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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.

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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.

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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…

I like Costa Rican “single guys”…  or do I??

22 Jul

I’ve never had the opportunity to travel to Costa Rica before …  and so far this year, I’ve traveled there TWICE!!!  Yep… Twice.  I remember when I was about to celebrate one of those milestone birthdays and I wanted to travel somewhere I had never ever gone before.  My mind immediately went to Greece, Turkey or even go back to Italy. And when I consulted with my guru, he quietly said: “Why don’t you go to Costa Rica?”

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What kind of enchantment did Costa Rica have?  I would not learn that until 3 years later in which, as a yoga group, we decided to take a short trip to San José and its surroundings.  It was a short trip indeed, but extremely intense.  We had the chance to visit San José and see once again my friend Flori, who also practices yoga, but now lives in her native land.  We also got to visit some of the volcanoes, go ziplining amongst the greeneries in Guanacaste and go down some cool rapids on the Balsa River.

Costa Rica Collage 1

It also gave us the chance to taste the local cuisine… particularly something Costa Ricans call Casados, or as translated in English, “Married”.  It’s a kinda weird name in both English and Spanish… don’t think it’s just weird to read it in English. Casados??, I asked when I read a sign in a street-side eatery.  It’s one of the most typical Costa Rican dishes around – it’s a combination of rice, beans, sweet fried plantain, salad, cooked vegetables, potatoes and some sort of meat.  And I said to myself…  Ahhhh, now I know what I want to order for lunch today.

The name “casado” was given to this combo dish because apparently when you get married is when you get to eat well and varied.  The thing is…  if my “casado” is meat-less, how should we call them then??  So I came up with my own little nickname – the “Soltero” or The Single, a “casado” without the meat.  And we got to eat Solteros all over the place.

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One of the advantages to us of Costa Rica receiving such an influx of US-based tourists is they have a sensibility for  vegetarian tourists.  Everywhere we went, there were vegetarian options and even pure vegetarian restaurants.  One example is Vishnu Restaurant, a vegetarian fast food joint with several locations in San José.    Ever since we stepped foot in San José we had delicious options to eat.  And even me, the non-bean lover, was asking for more of their refried black beans.  They were delish…

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After having such a great time on my first trip… I accepted the invitation of my friend Carlos to return to Costa Rica a few weekends ago. This time, Carlos and I got to visit the beaches on the Pacific side of Costa Rica, something we didn’t get a chance to experience on my first trip in March.  The nice thing… he got to introduce me to some fancy restaurants in San José and I got to show him what a traditional typical Costa Rican dish is – SOLTEROS!!!  And Carlos was veeeeeeeery happy about that, if you get my drift. ;)

Costa Rica 2 Collage

 

Costa Rica 3 Collage

Costa Rica is truly and amazing country, gorgeous landscapes and the food is delicious.  It’s a country who has taken advantage of their natural resources and made the best of it.  God only knows how many more times I’ll return to Costa Rica to fully understand why Guruji recommended me to travel here a few years ago.  Who knows if there is a real life “soltero” waiting for me, right?

Have you ever visited Costa Rica?  What are your favorite dishes?  Please share your experiences with all of us below…

Can you cheat and still be considered a vegetarian??

17 Jul

I was listening to a Jared Leto interview on the Ryan Seacrest radio show the other day where he was discussing his diet/lifestyle.  And I found it interesting he described himself as a “Chegan” – “I’m a Vegan most of the time, until I cheat”, he said.  You can listen to the whole interview here…

Interview Jared Leto

Interview Jared Leto - Ryan Seacrest

Jared expressed he is a vegan…  he’s been one for 22 years.  But once in a while, maybe something catches his eye and he just needs to get a taste.  Nooo, he doesn’t cheat with a piece of steak, but sometimes he will allow himself to eat a piece of cake or some other treat he knows probably was made with some sort of dairy, butter, eggs or other product that does not fall under the vegan banner.

Jared Leto - 2014 Academy Awards

Now that Academy-award winner Mr. Leto was selected by PETA as the sexiest vegan for 2014, can he still be considered a vegan if he cheats on occasion??  This is a question I have posed myself too…

Is cheating on your vegetarian lifestyle like cheating on your marriage??  Once you decide to become married, cheating is strictly forbidden.  Or is cheating on your vegetarian lifestyle something permissible and accepted by the vegetarian himself and those around him/her?

I think it’s OK… depending on why, how often and what you cheat with.

What’s your take??

 

Jared Leto - Cover Photo

Viva la Bastille!!! French-inspired veggie-full recipes…

14 Jul

Allons enfants de la patrie,
Le jour de gloire est arrivé
Contre nous de la tyrannie
L’etendard sanglant est levé
Entendez vous dans les campagnes,
Mugir ces feroces soldats?
Ils viennent jusque dans nos bras
Egorger nos fils, nos compagnes!

That’s all I know about La Marseillaise, the French National Anthem.

But I do know that I have a secret love affair with anything French…  last year, about this same time, I was in Paris for the 3rd time enjoying my first ever international vacation all by myself.  It was a great experience and something I recommend anyone to try at least once in their life.

To celebrate… I would like to recap a few of my favorite French-inspired vegetarian remakes for all of you who might think French food can’t be made vegetarian and delicious and authentic at the same time…

Crepes can be made without eggs… and even without gluten.  

You just need to be patient and buy the right ingredients.

Crepe Stack - Copy

Crepes for Lunch or Dinner

Fill them with Spinach, Potato and Broccoli or just plain Cheese… Crepes are France’s version of the sandwich.

Potato Broccoli Crepe KFC

Crepe Fromage 1

Photo Courtesy of MarthaStewart.com

 

Crepes for Dessert

Fill them with macerated fruits or even a dulce de leche, sweet crepes are the gold standard of street-food decadence.

Egg-free crepes

crepe caramel beurre salee

What’s a Fainá??

11 Jul

The other day I posted on Instagram that I was eating a fainá… and many of you liked the picture. But I was wondering if most of you know what a fainá is… I learned about it during my one and only visit to Buenos Aires a couple of years ago.

Faina - Juan Pan PIzza 1

When you look at the picture above, you just say it’s a pizza, right??  But this is no ordinary pizza…  A fainá is a flatbread made with chickpea flour, very typical in Argentina. They usually serve it as an appetizer or as an accompaniment to pizza. But, you can also order a fainá as the CRUST of a pizza, topping it with cheese and any of the traditional pizza toppings, making it a gluten-free alternative.

When we were in Argentina, we went to this little pizzeria in our neighborhood and the owner would make pizza using fainá as the crust. I am not kidding you when I tell you we went almost every day to eat dinner there.

Fainá - Buenos Aires

Faina - Buenos Aires 2

 

Fainá - Buenos Aires 1
In Puerto Rico, we have an Argentinean pizzeria Juan Pan Pizza, which serves us pizza in a fainá crust. If you call ahead, they’ll make you individually-sized pizzas with a very thin and crispy fainá crust. Usually fainá is a tad thick… and in a pinch, they’ll just top the fainá they have on hand and top it with your favorite pizza toppings.
You see? There are gluten-free alternatives wherever you go… Hope you visit Juan Pan Pizza soon if you live in Puerto Rico or now get to order a fainá on your next trip to Buenos Aires.

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