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One of the hottest nightlife spots in Vancouver, M-bar hosts Latin Fusion Thursdays each week. There is no cover charge if you arrive before 11 pm.
Ocho Latin Cuisine Brings Cocktails, Authentic Bites, and Tunes to Oak Cliff
The Palomita at Ocho Latin Cuisine is served in a Cantarito clay pot. (Courtesy of Ocho)
The interior of Ocho Latin Cuisine boasts large paintings of leopards, peacocks, and hummingbirds. (Courtesy of Ocho)
The La Khalo cocktail at Ocho Latin Cuisine is a spicy and sweet mix of mezcal, lemon juice, passion fruit puree, and chile morita syrup. (Photo by Megan Ziots)
The ceviche crudo is a light and refreshing starter at Ocho Latin Cusine. (Courtesy of Ocho)
Amanda's Board comes with rib eye steak, pork loin, jalapeno sausage, Yuca fries, French fries, and green salad. (Courtesy of Ocho)
The chocolate cake was a favorite dessert on the Ocho Latin Cuisine menu. (Photo by Megan Ziots)
Ocho Latin Cuisine serves brunch on Saturdays and Sundays. (Courtesy of Ocho)
S everal weeks ago, a new Latin American restaurant in Oak Cliff quietly opened up in the Jefferson Tower building. After hearing from friends that Ocho Latin Cuisine was the new spot to go for cocktails and ceviche — and constantly seeing photos of the vibrant interior on my Instagram feed — I finally made a reservation for a Thursday evening.
Located in the very back of a multi-unit retail space (similar to Coco’s Fire and Ice’s set-up in Bishop Arts), Ocho includes ample interior and patio seating. The main dining area is situated right in front of the bar and live music set-up (acoustic tunes by Helio Portales), while a colorful side room is filled with large paintings of leopards, peacocks, and hummingbirds. The string lit outdoor space boasts a large pink, photo-worthy sign that reads “Hola OC.”
I started with the Palomita cocktail with mezcal, tequila, lime juice, El Continero grapefruit cordial, and Topo Chico, mainly for its presentation: a cute, Cantarito clay pot. The lighter cocktail was later overshadowed by my new favorite drink: La Khalo. A bright yellow concoction of mezcal, lemon juice, passion fruit pureé, and chile morita syrup, it was the perfect mix of fruity and spicy.
Amanda’s Board comes with rib eye steak, pork loin, jalapeno sausage, Yuca fries, French fries, and green salad. (Courtesy of Ocho)
Crafted by consulting chef Hugo Galvan (El Bolero, Casa Komali), the food menu at Ocho Latin Cuisine includes shareable appetizers like elotes asados, grilled cauliflower, salads, calamari, and more. We opted for the ceviche crudo with scallops, cucumber, tomato, and onion — a great, light app if you don’t want to get too full before your entree.
For mains, Ocho offers several dishes ranging from chimichurri steak to pan-seared chicken and grilled octopus. You can also find the more classic enchiladas and tacos with a twist — which is what we decided to share for the evening. The chicken enchiladas were served with Oaxaca cheese and a creamy chipotle salsa, while the carne asada tacos included skirt steak, roasted bell peppers, and green salsa. We added on a side of the Yuca fries, which ended up being a favorite. Also, if you’re in a small group or just want a taste of everything, the Amanda’s Board includes a variation of rib eye steak, pork loin, jalapeño sausage, Yuca fries, French fries, and green salad.
Ocho Latin Cuisine also offers three desserts including a coconut Tres Leches, mini churros, and chocolate cake. You can hardly ever go wrong with chocolate cake with berries. The restaurant is now open for dinner Thursday through Sunday and for brunch on Saturdays and Sundays. You can make a reservation through Instagram or by calling 214-482-1154.
“Junipero Gin is particularly great in a G&T, which is a perfect cocktail to make when you’re quarantined, by the way. It’s just two nonperishable ingredients—plus whatever fresh or creative garnishes you have at your disposal.” —Katie Stryjewski, cocktail blogger (@garnish_girl)
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Method : Combine gin and kiwi berries in a glass and muddle lightly. Fill glass with ice and top with tonic water. Sprinkle in peppercorns and stir gently. Garnish with kiwi berries and edible flowers.
The Every Day Gourmet, South Carolina
ORANGE BEET MINT JULEP
“I believe that cocktails should be easy to make and that they taste best when the ingredients are fresh. When combined with a simple syrup, a good bourbon, and fresh mint, it makes the perfect summer cocktail. It’s bold, but smooth: a good stiff cocktail that just might help to chase away the social distancing blues. You can have the juice delivered and then add mint to your grocery pick-up order. Make the simple syrup with granulated sugar and water. What can be easier than that? This cocktail is a fresh new twist on an old classic.” —Kim Daniels, professional food photographer and recipe developer, owner of The Every Day Gourmet in Camden, South Carolina
3 oz. Natalie’s orange-beet juice
1–2 oz. Jefferson’s Very Small Batch Bourbon
Mint or orange slices for garnishing
Method: Fill a 12 oz. glass (approximate) or mint julep cup with crushed ice. Add in orange-beet juice, bourbon, and mint simple syrup. Top with club soda. Stir to combine. Garnish with mint leaves or an orange slice—or both. Makes one drink.
*For the Mint Simple Syrup: In a small saucepan, combine 1 cup sugar, 1 cup water, and ½ cup mint. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly to dissolve sugar, and then remove from heat. Let the mixture steep for 15 minutes. Strain it into a bottle or jar. Refrigerate for up to 2 weeks.
