Unless you live in a Dominican neighborhood, either in a US City or in the DR itself, you’ve probably not been to a Dominican restaurant. This is a shame. Dominican cuisine, at its best, is second to none. Dominicans at home are usually excellent cooks, and if you go to the island itself, you’ll have some of the freshest and best seafood on the planet.
Dominican restaurants in New York are excellent too, but they tend to stick to the staples that have come years of tried-and-true hearty peasant fare. Take mangú for example. It’s billed as a breakfast food. When served with the traditional accompaniment of Dominican sausages, frying cheese, and café con leche, you have a hearty meal.
Maybe a little too hearty.
Recently, after a lifetime of living on mangú, yuca, and rice and beans, Al has gone low-carb. He’s extremely happy about the results, and takes great care with the menu.
“I’m losing weight! I love the way it tastes! I sleep great at night!”
That’s the benefit. Here’s the menu.
“So. I wake up, and either it’s oatmeal with a shitload of cinnamon on top and NO EFFING brown sugar, or maybe I cook up some eggs with olive oil unless mi familia has EATEN THEM ALL and DIDN’T GET NEW ONES. Is that so hard? You go to the fucking store! You buy the fucking eggs!”
“So I burned a bunch of bell peppers right over the stove and then you season the crap out of them with salt, pepper, olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Get some GOOD balsamic, OK? None of that cheap-ass swill you get at the A&P. Get the real deal! No the bodega doesn’t have bal-fricking-samic vinegar! Try the Fairway or …what?…me? Go into Whole Foods? Oh HELL no. You go.”
Dinner? Oh, wait, we’re not done with lunch yet. We’re still at the fish store on Broadway.
“THEN, I’ll get some of those big prawns and throw ‘em on the barbie. Not the barbie obviously, I just pan-fry with … sí primo – da me unos – those big ones — coño! Not that many! Da me twelve. Yeah, I just pan-fry ‘em with – you gotta know what you’re doing! NO
don’t deep fry! Coño ! Why do we Dominicanos always gotta fry stuff? PAN fry! PAN fry! Not the same thing, bro. Then my daughter got me some nice mozzarella cheese, you put that with the peppers and some olive oil…oh yeah, she might have gone up to Arthur Avenue …really? At the Associated? DAMN. They are so gentrified up here these days.”
Now, we’re ready for dinner.
“I’m low carb now. So the only sugar I get is from Paul Newman’s Pomegranate Lemonada. I don’t know why, but I fuckin’ crave that stuff. JAAAAAANNNNNE! Did you finish my lemonade? No? Who did? I put my NAME on it! It was in the fridge! That was MINE!” (me: “Go to the corner deli already!”) “No – that was the last one til next week! Now what am I going to do?”
(Me: “Focus. You were talking about dinner?”)
“No, but I’m pissed about the lemonade! OK. Fine. I’m calm. Dinner? I’m taking that chicken we got from the Associated and then I’m going to make a pesto. Pine nuts? What the fuck are pine nuts? I told you, I’m going to make a pesto! Oh, it has pine nuts? Well whatever the hell you call pesto with no pine nuts! Just a fresh basil sauce – no nuts, got it? Just the BASIL in the SAUCE over the effin’ CHICKEN. A little tomato slices, some frickin’ broccoli, Oh, it’s gonna be great.”
And, it was.