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The food experience in Los Angeles it’s bigger and better than originally anticipated… #LBNC15

18 Feb

Yesterday, I mentioned all I wanted to munch on during my upcoming trip to Los Angeles… and my friends at the Lifestyle Bloggers National Conference #LBNC15, now in its 5th year, sent me a little note telling me – “Hey Madelyn!!!  There is MORE veggie-friendly goodness in your munching future.  Please check out these collaborators…”  And here they are:

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Amara Chocolate will be providing goodies in the form of Venezuelan Arepas with all the traditional fixin’s.  I hope they bring along some of their gluten-free corn-based arepas filled with cheese, black beans and sweet plantain.  To me that sounds like a great lunch!!!  And for a little something sweet, they’ll make churros with a variety of dipping sauces, like dulce de leche, condensed milk and my favorite, guava sauce!!!  Note to self – must bring exercise clothes because I might gain some pounds on this trip.

 

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And then… to appeal to my junk food side, Dirt Dog LA will be making their authentic hot dogs to our conference.  I’ve been told that if you’re in Los Angeles and you don’t eat a hot dog, you didn’t really visited Los Angeles.  And in true Cali form, Dirt Dogs LA has Veggie Dogs!!!!!  They serve them with grilled onions, red and green bell peppers over a variety of buns.  In all honesty, I like my veggie dogs with just a squirt of ketchup and mustard, but I am willing to give these LA veggie dogs a try.   And have you ever heard of Horchata Ice Cream? I haven’t and I hope one is in my near future…

 

And my friend Diana, now living in Sonoma County, is working as the pastry chef of Sam’s Social Club in Calistoga alongside Chef Kory Stewart.  We spoke yesterday and we already made plans to taste the great creations she and Chef Stewart are offering.  Let me tell you a bit of what I already have in mind – the house-made black truffle and white bean tortellini with rainbow carrots, cipollini onions and Piave Vecchio cheese sounds really good or the leek pancakes with avocado and jalapeno, hold the crab please!!!  And I would like to finish with Diana’s churros topped with dulce de leche whipped cream. Or just give me the dulce de leche and the whipped cream on the side and I’ll be a happy girl.  Can you believe the churros are also served as a breakfast menu item???  Decadent indeed…

Bueno people… I need to actually pack my bags now.  Will keep you posted as soon as I arrive on the West Coast.

I am going to Los Angeles!!!!!  To EAT!!! The Food Experience at the #LBNC15…

17 Feb

For years I’ve been meaning to travel again to California.  I have been there several times – once with my family when I was about 15 years old and then a few more times in Los Angeles and San Francisco for work.  But the last time I set foot in Cali soil was almost 10 years ago… and it’s just been way too long.

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For a few years now, California has been calling my name.  Reading magazine articles about the farmer’s markets in Los Angeles, looking at pictures on Pinterest on the latest and greatest veggie-centric restaurants in San Francisco, watching on TV about the vegetarian food trucks, chatting to other Cali-based bloggers on how many vegan options are there in menus and how knowledgeable the chefs and servers are about what a vegetarian is…  all those things and a few more is what has been luring me to visit.

When I learned about the Lifestyle Bloggers National Conference (#LLBNC15) in Los Angeles, organized by my online friend and blogger, Ana Lydia Ochoa-Monaco, I knew it was the perfect excuse to do some blog-related work, networking  and to live, even if for 10 days at least, the California experience.  And like I said to my friend Diana, now living in Sonoma Wine Country…  I am coming to California TO EAT!!!!  So let me tell you a little bit about the experience I am going into at the conference specifically:

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The Corner Bakery Café will supply the breakfast…  I am very much looking forward to trying their Chilled Oatmeal, or as they call it in Europe, Muesli. And I like that on their menu it’s labeled as Vegetarian, Gluten-Free and Low Fat.  Three pluses!!!

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Fresh Brother’s Pizza will be providing our lunch… and in true California fashion, their menu includes a MegaGrain Crust Pizza, which I am interpreting as an ultra, heavy duty whole grains crust; not the usual white, semolina flour crust here. And they also have a gluten-free crust made from rice, tapioca and potato crust.   Hello!!?!?!  Which pizzeria in Puerto Rico advertises openly they have gluten-free crust and are actually proud of it!?!?  They even have vegan cheese and sausages available… although I have a feeling, I will go for the real cheese one.  I am very much looking forward to this…

For the cocktail parties, Anepalco’s Café will be sharing their creations on the appetizer front.  Looking in advance at their menu, I hope they come up with some true vegetarian (as in no fish or seafood) options for me.  If they can bring an appetizer version of their salads – like the Colorada Beets or the Snow Arugula – I’ll be a happy camper.  Besides, I’ll be too busy talking and networking to be eating… NOT!! There’s always time to taste test!

I am also looking forward to visiting a few spots in LA, Sonoma and Napa:

I want to try chef Roy Choi’s new veggie-centric restaurant Commissary where my Puerto Rican friend Monti works sometimes…  maybe all the time.  I’ll learn more about it when we actually meet in person for a bite or two in the next few days.

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I was also dreaming to sit down and enjoy the fabulous Vegetable Tasting Menu at the French Laundry by chef Thomas Keller, but unfortunately for now, the kitchen is currently under renovation.  Chef Keller and I will have our rendez-vous on a future trip to Cali or maybe at Per Sé in NYC.  Time will tell… in the meantime, I’ll continue salivating over their menus online.

The rest… I am not planning too much.  I decided this would be a trip to “go with the flow”.  I will be in Los Angeles during the Oscars, so I may or may not be able to meet any celebrities or even a vegetarian/vegan Academy-Award winner. You know who you are…   It’s all up to Karma and the Universe.  But be certain, I will share as much as I can with you all.  Deal??

Are you familiar with Los Angeles and San Francisco and would like to recommend your favorite vegetarian fare or restaurant???  Please share with me in the comments section or on Facebook or Twitter.  Gracias!!!

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.

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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.

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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!!!!

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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!!!

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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???

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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.

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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. ;)

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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…

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.

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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.

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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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