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Archive for March, 2012

The most important fact that I know about a Margarita is that I like it and I think it likes me too.

I also know that Margaritas are made with tequila and lime and sometimes other stuff. You can get them on the rocks for frozen. Sometimes they’re great and sometimes not. And I know that Margaritas are my Signature Drink.

That’s been enough to cement our relationship.

And the relationship is pretty good. I sometimes wonder about my Margarita’s history – what it’s mixed with, who else is interested in it, where it’s been – but I haven’t asked probing questions. When I Google search, it’s only to find a recipe (I swear) and since it’s the Margarita that often keeps me out too late, I feel like I have a handle on its status.

But then I found Brian Petro (Twitter; @Create_Daily), a self described cocktail historian, enthusiast and creator. I went out on a Twitter limb and asked him if he knew the history of  Margaritas and he sent me a link to his post titled, “If Life Gives You Limes”.

Do you know that sour mix was added to the Margarita ingredient list in the 70’s and 80’s to increase the volume of the drink so it could compete with other cocktails? (Though I hate mix I do like volume so I have mixed feelings here.)

Do you know that tequila gained popularity in the USA during prohibition and that at the height of Margarita popularity, we were enjoying 185,000 Margaritas an hour? (The we here is both a plural pronoun and the “Royal We”. I’m not responsible for the potential 4,440,000 margaritas consumed in a 24 hour period but We are happy to contribute where We can. And We had no idea Our Margarita is so promiscuous.)

Brian, thank you for the education. And everyone, check out Brian’s post. There are lots of other cool facts, a recipe and a funny picture of a cat with a lime peel helmet on its head. If you’re into funny cat pictures, it’s worth it just for that.

Coming soon: Margaritas in Maine and the results of my informal Twitter poll on tequila. (I even got a response from the man who made me the Margarita that saved my life.)

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Yummy and Full of Vitamin C!

Dinner with my college roommate was magical, moving, sobering and full of Vitamin C.

Seeing Julie after a gap of maybe six years made me realize the impact of time is much greater than a calendar shift. Life experience, force of friendships and family, daily tedium, tears and triumph shift perspective.

Julie looks the same (damn her). She laughs the same rich, roiling, infectious laugh. She’s still way funnier than I am (damn her again).

And yet everything is different.

The perspective shift is subtle and fundamental. I think time must rearrange our innards and alter how we look out at the world. We might feel like we’re 20 but we don’t think as a 20-year old thinks. We stay the same in a different way.

It was a profound moment, sitting across from Jules, when I realized I was re-meeting one of my oldest and dearest friends.

And thank GOD the re-meet went well! We went to Empellon Taqueria (230 W 4th St) and it would be a shame to split a great meal with bad company.

We had perfect guacamole and two types of tacos:  Fish Tempura with Cabbage and Lime Mayonnaise and Chicken with Black Kale and Salsa Verde. It was all amazing. The Fish Tempura taco is so good I considered snatching one from Julie’s plate but I nixed the idea since I was trying to keep up a civilized appearance.

And of course we had margaritas. They were homemade and refreshing. A great drink for a hot summer day. As much as I liked them, I have to admit the balance of flavor was tilted heavily toward sweet lime. As Julie said, “Nobody at this table is getting scurvy. Nobody’s getting drunk either.”

Today is Empellon Taqueria’s one year anniversary! Happy Anniversary Empellon! I wish you many more years of great taco making.

And Julie, I never doubted that our re-meet would be amazing. You made a lasting impression when we met freshman year and I’m sure that no matter how much time passes or how much we change, I’ll always know you. (If that sounded at all stalker-ish, I apologize and blame it on low blood sugar. I gotta go get me a taco.)

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Wednesday at 8:12 PM (EST) I became the person who gives an honest answer to the question “How are you?”

The usual polite exchange takes just three sentences of decreasing complexity:

“How are you?” (three words)

“Great, you?” (two words)

“Great.” (one, single word)

Six short words break the binds of social necessity and you’re free to go buy a sweater, get a driver’s license or go through airport security feeling good about yourself because you’re a friendly person. If you want to fancy it up, you can throw in a “Thanks for asking” But nobody goes past the thanks-for-asking flourish without risking eye rolls.

