I hate people who are not serious about their meals. -- Oscar Wilde

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Don Antonio

Om Nomz Hero Note to Self: Fried dough salad is the anti-Atkins

Like the food nerd I am, I was excited with the opening of Don Antonio’s. A master Neapolitan pizza maker opening up their own place here in New York would make anyone that likes pizza perk up. However, the only catch is that it is located in Hell’s Kitchen. I rarely am in Hell’s Kitchen and it is a notorious dead zone for food. If I am in the area, it is usually, tacos or Sullivan St. bread. However, friend lives in the area so I do make the venture there and finally I made a stop here at Don Antonio. 

Angiolette- not just a tomato salad

The place is a bit hard to find sandwiched in between tall office buildings. I came in on a Saturday afternoon and the place had a few people but not horribly busy. The restaurant is actually somewhat small, but looks big because it is an alley-like design and the bar is quite big. The menu has a lot of pies and has the trendy Montanara pie on it. I decided to start off with the Arancini and the Fritattatine- basically similar to an Arancini but instead of risotto, its pasta. 
Apparently, they somehow forgot to put in my order of the Arancini and the Fritattatine and took about a good half hour for it to finally show. Being nice, I gave them a good 15 minutes before I said something and realizing their mistake they gave me the Angiolette for free and as the waiter insisted, “I must eat something”.
The Angiolette is a salad of baby tomatoes, fried pizza dough strips and baby arugula. The pizza strips are under there…somewhere under the mountain of tomatoes. Apparently baby tomatoes are like Zimbabwe dollars and they were like giving that stuff away. This was the heaviest salad I ever had that did not contain meat. It was basically a deconstructed pie. The dough strips were light and crispy and came out piping hot. However I cannot really say the same for my Arancini or Fritattatine. They came out warm, but you could tell they were fried, and left in the window for a bit and cooling off too much. Both the Arancini and Fritattatine were donned with a cheesy, carbonara-like sauce. The outer shells of both were nice and crisp but they were just warm in the middle. The pasta in the Fritattatine was borderline raw and al dente and both were just heavy and cried for some kind of sauce. Also they were just sadly thrown onto the plate like a Jean Claude Van Dame movie in a bargain bin.

Fried noodle thing

 After a messy start, I was hoping for the pie to be a saving grace, I decided to go with the Griella, which is a mozzarella roulade of parma cotto and arugula and topped with more, surprise cherry tomatoes. The pie came out hot and it was good overall. The mix of tart tomatoes balanced the richness of the mozzarella. They were easy on the char here and the pie had a good enough chew, but I was expecting a bit more puff and airiness to the pie. The dough was a bit mono toned from the taste to construction. I thought the fried dough from the comped salad tasted better and had a lot more flavor. 


I think I may have overhyped this place in my head. Don Antonio’s I felt after eating here, is not a place that I would be going out of my way to go back to again. It unfortunately did not leave me wanting and craving more. The mix of the service hiccups and less than stellar appetizers rubbed me the wrong way. The pie was good enough, but it did not blow my mind and currently I am not rushing back to try it again. Or according to Eater, I cannot do that anyway because it is closed. Maybe after their DOH reopening, service as well as the pie will be stepped up. 


Don Antonio
309 West 50th Street
New York NY 10019

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Colca Canyon, Peru

Om Nomz Hero Note to Self: Condors are ugly looking. Parental discretion is advised when viewing.

el Misti in the background in Arequipa

I did not start off well that first morning of my trek in the Colca Canyon. We had a 3 hour bus ride from Arequipa to the Canyon and I had too much pork (I know not possible right?) and booze in my system and 20 minutes into the ride, I had to pee, really bad. Oh yeah, it is 3:30 in the morning. I can do without that experience again. The Colca Canyon is located in the South of Peru whereas the ever popular Inca Trail and Cusco, is in the north. It is one of the deepest Canyons in the world so Grand Canyon, you are on notice, you have to step it up. The Colca Canyon is also home to many villages too as well as the Andean Condors. The Condors are the thing that busloads of people with SLR cameras and fanny packs come to see to get that one shot of the Condors. They are apparently endangered and have a huge wingspan and I admire its majestic qualities and all, but it is an ugly bird. We were lucky, going in late March which is usually a bad time to see the Condors but we were able to get a few shots of a couple flying around. Also while we were going back to Arequipa after the trek, another few by and I never seen people jump out of a van so quickly that was not on fire. Also, do not start shouting Condor at these tourist stop points, people do not appreciate it and apparently anger German tourist greatly as I found out. 

