The Perfect Spicy Rum Bloody Mary

I grew up in Miami, the son of Cuban exiles and for most of my life that was the Hispanic culture, I connected with the most. 15 years ago I moved to Los Angeles and discovered a new-found love of Mexican culture. This inspired me to make a bloody mary recipe that melds my heritage and the Mexican heritage of my new city. A Spicy Cuban Bloody Mary. If you know one thing about Cuban people it's that we love our rum and we're looking for an excuse to have some. Why not have some in a delicious spicy bloody mary? It seems like a winning combination to me. This was the perfect opportunity to create a drink that brings together two of my favorite cultures.

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Mustard and Maple Syrup Glazed Vidalia Onions

Enjoy the sweet life this summer with delicious Vidalia onions. Why Vidalia? The bottom line is versatility and great taste. The sugars in this sweet onion will caramelize perfectly when you grill them. You can only get them from April to August so definitely get your butt in gear and pick some up as soon as you can. They are a game changer. I wanted to prepare a recipe that showcases all their delicious flavor but can be eaten by just about everyone with dietary restrictions. This is a vegan-friendly recipe! Another cool thing about this dish is it stands up on its own or on top of your favorite protein. Perfect for a burger topping, on a yummy pork chop, or caramelized on a delicious pizza!

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Napa Summer Wine Picks

It is the start of summer and time to pick the perfect summer wines for grilling. I had the chance to sample some of the latest from Napa and here are my pics for the perfect wines this summer in no particular order.

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A Cuban "American" Mojito

If you know me then you know I’m always thinking outside the box and trying to do something different. How can I make a delicious Cuban mojito with a twist? In the spirit of #SipOnTheBrightSide, I went down to my local grocer and picked up a six-pack of Mike’s Hard Lemonade. What if I added this yummy beverage to my mojito recipe? It was a hot summer day so I was inspired to elevate my ritual.

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A&W Root Beer Memories

We are right in the thick of baseball season.  The perfect time of the year for grilling and rooting for your home team.  One of my fondest memories in my teens is having a Dulce de Leche A&W® Root Beer floats with my Mom while watching baseball. They were a great compliment to whatever we were grilling during the game. A&W is celebrating its 100th anniversary and I wanted to recreate my favorite #AWMemories with my wife, who never had the chance to experience one of those yumm floats during the game.  A&W Root Beer basted burgers is what I was craving to have with my dulce de leche floats.


After making a list of my ingredients, I headed down to Walmart in Burbank.  It’s the perfect one stop shop for everything I needed to complete my meal.


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2 Days in Paso

Paso Robles is located in the central coast of California and home to in my opinion the best bang for your buck wines in the state. I was able to spend a couple of days there in Feb and I was blown away by the experience.

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That One Time a Friend Says "Come Spend the Weekend in Chicago!"

Pardon the Punctuation...A little while back my friend Steve Green the founder of Foodie Chats asked me if I wanted to join him on a trip to his hometown Chicago courtesy of Choose Chicago and American Airlines.  How could I resist? Steve was my guide to the windy city and I couldn't have asked for better company. Here are my highlights from the weekend.

Day 1

Early flight from LAX and I had the opportunity of checking out the American Airlines Flagship Lounge.  This is normally reserved for first/business class on long distance and international flights. If Foodie heaven was an airline lounge this would be it.  Chef inspired breakfast options and of course some yummy champagne.

Checked into the Hotel Zachary. A brand new hotel right across from Wrigley Field.  This is the perfect place to stay if you're coming in to catch a few ballgames in town.  Great bars and restaurants within the hotel.  For morning coffee your room key is good for a complimentary coffee at Westtown Bakery which is right downstairs at the main entrance of the hotel.  Rooms are retro with a nice and clean modern touch. Worst part of the trip was having to check out of the hotel. 

 

Lunch at Mordecai. Named after famous Chicago Cub Mordecai Brown, this is the perfect place for a bite and a drink before or after the Cubs game. Great burger, curds, fries and fresh oysters.  Don't forget their deep whiskey list and cocktails.

