This blog is dedicated to all the gorditos, chubbies, huskies, bears, afrentados and foodies that love to eat delicious food and can't wait to hear where they should go next to get their grub on! I'm going to give you the 411 on all the places I love to frequent and all the places I seek out, like the culinary explorer that I am. I'm going to be real and tell what I feel and think. Bring on the comments and most importantly bring on the FOOD!
A Spoonful of Sofrito: A pinch of advice that will add a lot of flavor to your life. La Nacional La Nacional is a wonderful Spanish restaurant located at 239 W. 14th St., that features an excellent Tapas Menu, entrees and amazing wines. I love their Caldo Gallego, A Spanish white navy bean soup with sausage and ham.
I also enjoy their Croquetas, which are fried ham croquettes, served with a garlic cream.
A Spoonful of Sofrito:A pinch of advice that will add a lot of flavor to your life.
Lilli's Asian Cuisine and Sushi Bar
Lilli's Asian Cuisine and Sushi Bar is bright, open, fun and serves excellent Pan-Asian cuisine. I recommend the Fried Pork Dumplings, Cantonese Wonton Soup, and the California Roll. The noodle soups are also amazing. Next time you're near E. 86th St. visit Lilli's, you won't regret it.
A Spoonful of Sofrito:A pinch of advice that will add a lot of flavor to your life.
A few weeks back, my friend Danny Bolero introduced me to Ristorante La Libertad, a wonderful Salvadoran restaurant in Washington Heights. With good service, causal ambiance, and excellent food, Ristorante La Libertad is an incredible place to relax and enjoy a good meal.
By Benjamin Ramos Rosado,http://Sofritoinmysoul.blogspot.com
After a particularly stressful
visit to City College’s financial aid office, I decided to drown my sorrows in
a bowl of Ramen. Not a bowl of that disgusting sodium-full swill you buy
3 for a dollar at the bodega; I’m talking about a bowl of Japanese Ramen filled
to the brim with vegetables, noodles, and pork.A bowl of soup that warms your belly and soothes the soul. The only
place to find that type of solace in Harlem is at Jin Ramen.
Recently featured on Eater.com
and Serious Eats, Jin Ramen is a chic little Japanese noodle shop, which has
become popular with neighborhood locals and City College students. With 9
tables, a noodle bar, and 2 high top family style tables, Jin Ramen is a casual
and cozy place to relax, read, and enjoy delicious food.
Within minutes of my arrival, my
server greeted me with a smile and a menu. Jin Ramen’s servers are
welcoming, attentive, and timely. My only complaint is the number of
servers that tend to you.Sometimes, you
get two or three people taking your different orders; it makes it hard to keep
track of who is bringing you what and who to tip at the end of the
As I reached into my book bag to
put away my financial aid paper work, I made eye contact with my neighbor to
the right, a young Latino City College student. He said hello and I smiled
back; he noticed my paper work and asked me if I worked at the Financial Aid
Office. I shook my head and told him I was an Undergraduate transfer student
starting in September.
His eyes bulged out of his head
and he immediately asked my age. I must’ve been tired and flustered,
because I told him my real age; usually I reply, “None of your damn business.”
Apparently, I must’ve been the oldest person he’d ever met, because he kept
repeating, “You’re (my age) and still an undergrad?” over and over in full
Resisting the urge to curse him
out or flip him off, I explained that I took a few years off to work, volunter
with social justice campaigns, and travel. He replied, “That’s
cool! I bet you’ve been EVERYWHERE IN ALL THOSE YEARS!” I
forced a friendly smile and regretted not cursing him out or flipping him
Hoping to end our encounter, I
turned my attention to my menu, but unfortunately he didn’t take the hint and began
telling me his life story.His name was
Jason, he was 18 years old, and he mentioned that he didn’t know much about
ramen.I explained that ramen is a
popular Japanese soup with Chinese style wheat noodles in a chicken or pork
based broth with any type of meat, but usually pork. Intrigued by my explanation,
he opened his menu and quieted down for a few minutes.The silence was exquiste.
