Monday, July 27, 2009

La Vie Boh...mmm Episode 5. "Peculiar Portland"

Monday, July 20, 2009

J.P. Licks, Boston MA

This one's for those "cookies and cream" ice cream lovers out there.
One of my favorite sweet foods are OREO cookies and anything to do with them..blizzards, shakes, mud pie, or even ice cream sandwiches...I know, ice cream sandwiches have nothing to do with Oreo's, but it's pretty close. Whenever I order ice cream, I kind of obsess about the cookies to cream ratio. There's nothing worse than powdery Oreo dust in your ice cream. Yes, I'm that annoying guy in line at McDees coaching the person working the blizzard station, begging them not to pulverize the cookies. I want bold, huge chunks of Oreos protruding out my ice cream. I want the distinct contrast between silky, rich ice cream and firm, moist cookie pieces. An equal balance. Y'all...I found my mecca of cookies and cream ice cream.
J.P. Licks in Boston, MA
I don't know how they do it. Let me first warn you that the Oreo pieces were not even that big. It was the flavor. It tasted like everything I wanted it to be. The perfect balance all in one taste. Yummy cookies and rich, dark ice cream blended to perfection. I could not get enough. So I went back and had it again. And I'm sure ill have it once more before I leave Boston. I received an ice cream maker as a gift last year and I look forward to experimenting once I get home. I'm sure it's pretty simple, It's probably Oreos, add more Oreos and then add more Oreos....I'll let you know!
Anyways, here it is...my new favorite "cookies and cream" ice cream: J.P. Lick's Oreo Ice Cream.
Not a cookies and cream fan? Check out their other flavors.
So...what's your flavor?

Friday, July 17, 2009

Pambiche, Portland, OR

Here's one thing you should definitely know about me if you don't already, I love Cuban food. I love Cuban music… pretty much all things Cuban because they remind me of my childhood home in Miami. One of my favorite questions for people is "what was your favorite food growing up?" I love the answers people give. It's usually the simple foods that they remember fondly. For myself, it's not the culinary complexities that make me long for home, but rather the simplicities of being a kid running to the dinner table. I would indulge in whatever my grandfather spent all day preparing or even the merienda, (afternoon snack, in Spanish) that would be waiting for me on the kitchen counter when I got home from school. My favorite was and still is the croquetta
During the week run of RENT in Portland, Oregon, I found Pambiche, a Cuban restaurant that reminded me so much of home that I went multiple times to ease my homesickness.

"What is a Cuban restaurant doing in the middle of Oregon?"

With it's brightly colorful facade on a Victorian building, Pambiche had mostly non hispanic clientele coming in and out, one after the other. Apparently a hip spot in Portland, I was about to get an authentic taste of home !
For starters, in my opinion, there is nothing more refreshing on a hot summer day than sangria. The sangria at Pambiche had the consistency of a smoothie smoothie with oranges, lemons and strawberries adding flavor and color to the dark wine. If I didn't have a show, just hours later, I probably would have had two more!

The croquettas were excellent! They were longer and thinner than I'm used to and definitely creamier, giving a deliciously rich taste and smoothness to them while fresh herbs and ham pieces gave them an extra kick. I love that they make their own unlike most restaurants that serve frozen mass produced croquettas that all taste the same. Now, dont get me wrong, there are some frozen brands like "Caserita" that are so good you don't care they're frozen! Just thinking of them makes me salivate....mmmm.....so good!
Cuban corn fritters...we had them every so often growing up, usually on special occasions. I would be so excited that I'd wait right by the pappy fryer so I could I watch my grandfather make them. If I was lucky he would let me sprinkle the sugar on top of them when they were done. These were crisp on the outside, soft and fluffy on the inside. In every bite you'd find sweet nibbles of plump corn scattered throughout with hints of anis seed. Absolutely satisfying!
Arroz con Pollo! Ropa Vieja! What am I to order? Both? Yes..maybe to share. I felt like I had to take advantage of this opportunity! So much food for such a great price!
Even though the arroz con pollo was a bit intimidating in its presentation, it resembled a Cuban "comparza" or street festival with all the color and unnecessary garnishes it came with, it was still quite good. However, I am very critical of other people's arroz con pollo...see, no one has ever been able to out do my mom's, and that is the recipe I live by!
On the other hand, the ropa vieja was excellent...shredded to perfection with the best of company, white rice and black beans. I almost forget that I'm on the other side of the US in the middle of the mountains! If I close my eyes I'm home....but to make it really authentic I'd have to hear the blaring sound of over exaggerated drama from my mom's telenovela coming from the living room.
And finally, really bringing it home, moist and creamy Tres Leches! My favorite,when it's done right,which it was! Oh...my homesickness, cured. Mission accomplished!
Recently, I've been spending time in the kitchen with my mom writing down all her recipes, being careful to not miss a step. At some point when I'm no longer on tour, perhaps I’ll share those as a series of LAVBM episodes and take you on a new journey.
But for now I'll keep hunting for that taste of home while I'm on tour and hope I find more restaurants as authentic as Pambiche. Pambiche will be featured on the next LAVBM episode "Peculiar Portland," stay tuned!
So....what food do you miss from home? What was or is your favorite? I look forward to reading the responses and getting to know you all a little more.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

