Archive | Puerto Rican RSS feed for this section

A Feast for Five Faux Kings in Greenpoint

30 Dec


“I had one of those korytos at another Polish place here in Greenpoint,” Zio told us all just before we were to order one at Krolewskie Jadlo. “The meat was dry.”

We hesitated, looking at him. The koryto in question was a platter of assorted meats enough to serve either a group of three or four.

After a moment’s reflection and realizing his declaration put a damper on our group’s plans, he said “But we should get it anyway,”

“You’re just saying that because you want the wiener  schnitzel,” I said to Zio.

“Yeah, I want the wiener schnitzel,” Zio nodded. “But that koryto at the other place was dry.”

We were in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, reunited with Rick, who, in 2014 had been absent for most of our gatherings. This was his choice and his only hesitation was that the chef was “Nobu-trained.” What would that mean to our pedestrian group who were more used to dining in restaurants where the chefs were trained by their mothers and grandmothers than at a four-star Japanese restaurant? And, to be sure, our only other previous Polish experience most definitely did not have a Nobu trained chef (see The Pierogies of Old Poland). Still he took the chance and, despite the rain and that it was a “Gridlock Alert” day,” all of us were present with the exception of Gerry. “I’ve got to go to a business party,” was his excuse. “And you know, bizness is bizness.”

One of the blonde Polish waitresses, of which there were many at Krolewskie Jadlo, came to take our order.

“We’ll have the Koryto for Four,” Zio said to rectify his gaffe.

“And an order of wiener schnitzel,” Rick added. After all, we were five, if anything our group tended to err on the side of excess. We couldn’t take a chance that even a huge platter of meats for four would be enough for our gluttonous group.

The five of us were seated at a chocolate brown wooden table. There was a royal motif surrounding the restaurant including an armored knight placed strategically by the front door. The restaurant’s name translated, so we were told to “King’s Feast” and on this night, we assumed that we were the kings.

The King's guardian

The King’s guardian

While we waited for our feast, we sipped a Polish beer recommended by the waitress called Lech. The beer was a disappointment, the Polish equivalent of Michelob, but the enormous wooden platter shaped like a hollowed out boat filled with meats that arrived promptly was not.

Before I could dig in, the tender meat in the “hunter stew,” a big piece of pork shank was gone with the exception of its thick covering of fat. And despite my tendencies, I couldn’t eat the fat especially with so many other options in the koryto to choose from including the hearty blood sausage, the grilled pork and chicken, the kebabs, and the cabbage and potato pierogies. The plate of wiener schnitzel we ordered, two pounded and breaded pork cutlets topped with fried eggs, seemed minuscule in comparison.

Das Boot

Das Boot

The meal was accompanied by platters of krauts; cabbage, beet, and carrot along with thick bread and a garlic, butter spread. The food was more than plentiful, but Mike from Yonkers, who was at the opposite end of the table and not within a long arm’s reach of “The Boat,” feared he would miss out on some of the boat’s goodies, so he made a point of rising from his seat, his mouth stuffed with food and fork in hand, and  moved closer, hunching perilously over my shoulder,  and then spearing a piece of kebab and perogie adding it onto his already cluttered plate.

The boat looked like it would be a challenge, but for our group of five; a koryto for four was easy work. Even the addition of the wiener schnitzel could not halt our assault. The only food that remained of this “king’s feast,” was some of the kraut and the skin from the pork shank, though Zio was tempted to not leave that behind.


A “minuscule” Schnitzel

There were dessert options that came out on a separate smaller menu—something we were not used to—so we politely declined. The bill, totaled by the ever reliable Eugene, was well within our allotted budget. As we gathered outside the restaurant in the rain to say our goodbyes until 2015 Zio nodded and said, “I’d come back here.”

“So would I,” I said.

And with those words, Rick’s choice just passed the most crucial test of our group’s assessment of a restaurant’s success.

Some Good News About Sandy

31 Oct

It’s been downgraded to a lechonera.

Time to remove the plywood and roast some pork.

I hope all my friends and followers are safe and moving forward post-hurricane.

A Lime Cut Three Ways: The Second Cut

20 Jun

The Mojito

I always thought of the mojito as an amateur’s drink. Part of my thinking was because of the rum used. I’m partial to the rums of either the West Indies; Jamaica, Barbados, Trinidad, etc., which are molasses-based, and robust, or the exquisite French island “agricole” rums of Martinique and Guadeloupe, made from distilled sugar cane juice. The rum traditionally used for the mojito is of the smoother, Spanish variety; Puerto Rican, Cuban, Dominican, etc. So smooth, in fact, that to me, the rum is indistinguishable; practically devoid of any flavor.

