Where to eat, drink & party in Colombia: Andres Carne de Res

Last New Year’s I visited Colombia with my favorite travel buddies.  While the region wasn’t one of my favorite travel destinations, if you find yourself in Bogota, you need to plan an evening at Andres.  There are a slew of locations now, but if you want the true experience with the locals you go to the original spot and take the 45 minute drive out to Chia.

One of my friends was there before so for the New Yorkers, the best way she could describe it was a glorified, more intense version of Sammy’s Roumanian.  She couldn’t explain it much more than that and once we got there, I got it.  How can you explain a place where there are grown men dressed in dog costumes who come by to dance with you and then throw confetti all over the place, adorn you with Burger King style crowns and sashes and colorful tiki drinks in ridiculously decorated mugs.  It was an absolute circus.

The restaurant can seat up to 2,000 people, which isn’t immediately clear walking in because there are so many different dining sections, mazes and little hideaways but then you quickly freak out once you realize the enormity of it all.  I am immediately hit in the face with so many lights, colors, crazy quirky knick-knacks hanging from the ceiling and rooms full of laughter and loud music.  The atmosphere was something like I’ve never experienced before.  Within a half hour of being seated you feel like you are at a massive dinner and dance party celebration with hundreds of friends you are just meeting for the first time.  

Arrive early to claim the best spot in the restaurant, which is clearly by the dance floor. While all of the food is tasty, the menu is obnoxiously long and the portions are huge so order in waves.  The steak is the best (duh).

While I thought the decor and knick knacks were hilariously over-the-top, it was nice to know everything in there was hand-made in Bogota, and most items were available for purchase in the adjacent shop.

I didn’t take many photos as I was busy dancing but again, you really need to experience it for yourself.  There’s no other way.

Andre Carne de Res

Cl. 3 #11A – 56, Chía, Cundinamarca, Colombia

http://www.andrescarnederes.com/

 

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Where to eat in LA: Animal

I like to consider myself an adventurous eater.  I’m fortunate enough that I do not have any dietary restrictions or allergies that would refrain me from eating an ingredient or type of food.

Animal has been on my bucket list since opening its doors nearly six years ago, but I don’t travel to LA as frequently and it’s usually for work where dinner arrangements are generally made.  Well, last month I had a work trip with an open dinner so there was no questioning where I’d take my solo dining.

I propped up at the bar where I was greeted by extraordinarily friendly and hospitable staff. I asked the server what’s good.  “Pig ears hands down.”  That’s when I scrunched my nose, remembering I took the daring leap to ingest pig ears a few years ago at a restaurant in NYC (I can’t remember the name or else I’d share the info) and was deeply disturbed by the squishy texture and recall an unpleasant taste.  It may have been the preparation, but that’s when I decided I’d consider pig ears only as a treat for my dog. After declining and explaining my historical pig ear problem, he convinced me that this preparation is different, and GUARANTEED that I would like it. Ok, fine.  He was right, and no regrets.  The pig ear was crisp and fried in little shreds on top of a bed of julienned vegetables, sautéed in a spicy red chili lime sauce and served with a duck egg on top to break and mix in.  Maybe the key to any unsavory ingredient is to fry it because this certainly worked for me.  And that red chili lime sauce gave it a splendid kick.

His second recommendation: the hamachi tostada.  I actually think I preferred this dish over the pig ears.  Also enveloped in punchy Thai-style fish sauce vinaigrette, this was hands down the most beautiful, brightly colored dish I have seen and eaten in awhile, towered with powerfully flavored herbs, greens and peanuts.

I was severely full after both dishes, but I didn’t know when I’d come back and I had my eye on the bone marrow with chimichurri and caramelized onions. Note to readers:  eating a decadent, super fatty dish on an already full stomach is NOT ideal.  I’m happy I ordered it because it was delicious, but after two bites I needed to surrender and call it a night.

All-in-all, I am a huge fan. The three dishes were reasonably sized, well-presented and packed with big flavors.  Next up – Son of a Gun! Check out the menu here and make your next reservation:  http://animalrestaurant.com

Where to eat in NYC: Almanac

Classically French-trained chef Galen Zamarra opened up Almanac last month in replacement of mas (la grillade) in the heart of the West Village.  It was a favorite of mine but, unfortunately, some neighbors weren’t too fond of the wood-fire grills and smoke.  When I heard about the hyper-seasonal concept of Almanac I wasn’t a bit surprised.  Chef Zamarra has an incredible knowledge, understanding and passion to honor the freshest ingredients of the season and bring them to life on a plate.  And it’s not just the farm-to-table approach that every other restaurant advertises, but you TRULY see and taste it in his dishes, as he narrows it down to what part of the season and what phase of the moon we’re in.  The preparations even change as the food evolves throughout its season. I’ve been down to the kitchen and have witnessed first hand just how much love, care (and oh my, the steps!) that go into plating a single dish.  AH-mazing!

Aside from the delectable fare and service, I must say I prefer the dining setting and decor in Almanac.  The rustic wood, dark red colors and dimmer lighting brings a more inviting, relaxing vibe.

Choose a la carte, or a three-, five-, or seven-course tasting menu.  I won’t share my favorite dish because everything is divine and the menu will change next week. 🙂

Go ahead and make a reservation, and check them out on Facebook and Instagram.

Bon appétit!

Where to eat: Mimi’s Hummus

My best bite of hummus hails from a dimly lit side alleyway in downtown Amman, Jordan.  In the event you are unable to make the 12 hour flight for an overnight food feast through the streets of Amman, Mimi’s Hummus in Brooklyn serves some of the most delicious hummus I’ve uncovered around New York.  My Israeli best friend will certainly be angry at me for this statement but my mom and I were simply in awe of the unparalleled creaminess of the simple Mediterranean staple.

