Tag Archives: Drinking

Summer Sips at Gallo Negro Santurce

Gallo Negro Santurce - (Pirates) Booty Punch

(Pirates) Booty in Santurce

I’m not one to make a lot of cocktails at home.  Although lately I have been experimenting with simple syrups and homemade sodas, I haven’t developed that knack for mixing sweet, sour, bitter and savory in a glass.  Enjoying cocktails is one of the highlights of many a dinner out these days, especially with the continued mixology boom.  One of the best places to enjoy cocktails with specialty spirits and mixers is Gallo Negro in Santurce, a San Juan neighborhood.  The brainchild of siblings John Mercedes and chef Maria T. Mercedes-Grubb, Gallo Negro opened in 2013 and since then has offered modern takes on American and Caribbean cuisine.  Chef Maria first made waves in the Puerto Rico gastro-scene  in 2011 with the UDC – Underground Dining Club, one for the island’s first pop up restaurants.

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Operación Limón: Lemon Syrup

Operacion Limon Lemons

Yesterday I went shopping for groceries and made a stop at the warehouse club to buy a few essentials we were low on and to stock up on supplies for our annual Easter getaway.  Although I’m much, much better about making impulse buys, I could not resist grabbing a large bag of lemons.  Since there were at least fifteen large lemons in the bag, I figured it would be a great excuse to make a recipe series featuring this delicious and refreshing flavor.  Hence – drumroll – Operación Limón! Read More…

IFBC 2013 – Bordeaux Wines a la Cookus Interruptus

Bordeaux Wines at IFBC 2013

My three favorite Bordeaux wines from the tasting at IFBC

The following post is a very literal illustration of the seven-part story structure learned during the fun and inspiring session with the Cookus Interruptus team at the 2013 International Food Bloggers Conference. This is also a chance to highlight one of my favorite sessions from the weekend, wine tasting and live tweeting with Bordeaux Wines. For a recap of the conversations, make sure to look through #IFBCBordeaux.

Once upon a time, a young girl with an ID purchased at el Paseo de Diego found herself traveling through the vineyards of Napa Valley with her boisterous family. Through dumb luck, she didn’t get carded at two wineries and sat at the grown-ups table for tastings. And she got hooked on that experience: check the color, swirl the glass, smell, sip, aerate, swallow, sigh in delight, and repeat. Many years later, she would meet a handsome man who shared this enjoyment of good wine and great food. They were lucky enough to go back to Napa Valley, and some other great places where grapes grow and every day life revolves around them.

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Ketembilla Juice

Every other Sunday – the first and third of the month – local farmers pitch their tents at la Placita Roosevelt, on the Hato Rey neighborhood of San Juan.  I’ve tried to showcase their produce and baked goods on several posts, focusing on new (for me) items.  This time around, I would like to highlight one of those items that I’ve bought over and over again but never showed you before.  When in season, I usually grab a cup of “cranberry” juice to enjoy while browsing the tables and buy the fruits to add to smoothies or juice at home.  These “Puerto Rican cranberries” are actually ketembillas, a native Ceylon gooseberry that was brought to the UPR Experimental Station in 1930. Read More…

Puerto Rico Street Food Fest 2012

PR Street Food Fest 2012

The first Puerto Rico Street Food Festival is taking place this weekend on the Hiram Bithorn Stadium grounds.  This event – the first of its kind – gathered around thirty local food trucks and their fans for an afternoon/evening of tastings, music, and fun for the whole family.  I was looking forward to this event for some time now – there were a few trucks I already knew about and enjoyed, but there were others I was really looking forward to trying. Read More…



Tengo en mi escritorio una botella de coquito
que me mira como diciendo ‘anda tomate un poquito!’


We are approaching the end of the work week, and slowly but surely sweets, gifts, and decorations have cut down a little of the office productivity.  Tomorrow I’ll be bringing the aftermath of weeks of experimenting, in the shape of tins and bags of cookies to share with my friends.  Marisol, my cubicle neighbor, gave us bottles of coquito.  It’s sitting in my desk right now, and I’m trying really hard to be good and not even smell it.   You’ll see why in a minute. 

Coquito is a Puerto Rican coconut flavored eggnog-type drink that can probably be found at every household during the November-January holidays.  While I don’t make it myself, I would know who to ask for some!  Coquito recipes are very varied – some may include eggs, some might be alcohol-free, but most of them include coconut milk or cream to impart that signature taste.

