Cocktails & Hot Sauce

Cocktails, Jalapenos, Latin, Spicy

Most of us grab a hot cup of coffee or tea to, amongst other things, warm us up, especially on those bone-chilling winter (and some spring) days. Now, let’s say you’re going out for drinks or for dinner, and you’re in the mood for a warm drink; a cup of coffee or tea isn’t the optimal choice here. A word of caution, if you don’t like spicy foods, you’re not going to enjoy this suggestion. Try a jalapeno-infused cocktail. Many Latin restaurants around town, especially Mexican, offer jalapeno-infused tequila on their drink menu. You’ll feel the heat once it hits your lips, and it’ll warm you up like the best moonshine, east of the Mississippi, going down. Now, I love spicy foods so I’m a huge fan of these jalapeno-infused spirits. The best, of this spicy brew, make you cough after the first two or three sips like you’re a teenager taking your first swig of hard liquor.

Calle Ocho, inside the Excelsior Hotel, ‘Mule Kick’ with jalapeno-infused tequila and ginger beer

Mule Kick

Sazon: A Taste of Puerto Rico in TriBeCa

Desserts, Fish, Latin, Puerto Rican Cuisine

Sazon

I’m sure when most people think about Spanish food, they think Mexican or just ‘Spanish’ as if it were some generic blend of food. But when you live in New York City, you quickly come to realize the true range of Spanish cuisine. I had dinner at Sazon, a Puerto Rican hot spot, in the middle of TriBeCa. I was surprised at how busy this restaurant was on such an unassuming block in the city. One thing I can say about Sazon, it’s a good time! It seems like on that particular night I was there, every other table was celebrating a birthday, which was serenaded loudly by the staff with great banter from the in-house DJ. By the way, if you’re looking to have a quiet, romantic dinner, this place would not be the best choice. The noise level requires some yelling across the table. I found that a majority of the noise followed through from the bar area, which follows into the main dining area.

Vladimir Bakeshop: For the Love of Guava

Bakery, Bronx, Cakes, Desserts, Latin

When I think of Dominican food my thoughts go straight to the green plantain classic, mangú. When it comes to desserts, it’s one of my favorites, the tres leche cake.  While in my old neighborhood in the Castle Hill section of the Bronx, I found out there’s more to Dominican desserts than cake at Vladimir Bakeshop. This Dominican bakery gives you all the island flavors in their pastries. One of my favorite tropical fruits is the guava and with items like guava empanadas and guava tres leche cake, I wasn’t disappointed. Some other pastries to mention were the passion fruit bite size cakes – sticky and finger licking good, and the almond cake with its fruit filling. And, of course, Vladimir Bakeshop had the tres leche cakes in a variety of flavors, aside from guava: pineapples, chocolate, chocolate mouse and vanilla. The bakery also has a variety of cake slices, but unfortunately I found the ones I tried lacking any kind of flavor and rather on the bland side. One saving grace for the bakery is its popular homemade hot chocolate – it’s rich and creamy. Vladimir Bakeshop also sells a variety of good, made to order sandwiches served on fresh bread baked on the premises.

Vladimir Bakeshop, 1166 Castle Hill Avenue @ Powell Avenue, 718-684-1166

Empanadas: South American Style

Empanadas, Latin

The empanada is one of my favorite stuffed breads. Empanadas originated in Spain, but today it’s very popular in Latin and South America. Each country has a different method of making this stuffed bread. Its stuffing can vary from either: vegetables, meats, cheeses or fruits and depending on the country it’s either baked or fried. With the versatility of ingredients, empanadas are often consumed for breakfast or as an appetizer and sometimes even for lunch. I recently had an Argentinean empanada from Ruben’s Empanadas. I remember when Ruben’s Empanadas had one location, which still exists near the South Street Seaport. Now, they’ve grown into a popular franchise with several locations around the city, and each location seems to offer a slightly different menu – some offer soups, side dishes, pastries and alcohol. They serve all their empanada with a side of hot sauce; I tried the spicy chicken empanada. This baked empanada was loaded with lots of chicken but wasn’t spicy enough for me, so the hot sauce came in handy. The bread had a nice texture but was a little dry. These empanadas are quiet large compared to others I’ve had; it’s enough that two of them would fill you up. At Coppelia, a popular Latin-fusion diner that I’ve

Coppelia: Latin Fusion 24/7

Best Of, Latin

What’s better in New York City than a 24/7 restaurant? One that serves Latin food! In the city that never sleeps, it’s not always easy to find quality food at 3:00 a.m. – or at 4:00 a.m. after a long night out. Coppelia, the latest venture from celebrity chef Julian Medina, is a Latin-fusion restaurant. The pastel colors, retro light fixtures, checkered floors and window shudders on the wall transports you back in time – somewhere out of old Havana.

Coppelia calls its cuisine Cuban, but I found it to be more of a fusion of Central and South American flavors from: Peru, Argentina, Mexico and Venezuela. For a small restaurant it has quite a variety on its menu. I’ve been to Coppelia a handful of times. I was impressed with the guacamole and chips appetizer – it comes with three different chips: plantain, corn and boniato chips – I’m partial to the plantain chips. The mac ‘n cheese with pork belly had a real kick. It’s not as dense as the mac ‘n cheese I’m used to but it has so much flavor from the chicharron. My favorite dish is the salmon with pureed boniato potatoes – I almost licked the plate. The penil, roasted pork with yucca, is also good and it was a very hearty serving too.