Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Peru, Upscale: A Visit to Urumbamba

One thing I love about life in general are the surprises you can find in the most familiar of places. I live in Queens; I’ve lived here since I was five so I know the area really well. Sure, stores come and go, and especially on major streets, some of them pop up and disappear with remarkable speed. But for whatever reason there are some places I take for granted as being there always, and I never go in.

Perhaps it’s comfort in knowing it’ll always be there. Like NYC’s tourist spots. Why do New Yorkers not go to these places ever? Why would we, we live here! And, it’s full of tourists who get in our way. Sorry, but it’s true. Perhaps it’s being a little apprehensive about going into a new place, especially if the establishment probably doesn't speak English. At the same time, I find that exhilarating, it’s embracing the unknown. Sometimes you’re pleasantly surprised, sometimes you’re not. That’s life, and comedian Gilda Radner phrases it just right:

“I always wanted a happy ending...  Now I've learned, the hard way, that some poems don't rhyme, and some stories don't have a clear beginning, middle and end.  Life is about not knowing, having to change, taking the moment and making the best of it without knowing what's going to happen next. Delicious ambiguity” (Gilda Radner, 1946 - 1989)

Now, I’ve walked past Urubamba many times, and I never went in to try their food. After asking The Fisherman where we should go out to eat on Friday, I thought “Hey, why not here?” and off we went. Naturally we read the reviews for some ideas.

I’ll be honest, I didn’t expect the interior to be as nice as it was. I normally expect good, authentic food coming from hole-in-the-wall places. Sure ambiance is nice, but it’s not very practical in Queens. Food is real, usually cheap, usually fast, and no one cares about how the restaurant looks.

Here at Urumbamba it was really swank inside, with nice lighting, a really high ceiling, and lots of Peruvian art. Not what I expected in Jackson Heights.

It take a while to get a seat, but apparently it’s that good, not just to non-Hispanics or non-Peruvians. When we sat down, we looked over it and figured out what we should get. I wish we got some ceviche, but it’s a bit expensive. Maybe next time.

The Fisherman got a breaded fried steak and a pesto pasta. I went for the roasted Peruvian chicken with potatoes. Around here, the roasted chicken, be it Peruvian or Colombian, it’s amazing. The cutlet was good, a bit salty. But the crust was very crispy. The Fisherman found the pasta to be a bit bland, but cooked well. So seasoning was a bit off but cooking technique was good. 

I found the chicken to be good, juicy, well-seasoned. But it just couldn’t beat Pollo Mario's chicken. The potatoes were fine.

Perhaps we ordered the wrong stuff, and at the price was a bit high too. It’s a nice place, but our food was probably more than $30. For it to be so-so, it was a little disappointing. Perhaps next time.

Not all adventures are exciting and positive. Some suck, some really suck, some are meh. I don't regret going to Urumbamba. In fact, I'd be willing to go again. I believe in giving places two or three chances. So this time wasn't great, there's always next time!

Speaking of next time, I wanted to show some examples of what I’ve been making since starting Weight Watchers. It’s really good food, lots of veggies, healthy and tasty too! I promise. Perhaps I'll do a review of healthier options I found that were good, and not so good. The good, the bad, the ugly. Maybe.

Until then, mangia!

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Who Let the Perros Out! Colombian Hot Dogs

I want to thank you so much for your kind words about my disclosure, and not calling the hypocrite police. I’m not saying you have to eat carrots and celery 24/7 (unless you’re a bunny, or you enjoy that sort of thing), but I’m also not saying everyday should be a Colombian hot dog day. 

Too much of anything isn’t good, and the point of a treat, of an indulgence, is to make it worthwhile, to have it once in awhile. Speaking of once in awhile, this is an example of something that, if enjoyed on occasion, can be a part of a balanced diet. I wouldn’t want anyone to be lacking in hot dogs, potato chip crumbles, and seven sauces! Believe me, it gets crazier.