If you are intrigued, here are some places where you could find recipes:

  • Karma Free Cooking has two alcohol and egg free versions, original and super creamy.
  • Here is a version with tempered egg yolks, for food safety purposes
  • An easier, no frills version without eggs




Out of order alert!  This post is the follow up to our Bolognese adventures.  After arriving into the Boardeaux area from Bologna via Ryanair and resting for a bit (the maximum amount of rest I would allow DH, had all the calls been up to me), we set out to explore the city and find L’Estacade, one of the recommendations from the Fodors France 2010 guidebook.  We would come to rely on many Fodors restaurant recommendations for dining in France.  With a sense of “phew, we made it”, we walked into L’Estacade after a long, leisurely walk in the Garonne riverfront area.  It was quite the trek after a long day of travel – literally a “trains, planes, and automobiles” day – but a gorgeous one.  Bordeaux’s architecture owes a lot to Paris.  They wanted to be just as glamorous, but right by the water and it worked out just fine for them.  It is a gorgeous, compact urban center that was declared part of the world heritage by UNESCO. 

When we walked into the restaurant, we were marveled at the view.  The whole restaurant has glass panes that provide an unobstructed view of the city.  Had we made reservations, we might have gotten a better view, but it was fantastic just as it was.  We started out with a celebratory aperitif of Sauternes wine.  Sauternes is a French dessert wine from the Sauternais region of the Graves section in Bordeaux. Sauternes is made from Sémillon, Sauvignon Blanc, and Muscadelle grapes that have been affected by Botrytis cinerea, also known as noble rot. This causes the grapes to become partially raisined, resulting in concentrated and distinctively flavored wines. 

To continue varying from our Italian wine experience, we ordered a white Bordeaux blend, the 2007 Clanderelle.  Straight out of the Clanderelle website, the blend was made of


  • The Semillon is dominated by a white floral and lemon fragrance with hints of beeswax and honey. It provides a fairly full body and tends to be low in acidity. The Semillon possesses an extraordinary richness and a succulent texture.
  • The Sauvignon is characterised by its grapefruit, mineral, lemon lime and melon-like fragrance. It shows a great intensity of flavour. The Sauvignon contributes “freshness”, as well as a balanced acidity and a dry citrus finish to the wine.

As for dinner, per se, we started out with a goat cheese in phyllo entreé (in the French sense – starter/appetizer), which I am trying hard to remember but cannot remember much other than the fact that there were two, served with some microgreens, and that it was probably delicious.  The main course, a seafood platter, was much more memorable.  It had several types of fish, including salmon and shrimp, and was served with a corn souffle/mousse.  Bordeaux is a seafood town, and we could appreciate the fresh catch.  The piece de resistance was dessert – a gorgeous tarte tatin served with a gingerbread and apple sorbet.  I remember vividly the caramel sticking to my teeth.  I had not had anything like that apple sorbet before.  It was just the fuel we needed to walk out to the bridge to catch the ‘streetcar’ back to the hotel and definitely the most memorable dessert in a Bordelaise meal. 

Semillon Sauvignon Blanc



TEASER! France 2 Report on Bordeaux Tourism

Better resolution video might be coming in soon!  My four seconds of French fame pop up around 0:58.  Volume is unfortunately low, but that’s the best we can do for now.

Watch on Posterous

Cul de Sac – Rome

Cul de Sac Rome Wine Bar

Given that this was a wine bar, the wine list was by far the most extensive.  Extensive is putting it mildly: we got one mind-boggingly huge binder for Italian wines and a considerably smaller one for other regions.  I got to pick the wine and selected Madreselva, a blend from Lazio.  I figured our last Roman night deserved a local wine.  The wine was delicious and we could tell it was good just from the waiter’s reaction to it.  He opened the cork, and then took a huge sniff out of it.  “I take it that you like this one”, I had to say.  We were not disappointed and it was not too expensive at 22 euros.

