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Let’s Celebrate Vegetarians Today!!!

1 Oct

International Vegeterian Day

 

Thanks to my Facebook friends, I was reminded that today, October 1st, is International Vegetarian Day!!!

Everyday to me is a vegetarian day, therefore, I tend to forget these things.  I’m going to have to program a reminder in my calendar, just like I do for birthdays.

I invite you to invite a friend to celebrate this beautiful “holiday” by enjoying a dish that highlights fruits, vegetables or cereals…  showing by example that the vegetarian lifestyle is varied, healthy and delicious at the same time…  Let’s Celebrate!!!!

Cocina Abierta new vegetarian menu in Condado

12 Sep

I’ve told you about Cocina Abierta… a super cool restaurant owned by a former neighbor of mine, Martin Louzao. Martin is an awesome chef, one with a former vegetarian girlfriend. I would like to think that based on her insistence or my insistence on her asking if several of their dishes were truly vegetarian, that he decided to create a Vegetarian Menu in his new location in Condado.

Cocina Abierta is not a vegetarían restaurant… we still have a great opportunity for Vegetarian Fine Dining in Puerto Rico. But Martin has certainly captured my attention developing new dishes and adapting several true and tried favorites to create a vegetarian tasting menu fit for celebrations, to take vegetarian friends when they travel to Puerto Rico and when you want to enjoy truly good cooking overall.

If you ignore the smells of grilled steaks coming from the kitchen… you will find Cocina Abierta has a great ambiance and atmosphere. Their menu is divided into ACTS, like a play, but we only ordered from the Vegetarian side concert. I took my friend Andrew, who was visiting Puerto Rico for work. Aside from the Yoga Center cooking, he had not had the chance to experience fine dining in Puerto Rico.

We ordered:

Baby Arugula Salad with Almond-Stuffed Dates and Caramelized Onions

Cocina Abierta - Vegetarian Menu Salad

Eggplant Mignon over a bed of Curried Couscous

Eggplant Vegetarian Dish

Ricotta Gnocchi with Blue Cheese and Arugula

Cocina Abierta Vegetarian Menu

Gelatos – Salted Caramel and Strawberry Flavors

Cocina Abierta Vegetrian Menu

OMG!!!!   What an awesome experience we had!!! We shared everything because we wanted to taste as many things we could… I would have ordered another salad just for me… not because the serving was small, but because it was so delicious.

The Eggplant Mignon is something I would rarely order in a restaurant, yet I was very surprised to taste the flavors of India in a very refined manner, suitable for the Western taste buds. I am not too fond of Indian cooking and I enjoyed this very much…

The gnocchi are so rich and delicious… it was a good thing we shared. Because if not, I would have eaten the whole thing by myself and would have been counting the amount of calories for days.

The gelatos were spectacular, in particular the salted caramel one… with pieces of caramel inside. It was heaven on a plate. I may just go back and sit at their Dessert Bar just to have the salted caramel ice cream. Move over Mango Sorbet from Hagen Dasz, there’s a new frozen dessert in town!!!

I want to thank Martin and the whole Cocina Abierta team for a wonderful evening… our waitress Mari Carmen was a joy and made our dining experience all the better. When you have someone serving you who’s super excited about the food… it gets you excited too. We were very happy and Andrew even mentioned he might return again when his next business trip takes him back to San Juan.

I am glad I have an alternative to offer friends and people who ask on tour FB page – “Where can I eat in PR if I am vegetarian???” There’s no need to suffer or put your lifestyle aside if you’re traveling to Puerto Rico.

Why am I a Vegetarian??

10 Sep

This is a post for all you readers who live in Puerto Rico…

This Sunday, September 14 the Centro Cultural Yoga Devanand is celebrating one of its signature Vegetarian Dishes Festivals…   presenting over 10 different vegetarian dishes completely karma-free to show how delicious vegetarian lifestyle can be. Kinda like the same thing I try to do here in KarmaFree Cooking.

