Posted by: Ernest Barteldes | January 27, 2016

Winter Storm Jason: Snowed In + Soup


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By Ernest Barteldes

As many New Yorkers (and many other East Coast residents along the path of the storm) we were pretty much stuck inside the home the weekend Jonas hit (who knew a boy band namesake could wreak so much havoc?). Though the Staten Island Ferry reportedly soldiered on throughout the whole thing, there was pretty much nothing going on around town – some concert venues attempted to stay open in spite of the odds (Midtown Manhattan’s Birdland Jazz Club announced they’d have solo piano concerts, but I have no idea if they actually took place) but the city that never sleeps mostly fell into a slumber.

Aware that this might be a nasty storm I tried to do as much food shopping as I could before Friday – on Thursday afternoon I went to a midtown store to get a few necessities and on Friday I braved the long lines and crowds at Trader Joe’s in order to get everything else we would need as far as food and drink went.  After reaching Staten Island, I took whatever material we had borrowed from the local library and returned home to make a light dinner.

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The forecast was confirmed when we woke up on Saturday morning – heavy the gusty winds accompanied heavy snowfall, and we realized this would be no ordinary storm. We tuned into the news on TV (something we rarely do on weekends) heard that the government was placing a travel ban and restricting subways and suburban trains, meaning that even if we did want to head out we’d be restricted to local joints – something we rarely do.

Luckily I had planned a nice storm menu and made sure we’d be fully stocked for everything we needed – I planned a light lunch, a comforting Saturday night meal, a nice Sunday breakfast and of course our traditional Sunday dinner, something we have done since the beginning of our relationship and have tried to keep going ever since with few interruptions.

For most of the day, we binged on TV shows like Law & Order SVU, listened to lots of music and of course the guitars came out for some improvisational playing. In the afternoon we braved the weather and actually went out for a walk around the neighborhood – snow was up to at least two feet by then, and plows weren’t even thinking of coming around –  we ran into a few cabin-fevered folks who’d had the same idea, but after about 40 minutes we were right back inside.

Sunday proved to be another quiet day – my gym was closed, so we took care of a few things at home as we prepared for another work week to come along as we wondered why the hell these kinds of storms almost always hit New York City over the weekend – what, is God a New Yorker who expects us to work all the time?

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Recipe: Kale, chick pea and avocado soup

 

Ingredients:

1 14 oz. can have cooked chickpeas, drained

3 cups chopped kale

5-6 cups unsalted chicken or vegetable broth

2-3 garlic clove, chopped

1 medium avocado, chopped

Salt and black pepper to taste

2 teaspoons olive oil

Parmesan cheese to taste

 

Preparation:

 

Sautee garlic in olive oil until tender. Add broth, season with salt and pepper and bring to a boil. Add kale until wilted and add chick peas. Boil for 5-6 additional minutes. Serve soup topped with avocado and parmesan.

Posted by: Ernest Barteldes | January 11, 2016

Laying Low For New Year’s Eve

Posted by: Ernest Barteldes | December 30, 2015

Our Christmas Dinner

Posted by: Ernest Barteldes | December 16, 2015

Quiet Christmas at Home


 

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By Ernest Barteldes

 

Regular readers of this blog are quite aware that we don’t do the traditional “American” Thanksgiving of visiting families and stuffing ourselves with turkey and eggnog – we head out to the tropics for a good time under the sun.  Unfortunately, such a luxury cannot be had at Christmas, and since we have no family members within a 1,000-mile radius (the closest is in Chicago, and then Kansas –  after that it’s Brazil and Poland), Renata and I usually spend it just with each other, enjoying a plethora of international Christmas dishes from all our cultures and beyond.

It didn’t always use to be like this, though. Over the years, we either hosted a dinner for friends without close relatives around or visited with other friends who’d have us over, but we stopped doing that after a number of fiascos that I’d rather completely forget about (including a case of a guy who came over and went through an entire bottle of scotch and picked fights with other guests  before being ultimately kicked out of the apartment) we decided it would be better if we spent the Holiday on our own  with less stress and more tranquility.

mushroom-dumplings

The dishes we make are a mix of staples and new ideas:  Renata always makes her annual traditional Polish herring layered with potatoes, carrots, onions, mayonnaise, eggs and dill (there are many recipes out there, which vary from family to family –  they are so personal that I have found absolutely no equivalent online to date  – the only similar one being “Herring  Under  a Fur Coat” that also includes beets but probably tastes quite different due to that extra ingredient.  Other usual staples include  other traditional Polish  wigilia  foods such as “uszka” (pronounced ‘ushka’)  and beetroot soup, while I provide more international fare which might include  Portuguese oven-baked salted codfish layered with potatoes, onions and black olives and a generous amount of olive oil.

