Category Archives: Coffee Shop

“Death By Prosciutto” – Madrid, Spain

Iberico Ham from Spain

Before my trip to Spain, mention of the word ham conjured up strong images of Christmas dinner—a honey-glazed, suckling pig in the center of a large table, surrounded by side dishes piled high with mashed potatoes, roasted veggies, and rye bread. However. I must admit that this traditional Christmas feast never tickled my fancy because I don’t like the actual taste (or texture) of cooked ham. And judging by the number of condiments that people use in combination with their boiled and broiled pig, I don’t think that I am the only person sharing in this sentiment. I mean you rarely see someone just nibbling on a piece of ham…unless of course, it’s slathered in mayo between two slices of Wonderbread, or served next to a heap of cheesy scrambled eggs, or covered in gobs of mustard. But in Spain, ham is like a second religion (soccer being the first), and it is delicious because it is NOT cooked. Instead, it undergoes a delicate process of curing and drying, which can take up to 48 months! After the ham has aged to perfection, it is dubbed “Jamon Iberico,” which is then sliced down into thin cuts of meat that sell at a very lofty price point. I once heard a comedian say, “I wouldn’t mind being treated like a piece of meat, as long as it was Serrano ham…because that means you think I’m fancy and thin!” I would have to agree with this statement after spending time in Spain.

Serrano ham is truly incredible—an explosion of flavor in your mouth. Unfortunately, it is also an explosion of sodium. Your fingers and feet will attest to that after just 2 short days in Catalan country. You will struggle to take off your rings and your ankles will transform into cankles as they rapidly loose bone definition from all of the salt-swelling. However, you will accept these side effects as minor troubles, and continue to eat Serrano ham, as you begin to realize that it is one of the best foods available in Spain. And unlike ham in the US, it doesn’t require a slew of condiments to taste good. It is perfection when eaten alone, but also delicious when paired with melon, Manchego cheese (a real sodium-assault), or sliced baguette for a simple sandwich. It is an ingredient so delicious, that you honestly can’t ruin it if you try, which brings me to my next point: do yourself a favor, and order simple in Spain. They have a lot of high quality produce and ingredients available, but they struggle developing the right flavors in complex dishes at many restaurants. After several disappointing meals, I learned that the best foods in Spain are the simplest; i.e. Serrano ham platters, chorizo, stuffed olives, and patatas bravas (potatoes with hot sauce). Therefore, a good place to grab lunch is in a food market (this is NOT to be confused with a supermarket). The food markets are very gourmet and have a variety of different vendors, each with a specific and unique culinary offering. You can create yourself a fantasy meal as you go from station to station, and select the items that call out to your belly…a true tapas experience. My favorite food market in Spain was located in Madrid, and it is called the Mercado de San Miguel (situated right outside the Plaza Mayor—http://www.mercadodesanmiguel.es/).  This covered market is over 100 years old and boasts 33 different food shops; selling anything from fruit to meat, cheese, and baked goods.

Mercado de San Miguel

Me, standing in front of the Mercado….itching to get inside

I got the best Iberico ham that I have ever tasted there, in addition to olives stuffed with mussels, croquettes, a mini tuna bocadilla (sandwich), and an assortment of Spanish cheeses with sliced baguette.

Is it a fruit display or is it art?…ask for assistance getting those cherries!

Our Jamon Iberico getting sliced to order….talk about fresh

Our Jamon y Queso Platter

Assorted Croquettes Stuffed with Blue Cheese, Spinach, and Chorizo

Manchego Cheese, Sliced Baguette, and Spanish Olives Stuffed with Mussels and Chilies

Tunafish Bocadillo with Manchego Cheese

Prices at the market were very reasonable, and I enjoyed eating my lunch at a window-counter where I was able to people watch passerbys outside. Just try not to make eye contact with the bands of roaming gypsys that are begging outside the market. It is like feeding the birds at the beach…you give a crumb to one seagull and soon the whole flock is swarming.

If you manage to resist the mouth-watering desserts offered in the Mercado (a serious testament to your self-control), you can walk across the street to CH&CH Chocolate & Churros (Calle Mayor, 54 in Barrio Palacio) for a sweet bite.

CH&CH Menu

CH&CH serves up fabulous cappuccinos and Spanish fried pastries (known as churros). Personally, I prefer Mexican/Cuban churros, which are topped with cinnamon and sugar (too much time in Miami), but this place served up some delicious fried-to-order churros that came with an incredible thick and rich chocolate dipping sauce. Ohh and just a heads up, the dipping sauce comes in a mug so you might mistake it as hot drinking chocolate, but don’t drink it unless you want the belly-ache of all belly-aches (I speak from experience). You will also be all sorts of hyped up, like the episode of Friends where Ross drinks all of the maple syrup.

Frothy Cappuccino

Freshly Made Churros with Chocolate DIpping Sauce

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Filed under Baking, Coffee Shop, International Restaurants, Markets

Green Cafe ***

Assortment of Macarons at Cafe Green

212.677.0666
377 1st Ave (between 23rd and 22nd)
New York, Ny 10010

CHECK OUT THE MENU!

