5 Places I am Thankful for

I love this time of year. There are so many reasons to celebrate, be with family and EAT. In spite of everything people have to say about Thanksgiving and how we are superficial for celebrating one day and then shopping our lives away the rest of the season, I still love this day.

This year, I decided to  count my blessings in the form of places, thankful for everything these places represent and what they have offered me.

IMG_13055. Old San Juan, Puerto Rico

The oldest settlement in Puerto Rico, this old town is full of wonders. You can’t get bored in Old San Juan. You can find all types of food, from food trucks to fancy latin fusion cuisine. You can also find all sorts of drinks, from Puerto Rican “moonshine” or “chichaito” to a classic passion fruit sangría. I am thankful for all the fun times Old San Juan has given me, from late night with friends to fun days with family, it all happens here.

 4. Strasbourg, France

Yes, I love Paris and all of its enchantment. Still, I am completely biased to Strasbourg. This city in the region of Alsace, just minutes away from Germany, is very underrated. The unique fusion you find here is quite incomparable. L’Alsace for dummies? Like if France and Germany had a baby, but of course, there is so much more to it. I am thankful for Strasbourg’s culture and history, this city opened my eyes to so many things and I will always be thankful for that. Thanks to Strasbourg and my wonderful host family, I also discovered my true love for food.

 3. Barcelona, Spain

Barcelona is always on my list. It is a special city I am always waiting to return to. Have only been there for a few days, but I fell in love with it. I’m thankful for this city’s vibrant colors, inspiring architecture and delicious food.

 2. New York, New York

Ah, where to begin with this little gem? I have a love/hate relationship with this city. It is easy to forget it’s electric magic when you are deep in the trenches questioning your life choices, but this place makes you better and stronger by just being there. I am thankful for everything this city inspires me to be and for all the food from the world I have at my reach. New York, you make me stronger and wiser with each passing day.

20131226-170718.jpg1. Puerto Rico

You think I would limit Puerto Rico to just Old San Juan? Wrong. Puerto Rico is my favorite place in the world. I doubt any of the places in my bucket list could ever change that. I am thankful for Puerto Rico’s people, we are not perfect, but we are pretty awesome. I am thankful for the incredible ecological diversity you can find in this little island. I’m thankful for all the amazing food you can taste here, from my mother’s cooking to the many restaurants that offer hundreds of plantain plate varieties. I am thankful for Puerto Rico because it is an intrical part of who I am.

What places are you thankful for? Would love to hear your stories!

Happy Thanksgiving!

Komeeda Chef Showdown #3

 
(Photo from Komeeda)

Comida, Komeeda, Food.

A while ago I got the chance to meet the great mind behind Komeeda, a community that is passionate about discovering and tasting new food. I remember being immediately sold on the idea and I’ve been happy to see Komeeda keep on growing and evolving from group dinners to the most recent Chef Showdown series. Komeeda, just like me, believes that food makes people come together and through food, we can all have new and exciting experiences.

This month, I attended the 3rd Chef Showdown at District CoWork. It was a night buzzing with flavors and excitement as 3 chefs faced each other, providing delightful plates for everyone to taste and judge. My kind of evening, if you ask me.

(Photo from Cristina Nogueras)

Before even getting to the three main judges, we were welcomed by some delicious treats from the past chef showdown winner, Chef Flo from Eemas Cuisine. I’m sad I missed his first round of sweet potato & apple gyoza, but his pumpkin & mushroom bolognese on cornbread was delicious, pictured above. Seriously though, that cornbread was on point. I really enjoyed the Hawaiian cuisine twist he brought into the mix. Which makes me thing, I think I want to explore more Hawaiian cuisine, something else to add to my list.

(Photo from Cristina Nogueras)

Then the action began. The clock started ticking and we were tasked with tasting and judging everyone’s food. First for me was Chef Brandon Walker. He had a fall squash custard and a turkey confit croquette, pictured above. The croquette was DELICIOUS. I’m used to the classic Spanish croqueta, but I like the twist that Chef Brandon brought into the mix. I could have easily eaten a full plate of those croquettes dipped in a variety of sauces, no problem at all.