For reasons I really cannot fathom, we cook enough food for a small battalion and  take days to consume the whole thing.   I think this is the third or fourth year that we have done our little Christmas on our own, and we presently have no intention of changing that –  sure, it could be more fun being in a big party filled with people, but there is always the chance of something going terribly wrong – and  another weird Christmas is  something we really don’t want to be a part of.

Among the traditional Brazilian recipes I like to make is “rabanada,”  Portuguese  variation on the French toast that is commonly served at Christmas there – it’s made with sliced baghettes and a mix of  other ingredients – it is sweeter than its American counterpart, but it is also very enjoyable.

RABANADA

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Source: A  Taste of Home

Ingredients

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons ground cinnamon
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 cups 2% milk
  • Oil for frying
  • 1 loaf (8 ounces) French bread, cut into 1-inch slices

Directions

  1. In a small bowl, mix sugar and cinnamon until blended. In a large shallow dish, whisk eggs and milk. Dip both sides of bread in egg mixture, soaking lightly.
  2. In an electric skillet, heat 1 in. of oil to 350°. Working with a few slices at a time, remove bread from egg mixture, allowing excess to drain, and fry 2-3 minutes on each side or until golden brown. Drain on paper towels.
  3. Dip warm rabanadas in cinnamon-sugar to coat all sides. Serve warm or at room temperature. Yield: 6 servings.
Posted by: Ernest Barteldes | December 6, 2015

The Puerto Plata Report: Five Days in Paradise


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by Ernest Barteldes

 

On our seventh Thanksgiving weekend visit to The Dominican Republic, Renata and I opted to visit Puerto Plata, a city located on the northern coast of the island country – we had been pretty much everywhere on the other side except Punta Cana (hotel prices there are comparably higher, so we have pretty much stayed away from there in spite of all the recommendations that that the area is the place to go).

We booked our trip on Delta Airlines early in July to get the best prices possible, and we also saved a lot by booking the flight to Santiago Airport instead of Puerto Plata because of the incredible price difference – airport tariffs at Puerto Plata make flying to that airport quite prohibitive, making it much cheaper to fly to Santiago and then get car service for the additional 90-minute ride to our resort, which was located just outside of town.

We left on Wednesday night after work – something we began doing on our 2014 visit so that we could optimize our time there – previously we would leave early in the morning on Thanksgiving, but that gave us a mere two and a half days there, while in this case we get three full days to enjoy that beautiful country.

The flight was a bit bumpy during the last hour – the plane hit an air pocket and you could feel it briefly but quickly losing altitude. The movement caused some people to gasp, but that was the only event during those three hours. When we arrived at Santiago, we stood in line at immigration for a few minutes, picked up our checked baggage and headed outside to meet our transportation. We were extremely tired after a day’s work so we mostly dozed off as our van made its way to Puerto Plata – or tried, as the driver told us about the history and topography of the region. Once we reached the resort it was time to crash for a few hours before we could start the new day.

The Puerto Plata region is quite mountainous compared to the flatter southern area –  there are several mountain ranges in the area (the country’s tallest mountain, Pico Duarte, is to the south of Santiago). The topography is quite scenic – our resort, the Lifestyle Cofresi, was located on a slope that went from the beach to the top of a small hill with a road that connected to the other parts of the resort complex.

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We woke up at around 8:30 AM and surveyed the room. It was quite comfortable and spacious, with a nice balcony with lounge chairs, a flat screen TV and a reasonably soft bed. The resort was part of a large complex with several buffet and a la carte restaurants, so even though we were a bit far from town, I didn’t feel trapped at the resort as I did when we were in La Romana a few years ago. They had shuttle buses that came around the different resorts so everyone could enjoy the whole property with few limitations reserved for members who had bought into the timeshare-like element.