Jin Ramen’s menu is divided into
4 sections: Appetizers, Ramen, Starters and Salads, and a section with
Additional Toppings (See the full
menu here).Hungry and slightly
annoyed, I ordered my favorite appetizer, the Steamed Pork Buns (2 Gua Bao buns
stuffed with chashu pork, iceberg lettuce,
and spicy mayo), and the Miso Ramen (Miso broth with sauteed corn, leeks,
scallions, bean sprouts, chicken sausage, pork belly, bok choy, and nori) for my
Jason ordered the traditional
Shoyo ramen, which comes from the Chinese immigrant
community of Yokohama, Japan. It’s a brown broth made from a chicken and vegetable
stock (blended with soy sauce, garlic and ginger) with noodles, green onions, and
slices of pork.
As we waited for our dishes,
Jason inquired about my visit to the Financial Aid office; I told him I was
there to pick up FAFSA and TAP paperwork.Immediately, he advised me to apply for FAFSA online, because I’d be
able to simultaneously apply for TAP as well.He walked me through the process on his smartphone.He also showed me a few scholarship sites and
assured me there had to be money out there for “old people” like me returning
I overlooked the insult and
continued to listen as my server placed my Steamed Pork Buns in front of me.Jason's eyes bulged out of his skull again; I could tell he wanted to taste
one of the buns.I offered him one, but
he said no.I placed one on a small
plate and told him to consider it a thank you for his advice.He grinned ear to ear and eagerly bit into
Steamed Pork Buns are a Taiwanese
street food that have become popular in many Asian restaurants.The buns, known as Gua Bao, are made by
steaming dough in Bamboo steamers, which gives them a uniquely soft and moist
texture.The sweet and fluffy buns were
stuffed with chashu (braised) pork, seasoned with soy sauce, garlic, mirin and
other spices. The chashu pork was soft
and perfectly seasoned.The crunchy Iceberg
lettuce had a refreshing clean flavor and the spicy mayo added a wonderful hint
of heat to the dish.Jason loved the bun
and thanked me for my generosity.As I finished
my last bun, he showed me some apps I could download for further financial aid information.
Before I knew it, our wonderfully
aromatic ramen bowls arrived.The steaming
miso broth was rich and salty; the leeks, bok choy, scallions, bean spouts and leeks
were crunchy and well cooked.The corn added
a delightfully sweet contrast to the briny broth.The pork belly and chicken sausage were soft,
savory, and flavorful.The noodles were
delicious and fun to eat; there’s nothing like slurping ramen noodles.
Jason thought his Shoyo Ramen was
delicious and said, “It was WAY better than Top Ramen!” High praise,
indeed!He assured me he would be back
with his friends.
As we both prepared to leave,I thanked Jason for his advice and he thanked
me for his crash course on Japanese food.It just goes to show you, that when people of different generations listen
to each other amazing things can happen.Now listen to one of your elders -I’m really not that old-and go have an
amazing bowl of ramen.Don’t take my word for it, go eat for
Like many activists, I was deeply
saddened when Nelson Mandela passed.Out
of respect for this incredible man, I attended several commemorations of his
life and read the various articles published about his human rights work.
But, it wasn’t until I visited one of my favorite eateries-Indian Road
Café-that I truly gained an appreciation for the life and legacy of Nelson
Indian Road Café is a moderately
sized out-of-the-way café/restaurant in Inwood with amazing desserts, seasonal
menus, and occasional guest chefs. The cafe features a bakery section,
fully stocked bar and ample seating for all day meal service. Wooden tables,
exposed brick, and dim lighting, make it the perfect place to kick back and
enjoy an afternoon of reading, writing, or relaxation. I hate to sound
like a tired cliché, but I love to go there to write; in fact, I conceived the
idea of this blog there.
After an especially strenuous
day, I decided to have dinner at the café and unwind with a great meal.
As I entered, I immediately heard mid-tempo African rhythms and noticed the
beautiful photography on the walls. The photos were of South African
landscapes, rural communities, and people.
The most striking photo was of a
young Black man speaking to a crowd of students; it took me a moment to realize
that it was Nelson Mandela.His smiling
face was captured in mid chant with his fist raised in the air. Its
beauty was striking, yet haunting; who could’ve predicted that the charismatic
young man in the photo would one day become one of the most influential human
rights advocates in the world.
