About Traveling Foodie

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I am a clinical veterinarian in New England.  I absolutely love to travel and experience new cultures, mainly through cuisine. My reviews cover a multitude of different food & cocktail related events from food trucks to philanthropic food-related events and festivals. I like to think of myself as: Veterinarian by day Foodie by night! This blog was launched October 2011. I'm a huge advocate of the nose-to-tail movement and an avid enthusiast of prohibition era and craft cocktails! Sit back and enjoy...I hope this blog encourages you to try something new like book a ticket, pack a bag, and eat to your heart's desire in a new place! How I'd describe myself in a few words/phrases: Food+Travel Blogger, Freelance Food Writer (Past regular contributor on The Bay State Banner newspaper's blog Turn It Up Boston dot com), Jersey Girl (born and raised), Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc Woman, Veterinarian, Surgery Lover,Travel Addict, Devoted Gourmand, Proud 2 time Tuskegee University Graduate, Social Butterfly, Girly Dress Hoarder, Stiletto Addict, Classic Cocktail Enthusiast "Life should NOT be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in an attractive and well preserved body, but rather to skid in sideways, chocolate in one hand, martini in the other, body thoroughly used up, totally worn out and screaming “WOO HOO ― Bill McKenna

Monday, July 21, 2014

El Oriental de Cuba, Jamaica Plain, MA

El Oriental de Cuba has been a staple Latin restaurant in Jamaica Plain near Hyde Square for a number of years. Restaurateur, Nobel Garcia moved his family to Jamaica Plain in 1955.  The space is cozy but vibrant in color, music, energy, and fragrance from the open kitchen. There's a palpable family and community vibe with a diverse circle of patrons including the neighborhoods deeply rooted Hispanic residents.

The food here is farm and sea fresh presenting familiar Latin flavors cumin, garlic, pepper, and flecks of cilantro and abundant tomato-based sauces.  
The menu boasts classic Cuban dishes like ropa vieja and the Cuban sandwich, culturally-shared dishes such as pernil asado, and Puerto Rican dishes like mofongo.

Mofongo (Mashed, unripened plaintain with pork rinds.  I've also had it with chicken and shrimp substituted for pork)

With typical pork and beef heavy dishes, on this particular night we sampled a couple of seafood dishes and the must have ropa vieja.

Loved their mixed ceviche and the fact that it included mussels, which was a new experience for me as an interesting component.

Mixed ceviche

A few Side dishes:Tostones (twice-fried plantain), crisp plaintain strips,  red beans and rice

Cuban pork tamale
Anyone who knows me personally or reads this blog knows how excited I am when my protein comes with it's head and body intact!  There's no flavor or level of moisture that can be added post cooking to fish, poultry or even pork for that matter, than when cooked intact.  Check out my previous heads-on raves at Suya Joint (Nigerian Restaurant) , a day in Chinatown Boston on a Foodie Tour , and of course prawns should never lose their heads and if you stuff them with delicious leek and liver mousse, like Chef Carey Dobies at Savvor, they're magic!

I've tried the whole snapper fried with tostones, arroz congri (Cuban rice & black beans) and mofongo as take out prior to ever eating there and was happy there are no corners cut when not dining in the restaurant.  

Whole fried red snapper with arroz congri, mofongo, and tostones

You can also order it with garlic sauce as below or coconut.
The meat is so tender, juicy, and abundant, it seems you can eat from the same dish for days!

The ropa vieja (a succulent slow-cooked shredded beef dish) was fantastic.  Its balanced flavors of onion, pepper, tomato, and garlic was made all the more great by the fall apart strips of beef and tender veg.  Even still, my favorite ropa vieja was in Vero Beach, Florida at The Wave.

Check out El Oriental de Cuba on your next visit to JP!

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Sunday, June 8, 2014

May 2014 Featured Tipples (Cocktails) of the Month with Tenzin Conechok Samdo at Trade, Boston, MA

Tenzin Conechok Samdo.  "Smoked Rosemary Point" cocktail
The Smoked Rosemary Point

Trade Creates is one of the premiere cocktail programs in Boston because of three major things:

1. The ability to open up customers to share their cocktail desires and requirements.
2. The introduction of new and exciting flavors and boozy products to the adventurous consumer.
3. An amazingly talented crew behind the stick.

Starting the conversation at Trade...the way any conversation begins with a great bartender...even if not in writing.

What my communication looks like...LOL

I met Tenzin back when he was tending bar at a low key hotel bar on the way home from my then office of 5 years at Harvard Medical School home to Brookline's Longwood Towers.  Always courteous and kind, I was uber excited to see him break free and into Boston's major cocktail scene...the big leagues!