Speaking of that part, right after we finished breakfast we were called into a “tour” of sorts to introduce us to the entire property. Once we reached the main building we were handed a gift bag that consisted of a small bottle of rum and some mamajuana, a local drink that is basically an herbal mix that should be infused with parts of rum, honey and wine to create an elixir of sorts that is believed to have some kind of aphrodisiac.

When we realized that this was another sales pitch (we have been through more than one of these over the years), I politely told the salesman that we really wanted to get to the beach and that we would meet with him at a later time – we were aware of storms coming in, and we wanted to take advantage of the availability of the sun we had for then. We promised to meet him again at a later time – a blatant lie, since we had no interest in it – and bade our farewells.

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On the planning stages of our trip we booked a day trip to the city of Puerto Plata, so around 8:30 on Friday morning we were at the door waiting for our transportation. The tour began with a stop at the 800 meter high  St. Isabel Mountain, where a smaller replica of Rio’s Christ stands. An Italian-made cable car system built in the late 70s takes visitors to the top of the mountain in about ten minutes, but there is also the option of driving or taking a 3 hour hike.

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The ride was quite scenic, but it was a bit marred by a power failure that brought the car to a sudden halt, and with the sudden stop we were left swinging for a minute – a scary part of the journey that will probably be burned into everyone’s memory for as long as we live. Once we were up there, we walked around and snapped photos of the surrounding scenery. A few minutes later, we were back down and driving towards a factory that processed Larimar,  a semiprecious stone that (at least according to my research) is only found in the country.  We observed how they worked the stone and I bought Renata a small dolphin-shaped pendant made with the stone and high-quality silver also mined from the island.

We made a quick stop at Puerto Plata’s Independence Park (known as Parque Central to locals), a recently restored plaza surrounded by the local cathedral, City Hall and a handful of businesses. At the center of the plaza are statues of the country’s founding fathers and a beautiful gazebo that offers nice views of the surrounding areas – unfortunately it was closed as they were conducting repairs . A cigar factory came next, where we learned about the process of handcrafting quality smokes. I asked the manager if they had a reader at their main facility –  something I learned from a book I reviewed years ago – and he confirmed they did.

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The next stop was a supermarket – yes, a regular supermarket – where we all loaded up on coffee, rum and locally produced vanilla that was could be had at a fraction of the prices charged at tourist joints. Being one of the few in the group that spoke Spanish, I made myself useful by helping everyone out with their selections of whatever they wanted to buy.  The last stop was at the historic San Felipe Fort, a Spanish-built fortification that was a crucial part of the early years of Puerto Plata’s history. On entrance we were handed devices in various languages (I chose Spanish) that described the different rooms we visited and what the exhibits were about, and also the history of the area, going from the mining of gold and precious stones in the early years up to the fort’s dedication as a major tourist attraction.

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I must say we were impressed by the resort facility.  All the hotels are interconnected and guests have full access to the entire facility. In addition to the usual buffets, there were a number of a la carte restaurants (part of the all-inclusive deal) dedicated to various forms of cuisine. On our second night we visited their Mexican outpost, where we had a sumptuous meal bookended an unhealthy amount of tequila (at least on my part – but aren’t there studies that say tequila makes you lose weight?). On the third, we checked out a place dedicated to seafood where all the wait staff were dressed in sailor outfits. The food there was also great – I thought of a meat-loving friend of ours who would have gone on a beef coma if he had stopped by the Brazilian-style rodizio steakhouse, which obviously we didn’t even bother checking out.

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The evening entertainment was superior than most places we’d stayed before. Among the most memorable were the last night, when we attended a major dance show called “Pais Tropical” (Tropical Country) that paid homage to the music of Latin America, including Cuba, Brazil and Colombia and also a DJ from Ibiza that featured a live singer and lots of props, including seven foot tall “robots”  and a group of dancers.

We look forward to returning to Puerto Plata again – Renata says she wants to try the hike up the Santa Isabel Mountain the next time we head out there. It would be quite the adventure, and I am certainly up for it. It was a nice trip, and once again we couldn’t get enough of it.

