Sunday, November 9, 2014

Are We Ready for Raw?

In the hours and days immediately after the Boston marathon bombing in 2013, we given a preview of something that we are now seeing more and more regularly on our social media, raw, unfiltered information. Specifically to Boston, there was rampant misinformation about the possible identity of the bomber, a Brown University student who someone thought they recognized on a surveillance video. Long story short, both Twitter and  Reddit took the story and ran with, with seemingly non-credible sources adding to and  re-tweeting the hashtag, #BostonBombing (TheAtlantic). The unfortunate aspect of this story is that the Brown University student, was actually a missing person and the subsequent follow ups from reporters and bloggers not only gave the family of the missing student false hope of his status, but also forced the family to re-live the past few months of not knowing the condition of their son. The student was later found dead in Rhode Island (NYTimes). If you read the article, once it was confirmed that the suspects in the video was not the student, apologies from news agencies began to come in. One of these was from reddit, who had a subreddit devoted to news of the Boston Bombing.

(on a side note, please take the time and find a good article on the timeline of just how horribly out of control this mistake became. It is outstandingly eye opening.) 

Like I mentioned in the opening, this lack of any constraint of raw and unfiltered previewed what we are seeing more and more often. And even though we haven't seen anything like the scale of what transpired after the Boston bombing, in my opinion, we are seeing way to much of it.

We live in a time where this is possible, even celebrated. More and more websites that have the appearance of journalism and the ever increasing need for cable media to increase their ratings, have led to and explosion of bad sources. These websites seem to have very little if any editorial oversight. And why would they, we live in a fast pace world with the winners of information war usually being the ones that can post first, even if it is slightly wrong (anyone remember when CNN reported for more than 2 minutes that the Healthcare law was stuck down before actually reading the opinion?). This has consequences. Any stroll through Facebook and you will see any number of shared articles. Some of these may be reputable, most are not. The problem is I don't know if we are ready to handle this feed of raw information, often  very raw information.

The traditional news process was that articles were sent through editors. With so many "news" sites, it seems that there are not enough editors to go around. Remember, we are just talking about the news sources. There are just as many that purposely do not have editors or that have editors with agendas. I am not addressing those sites here, I am simply referring to the current news climate. It seems that we have entered into an era where we speculate first and verify late, if at all.

But all of this brings me to the crux of the point that I am trying to make. It seems that with there being so much raw information out there, that if (more like when) misinformation is released there is no consequence to that action. By merely speculating on an issue, whether from an unverified source, a tweet, or a random comment., the door is left wide open for others who do have neither the desire nor will to put in the due diligence into the accuracy of the article, to run with the contents. Often misstating the contents or even twisting it for their own agenda. Simply put, they can't, or don't want to, handle the raw nature of the news coming out. And I don't think this is a good thing. It seems now that the new crop of millennial journalist are embracing this new strategy, trying in vain to reach younger readers. A strategy that is being embraced by those readers, further fueling the fire of raw information.


Monday, October 27, 2014

The Best Latin American Cuisines

I NEED to open this post with a disclaimer. This is far from a complete list. Simply because I don't have a complete working knowledge of all the intricacies and the subtleties of all the Latin American countries. So there are many countries that are not on my list. Furthermore, since no less than half of the people that will be exposed to this post are of Latin descent, they will automatically disagree with the top pick if their county of origin is not on top.

And also, this is my list! Being in Miami, I am exposed to everything. I think I can locate a restaurant representative of every country in the Western Hemisphere except for Canada. But as I am writing this, I'm reminded that  there are so many Canadians down here part of the year, that there has to be a place serving up poutine. But it's an understatement to say that Miami has a lot of good Latin America restaurants. I do find myself gravitating toward a lot of the same ones over and over (I have a "if it ain't broke" mentality when it comes to my dining habits). So below you will see my list of my top Latin American Cuisines. Also included are why I chose that particular country/region. And to all of my Latino friends who I have spent hours with talking about food, I am going to apologize in advance. Because none of your Country's made the top spot.

