato paste, rice, and pigeon peas – a well-known and classic Caribbean dish. The candied sweet potatoes add a nice touch of sweetness to balance the savory meal out with honey, cinnamon, and brown sugar. Then, it’s time to feast!

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Curaçao Cuisine – A Colorful Culinary Journey https://honestcooking.com/curacao-cuisine-a-colorful-culinary-journey/ https://honestcooking.com/curacao-cuisine-a-colorful-culinary-journey/#respond Wed, 17 Nov 2021 14:39:55 +0000 https://honestcooking.com/?p=206610 My course through Curaçao’s cuisine began with funchi nearby a hotel that once served Dutch royalty. Then it made its way to hearty stews served within the iconic city of Willemstad. Along the way, I stumbled into a barrio of Lionfish delicacies and took a turn to bake a traditional bread and dunked it into…

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My course through Curaçao’s cuisine began with funchi nearby a hotel that once served Dutch royalty. Then it made its way to hearty stews served within the iconic city of Willemstad.

Along the way, I stumbled into a barrio of Lionfish delicacies and took a turn to bake a traditional bread and dunked it into a bowl of fish stew. Bon Bini, to my colorful culinary adventure in Curaçao.

Before diving into my edible experiences on the colorful island, I asked myself an open-ended question with no correct answer. What is the best way to describe Curaçao cuisine after a four-day trip to the island? While it was brief, I grasped the cuisine is rooted in the island’s history, geography and diverse community.  

Echoing the cultural beginnings of most Caribbean islands, Curaçao is a melting pot. No one person or culture is responsible for the island’s cuisine. For example the Jewish community helped create the island’s infamous Blue Curaçao liqueur. While the Afro Caribbean community (byways of the slave trade) introduced funchi, beef stew, and other incredible dishes to the island. Nonetheless, it’s the blended cultures that make the island what it is today and the learnings and adaptations of food and cooking that each generation adopted.
Here are some fun facts about the Dushi island of Curacao. 

Curaçao Cuisine - Willemstad, Old Swinging Lady
Curaçao Cuisine – Willemstad, Old Swinging Lady

First there’s Curaçao ‘s capital, Willemstad. The island is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The mark means it is forbidden to alter the pastel-colored houses lining the city’s waterfront or any historic sites for that matter. Second, the Queens Emma Bridge or the “Swinging Old Lady” connects the unique sides of Willemstad, Punda, and Otrabanda.

In the city, eyes may fall into a deep admiration of the local artworks. On the other hand, stomachs may gravitate to the alluring scents of fried black-eyed pea balls, funchi, or even piping hot okra stews.

Third, to match the island’s glistening turquoise waters, the island is also home to a genuine blue liqueur, the Blue Curaçao.  Although the answer to why the liqueur is blue remains a mystery, what is known is its fun liqueur that captures the island’s carefree spirit.

Mosa/Caña Kitchen Bar

Curaçao Cuisine - funcho fries at Mosa/Cana Kitchen Bar
Curaçao Cuisine – funchi fries at Mosa/Cana Kitchen Bar

On my first night in Curaçao, I visited Mosa/Caña Kitchen Bar–the eatery where I lost my funchi virginity. Funchi in the Dutch Caribbean diet is much like plantains in a Latin Caribbean diet. The cornmeal paste is a requirement, and locals may question the authenticity of a dish if Funchi is missing. Unlike the traditional paste similar to polenta’s consistency, Mosa served Funchi as fries and paired them with parsley aioli. It’s the kind of appetizer you’d want to have as a full course meal. Another item worth trying at Mosa is the tuna tartar. The dish hits all the right flavor notes–it’s subtly sweet, slightly spicy, and has a bold citrus flavor.

The following day, I encountered a smoothie stand “Anders Shakes” byways of Clarita’s walking tour. It appeared to be the spot where locals and revisiting tourists get their daily smoothie fix. The ordering process is simple, arrive at the counter, says Bon Bini, and address the following prompts: flavor, milk, sweetened. In a matter of ten minutes, a blended cocktail sans the alcohol-filled a quaint plastic cup. If you prefer super-sweet tastes, go for the whole package–milk, sugar, blended with the fruit. If not, I’d recommend choosing the fruit only. 

Curaçao Cuisine - raspberry smoothie from Anders Shakes
Curaçao Cuisine – raspberry smoothie from Anders Shakes

Before I walked across the “Swinging Old Lady” bridge, Clarita offered me one of the island’s street snack’s called Kala. Like the West Indian snack pholourie, Kala is made purely from deep-frying legumes. A couple of repeated patterns occur in my culinary adventure; one includes eating various Afro-Caribbean and street foods. The Kala is considered street food, influenced by its African decedents. Think of Kala like Curaçao’s 

A Taste of Krioyo (Creole Food) Cooking

From funchi fries to Kala, my next stop–Plasa Bieu– hearty stews awaited my stomach’s arrival. Plasa Bieu is situated in the heart of Punda, in Willemstad where vendors cook and sell fried fish, stews ( goat chicken, beef, seafood) served with peas and rice potatoes, funchi or tutu (when funchi is mixed with beans and sugar.)  In steaming temperatures, eating hot stews and soups may not seem ideal. According to Clarita, this is the norm for locals on the island.

Vegetables also play a secondary role in traditional Curaçao cuisine. Typically stews and soups include local vegetables like green papaya, tiny cucumbers (konkomber) and/ cabbage. Clarita mentioned locals gravitate towards stews and soups for in order to get their daily intake of vegetables. She also mentioned “salads are goat food.” Additionally, there are okra and cactus  soups. While the consistency of these soups are off putting, it’s said to have a delightful flavor.

 

Curaçao Cuisine - Plasa Bieu Stews
Curaçao Cuisine – Plasa Bieu Stews

There are several vendors in Plasa Bieu to choose from. But according to the unofficial mayor soon to be mayor of Curaçao Tirzah, along with Clarita, the last vendor upon entering the Plasa has the best offerings. At the stroke of noon, stews upon stews, grilled fish, and an okra soup decorated my table. Spoon in hand; I scooped a heaping of hearty beef, followed by oxtail and repeated spoons of conch stew. In my second or third round, I layered the stews on my designated portion of funchi. Then I poured the savory stew over the corn paste; it just seemed like a natural proceeding step. As the brown liquid seeped into the yellow staple, I whispered, what a beauty. 
The Sustainable Movement and a Nod to Ripping Apart Mangoes’ Flesh at Vittle Art’s Cooking Workshop. 
At Vittle Art’s Cooking Workshop, owners Saskia and Kris guided me through their excellent cooking class. The course opened my eyes to the island’s sustainable movement–where the workshop takes the lead and shows both locals & visitors how resourceful and versatile Curaçao’s ingredients are. 

Curaçao Cuisine - Vittle Art, Kris Cutting Plant
Curaçao Cuisine – Vittle Art, Kris Cutting Plant

Take, for example, the coconut; it has many unknown powers. Not only does it contain hydrating water, but the husk (usually tossed) can enrich the flavors of a meal. After I helped skin a chicken, cut it into chunks and stick the pieces onto basil sticks, Kris did the honors of cooking the meat on his outdoor grill. On the open fire, the scent of the coconut’s husk and chicken chunks nestled in a pool of duck confit filled the open air.

For any vegetarians, I’d recommend using coconut to elevate plain white rice. Cook the rice in coconut milk and grate in coconut flakes for a creamy, slightly sweet, tropical fish. Who knew just how resourceful people were in times when blenders, air fryers, and canned coconut milk did not exist? The class also allowed attendees to reconnect with fond childhood memories. For example, one attendee and my new friend Dani enjoyed ripping into the enriching fibers surrounding a mango’s seed. As she smiled and the bright orange juice dripped from her chin on her face, she says “I feel like a happy kid again back home in Cuba.” 

Curaçao Cuisine - Vittle Art, Chicken Skewers
Curaçao Cuisine – Vittle Art, Chicken Skewers

Overall, the class fully embodied its mission to help people “see and experience the simplicity and peculiarity of life…to improve quality of life in a physical, emotional, social and material perspective.” I now find myself lusting to recreate the magical experience in my tiny kitchen apartment in Queens. I think I will start simple and recreate the dish of pigeon peas soaked in coconut milk.

Netto Bar’s Shots, Shots, Shots.

Curaçao Cuisine - Netto Bar's Shots
Curaçao Cuisine – Netto Bar’s Shots

To help relax some unwanted nerves before trying specialties from the Lionfish huntress Lisette Keus, I urge anyone to alleviate some nerves with a greet shot at Netto’s. This bar is the oldest in Curaçao and is home to the world-famous green rum. Here’s the truth, Netto’s has all the elements of a traditional Caribbean bar. It has blinding green neon lights, cramped corners, and disco tunes are on heavy rotation. If I did not visit Netto’s, I think my culinary escapade throughout the island would be incomplete. In 1954 the bar was established and remained the go-to destination for locals to gather and get their dose of the unique green rum. Like the Blue Curaçao liqueur, the bar and its unique rum are equally crucial to the island’s tradition and culture. 
Lionfish Quesadilla at Bario Urban Street Food.

Bario Urban Street Food Lionfish Platter
Bario Urban Street Food Lionfish Platter

Not only does street food fulfill the role of providing cheap and flavorful food for locals and tourists alike, but it provides culture and history to a country, Curaçao included. At Bario Urban Street Food, local vendors take center stage and help shatter people’s barriers around unfamiliar food. In my case, it helped to break down my wall against trying the Lionfish. For those unaware, Lionfish are an invasive species found mainly in the Gulf of Mexico, Atlantic and Caribbean waters.

The species is venomous, has no known predators, and endangers the health of the coral reef ecosystem. Due to the fish’s dangerous nature for foreigners and even locals, there can be a hesitation to try the dish. Luckily one of Bario’s vendors specializes in hunting and cooking lionfish-san the venom. She is nicknamed the lionfish huntress and serves the species in dishes instead of “traditional” fish, like snapper. When I bit into a warm flour tortilla filled with a fillet of lionfish and gooey Dutch cheese, my body shimmied. The dish sits somewhere between a chicken quesadilla and a perfect grilled cheese. My barrier quickly disappeared, and I now dream endlessly of the delicious lionfish. 
Homemade Pan Sera with Fish Broth
Pan Sera (Local Bread) and Fish Broth

Pan será is a traditional bread from Curaçao consisting of flour, yeast, sugar, margarine, and water. In this class, I learned about the bread’s history and how to make it with some much-needed guidance. As stated by the class’s teacher Mildred, one helpful tip when making the bread is to “feel for yourself.” She means there is no right way or answer to determine when to stop mixing the ingredients and kneading the dough.

Also, Mildred recommends not purchasing a pan sera from the store; it should be handmade. Once the pan sera develop a golden brown and are placed into a bowl to cool down, the fun part begins. The bread can be eaten on its own but can also be paired with a hot soup (I enjoyed a homemade fish broth) or, as most locals do–layer some cheese, a pinch of salt and a small cup of coffee.

Like the cooking workshop, the pan sera class proved to be another emotional experience for its attendees. While Tirzah kneaded the bread, putting all her muscle strength into the process, she started to tear up. She mentioned when she was little; she would make bread with her grandmother. It was their unique tradition.
Sushi Galore at the Curaçao Marriott Beach Resort
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This was an unexpected choice to finish my tour of the island’s food but one I thoroughly enjoyed. Usually, the food at resorts is either a safe choice or does not get as much love because it’s usually linked to appealing to tourists’ palates. There is a bit of truth in the former statement, but we forget that the chefs, sous chefs, and culinary staff are either from the island or inspired by the island’s cuisine. It’s only fair that I include resort food into my culinary adventure.

I discovered the menu heavily influenced by Asian cuisine but has sure the Caribbean takes to it. The sushi encrusted with sweet plantain is a great example that exemplifies how the culinary team at the Marriot fuses Asian and Caribbean ingredients. This dish also strengthens my point I noted earlier; the people and the learned experiences help create the cuisine that defines a country.

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Oiji : Modern Korean Restaurant in the East Village, NYC https://honestcooking.com/oiji-modern-korean-restaurant-in-the-east-village-nyc/ https://honestcooking.com/oiji-modern-korean-restaurant-in-the-east-village-nyc/#respond Tue, 16 Nov 2021 14:37:01 +0000 https://honestcooking.com/?p=206527 Helmed by owner Chef Brian Kim, Oiji has been drawing the attention of foodies since 2015. The small open-kitchen restaurant is simple and modern in design and allows dark wood finishes and warm lighting to set the cozy atmosphere. I have to admit, if it’s not homecooked, I usually eat Korean food exclusively in Manhattan’s…

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Helmed by owner Chef Brian Kim, Oiji has been drawing the attention of foodies since 2015. The small open-kitchen restaurant is simple and modern in design and allows dark wood finishes and warm lighting to set the cozy atmosphere.

I have to admit, if it’s not homecooked, I usually eat Korean food exclusively in Manhattan’s Koreatown. Mainly because I know those Korean eateries well, and more importantly, they’re a stone’s throw away from the noraebang (karaoke) joints I frequent. Always bustling, Koreatown never disappoints as it churns out quality Korean staples like barbecues, jjigaes and bokkeums. But when it comes to innovation, it seems Koreatown eateries default to simply adding melty cheese to traditional dishes to modernize them. To find more sophisticated and unique takes on Korean food you’ll have to venture away from midtown south. So I headed downtown to the East Village to experience notably refined interpretations of classic Korean dishes at Oiji.

Helmed by owner Chef Brian Kim, Oiji has been drawing the attention of foodies since 2015. The small open-kitchen restaurant is simple and modern in design and allows dark wood finishes and warm lighting to set the cozy atmosphere. The added outdoor seating is much brighter in décor but just as intimate as each table is completely enclosed for privacy.

Cocktails

Oiji has a nice selection of premium Soju and even offers a Makgeolli, in case you like your rice wine milky and slightly effervescent. But I would suggest trying one of their various cocktails that are complex enough to intrigue the palate without competing with the small plates that they’ll share the table with. If you like tropical creamy drinks, try The Ladyboy. It’s booziness from the mix of soju, rum and gin was tempered by flavors of lime, pineapple, ginger, tamarind and coconut. I also enjoyed Shiso Fancy which had similar citrus notes but the pineapple and curry leaf infused gin really was a great vehicle for that distinct minty/basily shiso flavor. It paired perfectly with the Scallops “Hwe” (shown next to Oiji’s interior in the title image).

Small Dishes

Foie-gras mi-cuit | Oiji bowl

The small dishes at Oiji are clearly composed and obviously meant to be thoughtfully savored (unlike the bottomless banchan I mindlessly pick at in Koreatown eateries). We chose three to start off our meal. The Scallops “Hwe” is a dish that uses Korean mustard in a balanced light broth. The broth is used to highlight the oceany sweetness of thinly sliced scallops which are meticulously combined with snow crab and jellyfish. Our second plate was comprised of discs of mi-cuit Foie-gras that sat atop crisp rice chips and garnished with a confetti of chives and flower petals. The rice chips were dusted with a vinegary seasoning that helped meyer lemon cut through the richness of the soft liver. Finally, the Oiji bowl was reminiscent of a traditional hwe dup bap. However, the familiar Korean sushi bowl flavors that usually come in a large vessel (so that all the ingredients can be tossed together) were much more concentrated and luscious and served in a much smaller bowl. The bowl was carefully packed with fresh sea urchin, shrimp and seaweed rice which made it easy to taste all the components without having to mix it all together.

Larger Dishes

Lamb with Jus & Nokdu Jeon | Bone Marrow with Short Rib

The larger plates we ordered were a continuation of the masterful use of traditional Korean flavors in a way that would entice the most discerning New York palates. Unlike in Koreatown where tableside pours consist of scrambled egg streamed into hot egg moats, at Oiji you’re more likely to get a tableside pour of warm jus around perfectly cooked herb-encrusted Lamb. The lamb and jus were served along side the best tasting Nokdu Jeon (aka bindae-tteok, aka mung bean pancake) I’ve ever had. Another remarkable larger plate was the Bone Marrow. Chef Kim intends his bone marrow to eat like a substantial bite than a spread. The serving bone is topped with not only the marrow but maitake and shredded short rib, as well. This makes the dish hearty and earthy and prevents it from becoming cloyingly unctuous as roasted marrow can sometimes get. It’s served with vinegary rice crackers and crisp raw vegetables, as well, to add brightness, freshness and texture. Again, a superlative version of a dish I’ve had many times before.

