Dominican Dining at Punta Cana!
Only Dominican Restaurant
You have to drive an hour towards Tomball, if you live in Sugar Land and want Dominican food. But it was worth it!
Food Adventure with my Sister
I have actually done a lot of adventuring with Jennifer since we were kids. But this is the first SIT-DOWN-DINING-BLOG-ADVENTURE together.
5 bonus points for that!
Welcoming Smiles...worth 10 bonus points!
When we entered at 6 pm, the owner Jarlis Lugo greeted us with a huge smile from the kitchen window. He took time to tell us about some of the wonderful dishes from his homeland, Dominican Republic
After we ate, he spent more time telling us about his background. Although he has spent the majority of his life in NYC where you will find the largest population of Dominicans, Jarlis prefers Houston. "There's a lot of evil in NY...more God here." He sort of laughed. I agreed that Houston is a pretty friendly place and that if we were in NY at that moment, we might not be having this conversation!
Rebecca, another big smiler!
It took about 5 times of pronouncing her name, until Rebecca laughed and told us the English version of her name. Rebecca grinned each time she repeated...and continued to greet us with a huge smile each time she served us a dish or refilled our drinks.
Rebecca is actually from San Salvador which got us off on an enthused conversation about yummy pupusas! But when I asked her favorite dish on the Punta Cana menu, she chose Mofongo de Queso!
This is my 43rd entry on my dining blog list and I must say Jarlis and Rebecca did more smiling and welcoming than any other restaurant on the list!
A crazy amount of food for two, but there was so much to try!
We had to have mofongo, which is a popular Puerto Rican and Dominican dish. Below on the left, you see a rounded cakelike shape. This is mofongo, which is fried green plantains, mashed with broth, garlic, oil and pork cracklings. Jarlis made us a special spicy garlic sauce to enjoy with it. The Dominican fried chicken served with it was crispy out... and moist in! Perfect.
Sampler Our favorite on the sampler plate (upper right) was the shredded pork! So moist, it melted. The pepper steak had an Asian tanginess and the stewed chicken, along with 2 rices and a bowl of beans...was hard to beat.
Tostones! These flattened and (I believe) double fried slices of plantain (lower right) had a nice flavor combination of sweet and salty.
5 points (the max I give for food) for our meal at Punta Cana!
What a special treat when Jarlis presented us with complimentary dessert! Almond Flan and Coconut Flan! And look at the nice presentation. A strong 5 bonus points for bonus dessert! (coconut flan was my fave!)
Authenticity...music, language, decor...
I always give an extra bonus point for a flag! The Dominican flag in the window was a good reminder of the represented country! 2 bonus points for great merengue music playing. At least I think that's what I heard. Merengue has roots in DR! And 2 points for hearing lots of Spanish. It's not hard to be surrounded by the Spanish language in Houston, but it's fun knowing that many who dine here, as well as Jarlis have Dominican roots!
5 points for a comfortable atmosphere. I feel pretty comfortable in lots of places, but I really relax when things are clean. I relax even more when I see nice colors and decorative pieces that represent the culture. Next time, I'll ask Jarlis more about the small instruments and the beautiful photographs that were on display! I'm sure I will be returning.
The food, friendly atmosphere and a bit of culture, gave Punta Cana a total of 35 points in the Dining Blog!
Update in September!
I said I would return and I did a couple days ago with my son. Scott was excited to try the mofongo and we also tried chicken filled passtelitos. They were delicious, empanada-like treats! Rebecca was our great server, once again!
And thanks to Carlos for seeing the blog and answering my questions about the instruments. In his comment below he describes the instruments that had intrigued me on my first visit!
Portuguese Dining at Portugalia!
There seems to be only one restaurant in Houston, that serves Portugese food.
Patio Dining on Westheimer!
This is the last street in Houston you want to dine next too. Noisy! Not NYC traffic jam, car honking style. But, "I've got a super loud car and I love drag racing" kind of noisy! However, there's a water fall, rustling palms and even some Portuguese music trying to drown it out!
We wondered about the sign on the rocks. "6 Feet" As if they were tempting us to dive. Our server claimed children get playful at Sunday brunches and parents need to be warned how deep they will sink! 4 bonus points for patio with waterfall and pool!
( I won't subtract a bonus point for each mosquito bite I acquired!)
We were in time for Happy Hour prices! Portuguese wine for $4.00 a glass!
4 bonus points!
Free bread and pate! ! (2 bonus) The meat and cheese plate had a nice variety of pickled veggies, flavorful smoked sausage, prosciutto and cheeses.
Sigi is showing a bowl of Caldo Verde. This soup is a National favorite. The pureed potato and kale soup, looks watery, but the flavor is very nice with a touch of garlic and smoke from the Chourico. (smoked sausage brought in from Portugal)
That would be smoke cod. Seafood is not my thing and especially one that is strong in flavor and odor. But this is a Portuguese staple and it shows up on the menu in many forms. After my last agonizing food encounter with Mutton Stew, I took the easy route and ordered potato and cod cakes! Mmm! Not bad! Kind of like plump tater tots with some spice and chewy morsels of fish. 3+ points for our Portuguese sampling!
