Eating Barcelona Pt. 2 – Mosquito

Close your eyes and imagine the remnants of a dark, rainy night. The rain is falling slower and slower with every passing minute until there is nothing left but some sporadic shallow puddles and the smell of wet dirt in the air. Rain is not something Barcelona is known for, but when the winter arrives and the drizzle settles in, it can be unforgiving for the unsuspecting traveler. On this particular night of cold rain, we ventured out into the miedeival labyrinth we had become so familiar with already, El Born. We wandered around with the high hopes of finding a bowl of something to warm up our mood!

As we turned onto one of the many winding paths of “El Born”, something hit us! It was the subtle aroma of lemongrass and thai basil dancing a slow dance towards us. We followed the smell towards a small crowd that had begun to converge around a glass door leading into “Mosquito“, Barcelona’s go to place for Asian inspired tapas.

A bowl of wonton soup never figured into our dinner plans before that moment. To travel thousands of miles for Asian food in Spain, when our very authentic Vietnamese community plays it big in the culinary world in Orlando, seemed unthinkable…… But the tantalizing aroma kept pushing and tugging at us. Wait time was an hour but well worth it.

Eat here for a savory wonton soup and unforgettably delicious duck dumplings with a tangy dipping sauce (my personal favorites, but you must try the entire menu). The craft beer selection is diverse with many to chose from (not so common in Barcelona).
There is no doubt that Mosquito’s vibrant and modern atmosphere was a nice break from days and days of Spanish tapas. The food itself was a window into another aspect of Barcelona that before that moment I had failed to observe, its diversity of cultures.

“A traveler sees what he sees. A tourist sees what he has come to see”. – Gilbert K. Chesterton
At the end of the night, this quote resonated in my mind. Why? Its easy to set out into the beautiful city of Barcelona with a list of its many heavily promoted tourist attractions – Gaudi, tapas along the ramblas, and more Gaudi. And while these are an outstanding reflection of the artistic talents that inspire the city, many tourists fail to look deeper towards the people that make up the fabric of the city.

On this particular night, Mosquito offered us a taste of the Barcelona that you will not  often see in tourist guides. Rather, we saw what we saw and broke away from our Spanish tapas routine to  experience just how diverse this glowing city had become!

/home/wpcom/public_html/wp-content/blogs.dir/c46/18423714/files/2015/01/img_0715.png

Courtesy of YELP. Craft beer inside Mosquito.

/home/wpcom/public_html/wp-content/blogs.dir/c46/18423714/files/2015/01/img_0716.png

Courtesy of YELP – Inside looking out.

Packing up & going far….

As I write this, we are trying to consolidate 6 years of Florida life into the 2 -door VW Golf that will drive us three thousand miles across the country in an attempt to escape the increasingly backwoods conservative mentality of Florida folk and the heat induced stupor that strikes without fail every summer.

We have decided to move to the Pacific Northwest (Portland, Oregon) where the public transportation is abundant, running trails exist, and bike lanes are a convenient reality. Often rumored to be the land of craft beer, bohemians, and grass fed chickens, Portland seems like it will be an affordable foodie mecca for an aspiring chef and her tattoo artist husband – yet again,  who knows, we may have watched too many episodes of Portlandia! I am willing to take my chances…

To drop everything in one place and start from scratch in another is a rather daunting thought, we are seriously shitting bricks here…..So, in an effort to save as much money as possible, we have decided to sell almost everything we own (not much) and haul our most valued possessions; cats, le creuset, kitchen aid, bikes, computers, & books in our cute little hatchback!

So we have started to throw out, donate, and sell stuff! If anyone is a relocating expert, please do share best practices and tips! I will be ever so grateful!!

The adventure begins! Countdown: unknown (we do not have a date set in stone yet).

 

Eating Boston: exotic spices

Boston’s diverse cultural fabric becomes evident from the moment one steps foot inside any subway station. The hustle and bustle that is found throughout its intertwined sidewalks continues underneath the earth as hundreds of commuters make their way to and from home. Deep within the entrails of the city, one can hear a cacophony of intermingling voices spitting out words in all accents and languages imaginable. There’s an unmistakable Russian accent on the phone next to me. And when I look to my right to catch a brief glimpse of the Boston skyline as the red line travels across the Charles river, I see a group of Asian teenagers speaking in their native language. This experience is new to me. I decide that the best way to soak up all of the cultural diversity of a big city such as Boston is to start eating Boston.

Because food nourishes the body and soul, the best way to remember a far away home is by preparing the meals that will bring back all of those moments of nostalgia. They will rekindle images of kind, wrinkly grandmas placing firewood in the stove as they get the fire ready for the next meal. Moments later, I step out onto the sunlit Central square district. Sources have told me this is a mecca for diversity, and that becomes very clear from the restaurants surrounding the station. I can see Indian food, several Thai restaurants, and a couple of Mexican taquerias. What I am looking for is an urban cafe that boasts vegetarian, organic, and healthy cuisine. Life Alive calls itself an Urban Oasis/Urban Cafe, and I want to sample this emerging trend of food that is a healthy vegetarian fusion that borrows from all cultures. Unfortunately, it seems myself, as well as half of Boston decided to eat here today, and so I turn away from the 40 minute line and resolve to come back another day.

At this point, I am hungry, and so I make the best decision that has been made in a while, to go to Sofra. Ana Sortun has made quite a name for herself in the Boston culinary scene. She is the executive chef at Oleana and Sofra Bakery and Cafe. Both have been recommended to me on multiple occasions and judging from the crowds of patrons that packed the small, exotically decorated space that is Sofra, it may very well be a fantastic brunch experience worthy of the long 40 minute walk to get there. Inside, I feel a warm welcome as I look around and notice the bustle of the kitchen, the simple menu, and the artsy pastries that decorate the ordering counter. The embellished decorative pillows on the seating area lining the walls only serve to make me feel like a princess inside her middle eastern golden palace. Little do I know then that 20 minutes later, as I take my first bite of Borek, the special for the day, I will be upgraded to queen. Or at least it will sure feel like it.