Further damaging the mojito appeal in my narrow mind was that the rum usually poured into the drink was the one with the enormous marketing budget making it, in my estimation, the Coca Cola of rums. And speaking of Coca Cola, the rum in question is usually best enjoyed in that abomination: rum and coke. But there I go again, displaying my rum snobbery by thrashing a drink enjoyed over the years by millions of people. It’s an unseemly trait of mine that, as I grow older, hope I am losing. Who am I, some sort of food and beverage critic or something? It’s not my place to belittle one’s rum preference?

Cuba Libre??

A big part of my conversion to the mojito was the forest of mint that, since we moved to our new apartment, has accumulated on our terrace. Mint, along with lime, are the dominating flavors of the mojito and excellent bedfellows they make.

A forest of mint.

You can take your mint tea, mint ice cream, mint and lamb and whatever else you might use fresh mint for. I use it exclusively for the mojito. And yes, I do use smooth—err—bland, Puerto Rican rum in the drink (though not the Coca Cola of rums whose name will not be mentioned here). I wouldn’t dare attempt a mojito with a rum from Martinique or Trinidad. The result would be a completely different drink. The neutral rum from Puerto Rico seems to meld the other two dominant flavors of lime and mint perfectly in the cocktail.

Mojito mix

What follows is my version of the  mojito.


1 lime cut into tenths.

10 or more fresh mint leaves including sprigs.

4 teaspoons simple sugar syrup*

2 ounces of white Spanish rum (Puerto Rican or Domincan, if you can get Cuban, I’m sure that would work well too).

A splash or two of seltzer

*You can use superfine sugar, granulated sugar, or even confectioner’s sugar instead of simple syrup, but I prefer homemade syrup which eliminates having to dissolve the sugar into the drink. The recipe for simple sugar syrup can be found on my post, A Lime Cut Three Ways: The First Cut.

Add most of the lime and mint leaves, saving a few of each, to a highball glass. Mash and muddle the mint and lime together with a pestle or whatever type of apparatus you might have on hand.

Add the sugar syrup, the rum, and ice and stir.

Pour in a splash or two of seltzer to top off the cocktail and stir again.

A splash of seltzer.

Garnish with a couple of lime pieces and a sprig or two of mint.

Sit back, put your feet up, and enjoy.

The mojito

I no longer demean the mojito and want to admit here that I was very wrong about its many merits. It is a summer cocktail supreme and I now count it as one of my go to drinks. Could it be that this public admission is testament that I am finally maturing? One can only hope.

Lechonera Encanto

8 Jun

Lechonera La Isla
256 E. 125th Street

Last year, around this time, when I started seeing the Puerto Rican flags streaming from car antennas, out of apartment windows, and draped across uptown streets, I immediately thought of the Cuchy Frito man, specifically, Cal Tjader’s rendition and the celebration of all pig parts fried Cuchy Frito Man.

I am seeing those same flags again now. And this year, instead of Cal Tjader and cuchifritos, I thought I would celebrate La Isla del Encanto by stopping by my local lechonera, Lechonera La Isla, for a taste of pernil, roast pork shoulder.

Plenty of room at the lechonera.

La Lechonera La Isla was quiet when I walked in; the few stools of the small restaurant counter were empty. There was beef stew available along with oxtails and roast chicken. And there were a few slabs of pernil that had been roasted to sweet oblivion.

The day’s remains soon to be devoured.

“When do you close,” I asked the young man who was chopping the pernil into pieces for me.

“When we run out of food,” he replied, his cleaver slamming into the very dense crackling of the pig skin. “Basically, my Mom cooks everything in the morning and when it’s gone, I can go home.”

I was lucky;  he hadn’t gone home.

Trying not to be too bold, I peered into the kitchen hoping to catch a glimpse of Mom at work. But from what I could see, the kitchen was dark and quiet. Apparently Mom had gone home.

Sawing through the good stuff.

He layered a generous portion of pork on top of rice and red beans. An accompaniment of a homemade hot sauce; onions marinated in scotch bonnet peppers and vinegar set my mouth happily on fire while a drizzle of a tangy mojo (garlic sauce) just added to the gathering of fiery flavors now imbedded there.

Roast pork and rice and beans.

The traffic on 125th Street heading towards the Triorough (now known as the RFK) Bridge was bumper to bumper. Instead of Cuban-born Celia Cruz whose picture was adorned on the busy walls of the lechonera, or Tito Puente, who I once saw on 86th Street just after performing at the parade, sitting in the shade being fanned by a group of elderly ladies, the only sounds I heard while gnawing through the delicious cracklings, was that of honking horns. I really didn’t mind, the food provided all the music I needed.

A smile from Celia Cruz to help the pernil go down.


%d bloggers like this: