Monday, July 23, 2012

Finca Milagrosa and Casados in Boquete, Panama

I should start this post by saying that I just quit coffee. I think today is my sixth day coffee free. (But not totally caffeine free. Green tea has been my stand in.) Boquete is a mountain town in the interior of Panama known around the world for its crisp clean air, expat retiree population and coffee.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Being German at Zum Schneider

In America it's like second nature to call yourself Italian or Irish or whatever more interesting country your ancestors have come from. I didn't realize that outsiders think this is stupid until I left America for more than a week and basically found out that when you say these things to a real-life European you sound like an American. Technically we're all just American, unless of course you yourself crossed over the border permanently from your homeland at some time in your life.
Like an American, I enjoy calling myself German and I love Germany. Thus, I have learned that as a good German offspring, I must forever be on the quest to find good German food. Namely, freaky sausages and meats and super starches doused in dark gravy and washed down with BEER.
Enter Zum Schneider. Yeah, the NY Times just wrote about the new Montauk outpost recently. Yeah, I worship the NY Times, but Montauk is far away. Alphabet City is far away too, but not too far. Ed, Denise, Emeline and I made it happen last Thursday, because German food has to be a family affair. Except of course when I went to Germany without them. Oops. 
I went on the treadmill once this week, and I feel good about that. I have convinced my immediate genetic relatives that in order to provide an unbiased account of the quality of food and service at a restaurant, it is imperative to order as much as possible off the menu. We started with Reiberdatschi, potato pancakes, and Brotzeitteller, a plate of cold cuts and cheeses. When these arrived is basically when we realized that we had reached Mecca and the feeding frenzy began. The pancakes were nice but the meat plate was exceptional. Fresh brie, stilton, liverwurst, radishes, tomatoes, crunchy pickles, butter, crusty bread and more. I would go back just for this and some beer like, tomorrow.
Denise got a beautiful smoked pork special, Ed went with the Schweinswürst'l plate of Nürnberg sausages, and Emeline had the sausage platter featured above. Each finely crafted dish had sauerkraut, mustard mashed or oven baked potatoes, and fresh garnishes. Emeline's weisswurst was soft and snappy. I love weisswurst. I went with the below, Schweinebraten: roasted pork in dark beer gravy with a big freakin' potato dumpling. The meat was so tender. No knife-age was necessary, and the potato ball was starchy and light. Perfect.
My dish came with the below Bavarian salad which involved beets, red cabbage, cole slaw, creamy garlicky cucumber, mustard mash and fresh greens. We also all shared an order of the Käsespätzle with cheese, caramelized onions and bacon, because you just can't skip spätzle. The spätzle dish looked just like a plate I devoured in Berlin two years ago in the best little restaurant ever with Marissa. (omg remember that?)
We somehow ended with apple fritters in beer batter with ice cream. These were made a minute before they arrived on our table. (If I'm wrong, good job deceiving me.) Our overall experience at Schneider's was a great one. The German/something else waitress was friendly, even when she asked us to switch tables so a bigger party could have ours. The beer was cheap to reasonably priced, and it came in huge quantities. I had a big Hofbräuhaus for $5 and a Schneider Weisse for $8. The owner has an oompah band, and the restaurant has a soccer team. It was crowded, with good vibes all around. I'm confident you'll find me here for Oktoberfest.
Moral of the story here is: If your ancestors escaped squalor decades or days ago and ended up in the land of the free, celebrate it and share your meatballs and matzo balls with me. Oh, and, bring me back to Zum Schneider. The end.

Zum Schneider: 107 Ave C at E. 7th St. (212) 598-1098 Zum Schneider on Urbanspoon

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica

I crossed the border bridge between Changuinola, Panama and Sixaola, Costa Rica with a 30 pound backpack on my back and another small pack on my front. The border was formed by a river and traversed by a bridge made of rotting wooden planks with spaces between large enough to see the rushing water below. The bridge was only wide enough for a tractor trailer to squeeze by with a few inches clearance on both sides, so when one came towards the group of ten of us, we huddled on a tiny wire mesh outcrop off the side of the bridge and hoped for the best.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

JT's on the Bay and Disappointment

Last weekend my roommates and I went to JT's on the Bay in Blue Point.  We had been waiting to try this since the end of last summer and expectations were high. We tried to ignore recent claims from friends that it wasn't so good, but we found out that in reality, it wasn't so good. We started with lobster tacos, shrimp cocktail and steamers. 
Although heaping with meat and tasty overall, I thought the lobster got kind of lost underneath the mango, avocado and lime creme fraiche in the tacos. Most of the steamers were a good medium size, but I found a few sandy that hadn't been purged. Ed's shrimp cocktail was a total miss. The shrimp were large but totally bland and kind of overcooked and soggy. You can't do shrimp cocktail? Like WTF?
For mains, Ed had Blue Point beer battered fish and chips, Denise had swordfish with a creepy cheddar polenta and I went with a southwestern seafood shephard's pie off the specials menu. The batter on the fried fish was lame and bland and Denise's polenta had kind of a scary, play-doh texture. My shephard's pie was tasty and had big chunks of lobster, shrimp, scallops and crab, but the mixture was quite gooey like an overly thick bisque. Mom's enjoyed her fish so I guess reviews were mixed.
Basically, we won't be going back to JT's, which is a damn shame because the spot has quite a nice outdoor setting on the bay. I didn't really mind having to use paper plates and plastic cutlery due to water waste laws, but I noticed that others had brought their own silverwear and beer glasses. I don't really care what I eat off of, but I do prefer to enjoy my beer out of glass, not plastic. Whatever. Around the corner from JT's, Flo's still reigns supreme.

JT's on the Bay: 1 Curtis Road, Blue Point, NY. (621) 363-2205

Monday, July 2, 2012

Bocas del Toro, Panama

Bocas del Toro is a backpacker's paradise located in the Caribbean sea just south of the Panama-Costa Rica border. The group of islands are surrounded by blue waters and mangrove forests, and on the mainland by Chiquita banana plantations. Most accommodation is located on Isla Colon, and Em and I spent about 4 days there and settled into a laid-back lifestyle under the sun. Sun-soaked days lead slowly into rum and coke and reggae nights spent talking and dancing on platforms over the lit blue water with young travelers and rastafari-like locals. There were free drinks every night at one bar or another.
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