When I went through security at LaGuardia airport, after having just been in a cab accident, suffering whiplash and nearly missing my flight, I was primed to over share when the TSA agent asked “How are you?”

And I told him.

I told him I’d been in a cab that rear-ended a van. That the cab driver tried to get away from the van driver but the van blocked his escape and that the two drivers got out and yelled at each other. There was finger-pointing, maybe a little shoving but it was too dark on a side road in God-knows-where-Queens to tell. I thought the altercation was over when the cab driver returned to his car but the van driver ran over and took pictures of the cab’s license plate and hack license with his smart phone and that sent the cab driver into another frenzy.

I did eventually make it to the airport. And I made my flight. But as minutes ticked by my whiplash set in. And I shared. I shared so much he might have let me through security even if I was carrying liquids over 3 ounces.

What I didn’t share is that a Margarita at ‘inoteca saved my life.

Before flagging what turned out to be the wrong cab to get to the airport, I met a friend (and member of the independent panel of judges) for a drink and a snack at ‘intoeca on the East side (323 3rd Ave at 24th St). I had an excellent margarita and we split baked lemon ricotta & butternut squash w/ crispy bread and cavatelli w/ fennel sausage, red onion, plum tomatoes (we picked the cavatelli because we saw someone’s order go by and it looked so good we had to have it). When I got into the cab, I was relaxed and buckled in with my eyes closed. I didn’t have a chance to tense up for the fender-bender. I literally didn’t see what was coming.

I’m grateful that ‘inoteca takes their cocktail-making seriously. And saying they are “serious” might not quite cover it. My friend was Mad Men inspired and ordered a Whiskey Sour though she asked for a “plain, old Whiskey Sour” to avoid any fancy twist on the original and the bartender appeared offended when he told her that there’s nothing “plain” or “old” about it.

Their menu explains their cocktail philosophy that includes premium spirits, fresh ingredients, respect for history and passionate and skilled bartenders. They say “… great cocktails, like life, are about the journey.” I’m pretty sure that ‘inoteca’s amazing margarita made my journey and the excellent weekend that followed possible.

And because of ‘inoteca and my cab ride, I’ve taken the idea of the “Medicinal Margarita” to a whole new level: I now know that you should have one before you know anything might be wrong.

So check out ‘inoteca. They draw quite a crowd – good thing they have several locations.

Coming soon – Empellon and Margaritas in Maine!

'inoteca - The Margarita That Saved My Life

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Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

I just marched in the NYC St. Patrick’s Day Parade with some friends. They were marching with Manhattan College and invited me to join so I strolled up 5th Avenue with my friends and their kids, waving at the crowds and soaking in the sun. I haven’t marched in a parade since walking with my Girl Scout Troop in my home town. I got to walk at the front holding a flag. I was very proud.

Today was better. It isn’t every day that I get to walk straight up 5th Avenue. It isn’t every day that I get to do something silly with my friends and their kids. And it isn’t every day that I cross something off my bucket list. (March in the NYC St Patrick’s Day Parade – Check!)

And it isn’t every day that I get to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day with a margarita from Chipolte. How perfect.

And for the skeptics among you, yes, it’s true: Chipolte offers margaritas on their menu. Margaritas, shaken not blended, made with real tequila. And they only cost $5.79 (in NYC that is).

After discovering the Chipolte Marg, I was treated to a second learning moment. Have you ever heard someone tune their bagpipes? Did you even know bagpipes are tune-able?

My ears may never be the same. And my appreciation for Chipolte (and the Chipolte Margaritaaaaah) is permanently altered.

I hope your St. Pat’s Day is as good as mine.

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Do you believe that you whatever you put out into The Universe, The Universe will give you back?

In the simplest terms, a big smile gets a different reaction than a hard kick in the shins. And if it doesn’t, or if you don’t want it to, that’s a topic for a different blog.

I’ve heard a broader idea: We put out energy waves, vibrations that seek and attract their like. So the universe senses the sad, successful, silly, happy, angry frequencies in people and sends a sympathetic vibe boomerang right back. Happiness grows more happiness and anger delivers more anger. Our frequencies must tune depending on the day, our outlook or mood, so we put a variety of vibrations out to The Universe.

In the past few weeks, I must have been vibrating like it’s 1999 because people from my past have reached out to say “hello”.