Drinks and snacks at Three Dots and a Dash.  A place had always been dying to check out. Hidden in a downtown alley you'll find the entrance to this enchanting Tiki bar. I went with the "caribbean punch", the gorgeous "Bali Bali" and the "Pu Pu Platter" as a bite. 

After getting some sweet beverages in my belly I made it to my favorite cocktail bar in Chicago.  The famed Milk Room. Hidden within the Chicago Athletic Association Hotel, this bar has just about 8 seats and served curated vintage spirits. By vintage I mean you're going to have the chance to drink spirits from the past. I had a Negroni made with 1970's Campari and in interpretation of a Manhattan made with 1960's Cynar...yeah that kind of vintage cocktail.  It's definitely not for the budget conscious but worth it 100 percent!  The staff and location are amazing but make sure to book a reservation. 

Day 2

Started with brunch at Smoke Daddy which is right across the street from Wrigley Field. Literally across the street. I loaded up on yummy mimosas, pancakes, pork benedict, hash, hashbrowns, and a monkey bread that was like crack...addictive. 

After rolling out of brunch I was ready to hit the field and root for the Cubs...being a life-long Marlins fan this wasn't easy but the amazing people of Chicago make you want to root for them.  My friend Steve and I were in baseball heaven.  We got to go on the field pre-game and take in a little bit of the history of this iconic stadium. During the game we devoured some Chicago Hotdogs, giant nachos, and of course some yummy beers.

After the game we headed over to the Hotel Versey to check in.  A cute little hotel that used to be a Days Inn and some off that vibe still lingers in the rooms.  The rooms do come equipped with a Nespresso machine and coupons for free Stan's donuts which is right on the corner. A definite win win.  My favorite thing about the hotel was the lobby.  All of these great art pieces, artifacts, and murals that scream Chicago.  So cool. Also it's a shirt ride away from Wrigley Field and downtown. 

For dinner I wanted to eat a little lighter so I checked out an new spot in town called Beatnik. Really cool location that felt like that recreated a jungle indoors. I love me some mediterranean food and Beatnik did not disappoint. My highlights were the beet hummus and curry meatballs.

Day 3 started with pastries at Floriole.  All I can say is wow...good stuff.  If in Chicago you gotta make this happen. Go with the sticky bun, ham and cheese croissant, and definitely a latte.  I had my first latte made with oat milk there and it rocked.

Next was a stop at Green City Market for farm fresh awesomeness. Had an amazing crepe and then walked over to the Old Town Art Fair which happens once a year so plan your trip around it. 

Next we were off to an awesome Chicago Beer Experience tour.  A great historic tour that lead you through tastings at four awesome bars.  We also got to taste a yummy Chicago hot dog to keep the effects of the beer at bay. Yummy beers and a wonderful tour guide made this an experience to remember. 

Next it was off to the IO roof top lounge at the Godfrey Hotel to grab some drinks, bites, and watch the Belmont Stakes. Great roof top bar with a stunning view of the city.  The food was also on point.  Try the truffle fries, Lamb Lollipops, shishito peppers, and tartar.  Bravo!  Perfect place to check out on a sunny day.

For dinner we went to one of the hottest restaurants in town...the Bellemore. Everything about this place was on fire.  Decor looked like something out of a design magazine and the food was equally as stunning. The wine, cocktails, food...have a mentioned the food? Every dish is designed for a perfect foodporn photo and the flavors to match.  You gotta get the Hawaiian Rolls, Shaved Foie Gras, charred octopus, lamb, chicken, black truffle pasta and finish with some chocolate. Dudes...this place is legit. Make a resy ASAP.

Supposed to start the last day with a kayak tour on the river but the weather didn't permit.  This is definitely on the top of my list for the next time I'm in Chicago.  How cool would it be to kayak through all that amazing downtown architecture.  After skipping the kayak tour we did the river walk path up until we hit up Bar Siena for brunch. 