The trip starts out in Arequipa, where depending on whom you booked your trek with; you are picked up around 3am with others and driven to the Colca Canyon. With a stop for breakfast and Condor picture taking, we stopped literally in the middle of an empty road and that was the start point. Our guide Roy, was apparently not on the same bus as us and we had to wait for a good 10 minutes before he arrived, other than the awkward waiting around with two Frenchies that did not speak much English, Roy was a great guide. Roy was pointing out things about the Canyon and the plants and vegetation. He talked about the towns in the Canyon as well as how peopled lived there. 

The Canyon itself is beautiful and massive in which the cloud hovers in the Canyon walls. There is a mix of terrain from rich, fertile ground to dry cactus breeding desert. The people in the canyon are friendly as well as the kiddies who apparently after the 5th or 6th grade have to make the commute and stay in Cabanaconde for school. Coming home for the weekend is a bit harder when you have to climb in and out of the Canyon. There is this Oasis called the Sengalle in the Canyon that has pools that you can kind of relax and cool in. The water is from the mountains and besides the random waifs of mule shit, it is nice and refreshing to jump into. 

Sengalle- random swim hole and green stuff
The trek itself is a challenge and anyone that tells you otherwise is a liar or Ivan Drago. But again, a relative fit individual should have no problem in doing this trek. The only difficult part is the last day, getting out of the Canyon which is just a long way up. There is a bit of an altitude adjustment, it is about 3,000 meters so you need to watch out for that. Coca tea really does help and though it taste just as good as it looks: dead leaves. The taste is actually not that bad and it grows on you and the addition of sugar helps too. 

After the climb out of the Canyon, you do a bit of sightseeing and stop at a few touristy spots. I really say touristy because at one place, they were making pisco sours for the Gringos. There is also a stop at a hot springs but my group had no interest in it but others in our collective  bus did so be prepared to sit around for an hour.

Tips and Run down of the Trek:

1.       You can do this solo without a guide. But if you choose to go with a guide there are multiple tour companies that offer a trek in the Canyon. I went with Colonial Tours and I paid 160 Soles for a three day trek. You can do this trek in 2 days or if you want to go hardcore, do it in one. The three day is still a challenge and lets you linger and check out the towns in the Canyon in my opinion but to each their own.
2.       The trail is very Gringo friendly in which is nicely laid out and you have to be kind of dumb to get lost. Not much mud, but a lot of loose gravel and rocks.
3.       The canyon gets real cold at night and pretty hot during the day so pack accordingly.
4.       Similar to well, any trek a headlamp is a nice thing to have as there is no electricity
5.       You have the option of getting a mule to ride out of the canyon. Don’t. Everyone will laugh at you and call you a little bitch behind your back or to your face in multiple languages. Also if you are an American, don’t make us look bad.
6.       Food was okay. Lunch and dinner was soup and a plate of food. Nothing special, but not inedible, food to keep you going, I suggest snacks. Also, the last day you are horded to a Tourista Comida and have to eat at this all you can eat buffect place. You really have no choice, because there are no other food options around and you are 3 hrs out from Arequipa. It is 20 soles and the food kind of sucks. Lots of unknown fried stuff and watery stew thing and a disgusting rocoto relleno. Suggest loading up on the veggies and salad because they are made for Gringos and safe for Gringo stomachs.
7.       Went in late March, the weather was fine and rained one night for about an hour. Other than hearing land/rock sliding in the Canyon, thankfully on the other side of the Canyon it was fine.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

San Camillo Market- Arequipa, Peru

Om Nomz Hero Note to Self: Lamb head soup in the morning, could that be the coffee replacer?

After spending another lovely evening in the Lima Airport, I took an early morning flight to Arequipa. Arequipa is the second largest city in Peru but has a pretty small airport. However, it is probably one of the most beautiful airports to arrive to as you step off the airplane and greeted with El Misti in the background. I arrived hungry and the last thing I ate was when I was still in Colombia and I went into food finding mode and immediately went looking for the market. 

Mucho Papas
San Camillo Market is the oldest in Arequipa and the biggest and has lots and lots of tasty food options.
The market is actually well organized and has signs hanging over head, categorizing parts of the market from meats, juices, fruits and even menudo (offal). It does not matter if you are clearly a tourist or gringo, everyone will try and sell you what they got. Some are quite convincing when I walked out with a bag of fruit or others not so much when a meat vendor tried to selling me a side of beef. When I informed her that I was visiting Arequipa and posed the question to her of where I was suppose to cook it, she lowered the price by 5 soles. 