(Photo from Cristina Nogueras)

Next came Chef Amy with her beautiful, colorful plate. As she describes it, she made “delicata delights” for the vegetarian portion of the dish, delicata moons on rosemary skewer sprigs with sun dried tomatoes and collard greens, drizzled in a cashew aioli. For the meat dish, she made “squashta ragu”, baby bella mushroom cap stuffed with spaghetti squash “squashta” with lamb ragu, topped with homemade dehydrated onion crisps and freshly sliced basil. I wish the spaghetti squash with the lamb ragu had been a bigger portion because it was delicious.

(Photo from Komeeda)

Last but not least, Chef Paula delighted us with her winning plates. For the meat plate, she prepared a delicious adobo braised porkbelly over pork fat red bliss mashed potato, garlic sautéed spinach topped with adobo sauce and garlic chips. Again, another moment when I wished I could have kept on eating beyond what was on my plate just because it was so good. For the vegetarian plate, Chef Paula served Kare-Kare- Japanese eggplant, green beans, baby bok choy and onions on top of bibb lettuce drizzled with peanut sauce and topped with toasted “bagoong” peanuts. All of this was vegan, which to me, is quite impressive! Learned a lot by just reading more on each of the ingredients chosen which is almost as fun as eating the food itself and one of the reasons I like to go to events like this.

After a busy tasting session, we got to meet some of the sponsors of the event. I was especially intrigued by The Foodstand, a food community that not only shares good dining spots, but helps you find the freshest ingredients and more. I just joined the community this week and already I have discovered some new great food lovers to follow and new spots to try in the city.

We all got to vote and Chef Paula was crowned the Chef Showdown winner! Seriously, everyone’s plates were flavorful and down right delicious. Excited for Komeeda’s next culinary adventure, Friendsgiving! Be sure to follow them on Instagram or Twitter for more information.

Buen provecho!

Congrats again to Chef Paula! (Photo from Komeeda)

Wordless Wednesday: City Delights

I love being able to casually walk around New York City with deadlines, worries and pending items on my mind, only to be amazed by buildings like this one. Almost like it came out of nowhere, demanding my attention.

[Dinner] Grano Trattoria

I love Italian food, as any sane person should. Cheese is everything, no questions asked. When it was time to pick where to go for my first birthday dinner (yes, there is more than one, duh) I wanted to go somewhere Italian.

I’ve been dying to try Rosemary’s in the West Village, many friends have recommended it, but there were no reservations available when I checked. Thanks to the Open Table app I discovered another option for dinner, Grano Trattoria.

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Obviously, I started with the daily selection of cheese. These were particularly more special since I had been on some sort of cheese deprivation period, which basically means that I was eating normal amounts of cheese and no the ridiculous amounts that my heart desires.

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This is what got me. This risotto was DELICIOUS. It was the perfect balance of thick and creamy. I think by some, this risotto can be considered more on the cheesy/creamy side, but in my eyes that equals perfection.

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My boyfriend got the veal parmegiana, which looks messy but was actually pretty good. I’m not a big fan of veal, but he said it was good. He’s usually an easy chicken parm kind of guy, so I think that says a lot.

So that’s how my birthday celebrations began! If it was up to me, I would celebrate all month (which I kinda do in some way) but I tried to be normal and kept the celebrations down to a week. I always love to go out to dinner and try new places, but there’s always a nice extra touch when you’re going out for a special occasion. You don’t need to get me any presents, just feed me, seriously.

Hoboken Sunday Stroll With New Camera!

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Christmas came early for me this year thanks to Black Friday, but really thanks to my wonderful parents who got me an awesome new camera! (Pause to reiterate how amazing my parents are) I am now the proud owner of a Canon EOS Rebel T5 1200D with two awesome lenses that I am still figuring out how to handle. I clearly have a passion for photography, but I admit I don’t know much about it. My awesome friend photographer Naty Benitez has guided me through this process and I can’t wait to fully understand what she’s talking about.