Fest Platos Veg Sept 1A

 

The activity will start at 10:30AM with the Ofrenda de Amor, where we give God or the Supreme Being (however you prefer to call the higher power) in gratitude for all the blessings we receive each day.  It’s a practice taught at the Centro Yoga Devanand since its inception over 30 years ago, teaching how to be grateful without asking anything in return.  Afterwards, there will be a 30-min group meditation, followed by the short lecture “Why am I Vegetarian?” given by a group of Yoga Center members who will share their reasons and journey within the vegetarian diet and lifestyle.  It’ll be fun because you’ll be able to ask them anything you have on your mind about living as a full-time vegetarian in Puerto Rico.

To close out the activity, the greatest vegetarian buffet ever!!!!  With 10+ vegetarian dishes to choose from… or not to choose from, because certainly you can eat a little bit of everything – from salads and soups to natural juices and several desserts too!!  The donation for the activity is $15, which is much more economical than going out for lunch at any restaurant in San Juan.

I am planning to donate one of the dishes for the buffet… I am still deciding on what to make.    So if you would like to taste delicious vegetarian fare and meet me in person in the process, go by Centro Cultural Devanand on Sunday and you’ll be certain to have a great time with all of us.

If you need any additional information, please write me right here in the comments section or you can call the Centro Cultural Devanand at 787-273-0236.  And if you’re on Facebook, please click on GOING at the event page.  Hope to see you there!!!

Make My Food Famous – a new culinary competition featuring Puerto Rican hostess, Monti Carlo

29 Aug

Monti from MasterChef Season 3 fame is at it again in the kitchen… this time she’s helping other home cooks, just like herself, to get their signature dishes be part of a Michelin-starred restaurant menu.

Make my Food Famous

In the new show Make my Food Famous, Monti hosts and judges 3 home cooks get their food be part of the menu at David LeFavre restaurant, MB Post… in Manhattan Beach, California.  This is a BIG DEAL…  for Monti herself and the 3 home cooks participating.

MB Post Collage

Photos courtesy of MB Post Restaurant http://www.eatmbpost.com

Monti, a fellow Puerto Rican, a self-proclaimed home cook who made her living as a radio-show host came to fame because of her culinary talent in a TV show and now she gets to provide support and advice to these aspiring home cooks.  “Working in a commercial kitchen is NOT the same as working in your own home space.  I’m there to provide these people some support – because it can be really emotional and tough to be fighting for your dream.” candidly shares Monti.

300px-Monti_Carlo

According to Monti, “This is a very rewarding process for all these home cooks.  Win it or not, all these people will have a much better idea of what they want and how to get there.” And Monti knows a little about how to fight for her dreams because after her participation on MasterChef Season 3, she came home to an eviction notice and little planning on what to do next.  But the Universe works in mysterious ways and now she’s back on TV with a series on the FYI network.

I asked Monti if someone vegetarian competing with a vegetarian dish would have a chance to win in Make my Food Famous and she gave me a resounding YES!!!!  Even though she’s not a vegetarian, she knows and believes a great dish can be vegetable-based.  For the last few months, Monti has also worked at Roy Choi’s new roof-top greenhouse restaurant, Commisary.  “If the work and thoughtfulness is put on a dish, any vegetable or fruit can certainly be the star.” says Monti with pride.  This new vegetable and fruit based restaurant is so popular that recently well-known vegan Natalie Portman and also singer John Mayer have been among its celebrity guests.

Commisary - Roy Choi

Photo courtesy of Commissary Restaurant

Make My Food Famous premieres on the FYI network this Sunday, August 31 @ 10PM.  Stay tuned to see if maybe one day I can try to make some of my signatures dishes into one of these vegetable-based restaurants too.  I am throwing that out into the Universe…

In the meantime, I wish Monti all the success in the world and to celebrate her new show I asked her what was the foods she missed most from our Puerto Rico and she mentioned quenepas, dulces de coco, pan sobao and chicharrones. I am not sure if I support the chicharrones part, but Monti, stay tuned to the mailbox because you may receive a nice little surprise in the mail – a care package courtesy of KarmaFree Cooking.

My #tbt post on my trip to Paris 2013

31 Jul

OMG!!!  I can’t believe that I’ve been so busy lately that I never got to post about my experience last year of returning to Paris for the third time…  this time, I went by myself in my first ever international vacation on my own.  I will not lie… I was scared out of my mind.  With as much travel that I do, I surprised myself I was so anxious about being by myself in Paris.