TEQUILA OLD FASHIONED
“The old fashioned is a cocktail typically made by muddling sugar with Angostura bitters, then adding alcohol (originally whiskey), and a twist of citrus. But you can substitute whatever spirit or garnish you prefer (or have available) to customize this cocktail. I incorporated my favorite spirit, tequila, for a Mexican take on the old fashioned for summer. I had no idea that another spirit could be swapped for whiskey and still constitute an old fashioned—let alone tequila! I love fresh grapefruit with my tequila, so I immediately fell in love with this take. It’s also incredibly easy to make.” —John Philp Thompson, blogger at Risky Jackal (@johnphilp3)
2 dashes Angostura bitters
Method: Add ingredients to an ice-filled mixing glass. Stir well. Strain into an ice-filled rocks glass. Express the oils from the grapefruit rind over the drink, then use as garnish.
“Time to transport yourself out of quarantine with just one sip of this summer sunset cocktail. My travels to Mexico inspired this recipe. And I thought, especially during this time, there’s no better way to ‘escape’ than through sipping this gorgeous umbrella cocktail. I’ve been making simple but fun cocktails at home d uring this crazy time— and this one only has three ingredients. The base spirit is Seagram’s Extra Smooth Vodka—an American-made and affordable brand—combined with pink grapefruit juice and grenadine. Even though we are in quarantine, we can still celebrate summer with fun umbrella cocktails. Cheers!” —Natalie Migliarini, founder of Beautiful Booze
2 oz. of Seagram’s Extra Smooth
Grapefruit and umbrella garnish
Method: Add grenadine to a highball glass. In a separate shaker, add grapefruit juice and Seagram’s Extra Smooth with ice. Shake and strain over fresh ice into the highball glass with grenadine. Garnish with a grapefruit slice and umbrella.
“Haku is perfectly soft and supple with a delicate hint of sweetness thanks to the base ingredient (rice) and the bamboo charcoal filtration process. I love mixing simply with this vodka and Walk Softly is one of my favorite light and refreshing cocktails. A yuzu-imbued Japanese saké complements the rice-based vodka while introducing a bright and citrusy-note. The Champagne—if you don't have it, that’s ok, but may I venture to say that this cocktail is a great excuse to get a bottle for sipping and mixing! Please note that this cocktail is easily scaled up. Mix ingredients in that crystal cocktail pitcher sitting your shelf and treat yourself with this simple summer stunner.” —Julia Momose, partner and creative director at Kumiko, Chicago
0.75 part Dolin dry vermouth
0.5 part yuzushu (yuzu sake)
1.5 parts Haku Japanese vodka
Method: Combine in a shaker tin. Shake until chilled and aerated. Fine strain into a chilled coupe. Finish with a splash of Champagne and a lemon twist.
SMOKE & MIRRORS
“Quarantine means essentially, to be isolated. When the word isolation comes up, there are only two things that come to my mind: Isolating to players on a basketball court so they can go at it one-on-one or being on a private island drinking piña coladas by the shore. Obviously, everyone wants the latter, so I decided to do a riff on a piña colada with a personal twist. As a kid raised by my Dominican grandmother while mom was working, my grandmother would make me and my sister a creamsicle-like slushy on those unbearable summer days in New Jersey. Having limited ingredients at home but wanting to feel like I’m elsewhere, I came up with the idea of Smoke & Mirrors by using canned coconut milk, sugar, fresh orange and lemon juice to mimic that creamsicle flavor. The notes of honey, vanilla, and nutmeg in Johnnie Walker Red Label pair perfectly with these ingredients to give you a bold tasting creamsicle or a smoked piña colada. Up to you how you’d like to enjoy as long as you do so responsibly. Cheers!” —Richard Mejia, head bartender at Broken Shaker, Miami Beach, Florida
1.5 oz Johnnie Walker Red Label
Method : In a shaker, shake all ingredients with ice. Strain into a cocktail glass over ice. Garnish with an orange slice
EASY COME, EASY GO
“This is the perfect cocktail to make while being stuck at home during this quarantine. It utilizes several simple ingredients everyone should already have in their home. Frozen fruit, cucumber, sugar, and citrus. Starward Australian Whisky is easy to find, along with St-Germain. Both are readily available in most liquor stores throughout the country. The drink reminds me of my childhood, growing up in the South—sitting on my front porch watching the rainfall on a hot summer evening. We grew up picking fresh blueberries and strawberries every summer. My mother would make fresh blueberry-iced tea—and I'm pretty sure she spiked hers with whiskey! Sipping on this cocktail took me right back to those summers in the South, running barefoot in the rain with my brother and sister while my parents got wasted on the front porch. And it certainly took my mind off being stuck inside on my couch with Netflix yet again. The word that came to mind was ‘easy.’ Thus the name.” —William Talbott, beverage manager at The Standard, High Line, New York City
1.5 oz. Starward Two-Fold Whisky
Method: Muddle the cucumber wheel in a shaker. Add the remaining ingredients with ice. Shake and fine-strain into a rocks glass over cubed ice. Garnish with a cucumber ribbon.
*For the Blueberry Syrup: Toast 1 cinnamon stick on a pan until aromatized. Add to pot filled with 1 cup frozen blueberries, 2 or 3 frozen whole strawberries, 1 cup white sugar, and 2 cups water. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally. Reduce heat and let simmer for ten minutes. Allow syrup to cool for several hours, then fine-strain through a chinois or cheese cloth. Keep refrigerated for up to one week.
“Do you ever buy a container pre-cut assorted fruit variety for the summer? I always eat my favorites and am left with the underrated Cantaloupe and honeydew melons. This is the perfect melon-forward summer cocktail to utilize the forgotten refrigerator fruits!” —Kait Whitenack, cultural ambassador at Bulleit
0.5 oz. simple syrup (agave, honey, or any sweetener on hand will do!)