For all the reach was across time. Two I barely know and two are Julies who don’t know each other but both moved from New York to England.

First, on my birthday (see Corkbuzz) a text message popped into my phone from a number I didn’t recognize. I organize with a “pile” system, not a file system and I haven’t updated my contacts since 2002. I’ve also done my share of blind dating so mystery messages are normal for me.

In this case, it was a birthday wish from a friend of a guy I dated ten years ago. He’s getting divorced (the texter, not the guy I dated) and his wedding anniversary is on my birthday. Other than the divorce, he’s doing well and as I remember he’s a nice guy.

But I’m not going to think too much about my vibe that boomeranged his thoughts back to me at this particular moment in our lives.

Next I heard from a guy who wants to see me again after we had, according to him, two great dates in 2007. His memory, if not his timing, is sharp.

The next reach out was from my friend Julie. She paged through my blog from her new home in England and commented that reading margagogo made her miss NYC. Her comment made me miss her even more (and not just because she read my blog and now my stats show eight page views from the UK).

Now enter the next Julie, or really the first Julie because she was my college roommate. Julie from college moved to England a zillion years ago. I’m not sure when we spoke last and it doesn’t matter. Our friendship is the kind that holds up to time and gaps and when I see her, we’ll talk a ton and laugh until our cheeks cramp and probably feel like we’re in college again except our hair won’t be as high and we won’t be drinking warm keg beer in the dorm parking lot.

We will be deciding on a restaurant because she’s coming to New York on Monday!

I’m thrilled. I’m so excited. I can’t wait!

We haven’t made our plans yet but I know for sure where we won’t be going and it breaks my heart to say it: We won’t be going to Mercadito. Not Mercadito Grove or B or Mercadito anywhere.

Mercadito used to be awesome. Everything about it from the size of the restaurants (poquito) to the amazing tacos to the mind blowing margs made me love Mercadito. I’d have been happy to go every day but to avoid appearing taco-obsessed, didn’t suggest Mercadito for every dinner plan. Instead, I asked The Universe to do my work for me by sending Mercadito vibes out into the ether. The Universe came through 40% of the time.

But when I went the other night with a member of the impartial panel of judges, we were disappointed. So disappointed that we don’t think we can go back. (I wonder if there are other former fans out there because we arrived at prime NYC dinner time and there were empty tables – something unheard of in better days.)

The guac was grey and the portion poquito. The shrimp tacos, which used to be so good that we’d order more and then get the steak and the fish and share and eat and wish we could eat more, were all sauce (a buttery, zing-less sauce) and very little shrimp. And the drinks, oh dear, I’m getting depressed just thinking about them.

So college roommate Julie and I will find another spot and the vibe I’m putting out to The Universe now is one of profound restaurant loss. I hope that Mercadito picks up on it and recaptures their magic. If they do, I’ll surely feel it and be back!

 

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Ty Webb (Chevy Chase) suggested the pond would be good for Carl Spackler (Bill Murray) in Caddyshack. He didn’t struggle with his judgment. It was obvious.

Today’s question is tougher and requires more consideration. Would Chevy Chase send Bill Murray to Rosa Mexicano or Dos Caminos?

I won’t keep you in suspense: I’d send Bill Murray and Chevy Chase to Rosa Mexicano for the food and to Dos Caminos for the people watching.

Rosa Mexicano has frozen pomegranate margaritas. They are pretty, pink and powerful. I’m legless after two. The guacamole is amazing and since they make it table side, I’ve been able to copy their recipe – Avocado, onion, jalapeno pepper, tomato, cilantro, sea salt – simple. This recipe fits into my purist, keep it simple, don’t like too much stuff in my stuff attitude about food. And I’m now the official guacamole maker for my friends. They say my guac is the best. Maybe it is or maybe they know the compliment will motivate me to make it – but either way, it’s Rosa’s recipe. I just add the love.

My first Rosa experience was at the original location on the East Side (NYC). They weave some serious magic into their food because my most favorite thing on the menu is Rollo de Pechuga de Pollo – made with huitlacoche – corn fungus. When I say I’m a food purist, I’m putting the best spin on the reality that I’m picky and easily grossed out. Corn fungus violates at least 20 of my hard and fast food rules and not only do I eat it but if licking the plate was socially acceptable, lick I would.