As I mentioned before, there are several country's that did not make the list, but probably should. I don't think that if/where I included them on my list, that it would be anywhere close to accurate. Before I begin the official list the countries that didn't make the list ( in no particular order).

  • Colombia- Right now there is a Colombian in Australia getting mad at me. ( I just haven't had that much Colombian food. 
  • Venezuela- See above reason 
  • Ok, for the sake of brevity, I don't know much about Bolivia, Chile, Paraguay, and Brazil as far as food goes other than it has a lot of red meat. 
  • Uruguay- It can be lumped with the list above, but I do want to mention the chivito, the national dish of the country. It's a sandwich that usually contains, you guessed it, steak. There are about as many variations as you can think of. The one that I had was a thin steak, with ham on top of the steak and then a fried egg on top of that, all on top of french fries. But I want include it in the list just from that one dish. 
  • Finally, many of the Central American countries are left off the list. But to find out why, you are going to have to read the rest of the post. 
THE LIST!   (in ascending order) 

No. 7. Costa Rica

Ha! Costa Rica doesn't have a food cuisine. But they made the list because they have the most underrated rum in Central America and the Caribbean. Nicaragua may have Flor de Caña, which is still an exceptional choice. But Costa Rica has Ron Centenario. Odly, it was cheaper to buy in the US than in Costa Rica itself. But you can't go wrong with this rum. It's good with Coke, and it makes a really good mojito. And it also is good by itself. 

No. 6. Dominican Republic

Mofongo is the dish here. Essentially it is mashed green plantains as a base with something on top. What is so great about it, is that you can do almost anything you want with it. Add shrimp, chicken, beef. IT doesn't matter. I feel that I could easily live off of mofongo for any length of time. 

This really is a simple dish, but to me this is comfort food. Technically the origin of mofongo is Puerto Rico and if you travel throughout the island, you will have no shortage of chances to try it out. I feel that in the right hands this dish could bump the Dominican up a few spots. But since my Dominican friend has yet to provide me with some more versions, it will remain right here. 

Bonus: The Dominican Republic makes a really good beach beer called Presidente. It's one of those beers you put a lime in and drink on a hot day. And since it is always hot here, you have a good excuse to have a six pack around. 

No. 5. Peru 

By most accounts and opinions, this country should be higher on the list. If there ever was a Latin American country with a proud food culture, it's Peru.  Peruvian cuisine is extremely diverse because it has had so many influences on it (Spanish, Italian, Chinese, Japanese, and German). They  have an enormous variety of potatoes and this is where quinoa comes from. It's a good chance that with more time and more dining, Peru will move up the list. It seems like every other new restaurant that opens in Miami is Peruvian, and with good reason. It's good food.

My two favorite dishes are aji de gallina and of course ceviche.  Peru is home to some of the most bountiful seafood harvests on the planet and they put it to good use. Ceviche is not hard to make either. You can do it a number of ways. But if you're looking for a unique recipe, try this  .

No. 4. Nicaragua

Many of my Latino friends are scratching their heads at this one. Nicaraguan food is not very storied as Peruvian food or as celebrated outside of Miami or Southern California like Cuban food is. But it makes the list and comes in at number four for one specific reason.....the fritanga. When I was in grad school, I lived off of the fritanga by my apartment (Fritanga Monimbo). For my non-Latino friends who live in or went to Troy, you wouldn't necessarily call the fritanga your favorite place to eat, much the same way that you would not call IGA (The Pig) Cafe your favorite restaurant. But on a Thursday, you know where you are going to get lunch.

Like I mentioned the fritanga by my grad school apartment holds a special place in my heart. Not only was it a cheap and really good place to get good food and quick, the women who worked their loved me. They used each one of my visits as an opportunity to teach me knew Spanish. So much so that I was afraid that the Spanish accent I was picking up was that of a Nicaraguan Woman. But like so many of our fondest memories in life, I tie Nicaraguan food to some very special memories. To me it became comfort food. I would pick up a plate on my way home from class and sit on my balcony and watch the airplanes land at MIA. If you read many of my previous posts, you will not that I wrote a lot of them out there. Nicaragua was the first country I visited outside of the US. Before, I went the ladies at the fritanga desperately tried to tell me where to go and what to see. Most of it was Spanish and their excitement while describing their country seem to make them forget that the range of my Spanish was limited to ordering food.