Dessert

To finish, we had the only dessert on the menu (and really, none other is needed): Honey Butter Chips with Vanilla Ice Cream. The dish has been on Oiji’s menu since they opened in 2015 when Honey Butter Chips were all the rage. The potato chips are made in-house and serve as the perfectly crisp and warm vehicle for both a sweet and salty bite. The velvety cool vanilla ice cream then rounds out the mouthfeel that is all together addictive. This dish ate like the most elegant munchies you can find. Which means, no matter how full you are, you’ll keep eating it and wanting more.

If you’re looking for familiar Korean flavors with noticeably more sophistication (and a little less fermentation), venture away from Koreatown. Oiji is worth the trip; and don’t worry, there’s a karaoke bar just a couple of blocks away.

Oiji outdoor seating | pic by Katie Collopy

Oiji
119 1st Avenue, New York, NY 10003
(between 7th and St. Marks)
reservations can be made by calling 646-767-9050 or online.
Hours:
Wednesday – Thursday: 6pm – 10:00PM | Friday – Sunday: 5pm – 10pm

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Catch, Clean and Cook – Your Own Seafood Adventure on the OBX https://honestcooking.com/catch-clean-and-cook-your-own-seafood-adventure-on-the-obx/ https://honestcooking.com/catch-clean-and-cook-your-own-seafood-adventure-on-the-obx/#respond Sat, 13 Nov 2021 00:05:30 +0000 https://honestcooking.com/?p=206679 If you pay attention to some of the menus in the Outer Banks, you may notice a phrase like “Catch, Clean and Cook” or “You Hook It, We Cook It!” Often referred to as Hook Em & Cook Em, these services have long been available in coastal towns all around the world. If you’re unfamiliar…

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If you pay attention to some of the menus in the Outer Banks, you may notice a phrase like “Catch, Clean and Cook” or “You Hook It, We Cook It!” Often referred to as Hook Em & Cook Em, these services have long been available in coastal towns all around the world. If you’re unfamiliar with the term, the concept is as straightforward as the name suggests: you catch and clean the fish, the restaurant will cook it and serve it for you.

As one of the premiere coastal destinations in the United States, the Outer Banks attract tourists from all across the country seeking its famously fresh seafood. Home to one of the most biodiverse ecosystems on the East Coast, the barrier islands provide a unique smorgasbord of classic ocean fare with an array of local varieties. Whether you’re soaking up the sun in Hatteras, or marveling at the great sand dunes at Jockey’s Ridge, there’s no shortage of restaurants, diners and crab shacks offering a plethora of seafood options caught right in their own backyard.

It probably comes as no surprise that the same waters that harbor these delicious dining options are also a perfect playground for thousands of recreational fishers each year. While many of these anglers, both local and visiting, end up as patrons at the traditional seafood restaurants, some of the more adventurous ones seek out a dining experience that allows them to enjoy the fruits of their labor.

If you pay attention to some of the menus in the Outer Banks, you may notice a phrase like “Catch, Clean and Cook” or “You Hook It, We Cook It!” Often referred to as Hook Em & Cook Em, these services have long been available in coastal towns all around the world. If you’re unfamiliar with the term, the concept is as straightforward as the name suggests: you catch and clean the fish, the restaurant will cook it and serve it for you. In North Carolina, this typically involves a deep fried basket with a few sides, but every restaurant has their own way of doing things.

Whether you’re gearing up for your first charter or you’re frequently casting your lines at the local pier, it’s always incredibly satisfying to eat something you’ve worked for. While grilling or cooking your catch is a great way to go about this, there’s something to be said about kicking back and letting the professionals prepare it as only they can do best.

With that in mind, here are a few of the fan favorites for Catch, Clean and Cook options in the Outer Banks!

Our list begins with the iconic Nags Head Fishing Pier. As one of the oldest and longest piers in the Outer Banks, the Nags Head Pier attracts anglers of all ages. Situated at the beginning of the pier, the Pier House Restaurant has pristine views of the Atlantic Ocean and some of the freshest seafood in the area. Proudly dishing out Carolina style cooking for breakfast, lunch and dinner, the Pier House Restaurant’s “You Hook ‘Em – We Cook ‘Em” special can be prepared fried, grilled or blackened and comes with french fries, slaw and hushpuppies. Want a cold drink to compliment your fresh catch? Captain Andy’s, the tiki bar expansion next door, has more than 30 beers on tap with plenty of outdoor seating and endless views.

Located only 5 miles down the road, Jenette’s Pier is the largest fishing pier in the Outer Banks, reaching out 1,000 feet into the ocean. As you can imagine, this structure provides plenty of opportunity to reel in a fresh catch. In the past, Jenette’s provided Catch, Clean and Cook options, including classes with rental gear, but these services were halted several years ago. Fortunately for us, Sam & Omie’s is across the street from the entrance to the pier.

Founded in 1937, Sam & Omie’s originally doubled as one of the first fishing charters in Dare County and a local eatery for the commercial fishermen. Nowadays they’re strictly a restaurant serving breakfast, lunch and dinner with the option to cook up your own catch of the day. Only a 3 min walk from the pier, Sam & Omie’s is the go to option for Catch, Clean and Cook after an afternoon of fishing at Jeanette’s.