Posted by: Ernest Barteldes | November 16, 2015

No Recipes this Weekend – Let’s talk about Paris


By Ernest Barteldes

Today I was going to write about this great exhibit I saw at the Transit Museum in Brooklyn, but after the recent ISIS attacks in Egypt (the Russian jet that was apparently blown out of the air by a bomb), Beirut and more recently Paris last I find myself too angry to focus on entertainment.  Sure, we all need an escape from all the bad news around us, and although this blog was created to serve this purpose I just cannot put my blinders on and power through.

But unlike most people I am not just angry at the terrorists.  Sure, I hope we could rid ourselves of those crazies like anyone else, but I am also angry at everyone else who is using the deaths of innocent people to further whatever social or political agenda they might want to further, such as gun nuts who think that they could have stopped the terrorists carrying automatic weapons with whatever handgun they might have had on them. Those fools have spent way too much time watching Die Hard and James Bond movies – sure, they might have gotten lucky with one terrorist, but the true outcome would be that more innocent people would have been killed if they tried to play action hero.

However, I am mad at every single person who owns gas-guzzling cars and who demand cheap gas at the pump. No, I am not pointing my finger at farmers who need to fuel their trucks in order to get food to our tables, but those fools who think they are entitled to whatever power they can get just because they can – guess what, this forces the government to either make deals with countries that hate the hell of out us because we don’t get their oppressive ways. On the same note, I am angry at successive administrations who have done nothing to rid ourselves of our dependency of foreign oil – and those who mock those of us who think alternative forms of energy are some kind of psychedelic fantasy.

I am also pissed at the major news networks that ignore everything else going on in the world to give us minute-by-minute updates of what is going on at the site of the tragedy hoping for some kind of a last-minute scoop. Do you really think that audiences are going to waste time with your interviews with someone who was peeing in a restroom a block from the shots and heard something? Give me a fucking break. I understand you want your ratings and all, but there are thousands of events going on that deserve your attention. Anderson Cooper, do you really need to spend hour after hour reporting from Paris interviewing the same folks over and over without any logical answer?

I had recently moved to New York when 9-11 happened, and cringed at opportunists like Rudy Giuliani, George Bush and their ilk use the attacks to further whatever sick shit they had in their heads, and later I almost puked when I heard Donald Trump go out and make absurd claims about the 2nd Amendment.

Don’t get me wrong – I want these extremists gone as much as everyone does. On the same hand, I just cannot stand the fact that so many are using recent events to try and make this something else.

Posted by: Ernest Barteldes | October 31, 2015

New Orleans Food plus Chicken Sauce Piquant


by Ernest Barteldes

I have only been to New Orleans once – I was motivated to do it in 2008 after interviewing a string of musicians from the area who kept encouraging me to visit their cities because I would never find better music or food in America. One of my interviewees (I think it was saxophonist Donald Harrison) mentioned that the city had so much in common with Salvador in Brazil after he’d been there, so that piqued my curiosity enough for Renata and I to take a long weekend to finally check it out.

Of course I was immensely impressed by the music I heard just by walking into a bar – I mean, I am a good enough bassist, but those guys “playing for tips” were infinitely better than I was at the time. Music was part of their blood – whatever natural talent I might have means nothing compared to that. When sat down to eat, I realized I was somewhere between Heaven and Hell — in a good way.

Before I ever went there, the food of the area always fascinated me – I remember reading a recipe for Jambalaya on the long-deleted English Teaching Forum an trying it out and attempting to perfect it, and when I tasted it in Louisiana I realized I had been doing a very shitty job trying.

What I realized about Southern food was it wasn’t about the technique. Instead, it was about the feeling you put into the cooking. I remember being “challenged” by a show promoter who said she’d learned to cook in a restaurant in New Orleans and she was “definitely better” than I was. I never even bothered to take on her idiotic wager – just making it personal would have been a mistake.

I have been thinking of heading to New Orleans again, but the opportunity has not come since that first time – life tends to get in the way, and so do airport taxes. A flight to Miami tends to be more expensive than another one to say, Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic because American airports tend to charge airlines fees that completely nuts compared to terminals around the world. The way I found that out was when I saw the breakdown of the cost of a flight I took to Poland last year – a good chunck of the cost of my ticket was basically the fees charged by JFK on my return flight.  No wonder a flight between Krakow and Warsaw costs about a fraction of what one to La Guardia to Cleveland (which is about the same distance) goes for.