Lavender sprig (from garden, for garnish!)
Method: Place all ingredients into a tin shaker with ice (feel free to substitute with any fruit you have lying around)! Shake it like a Polaroid picture until the ice is nice and smashed. Double strain the cocktail into a rocks glass. I added crushed ice for the supreme summertime feel. Garnish with lavender or your garden favorite and enjoy!
“I first made this drink for Earth Day, because of Novo Fogo cachaca’s commitment to sustainability but also because the drink and color itself screams summer. It’s made with ingredients that you can find at the local liquor store, but also what’s interesting about it is the contrasting flavors of the bitter Aperol with the sweetness of Cherry Heering play really well together with the complementary flavors of cachaça and lime juice. The drink in general takes me back to my childhood in Colorado, where I grew up playing and fighting with my siblings on a regular basis—much like the ingredients. We’d be fighting one minute over something and the next we’ll be hugging and laughing like nothing ever happened.” —Lucinda Sterling, managing partner at Middle Branch and Seaborne, New York City
1 oz. Novo Fogo Silver Cachaça
0.75 oz. Cherry Heering liqueur
Method: Combine all ingredients into a shaker with ice. Shake vigorously until very cold and strain into a cocktail coupe. Garnish with a lime wedge or wheel and enjoy.
ROSÉ DAYS ARE COMING
“This cocktail is the perfect sipper for summer quarantining at home whether you’re with a roomie, a loved one, or alone! Personally, I love the flavor of strawberry but I can’t eat the actual fruit—it’s a long story that involves emergency dental surgery. Now I can only enjoy the flavor in drinks. And strawberries are abundant and delicious during these months. It’s the perfect ingredient and readily available, even during quarantine, at the grocery store. All of these ingredients scream summertime to me. My usual drink is El Tesoro blanco or reposado neat with a little ‘rosé-back,’ as I like to call it. So this is also a comfort drink for me. It’s important to have things that bring a small measure of comfort and joy during these tough times and this cocktail is definitely that for me!” —Cari Hah, bar manager at Big Bar, Los Angeles
2 parts El Tesoro Reposado
1–2 fresh strawberries washed hulled and cut into halves
Garnish: a cocktail coupe rimmed with sugar-and-salt rim
Method: Prep the glass by running a lime wedge around the top of the cocktail coupe, then dip the coupe into a mixture of sea salt and sugar (about half and half) to rim the top of the glass. Set aside. Muddle the strawberries in the bottom of a shaker add all the liquid ingredients to shaker. Fill the shaker with ice and shake until chilled. Double strain into the rimmed cocktail coupe and Enjoy!
*For the Rosé Syrup: Mix 2 parts of your favorite rosé with 2 parts of granulated sugar. Mix until dissolved.
THE NORTHCOTT MARGARITA
“I love the Ferrand Dry Curaçao for the silky texture and the real citrus flavor without the cloying sweetness of other curaçaos. To me it tastes like the smell of peeling fresh oranges and to that point, what separates a good margarita from a bad margarita is how fresh it tastes. To me I find that if I'm going to drink a margarita it's because I'm looking for something refreshing and citric and the Ferrand Curaçao helps in achieving both.” —PJ Wagner, liquor chef at The Northcott Liquorette, Naperville, Illinois
0.5 oz. Ferrand Dry Curaçao
0.75 oz. agave or flavored syrup (mango and vanilla cucumber and cilantro)
Method: Shake all ingredients. Fine strain and serve up or over ice. Garnish with lime peel.
“Sometimes the simplest recipe can be the most satisfying. That’s the case with the Sagamore Seltzer, a perfect warm-weather cocktail that only calls for three ingredients you probably already have at home. This is an especially good choice for hard seltzer fans looking for something a little stronger this summer—or for anyone looking to keep the calorie count low.” —Rachel Fontana, employee No. 2 and cocktail expert at Sagamore Spirit, Baltimore member at Women Who Whiskey
2 oz. Sagamore Spirit rye whiskey
Squeeze of fresh orange juice
0.5 oz. simple syrup (optional)
Method: Mix 2 ounces of Sagamore Spirit Signature Rye Whiskey with your favorite seltzer. Pour over a Collins glass filled with ice. Add a citrus garnish of your choosing.
“Cucumber, sea salt, and a bitter aperitivo like Aperol are unexpected but simply perfect companions in flavor. I wanted to created a memorable twist on a spritz as I so often aim to do. This one is bubbly, bitter, and a touch savory. While pregnant, I enjoyed cucumbers and salt as a snack—I added the Aperol as soon as I could imbibe again!” —Amanda Victoria, founder of Aperitif Hour
3 parts Fever-Tree Refreshingly Light Cucumber
Method: Add Aperol to a highball glass, add ice, and top with Fever-Tree Refreshingly Light Cucumber. Garnish with thin cucumber slices and a crack of sea salt.
“This punch recipe is mildly sweet and nicely boozy—combining refreshing, light, and fruity flavors all while bringing the ambiance of summer right to your glass. Not only is it easy to make, but this recipe calls for readily accessible ingredients you may already have in your pantry! Argonaut’s bright and fruit-forward notes make it a personal favorite to add to any seasonal cocktail: It celebrates both warm weather and the approaching summer season.” —Scott Richardson, Argonaut national brand ambassador
24 oz. Argonaut brandy of choice
Method: Add ingredients into a punch bowl with large ice cubes and stir together to combine. Garnish each cocktail with a fresh pineapple, a brandied cherry or fine Amarena cherry, and a lime wheel.