I’d never heard of Borek before today when i learned that it is a thin and flaky phyllo dough that is filled with cheese and meat. It is then baked and served, as is the case in Sofra, with a tangy tomato curry sauce. It is topped with a dollop of labne. Labne is a thick, rich style of greek yogurt. The meat inside of the phyllo dough was a braised, then shredded lamb. The flavors created a delicious harmony in my mouth. The lamb had an earthy flavor that was appeased by the tangy greek yogurt. The tomato curry sauce served as a supporting role for the entire dish, making sure everyone got along together. The first bite was heavenly and delicious, unlike anything Ive had before. And so, with the simple act of eating the food created by another chef, I was able to distinguish and understand Sortun’s interpretation of the experiences that she had during her time studying in Turkey. Most importantly however, was that her food brought Turkey to me, and for that meal, I was a queen.

Below are a couple of pictures taken inside Sofra Bakery and Cafe.

20130324-203701.jpg

20130324-203806.jpg

Eating Boston: Food notes of a temporary Bostonian

Flour bakery + cafe holds the coveted title and prestige of being one of Boston’s best bakery. In fact, pastry chef/owner, Joanne Chang, is herself an iconic presence in the world of female entrepreneurs. A trained mathematician from one of the most prestigious schools in the country, Harvard, Chang is to be truly admired for following her dreams of baking professionally and pursuing a career that does not guarantee financial security at all times. Then again, what is secure in this life? Nothing is a guarantee and one must work very hard to become an accomplished person. In Flour’s case, Chang demonstrated that she had what it took to build an iconic culinary empire that exemplifies dedication and excellence.

During a trip to the original Flour on Washington st. in the South End, I basked in the glory of the egg breakfast sandwich. Something as common as an egg sandwich remained imprinted in my tastebud’s memory because the dijonnaise spread mingled so harmoniously with the crispy bacon in my mouth. The spread, with its pungent and assertive mustardy nature was subdued by a bite of fatty bacon. The creamy egg patty between the two created a canvas with a mellow eggy flavor that married all of the ingredients together. The sandwich was held together by two slices of freshly baked ciabatta bread with wonderful flavor and a rustic aroma. I washed everything down with the perfect cup of coffee and cream and a small bite size tart. While not overwhelmingly sweet, it served its sweet ending purpose.
Everyone who comes to Boston should definitely stop by and grab something to eat. I know I will definitely come back for Chang’s famous sticky buns, I just need someone to share with!

An Adventure Begins

Today a new adventure begins. An adventure which will transform me into a completely different person. An adventure that has been my whole life in the making, and will now both challenge me and shape my future self alike.

With two hours of sleep and a lot of caffein in my system, I managed to get out of bed on Saturday morning, kiss my husband goodbye for the next three months, and fly 1,200 miles north to brave the cold while I pursue my latest adventure. The anxiety would not let me sleep, after all, Boston, Ma. is a city that I certainly cannot afford. And yet, I had to push away my fears. However, those stubborn negative thoughts that managed to linger despite my best efforts….well those were tackled one at a time; is my landlady crazy?, is my coat warm enough (5 years in Florida erased any knowledge I might have had about cold weather attire), and the list of nagging questions continues, way too long to recount and yet, very very real.

I arrived to Boston and discovered my landlady does not own a coffee grinder ( a fear that briefly crossed my mind) for the pound and a half of coffee beans that I lugged all the way from Florida. My world seems to fall apart in the mornings before I get my much needed caffeine shot. Thus, until i find away around the fact that i refuse to pay $35 for a top of the line grinder because I’m too frugal, I’ll have to deal with my bitchy, snappy self all on my own, or hit up Goodwill. Im sure my husband is ecstatic about the fact that there are one thousand plus miles between a moody me and himself…. But I digress….

I’ve come to Boston to participate in an internship with America’s Test Kitchen, an internship which will diversify my skills and make me a better chef. I am excited because I can see my food philosophy evolving in just a few short years of culinary practice. Because America’s food philosophy is evolving as well, we are beginning to notice that people no longer want fast, greasy food. We want real food from local farms. Food that will nourish us and make us a healthier nation. Because this demand for fresh, local, healthy food has only started to emerge on a mass scale in the past few years, chefs around the country have realized that they play a pivotal role in this movement. Myself included. This is why I am passionate to work in a food magazine that teaches its subscribers how to cook real food. As a chef, I want to use my platform as a food professional to guide this nation into a healthier, more sustainable future. One where obesity and its many health related problems are obsolete and food is THE medicine of choice. One where food is cherished for its nutritional content. Most importantly, one where the entire food system is respected and sustained.

Thus I find myself in Boston, unsure of what tomorrow will bring. The only thing that is certain is that I will keep an open mind and try to absorb everything that this beautiful ( and expen$ive ) city has to offer me. I am making a great sacrifice, but I know it will make me a greater person.

The flavors of West Texas

I am sitting at Southwest gate 126 inside the Orlando Int’l Airport, waiting for my flight to Texas. I was just told that I was normal becase I ordered a simple “small coffee” at the starbucks down in the main lobby, everyone orders venti lattes with extra shot and creamed vanilla double espressos… Whatever that means, i just never really got into it… I don’t understnd Starbucks sizes. They confuse me. Im just excited to taste my mom’s cooking, the El Paso Mexican food, and the smoky chiles from Hatch, New Mexico…ahh a week of joy awaits me…