Archive for May, 2012

Our Mad Men office (AKA office drinking) started with a birthday party for my then boss.

She said she liked margaritas so we made them for her. We didn’t ask anyone permission and the only sign of concern was that the head of HR didn’t attend the party. She saw me heading into the conference room holding two bottles of tequila so she spun on her heel and went in the other direction. Our first party wasn’t sophisticated but our staff got terribly drunk. I used margarita mix and the only way I know to overcome the lip puckering pow of mix is ignore the recipe on the bottle and double the amount of tequila.

We moved offices and made continuous improvements on our margarita party. We bought tortilla chips from the food section of the local drug store and discovered Chipolte will sell a whopping glop of guacamole for not too much money if you go after the lunch rush.  I brought in the blender my parents gave me for Christmas. The sticker on it says it has “super ice-crushing power”. We ordered in a taco bar, complimented margaritas with ice cream sundaes and assigned staff members decorating duties.  Word spread and people from other departments started showing up when they heard the blender whirl. Each party was bigger, better and more colorful than the last.

And our most impressive improvement? Chair races.

Our new office took up a whole floor, with an arterial hallway running in a loop around a center section filled elevators and bathrooms. It was the perfect race track and we had the perfect wheels in our new office chairs.  Teams were made up of twos; a chair rider and a runner to push.

It only took one race to pick up big learning.  The track wasn’t wide enough for more than two teams. Office chairs don’t corner like a Porsche so slowing down, especially in the first turn, was vital or  we risked taking out editorial’s copy machine or someone’s desk.  And “Safety First”. Posting crossing guards along the race track was a necessity to avoid mowing down an innocent coming out of a bathroom. And finally, it’s easy to damage wall paper (even when it’s the industrial, office strength type).

Does it make the story better or worse if I tell you there was betting? I won $5.

Winnings in one hand and margarita in the other.

I’m sure our management noticed the scuffs on the new walls but they never asked and the parties continued until one day, the President of the company showed up in my office.

The company’s turmoil reached an apex. Sold twice in a year, layoffs, furloughs and pay cuts were our reality and we slogged through our days. He peeled bills out of his wallet and asked us throw a July 4th margarita party for the bedraggled staff.

The entire department jumped into action. They hand-made decorations, shopped, found a second blender and turned our section of the office into a giant bar. And I made red, white and blue margaritas. White were plain, red colored with Grenadine and blue tainted with Blue Curacao. And for the record, Milagro tequila powered our margaritas.

The whole company showed up. And stayed. And stayed. There were no chair races that day – too many people on the track. But the margaritas, red, white, blue and glorious lifted sagging spirits. And that was even better.

Happy Memorial Day!


Coming Soon: Guacamole and a new look for Margagogo!

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The restaurant Danji is So Good Ruth Reichl wrote a poem about it (it’s on Danji’s site).

“Fever dreams of bulgogi sliders :
dazzling tangle of flavors on sweet little buns.
And crisp, soft tofu rolls: savory clouds.
Danji! So good.

– Ruth Reichl

About themselves, Danji’s site says, “Above all, Danji, from its decor to its music, represents our idea of a great place to enjoy amazing food.”

And it’s all true. When I started this post, I wasn’t planning to write a poem about Danji but I’m glad Mrs. Reichl did (and not just because quoting her makes this post practically write itself).  Danji is poem-worthy but the restaurant is on my mind because I’m hungry and Danji’s between my work and my home so when hunger pains ping and the day is closing I find it hard not to walk by and just see …. how long the line is.

Yes, customers line up.

And you should join them.

Along with amazing food from the Traditional or Modern Korean Menu offerings, they make a mean cocktail.  I ordered the Spicy Ginger Margarita (hold the spice). It’s balance and refreshing with a ginger bite.  If you sit at one of the narrow, family style tables you might even make some friends. The last time we went, we ended up best friends with the women next to us. They were visiting New York City on a Sister Weekend and had just been to a Salsa dance lesson and stumbled upon Danji. We shared our tofu with them, they shared their chicken with us (we got the better end of the deal but I’m not a fan of tofu).

So please check out the Danji website here.  And please check them out in person. After all, that’s the only way you’ll get the Bulgogi Sliders, Garlic Honey Wings, Danji Braised Short Ribs …..