I even shared the Rosa experience with my mom. She had two frozen pomegranate margaritas (they’re too good to just have one) and she got tipsy and yes, it was my fault since she was drinking my Signature Drink.

Rosa Mexicano has three locations in New York City (all with different menus I think) and they are sprouting up across the country. They even have one in Chevy Chase, Maryland. (Get it, Chevy Chase.)

Dos Caminos is always packed and has a loyal following. I’ve betrayed a Rosa bias so I promise you that when I went to Dos Caminos this weekend, I took a panel of impartial judges (aka friends). The Dos Caminos guacamole is a little runny and unevenly seasoned. I think they use lime in their recipe and sometimes it overpowers the other flavors. I ordered a Prickly Pear Margarita (since it’s pink and frozen it seemed like a good contrast for the Rosa Pomegranate Marg). It was OK though it had a hint of something that made me nostalgic for the days when I thought Luden’s Cough Drops were candy.

The tacos were cold and the service was slow. But on a day when everyone in Manhattan was out soaking in the first warm spring rays, slow service wasn’t a surprise. The Dos Caminos in the Meatpacking district might have the best outdoor seating in town, complete with unparalleled people watching and a helpful hostess who smiled even when faced with an endless crush of people waiting for tables. Dos Caminos also has multiple locations. Check out their site here.

To be fair to Dos Caminos, my panel of impartial judges influenced food choices. They gave up fried foods for Lent so we couldn’t order the cobb salad (with fried chips for crunch) and we had to avert our eyes when waiters went by with outrageous looking french fries.

I didn’t set out to write about these two chains in one blog post and really, they deserve their own special space. But when go to one, I often compare and contrast to the other so I suppose this format was predestined. I’ll be back to both with my panel of impartial judges and will write about Rosa Mexicano and Dos Caminos again when the mood strikes.

But for today, my answer to the question of the pool or the pond is Rosa Mexicano. Mr. Chase and Mr. Murray, if you’re in NYC and in the mood for Mexican food, drop me a line.

Dos Caminos Prickly Pear Marg al fresco!

Rosa Mexicano Pomegranate Margarita - Pretty, Pink, Powerful

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the friendliest margarita in town

Ofrenda’s website (ofrendanyc.com) says that Ofrenda means an “offering” or “gift”.  I’ll just say Ofrenda means “awesome”.

Ofrenda is kind of the birth place of my blog. After a 10-year incubation period, when my subconscious was baking, creating and multiplying margagogo‘s cells but my conscious was all talk and no blog, I sat down at Ofrenda and banged out my first blog post. (Yes, they have wifi!)

Saying I “banged out” my first post makes my effort sound more robust and focused that it was. My work was circular, swirling around the edges of the project, flowing inward until the only possible result was a blog post.

And though my path wasn’t direct, it got me where I needed to be. I didn’t post any pictures and margagogo was (and still is) the startling green of a mix-abused margarita. But it was up. When I left Ofrenda, my first words were floating in the blog-o-sphere.

I also left with pants full of salsa, and not because I was taking it to go.

When I took my computer out and tried to slide a salsa weighted place mat to the side, I miss-judged the bar depth and led bowls of red, green and burgundy sauce off the bar edge and into my lap.

The Ofrenda staff, who may be the nicest people in Manhattan, jumped into action. I had a clean dish towel and a can of club soda in seconds. They moved our seats, cleaned the mess and delivered fresh salsa to our new spot. They did it all with smiles and jokes, waved off my embarrassed apologies and made us another round of margaritas.

And their margaritas are excellent! My friend was drinking the Smokey Jalapeno Margarita. I know she’s a fan because she had more than one. Mine was the Traditional, rocks, no salt. And it was awesome – Fresh lime, enough tequila to taste but not overpower, and a balance of flavors.

Ofrenda’s drink list is creative – cucumber, pepper, watermelon, hibiscus tea … they mix a little clever into their concoctions. And the guac is great too.

When we left, me with my jalapeno spiked pants and blooming blog, everyone from the bartender to the waiters to the hostess said “good bye” and thanked me for coming. I felt like one of the gang.

So yes, to me, Ofrenda means awesome.

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