I like Manhattan. It's kind of small (I'm from suburban NJ; it's spread out, yeah), but within its vicinity contains innumerable ways for you to blow your money on stuff you don't need. Sweet. And I don't have to drive a car, so that helps. Sometimes I forget that there are other boroughs. Like over there? [points east] That place is called "Brooklyn". Magical land. Has gnomes or something. Over there? [points north] Something else. Over there? [points south] Mexico.
On Saturday, Sarah and I had a bit of a dilemma. No, our pants didn't catch on fire; this was seeerrrious.
"Where do we eat?" (Yes, a common question.)
"I DUNNO, OH GOD." (And my common answer.)
That's serious, folks. Sarah consulted her Chowhound guide while I sat on the other end of the phone line in my chair being of no help whatsoever.
"Wanna go to Queens?"
Queens...ohh yeah, I had been meaning to go there. I think it's up there. [points north]
We safely arrived in Queens safely after having a bit of a scare with the nonexistent 7 train. (Hey, we weren't the only confused people. You should've seen the confused tourists asking us for direections. ...Actually, it's a good thing you didn't see that.) Set loose upon Roosevelt Avenue, we were drawn to any sign that said "BAKERY" (later, we learned to avoid the ones that also said "PIZZA"; places should stick with one or the other). It felt like Disneyland, but dirtier, sans-themed trash bins, or people in oxygen-restricting costumes, or rides, and with everything in Spanish...okay, maybe it wasn't like Disneyland, but there's some basis for comparison there.
Oh, there is a major Disneyland reference: babies. Strollers. Babies in strollers. Galore. Maybe it was a Saturday afternoon thing ("BABY DAY!!"), but I swear I hadn't seen that many stroller-pushing women in one place since going to a Disney theme park. What does that mean? People really like their kids, perhaps. Or there are a lot of fertile women in Disneyland and Queens. Heeey, that's cool with me...just as long as I don't have to give birth to anyone.
For some reason, I really liked the TACOLANDIA sign. So welcoming. So...odd.
We felt out of place. Who knew a subway ride was all it took to plop you in another country? Or what felt like another country full of bakeries, street food, and...I dunno, other less important things? It felt a lot like Chinatown, but with more space and things in Spanish.
Moving on, we ate a late lunch at the Chowhound approved La Pequena Colombia. It took us probably too much time to figure out what to get, but in the end we setttled on two appetizers and a main dish.
While I don't usually order a drink, I figured...hey, blackberries in milk! Tasty? I GUESS I BETTER TRY IT, FOR THE SAKE OF HUMANITY. They offer a few "[fruit] in milk" drinks, and for no reason in particular I went for blackberry. It's something like a milkshake and a smoothie with the consistency of a not-very-viscous yogurt. It's good. Sarah liked her whipped cream and cinnamon topped cappuccino.
And then came the food.
Unbeknownst to us, as we've never eaten at a Colombian restaurant before, our meals came with free salads and a pile of rice. We were intrigued by the grilled rice ball since we had seen it in a bakery we went to before.
"This...doesn't taste like anything."
Doesn't taste like anything? How could something taste like nothing? Even water tastes like something: hydrogen and oxygen. I took a bite.
"...Whoa, this doesn't really taste like anything."
Actually, that's a lie; it tasted like grilled rice. But it almost had no taste! Someone back me up here.
And then came the appetizers. Whoaaa, sweet golden plantain chunks! You've had bananas; it's kinda like that, but heartier. This stuff is good, unless you're like my friend Mary and have an aversion towards the sound of masticating bananas (the squishy sound gets to her, but she's fine if she can drown it out with something crunchy). The arepa (flat cornflour based bread) with cheese was also pretty good. I wish the cheese had been more melted so that it coagulated on the arepa instead of floating on top, but I still happily ate it. I'd describe what an arepa tastes like, but it has a grainy texture that doesn't really compare to other things I've eaten. Kinda chewy, kinda soft, but not too much of either.. BEHOLD, the most pointless food description everrr!
This may not look appetizing, but trust me when I say IT WAS DELICIOUSLY AWESOME. The menu described it as, "Homemade using yellow corn masa, stuffed with potatoes, pork, peas and carrots and wrapped in a banana leaf. Delicious!" The menu said delicious! THE MENU DOESN'T LIE! It looks kinda jello-ish, but the texture was like...well, something with potatoes and corn masa. Starchy, perhaps? And the pork...man, I love this kind of pork. Moist, tender, and falls apart at the touch of your fork. Hell, maybe it falls apart just at the anticipation of being forked. It's telepathic meat.
We also got free coffee at the end of the meal. The waiter said that it helped digestion. Instead of waving my hands around and screaming, "ME NO LIKE COFEEE", I accepted the small cup and took an un-sugared sip.
"Hm...I still don't like coffee, but this isn't that bad."
Sarah said it was good, so I'll trust her coffee-drinking expertise. To me, the coffee had a very earthy and, I daresay, robust (I don't even know what that means) taste. While it didn't hit your mouth with bitterness right away, the aftertaste did leave that bitterness behind, which is my least favorite part of eating anything bitter (you know, the...um, bitter flavor, hence why I rarely eat bitter things). After dumping in a few streams of sugar to up the sucrose level to proper Robyn levels, I found that the coffee actually tasted good. And by that, I mean it tasted 50% like sugar. I ended up drinking the whole thing without screwing up my face in disgust too much. Gotta love that sucrose.
Do you see this bill? THIS CRAZY BILL? Dammit, I could easily spend this much on one meal. (Uh, I think I did that yesterday.) How could I live here for so long and not know of such delicious, inexpensive Colombian fare? WHY DO I SUCK?
Sarah and I would recommend this restaurant. We had an uber-friendly waiter and the busboy was nice too. He asked us if it was our first time there since he hadn't recognized us; I guess most people are repeat-customers, which is a good sign. The only weird thing that happened was when the cashier asked us why we were taking photos.
"You usually need a permit to do that. These won't end up on the Internet or anything, right?"
"Um...nooo, these are just for ourselves."
Since I'm too lazy to actually write stuff, I'm just going to gastroporn-you. All the above photos were taken at Buenos Aires Bakery. Never before had I seen so many cakey desserts oozing with thick, brown caramel (or dulce de leche, I guess?). While I could compare the proliferation of bakeries in this area to those in Chinatown, these Argentinean bakeries know what they're doing with the sugar content. As in, high sugar content. Ooooh yeeeaaah. Sarah and I bought two chocolate covered caramel tarts, a cream filled donut-type thing, and a cream covered bread stick type thing. The grand total came to $4.10.
We later went to La Nueva Bakery, which besides baked goods also has craploads of perfectly formed, shiny loaves of bread, and giant scary sandwiches that I don't think I could ever eat, unless I planned on dying from being over-sandwiched. Maybe that's not such a bad way to die.
That's the last of the porn; I promise. The chocolate tart was recommended to us by the young woman working at the Buenos Aires Bakery. It wasn't my favorite thing in the world, but it was a good choice and unlike anything I ever had before. It was basically a sweet, hard cookie-type tart crust filled with thick caramel covered in chocolate. Whoa. You'd have to be crazy to not enjoy that just a little.
Conclusion: Roosevelt Avenue is awesome.