My understanding is Colombian hot dogs, or perros calientes Colombianos, is an American food but with Colombian influence. I find it fascinating how one culture takes someone else’s food, and makes it their own, turning the original idea on its head. Apparently hot dogs got to Colombia some kind of way, and in Colombia they decided to go crazy with their toppings, a kind of competition among hot dog carts. 

The usual hot dog has ketchup, mustard, mayonnaise, salsa rosada (a ketchup/mayo blend but apparently is own sauce), pineapple sauce (and sometimes raspberry too), and crumbled potato chips. Others include bacon, ham, cheese, or even quail eggs. One’s culinary imagination is the only thing holding back the perro architect.

If you are so inclined, here’s a recipe from a blog who has great recipes, but, I think it needs a few more toppings to really make it crazy and messy (and that’s part of the allure!)

I was inspired to check these out after reading one of my favorite foodie blogs, but I totally disagree with their assessment. That’s the great thing about blogs and such, we all can have our opinions, and that’s all this is, an opinion. Their opinion got me to try something I wanted to try for a long time, and I hope I inspire you. Maybe you’ll agree, and maybe you won’t. All I ask is you try it. You might like it.

We checked out El Perro and Xtasis, both in Jackson Heights, and both on Northern Boulevard within close proximity to each other. Do I smell a perros showdown??

First, at El Perro, it was a really small restaurant. A few stools, an impressive juice bar (that sadly was not very popular, probably since it was April and not really jugo or batido season). The menu was quite impressive. The Fisherman and I decided to go for a Perro Regular and a Perro Especial. The Regular was on a nicely toasted hot dog bun, a hot dog, cheese, crumbled potato chips, ketchup, mayo, mustard and salsa rosada. The Especial was a hot dog on a toasted bun with bacon, cheese, raspberry sauce, pineapple sauce, cheese, crumbled potato chips, ketchup, mayo, mustard and salsa rosada. I’m not gonna lie, the raspberry sauce intrigued me. I heard of the pineapple sauce before, but raspberry??

And here’s our dogs. Crazy flavorliciousness? Yes. Sloppy as can be, yes. Quite an experience. Some would think “how would all of this work??” But work it does. A hot dog compounded with the smokiness and meatiness of the bacon, the sharp sour sweet ketchup with the creaminess of mayo, playing against the salt crunch of the potato chips, the zip of mustard cutting through the richness. Then, to counterbalance that salt bomb is the sweetness of the fruity sauces. It’s unusual, but so are other sweet savory pairings, like chocolate and pretzels, brown sugar and bacon, or my favorite, a Wendy’s Frosty and fries dipped into the Frosty. Try it, and see what I mean.

El Perro doesn’t limit itself to hot dogs, with burgers, sandwiches, antojitos (street food/snacks, but it really means street food), juices, and cold concoctions like cholados, sundaes and floats.

The Fisherman was quite tempted by the Super Hamburguesa (burger, cheese, bacon, ham, quail eggs, crumbled potato chips, ketchup, mayo, mustard, salsa rosada, lettuce, tomato and onions) but we wanted to continue our hot dog quest. Until then, Super Hamburguesa…

Now, what was interesting with these is we got actual hot dogs, but other perros places like to switch up their meat tubes of choice.

At the famed brightly pink Xtasis, we had choriperros, or Spanish-style sausage dogs. This gave us a more spices, and meatier thicker texture to play against the onslaught of toppings. They also had regular perros, but who could resist a choriperro?

Their menu, which runs the gamut of sandwiches and burgers, much like Perro. But at Xtasis the options are incredible, from the Super Sandwich Xtasis (bread, turkey, chicken, roasted pork shoulder, ham, cheese, garlic sauce, pineapple sauce), to the Burguerarepa Super Xtasis (bacon, ham, cooked onions, cheese, lettuce, tomato, potato chip crumbles, seven different sauces, served on an arepa). I believe six of the sauces are ketchup, mayo, mustard, salsa rosada, pineapple sauce, and garlic sauce. The seventh alludes me.

