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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36 hours in Singapore

Bonjour mes amis.  So sad it’s almost been a year since my last post.  While I have been extremely busy with work, as I sifted through hundreds of photos struggling to remember a wine I tried recently in Santa Barbara, I reminded myself why I started this blog – to catalog some of my favorite recipes, restaurants and travel experiences for myself, friends and family (but mostly for myself because I have the worst memory).

The best way to motivate me back into the groove is to write about my favorite region of the world (and where I call my second home), Southeast Asia.

I was heading to Bangkok for a weeklong work trip so a colleague and I decided we would stop in Singapore on our way home.  We had 36 hours but no reason not to feel confident after watching The Layover.

The good news is Bourdain wasn’t unrealistic in setting expectations for a 24 hour trip – Singapore is very walkable and easy to see everything in that timeframe.  The key is to simply walk or drive through the city as much as you can so you can at least get a glimpse of major landmarks, but identify in advance where you want to spend most of your time.  If you know me, you know it’s generally around food, and Singapore just happens to be known for it.  Below I’ve included my itinerary with the highlights and big to-dos to check off your list!

Day 1

3pm:  Land at SIN and make our way to the beautiful Holiday Inn Atrium – a great location near the Singapore River and the heart of the city.  Disclosure: my cousin is the GM there.

5:30pm:  Greet my dear cousin Charles and immediately head to the SkyPark bar atop the Marina Bay Sands for an aperatif and catch the sunset.  Yes, it’s a super touristy stop but you really won’t find a nicer 360 view of the city.

7:30pm:  Take a quick ride over to Chinatown.  The streets are bustling with benches and chairs filled with people, surrounding sizzling street food vendors churning out noodles, other mom and pop restaurants lining the alleyway and Chinese lanterns illuminating from above. Charles takes us in to the Noodle Man.  This guy hand-pulls everything right in front of you and outside of the delicious noodles, the xioalongbao (soup dumplings) are one of the best ones I’ve had to-date. The paper-thin skin makes consumption on its own a skill set, and it certainly becomes devastating when you lose any of the delicious meaty soup broth.  I’m not a big beer drinker, but you drink beer in SE Asia – they brew some of the best stuff and it’s a perfect complement to combat the spice and the heat (of the dish and physically outside.. it’s really hot!)  Tiger Beer is one of my faves, and if you are traveling the region I also highly recommend Beerlao (Laos), San Miguel (Philippines) and Bia Saigon (South Vietnam).

11pm:  Nightcap at Smoke & Mirrors, another cool rooftop space tucked away inside a gallery with, once again, another beautiful view of the city.  From this spot we receive a nice evening view of the Marina Bay Sands (where we had our drink earlier) and the Esplanade.  Naturally, I am drinking a negroni and taking it all in.

 

Day 2

9am:  Wake up and grab croissants and sandwiches down the street from the Atrium.  I don’t remember the name but Charles notes it’s the best bread he can find in the city.

11am:  While I am not hugely into gardens, if I were going to move forward with one non food or beverage related activity, I knew a visit to the Singapore Botanic Gardens would be it. For a moment the air feels reminiscent of Central Park with runners, dog walkers, families lounging and playing in the grass.  The lush greenery, stunning pops of bright floral colors with scenic gazebos and serene sounds of nearby waterfalls and river streams makes these hundreds of acres of land feel truly unique.  Honored as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the National Orchid Gardens houses the largest orchid collection of 1,200 species and 2,000 hybrids.

1pm:  The Garden is located at the end of Singapore’s main shopping belt on Orchard Road so it’s easy to hit these two sights back-to-back.  We don’t have a desire to go into any of the shops, but it’s nice to walk down the street for a bit.  As a marketer, it’s always fascinating for me to observe retail and CPG packaging and advertising across the globe.  When I’m traveling solo, I could literally spend hours inside a grocery store.

2pm:  We are starving, and I wasn’t going to leave without hitting up a good hawker stand. We drive to Old Airport Road Hawker Centre.   We walk in and I am blissfully overjoyed and overwhelmed at the same time.  THERE ARE SO MANY CHOICES!  I take a deep breath and think of the simple wise words of Anthony Bourdain – just step into the line that’s the longest and you know you’ll have a great meal.  There are at least 3 rows of food stands so we grab a beer and walk around to take a look.  It’s balmy as hell.  I need a refreshment and remember my friend recommended sugar cane juice.  I wish I still had my Snapchat saved of how they were hand making and pressing the juice fresh in front of you, but believe me when I say you can’t go wrong with sampling this signature drink.  After making a full loop and ending up where I started, I noticed this one line in front of the noodle stand grow significantly in the last 10 minutes so I hop on board.  I’m starving and sweating, but my friends keep passing me beers since they finished their meal.  I was determined to wait in line. 25 minutes later I order both the beef and prawn noodle soup.  Worth it.

