2010 – Here we come!

Reflecting on 2009, a year of maintenance and frugality, hardships and reevaluation, not without a few bright spots and minor triumphs. Celebrate what is good in your life now, have hope in the positive that will come, and have faith in your resolve, having survived an inauspicious year.

Drink well, eat great, find little reasons to celebrate life, victories small and large, and above all share with families and friends.

Thank you for visiting Pata Negra, sharing in my thoughts, and mental support I have received in 2009.

Drink life!  Eat Life!


The holidays are upon us, and seeking out the right wines to serve with holiday meals become my primary focus, as well as some well deserved proper cocktails at some of my favorite city haunts.  Recently at Apotheke, located in Chinatown, whose cocktail list is designed by a Venezuelan consultant known for aggressive flavor profiles, I imbibed on a tomato basil libation, which sounds like a salad, but was understated.  Clean tomato, then a hint of fresh basil, surprising and effective.  I am no mixologist, save for a proper sidecar, so I need to make a holiday drink for me that is not too taxing and for the masses.

Enter eggnog, a milk and egg drink spiked with brandy or Madeira, one of the true gifts from our neighbors across the Atlantic.  Eggs and milk were very expensive during the 18th century, brandy too, so rum from the Caribbean became a natural, cost-effective substitute.  But New Americans soon switched to whiskey and bourbon, anchoring the eggnog of present day.

Good recipes travel fast, as our Mexican neighbors have a version called rompope. Originally made by the nuns of Puebla, vanilla flavoring is added and extra egg yolks, imparting a more yellowish color.  In East Harlem, at a cakery called Pasteles Capy, the Dorado family have a rompope flavored version that would sweeten any holiday table.

Heading to El Caribe, the center of rum production, variations of these eggnogs became traditional national beverages.  In Puerto Rico, the Borinquen version resides in the coquito, made with coconut and condensed milk, spiced by cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves.

In Haiti, the drink is called kremas, comprised of creamed coconut and often evaporated milk, which is less expensive than condensed or regular milk.  Aside from cinnamon, nutmeg and vanilla, anise is also added.  The following is my family recipe:

Kremas Recipe

2 egg yolks
2 cans evaporated milk
4 cans sweetened condensed milk
1 can cream of coconut
1 Vanilla Bean or 1 tsp vanilla extract
2 star anise
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp grated nutmeg
2 cups Haitian rum like Barbancourt

In a large sauce pot, add all ingredients. Whisk until well incorporated. Bring to a simmer and stir until mixture thickens. Cool down mixture for 15 minutes.  Add mixture to blender for thirty seconds.  Pour into large glass container with a lid and refrigerate for 24 hours.  Serve cold.

Tribeca Falling

Having spent a week in my second adopted neighborhood in New York, Tribeca, I have noticed some subtle changes in the restaurant landscape.

More than ever, at night, it is quiet, and that can be directly related to the Triburbia effect, meaning the rising number of stay at home moms with strollers who have traded in late night dinners for lunch/shopping.

Many restaurants have closed, most notably Chanterelle and Danube, and there are more empty spaces now than I can remember, testifying to the rising rents everywhere.  The quality of some existing restaurants have slipped too. Old standbys like Tribeca Grill and The Odeon have not kept up with the times, serving mediocre food for unjustified prices, and the basic grub stops such as Edward’s or Petite Abeille, or Max, might as well be located in the Upper East Side.  It’s a bad sign when a chain comes along, like Dean’s pizza, further signifying a changing of the guard.  More Duane Reades, banks and chain stores like Subway.  I had a few recent meals at Bouley Upstairs and Blau Gans, and although the meals were fine, they were not up to par compared to past experiences.  I am still wondering about Nobu’s consistency.

The Little American Place, Kitchenette, Mangez avec Moi have all had changes in their food, I feel, and the void for cuisine ethnic and exciting has not been filled.

There is still a proliferation of Italian restaurants, mostly overpriced and antiquated.  This is pasta better off made at home.  There isn’t a decent burger in sight, maybe Landmark, and the steakhouses Wolfgang’s and the Palm, are not first choices for a fab cut of beef. Megarestos like Megu, Matsugen, and Ninja, still seem to stay open somehow.  Thank goodness Chinatown is so near.

Newcomers like Bar Artisanal and Locanda Verde are trying to fill the void, but my recent trips to these bars proved fatefully malserviced, coupled with uninspired, small portioned food.  The perennial brunch pleaser, Bubby’s is trying to become a late night destination.  Alas early on a Sunday night, they were out of the ribs.  I guess they are trying to fill the void left by Florent’s closing, picking up a weary Soho crowd.  Bouley Market is trying to be a wine bar at night, but the space is simply not conducive to this conversion.  I still enjoy the Japanese small plates at B Flat, a jazz mecca with fine cocktails, and have yet to give Macao Trading Co. a second chance.  Visits to Macao upon opening left me confused.

At the moment Tribeca still seems like a good destination for lunch, from the Bangladesh eateries closer to the courthouses to the Korean fried chicken at Bon Chon, including several pubs that are open for lunch offering good pub fare.  There are a couple of bars on the clandestine side, not speakeasy, but hard to find.  77 Warren might have the right vibe and feel, but their hours are not set in stone.

Pastries are still good at Duane Street Patisserie and Bouley Market, but when will real artisanal coffee arrive?  Stumptown, Counter Culture, anyone?

I still enjoy Tribeca, and will continue too seek out good quality food there, but in the meanwhile, it’s Winnie’s, NY Noodletown, Big Wong, Fuleen’s, and Grand Sichuan for me.