However there is of course lots of food to eat. One thing to understand is that it is cold in the mornings so soup or adobo is a logical choice for a morning meal. Plus it is hearty and keeps you going all day. One of the specialties of the area is the cabeza de cordero sopa. Those that have not rushed to the Google translate tab I will save you the trouble that is Lamb head soup. The lamb head soup section in located on the second floor and there are about 3-4 proprietors selling this lovely soup and I went with Maria’s lamb head soup because it had the most people there. One thing I must specify is that you can pick the part of the head you want. I cannot stress this enough and I did not realize this till afterwards but thankfully, I guess she wanted to play scare the Chinito, she gave me the right jaw and the tongue. For those that are wary of eating heads, you are missing out on some great soup. The Soup and more Food after the jump!

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Pizza Vomito Santa Marta

Om Nomz Hero Note to Self: All the slices of pizza here are bigger than my head. Is that a good thing?

I avoid eating pizza when I travel South bluntly put, it does not look appealing at all. Even the ones that claim that they have wood fired ovens, the pizza comes out looking like undercooked frozen pizza or you attempted to reheat a pie with a blowtorch. However, I could not help but notice that in Santa Marta, there was a lot of pizza being made…on the street. These carts had gas pizza ovens and the proprietors were actually rolling out fresh dough and making pizzas. 

Curiosity may of killed the cat, but it just makes me hungry (not for cat) and I finally rolled up to one to see the pizzas they were making literally in an open kitchen. They are sold by the slice and reheated as such so I started off simple with a ham and cheese topped slice. First thing to notice is that crust does not exist. The toppings go all the way to the edge. Those that do not like crust, come to Colombia. The next I noticed is it is a pretty pale pizza. As an advocate of pizza char, I was a bit apprehensive about how this will taste. Queue flashbacks to frozen pizzas in College.

However, I was surprised that the pizza was actually pretty good. The crust…well the dough element I guess I will call it was actually a bit crispy and spying a bag of cornmeal on the side I think helped. The tomato sauce was clearly canned or some sort so it was on the sweet side but the saltiness of the ham and cheese worked well with it and also, they were easy on the tomato sauce which ensured an edible product.

I was feeling good, then I encountered a pizza guy setting up on the side street in from of a flower shop with a sign in proud, dripping letters, “Pizza Vomitto 6ta”. This obviously caught my eye and weirdly hungry. I of course, had to try this Pizza Vomitto. Having already experienced the culinary creation of the Colombian hotdog, heavy on the toppings was no surprise to me but the stuff they put on it, left me laughing. It starts off with the tomatoes sauce base, then the cheese like any normal pizza. Next comes an array of meats, sausage, ham, pepperoni, and shredded chicken.

Then the vegetable, of chopped red onions, peppers and corn and that gets all thrown into the oven. When it comes out, they are not done yet, with the addition of parmesan cheese, a squirt of Caesar dressing, mayonnaise (mayonnaise is a popular topping I noticed) and finally, a blanket of potato sticks.  I have no clue how this creation first came out, but I can assume the Vomitto name is very, very figurative rather than in the taste and look. In broken Spanish and cursing 9th grade me for not paying attention in Spanish III better, I asked from what I could understand, it was created for late night clubbers which makes sense. 

The taste? It was actually good. You could actually taste all the ingredients and they all worked together somehow. The potato stick topping on the pie is great, adding a lot of crunch to it. It sort of reminds me of back in school, and what I will occasionally do, sticking potato chips into my sandwich. The pizza in Colombia surprises me ad being interesting and not bad. It is obvious that we cannot compare this to the pies in New York or even a Neapolitan pie but it is a pizza in its own right and it tasted better than some of the pizza I have eaten in the US. The pizza here is more closely related to a heavily topped flatbread and they are quite stringent on getting an even layer of toppings that encompasses the whole pie canvas ensuring a perfect bite each time. So do not be turned off by the pizza in Santa Marta and give it a try, the Pizza Vomitto is worth a try and if you actually finish the whole thing, I applaud you, for I ate ¾ of that thing and it sat in me like a rock. 

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Perro Caliente (Hotdogs) Colombia

On Nomz Hero Note to Self: What doesn’t taste good with crushed up potato sticks on top

Perro Caliente with an absurd amount of mayo

At barbeques, if asked if I want a hotdog or a hamburger, I will always answer hamburger, at least as what I am going to eat first. I like hotdogs but going head to head with a hamburger or a sandwich, I will choose the later just simply because after eating a hotdog, I never feel completely satisfied. Even in New York, eating at Crifdogs or Japadog, one or two hotdogs is really just a snack for me, which is probably why I was a fat kid. One hotdog never satisfied me until I came face to face with the Colombian version of a hotdog. 