4pm:  If I didn’t mention it enough, it was disgustingly hot, but Belinda and I wanted to continue to walk around and explore.  We decide to get dropped off in front of Little India.  I didn’t like it too much there and don’t really see a need to go back.  There were a lot of old electronics stalls and jeans galore, so if you are in the market for either of those things in Singapore maybe that’s the only time you should be in Little India.  Belinda and I powered through and stopped at the nearest bar for a Tiger or two.

6pm:  We’re a little tipsy, tired and super sweaty, but still walking.  Our goal at this point is to find a good foot massage parlor because our feet are angry.  I had trouble finding one open near us so we walk all the way past the river back to the hotel to ask for a recommendation, and if I can tell you the best part of the trip it was this.. GET A MASSAGE INSIDE THE HOLIDAY INN ATRIUM.  There’s a massage parlor on the second floor attached to the hotel.  Go there, it was glorious.

8pm:  We enjoy a lovely meal at home with my cousin, drink a good bottle of wine and Skype with friends and family.  It was a perfect ending to a short, yet successful 36 hours in Singapore.

 

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!

Paris in 2 days? C’est possible!

How was I going to go back to France after 15 years and not visit Paris?  I was departing ways with my family in Cere but it would be a great disservice if I didn’t at least carve out some time to refamiliarize myself in the City of Light.   I am pretty well-traveled and have traveled independently for business, but this was my first time solo mission as a tourist.  I was excited and nervous at the same time, but I felt confident about not having a set itinerary.  I had a list of places and things I wanted to see and do and so I knew I would just figure it out from there.

I flew in from Bordeaux at 2pm on Thursday, August 15 and then had to leave by 3pm on Saturday, August 17 so I really only had two full days.  I knew the city would be fairly quiet in August with some smaller shops potentially closed for summer holiday.  Because I was set on not having a run-of-show I was hesitant to make restaurant reservations but then caved and emailed a restaurant high up on my list, Les Papilles, only to receive the disappointing news that they are closed during the month of August.  That’s when I decided I’m really just going to ‘wing it’.

An important note:  I walked EVERYWHERE.  Didn’t take the metro once.  I know it’s a very user-friendly public transportation system but my objective for these two days was to absorb as much of the city as possible.  Even though I was there a long time ago and too young to really appreciate the culture and history, I do remember visiting landmark sights inside the Lourvre and Notre Dame Cathedral.  I didn’t have time to mosey through the museum for five hours or wait in line to ascend the Eiffel Tower.  This was a two day drive-by and my mentality was I’ll stop and savor the moments when I feel it’s right.

Here’s how my itinerary mapped out for the two days: green is half day 1, red is day 2 and black is half day 3.

Krystina's Paris Map

Thursday, August 15

By the time I checked in to my hotel at the Hotel Danemark it was around 3pm so I had to get moving.  I didn’t have a plan but I started freaking out as I walked down the streets because literally EVERYTHING was closed.  Shops, cafes, EVERYTHING.  It wasn’t until much later I was informed it was a major religious holiday and that all establishments should re-open on Friday.  Phew!  Well, there were places I knew would be open today where the huge swarm of tourists were, so I decided to get that out of the way.  Pont des Arts, check.  Lourvre, check.  Tuileries Gardens, check.  August festival in the gardens, double check.  Place de la Concorde, check.  Seine, check.  Av des Champs-Elysees, check.  Arc de Triomphe, check.  Eiffel Tower, check.  Last time I visited I went to the top of the Eiffel Tower so the one thing I was hoping to do was catch a couple aerial views atop the Arc de Triomphe but once I saw the tourist line I immediately about-faced to carry on my tour.