Sadly the chef had a day off. (He has trained his kitchen well) He is from Portugal so 2 bonus points there! Our server, Christina is not from Portugal, but she was a charming, talkative young woman from the Ukraine. She laughed about difficulties in communicating with the chef, since he speaks no English and she speaks no Portuguese or Spanish!
Note the formal dining room. We'll have to try this another time, when we're not in patio clothes!
3+ bonus points for Christina who liked being behind the camera lens better than in front! Good sport!
TOTAL OF 19 POINTS FOR PORTUGALIA!
Traditional Hopi Dining
This is Ernie, our guide at the Hopi Reservation in Arizona. He played his flute for us after our 4 hour visit to the Hopi Villages and a number of spiritual sites.
Our tour was done, but Ernie continued to share. He shared his music and more stories of growing up on the reservation. He spoke about living in California where Native American children were sent to be educated. He gave us an opportunity to "meet" his Kachina mask with some special words and food offering. He gave us each an eagle feather to keep.
Ernie also gave me my first taste of Hopi food!
Ernie shared some of his piki bread, made by women in the village...as a gift for performing at a Village Ceremony. It takes days to create this bread that's made from blue corn and ash. It tastes a bit like it looks...rolled up newspapers, toasted over a fire! But it flaked off like a very thin chip. Maybe some salsa would have helped.
Lunch with Ernie
This is as much as I can share in a photo of our lunch experience with Ernie. (no cameras allowed) He was eager to take us to the village store that is packed with much more than groceries. The deli in the back of the store unfortunately served more Mexican food than Hopi.
Traditional Hopi food is still cooked by some of the village elders, but more and more Hopi have turned to Americanized foods. So I'm unable to give points for the burritos and tamales we devoured, but I'll happily give 20 points for dining amongst the locals. Ernie chatted and laughed with friends here and there and quietly murmured stories about some of the folks he spotted.
Found! Traditional Hopi Food!
We parted with Ernie after lunch and headed towards the Grand Canyon. We stopped for gas at Tuuvi's gas/cafe in Tuba, AZ, on the edge of the Hopi Reservation. When I went inside, I was delighted to see, a cafe menu featuring traditional Hopi food!
Even though I had just eaten, I was eager to buy some Mutton Stew, to go! Mutton and dumplings! How about that? I would be able to add Hopi (representing North America) on my list of 50 International Dining Experiences!
Better than Piki!
And how about Fry Bread...with a little honey! Kind of like a sopapilla maybe? It filled the car with the smell of funnel cakes!
So how did the stew and bread taste? Even with the honey, all I could taste was grease. I couldn't eat very much of the Fry Bread.
Mutton Stew? Honestly out of my 42 international dining adventures this is the only food I have not been able to stomach! Even the Taiwanese Stinky Tofu was a bit easier to swallow. I was never so glad to be nibbling in my car and NOT surrounded by Hopi Villagers or cooks. I'm not used to being stumped by a food! How could I not like a dumpling? Maybe it was the atmospshere of my car that made me not push to enjoy my sampling. But after 3 bites of glue-ish, gray gravy and rubbery, pungent meat of the "mature sheep", I replaced the lid and set it aside...which I could not have done in the presence of Hopi!
30 POINTS for HOPI DINING
No negative points for my mutton, because I have a MUTTON MEMORY and that's worth 10 points! 20 points for the People Encounters. I will never forget my varied experience with food on the Hopi Reservation! I hope I get to give it another try some day!
Regional Dining in Marfa, TX
More Than a Movie Set
I first learned of Marfa about 5 years ago. I read that the town was planning a celebration in honor of the movie Giant, which was filmed near Marfa. Don and I visited recently and learned there was more to Marfa than an old dusty movie set. We found some good dining options, in this town of 2,200!
At Miniature Rooster, we sampled a little Indian & Southern fusion, in a building that was once a gas station.
Mando's was more about the Old Marfa. It seemed to be a hopping place... too busy to fix their sign. At one time you could be served in your car, but today you can relax in a booth or gather around a table with your local friends. They even encouraged a little lingering, by offering seat pillows.
While we ate breakfast at Mando's, we enjoyed lots of good people watching. We peeked over our coffee cups and watched a few nuns, some border patrol and some retired men in cowboy and trucker hats.
Angel served us breakfast tacos and chatted with us, when the crowd thinned. She's used to rising at 3 am for work, but it was Wednesday, her hardest day. After work, she had to get to the laundromat and get kids to evening church.
Padres was a curious mix of old and new.
The 100-year-old building, has served many purposes. It was a funeral home at some point. Three years ago, it was bought by a Priest and now offers a full bar, food and live music!
Chandeliers and old church pews, added a little fun to this bar. But, we had to work pretty hard to make ourselves feel welcome. Our bartender was a young woman with no chit chat abilities. The Marfa locals at the bar, weren't very social either. When I asked if they knew how to work the juke box, they didn't have a clue.