Whether you’ve seen my previous pictures or not (iPhone 5), I invite you to come with me in this journey of mastering the ability to capture the beautiful moments in life (chaos and all).

Come walk around Hoboken with me…

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I love Hoboken, that’s nothing new. I do wish the trees had leaves, but it’s still such a nice view.

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View from Pier C park, or how me and my friends call it, the secret park!

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I gave my boyfriend the opportunity to play around with the camera, a little nervous I must admit, but I love his sense of humor and the way he inspires me to be my goofy self.

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It was cold out, which meant almost no people outside and space for me to jump around like a fool. You can also see the One World Trade Center tower in the background.

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Hippies in Hoboken? Who knew?

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I really like this place, which is concerning because their service is not the best, but I always keep coming back.

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The Lackawanna terminal tower clock as seen from Pier A park.

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I have mixed feelings about Carlo’s Bakery. Although I’ve never tried their cakes or pastries myself, I’ve heard they are not that great. There’s always a line of people waiting to go in, which can be annoying when you’re trying to walk past by in a rush (most days). However, I do think that it’s great that people that are not from this area know of Hoboken because of Carlo’s Bakery. Hoboken obviously has so much more to offer, but at least people know where I live.

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Thanks for walking with me, so excited to keep sharing more pictures as I sharpen my skills!

What did you think? Any tips for DSLR beginners?

Happy Friday

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Maybe it’s the good book I’m reading, maybe it’s the lovely fall weather or maybe is the interesting people that walk by, but coming to Washington Park after work today was the best decision I could have made.

There’s something about being in noncommercial public spaces that makes me happy. I can just sit here and chill without getting a cup of coffee or the pressure that I need to be quick because someone else needs my seat. You see, I have two hours to kill while I get to meet my friend for dinner and I decided to sit on a bench and read (well obviously I’m writing this now, but you know what I mean).

It’s pretty awesome to see this city come alive on a Friday evening. You can sense people are happy or maybe I’m just happy and can’t notice anything else or maybe sad people don’t come to this park.

I may hate this city at times, it’s fast pace insanity and all, but it’s pretty awesome and for now, this is where I want to be.

Happy Friday, y’all.

Mine is about to get even better with tapas and good company, cheers!

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Best Places to Have Lunch in SoHo

This list should actually be called: “Best places to have a delicious and “ok” priced lunch around my old office in SoHo”. I’m no expert, but I know what I like and I know what my wallet doesn’t.  Below are my favorite places to have lunch in SoHo, this list has been in development since I started working in SoHo almost two years ago. Some places are cheaper than others, but one thing they all have in common is they can provide a delicious lunch in less than an hour. This list has been evolving since I started the post, since sadly some places closed.

La Esquina

My all-time favorite is the “Pepito” and fries with chipotle mayo. Note that the fries do not come with chipotle mayo, but I highly recommend you order it for the ultimate experience, you can thank me later. If you can’t really sit down they also have the option to order to-go on the outside, slightly different menu, still amazing.

la esquinaPhoto from La Esquina Facebook

Delicatessen + MacBar 

Every time I go to Delicatessen I fight the urge to order cheeseburger mac and cheese, because why not, right? Their special mac and cheese plates are to die for and honestly, totally worth it. If you are feeling like going against your heart’s desires, then I recommend the award winning pan roasted chicken thigh sandwich with cerignola olive pesto, sweet pepper aioli, burrata cheese & french fries.

macbarSome of the delicious mac and cheese plates offered on the menu! Photo from Delicatessen Facebook

SoHo Park

I’ve been here over 10 times and I always order the same thing, classic cheeseburger. It’s that good. The extra fun thing about SoHo Park is they have an amazing selection of dipping sauces for the fries, roasted pepper aioli is my dipping sauce selection. This place is also fun for outside seating and actually feeling like you’re in a park, so creative of them, right?

soho park nycPhoto by Cristina Nogueras

Salud

This place recently opened and although I have only been there once, I’m planning to return soon. I love their tagline, “a Latin-take on organic”. It’s really what Salud is all about. I had the quinoa veggie burger and I never expected it to be that amazing. The owner was very nice and even treated me and my friend to some homemade brownies that I believe were made with a chocolate he prepares himself. Salud also has a brunch menu, which obviously, I need to try.

saludnycPhoto from the Salud Instagram, the veggie burger I had at Salud looked so delicious, I totally forgot to take a photo!