They also have options like chuzos (or kebabs), arepas, maizitos (seems to be corn mixed with cheese and other toppings), patacos or maduros (sandwiches made with either savory or sweet plantains replacing the bread), antojitos, and LOTS of cholado and dessert options. I’ll elaborate on cholados in a bit.

Back to the choriperros, The Fisherman and I chose the Choriperro Super Xtasis and the Choriperro Super Hawiano. The Super Xtasis contained the bun (a sesame seeded mega hot dog bun, nice texture-wise), the sausage, bacon, ham, cheese, cooked onions, crumbled potato chips and seven sauces. The Super Hawiano had the bun, sausage, bacon, ham, cheese, cooked onions, crumbled potato chips, pineapple sauce and seven sauces. While they were lacking in raspberry sauce (with so much pink décor, you’d think raspberry sauce would be up their alley!), I think The Fisherman and I really like Xtasis, more than Perro. The flavor combo was incredible, the harmony was like nothing I ever had before.

Not for eating when you have something nice on, the mess factor adds to the fun. The contrast in textures and flavors is so wacky it works. The chips add nice salt and crunch, versus the meaty, spicy chorizo, versus the creamy, zingy, spicy, sweet sauces, the seeded bun adds softness and crunch at the same time, the smokiness of the bacon and ham, the sweet and savory onions, and of course the sweet and sour zip of pineapple. The only drawback I found was the cheese, which kind of hardened into a mantle, made it harder to get the various strata of tastiness.

A glorious cross section, so many layers of flavor!

Then, after all this super savoriness, I had to try a cholado. I’ve seen these forever and never tried one before. It looks so pretty! Pale orange cantaloupe, light green honey dew, yellow pineapple, some fluffy shredded coconut, crunchy apples, creamy banana, and a pretty pink wafer cookie. Even for a sweet fiend like me, this was intense. Even with The Fisherman and I splitting it, we couldn’t finish it, it was that sugar laden. A great thing to try though.

You would think after this adventure, we’d have our fill. Oh, no, we needed one more trip. The week after, we returned to Xtasis to try the Burguerarepa Super Xtasis. Another ridiculously delicious conglomeration of nicely grilled burger and tons of toppings. Another sloppy meal, but with grilled beefiness. I also loved the mild crunchy creaminess of the arepa. Normally considered bland, I really like arepas because I don’t find it as bland. It’s a mild base, usually good for sopping up something wonderful like the gravy from rice and beans, or in this case, to soak up all those flavors.

And, to top it off, what better end to a Colombian foodiethon than a can of Colombiana, a sweet soda similar in flavor to bubblegum. It’s an acquired taste, but fun to try nonetheless.

Up next, a visit to Peru, via the very popular restaurant, Urumbamba. Until then, mangia!

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Full Belly Disclosure, Or, Loving Food the Right Way

So, something I thought about for a good while and decided to share since I’m a firm believer in honesty. I don’t want to give the impression that I eat all this with no repercussions. That and I think of Paula Deen and other celebrity chefs who are under fire about promoting food that’s delicious, but maybe not the best for us. It’s a complicated issue, just as it is for restaurants, whose job is to make food delicious. No, one is holding us at gunpoint to eat Gooey Butter cakes, or Big Macs, or HUGE sodas, soft drinks, or sweetened teas.

On the other hand, you do have to do a bit of work to figure out what you should be eating. Read labels, ask questions. Yet many people don’t, they don’t hold themselves responsible, and they should. That’s why children can’t smoke, or drink alcohol, or gamble, but adults can. It’s called being able to determine what’s best for you. And granted sometimes it’s hard, and granted, having a family can be more difficult to make better choices. It may not be easy, but it’s necessary.

In my case, I’ve been heavy just about my whole life. I’m a sedentary person by nature; I love to read and paint. I’m a huge klutz so physical activity was never my forte. I really don’t drink soda, and now when I do it’s diet, I don’t really eat junk food, and eat a mostly vegetarian diet during the week. On the weekend I loosen up a little but mainly don’t consume anything ridiculous (regularly). I ate healthy foods, yet was heavy. It’s affecting my health in a small way, but it’s only a matter of time before other issues pop up.