50:50 BATCHED FREEZER MARTINI
“ There’s nothing more civilized than an ice-cold martini. And when you’ve been in the same hoodie for a month, you could most certainly use some civility. We also need things to be accessible and convenient—and this recipe could not be any easier to prepare. The Dukes' martini is the quintessential undiluted freezer martini. But I prefer this more balanced version of a 50:50 martini. It allows the navy strength gin to equally share the workload with a nice vermouth. If you don’t have these two ingredients at home, check with your favorite local cocktail bar and see if they are offering spirits for sale via delivery or pickup. ” —Houston Eaves, beverage director at The Esquire Tavern, San Antonio, Texas
750 ml. bottle of navy strength gin (like Hayman’s Royal Dock)
1 bottle of dry vermouth (recommended: Dolin Dry)
Castelvetrano olives (optional)
Method: Wash hands for 20 seconds! Empty half of one bottle into a clean measuring cup, pour half of the other bottle into that bottle to fill it, and then what's in the measuring cup back in the other bottle to fill that one. Put both full bottles in the freezer. Wait a couple hours, then pour yourself a martini. Express the oil of a lemon peel over the drink for enhanced aromatics. ( Optional: enjoy some castelvetrano olives on the side—or add some olive juice to your mix to taste.)
THE ELDERFLOWER SOUR
“The elderflower sour is the perfect refreshing cocktail for summer sipping. It’s also low-ABV. The sourness of the lime and orange bitters is complemented by the fruit-forward, citrus, and floral flavors of St-Germain elderflower liqueur for a balanced and fresh taste. And, with only four ingredients, this incredibly delicious cocktail is also super easy to make!” —Earlecia Gibb, brand ambassador at St-Germain
2 oz. St-Germain Elderflower Liqueur
1 oz. freshly squeezed lime juice
0.25 oz. pasteurized egg white
1 dash orange bitters (optional)
Method: Shake all ingredients with ice and strain into another shaker. Shake again without ice and strain into ice-filled glass.
“This cocktail is tropical, refreshing, and balanced. Apathy can typically be viewed as negative—but because all these ingredients shine so brightly on their own, they do a great job pairing together without even knowing it.” —Tony Juarez, mixologist at Masters Kitchen and Cocktail, San Diego, California
2 oz. Denizen Aged White 3 Year Rum
3 salted watermelon chunks
Method: Mix all ingredients in a shaker. Pour into a tiki mug and top with crushed ice. Garnish with a lemon wheel or a pineapple frond.
Tony’s Pizza Napoletana, San Francisco
“The Rosa reminds me of an elevated Paloma—using blanco tequila, Campari, Italicus Rosolio di Bergamotto liqueur, and fresh grapefruit juice. It’s a cocktail that’s easy to make at home, but sure to impress. Also: The grapefruit juice really gives it that summer feel.” —Elmer Mejicanos, bar manager at Tony’s Pizza Napoletana, San Francisco
0.5 oz. Italicus Rosolio di Bergamotto
2 oz. fresh grapefruit juice
Method: Add all ingredients into a shaker. Add ice. Shake really hard for about 9 seconds. Strain into a Collins glass and top with ice. Garnish with a grapefruit slice and enjoy!
“The Manhattan is one of those classic cocktails of which its versatility makes it so seductive. Spirit forward, but sweet and balanced, this 3-part cocktail can be done with any number of substitutions for both the spirit and the cordial. Equal parts delicious, whether based with Mezcal, Rye, Tequila or Bourbon, you can also mess around with amaro and in place of the sweet vermouth (depending on the spirit you choose). While many of us crave to ignite our senses these days as we are stuck at home, few things will be as satisfying as finding your 'sweet spot' with The Manhattan.” —Sean Parson, bar director at La Esquina, New York City
2 oz. Doña Vega Espadín Mezcal
1 oz. sweet vermouth (we like Dolin)
3 dashes Angostura bitters
Method: Mix all ingredients in a shaker and add ice. Stir for 15 rotations and strain into desired glass. Can be served “up” or on the rocks. Garnish with a charred orange peel, maraschino cherry, or a brandy cherry.
“When I was writing my book, I did so in stints 6 to 9 hours at a time. My favorite thing was a cocktail to reward myself when done. This one is meant to be crushable and vibrant and refreshing and rewarding. Celebratory and tart!” —Ivy Mix, author of Spirits of Latin America, cofounder at Leyenda, New York City
1.5 parts El Tesoro Blanco
0.75 part grapefruit juice
1 part Topo Chico Twist of Grapefruit
Method: Muddle lime juice, salt and superfine sugar in a ball jar. Add ice and other ingredients except for Topo Chico shake and strain into a glass. Top with Topo Chico Grapefruit and enjoy.
“Nothing tempers the heat of summer quite like a spritz and citrus. Cool, light, and refreshing, the citrus spritz provides a bubbly thirst-quenching reminder that summer is still a season to relax and enjoy time with friends (even through Zoom or the phone). I find it perfect for summer quarantine life, since it reminds me of life before COVID-19. Its ingredients are easy to find and it calls for time and patience to create—a welcome project for cocktail enthusiasts in need of a DIY project.” —Miki Nikolic, bar director at The Double Dealer, New Orleans, Louisiana
2.5 oz. homemade limoncello*
Method: In a wine glass filled with ice, combine ingredients and stir until cold, garnish with lemon twist.
*For the Homemade Limoncello: Combine peel of fifteen lemons with two 750 ml. bottles of 100 proof vodka. (Cut off white pith from lemons, cut them in small chunks, and add to vodka.) Let it sit for four weeks. After four weeks, add four cups to four cups of boiling water. Let it cool off and add it to mixture. Stir and let it sit for another four weeks. After four weeks, strain and enjoy.