I encountered it first when I was in the Bogota airport, I heard rumors of the ridiculous amount of condiments and when I found a place selling it, I of course had to eat it. Here is the basic rundown of the Colombian hotdog. It starts off simple enough, a footlong hotdog and a bun to match. The one at the airport toasted their bun too. Then goes the ketchup…not weird, still on level ground, then the mayonnaise…pushing the comfort zone, then the pineapple sauce…wait what? Then grated cheese…uhh what is going on? Then the crushed potato sticks and my mind being utterly confused. 

This huge monstrosity was the size of my forearm and I thought it was funny that the server gave me extra ketchup and mayonnaise packets. I notice that napkins are used and given sparingly in Colombia so that one measly napkin they gave you will not be enough. This is a condiment party and with everything that is in there…this somehow works and taste awesome. The pineapple sauce is great here and though initial reactions usually would have everyone horrified, I guess it is kind of like the 50s baked ham and pineapple rings kind of combination. The pineapple sauce is not overly sweet which I think helps in working with everything. 

I later revisited the hotdog when I was in Santa Marta and found another hotdog vendor that was doing great business. I again got it and this time, it got a double helping of cheese in the condiment layering as well as the addition of mayonnaise based coleslaw. I also noticed that the hotdogs were kept in a hotpot that had a poaching liquid that had pineapples in it. This one just as messy as the other one and after eating this, left me covered with bits of cheese and potato sticks. Both times, you could taste the hotdog and it was not as salty as you would think. It was a good hotdog though the condiments are what make a Colombian hotdog. It is a fun thing to eat and one of the few hotdogs I can eat and feel actually satisfied after eating.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Street Eats Santa Marta

Om Nomz Hero Note to Self: Sausage being sold on the street is a sign of a great culture

The meals I had in Santa Marta were all good however; the bulk of my diet in Santa Marta besides eating obscene amounts of ice cream was mainly from street food. Some will think this is horrifying and disgusting and others think of this as being plain awesome. I have certain rules for stuff that I eat on the street and so far, it has kept my stomach out of trouble more or less. There is food found at almost every corner of the street in Santa Marta and even more there is fruit as almost every corner. I was in Colombia for about 8 days. I have never consumed so much fruit in a given period of time. I think I consumed so much fruit that it most likely is the contributing factor of why my legs got destroyed by mosquitoes the one day I decided to wear shorts on the trek. 

Vendors are selling fruits of all kind yet for the more exotic like guyabana or lucuma those you generally have to go to the market. Yet, fruits like, pineapples, mangos, papayas, watermelons and just basic melons, the corner guy will have that for you. The fruit sold, though maybe a lot of fruits that you can see in any supermarket in America are noticeably different when you eat it. The pineapples are dripping with juice that if you do not assume the right eating stance, will be covered in juice like you were making love to the Tropicana girl. The papayas had sweetness to them that I have only tasted when I was in Asia. The fruit was plentiful and cheap and everyone would be eating them throughout the day. For a more dessert feel, some vendors offer condensed milk and sugar, if for some reason you want the extra sugar kick. Smoothie and juice vendors were everywhere, it seemed like anyone with a descent blender was selling juice. Since water of unknown origin was usually added to the smoothies and juices, I rarely took part in drinking them. Fried things after the Jump!!

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Ciudad Perdida- Lost City founded by Grave Robbers

Om Nomz Hero Note to Self: Find out what DEET is really and how it is apparently utterly useless against the mosquitoes in the Sierra Nevada National Park.

“Oh Shit”

I mean that both the figurate and the literal. It rained the night before and the Colombian Red Clay has caked my hiking boots almost making effort to gain any traction useless. The only thing that is keeping me from falling on my ass and sliding off to unknown depths of the dense jungle is my trekking pole. It looks like shit and thanks to the mules that transport various things from foods, equipment, lumber and Gringo luggage there is literal shit covering various points on the trek. I guess if it has to carry our load, mule is free to drop his load wherever he wants.

Ciudad Perdida is located in Northwest Colombia by the Caribbean coast in the Sierra Nevada National Park. Currently, the trek needs to be done with a tour company, all with the current fixed price as of 2012 600,000 pesos. The amount of days that you trek is up to you varying from 4 days to 6 days. It takes about 2-3 days to hike up to Ciudad Perdida and the rest of the time is hustling back to the start point. The trek is about 52 Km long but it is not 52 Km on a nice flat plateau, it is more like up and down hills and trails that vary from rocky to muddy or the combination of the two. The trek is visually stimulating as you pass through farms, valleys, hills (plural) and through the dense jungle and over and through rivers. This trek is not the most gringo friendly trek as there are so questionable safety areas for those that are clumsy and a lot of uneven footing. It is not dangerous, just the clumsy need to pay attention a bit more. More After the Jump!