When you graduate high school, you move out of your house, and leave for college to start life on your own. Yes, I am aware that this is a politically incorrect over-generalization, but please do not take offense if you didn’t follow this path, because I’ve learned first hand that the chief value in going to college is that it’s the only way to learn it really doesn’t mean jack shit. Look at me for example, I went to a well-respected private university (go Canes!), and sure it was the best for years of my life, but that doesn’t change the fact that I am currently unemployed, with no income, in debt, living at home. Dropout Kelly on the other hand, has just been promoted to a management position at McDonalds, which provides a steady income, and she doesn’t have $160,000 of student loans to pay back. She also has a much healthier liver and knows what the heck a W2 form is. Now you’re going to make the argument that I will eventually get a better job than Kelly that provides me with a higher pay because I have a formal education. And it’s true that economists report that college education adds many thousands of dollars to a person’s lifetime income. But don’t we then spend this extra income sending our kids to college?! It is a vicious cycle really. And don’t even get me started on the girls who just go to college looking for a MRS degree…J-date is only about $30 a month and college is about $10,000. Do the math and save yourself the money.

Anyways, enough of this ridiculous tangent on education. The point is that I went to college and established my own way of living and doing things, and now I am forced to live back at home where I can no longer comfortably live in my particular manner. I cannot just roll out of bed and cook my breakfast in my underwear…shirt and pants are required. I cannot drink my orange juice straight out of the container…I need to use a small “juice” glass. I cannot leave the house without reporting where I am going and then giving an estimation of when I will be returning (and I need to call if I am later than my estimation). I cannot buy groceries and put them in the fridge with the confidence that they will be there later. In college, everyone has their own shelf in the fridge and you eat only what is on your shelf (unless you come home drunk and eat half your roommate’s box of Special K…but you admit it with shame the next morning and buy them a new box). At home, family is family, and what’s mine is yours is the name of the game. That means that the lifespan of a package of Oreos is about 36 hours.

It’s been one week and I needed some space of my own, so I headed out to New York City to meet up with a girlfriend from college that was visiting. As soon as I stepped out of Penn Station, I was overtaken by the aroma of delicious street food and from then on my mind was strictly on getting something to eat. In a hurry to meet my friend, I decided to stop at Green Café for some coffee and cookies. I got a delicious Cappuccino and the absolute best Macarons that I have ever had the pleasure of tasting.

There was an assortment of about 20 different flavors to choose from, all of which were displayed in a glass bakery case. I tried the Wedding Almond flavor and Casis (which is infused with currant flavoring). Personally, I preferred the sweet almond flavor over the tartness of the casis, but the textures on both were incredible. Ohh, and if you didn’t realize by now, the cookie I am referring to is a macaron, not to be confused with a coconut, chocolate-laced macaroon. I love those too, but a macaron is a cream-filled cookie sandwich, made from egg whites, almond powder, and a pinch of sugar. They usually come in very bright colors, that vary according to flavor. Some of the other varieties that I didn’t get to sample include; pistachio, caramel, crème brulee, espresso, raspberry, mango, vanilla, nutella, passion fruit, and lavender.

Assorted Macarons

Café Green has a small little seating area, and serves up healthy items for both breakfast and lunch such as omelets, paninis, and wraps. I would definitely go back for a macaron the next time that I am back in the city! I would have brought some home, but you can only imagine how quickly these things would be eaten given that Oreo’s usually only last a day and a half.

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Filed under Baking, Coffee Shop, New York Restaurants

Fika Espresso Bar ****

 

Assortment of Desserts Offered on Countertop

646.649.5133
407 Park Avenue South
New York, NY 10016

CHECK OUT THE MENU!

This morning—after I had the pleasure of scrubbing hardened pasta noodles off the stove under my mother’s watchful eye—Jen and I set out for New York City. Of course, our St. Patty’s Day hangover (and my required clean-up duties) prevented us from getting out as early as we had hoped, but we were on the train by 3 O’Clock in the afternoon and in Manhattan by 5.  Our first line of business was upon getting there was finding some strong coffee, as we were still trying to kick the residual headache/tiredness/nausea. We saw a great little espresso bar called Fika located across from our hotel (on the corner of Park and 29th) and walked over after checking-in.

The place was quaint and very tiny with a monochromatic and modern décor. It is a Swedish owned company (Fika meaning “coffee break”), and traces of Ikea Sweish design are everywhere! On the counter, there was a great little selection of cookies and biscotti, as well as a large selection of house-made truffles in a refrigerated case. Fika is an espresso bar but equally as well known as a chocolatier. I got a Cappuccino with Skim Milk and a piece of Almond Biscotti, but the truffles were certainly calling me and I was sad to pass them up. The cappucchino was very good and steaming hot, with plenty of frothy foam on top the espresso. The almond biscotti was also a very nice crunchy treat and the perfect size. I hate places that serve a jumbo piece of biscotti because I like to finish it still wanting more, rather than be bored with the flavor or overwhelmed by the sweetness. People sitting at the limited number of tables inside the coffee shop were very artsy and youthful.

Inside of Fika Espresso Bar

Overall, I was very pleased with the strength of the coffee and the cozy little atmosphere. I suggest it for anyone that is looking to break away from the Starbuck’s movement, which has taken every street corner and rest stop by storm!

Assortment of Chocolate Truffles and Sandwiches

Cappuccino

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Filed under Coffee Shop, New York Restaurants