POR LA PLAYA
“As summer comes rolling in, I can't help but think of the late-night cookouts, days by the beach, and sunny days in Mexico that I’m missing while in quarantine. So, I created the drink Por la Playa (which translates to: For/By the Beach) to give you a summertime taste no matter where you are. This drink was inspired from a love of grapefruit soda as a child—something commonly found in Mexican culture when thinking of cooling down on a hot day. I chose to use El Tesoro Reposado, which has spice and mint notes from its aging in bourbon barrels, to brighten up the syrups, while the vanilla notes of the tequila complement the pineapple.” —Jose Gonzalez, bar lead at Midnight Rambler and cofounder of Los Tlacuaches Collective, Dallas, Texas
0.25 parts pineapple syrup*
1 Fresh pineapple (or pineapple juice) and granulated sugar
0.25 parts grapefruit fruit oleo* (2 grapefruits + 100g granulated sugar)
2 parts El Tesoro Reposado
1 part Club Soda (approximately—used to top with)
Method: Add El Tesoro Reposado, pinch of salt, pineapple syrup, and grapefruit oleo to shaker. Top with ice and shake. Strain into a glass with ice. Top with club soda. Garnish with pineapples leaves and grapefruit twist.
*For the Pineapple Syrup: While using pineapple juice and mixing in equal parts sugar is easiest, a fresh pineapple could be used for 2 or 3 purposes! Method 1: First, juice the pineapple and weigh out juice. Mix equal parts juice with granulated sugar. Strain and bottle keep the pineapple crown for garnish. Method 2: Juice pineapple and set aside. Keep the rinds and put in small pot add enough water cover an inch above the pineapple. Boil for 5-8 minutes, then let simmer for 45 minutes, macerating occasionally. Strain and weigh out juice. Mix equal parts with sugar and bottle. Keep the crown for garnish.
*For the Grapefruit Oleo: Peel 2 grapefruits (About 50 grams) and add 100 grams sugar to Ziplock bag. Remove air and let set overnight. Add 60 grams of hot water and massage bag. Strain and bottle.
In Search of Local Identity, Latin Bartenders Tap the Amazon
It doesn’t get more local than this. A chef or bartender steps from his/her restaurant or bar into the nearby Amazon rainforest in search of culinary inspiration via wild native ingredients. Perhaps influenced by pioneering forager and chef René Redzepi of Noma in Copenhagen, in the last couple of years Latin America’s culinary elite have turned to their own backyard—a forest with more biodiversity than anywhere else in the world—to uncover rare, exotic, indigenous edibles to incorporate into food and, just recently, drink.
When Lima, Peru chef Virgilio Martinez of Central—number four on the World's 50 Best Restaurants list—launched a foraging program for his modern Peruvian restaurant two years ago, he was surprised with the amount of autochthonous products he found.
"The use of products of the territory in Central has been evolving, so our cocktail bar also assumed a special role," explains mananger Peter Law Yong, who also serves as coordinator of Central’s foraging expeditions. "Of course the challenge is huge, but we intended to include the fruits, herbs, and roots that we discovered, and use them in preparing our cocktails," he adds.
A map of the Amazon rainforest. [Map via Click Amazonia]
"Our goal with the expeditions is to try to find all possibilities that these special ingredients could have, whether in the kitchen or in the bar."
Martinez's expedition program, called Mater Iniciativa, is the first in the country, and built of 14 professionals—inclusive of chefs, an anthropologist, and a forest engineer—who seek to uncover new forest ingredients and educate cooks, but also the general public, about the products' culinary applications. During excursions, the group maps out different Peruvian regions in search of unsung ingredients like cacao blanco (white cocoa) and huampo tree bark. The Amazon rainforest is one of the world’s richest, most biodiverse regions, spanning nearly 3.5 million miles, touching nine countries. According to the National Center of Research and Conservation from Amazon Biodiversity, more than 30,000 plant species inhabit the expanse.
Since founding Mater Iniciativa , the explorers have discovered countless new ingredients that end up behind Central's bar. During a recent trip, the foragers found hoja de coca (coca leaves), bijao (a bitter leaf used to wrap regionals foods like tamales, and one that also flavors cocktail bitters) and seeds such as annatto. They also brought back native Sanango and Tamamuria wood to infuse into locally distilled pisco, gin, and tequila. "Mater Iniciativa has been a great way for us to deepen the knowledge of our territory," says Young.
Central's uña de gato cocktail. [Photo courtesy of Central]
Right now on Central’s cocktail menu, one will find drinks (unnamed, though listed by ingredients) flavored with rum, pineapple, araçá (a tropical fruit similar to guava) and smoked uña de gato (cat's claw) bark—a wood prized for both its medicinal properties and smoky flavor. A separate libation combines pulpa de tumbo (Amazon banana passionfruit pulp), basil leaves, and pisco. "Our goal with the expeditions is to try to find all possibilities that these special ingredients could have, whether in the kitchen or in the bar," says Martinez.
Other local chefs and bartenders are using the forest as their grocery store, too. Since Brazil is home to 45 percent of the forest — more than any other country in the world — it’s the perfect turf for culinary heroes looking to add a unique, local twist to their menus.
In Belém, the capital of Pará, a whole state in northern Brazil located within the Amazon, the Castanho brothers of Remanso do Bosque — number 34 on Latin America's 50 Best Restaurants list — wanted to create an authentic identity for their cocktails, so they hit the forest for inspiration.
