Tag Archives: restaurant

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.

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Flip Burger @ Bloomingdales 59th Street NYC

5 Feb

It was the first snow storm of 2014… We wanted to get out of the house, but did not want to manage the snow and cold outside. I suggested: “Let’s just take the subway and it can take us right underneath the belly of one of my favorite department stores in NYC – Bloomingdale’s. Deal??“ They all agreed…

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The day BEFORE the storm… but the same cast of characters.

When we arrived it was already 3PM and we were HUNGRY!!! Who can shop while hungry?? I sure can’t. So we looked at the store directory but there were many options to choose from. Let’s just go checking them out floor by floor as we encounter them and we’ll decide what works best, OK?

Flip was the first option available… right up the stairs from the level where the 4-5-6 subway leaves you. When we discovered it was a burger joint, Tere and my mom were discouraged as, more often than not, burgers means meat burgers only. But we were in NYC after all and I said to myself… “Madelyn, read thru all the burger options before dismissing this restaurant”. And there they were!!!! VARIOUS, not just one, various vegetarian options!!!!

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I wish I had taken a picture of the menu for you… I was sure I was going to find it online, but unfortunately that is not the case. The menu presented a veggie burger and a Portobello Mushroom burger option, my favorite. We sat down and ordered… You could have your pic of bread, burger, and toppings. The vegetarian options come with 2 toppings included beyond the lettuce, tomato, onion and pickle. My burger was a Portobello mushroom burger on a whole wheat/multigrain roll with goat cheese and avocados. YUM!!!

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They also have fries to accompany your burger… we went for the thin crispy fries and the sweet potato fries. They were both superb… But I should warn you, those thin fries don’t seem to ever end. The more you eat, the more they seem to be in your plate. I ate and ate and we still brought the leftovers back home with us.

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Even though Flip @ Bloomingdale’s is not a vegetarian place… in true NYC fashion they have meat-free options for us vegetarian gals. Who wants to go shopping on an empty stomach?? Not me for sure… and the next time I visit Bloomie’s, I know I’ll have a craving for a burger.

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Restaurante Jerusalem – Eating Vegetarian in San Juan

6 Dec

Many of you have asked me where to eat delicious vegetarian food when visiting San Juan… I even once wrote an article in Serious Eats on my favorite restaurants in San Juan and Jerusalem was definitely on that list.

Ever since I returned from a trip to Israel in April 2000, I have been enamored with the flavors of the Middle East. We spent our days eating mostly falafels, hummus, pita bread and salads. That was our menu almost every single day. And when we returned to Puerto Rico, I wanted to remember all the flavors of those travels. It was a magical trip and Jerusalem was the only restaurant that made me go back to the flavors of Israel.

In my opinion, Jerusalem has THE BEST Middle Eastern food in Puerto Rico. There are several Middle Eastern restaurants here, most of them located in Roosevelt Ave. , but none of them stand close to the food at Jerusalem.

Jerusalem has, in my opinion, the best falafels in Puerto Rico. They taste fresh and light. I am not the greatest fan of tahini sauce, but I consider Jerusalem’s tahini sauce the best as well.

I usually order the hummus as an appetizer. The olive oil on top of it tastes so fruity and delicious…

Another reason why I love to eat at Jerusalem is because they serve a vegetarian kabob platter that I just love. It is grilled tomatoes, peppers and onions served with rice and the arab salad of tomatoes, cucumbers, onions, cubanelle peppers, parsley dressed with lemon juice and olive oil. I am making myself hungry just writing about this right now…

When people want to invite me to dinner… I usually suggest Jerusalem. It has a little bit of everything and even when you’re ordering vegetarian food it does not feel like you’re missing out on anything of the traditional flavors of the region.

Have you been to Jerusalem, the restaurant in San Juan??? Tell me what’s your opinion… what else should I order besides my usual fare???

 Rest. Jerusalem – Ave. Roosevelt 1109, San Juan, Puerto Rico

Sublime Vegan Restaurant Review

18 May

I have a thing with vegetarian and vegan restaurants…  the fact that their food usually is filled with so many substitutes or tries to use so many “exotic” ingredients that the flavor is not there.  That’s why I sometimes prefer to just go to traditional restaurants and navigate through their menus to find something delicious yet still suitable for me to eat.  Funny… but sometimes I’ve found a great meal in a steakhouse…  the best baked potatoes and salad you’ve ever tasted!!!  But that’s another subject…

Last month I was in Miami with my mom visiting my sister and coincided with my mom’s 67th birthday.  My sister decided we should celebrate her by going to dinner at a vegan restaurant in Ft Lauderdale called Sublime.  I have heard of this restaurant before, but hadn’t had a chance to go up there.  And from my feelings above, I was a bit wary of what we would find there…

The ambiance at Sublime is really nice… low lights, nice décor, small tables for 2 or 4…  like any fine dining restaurant should be.  The music was nice and the bar area looked really nice.  Sorry I do not have pictures because the low lighting does not allow for nice pictures with or without flash.  Sublime is a vegan restaurant… so even though they do not serve any animal products or any eggs or dairy, they do serve alcohol and chocolate, which are not included in the line of vegetarianism I usually follow.  Just wanted to clarify…

It’s so refreshing to go to a fine dining restaurant that you know that you can eat EVERYTHING on the menu… it’s now a matter of what you like and what you’re in the mood for… not a matter of what can I have, what questions should I ask the waitress, will it have bacon?  But still, I was careful to check out if the food will taste good…

The menu is large… but not unmanageable.  They had appetizers, a “sushi” menu, salads, pizzas and main entrees.  I ordered a “Sublim-ade” which was their featured non-alcoholic drink – really delicious limeade.  I can’t remember if I had one or two.  We were in the sharing mood, which was wonderful for this article – I had a chance to taste what Vanessa (my sister), Wichi (my bro in law), my mom and I ordered… and this is what we had:

 For appetizers:

Crispy Eggplant Rollatini

We ordered this to share for all 4.  This was really good even though the cheeses in the filling were not made from milk.  The eggplant seemed it was fried in panko breadcrumbs.  It was not hot in temperature, but it was really delicious.  I would have ordered another one just for myself had I known what you’ll learn later on…

 

Soup of the Day – lentil vegetable soup with chickpeas

This is the only thing I did not taste. Wichi liked it a lot; so did Vanessa.  The taste was very authentic according to them.