I decided a couple of years ago to get the ball rolling on making better choices for myself because only I can do that for myself. I’ve gone to the doctor and am working on my health issues, which are mainly the result of being heavy. I need to lose some weight to see improvements. 

So, now I walk a lot, I take the stairs more often, and I recently joined a gym. I also decided to join Weight Watchers to help me figure out what I was eating, or not eating. So far I learned that that what I was eating was fine, but my portions were WAAY too large (see, this is called being educated!). I’m fairly savvy about healthy eating and what not, but thought eating lots to healthy food was the way to go. Not necessarily.

Since increasing my activity, and joining Weight Watchers in April, I’ve lost 15 lbs, and 10 more previously (5 on my own and 5 after the cruise, strangely enough. Seasickness will do that I guess).

What I’m trying to say is that as an adult I have to make my own choices. I will reap what I sow in terms of my choices. I have chosen to eat healthier overall, but I still love food, and will continue to do so. I just won’t eat A LOT of it. What I really like about Weight Watchers is I can choose to eat whatever I want, but I have to keep track of what I eat, and how much. To me it’s like my bank account; I don’t have infinite dollars (I wish!), why should I have infinite calories?

So, I’d like to write about the fun stuff I eat, as well as what I eat the other days. To show that, you can love food and not cause harm to your health. You can also be healthy and not eat rabbit food (but seriously, fruits and vegetables are really important!!)

The key is moderation, really, truly. Sometimes that isn’t easy. In America, we have a penchant for “more is better,” and that doesn’t always translate well. For some, none is better than some, and I understand that (which is why bread in my house is highly regulated J). But, I think many of us have to learn to love food, but not to an extreme.

I want to love food, but not have it kill me, or cause damage. I want to enjoy my life and be happy, but also be around long enough to enjoy the ride, to enjoy my friends and family for many, many years. Perhaps it’ll inspire you to really think about something like this, to think about your food, where it comes from, and how much you really need. How, like with physical activity, if you don’t use it you lose it.

If anything else, I’m not trying to convince you that what I post is not what I eat every day, and you probably shouldn’t either. This is me being honest, and hopefully it is appreciated.

I’ll sprinkle in some of the foods I make that I eat during the work week, but first, I really have to highlight the incredible concoction, the Colombian hot dog. Yes, even these can be included in a healthy diet as a "sometimes" food, not an "always" food.

Until then, mangia!

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Panem et Conchasium: Mexican Sweet Bread

One thing I love about where I live is the diversity of my neighborhood. People from all over the world congregate to New York, many live in Queens. It seems though that so many people from all over the world come and make Elmhurst their home. According to “Elmhurst in Queens has the highest share of immigrants per total population. Seventy percent of its residents are immigrants. Other top neighborhoods in this category are all in Queens – Jackson Heights, Flushing, Corona and Woodside. In these neighborhoods, six out of 10 residents are born outside of the U.S, according to the same report.”

This means growing up around kids who, or their parents originally hailed from places such as Haiti, The Dominican Republic, China, Tibet, South Korea, Thailand, Vietnam, Malaysia, Indonesia, Peru, Colombia, Ecuador, Mexico, India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, even some of the previous residents, Italians and Jews and other Europeans. In school, our forms came in six different languages, and kids were often asked over the PA system to help translate.

I feel very fortunate to live in a place like this, because it’s usually very hard for people to accept things that are different from what they know. I struggle with it too, because I grew up with certain things I knew to be “true” or “they way we do things.” It just is, it’s always been this way. People get very uncomfortable when their values, their “truths” are questioned. But it’s also very liberating to learn other ways of doing things, of being.

Growing up with an Italian mom, bread was important. It was my treat when my mom would clean the house. I’d sit in my high chair, watching Fraggle Rock, and dipping my hunk of Italian bread into melted butter. Hey, it was the mid-80’s, butter wasn’t bad back then. And, while it’s not “proper,” Italian bread is best enjoyed when ripped off in hunks or pieces, rather than cut. Your mom will be mad, but it’s so good.