I have no pics of the quirksters who were scattered about. That's my name for Marfa's special quirky-hipster characters. Many are artists and musicians, who have left bigger cities like Austin and NY, to open galleries, studios and restaurants in this small dusty town. They often have a few children in tow, with perfectly faded overalls and cute peasant dresses with striped tights...adorable, free spirit kiddos! These slightly older, carefree, quirkster parents would be sad to know that what I observed, sort of reminded me of Country Club Kids... who run around like they own the place, while the parents socialize. Amusing!
A Good People Encounter!
I ended up striking up a conversation with Rod Ponton. He was eating a bowl of gumbo at the bar.
Rod was much friendlier than other folks... but maybe that's because he was running for 83rd District Attorney. We didn't talk politics and I don't know his views, but he seemed like a pretty decent guy. Maybe I'd vote for him if I lived in the area!
Don and I had our most comfortable dining experience, at Borunda's Bar & Pool Hall. Pancho Borunda warmed up, after we ordered beers at the bar.
He proudly showed us some of his recipes, which are featured in Robb Walsh's, Tex Mex Cook Book. This burley guy with gray beard and tattoos, won us over with stories of his grandma's restaurant next door. (now a shop called Fancy Pony Land) It was the oldest restaurant in Marfa.
Pancho still uses the old family recipes.
He even uses some of the old china from Grandma's old restaurant! The chicken taquitos and brisket tacos were amazingly good!
Our most unusual dining experience involved a truck and bus.
We had a great food experience, at the town pavilion! First, we ordered our food from the Food Shark truck. Next, we took a seat inside the old Blue Bird bus, while our food was cooked.
Worth the Wait!
It took about 20 minutes till my name was called, over a speaker in the bus. I didn't mind killing time, staring out the windows. I watched the line grow longer at the food truck, and I gazed at the nearby train tracks, hoping a train would rumble by. The twinkly lights were festive. The mixture of blue grass music and static on the radio, added some warmth to the cozy wait.
The food was excellent, but incredibly messy! We ordered a BLT with avocado, a Greek salad, plus the Marfalafel sandwich. Crispy and oozing with fresh toppings!
Nothing better than munching away while eavesdropping. I listened to mostly newcomer locals, talking about their galleries and film festivals. I think the longtime locals like Pancho and Angel, were too busy or tired to stop for lunch at the Food Shark!
I rate 50 points for the overall food experience in Marfa!
Unusual people encounters and great food variety, in a curious small town in West Texas!
Nigerian Food First
My Nigerian dining feast, led to a Russian food adventure!
This is Rebecca, who is one of the special people who cares for my mom. Today she made me some "Vegetable Soup". Rebecca is from Nigeria and she wanted me to experience authentic, non-restaurant Nigerian food! It looks scary, but it was a tasty adventure... with more than vegetables. Spinach, collard greens, dried shrimp, goat meat, turkey and jalapeños!
After sampling the soup, I was off to Ghana House, recommended by Mercy, who also cares for my mom. Mercy is from Ghana and has been eager for me to try a different African soup and compare!
But Ghana House is...Gonna!
Rats! This is getting hard. They are always closing restaurants before I get to them!
But luckily on my drive home, I spotted this! A store, not a restaurant. But I figured I could stop in and maybe someone inside would help guide me towards a Russian restaurant in Houston. The famed Russian Bear closed, before I had my chance.
No Tables or Kitchen
But lots of food! A deli counter with long sausages and meats and cheeses! And lots of beers and wines from Russia and many other places.
Lots of Non-food Items
There were shelves upon shelves of dolls, toys and dresses. They even had a section of used books and records, all in Russian of course! Why didn't I just get a book? They were only a dollar?
I Heard Russian
Everyone in the store seemed to be speaking Russian. At least it sounded like Russian to me.
I had lots of help from the owner, picking out the best foods.
Take Home Food
I took home some curious-looking Russian bread and ravioli. Both looked like they were made in Brooklyn, with Russian ingredients. I couldn't resist the cute packaged cookie at the counter. After a tasting, I'm afraid it might be a teething cookie or something. Oh well.
Baltika beer, cabbage pastries, ravioli with vinegar and sour cream, bread and cookie! Goes against all rules of color and nutrition balance I learned in 8th grade Home Ec...but it was delicious!
Total of ?? Points for Russian Dining...inspired by a Nigerian lunch!
The Dining Blog
This is a blog about Dining Adventures. Sometimes, I talk about food. Below, you can read how this started.
On July 4th 2011, I set a goal to try 50 culturally diverse restaurants in one year! (I knew that was possible, living in the Houston area) I spent the year pulling in friends and family to join me, on some unusual dining adventures. I met some curious people, tried some scary foods and explored places and cultures I never would have otherwise. Even though I met my goal, I learned too much to end my adventures in dining. I have continued blogging about memorable dining adventures of all kinds, near and far... and all the discoveries and funny things I've learned along the way!
Locations and types of dining adventures, are listed further down.