"Sweet Thang"

Caught up on all your LAVBM episodes? Visit the Cupcakery and Ted Drewes in St Louis on episode 3 "SWEET THANG".

Sunday, July 12, 2009

La Vie Boh...mmm Episode 4. "Savoring Seattle"

Friday, July 10, 2009

Pike Market Place, Seattle, WA

I really couldn't capture the magnificence that was our stay in Seattle in just one post, so over a series of posts, a LAVBM episode and photos on my flickr page, I hope that i begin to open your appetite to a new image of Seattle. Beneath the dark clouds, gloomy skies and rain you'll find a city that shows its color and vibrance through its culinary treasures right at the heart of the city: The Pike Market Place.

At the market, you can find all sorts of produce, spices, flowers and food from around the world. One of the biggest tourist attractions is the fish market, where the staff throw huge fish around and tourists gather around and applaud. You can find a delicacy in every corner of the market....my favorite was the little Chinese pastry shop selling freshly made Bao, and Beecher's handmade cheeses where you can sample their famous macaroni and cheese that left me craving for more!!!

The Pike Market place closes in the early evening leaving the stalls and cobblestone streets abandoned until the next morning. But, some restaurants take the spotlight on the outskirts of the market featuring many of the fresh ingredients sold earlier in the market.

Anthony Rapp and Michael McElroy enjoyed dinner at Cafe Campagne, Michael's highschool friend's French restaurant near the market.
Lexi Lawson, Justin Johnston, Adam Pascal and I watched the sunset just before dinner at
Brasa, from a roof top terrace overlooking the Pike Street Market.

Visit my Flickr page here for more pictures of our day around Pike Street Market.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Punta Cana, Dominican Republic.



During the lay off week, my good friend Jared and I spent the week at my mom's vacation home in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic. My mom chose Punta Cana because it reminded her a lot of the beach where she lived in Cuba. Coincidentally, Jared (who is the musical director on the tour of the Broadway show Spring Awakening) had the same week off I did, so we spent the week eating, tanning and napping. Punta Cana is one of my favorite vacation destinations. The food is so fresh and delicious, and there are so many different tropical fruits and vegetables you typically wouldnt find in a US supermarket. One of my favorite cafe's in the world, Huracan Cafe is there as well.

Ahhhh the beaches, I cannot say enough about the beaches....the sand is almost as white and soft as flour, with not a shell or coral on the ocean floor to stab your feet. No lingering seaweed...just clean sandy beaches that are raked daily by the superb staff at my favorite beach at Capcana. Hungry? Order food and drinks right to your beach chair. Imagine...piña coladas and Dominican fried plantains beach side. I also love that there is a building restriction ordinance that doesnt allow any building rise above the height of the palm trees, keeping the beach looking virgin and desolate. The ocean water is as warm as bathwater and ever so still because of the natural barrier reef that breaks the waves far out creating a natural pool. Almost seems like a dream doesn't it? It is.

I try to go at least twice a year to just relax and get away. I cant wait to go back.You can see the full set of photos here.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

The things that make me go "mmmmm"....

Sight...Traveling and taking in the world. Color. A dog and a cat cuddling. Any ocean. The way someone looks at you when they trust you. Rich dark skin. Milky white skin. Vacation photographs.

Hearing...Music. A live latin band. Jazz softly playing as you cook dinner. A contagious laugh. The crackle on an old record. An overture to a Broadway musical.

Touch...A hug from a stranger. Clean sheets on a delicious bed. A warm bath in a claw foot tub. Sushi...yes sushi.

Taste...My favorite. Cuban food. Picadillo....with my mom's black beans. Mc Donald's coke. A really juicy cheeseburger. Soul Food. Fried Rice. Olive oil. And of course, chocolate chip cookies. Ive been told one of my first words was "choco" for chocolate.

Smell...The warm scent of Nag Champa slowly burning away. A fireplace in a cabin in the woods. The smell of mom's cooking perfuming the house. My dads after bath splash on an afternoon. My lover's sweet, musky smell behind the ear. The smell of espresso filling the kitchen in the early morning. Bacon.

How about you???