Bread was also a great staple when my mom wanted something quick and simple to make for us. Italian bread was cheap, I think 3 or four loaves for a dollar, with some cheese and whatever toppings, popped into the oven, and done. With three kids, she could customize each of our breads (tomato and basil on mine, bacon bits or perhaps pepperoni for my siblings). We were all fed and happy. To me, bread is love.

So when I see how different cultures “do bread,” I get excited. I love bread, and it loves me more than I care to admit. On the other hand, I have this preconceived notion of what “bread” is to me. Bread is Italian bread, or we called it “hero bread.” I don’t think of bread and think of Asian bakery, or Indian naan or roti, or Colombian buñuelos although I think they are all delicious. Other breads have been elusive to me.

One bread that has mesmerized me that I never tried before was this Mexican bread. They look like large rolls, but have the prettiest colors and designs baked on top, similar to a pineapple bun. After doing some research I realized these were called conchas. As you can see there are a number of sweet breads, pan dulces, but I am most familiar with conchas where I live. I’ve walked past Vallecito (omg it smells like butter and sugar and LOVE!), I’ve passed Mira Cali, Broadway Bakery (although that’s more of a pizzeria and Western bakery).
Why have I never ventured in, to sample that which I admired from afar? The simple answer is that I didn’t know what I was ordering. Usually pointing and bracing myself for the surprise of what I bought doesn’t faze me. But sometimes it can be intimidating. Plus, adoring from afar creates this mystery, this fantasy, and sometimes that’s better than the real thing.

Sadly, in this case, the conchas fantasy prevailed. I went to a local supermarket that I don’t frequent all that often because it’s a little out of the way, and I swear they’ve renovated four times in a year. When you can’t find canned beans in a predominantly Hispanic supermarket, things are definitely out of order in that place!  I do like this market though because they have more choices than my closer markets. That, and this market just set up a bakery! I was able to buy what I needed to buy, and then sneak in some conchas! Not knowing what to expect (and at fifty cents a piece!), I had to try them all!

So pretty!

Well, they were prettier before they made the schlep 6 or 7 blocks back to my apartment. Some of the decoration fell off, but it remained in the bag. I found the decorative top was tasty, kind of like a sugar cookie in texture and taste. The brown had a hint of chocolate but I couldn’t make out a distinction between the white, pink and yellow. The bread itself was like a roll you’d get a sandwich on, texturally, but it was slightly sweet. It confused me because it wasn’t pastry sweet, it was just a little sweet. Maybe it would be good with some strong café, but I didn’t love it. Maybe that’s what I get for buying grocery store bread instead of bakery bread. Perhaps I will give this another try.

Up next, an announcement I wasn’t sure I wanted to make. I decided to go with it because I think it’s important to be honest, in my personal life, and on this. That, and perhaps to show that everything has a place, even Colombian hot dogs.

Until then, mangia!

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Take Me Down to Coco, yo!

Lame title, but very cool that this is post #50! Woohoo!

Now, we’re back to the good stuff, local fare from here in Elmhurst, Queens. I went to Coco awhile back, but really didn’t know what to order My familiarity with South Asian cuisine consisted of making pad thai for a friend in college (word up Leila!), having no clue what I was doing, in a dorm kitchen with flickering lights. Good times.

I asked The Fisherman if we could go again, but he insisted that not all the food was good, like their noodles in soup was horrible. Pan fried stuff was good, in his opinion. I recall their chicken satay was good, so between our limited memories we decided to give it a go.

We sit and look through the menu

And ponder their special drinks, although I know my heart belongs to Thai iced tea. I’d like to try an avocado shake, or coco-pandan, mmmm.

I got my Thai iced tea, so tasty. Sharp, bitter strong tea with the smooth creaminess of the condensed and evaporated milk, so good!

Now, to order. We go for the satay chicken and the roti telur (roti canai with egg) for appetizers, and then shrimp thai green curry (after trying red and green curries in my own dishes, I think I like red more, hold tight for more on how I do Thai!) and chow kueh teow for mains.