El Cielo's camu camu cocktail. [Photo courtesy of El Cielo]
With help from one of Brazil's top bartenders, Alex Mesquita of Rio de Janeiro’s Paris Bar, the group is testing the Amazon's bounty and applying practices like fermentation to create bespoke beverages. Together they designed a signature cocktail with a blend of cachaça and bourbon, dehydrated jambu flowers (an exotic native fruit that creates a pleasant tingling sensation on the tongue), and imbiriba, a native bitter wood. "We have always used these ingredients in our dishes, but we thought that it would be interesting to use them in our cocktails as well, creating a local identity and also a pairing for our meals," explains Felipe Castanho. Remanso do Bosque's new cocktail menu, which launches next month, specifically focuses on indigenous fruits and woods.
On the other side of the expansive Amazonian forest, chef Juan Manuel Barrientos of restaurant El Cielo — number 30 on Latin America's 50 Best Restaurants list — takes advantage of the Amazon’s Colombian side to harvest native products. One of the cocktails he and his mixology team developed involves foraged camu camu, a tiny acidic purple-yellow superfruit, along with sugarcane aguardente, lime, and a touch of liquid nitrogen. Meanwhile, Barrientos' version of a margarita incorporates aji ojo de pescado, a native Colombian forest chile.
Native Amazonian ingredients are also widely used at D.O.M., in São Paulo — number 9 on the World's 50 Best Restaurants list. Chef Alex Atala is responsible for many signature dishes using forest finds, like Amazonian ants served on a pineapple cube with pirarucu fish and tucuti (fermented cassava juice). So, naturally, his cocktail program follows suit.
D.O.M.'s priprioca martini. [Photo courtesy of D.O.M.]
D.O.M.’s current bar menu sports a martini made with lime and passionfruit juice, balm-aged cachaça, with priprioca (woody-flavored Amazonian root) essence sprayed on the glass for an aromatic punch. Another cocktail calls for unaged cachaça, plus Cointreau, mandarine sorbet, and jambu leaves.
Jean Ponce, D.O.M.'s former lead bartender, says that he became familiar with the Amazon’s native ingredients during his time at the restaurant: "Alex is obsessive about our 'misundestood' ingredients. I learned with him to look beyond their appearance and the first flavor. That’s how we manage to go further in our work." Now, Ponce is visiting and researching various Brazilian regions, mainly in the Amazon, in search of cocktail inspiration for his new unnamed bar opening this April, in São Paulo's Pinheiros neighborhood.
Ponce, who has spent ample time in the forest, says he is crazy about murupi, a hot pepper with an intense aroma, taperebá, a dark yellow fruit with a balanced sweet acidity, and is open to the possibilities of guaraná, one of the most known Amazon fruits. As Ponce sees it, "Here in Brazil, we are always complaining that we don’t have much access to all spirits and ingredients from abroad. So, I think we should take a look at the products that we have and other places don’t. We are just tapping into the forest resources."
2) Add passion fruit and lemon juice and boil for a further 3 minutes. It will boil rapidly and looks like it expanded.
Restaurant review: Ecuador Juice Bar and Latin Cuisine
1 of 14 Buy Photo Mofongo de Camarones (shrimp) at the Ecuador Juice Bar & Latin Cuisine restaurant on Columbia Turnpike Tuesday Feb. 14, 2017 in East Greenbush, NY. (John Carl D'Annibale / Times Union) John Carl D'Annibale Show More Show Less
2 of 14 Buy Photo Green Mountain, left, and The Tune Up, fresh juice drinks at the Ecuador Juice Bar & Latin Cuisine restaurant on Columbia Turnpike Tuesday Feb. 14, 2017 in East Greenbush, NY. (John Carl D'Annibale / Times Union) John Carl D'Annibale Show More Show Less
4 of 14 Buy Photo Green Mountain, left, and The Tune Up, fresh juice drinks at the Ecuador Juice Bar & Latin Cuisine restaurant on Columbia Turnpike Tuesday Feb. 14, 2017 in East Greenbush, NY. (John Carl D'Annibale / Times Union) John Carl D'Annibale Show More Show Less
5 of 14 Buy Photo Buffet at the Ecuador Juice Bar & Latin Cuisine restaurant on Columbia Turnpike Tuesday Feb. 14, 2017 in East Greenbush, NY. (John Carl D'Annibale / Times Union) John Carl D'Annibale Show More Show Less
7 of 14 Buy Photo Buffet at the Ecuador Juice Bar & Latin Cuisine restaurant on Columbia Turnpike Tuesday Feb. 14, 2017 in East Greenbush, NY. (John Carl D'Annibale / Times Union) John Carl D'Annibale Show More Show Less
8 of 14 Buy Photo Interior of the Ecuador Juice Bar & Latin Cuisine restaurant on Columbia Turnpike Tuesday Feb. 14, 2017 in East Greenbush, NY. (John Carl D'Annibale / Times Union) John Carl D'Annibale Show More Show Less
10 of 14 Buy Photo Mofongo de Camarones (shrimp) at the Ecuador Juice Bar & Latin Cuisine restaurant on Columbia Turnpike Tuesday Feb. 14, 2017 in East Greenbush, NY. (John Carl D'Annibale / Times Union) John Carl D'Annibale Show More Show Less
11 of 14 Buy Photo Ecuador Juice Bar & Latin Cuisine restaurant on Columbia Turnpike Tuesday Feb. 14, 2017 in East Greenbush, NY. (John Carl D'Annibale / Times Union) John Carl D'Annibale Show More Show Less
13 of 14 Buy Photo Sign at the Ecuador Juice Bar & Latin Cuisine restaurant on Columbia Turnpike Tuesday Feb. 14, 2017 in East Greenbush, NY. (John Carl D'Annibale / Times Union) John Carl D'Annibale Show More Show Less
Before you head to Ecuador Juice Bar and Latin Cuisine &mdash as you must as soon as you finish reading this &mdash you should consult a map of the world. For though Ecuador is in its name, the menu is a beautiful jumble of linked cuisines, the type of thing that gets food historians all excited.