Carne Desmenuzada 

As nostalgic as I am getting explaining why I hold Nicaraguan food so dear, I can't neglect how good it is. Aside from the usual gallo pinto (rice and beans) and  maduros (fried sweet plantains), my absolute favorite dish from the fritanga is carne demenuzada. This is a shredded beef dish with a onions and peppers in a tomato broth. For those familiar with Cuban food, it is the Nicaraguan version of ropa vieja. To my utter dissatisfaction, this is one dish that I cannot come close to getting right on my own. Yes it's edible and people don't complain, but it just isn't the same as those sweet old ladies at Monimbo make it. Finally, if you do happen to find yourself in a fritanga either here or abroad, you have to add the fired cheese to it. I don't really know what the cheese is made from, but doesn't seem to melt. It's not breaded but it is deep fried. When you combine the carne desmenuzada with the queso frito, you simply can't go wrong.

Bonus: As I mentioned earlier, Nicaragua makes one of the finest rums you can find, Flor de Caña. Named from the flower of the sugar can plant, it is delicious. And if you are in Nicaragua, cheap. a bottle of 7 year old Flor de Caña  is only $8. The bottles that I brought back somehow survived crammed into my board bag through three airports, thankfully. It goes well in anything, anything can be made better with Flor de Caña. 

No. 3. Argentina

Simply put, Argentina has the best beef in the world. The big dish for Argentinians is asado. Every Argentinian I've ever met swears that their father, uncle, abuelo etc. makes the best asado. And so far everyone has been right. Maybe it's the pride of the country toward their cuisine, but I just have never found a reputable churrascaria that serves a bad asado. Just like soccer, it seems to be something that the whole country is good at.  

Furthermore, Argentina has created the very best steak "sauce" you will ever eat, chimichurri. I'ts a blend of parsley, onion, red pepper flakes, red wine vinegar and a few other ingredients  and it is the absolute best. I cannot imagine Latin food without it. I had no idea what chimichurri was when I first had it (in a Nicaraguan restaurant none the less. And on a side note, Nicaraguans make a pretty good steak as well). After asking around what that green stuff I just put on my steak was, I was hooked. So much so that I have attempted numerous times to make it myself. All of which have come up way short of what I was hoping for. I have recipe that was given to me by one of my Argentinian students. But she just gave me a list of ingredients, no measurements. So I haven't gotten it quite right. She made up for it by bringing in a large jar of homemade chimichurri. It didn't last long. 

No. 2. Cuban

I can't write a post about Latin food in Miami and omit Cuban food. It is by far the most abundant cuisine in Miami. Not that I'm complaining. But just because it is everywhere, doesn't mean that every Cuban place is worth a visit. But as a whole, this is one of my favorite food Latin cultures. 

Let's start off with some of my favorite dishes:

  •  Ropa Vieja- The Cuban version of the Nicaraguan carne desmenuzada. Or is the Nicaraguan version the copy? Either way, es la mejor! 
    • Best place for this- Still searching, but Versailles or la Carreta  is a good start 
  • Palomilla- Thinly sliced round steak pan seared and best if you include chimichurri. Goes best with black beans and rice, sweet plantains, and a tall glass of sangria. 
    • Best place for this- The Palomilla Grill on Flagler. 
  • Vaca Frita de Pollo- Literally translated as fried cow of chicken. This is shredded chicken cooked like vaca frita....but with chicken. This has been my go to quick meal at home as of late.
    • Best place for this- la cocina de Patricio  
  • Pork Fricasse- best with yellow rice and plantains
    • Best place for this- los Palacio de los Jugos 
  • Media Noche- This is essentially a Cuban sandwich on a sweet roll instead of a Cuban bread. Load up on fries and order a cortadito to end the meal and you're set.
    • Best place for this- el Pub on 8th Street. For the atmosphere as much as the food. I'm sure there are some of other great places as well.  