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Eating In Santa Marta and Ciudad Perdida

Om Nomz Hero Note to Self: I find that the more beans I eat, it does not lead to more gaseous release.

Our last meal on the trail- Steak, rice, beans, plantains and coleslaw.

Colombian food is not really something that pop ups on anyone’s culinary radar really. Besides Arepas, no one really has a set idea of what Colombian food is and that same idea goes for any country in Americas. It usually gets bunched together with the idea that it is basically what most Americans think when they think of Mexican fake ass Mexican food food. Meaning rice, refried beans and tortillas which yes, it is composed of a lot of rice but not what it is obviously. The food in Colombia is what I call utility food. It is food that is meant to fill you up and keep you going for the rest of the day because either you may not eat again till tomorrow or late or doing physically laboring stuff or all of the above. So rice, beans and stews were a common thing here which is not to say that the food cannot taste good. But if you are expecting for a light salad or a Lean Cuisine vegetable medley, you are out of luck.
One of the places I ate it my first day in Santa Marta was this random place I found on the side streets by my hostel in the Historic Center. I do what I usually do when I am hungry, walk around aimlessly until I see a place that has an ample amount of locale clientele that seem like they are enjoying their food (this method is quiet successful but can be time consuming). Actual food after the Jump!

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Arepas in Colombia

Om Nomz Hero Note to Self: Arepas are great for breakfast...when you are not going to be hiking in the middle of the Colombia jungle. Sits in you like a rock

Arepa street cart dude

I was gone for the past two weeks trekking in Colombia and Peru (again) and with trekking, means I will be trying and eating everything that a place has to offer. I did the Ciudad Perdida trek and was stayed in Santa Marta. I do not know much about Colombian food, but one food item that I do know is Arepas and the Arepas are good. Arepas are basically masa cake patty(basic ingrediens is masa harina, water and salt) that get cooked, either griddle/grilled/fried and shoved with cheese or meat, it is similar to a pulpusa in El Salvador/Central America.
I got into Santa Marta late and woke up early the next morning and the night guy at the hotel/hostal i was at Julian was just getting off and leaving. I walked with him as I went to search for the local market (which by the way, is a hectic shitshow, reminds me of the market at the Gambia) and I mentioned I was in search of Arepas because, well corny cakes is my idea of a good breakfast.

He proceeded to lead me to a open door way that lead into an alley/courtyard where there was a bunch of dudes just chilling in lawn chairs and talking. In retrospect, and reading the previous sentence, not smart. But later after the fact that I was indeed not going to get jacked and dealing with the awkward hellos, (lets face it, ain't that many Asians in Santa Marta appearing and wanting an Arepas) there was a husband and woman team frying up Arepas. My newly acquired friends and Julian told me insistently that these were the best, Arepas con huevos in Santa Marta.

These Arepas, were a slight variation from what I have encountered here in the US and other parts of Colombia. the Arepas con huevos is made here by making it really flat and they give it a quick fry that somehow makes i hollow. Next, they nip a small opening, to slide in a raw egg and back into the fryer it goes. the result is something that is unlike kind of Arepa or just egg preparation I have had before. the Egg is light and has a sponge-like texture and the exterior crisp and shatters with each bite. It is greasy awesome goodness and the unfortunate part is, I tried twice to find this place again and never found this random place that had these amazing Arepas con huevos. I did find other Arepas con huevos, but none were like this, and they did not tast that good. Add that to the list of food haunts. the best I can tell you is that it was near the square where the flower market is located by the cemeteryand school.

Best egg Arepa.

It is not to say I did not eat more Arepas, I practically ate them as a meal or like a heavy amuse bouche. Priced at about 1,000 pesos (translates to bout 50 cents US) I could not resist. I was a frequent visitor to the street carts outside the Exito (think Walmart) where there was a dude grilling up Arepas and either filling it with cheese of a slightly spicy shredded chicken mix. These were the more typical ones. Grilled, there is a bit of smokiness to it and you cannot go wrong with some crispy smoky charred spots. In fact, at the last camp we stopped at on the way to Ciudad Perdida, the cook made us Arepas for breakfast and let me make one. By the way, there is no electricity or gas, so cooking, was done via fire. Just do not eat too many of these, they are on the greasy side and with it is like 90+ with humidity and you are hiking up a hill, you start to regret eating that extra Arepa.

Arepa with cheese