Lets not forget Bar Siena.  Loved the Lobster benedict, fresh juices, and fig prosciutto pizza. Asked for an egg on the pizza and they put an over cooked fried egg on it.  Kind of hilarious. After a couple more tries we finally got a nice and runny poached egg on board.  Bravo! I took the original overcooked egg off the pizza for the pic...much better look. 

I ended my trip with my final stop in the American Airlines Flagship lounge...could have stayed here for 10 hours. Everything was top notch.  My fav dishes were the duck confit lasagna, made to order pierogies, and their killer cheese plate.  So yum.  Who can turn down champagne?  Definitely not this guy.

Thank you  Choose Chicago and American Airlines for giving Steve and I the chance to explore this wonderful weekend in Chicago.  The only bad thing about visiting Chicago is you spend the rest of your life trying to go back.

A Few Days in Puglia with Radici Del Sud.

Pardon the punctuation…Had the honor of being flown out to Puglia, Italy to experience the best food and wine from the region. Here’s the best of those 4 days and 3 nights.

Day 1.

Started my visit with a trip to the Castle in Sannicandro di Bari. A gorgeous Norman-Swabian Castle. I was completely jet-lagged but was able to stay away long enough to truly enjoy it. Before passing out we had dinner at Aromi Bistro and had some amazing local wine! It’s not hard to find a great restaurant in Italy but Aromi Bistro has exceptional.

Day 2.

First thing on the agenda was a trip to the De Carlo olive mill. Tasting fresh olive oil blew my mind. Had no idea how naturally spicy olive oil is when it’s freshly pressed. Touring we were treated to some of the De Carlo products and now I’m addicted to their Black Olive spread! What is the best thing to do after some olive oil? More food and wine of course.

Next a visit to Angiuli Donato wines for a taste of his portfolio. Primitivo is definitely my new wine friend. If any distributers read this please get your ass to Puglia and bring over more of these amazing wines.

We ended the day with some awesome food and wine at Archetipo di Gioia del Colle cellars. Most of the biodynamic wines I’ve had state side have been pretty terrible. It was a pleasant surprise to finally have well produced biodynamic wines!

Day 3.

A day trip to Putignano for a visit to the La Querceta cheese factory. It was so cool to see it freshly made…the tasting of it wasn’t bad either. After eating enough burrata to drown a small village we walked through their farm and met the cows that bring this cheese to life. A little side note, burrata is from the Puglia region. Just above the heel of the Italy boot.

One of the really unique things in Putignano is the San Michele Arcangelo church which was built in a cave. It’s a scenic spot.

Nothing makes me hungrier than going to a church…so of course it was time for lunch right after. Antica Locanda in Noci was out lunch host. OMG this place is worth the drive to this little village just for the food. Not only was the food amazing but I also discovered what would become the most delicious Primitivo I’ve ever had… by Giovanni Aiello. What an elegant wine. Here’s the food porn. Please wear a bib while looking at these pics.

After stuffing my face I got to check out the coolest cave I’ve ever been to. The Caves in Castellana. The pictures speak for themselves. Breathtaking…

We finished the night with more food and wine at the Coppi Winery. I was starting to feel under the weather but pulled myself together for my audience…not because I wanted more wine.

Day 4.

First it was a visit to Borgo San Marco. A former 12th century fortress now turned into a hotel retreat. Could have stayed there all day…and for another 3 or 4 more nights.

The scenery got more and more throughout the day. Next was a trip to Ostuni…everything you picture in your mind when you think “Italian town on a hill.”

Next was the most EPIC 4-5 hour lunch at Cibus in Ceglie Messapica. Add Cibus to your list of places you have to eat. Worth the price of the flight form the states.

Day 5

On the last day of my trip Radici Del Sud I was able to explore old town Bari. Seeing the ladies make hand rolled pasta while I munched on the local snack of choice Taralini. I’m hooked on the stuff. Like mini crunchy bagels. Perfect snack to have with wine. The day ended with getting to judge some of the local white wines with mozzarella tasting. Perfect end to my experience.