If you head west from Jeanette’s on the US 64 bridge to cross the Roanoke Sound, one of the first stops you’ll see is Pirate’s Cove Marina. Equipped with a yacht club, swimming pools, a pavilion for weddings and events, and a state of the art fitness center, the docks at Pirate’s Cove are far from ordinary, so naturally their dining options stand out too. Although it’s technically not part of the marina, the Blue Water Grill & Raw Bar is situated perfectly within the complex to present patrons with endless views of the boats coming and going throughout the day.

As you may have guessed, the menu boldly exclaims “We’ll Cook Your Catch!!”. Given the number of privately owned boats and fishing charters running out of the marina, it’s no wonder why this is a popular item on the menu. That being said, Blue Water Grill takes it up a notch with a seemingly endless offering of ways to prepare your catch for an appetizer or entree. Some of the highlights include fish bites, cast-iron seared over crisp mixed greens, house sashimi setup with wasabi coleslaw and crisp wontons, family style with plenty of sides and the always reliable chef’s choice. If you plan on fishing near Manteo, this is truly a must try destination.

Further south on Roanoke Island is the Wanchese Marina. Outfitted with a fleet of diesel and non-ethanol fuel boats, the docks are well equipped for your standard day of deep sea fishing, as well as dolphin tours and diving, shrimp and crabbing charters. In addition to the professional fish cleaning facility, the Wanchese Marina Rental Home is conveniently available through Airbnb for guests looking to stay right next to the action.

The Landing Grill is the self proclaimed heartbeat of the Wanchese Marina, and rightly so. The restaurant is open from 5 am to 9 pm to help customers fuel up before their big excursions and cool up whatever they return with. The grill’s hook it and cook it basket only sets you back $9.99 and comes with french fries, coleslaw, hush puppies and the necessary sauces you need to enjoy your hard earned meal.

If you happen to catch more than you can possibly eat in one sitting, you can have your remaining fresh fish conveniently packaged at Fresh Catch Seafood’s processing facility in Wanchese to be taken home when you leave. The operation is run by local fishermen who trim, portion, vacuum seal and freeze your catch for you.

Our final stops take you deep into the Cape Hatteras National Seashore villages, where there’s no franchise and all the local restaurants are home grown, as they are everywhere on the OBX. Avon, located in the central part of Hatteras Island, is the biggest of the seven villages on Hatteras Island, with just several hundred year round residents. Despite, and partially due to, its relatively remote standing, visitors flock from all over during the busy season to enjoy the secluded beach experience. With that comes the opportunity to fish at the Avon Pier, vividly proclaimed as America’s Pier when you first approach it. If you spend a day at the pier when the fish are biting, you can bring your catch down the road to Oceana’s Bistro after you clean it. A casual American eatery, this local hotspot serves affordable food around the clock and begins serving Bloody Mary’s and mimosas at 8 am throughout the week and at noon on Sundays.

Roughly thirty minutes down the road from Avon is the village of Hatteras. Located on the southernmost tip, the island’s namesake village is home to generations of fishing families, both commercial and recreational. This rich history has led to a level of experience in preparing seafood that is evident in the local restaurants.

One such establishment is the Hatteras Sol Waterside Grill. Perched above Teach’s Lair Marina, Hatteras Sol delivers stunning sunset views of the Pamlico Sound and equally delicious plates for lunch and dinner. Whether you’re bringing in your own catch, or trying one of their creations, Hatteras Sol is a must visit after a long afternoon of fishing on the island, especially when they’re offering live music on the deck.

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What it Takes to Craft the Perfect Fall Cocktail, According to These Expert Bartenders https://honestcooking.com/what-it-takes-to-craft-the-perfect-fall-cocktail-according-to-these-expert-bartenders/ https://honestcooking.com/what-it-takes-to-craft-the-perfect-fall-cocktail-according-to-these-expert-bartenders/#respond Fri, 29 Oct 2021 13:31:43 +0000 https://honestcooking.com/?p=206612 Whether you’re in the mood for warm cinnamon flavors or seeking something more eccentric–think permission or even peanut butter whiskey!– these experts have you covered. Check out their tips, essentials, and hacks to create the perfect fall cocktail in the roundup below.  Let’s be honest; I enjoy cocktails year-round, but I equally love a good-themed…

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Whether you’re in the mood for warm cinnamon flavors or seeking something more eccentric–think permission or even peanut butter whiskey!– these experts have you covered. Check out their tips, essentials, and hacks to create the perfect fall cocktail in the roundup below. 

Let’s be honest; I enjoy cocktails year-round, but I equally love a good-themed cocktail—mainly ones I can make at home and save a couple of bucks in the process. As the fall season is upon us, these expert bartenders – working behind some impressive bars across the country – are here to offer their insights for us to craft the perfect fall drink. 

For Okan Hazar, Director of Food & Beverage at Barnsley Resort, the perfect fall cocktail calls for infusions of buttery nuts. While his favorite fall activity calls for  a classic grubbing on chili and watching football.
Okan Hazar’s Perfect Fall Cocktail – Woodford Reserve bourbon, Eastern Black Walnuts or Georgia Pecans and Filthy Black Amarena Cherries for a garnish.
What are the essential ingredients to create a cocktail for the fall season?
There are a number of ways that you can incorporate a fall feel into your at-home cocktail. One of our favorite ways is by infusing our liquor — and yes, there are more options than just pumpkin spice! We suggest infusing bourbon with walnuts or pecans, which adds layers of flavor and depth to create an enhanced classic craft cocktail at home.
 
Please include preferred liquor, sweetener, garnishes, etc. 
We recommend using small batch Woodford Reserve bourbon, Eastern Black Walnuts or Georgia Pecans and Filthy Black Amarena Cherries for a garnish.
 