The satay was as delicious as I remember it, moist juicy dark meat with a nice marinade, and INCREDIBLE peanut sauce. I wanted that on EVERYTHING! I am playing with using peanut and peanut butter in savory dishes, you will soon find out. This really could be main dish over rice, and in some places it is.

I never had the roti but it was quite delicious. Stretchy chewy bread? I’m there! And with egg it’s not a major starch bomb. This was served with another delicious chicken curry sauce. Saucilicious!! Two for two on the apps!!

For the main dishes, this curry has nice heat, not too crazy, and the veggies added a nice crunch and contrast. The sauce dished over rice was wonderful.

I actually really loved The Fisherman’s choice of chow kueh teow. Nice wok hei, which is hard to find but beloved when found, nice chewy rice noodles, tasty calamari, shrimp, sprouts (love that light crunch) and some egg.  I will definitely request this again.

The funny thing about where we live in Elmhurst is, we live around all these eateries, yet we often pass them right by. For me, Coco was an example of this. There are many, many others that we just pass because they’re part of the scenery for us. But I’ve decided that, when posed with “Hmmm, what should we eat?” that we take advantage of all the great local cuisine we have, that we usually don’t even realize.

Will they all be great? Of course not. But the important thing is it’s there, and we gave it a try (that and we can just roll home).

Anyway, next up, a quick blip on my adventures with Mexican conchas! Until then, mangia!

Friday, May 18, 2012

Sea Faring Foodies: Part III, Italian and Brazilian Extras!

…And I’m back, again. Sorry about the delay, but at the office we just finished our spring fundraising season, whew! I hope you all did something nice for your mom this Mother’s Day. We focus on moms every spring, like the meal recipients who are moms. A lot of people think of their moms and then they think of women who are alone on this special day. We make sure they have a nice meal on Mother’s Day, and a card signed by someone who made a donation for Mother’s Day. They know they are not forgotten, not today, or any day of the year.

Now, I can finally finish Sea Faring Foodies Trilogy MWAHAHAHAA! These were the places The Fisherman and I had to pay extra in order to eat there. In sum, it was totally worth it. First up is Mama’s Italian Restaurant, a really nice Italian place, makes you think you’re on the water in Tuscany, almost. Then, we checked out Moderno Churrascaria, a Brazilian barbecue meatfest.

At Mama’s the atmosphere was very warm, very Mediterranean, really nice. We got the antipasti platter, beef carpaccio, salad with fig and pancetta, pizza margherita and cheese tortellini with creamy pesto.

The antipasti was really nice, a change from what I grew up eating as antipasti, veggies and cold cut cubes (delicious, but not exactly authentic). From top left, roasted tomatoes which were actually sweet and didn’t taste like crap (as most tomatoes do nowadays, sad). Then some prosciutto, which is always delicious. I’m so glad the Fisherman like Parmesan and prosciutto, these are not for the novice! 

Next were some lovely olives. The Fisherman is not a fan because he thinks all olives = canned black olives. Then roasted red peppers, a wonderful addition to ANYTHING, so good! Finally, something I never had before, but was quite impressed, a sort of zucchini frittata. It was light, not dense at all, cold, but not super wet as cold egg dishes can get, more so with any squash in the mix. A nice start before appetizers.

Next we tried beef carpaccio. I never had it before and it was really tasty. The olive oil makes it so silky and the pepper and greens make it zippy. It inspired me to want to try carpaccio again, and again and again.

I got the salad, but this is why: figs AND pancetta? Yeah, I was going for that. A little richness balances out the salad greens so you don’t have to be weighed down, but you also won’t eat it and then say “Uh, that’s it?” Nicely balanced. Notice in the lower middle, that glowing jewel or porktasticness, like a pancetta ruby.

For main courses, The Fisherman got the pizza margherita, and since we kept hearing about the pasta, I opted for the cheese tortellini with creamy pesto. The pizza was really good, not quite pizza from back home, but pretty close. We live in NYC, it’s a hard pie to compare it to. The crust was nice and crispy, the cheese was super gooey, but the one turn off for me was the tomatoes. 