By far the greatest thing about this trip to Puglia was all of the lifelong friends that I made along the way. That’s one of the most beautiful things about food, wine, and travel. It brings people together to have a good time. Thank you for the memories Radici del Sud. Check out their site for tips and where to travel in the region.

Sriracha Glazed Pork Chops

For #NationalGrillingMonth my partners Pork Es Sabor asked me to share my Sriracha Glazed Pork Chops recipe with my friends for a BBQ cookout. Below find my recipe for both the marinade AND the glaze, with some fun grilling tips! #PorkEsSabor  #fourthofjuly

Marinade: 
• 4 cloves of garlic, minced
• 3 green onions, sliced
• 1 tbsp. of red pepper flakes
• 1 tsp. of salt
• 1 tsp. of black pepper
• 3 tbsps. of olive oil
• 2 lbs. of pork chops

Glaze:
• 3 tbsps. of honey
• 1 tbsp. of sriracha
• Juice of 1 small lime (about 1 tbsp.)
• 1 in. piece of ginger, minced

Grilling Tips: 1. Clean and oil grill! 2. Glaze pork chops generously! 3. Let pork chops rest for 8 minutes after removing from grill!

Far Niente Chardonnay with Tostones and Chicken Vaca Frita

Ever wanted to pair a Chardonnay with Cuban food? A little Far Niente Chardonnay does the trick!

Ingredients:

2 large green plantains

Cooking spray

Kosher salt

1 cooked  rotisserie chicken

1 whole white onion

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 teaspoon garlic powder

1 teaspoon garlic

lime wedges to squeeze on top

Directions: Chicken Vaca Frita

1. In a bowl, add the shredded chicken with lime juice, garlic powder, salt and pepper. Let marinate about 20-30 minutes. This will also work with fresh garlic if you prefer.

2. In a large pan, add olive oil and sauté onions until translucent.

3. Add shredded chicken to the pan and fry for about 10 minutes, until brown and crispy. Set aside.

 

Directions: Tostones

1. Dip Preheat the oven to 425°F. Spray a large baking sheet with oil.

2. Trim the ends off the plantains. Score each plantain along two sides deep enough to cut through the skins.

3. Microwave the plantains until they become soft in the center. For 2 plantains this will take about 6 to 6 1/2 minutes. For 1 plantain, about 3 to 3 1/2 minutes, depending on your microwave. The skins will become black.

4. Peel the plantains and cut them into 3/4 inch thick slices while hot. You should get about 12 per plantain.Smash the hot plantains (this needs to be done while hot) with the bottom of a jar, can or something flat. I used a tostonera commonly found in Latin Markets, but anything flat will work.

5. Place them on the prepared baking sheet and generously spray with oil, season with salt and bake until golden on the bottom, about 10 to 12 minutes. Turn and bake on the other side until golden and crisp, about 8 minutes. Season with more salt and cover with the chicken vaca frita.
 

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Cuban Pork Stew Paired with En Route Pinot Noir

Who doesn't love a little Cuban pork stew?  The winter months are coming and I just got a hold of a great little wine bundle from Far Niente Winery. It includes a Cabernet, Pinot Noir, and of course their world famous chardonnay.  I decided I'm gonna share some of my favorite Cuban recipes and pair then with these delicious wines.  For this post I paired the 2015 En Route Pinot Noir with a Pork stew that's perfect for those chilly winter nights. If you want to follow along here's a link so you can order the Epicure three pack of Napa wine.

Ingredients:

8 cups chicken stock

One 2 lb pork tenderloin cut into cubes.

2 garlic cloves, minced

1 tablespoon of Cuban Adobo mix

1 medium onion and 1 green onion, chopped

2 carrots, sliced

1 tsp lime juice

salt & pepper to taste

Directions:

  1. In large pot, add pork and onion.  Cook over medium heat for 10 minutes to brown.
  2. Add chicken stock and carrots. Cook another 30 minutes.
  3. Add the lemon juice, green onions,  and add salt and pepper to taste.