Do you have any hacks to prepare / could help at home bartenders to avoid crafting watered down drinks? 
The larger the ice cubes, the better.  I usually freezes my own large format cubes well in advance of entertaining friends.  A rubber ice mold is easily available to purchase online or at Williams Sonoma (and the like).  I’ll freeze batches at a time, transferring into a large freezer bag so as to keep the ice from picking up any “leftovers” flavoring/scents.  This way, I have plenty on hand and keeps in glass for a good 30 minutes so I can enjoy sipping on my favorite
What is your idea of the perfect cocktail for the fall? 
In our eyes, the perfect fall cocktail is our walnut/pecan infused bourbon, which follows a simple yet elevated approach to create an intriguing layer of flavors. For this cocktail, you’ll smoke either Eastern Black Walnuts or Georgia Pecans using your outdoor grill with smoking chips or a smoker. Those without a grill can roast their nuts in a 325-degree oven for about 10 minutes until golden brown. By smoking/roasting the nuts, it decreases the moisture content for better flavors for your at-home cocktail. After smoking/roasting, you’ll wrap the nuts and one peeled orange skin in a double coffee filter, which you’ll close with a twist tie to create a pouch. Once you’ve created your pouch, insert it into a large mason jar and fill your jar with your favorite bourbon, we recommend small batch Woodford Reserve. Then, cap it and let it rest for 24 hours at room temperature. Once you’re ready to serve, have your block clear ice ready and place one cube into the glass, pour the bourbon over the ice and top with Filthy Black Amarena Cherries.
 
What makes this cocktail special and how would you pair the cocktail?
This cocktail is special because it’s a simple, yet elevated approach. Plus, the fact that you can say you infused your own bourbon will likely impress your guests. Even more interesting is that you can repurpose the nuts into a paired culinary dish. At Barnsley Resort, we incorporate the nuts into a smoked pecan bourbon ice cream and after-dinner canalés, which are both crowd favorites.
What are your favorite culinary activities to do for the fall? 
Homemade chili for football and basketball weekends and enjoying a chilly afternoon in the backyard around a bonfire.  We entertain friends and family with a few shrub-based cocktails while occasionally stirring, checking and tasting what’s to come.  Game starts and we’re toasty warm for kick off!

 

For Ethan Anderson, Mixologist at Lumin SkyBar, the perfect fall cocktail and the season calls for rye whiskey paired with Cinnamon and apple. When not drinking, his favorite activity while the leaves change color is to grill. 

Luminary's Skybar Fall Cocktail - Snowbird
Luminary’s Skybar Fall Cocktail – Snowbird

What are the essential ingredients to create a cocktail for the fall season?

While pumpkin would be the obvious go-to for some, I enjoy using Cinnamon and apple. Those warm ingredients can add that instant “fall” feel, and they’re so fun to experiment with because of their versatility. A few other of my favorite fall ingredients are peach, raspberry (late summer/early fall), cranberries, and guava – because these are all easily accessible this season, and of course, taste delicious in any cocktail.

What about your preferred liquor, sweetener, garnishes, etc.? 

A homemade cinnamon simple syrup is an easy-to-make sweetener that elevates your home cocktails to that of a high-end bar. All you need to do is boil some cinnamon sticks in water in sugar for about 10 to 15 minutes – that’s it! Those on the darker end of the spectrum of bourbons, rye whiskeys, and reposado or añejo tequilas. If you’re looking to add some apple flavor, I’d recommend using a local apple, such as from Watershed Distillery, local to Ohio. As far as garnishes go, it always depends on the ingredients in the drink. But for fall, go with a cinnamon stick or drizzle, an apple fan, or a frozen raspberry – all of which are attainable for any home bartending.

 Do you have any hacks to prepare/help at-home bartenders avoid crafting watered down drinks? 

The easiest and most important tip that I learned in a cocktail book is to use big ice cubes when using a cocktail shaker. This tip helps to not dilute the drink too much as opposed to smaller cubes or ice chips. A must-have in my home fridge is always a couple of large ice cube trays. Then, when pouring the drinks, strain it over fresh ice in a glass to help with over-dilution.

What is your idea of the perfect cocktail for the fall/favorite fall cocktail?

One of my go-to cocktails for any menu I help create during fall or winter is what I call the Snowbird. It’s rye whiskey, apple brandy, simple cinnamon syrup, and cherry vanilla bark bitters served on a big ice cube with an orange twist or cinnamon stick for garnish. It is a boozy cocktail great for sipping and enjoying and reminds me of sitting by a fire pit at a ski lodge. If I am at home and want to make myself a simple, no-fuss drink, I add apple cider to a classic old-fashioned or whiskey-based drink to elevate the flavor a bit.

What makes this cocktail special, and how would you pair the cocktail? 

The Snowbird cocktail has hints of apple and Cinnamon, which are not overpowering, allowing the rye whiskey to shine through. It pairs well with steak, pork chop, or really anything that comes straight off the grill. Not to mention, it’s a wonderful nightcap.

What are your favorite culinary activities to do for the fall?

I’m not a chef by any means, so I keep it easy and simple with BBQ. Fall is my favorite time for grilling because the weather drops slightly, and the air is fresh. Add a drink in hand, and it’s the recipe for a perfect autumn night.

For Lauren Pierce Bartender at VASO, the perfect fall drink and fall season calls from seasonal produce like permission paired with bourbon. While her favorite fall activity calls for exploring Columbus city’s culinary culture.