I’ve only been there for brunch, but I imagine everything on the menu is delightful at any time of day.  Here’s what you need to order:

– Green Shakshuka (Braised swiss chard, tomato, sunny side eggs & Bulgarian cheese – NOT your ordinary feta).  It comes with a little side Israeli salad (diced tomatoes, cucumbers, red onions)

– Hummus topped with mushroom and onion cumin stew served with warm, pillowy pita bread

– Mimi’s sandwich ( the house signature – open faced pita with lebane eggplant, roasted peppers and Bulgarian cheese)

The one issue I have with this restaurant is the remoteness of the Flatbush location, so if you are coming from Manhattan rent a Zipcar and drive.  The nearest subway is about a 10-15 minute walk.  And while I adore the quaint, homey feel of the restaurant, the 20 available seats fill up quickly so if you are planning to dine for brunch, I recommend arriving when the doors open.

Mimi’s Hummus

1209 Cortelyou Rd

Brooklyn, NY 11218

Weekend Brunch:  11am – 4pm

The best things I ate & drank at the South Beach Wine & Food Festival

I’m slowly checking the myriad of wine & food festivals off my list, but the monumental difference between attending this year’s SOBE fest versus the Aspen Classic or NYCWFF was that, thankfully, I didn’t have to work.  As a PR marketer for CPG brands, you can generally find me staffed behind the booth representing my clients in the midst of wrangling media.  Imagine my excitement when my good friends at Sobieski Vodka offered two tickets for me and a friend to come down to Miami and LEISURELY enjoy the Grand Tasting event.  In 80 degree weather on the beach in the middle of February.  Twist my arm, why don’t you.

I couldn’t help but individually snoop through all of the sponsor experiences to make mental note of the ingenious (or faulty) brand experiences.  I could bore you with my marketing take-aways, but I thought you may be more interested in receiving my favorite food & beverage highlights.

Food

I was born a fat cheese-head (go, Wisconsin!) so you may notice a trend in my top three dishes…

Castello:  Hats off to this delectable cheese brand.  Only for the first hour of the tasting they served a special Michael Symon’s ‘Bonus Burger’ featuring the brand’s new sliced blue cheese which will be available in grocery stores this May.  Additional points include:  1) Their brand spokesperson, Michael Symon, is my secret chef crush.  2) The representatives were incredibly knowledgeable so it was clear you were speaking with someone from the company who knew their cheese versus a paid brand ambassador.

Fratelli la Bufala:  This fresh burrata from Italy had the line practically stretched across the length of the tasting tent.  Unbeknownst to me, there is a location in New York’s Upper West Side!  Guess who will be stopping by for lunch very soon…

Doggis Churrasqueria & Arepas Bar:  Tequenos is the Venezuelan version of the American mozzarella stick – a delicate pastry stuffed with different types of cheese and served with a dipping sauce.   This particular tequenos had mozzarella cheese with a merlo aioli.  The cheese wasn’t piping hot oozing out of the pastry but just tells you how damn delicious they were that it made my top three.

Drinks

From shaved ice chipotle grapefruit margaritas being served up by the Cooking Channel to Tanqueray cocktails, new Jagermeister Spice sampling and Strongbow Cider, there was certainly enough alcohol to go around.

My favorite wine of the day was Barton & Guestier Rose D’Anjou sparking rose.  It was perfectly chilled, crisp and refreshing with a hint of sweetness – an amazing complement to walking around a super hot beach in Miami. I almost fell over backwards when I got home and found out the price point is less than $12.   This could make sense considering my friend and I quickly discovered we could very well be a cheap date.  Marriott International challenged us in a blind taste test to identify the $15 vs. $300 glass of wine and we both failed.  I wonder what my instructor Steve at Chelsea Wine Vault would think.  Hopefully I can spruce up my game in time for my Wine Regions of France class next week.

à bientôt!

Where to eat in Providence, RI

A couple weeks ago I took a little road trip to check the lobster-lush state of Maine off my U.S. travel to-do list and attend Yarmouth’s annual Clam Fest (post forthcoming).    But what kind of road trip would it be if I didn’t make a pit stop and take advantage of feeding my face at another one of New England’s many acclaimed restaurants?

My friend David suggested we meet for lunch at Farmstead in Providence, RI.  David knows a thing or two about Rhode Island.  He grew up in the area and is actually opening up a restaurant in Newport within the next week called Stoneacre Pantry.  They’re placing the finishing touches on the restaurant and the website but all you have to do is check out some of the food they’re posting on Facebook to know it will be a hit in town and add to your dining to-do list.

Farmstead is a small and intimate restaurant, yet has a friendly, casual and down-to-earth vibe where the chefs advocate serving honest, seasonal, handmade food.  The ingredients from their ever-evolving menu are carefully sourced from farmers and producers they know and trust, using only the highest quality ingredients hoping to take guests on a “journey through the New England landscape and the rich cultural history of food in the Northeast.”  And surely they did.

Farmstead is divided into two spaces: one area for the restaurant and an adjacent specialty shop with additional seating so you have a perfect view overlooking all of the delectable artisan cheese offerings.

What should you eat?  Well, you should order just about everything because it’s all delicious, although certainly you can’t pass up a selected meat and cheese spread.  I was also hesitant when we ordered the mac n’ cheese but obviously I do not at all regret that decision.  No matter how full you are, make sure you leave room for the goat cheese brownie with burnt honey ice cream, pistachio brittle and chocolate orange sauce.

Feast your eyes on that and more from the lunch menu below.