Tenzin now serves as head bartender at Jodi Adams' Trade Restaurant on Atlantic Avenue in the Waterfront District was recently featured on www.Zagat.com's 9 Up-and-Coming Bartenders You Need to Know in Boston.  
He is the type of bartender that will blow your mind with his preparation of a cocktail alone and this is not because of fancy tricks or gadgets.  
Tenzin does not need bells and whistles to call attention to his craft.
 For instance, I have literally seen heads turn at the bar in Trade when he was making both the "Italian in Oaxaca" and "Smoked Rosemary Point" simply because he smoked a dried sprig of rosemary for both libations with smoked cedar added to the former.  The aroma alone drew other patrons in and was the perfect opening to spark interest and curiosity.

Tenzin Samdo, Trade Restaurant bartender, smoking dried rosemary and cedar for a cocktail

"The Italian in Oaxaca"
1 oz. Del Maguey Single Village Mezcal 
1 oz. Johnnie Walker Black Blended Scotch Whisky
0.5 oz. Green Chartreuse
0.5 oz. Braulio Amaro Alpino

The Italian in Oaxaca is smoke upon smoke upon smoke without being overbearing or overwhelming (which may just be impossible according to my palate).  Notes of bitter from the Braulio Amaro play with the barside smoked cedar and rosemary.  It's woodsy and earthy, like the familiar waft of a bonfire, autumn's burning leaves, or campfire.  
Like any amaro, Braulio Amaro Alpino has a romantic back story which, briefly, begins in the mid to late nineteenth century when botanist Dottore Francesco Peloni developed the original recipe in the mountain region of Bormio, Lombardy. The ingredients are include fresh herbs that are dried and fermented with spring water from the Valtellina mountain region and alcohol, followed by a, rare for amaro, 2 year oak barrel maturation process.
  Only four out of  thirteen herbs used to create Braulio are known: gentian, juniper, wormwood, and yarrow. The remainder is passed only from one generation to the next. 

Two out of three smoke-imparting components include the Del Maguey VIDA Mezcal, a beautiful mixing, sipping, or barreling Mezcal and the familiar Johnnie Walker Black blended scotch whisky.  
Mid-palate, the Trinidadian spice of Angostura bitters introduces herself in her playful sing-song voice followed by the herbaceous accent of green chartreuse.

It's a complex cocktail where each component is not lost amongst the other, but highlighted along the journey from glass to glottis.

"Italian in Oaxaca"

After smoking the dried rosemary and cedar in a covered heavy glass, the enticing aroma became an integral component of the cocktail, awaiting the addition of the other ingredients.
Imparting smoky flavors into liquid is always special, particularly when the customer witnesses this creation.  

Another cocktail I've experienced in which smoke was a major component was at Grant Achatz's Chicago-based stellar Restaurant/Drink Kitchen, The Aviary.  The bar features a tiny (10 seater), well sought after back bar called The Office, a dark and sexy lounge space perfect for couples and groups alike, and a spacious dining room. 

Smoked Manhattan @ The Aviary-Chicago

Tenzin also showcases his talent with both garnish and presentation design.

A beautiful flip by Tenzin.  A.K orange garnish.  Photo Credit:  Maggie Campbell

"Max Altitude"
1.5 oz. Bully Boy White Whiskey
2 oz. Averna Amaro
.5 oz. Yellow Chartreuse
.5 oz. Kummel 
Served in an Absinthe and Orange oil washed chilled rocks glass
Garnish: Rose & Orange blossom water in a 6 cc syringe

The New Infusion...Injection
On one recent visit, we were able to sample the cocktail, now on the menu, that was featured at the James Beard Foundation awards dinner this year:

 "Touristas in the Orient"
 Espolón Reposado Tequila 
 Thai bird chili
Szechuan peppercorn

  This vibrant green affair was complex yet beautifully balanced with the earthiness imparted by both the cucumber and cilantro, the spice of the chili and peppercorn, and the umami character of Japanese yuzu (a favorite of mine).

And don't forget to try one of the barrel-aged cocktails.  The last one I sampled was a fabulous Greenpoint, aged two weeks in house.

This crowd was absolutely pleased with our sips!  Summer Williams (Professor/Teacher of Theatre), Erika Harper (Fashionista/Fine Arts Student), Dr. Markeya K. Williams (Me/DrFoodie), Maggie Campbell (Head Distiller, Privateer Rum), Nick Wilson (Harvard Gov't School Graduate/Food&Cocktail Writer LA and Boston), Peter (Distilling Master in Training, Privateer Rum)  Photo credit:  Maggie Campbell

Of course no trip to Trade is complete without sampling a few of Executive Chef Andrew Hebert and Pastry Chef Sara's creations from the kitchen.

Scallion pancakes with sesame and chili dipping sauce

Local burrata with date purée and Marcona almonds 

My friend Summer pondering the deliciousness of Chef Sara's Baked Alaska

Expect personalized service...check out my 'pen name' on the receipt.  That's customer service!
If you have not visited Tenzin and the amazing crew at Trade, you are missing a true gift to the city of Boston.  Head down and/or let me know what you think!  I'm sure we'll run into each other at the stick soon!