 

Florasian Sushi Roll – made from rice, tempura avocado, vegenaise, mango and toasted coconut.

My sister ordered this for herself because she’s “eating for two”. She wasn’t planning to share, but she was in for a surprise. 

I do eat often regular vegetable/vegetarian sushi made at traditional Japanese sushi restaurants, so I have a good comparison point…  this tasted interesting, to say the least.  My sister tasted the coconut, I did not.  Nor did I taste the mango.  The avocado was good, but I never knew if it was tempura or not.  What difference could it make???  To me these sushi pieces were too chewy for my taste…  I would not order them again.  Sorry…

For main entrees, we had:

Pizza Margherita Classico

My brother-in-law ordered this… I was also considering it too.  The taste was good – the tomato sauce was a bit sweet, the basil super fresh and the “mozzarella cheese” did not taste plasticky.  Now, the crust left a lot to be desired… and to me, the best torture test of a great pizza is the crust.  It was kind of soggy and burned.  So it was OK, but we’ve had better.

 

Portobello Stack – a Portobello mushroom cap filled with sautéed spinach and topped with slices of red potato.  It was served with gravy and a side of “smashed” cauliflower.

My mom ordered this…  and this was very delicious.  I really enjoyed the few bites I had.  I am not a fan of gravies, so I found the taste a bit bland.  The spinach and mushroom had enough moisture that the dish didn’t feel it needed a sauce.  Now, the cauliflower did need a bit of help.  It was dry and bland.  It felt as it was raw cauliflower shredded and put on the plate.  It did not taste as if it was cooked, mixed with something liquid to soften – like “milk”, “butter”, “sour cream”, or stock at least.  Maybe that’s the purpose of the gravy on that plate.

 

Sublime Loaf a mock “meatloaf” made of lentils, brown rice, water chestnut, accompanied by Israeli couscous and grilled asparagus

My sister ordered this…  I was never a fan of meatloaf when I ate meat, so I have no real point of original comparison here.  To me it was no show-stopper…  it tasted OK with the not-so-interesting gravy mentioned before, definitely not something I would order the next time around.  The Israeli couscous tasted just like plain boiled pasta without any seasonings or flavorings – a missed opportunity in my opinion. And the grilled asparagus, to me, were the best thing on the plate.

By process of elimination, what did I order???  You might be asking yourselves…  Well, I originally ordered the Ravioli – house-made pasta, spinach “ricotta”, slow-roasted tomatoes, garlic confit, herbs…  doesn’t it sound good???  I was soooooo looking forward to the roasted tomatoes and garlic confit…  Well, something happened in the kitchen that they could not bring me the ravioli.   They had me order anything else I wanted from the menu, compliments of the chef.  When I was perusing the menu, two things jumped at me…  the side dishes, so I ordered the mac and “cheese” with the olive oil mashed potatoes.  I figured if I ordered side dishes, the plates of the other people would not get too delayed.

     

NOT!!!  I have a master’s degree in whipped potatoes with olive oil…  I make these for myself all the time.  These mashed potatoes tasted NOTHING like the ones I make.  They looked old, mushy, and were bland.  I had to sprinkle salt from the salt shaker and I never do that in a restaurant.  But these were REALLY bland.  And at some points it seemed as if these were left to dry for a while in a kitchen corner, because they tasted dry, dry, dry.  Apparently the olive oil they use there is neither Spanish nor Italian… because I could not taste it at all.

And the macaroni was a complete mistake… it was bland and you could taste the “cheese” was not real cheese at all.  And I have made vegan pastas before, I know they’re a challenge, but you can achieve success if the right ingredients are used.  Not here… we all tried it and no one liked it at all. 

 

Now for the desserts… this was a celebratory birthday after all, so we needed some sweets to finish off the night.

Strawberry Cheesecake  

My mom ordered this one because she is a strawberry fan.  It tasted really delicious and we enjoyed the strawberries were mixed in with the cheesecake and not just something on top.  The almond crust was also delicious.

 

Chocolate Nirvana Cake

Like I said, the restaurant and some of my dinner companions are chocolate lovers.  And me, being a choco-holic in a “12-step separation program”, we ordered this chocolate cake.  It had a coffee-flavored Kahlua “butter creme” and dark chocolate ganache…  I only had a few bites because it is not often I can taste cakes without eggs in any restaurant… so a little chocolate was not going to stop me.  This cake was awesome…  one of the best things we had all night. 

Our compliments to the pastry chef… certainly.

So, after all this review, what’s the VEREDICT:

Sublime is OK, just not awesome.  I will go back again and try some of the other dishes on the menu… but now knowing what to stay away from.  I would like to try those ravioli the next time, certainly… and maybe some of the other appetizers.  The frito mixto certainly was calling me a bit. 

But if you’re in the Ft Lauderdale area or just visiting like we were, give Sublime a try.  Just stay away from the mac and mashed potatoes, OK??  Deal…

 

1431 N. Federal Hwy., Ft. Lauderdale, FL 33304
954-615-1431
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