Paris Trip Collage

I went to Paris for one week, right after being in Spain with my friend Walter walking the Camino de Santiago.  It was cheaper to travel back home from Paris/CDG than from Madrid.  So the Universe conspired for me to return to the City of Lights, this time by myself.  Traveling alone is something you need to do at least once in your life.  I definitely prefer to travel with someone, but the experience of renting a small studio apt, doing exactly what I want, whenever I wanted was particularly liberating.

Paris 2013 3 Collage

And to be honest… you’re never alone.  Really!!  I met people everywhere I went… a group of 6 Argentinean guys while I was taking a few selfies at the Louvre; a Singaporean woman while waiting in line at the St. Chappelle; a British professor who told us all about the St. Chapelle windows history; an aunt and a niece from San Francisco while I was tasting some desserts at Angelina,  a couple from the US when I was tasting champagne in Epernay.   And I even met up a few times with friends from Puerto Rico… with my dear friend Jesiel, who is now living in Paris and, with whom I had a lovely picnic by the Seine.  Also,  with a former classmate of mine from the L ‘Alliance Française in Puerto Rico, Arturo, who was working for the Summer at the US Embassy and took me to eat falafels and to ride vélos to visit Roland Garros, for all you tennis fans out there.  All that in a week!!!!  When I tell you I was rarely alone, I don’t lie…

Which brings me to what I ate while I was in Paris…

Thanks to Arturo, I got to return to L’As du Falafel.  I tried to eat there on my last trip in 2009, but I went on a Saturday and the owners being Jewish, they observe Sabbath and were closed.  This time, I got the experience the best falafel in Paris.  And they are goooooood.  I had a falafel sandwich and I took me back to that first falafel sandwich I had in Israel more than a decade ago.  They’re worth waiting in line for… really!!!!

LAs du Falafel Collage

I went, finally, to Poilane Bakery… the bakery Giada Di Laurentiis and Ina Garten talk so much about in their shows.  It’s super small!!!!  If you’re not paying attention, you’ll miss it.  I bought myself a pain au chocolat, which was glorious.  But I also bought some buckwheat buns.  Delicious when you first buy them, but they turn very hard by the next day.  Because they weren’t stale, I just opened them, schmeared some chevre cheese and that was my snack while I was champagne tasting in Epernay and Reims.

DSCN9657

I also got to go for the first time to La Grande Epicerie… Ina Garten’s favorite market in Paris, next to Le Bon Marché department store.  It’s like a Whole Foods and a Zabar’s in Paris.  I had so much fun. I touched everything and even bought a few things for my picnic with Jesiel by the Seine.  I bought berries, sparkling water, an artichoke spread and breadsticks which were divine!  Jesiel even kept the label to buy it again for herself and her boyfriend, now husband, Romain.  I can’t believe I was so excited to see Jesiel again that we never took one picture together… and we saw each other twice!!!

La Grande Epicerie Collage

And of course… I had the obligatory crepe in Montmartre, the simple and satisfying tartine et salade lunch in St. Germaine, the eating a croissant while looking at the Tour Eiffel and a picnic to finish all the stuff I still had in my little fridge at the Jardin du Luxembourg.  Even the chai tea latte in a Starbucks to take advantage of the air conditioner and the wi-fi. So gringa of me, right???

Paris 2013 2 Collage

 

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But as always… a week in Paris is never enough to taste and experience everything you want.  I was left wanting to eat at L’Atelier de Joel Rebouchon… because my friend Nayda and a little girl I met in Paris told me that I have not yet tasted mashed potatoes until I taste Chef Rebouchon’s mashed potatoes.  I was going to meet the little girl and her aunt for lunch one day, but time betrayed me and I arrived just past 3PM, when they close lunch service.

DSCN9642

Also, because I went in August, the month when Parisians take most of their vacation time, the market at Rue Raspail was pretty dim.  It looked nothing like the scenes I have seen Ina Garten shopping amongst the fresh fruits and vegetables.  I must go again to experience this street market in all its glory.

As the self-proclaimed professional jet-setter that I am, one trip to Paris is never enough.  So after a year of being away, I am certainly itching to return.  I declared I want to return soon and run the Paris Marathon with a couple of my running friends.  I am certain that’s in my future.  I am sure it’ll happen and you’ll all be right there with me…  d’accord???

A bientôt…

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