Spicy Ginger Margarita (Hold the Spice) Danji


The only thing I don’t like about Danji – Artisanal Ice in the cocktail – But Artisanal Ice is a story for another day.


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Peruvian cuisine is special and wonderful and if not underrated in the United States, at least hard to find. When I was in Peru, I was grateful for the amazing flavors and new experiences. I saw and ate my first purple potato and loved how proud the people are about the variety of potatoes grown in Peru.  So the food – Peruvian Corn,  Purple Potatoes  and  flavorful meat and fish are part of my experience and part of the magic of Peru.

Anticuchos are a traditional and popular Peruvian specialty – basically, marinated meat on a stick.  In Peru, they’re easy to find in restaurants and street carts. In New York, to try Anticuchos and everything else, you should go to Nuela, 43 W 24th St, NYC.

Anticuchos made with beef heart are the most popular variety.  Americanized versions steer clear of organ meat and at Nuela, they’re with Beef Lomo (Tenderloin).  But if you have the chance to try them, I suggest you don’t ask too many questions and just take a bite.

The night I went to Nuela, foodies of the highest order made up the Independent Panel of Judges  – a tricky group to please, and a panel member declared the Beef Lomo Anticuchos the …”best steak” she’s ever had. Peruvian Corn and Potatoes made the side and it was so good we ordered it twice.  They also served us Pandebono, a Columbian cheese bread that was hot, light, melty and so good I might even try to make it.  Luckily, I found this recipe online at mycolumbianrecipes.com. (Ok, confession time – I won’t make it – I’ll just go to Nuela and order it.)

They serve Pisco cocktails and the margarita?  It was good.  A little sweet but fresh.  But the food is the show stealer here.

So check out Nuela and fall in love with Peruvian cuisine.  And, NYC, it’s great for groups!

Margarita at Nuela

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For many, Cinco de Mayo celebrations last as long as the meal and the hangover that follows. I like to spread out my fun so for me and a few margagogo National Correspondents, Cinco de Mayo was a four-day journey of food, drink and more Maine travel.

Tres de Mayo:  Always working, we fit in a margarita while waiting for a flight in the JetBlue terminal at JFK.

margagogo at work courtesy of @mscharlies

Revolucion lured us in with a chalk message on a sign board and the promise of quac. The dream of guacamole wasn’t realized and the margarita was a near miss since the bartender was MIA. As we weighed the pros and cons of self-serve, a harried guy ran into the scene, took our order (two margs, rocks, one with salt and one without) and in a brave attempt to deliver our request, grabbed a salt shaker to shake table salt on a glass. The salt specs  skidded off the sleek, dry surface to coat the counter. We give the bartender and “A” for effort, helpfulness and humor.  For execution, I need to work out a grading curve for airports.  This drink is a classic example of mix abuse – eye-popping sweet and the Milagro tequila he used couldn’t save it. But how high should expectations be in an airport bar?

We ended the day in Maine at home making dinner including Scarlet Margs and margarita ice cream. True, these margaritas aren’t traditional but they are happiness in a glass. And the margarita ice cream? I made it late in the afternoon so it wasn’t quite frozen, making it more like a margarita parfait and giving me a new recipe tip – allowing the full freezer time is optional.

Quatro de Mayo: The rain didn’t stop the ramp up in fact, it accelerated it. Guacamole, movies and more Scarlet Margs followed by dinner at The Dolphin Restaurant and Marina in Harpswell, Maine. I’ve met lots of people who’ve never been to Maine. If you’re one of those people, the lobster stew at The Dolphin is reason to get in your car now and start driving north. It’s cream and butter and lobster and amazing. I suggest you get a cup (not a bowl) because it’s rich and it comes with a blueberry muffin. If it will make you feel better about yourself, get a salad. But Whatever you do, don’t get the margarita. It was a startling show of mix abuse. I think a pint size serving of margarita is a sure sign of trouble.

Cinco de Mayo: El Camino, 15 Cushing Street,  Brunswick, Maine garnered raves from the Independent Panel of Judges.