Back to topic, I honestly feel that New Orleans food is the ultimate comfort food.  Whatever dish you have, it just takes you to this wonderful place. Sure, most of the dishes are not exactly healthy – a recent survey revealed that Louisiana was among the unhealthiest states in the Union (Vermont was the healthiest) but sometime you do need that moment when food sings to you.

Recipe: Chicken Sauce Piquant

source: The Best of Everything, Cook’s Magazine.

Ingredients

  • 2 -3 tablespoons canola oil
  • 2 lbs cut up chicken pieces
  • 3 tablespoons creole seasoning
  • 1/2 cup onion, chopped
  • 1/2 cup green bell pepper, chopped
  • 1/2 cup celery, chopped
  • 3 1/2 cups chicken broth
  • 1/2 cup bacon grease
  • 1 cup flour
  • 6 ounces tomato paste
  • kosher salt and black pepper, freshly ground
  • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/2 cup green onion, sliced
  • 1/4 cup parsley, chopped
  • hot cooked rice

Directions

  1. Dredge chicken pieces in Creole seasonings and 1/2 cup flour and brown in the oil, preferably in a cast iron pan.
  2. Remove chicken and set aside.
  3. Keep the heat going under your frying pan and add the bacon grease.
  4. When grease is hot, slowly whisk in the flour.
  5. Stir constantly until the roux turns the color of caramel, the darker the better. About 30 minutes.
  6. Carefully add the onion, bell pepper, celery and stir, about 5 minutes until all is incorporated and vegetables are soft.
  7. Reduce heat to medium.
  8. Page 2 of 2Bayou Style Chicken Sauce Piquante (cont.)
  9. Directions
  10. Add Chicken broth, tomato paste, sugar, salt and pepper; cover and cook for 10 minutes.
  11. Add the chicken and cook until the chicken is done.
  12. Taste and reseason.
  13. Add green onion and parsley.
  14. Cover, reduce heat to simmer for 5 minutes. Serve over hot cooked rice.
  15. nstantly until the roux turns the color of caramel, the darker the better. About 30 minutes.
  16. Carefully add the onion, bell pepper, celery and stir, about 5 minutes until all is incorporated and vegetables are soft.
  17. Reduce heat to medium. Add Chicken broth, tomato paste, sugar, salt and pepper; cover and cook for 10 minutes.add the chicken and cook until the chicken is done.Taste and reseason.  Add green onion and parsley.Cover, reduce heat to simmer for 5 minutes. Serve over hot cooked rice.
Posted by: Ernest Barteldes | October 16, 2015

The Statue of Liberty Cruise + Lady Liberty Cocktail


Statue of Liberty

Statue of Liberty

By Ernest Barteldes

Last October 5th marked my 15th anniversary of living in New York City. It is the longest I’ve lived anywhere – I recall moving around a lot when I was a kid, and that tendency stayed with me for the longest time until I got on that flight out of Brazil after prospects for a one-year contract to teach in South Korea did not work out as originally planned.

Though I did go to the Statue of Liberty during a visit in ever since I relocated here I have mostly avoided tourist-y stuff. I can’t remember the last time I walked through Times Square, and during my daily crossings on the Staten Island Ferry I pretty much ignore the scenery that so many people travel from afar to see (if you happen to see me there, I’ll be reading or listening to music).

However, I do enjoy exploring the city I call home and doing things most locals I know would probably twist their noses at. On my New York anniversary weekend, Renata and I took the Water Taxi Statue of Liberty Cruise, a one hour long outing that kicks off at the South Street Seaport and then towards the iconic statue. The cruise doesn’t actually take you to the island itself but instead circles around to give you a chance to get a decent shot and then returns back to the starting point.

Lower Manhattan

Lower Manhattan

It was actually Renata that found this one – it was a Groupon offer for a half-price ride, and I agreed to buy it on the spot. As it goes with offers like that, we kind of forgot about it until the last minute, and we finally made plans to go.

We arrived quite early and picked up our tickets for the 7:45 cruise on one of the yellow Water Taxi boats. We killed time at a nearby pub and had a glass of wine, and at the appointed time we headed to the boat, which was the same kind used for the IKEA crossing and other commuter boat runs. We found a seat in the front and waited until the tour began.