Madreselva Lazio Wine Cul de Sac Bar

Madreselva Lazio Cul de Sac Rome Bar

Taleggio Cul de Sac Rome

We started with a Taleggio cheese to share.  I had not had this particular cheese before, but had recalled some recipes I’ve seen that ask for it.  Taleggio, quoting ArtisanalCheese.com, “is a semi-soft, washed-rind cheese from the Valtaleggio region in northern Italy, near Lombardy. It is characteristically aromatic yet mild in flavor and features tangy, meaty notes with a fruity finish. The texture of the cheese is moist-to-oozy with a very pleasant melt-in-your-mouth feel. The combination of the soft texture, pungent aroma, and buttery flavors has proven to be addictive especially when spread on fresh crusty bread”.  I can’t put it better myself.  From there, we moved on to the primi.  To date, we had not had any lasagna and Eduardo ordered it.  It was very light – lasagna in Italy is another of those dishes that vary significantly from their Americanized counterparts.  The layers of pasta were thin, barely schmeared with meat sauce and cheese.  I went with spaghetti with pesto sauce.  After participating in STV’s CSA for a season, I came to appreciate a good homemade pesto and this one was very fresh.

For the secondi, I forgot what Eduardo originally ordered but they were out of, but he went for a meat and potatoes dish that looked like rolled up churrascos.  I don’t remember if I tried it, but it disappeared off the plate.  I forgot I was in Italy and ordered the Escargot Bourguignon and a side of scalloped potatoes.  The potatoes reminded me very much of my Mama’s – rich, but not overbearingly so.  The escargot proved to be a first for me – snails in the shell.  I was given a wooden skewer to facilitate the poking/snail extraction process.  The garlic parsley butter was good, but nothing that stood out from other escargot dishes I’ve had.  It served as a good ‘palate cleanser’ from Italian food – I still had four more days to go of pizzas and pastas.  I was stuffed by the end of the meal, so we ordered a chocolate mousse to share.

While we were working on dessert, since it was close to closing time, someone from the pizzeria next door came in and delivered a cheese pizza.  Out from the back of the bar, we see cured meats being sliced and thrown on the pie that was to be shared between the staff. That must be part of the perks of the job.  We took off just as the guys started to dig into the pizza.  We did not walk the meal off this time (took a cab back to the hotel), but I couldn’t care less.  I came to appreciate Rome the more I hung out in its crooked streets, talked to the people in my stunted EspaItaliano, and witnessed little moments like those that speak volumes on the food culture, the service industry, and the vibe of the Eternal City.  I might have said at a later time in the vacation something akin to “Forget Rome, give me Paris”, but I didn’t really mean it.

Matricianella – Rome

Based on the recommendations posted online in Chowhound and Giada de Laurentiis’ blog, Eduardo and I made our way to Matricianella, close to the Piazza di Spagna (Spanish Steps).  The clientele consisted mostly of local/Italian customers, with a few foreign tourist tables.  Given that we had a late lunch of pizza in Campo di Fiori (Pizzeria del Mercato), we stuck to a fritto misto, two primi, and two desserts.  Funny note, we were originally looking for Pizzeria del Antico Forno, another Chowhound recommendation, for lunch and it turned out to be closed by the Italy’s health department.  I guess we know now why that pizza was so tasty.  At Del Mercato we went for a white anchovy/squash flower and a red ‘diavola’ – spicy sausage.  Pizza in Rome was thin crusted, and the toppings were added sparingly, but they were very good quality.

Back to Matricianella… . They had one binder just for Italian wines.  We went again for a Tuscan selection, a Morellino di Scansano, the picture of the label is in the previous blog entry.  The fritto misto consisted of tempura battered green beans, coliflower, mozzarella, onions, and two potato croquettes that stood out.  The croquettes were good, but quite contrasting to the other lighter items.  Eduardo had the traditional pasta carbonara (the best of the trip), completing our quest for the three traditional Roman pastas.  I had homemade fetuccine with chicory and porcini mushrooms, which was wonderful.  The chicory is a bitter herb, like an arugula, and a great match to the rich pasta.  When I say rich pasta, I mean that the fettuccine was prepared with egg – not the sauce.  Sauces are minimal in this type of pasta, unlike the prior day’s bucattini and the carbonara.

Since we had done some serious walking that day (and every other after that) and skipped the second course, we dove into a rich chocolate mousse and my only tiramisu in Italy. Both were really good.  The meal at Matricianella was the epitome of comfort food – fried appetizers, pasta, and gooey desserts.  If only we could eat like that every day without consequence!


Pappardelle with porcini mushrooms at Matricianella
Chocolate Mousse at Matricianella
Tiramisu at Matricianella