Cafe Habana

I’m Puerto Rican, so I love everything our neighbors in Cuba have to offer in terms of food. Cuban food hits close to home and always makes my soul happy. This spot offers a variety of Cuban food, with some other Latin American touches as well, including tacos. If I could, I would always go for the skirt steak, but their Cuban sandwich is also delicious and rumored to be one of the best ones in the city. See for yourself!

habanaGrilled corn, so delicious. Photo from Cafe Habana’s Facebook

Emporio

If you don’t like pizza don’t bother coming here, or being my friend, for that matter. With a nice selection of brick oven pizzas, this place is a great place to go with a few coworkers and share some slices during your break. You can also eat the pizza all by yourself, no sharing required.

emporioMy choice of prosciutto and cheese, classic & great – Photo by Cristina Nogueras

Bread

This cute Italian restaurant is as charming during lunch as it is during dinner. I’ve been able to make my way through the menu and I must say, I can’t get enough of it. If you are having lunch there, the tomato soup is a must. Oh, and in case you were wondering, they do have bread and it is very delicious.

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 presetPhoto by Cristina Nogueras

Parm

If you go to Parm, you get the parm. The folks there are extremely good on making these chicken parm sandwiches, so ordering anything else seems like a crime. I have, however, ordered the garlic bread knots and they were very good… followed by a chicken parm sandwich, of course.

parmParm from parm – Photo from Parm’s website

Grey Dog

Looking for a quick, yet nice place to sit down and have lunch? I’ve only been here once, but I had a very delicious sandwich that left me feeling satisfied.

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 presetQuite frankly, I forget what this sandwich was all about, but the pesto was absolutely amazing. – Photo by Cristina Nogueras

Spring Natural

To be honest, this one is making the list because I wanted to reach to 10 and I figured I had to get in a place that was healthy overall, just to ease my guilt. It may be a little overpriced for certain simple items, but after all, it’s SoHo. Their salads are really good (yes, I said that) and the bread they start you with is really good as well.

spring street I’ve tried to kept my photos to what I have tasted, but this looks delicious, could not overlook it! Photo from Spring Natural Facebook

 

What are your favorite SoHo spots? Share them with me below!

Follow @peaceloveanddietcoke on Instagram for more.

¡Buen Provecho!

Morning Walks: Blossoms on Concrete

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People may think concrete is not able to ignite inspiration, but concrete cracks and cracks let life bloom, releasing a wave of what can only be admired with open eyes.
Concrete may not make you a poet, but it can make you think and that’s always a necessity. It can highlight small beauties and nurture little secret corners of good will.
The world needs more things that inspire, simple oddities that ignite a never ending train of thought and cause wanderers to stop and admire simple beauties found in concrete.

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Photos from my morning walk in the West Village | NYC

Hello, April

 

 

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Another month I go over my budget… surprise, surprise!

I love Mint.com, it helps me stay grounded, but if I go over my personal budget even when I track it regularly, how do people live without a budget?! Oh yes, they must be rich.

I can be very good one week, bring my home cooked meal to work, deprive myself of shopping and only do happy hour specials… but then there’s one day that I feel like I can rule the world and I decide instant gratification is the way to go, so I indulge in tasty meals over $8 and splurge in this cute summer dress I can’t even wear because hey, it’s still winter. March didn’t get the memo, I hope April does.

So yeah, today I say hello to a new month, with a blank economic canvas waiting to be filled with overpriced purchases of everyday necessities… life in New York City.

Here’s to April, may it finally bring Spring to us!

 

* photo and image edit by Cristina Nogueras