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 in Paris: Les Papilles

Les Papilles tops my list as one of the best restaurants I’ve visited in Paris.  This cozy, casual bistro in the Latin Quarter brilliantly couples as a wine shop – pick a bottle off the shelf and pay a €7 corkage fee to drink it with your meal.

It’s ill advised to show up without a reservation, but I came in right at 11am for lunch and was traveling solo.  Chef & owner Bertrand Bluy almost didn’t allow me to step in without a reservation but then begrudgingly let me saddle up at the bar.  Bertrand’s appearance and demeanor wasn’t quite what I expected as the former pastry chef at Michelin three-star restaurant, Taillevent.   He towered over me with a bright, shiny shaved head and bursted out orders across the room that made me recoil a bit in my bar stool.

Ordering at Les Papilles is no fuss – the recommendation is to go with the four course fixed menu that includes a soup, main dish served family-style out of a copper pot, a plate of cheese and dessert.  The plates change daily based on the season’s freshest ingredients.  The portions are generous and the price tag affordable at approximately $46 US.

You could honestly enjoy an entire meal just from the luscious velouté, a velvety soup served from a large tureen and poured over a bowl of fresh herbs, spices, foie gras mousse and tiny homemade croutons.  But you won’t – you’ll drink heavily, stuff your fat face then waddle around Paris for 5 hours trying to digest.

Bon appétit!

30 Rue Gay-Lussac
Paris, Île-de-France 75005
1-43-25-20-79
www.lespapillesparis.fr

Kick off summer with the best tacos on the planet

The surest sign that summer has arrived involves a visit to Rockaway Taco.  It’s been a year and a half since Hurricane Sandy clobbered the Rockaway Peninsula in Queens and while progress has been slow, I am relieved to see it nonetheless.  An improvement we witnessed last weekend was the sand restoration project where bulldozers brought in mounds (ok, 3.5 million cubic yards) of sand to help the extensive beach erosion from Sandy.  The boardwalk is slowly being rebuilt, but you can tell when it’s finally done it will be gorgeous.  And while some are complaining, I commend the parks and local NYPD community who are doing everything they can to ensure proper maintenance of a safe and clean beach – because after spending all of this money to rebuild, why would you want to go forth and trash it?

The best part about a day at the beach is a lunch break at Rockaway Taco.  The fish tacos are the only important menu item to order – perfectly battered with fresh fish, and not too fried.  Make sure you add a dollop of guac and to jazz it up, help yourself to their secret brown spicy sauce from their condiment stand.

It is CASH ONLY – but they do have ATM to accommodate the forgetful.  The line can get a little crazy starting at 12:30pm so plan to go earlier or later.  If all else fails, Roberta’s parked themselves across the street.  While I am a huge fan of the pizza, you have to feel a little sorry for the guys as they gaze on to a taco line that’s wrapped around the corner.  In summary, it’s worth the wait.

How To Get There from Manhattan:  Hop on the A train and get off at Beach 90 or 98 Sts, Bike (which is my next ambitious goal, but plan for at least a 2 hour ride), or if you are lucky enough to have a car (or parents who live nearby and don’t mind hitching you a ride:) you’re all set there, or I’m also a big fan of zip car.

Happy Summer!

Where to eat: Boracay Island, Philippines

Okay, of course there are plenty of great restaurants and bars on the small island of Boracay.  But, there’s no way you can visit the island without experiencing a lunch or dinner at D’Talipapa Market.  Sarita and I went one night, and then decided we really didn’t need to eat dinner anywhere else on our trip.  Getting there is simple: walk past the D Mall, enter through a dark alleyway, pass the Facebook Resort (yes, there is a Facebook Resort), and voilà!  D’Talipapa.

There are just a few simple steps you need to take before you can sit down and feed your face.

As you enter, take a good stroll around the wet market to check out all of the fresh catches of the day (still alive and kicking), which usually involve a wide variety of decadent-looking king prawn, squid, jumbo lobsters, crab, and fishes of all form, awaiting their inevitable demise  to end up in mah belly.  Note: the wet market is just as messy as it appears and sounds, so don’t wear nice shoes and plan to leave wreaking of fish.

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Another important note: bargain for your goods, and never take the first price.  I generally leave this up to Rita because she knows how to fight ’til the death.  Just check out her bangin’ haggling skills in the market.  She saved us 50 pesos (a little over a dollar) on our jack fish.  SCORE!

Now that you have your main course, you need to choose your sides.  Wander through the veggie markets conveniently located right next door.  Just make sure to study your asian vegetable guide.  We made the mistake of having the restaurant sauté bitter melon, and it did not taste very pleasant.

Which leaves us to our final step:  picking a restaurant to prepare your food.  There are a bunch of different ones to choose from surrounding the market, and you can tell them how you want the food cooked (grilled, fried, sauteed) along with a sauce or have them make the decision for you!  If you want any extra items like white rice, just simply ask the cook and they will bring it out with your dish.  Our favorite restaurant in the mix was Sababi.

And, that’s it.  Go get your grub on in Boracay!

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