There's mofongo ($8 to $13) &mdash green plantains roughly mashed with shredded pork, chicken, beef, cheese or shrimp &mdash claimed by Puerto Rico and Cuba options for Ecuadorian fish and salty Chinese-style stir-fried rice in arroz con camarones (shrimp) or chaulafan, a meatier weekend version, both of which nod to the "chifas" or Chinese restaurants common to Ecuador and Peru.
In the kitchen at 7 a.m. starting the four- to five-hour slow-roasted pork are Monica Garcia and her mother from Cuenca, Ecuador. Monica's husband, Wilson, hails from the Dominican Republic. No surprise then to find Dominican Los Tres Golpes ($7.50), a "three hits" breakfast of salami, fried cheese, eggs and mashed plantains alongside the Ecuadorian juices popular at home and all over New York City. Toss in family Colombian and Cuban recipes and it's melting-pot Latin cuisine.
The Garcia family moved to Rensselaer from the Bronx only a year ago for an expansion of Wilson Garcia's downstate real estate business. Finding Rensselaer and East Greenbush with few options beyond pizza and Chinese, they opened the restaurant on Columbia Turnpike just a few months later.
The stubby strip mall location is tough. I've seen signs for a short-lived café and a bakery come and go. Ironically, it was its last iteration, as Columbia Café, that caught the Garcias' attention, believing it a Colombian restaurant. Flanked on both sides by vacant storefronts and two doors from a Jazzercize studio and tattoo parlor, this is no standout destination. But the easy commute over the Dunn Memorial Bridge makes it a quick jaunt from downtown Albany, and the restaurant's delivery partnership with Grubhub is so successful they cover rent in online orders alone.
The fresh fruits and vegetables of the smoothie counter give way to glistening trays of stewed chicken and beef, silky red beans, yellow and white rice, and thick slabs of roast pork with shiny, crackling caps. All are quickly assembled for solo diners ordering hearty $6.99 lunch specials, many in native Spanish. Everything else, including juices, can take a little time, so call ahead to pre-order if you need to grab-and-go service.
Hand-crimped empanadas are airily crisp, pechuga de pollo (breaded chicken) and tilapia frita impeccably moist in the lightest seasoned brown breadcrumb. Sizing up my picky son, Monica produces pechuga in strips with a scrum of fries, and he scarfs it down.
Some days you can pull unctuous mahogany medallions from slow-braised oxtail with a pile of buttery rice ($10) any day is good for mini bandeja tipica ($12), a mountain of yellow rice topped with thin steak, fried egg, saucy beans, caramelized sweet plantain, ripe avocado and a hulking arch of chicharron (fried pork belly). And that's the mini. Everything is accompanied by aji, shortened from ajillo, a finely diced Ecuadorian salsa picante but substituting habanero for traditional rocoto pepper. It's so popular with regulars there are plans to bottle it for sale. And a nameless blend of garlic, salt and oil adds elemental punch drizzled over mofongo.
Perhaps the greatest tease is the weekend-only Ecuadorian menu. Since they aren't actually open Sundays, Saturday is your one chance. The smart ones call ahead to reserve encebollado, Ecuador's national dish &mdash a humming broth of tuna, cilantro, red onions and starchy cassava chunks (the yuca root used to make tapioca, not yucca, the ornamental plant). They sell out every Saturday. It took me three tries to secure a bowl.
Plunder caldo de bolas, digging through the bouncy carapace of a mashed plantain boule to the rich brown and pink shredded beef at its core. Submerged in an umami-packed beef broth speckled with peas, carrots, parsley and icebergs of stewed beef, it's a fusion of caldo de bolas and caldo de carne. You can get either one at Mr. Pio Pio in Albany for $9.95 but here, combined and generously portioned, it's a $12 steal.
On Saturdays, collagen-loosened pork flesh &mdash shredding irresistibly as it's plucked with tongs &mdash becomes traditional hornado paired with mote corn kernels and llapingacho, gold coins of smashed plantain and cheese. And instead of the citrus-cured ceviche de camaron ($12) you might expect, plump shrimp marinate in a silken, cool tomato, onion, and cilantro soup. Bolster it, if you wish, with seasoned rice.
The interior is take-out utilitarian, brightened by photos of the Andes, hand-painted plates and a gorgeous shot of Monica's 98-year old grandfather and his cat looking out at a mountain range.
Signs extol the health benefits of fresh smoothies and juice. Most are the familiar combinations of greens, lemon, carrots and ginger, but the Ecuadorian background is almost folkloric with family knowledge generationally handed down to remedy ails and maximize health. All are fresh-made to order, available in three sizes ($5.50, $6.50, $7.50), with a choice of water or milk for smoothies. A Latin Sentation thickened with oatmeal and Carnation condensed milk bears close similarity to Ecuadorian colada, but flavored with banana and vanilla instead of naranjilla fruit.
I've been a half dozen times to grab a juice and food to go or taking kids to eat in, and the smiling family welcome never wanes, sometimes pumped with a vigorous reggaeton-borracha soundtrack. You might need a little patience with the service speed of a made-to-order menu and the whimsical availability of dishes impacted by sudden customer demand. If they sold out of oxtail yesterday, it might not be back on the menu for a day or two. And if the Dominican flan has gone, a fresh batch will be off limits until it's had time to set.