Vaso's Fall Cocktail - Late Night Feels
Vaso’s Fall Cocktail – Late Night Feels

What are the essential ingredients to create a cocktail for the fall season?

Using in-season fruits, vegetables, herbs, and spices make for a great cocktail in any season. For fall, I love rich, earthy, cozy, and vibrant flavors. Let’s be honest, I love all booze all year round, but deep spirits such as bourbon, scotch, and mezcal are my preferred spirits during this time of year. I think the garnishes should complement the cocktail and should pertain to whatever you’re serving.

Do you have any hacks to prepare/help at-home bartenders avoid crafting watered down? 

Always build the entire cocktail in the shaker or mixing glass before adding the ice to avoid over-dilution. I also think having a good set of tools for your home bar is key. My home bar includes basics such as at least one bottle of each spirit, sweeteners (sugar, honey, agave, etc.), lemons and limes, and bitters. From there, you’re all set to make the most out of the classics!

What is your idea of the perfect cocktail for the fall/favorite fall cocktail?

My favorite fall cocktail I’ve created is called the Late Night Feels. It’s a bourbon cocktail containing amaro, lemon, a rich persimmon cordial, and garnished with a dehydrated persimmon and a rosemary sprig to add depth, color, and aroma.

What makes this cocktail special, and how would you pair the cocktail? 

This cocktail is special to me because I challenged myself for the main ingredient to be something that I wasn’t too familiar with and researched it thoroughly before I dived in. I chose persimmons because they are in season and not typically heard of around here. To incorporate the fruit into my cocktail, I made a cordial with the persimmons, turbinado sugar, orange peels, and Cinnamon. I also used Amaro Nonino, which is orange forward and very herbaceous. Those ingredients paired with bourbon make for the perfect fall cocktail. All of the ingredients and different flavors complement each other well. It’s is also a great introductory cocktail to bourbon for someone who typically isn’t into the spirit. I enjoy introducing and creating great experiences for guests. 

What are your favorite culinary activities to do for the fall?

I love to cook at home with the season’s ingredients. I’m an amateur cook, but my family loves it. I don’t think of it as a chore when I cook, but more of a therapeutic time and love introducing new foods to my son. Lastly, I love exploring Columbus city’s culinary scene. I appreciate our local chefs’ and bartenders’ love for their craft.

For Fabian Cleopa, Co-Founder, Ochenta Cocktail Bar, Curaçao the perfect fall cocktail includes lots of maple flavors. While the perfect fall activity calls for culinary gatherings.

Fabian
Cleopa / Co-Founder, Ochenta Cocktail Bar, Curaçao

What are the essential ingredients to create a cocktail for the fall season?

The essential ingredients to create a fall cocktail are pumpkin, maple, cinnamon and rosemary. For the spirit, I always recommend Bulleit Bourbon. The Maple flavor reminds me of pancakes and lazy Sundays, which is what Fall represents for me. The smell of the cinnamon also brings memories of my grandmother and I drinking warm tea on our lazy Sundays.

What is your favorite liquor for the season? 

For the holiday season, whiskey. It’s versatile and pairs well with seasonal flavors like maple, spices, etc. It is the ultimate holiday season spirit.

Do you have any hacks to prepare / could help at home bartenders to avoid crafting watered down?

I prefer to use one large cube of ice for my recipes.

 What is your idea of the perfect cocktail for the fall?

At Ochenta Cocktail Bar in Curaçao, the perfect fall cocktail is the Maple Old Fashioned. We wanted to create something nice that is still easy to make at home. And everybody has most of these ingredients in their house —  60 ml of Bulleit rye whiskey, 15 ml of maple syrup, three drops of orange bitters, half a cinnamon stick, and an orange peel.

What makes this cocktail special and how would you pair the cocktail?

The process of burning the cinnamon stick in the glass to ensure the cocktail catches as much of the smoke as possible, makes this drink unique. Doing this allow the cinnamon to absorb both the flavor and the aroma, making the most impactful experience upon the first sip. I would recommend pairing the drink with a nice pumpkin pie, making it the perfect dessert combo.

What are your favorite culinary activities to do for the fall?
For fall I love to host dinners. I’ve been working for so long in the restaurant industry and it gives me great satisfaction to see that people can enjoy a nice dinner during the holidays with their families.

For Carlos Figueroa of B&F Director at W Fort Lauderdale the perfect fall drink calls for Whiskey paired with chocolate and cinnamon. While his ideal fall activity calls for indulging in the local spots. 

W Fort Lauderdale Fall Cocktail - The Sweet Sinner
W Fort Lauderdale Fall Cocktail – The Sweet Sinner

What are the essential ingredients to create a cocktail for the fall season? 

Whiskey, fresh orange, cinnamon sticks, chocolate. 

Do you have any hacks to prepare/help at-home bartenders avoid crafting watered down drink?

A can’t miss tip – always mix ingredients in a mixing glass, then transfer to a rock glass with fresh ice.

What is your idea of the perfect cocktail for the fall/favorite fall cocktail?

Even when the winter months roll in and the temps begin to drop, that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy a cocktail on the rocks. To still give those fall vibes, pair it with warm fall flavors/ingredients for a bold balance. At W Fort Lauderdale, The Sweet Sinner is the perfect libation for when South Florida temperatures turn cool and crisp. You can find most ingredients in your typical kitchen cupboard, making this festive cocktail, so simple to make and the perfect way to toast this holiday season.

What makes this cocktail unique, and how would you pair the cocktail?