After admiring the exhibit, I sat
down and was immediately greeted by my server. The café’s wait staff is
always sweet and attentive; I’m always impressed with their knowledge of the
menu and the food preparation. I
asked about the South African theme and he explained that the café was
featuring Chef Chris van der Walt, a guest chef who had prepared a special
South African Tasting menu; a type of meal consisting of sample portions of
many different dishes served in several courses for a set price.
The café decided to pair the
guest chef’s tasting menu with a local artist’s photo exhibit of South African
natural beauty and historic moments.The
idea was brilliant!They were honoring
Mandela’s life through music, art, and food.
Intrigued, I decided to review
the tasting menu, which featured an appetizer, Vetkoek (Deep fried dough) with
Cheddar cheese, Apricot jam and Traditional South African Beef jerky and Dried
Sausage; a first course of Chilled Lightly Curried Pickled Haddock, Traditional
Lamb Sausage or Chilli Bites (chickpea fritters); a second course of Bobotie (meatloaf
with a custard and sliced almond crust) with White rice, Vegetable Biryani
(rice pilaf), or Bunny Chow (traditional lamb stew with tomatoes); and for
dessert warm Malva Pudding with vanilla ice cream.
There was no way I was going to
pass on this incredible opportunity, so I chose the tasting menu and ordered
the Traditional Lamb Sausage and Bobotie with White rice.As I waited for my appetizer, I started to
read an article inside the exhibit introductory folder.Apparently, Mandela enjoyed sampling the
cuisines of the countries he visited; he enjoyed dining with dignitaries and
world leaders while discussing international issues; and loved his native fare
so much he would have his personal chef ship South African food to him.
I couldn’t believe it: Nelson
Mandela was a foodie!I’m sure he never
used that word to describe himself, but for all intents and purposes, he was
one. As my server handed me my appetizer, I joyfully shared this discovery with
my server, he smiled and said, “Cool!”
The flakey and soft Vetkoek was
stuffed with the cheddar cheese and apricot jam.The cheese provided a wonderful sharp
saltiness to the sweetness of the jam and fried dough.The South African beef jerky was savory and
chewy; the dried sausage had a grainy consistency and a delightful earthy
flavor.The appetizer’s flavors and
textures worked well together.
Within minutes of finishing my
appetizer, my first course arrived, which would’ve pleased Mandela who valued
punctuality, especially in food service.The Traditional Lamb Sausage was paired with a tomato onion gravy and
pap, a polenta made from ground maize.The lamb sausage was soft, moist and delicious.The sweet and acidic tomato onion gravy gave
the rich and creamy pap a wonderful kick of flavor.After learning that Mandela loved umphokoqo
(pap with sour milk and sweet chicken), I was anxious to taste pap and see what
all the fuss was about.It was sweet,
creamy, and perfectly complemented the lamb sausage.
My second course, the Bobotie was
served with white rice and shredded coconut and three condiments (Pico de
gallo, Apricot Chutney and a creamy banana mash).The custard was a bit bland, but the crunchy
sliced almonds added an interesting nutty flavor and textural contrast to the savory
meatloaf.The white rice with shredded
coconut was sweet, buttery and simple.The condiments added a unique dimension to the dish; the pico de gallo
added heat and acidity, the apricot chutney was sweet yet spicy, and the banana
mash was creamy and rich.I wasn’t a fan
of the banana mash, but when mixed with the other ingredients it was palatable.
The tasting menu’s featured
dessert was Warm Malva pudding with vanilla ice cream.Despite being an advocate of healthy eating,
Malva pudding was one of Mandela’s weaknesses.According to the article, he ate it in copious amounts whenever it was
The malva pudding had a moist sponge
cake texture to it.It was rich, sweet,
and when paired with the cold vanilla ice cream, was truly decadent. It was the
perfect way to complete the tasting menu.
I’m glad I visited Indian Road Cafe
that night, it changed my perception of Mandela forever.He went from being an iconic untouchable
political figure into an ordinary guy I could share opinions with about food. I
wonder, if we had ever met would we have talked about politics or food.I’ll never know, but what I do know is that
my little cafe in Inwood is amazing and I would’ve recommended it to him. Don’t
take my word for it, go taste for yourself.¡Buen provecho!
Indian Road Café
600 West 218th Street @ Indian Road
New York, NY 10034