As the ferry made its way, we sailed through Lower Manhattan, sailed by the Staten Island Ferry and got a close-up view of One World Trade Center and Battery Park.  A guide talked about the historical significance of each location and chatted on the microphone with several tourists (it seems Renata and I were the only locals on board). When we reached the statue, the ferry lingered as people took their shots to the soundtrack of cheesy patriotic tunes like Neil Diamond’s “America” or Lee Greenwood’s “I’m Proud to be an American.”

I am not sure how long we sat there, but after a while we started heading back. The guide started an impromptu quiz on information on the Statue – I answered one of the questions (“Why is the statue green?” – “Oxidation”) and in just a few minutes we were back at the pier to the tune of Frank Sinatra’s “Theme from New York, New York.”

I chatted a little with the guide, who told me he’d had the gig for a while. He was a slender man with a shock of graying hair and thick-framed glasses. He had a ready smile and seemed to be really friendly.

We left the boat and walked back to our own ferry back to Staten Island. We once again sailed by the Statue of Liberty, and realized we’d had the opportunity to check out this city we live in with fresh eyes – those of someone with much less time to admire it than we all do.

The Statue of Liberty Cocktail Recipe

Source: Dirty’s Cocktail Recipes

http://dirtyinpublic.com/

1/3 oz grenadine

1/3 oz white crème de cacao

1/3 oz blue curaçao

1/8 oz 151 rum

First you pour grenadine into a shot glass then follow by gently layering, in sequence, white crème de cacao, blue curaçao and rum. Using a match {DO NOT USE A LIGHTER to avoid lighter fluid contamination}, carefully light the cocktail in the shot glass. Hold the burning red, white, and blue shot/torch high, like the Statue of Liberty. Sing the first few bars of “The Star-Spangled Banner,” blow out the flame then drink.


By Ernest Barteldes

On its 9th edition, the Dominican Book Fair showcased the work of various authors from the Caribbean nation, who brought (mostly) Spanish –language copies of their books for sale at the outdoor festival, which took place on the weekend of September 25-27 outside the Gregorio Luperon High School in Washington Heights, an area known by some as “the Dominican Center” of New York City.

I’d only heard about the fair last year, but this was the first time I’d actually checked it out. I was surprised to see that the event does not actually take place on school grounds but on a park on the outside, where tents were set up for different publishers and promoters.  There were other vendors that were selling food, souvenirs and other products alongside the literary types.

My main reason for heading up there was to meet with Johanna Madera, the founder of Johanna Vinos Artesanales in Jarabacoa, Dominican Republic. I met her by chance two years ago in Santo Domingo when our friend Paola took us to Agora Shopping mall, where small business owners were showcasing various products – including Johanna’s fruit wines.

After a brief chat with her, I decided to browse the fair itself. There were many interesting books – one was “Historia de la Salsa en la República Dominicana” (History of Salsa in The Dominican Republic), a 400-page book by Eugenio Perez that details  how musicians from his nation contributed to the genre, going from its Cuban roots, New York’s Fania label and beyond.  He was on hand, and we had a short conversation about it – I asked him about his research, and also wondered if he planned to have it translated and published into the American market, and he said that this was “in negotiation.”

Other books  that piqued my interest were a bilingual coffee-table book  that contained  illustrated history of the Island and a conspiracy theory that purported to tell the “truth”  behind the assassination of Trujillo, the cruel dictator that ruled the country with an iron fist over the period of over three decades.

I was really looking forward to buying some books, but was shocked at the prices they were asking – most were priced over $30, and I even found some publishers asking for as much as $ 50. I don’t mean to be disrespectful to any of the authors, but I think that asking for that defeats the purpose of a book fair like this, which should be introducing readers to their work.

Copy of one of Johanna's Wines

Copy of one of Johanna’s Flyers showcasing her wines

After browsing for about 30 minutes, I rejoined Johanna at her stand. I asked her about where the idea of making artisanal wines came from, and she told me that her grandmother used to make wine at home for the family. She’d always wanted to become a doctor, but lacked the resources to do so. She then decided to start the business from scratch, and with its success she’s been able to not only help her family but also fund her own goal – she is currently studying to be a doctor at Universidad Tecnológica del Cibao, UCATECI,.