By the time I was done frolicking around with the tourists I had been walking for 5 hours and was ready for dinner and a couple glasses of wine.  Problem:  many restaurants were closed.  I went back to the hotel and had them call six places down my list.  All closed.  Finally I realized one place a friend suggested, Relaise de l’Entrecote was about a block away from my hotel.  I asked the concierge to make one last call and thankfully they were open.  It’s received decent reviews, but they only serve one thing: steak frites with this “special sauce” which is something I have to be in the mood to eat and shocker: I wasn’t really in the mood to eat it at the time. I didn’t care, I just wanted a glass of wine.  Not sure if the restaurant is always like this or if it was just because of the holiday but it was jam-packed.  I ended up leaving semi-satisfied.  In summary, I wouldn’t recommend it.

Friday, August 16

Today I was dedicating my time walking up to Montmartre to see Sacre-Coeur, take in the views of the city at the highest point of Paris and get lost through the beautiful cobble-stone side streets crowded with local artists, galleries, and food markets galore.    It was convenient that I was passing through Centre Pompidou then also strolled up Rue Montorgueil, a popular market shopping street for local Parisians.   And that’s where you get your really good, real taste of Paris.  Don’t bother with a bistro or cafe.  Walk to the market, stop in La Maison Kayser to grab a freshly baked baguette, hit the fromagerie to check out the morning’s fresh cheese and finally pluck a few pieces of fresh fruit, take a seat in the park and bon appétit! You have yourself a delicious petit dejeuner.

After walking up and around Montmartre, I stopped at Pierre Herme on my way home.  Sarita informed me that they have the best macarons with flavors ranging from caramel brûlée, milk chocolate passion fruit and apricot pistachio.  I am generally an ice cream girl and have actually never tried them before, so I picked up a couple to take home.  OK, they were pretty darn good.

Then I ventured over to Ma Salle a Manger where I sat outside and enjoyed a foie gras and rosé dinner with a perfect view of the sunset over the Seine.  And of course dinner wouldn’t be complete without dessert.  I strolled through Rue de Bac on my way home and spotted a Berthillon ice cream cart.  Now THAT was my kind of dessert.  One scoop pistachio, one scoop salted caramel.  Yes please.

Was that a lot of food for one day?  I didn’t think so either.  This is a food blog – keep up!

Saturday, August 17

I am feeling a little bloated but there’s no stopping me now.  My hotel is two blocks away from the Jardin du Luxembourg so I was saving that visit for my final afternoon, along with a couple other nearby markets.

First stop was Rue Mouffetard for breakfast.  You know the drill – baguette, fromage, fruit.  The chèvre was stuffed with fresh figs and it was absolutely divine.  They won’t cut pieces off for you so you need to just eat a little and walk around and save some for later.

There was another nearby market my grandmother’s friend recommended called Market Maubert.  It is a very close two minute walk from Mouffetard so I passed through there on my way back to the gardens.

By the time I reached the Jardin du Luxemboug I was exhausted but it was a gorgeous day and I was completely in awe by the beauty surrounding me.  I plopped down on the grass, pulled out some more of my cheese and baguette and thought to myself, ‘I could get used to this…’

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.

NYC’s ‘Cue Central: Big Apple BBQ 2013

NYC is the epicenter for foodie events but with a ravenous and impatient population of eight million, pardon my language, you MUST have your shit together to pull off an event that makes people happy, full and hungry for more.  Some of them quickly become annual anticipations that keep getting better year over year, and others just become the not-so-Great Googa Mooga or a Food Truck Festival fiasco on Governor’s Island.

The Big Apple Barbecue Block Party is one of those annual anticipations for me.  Orchestrated by restaurateur extraordinaire Danny Meyer and Union Square Hospitality Group, you expect nothing but exceptional service from the folks behind some of the top critically-acclaimed dining establishments in the country.

This carnivorous shin dig takes place one weekend each June in Madison Square Park so we can feed our face with award-winning barbecue and Southern-inspired fare from the country’s top pitmasters.   There are always plenty of fun and family-friendly activities with sponsored tents including interactive games and prizes, live music performances, grill-inspired tips and tricks from top chefs in the Seminar Tent, and the beer-sanctioned area (because what kind of barbecue would this be without beer?)

I never make the whole round but I was able to sample some beef brisket from NYC-based Hill Country, whole hog from Ayden, NC-based Skylight Inn, pulled pork shoulder from Charleston, SC-based Blackjack Barbecue and baby back ribs from Memphis Barbecue.

That ‘cue coupled with a few craft beers was plenty for me.  I left the 11th annual Big Apple Barbecue happy, full and hungry for more.  See you next year, pitmasters!