Check out previously featured tipples of the month, here!

Small Bites at Wink & Nod by Whisk and Sips with Cormac, Curtis McMillan, and Colleagues

 Me and a few girlfriends visited a packed Wink & Nod late night for a nightcap on its first hard open night.  I couldn't wait to return to take in the beautiful bar packed with premium spirits.  

A couple of weeks later, I made it my every Monday evening spot for cocktail and food tastings and enlightening a few friends to this fabulous addition in the South End.

The famous quote by Martin Lomasney (Massachusetts politician who held many positions from 1893-1922) on the importance of discretion graces Wink & Nod's menu:

This new sexy craft cocktail speakeasy in the South End (3 Appleton St at Tremont) features one of the most beautiful and fully loaded whisk(e)y-heavy bars in the city!  
Curtis McMillan, VP of USBG Boston and spirits currator/GM at Wink & Nod will blow your mind with the collection behind the wood and private collection goodies, like the award winning, 18th Century Old Potrero rye whiskey.

Me and the Whiskey man himself, Curtis McMillan

Most are mesmerized, as expected, by the $100 cocktail featuring beyond premium spirits created by Curtis and named the Billionaire's Bijou is made with:
  •  $700 Nolet's Reserve gin (only a few hundred bottles hand-signed by Master Distiller Carolus Nolet Sr. are produced annually)
  • Chartreuse Green V.E.P (Vieillissement Exceptionnellement Prolongé), prolonged aging in oak casks, ~$200 retail
  • Martini & Rossi Gran Lusso vermouth (150th anniversary edition)
  • Orange saffron bitters, procured personally by Curtis from small orange juice producer/cocktail enthusiast friend in France created the saffron infused orange bitters exclusively for Wink & Nod
The chartreuse alone will change your life with it's velvety, slick mouth feel, traditional herbaceous influence on the palate and smooth finish.  Even the color in comparison to its younger, more ubiquitous counterpart is brilliant.

The uber talented and humbly philanthropic gentlemen of Whisk, Chefs Philip Kruta and Jeremy Kean take full command of their menu at Wink & Nod and serve up a number of spectacular dishes, a few of which I've sampled thus far.
Venison tartare with mint, pumpkin seed, parsnip, and a quail egg.
The venison tartare was rich with clean flavor, no gaminess.  The pumpkin seeds added a lovely, crunch and texture, as did the papadum wafer.  Delivered, like a traditional steak tartare, with an egg (quail for this dish) for mixing and binding the perfectly balanced ingredients.  I love a well prepared game meat dish.  The venison and quail egg certainly did not disappoint.

Who can resist duck meatballs?  How about foie gras?  No?  How about their wedding?

Whisk has created the ultimate meatball, duck & foie gras - tender, succulent, rich meatballs served with pickled blueberry and black garlic with a side of housemade granola...there are no words!

 The creamy-centered, crispy coated pork belly arancini with fiddlehead remoulade was superb.   You can never go wrong with perfectly cooked tender bits of porcine heaven.

 The black squid ink pasta with squid, miso, cauliflower, and black garlic was only overpowered by the sharpness of the cream dollop which through off its balance.  The dish itself, however, was a combination of beautiful ribbons of handmade pasta, tender whole baby squid with tender roasted cauliflower and chunky tomato.
Black squid ink pasta with squid, miso, cauliflower, black garlic
 I fell madly in love with the Bolognese made with kale drunken noodle, pancetta, oregano and topped with crisp kale chips and Parmesan - a rich, creamy dish given texture by the roasted kale.

On one of my Monday nights (Cinco de Mayo), Curtis talked me into sampling their tiki menu from the "May the Fourth Be with You" themed drinks menu.

I'm not much of a tiki girl due to the sugar content of the classic style drink, but I endulged and didn't complain of a sugar hangover the next day, so job well done on that front.  They could grow on me.

Dark Side of the Force

 Dark Side of the Force

Sailor Jerry rum
Cranberry Juice
Fresh Lime Juice
Fresh Orange Juice

Wookie Juice
 Wookie Juice

Bulleit Rye (originally made with Rittenhouse rye)
Fresh lemon juice
Fresh orange juice
House orgeat syrup
Simple syrup 

Obiwan Kenobi DTO

Obiwan Kenobi DTO

Brugal white rum
Fresh Lime Juice
Fresh Grapefruit Juice
Luxardo Maraschino Liqueur 
Join me on Monday nights...starting at 11 pm, elite guest bartenders from around Boston will host a tiki bar.  Here's the upcoming dates & shakers:

Spent some time at Wink & Nod?  Tell me about it in the comments section...