Ingredients are the key to what makes this cocktail special. We pair chocolate bitters/powder with a fresh cinnamon stick and add an orange peel for that citrus kick to create the perfect fall drink. Of course, Mitcher’s unblended American Whiskey completes the cocktail. Nothing pairs better with Whiskey than red meat, dark chocolate, or cheese. 

What are your favorite culinary activities to do for the fall?

I love to see what other bartenders are doing. It’s great to indulge and explore new cocktails by other local spots during the season. 

Daniel Grisales, Bartender at Aruba Marriott Resort, his perfect fall cocktail call for the Old Fashionista, a peanut butter whiskey mixed with chocolate bitters.

Aruba Marriott Resort - Old Fashionista
Aruba Marriott Resort – Old Fashionista

What are the essential ingredients to create a cocktail for the fall season?  

One of the crucial ingredients to make the Old Fashionista is cacao shells, which add an earthy touch for curating the perfect fall cocktail. Adding cacao liquor to a cocktail allows the drink to open up with a captivating aroma.                     

 Do you have any hacks to prepare/help at-home bartenders avoid crafting watered down / weak drinks? 

Everything depends on the drink, but the quality of the ice is paramount. Ice spheres are a popular hack because they don’t dilute drinks as quickly as other types of ice. 

What is your idea of the perfect cocktail for the fall/favorite fall cocktail?

 I believe the ideal fall cocktail should be a drink that makes you think of home. The Old Fashionista is an excellent example of incorporating a nostalgic and cozy feel in a cocktail. It’s a mix of Peanut Butter Whiskey and chocolate bitters.  

 What makes this cocktail unique, and how would you pair the cocktail? 

I recommend pairing this unique cocktail with a variety of different cheeses. 

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Tasca Brings the Flavors of Latin-Caribbean and Spain to New York’s Upper West Side https://honestcooking.com/tasca-brings-the-flavors-of-latin-caribbean-and-spain-to-new-yorks-upper-west-side/ https://honestcooking.com/tasca-brings-the-flavors-of-latin-caribbean-and-spain-to-new-yorks-upper-west-side/#respond Thu, 21 Oct 2021 16:53:15 +0000 https://honestcooking.com/?p=206475 Focused on quality dishes from the Iberian Peninsula, (Cuba, the Dominican Republic, and Puerto Rico) Tasca brings the flavorful tastes of Spain and Latin Caribbean countries to New York’s Upper West Side. For myself and many others, food is an essential bridge connecting us to our heritage. My heritage derives from the isles of Trinidad…

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Focused on quality dishes from the Iberian Peninsula, (Cuba, the Dominican Republic, and Puerto Rico) Tasca brings the flavorful tastes of Spain and Latin Caribbean countries to New York’s Upper West Side.

For myself and many others, food is an essential bridge connecting us to our heritage. My heritage derives from the isles of Trinidad and Tobago where the flavors and techniques of the more popular dishes came from various countries across Europe, Africa, the Middle East, and India. There are also distinct influences, like the curries from India, and plantains from our neighboring Latin Caribbean islands. Thus, Tasca’s dishes are very familiar to me, while maintaining its own distinct and memorable tastes.

What makes Tasca unique to other Latin Caribbean restaurants that flood New York? Restaurateur Jay Espinal says “The thing that’s unique to us is our ability to bring together old and new world to create different combinations…Some examples of these combinations are our sofrito goat cheese, maduro tower, garnacha and aged sherry.”

Tasca -Plantain Croquettes

My Memorable Food Experience at Tasca

Starting with Tasca’s Croquetas de Maduros, or as I like to describe them, a fancy on the classic fried sweet plantains. Like the traditional fried plantains bananas, the Croquetas de Maduros are sweet and comforting. I use the latter word because as a native of the Caribbean, plantains are synonymous to a warm piece of bread. It’s pleasurable in every way. Along with my guests, I devoured the sweet fried bananas in a matter of minutes. 

Tasca - Duck
Tasca – Duck

Following the plantains, another dish I experienced was the Pulpo a la Parilla. In my opinion, Pulpo is the filet mignon of the sea. When done right, every bite of the dish is tender, succulent. They key is not to overcook it, when its overcooked it often become rubbery and too chewy. This dish had just the right amount of chew and smoky flavors to it. If you fancy grilled octopus like myself, indeed order it but there are other options.

For some help navigating the menu according to restaurant owner Jay, guests particularly enjoy the Paella Valenciana and Magret de Pato (fillet of duck breast). He also mentioned as one of his personal picks, the piquillo peppers doesn’t get the attention it deserves. He states its “light, creamy yet so flavorful and even vegan.”

Following the octopus, I also tried the Codicia de Pescado y Mariscos. The plate reminded me of a fancier Trini-style fish broth stew I enjoyed as a child. The stew featured many friends of the ocean like shrimp, mussels cooked. It’s cooked with lobster brandy reduction and served with side of saffron banda rice–popular in SpainBefore dessert arrived my go-to foodie friends took a moment to admire our surroundings. Jay states the wallpaper is inspired by the colors of a tropical foliage the Whereas the weathered oak is inspired by the beach and the bricks are reminisce of a wine cellar in Spain. 

Finally when Fabio, one of Tasca’s great waiters arrived he served the Pudin De Pan. It translates to bread pudding and is yet another Caribbean classic. I recommend capping every night with a pudding drizzled with a delightful rum raisin glaze.  

Tasca is located on 505 Columbus Ave, New York, NY 10024 | Monday – Wednesday – 5pm – 10:30pm | Thursday – Saturday – 4pm – 11pm  | Sunday- 3pm – 10pm

Reservations can be made by calling (212) 362-2211 

 

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