Now, I love veggies on pizza, but when you go heavy on toppings like vegetables (which have lots of water), or large pieces (such as these tomato slices), one bite causes said topping to slide off, with the poor crust all by its lonesome. It’s so, so sad to separate crust from cheese and topping. It should be considered a war crime. Overall, a formidable pie.

The pasta was really nice, the most tender I’ve ever had. I’ve also never had fresh pasta before so this was an extra special treat. It wasn’t gummy, or dry, it was a totally different texture. I’ll have to investigate more fresh pasta from now on. The creamy pesto was really nice, something I never thought of trying before but will now…This was right up my alley as a major Italian cheese head.

All in all, it was a very nice experience. Like a trip to Tuscany on the sea.

Now, Moderno Churrascaria was a place we were very lucky to go to, since it opened a day or so before we were to come back to NYC. 

Boy, was there meat. GLORIOUS MEAT! As you can see the menu was long and lovely. Just like me. Yeah, I couldn't resist. 

For those new to the art of churrascaria, you have some object, in this case a paper square, sometimes something that looks almost like an hour glass. One side is painted red, the other is green. When the object is flipped to green, it means BRING ON DA MEAT! Guys with skewers of carnivorous delights come by your table and keep loading you up. When you flip it to red, it means NO MOAR!

Note, see at the top, between the drinks offered and the meat is this thing called a “salad bar”? Think of it as a “sad bar” and save your stomach (and calories) for the meat. It’s meant to distract you from the meat. I did try some ceviche for giggles. Not that exciting, but luckily I was really full anyway, I had my meatfill.

We had some Brazilian cheese bread, pao de queijo, reminded me of pandebono, but waaay less dense.

The meat which is incredible, the best I’ve had. We were offered picanha (a prized cut of sirloin known for its rich flavor), garlic beef (center cut sirloin marinated in garlic and sea salt), costela (slow cooked tender juicy beef ribs), filet mignon (succulent filet of beef seasoned to perfection), frango (chicken leg marinated in lime juice, sea salt and garlic), chicken breast (wrapped in smoked peppered bacon), costela de suino (pork ribs marinated in red wine and spices), linguica (Portuguese sausages flavored with herbs and garlic), chorizo (Spanish sausages flavored with red wine and Parmesan cheese), costela de carneiro (flavorful lamb rib chops from the spit). Yeah, it was awesome.

For the sides, we were given buttered rice (since you need butter after MEATFEST), savory black beans, garlic mashed potatoes, and fried sweet bananas. I loved the bananas the best, but I’m a sweet fiend. The others were good, but really, this is all about the meat. And I think these pictures speak louder than anything I can type up.

Sadly, I don’t remember which meat was what, but I remember that it was all incredible. The problem is you fill up really fast on all that protein. Yet, there is always room for dessert. The choices were papaya cream (a blend of papaya and vanilla cream and crème de cassis liqueur), coconut flan (traditional flan with toasted coconut), and mango rice pudding (sweet mango with dulce de leche). We went for the flan and the rice pudding. 

The flan was creamy and custardy with a nice coconutty flavor. I think if there was toasted coconut on top, or on the bottom and flipped over, it would add a nice crunch as you would expect with the word “toasted” in the description. The rice pudding I found to be really sweet, more than even I could appreciate. The bottom had the sweet mango, it was almost like jam. Not bad to try, but I’d go for the flan if I got a do over.

These two restaurants were definitely worth the extra cost. Mama’s was $10 a person and Churrascuria was $20, TWENTY per person. The closest Churrascaria to us in Queens is DOUBLE that price, for less quality selection, and the last time we went, was crawling with possibly mid level gangsters/drug dealers. Really. Doesn’t help you appetite when you feel like you fell in the snake pit.

So, that wraps up the Sea Faring Foodies Trilogy, finally. Wow, I can’t believe that was two months ago. Boy does time fly. Now, we’re back to our regularly scheduled program. We start with a visit to a local Malaysian/Thai spot, Coco.

Until then, mangia!