El Camino, Brunswick, Maine

El Camino, Brunswick,Maine

Velvet Bronco + Year-Round Tinsel Tree

El Camino embraces the decorating I recommended in my last blog post, they make a mean margarita offering all kinds of tequila and margarita choices and the food is great. I think the group favorite was the special Fundido de Camarones. We aren’t sure how they made it but we’re really glad they did. The only problem with El Camino is the hours. It was open from 5PM – 9PM. But when it Maine, do as the Mainers do. You can eat, drink and be home before the sun sets.

Seis de Mayo: @Foodista tells us that May 6 was “National No Diet Day.” I was thrilled to hear this especially since May is also “National Hamburger Month” but I was fooded out from the Cinco de Mayo ramp up and celebration and I couldn’t take full advantage. So let’s eat to “National No Diet Day” happening more than once a year.

Ocho de Mayo: For any of you who are wondering, the margagogo West Coast Bureau Chief sent in a Cupcake Royale (Seattle), Margarita Cupcake picture and review. I think the umbrella alone sells this treat but the review is mixed.  My WCBC says, “I may stick to my cupcakes in chocolate form and my margaritas in drink form, but it certainly added a little extra something to my Tuesday afternoon.”

So there you have it – Cinco de Mayo wrapped up with an umbrella on top.

Coming soon:  Peruvian food in NYC.

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I spent a month in Mexico.

Floating Band Xochimilco, Mexico City

Quetzalcoatl, in Teotihuacan













I explored the country, colors, culture and flavor of Mexico and printed the experience in my memory – a beautiful slide show I have the luxury of flipping through and sharing.  Cinco de Mayo brings the pictures out, literally and figuratively and since much of my Cinco de Mayo celebration is internal, I don’t have a lot of planning to take care of. One of my favorite Mexico memories is sitting in Plaza Garibaldi listening to dozens of mariachi bands play and watching limos pulled up, strike deals and whisk bands away to  gigs. The night was full of music and costume and joy and I was gifted with an amazing pick up line. A man told me, “You are very attractive because you’re a little fat.” That line was later topped by the man who told me that he wanted to be with  me because my nose isn’t too big and the next man who said he loved me because I reminded him of his horse. We can dwell on that mixed message all day. But instead –  Cinco Cinco de Mayo Celebration Ideas for procrastinators!

1. Geek out on history:  Beside the commercial pull of the holiday ( Google alerts advised me more than once that I better buy Cinco de Mayo supplies before they run out) there’s history behind the celebration.  Cinco de Mayo isn’t Mexico’s Independence Day but a celebration of the Mexican victory over the French in The Battle of Puebla in 1862. The victory was short-lived as it gave Napoleon III a reason redouble his invasion efforts. But in a chaotic and uncertain time, it gave the people of Mexico something to feel good about and rally around. So along the theme of unity see #2.

2. Camp it Up: Grab your friends and family and decorate to the nines, Mexico style. When I was in San Miguel de Allende helping the family I lived with decorate for Easter, I went for perfection, biting my lip as I cut colored strips of paper to hang in the windows. My house mom looked at me with wide eyes and said “Nothing in Mexico is exact!” and then she cut the paper with crazy speed, making a multi-colored beautiful banner in minutes. So go for it. If you have kids, they’ll be all over it. If you don’t, you might enjoy decorating more if you add drinks. See #3.

3. Scarlet Margaritas:

I found this recipe on myrecipe.com and my independent panel of judges approve. The drinks are festive and a taste sensation. Win/Win. And a little home cooking (see Margarita Ice Cream and Margarita Cupcakes) can save you from dealing with #4.

4. Restaurant Roulette: Let’s face it, if you’re in a city whose populus embraces Cinco de Mayo, you must be creative and focused if you want restaurant Mexican food on the 5th.  In NYC, all my favorites are booked.  So the options – Try for a walk-in table. Go early, wear comfortable shoes and bring a snack because the bar seats might be full and there might be a wait. Try a lesser known, neighborhood joint. Or, be like me and try #5.

5. Flee:   Find a place that hasn’t gone loco for Cinco de Mayo. I’m heading to Maine and when I called the restaurant I want to try on Saturday night, they told me that they don’t take reservations, are open from 5PM – 9PM and on a Saturday night, the wait could be 40 minutes. I’m not sure if Cinco de Mayo crossed the mind of the person who took my call. And no, 9PM is not a typo – they really close that early. So I think post dinner, I’ll have my friends back to my place for #2 & #3.

Cinco de Mayo is knocking on your door!

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