Nothing here is fancy. It's just good family food. So consider this a push to go. Whether that means crossing the river for a post-gym juice or trying mofongo for lunch, this little ray of Latin sunshine needs to grow, not go.
Ecuador Juice Bar and Latin Cuisine
Cuisine: Healthy juices and authentic family Latin food. Try the mofongo and Saturday Ecuadorian classics.
Ambiance: Clean, utilitarian café with booths and Latin TV. Grubhub delivery with $20 mininum.
Hours: 9 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. Monday to Thursday, 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Friday and Saturday, closed Sunday. Breakfast items: 8:30 to 11:30 a.m.
Credit cards: All major.
Parking: Narrow strip mall parking.
Handicapped accessible: Yes.
Price ratings for inexpensive eateries based on average of entrée costs:
A typical dinner for four &mdash averaging four dishes, a couple of empanadas and three small juices &mdash averages $65 with tax, plus an optional $10 counter tip.
10 Quick and Easy Fitness Foods
Food is fuel, and what you reach for before and after exercise can make or break your workout success. Power up and maximize performance with these 10 fitness foods.
Healthy fats and protein provide sustained energy and protein to boost muscle performance. Add PB to a post-workout smoothie, or make a batch of energy bars to tuck in your gym bag.
Photo by: Stephen Johnson ©2014, Television Food Network, G.P. All rights Reserved
Stephen Johnson, 2014, Television Food Network, G.P. All rights Reserved
Not only does oatmeal make a delicious breakfast, but the soluble fiber promotes heart health and controls dips in blood sugar. A small bowl with fresh fruit makes a terrific pre-workout meal.
Stock Photo of Greek Yogurt on White
Photo by: Matt Armendariz ©Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved
Matt Armendariz, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved
The strained Greek-style yogurt contains more protein and less lactose than unstrained yogurt, making it a tasty choice for exercise enthusiasts. Top with granola for a healthy snack or as part of a meal.
Bobby Flay's Coconut Water Smoothie with Mango, Banana, and Strawberries
Photo by: Matt Armendariz ©Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved
Matt Armendariz, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved
Potassium-rich banana are the ideal fruit to help tired and worn-out muscles. Freeze ahead for extra-creamy smoothies.
Chocolate milk is the delicious drink on white background
There’s continually mounting evidence to support the idea that the balance of carbs and protein found in chocolate milk is ideal for post-workout recovery. For folks who cannot digest dairy, chocolate soy milk would be the best comparable dairy-free option.
Baked Eggs in Hash Brown Cups, as seen on Food Network's The Pioneer Woman.
©2013,Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved
2013,Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved
Eggs provide protein, Omega-3 fats, vitamin B12 and even some vitamin D! Eat both the yolks and the whites to reap all the healthy benefits. Egg sandwiches make a wonderful grab-and-go post-exercise breakfast, and eggs can be combined with potatoes for a healthy and satisfying weekend meal.
Photo by: Matt Armendariz ©2013, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved
Matt Armendariz, 2013, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved
One ounce of nuts provides 150 to 200 calories of good-for-you fuel — choose the highest-protein options, like pistachios and almonds, for after exercise.
FN Kitchens Juicy Grilled Cheeseburgers
FN Kitchens Juicy Grilled Cheeseburgers
©2012, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved.
2012, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved.
Animal proteins like meat, fish, eggs and dairy products provide all the important building blocks that muscles need to stay lean and strong. Choose low-fat options like chicken and turkey breast and lean cuts of beef.
Pumpkin Seed Dried Cherry Trail Mix Claire Robinson
Seeds are another superfood option, providing protein, minerals and inflammation-fighting Omega-3 fats that help protect cells from damage. Flax, pumpkin, chia and sunflower seeds are just a few of the irresistible options.
Homemade Smoked Salmon Appetizer
Many types of fish could qualify as fitness foods, but salmon certainly tops the list — it’s sustainable, low in mercury, easy to prepare, and packed with nutrients to promote healthy muscles and a strong cardiovascular system. Salmon is also one of the best sources of Omega-3 fats you can find. Enjoy smoked salmon as part of breakfast or brunch, or make a healthy and satisfying salmon burger for dinner.
Dana Angelo White, MS, RD, ATC, is a registered dietitian, certified athletic trainer and owner of Dana White Nutrition, Inc., which specializes in culinary and sports nutrition.
- Homemade Crescent Rolls – Here’s how to make crescent rolls from scratch.
- Store-bought Pastry Dough– You can make sopapilla bars with store-bought puff pastry dough since it also yields a puffy and flaky base and topping.
- Homemade Croissant Dough – Another great alternative is Homemade croissant dough because it has an incredibly flaky texture. Although it will take longer to make with all that folding and resting.
Latin American Street Food: The Best Flavors of Markets, Beaches, and Roadside Stands from Mexico to Argentina
“The recipes are all wonderfully varied, a little something for everyone’s tastes, and the instructions are clear and concise”- Amazon Customer
The book includes 150 fantastic recipes for street food from Latin American countries. Information about 20 countries including Brazil, Mexico, Peru and so much more with their amazing street food and fascinating side stories will make this cookbook one-of-a-kind for anyone who has an interest in food and cooking.
Pictures are gorgeous, instructions are clear and concise, ingredients are easy to find in any market. This book is ready to be in your collection.
About the Author: Sandra A. Gutierrez is an expert in Latin cuisine. She is also a cookbook author and journalist who has extensive knowledge about different culinary techniques and the history of various food all over the world.