I stayed at the stand for another thirty minutes and we chatted some more. When it was time to go, I purchased two bottles of her wine – one was made from star fruit (carambola in Spanish), which has a sweet and lightly acidic feel, and also passion fruit (chinola), which is on the sweeter side, pairing well with dessert.

It was a nice way to spend part of an afternoon – I’d never been to Washington Heights before – the only down side was the long train commute, but that was not really an issue – I had a lot to read on the way.

Recipe:

Santo Libre (Dominican Republic Cocktail)

Source: Islands.com

  • Start with a tall ice-filled glass.
  • Combine a couple oz of dark or white rum (such as Brugal Especial Extra Dry) with lemon-lime soda or club soda.
  • Add a squeeze of fresh lime.

By Ernest Barteldes

Although for many Americans the end of summer is marked by Labor Day weekend, I feel the season is only really over with once the Feast of San Gennaro – the weeklong festival that celebrates Saint Januarius, the patron saint of Naples, the city where many Italian immigrants that landed in New York heralded from.

A New York City tradition that has taken place for almost 90 years, it is a joyous occasion that celebrates everything Italian – local restaurants extend their tables to the sidewalks of Mulberry Street while various vendors – sell a variety of items, ranging from religious artifacts to a great variety of foods, including sausages, cannoli and zeppoles.

The festival differs from the many street fairs that populate the streets of Manhattan during the warmer months.  In the case of the latter, it is mostly the same group of vendors that sell things like pashminas or knock-off sunglasses and a variety of foods. Sure, some of those are visible at San Gennaro, but the reality is that the Italian-American festivity is more authentic than most (I mean, Dollar Thai food at the Hungarian Day Festival? Really?)

This year Renata and I waited for the last weekend of the festival to head out there – we decided to go on Friday after work, where we would meet with some friends. We got there earlier than our friends, and enjoyed a drink at the Mulberry Street Bar (also known as Sinatra’s Bar – go ahead, Google it), a mainstay in the neighborhood since 1908. The bar has often been used by Hollywood for movies and TV shows, including Donnie Brasco and Law & Order.  When our friends arrived, we walked around for a while until they found a desirable food cart where they’d purchase their annual sausage, peppers and onions sandwich – a tradition Renata got into even if she traditionally does not eat meat on Fridays (not all of us did – I went for a slice at a favorite joint on Spring Street while another member of or party went for ravioli.

Following that we visited the Church of The Most Sacred Blood, the local shrine that holds the statue of San Gennaro that is used during the annual procession through the neighborhood.  Originally erected by Italian immigrants, it has now little connection with the neighborhood’s former population – they don’t even hold masses in Italian anymore (the only one in Manhattan that I know that still has them is the Church of Our Lady of Pompeii in the West Village). It is a small shrine that is decorated with little opulence.  Its doors are open throughout the festival, and they also provide much-needed restrooms for a nominal charge.

We then headed to Ferrara Bakery, where you can find some of the best Italian Pastries in town. In continuous operation since 1892, it is a local treasure that cannot be missed if you visit Little Italy.  There we bought a few cannoli and other pastries, while outside they had their giant 7-lb cannoli – I am not sure what they do with it exactly, but I am hoping it doesn’t go to waste.

Two of our companions left us after that, so we headed to Mika Japanese restaurant just a few blocks away to sit down for a drink. There we were joined by a co-worker from ASA College (the same one who joined us during our last visit to Fire Island), and after a while we took another walk through the festival and stopped a at one of the restaurants along Mulberry for a final glass of wine. It was then that I realized it was past midnight, so we made our way to the subway, and we all made our ways home.

It was as always a very enjoyable experience – it is just too bad that San Gennaro also marks the beginning of colder days ahead.

Recipe: Frank Sinatra Cocktail

I am not sure where this recipe originated, but it’s basically a martini – but blue, in honor of Ol’ Blue Eyes.  I don’t think Sinatra himself would have appreciated it – he was reportedly a Jack Daniels man.

3 oz dry gin
3/4 oz Blue Curacao liqueur
1 oz sweet and sour mix
Get a martini shaker. Add a few ice cubes, then add all ingredients. Shake for ten seconds and serve in a martini glass or cocktail glass with a lemon twist.

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