The food is good, but I want to recognize the most influential Cuban import, coffee. I am convinced that Miami runs on Cuban Coffee. When there is a long line at the bank, an employee will make cafecitos for everyone, no one turns it down. I wrote an entire chapter of my thesis on one colada. Gas stations and grocery stores have people making it fresh everywhere in Miami. And the the good thing is that you can get good Cuban coffee nearly everywhere. But if I had to go to one place to get a cafe con leche, it would be el Pub on 8th Street. Sitting at the bar with tostada and coffee is a fond memory I will always have of Miami. But like I said, take your pick of any place and your likely to get some good coffee. 

No. 1. Mexico

Are you really surprised? Let's be honest, all other countries are just competing for second. Good Mexican food is by far my favorite of all of the Latin American cuisines. It's just so robust and there are so many ways to prepare Mexican food, and like most great food cultures, it's regionally influenced. Since all of us have experienced Mexican food, I'm really not going to get to much into other than I could live off of it along with any number of their beers, Tecate, Modelo, and Dos Equis being my very favorite beer. Corona is the worst beer in the world. 

I've had two really good Mexican food experiences. The latter being at a place here in Miami. Los Maguayes is probably the most authentic Mexican food I've had outside of the other time, which is when Edgar Ramirez's family came to Troy. I was hoping to go to Oaxaca to have a big food experience but unfortunately my recipe didn't win the contest I entered. You can read about that above.      

Miami- On a side note, I am more than willing to take anyone of you on a food tour of Miami, you won't have to ask twice. And with my new sleeper sofa from Ikea, I even have a place for you to stay, right across the street from the Atlantic Ocean. So just say the word. 


Tuesday, March 11, 2014

The Greenest Surfboards are Yellow.....Because They're Old

I have been thinking about updating my quiver; my assemblage of surfboards, one for nearly every condition that South Florida has to offer. If you take a look at the boards, you may think that I need to update them as well. They are starting to yellow, have pressure dings, one of my fin boxes is starting to come loose. But the thought of replacing the boards is bittersweet. The boards that I mostly use, I made myself. I worked tirelessly for almost a week straight in a friends garage, trying to distract myself from a  frustrating few months and a particularly rough week. I shaped, hours on end, each stroke of the surform, every brush of sandpaper, until I had created what I thought was a good looking board. I scribbled the dimensions on the board, 6'6" x 19 3/4" x 2 1/4" . A little thick, but I was still developing.

I didn't get to finish the board until a few months later, and I got the first chance to try it out in a spot north of Jacksonville. I took off on the wave, dropped in, set for the bottom turn, and promptly fell right off the board. I was dejected. I had made a board that didn't turn. Months of hard work and lots of money wasted. BUT! As I caught more and more waves that day, I realized that the board did turn, it turned really well. SO well that it was really hard to control. I was stepping down 6 inches and completely changing my tail. After that session, that board became a work horse. Nicaragua, 5 hurricanes, countless Deerfield Beach sessions. All proudly proclaiming to beachgoers to "be ocean minded." IT has definitely aged .

Which brings me to last Sunday. TI was a beautiful day in Ft. Pierce. There was surf all throughout SoFla and Jess and I were going to take advantage of it. The first spot we checked showed potential. The inlet was protected by two long jetties. But it was too well protected. You could see the swell (11sec) but it just wasn't materializing. The tide was rising and was starting to affect the break. We found a spot a few miles south. The surf was inconsistent. But what it lacked in consistency, it made for in the fact that it was just Jess and I in the water.

The tide was starting to mess with the surf so we only had a couple of hours to try and catch a few. I caught a couple back to back after a 10 minutes or so but the opportunities were few and far between. The next opportunity that came in my old, yellow, but very trusty board, made the absolute most of it. It was a left and a late take off. The wave was breaking on me as I stood up and the section in front of me was collapsing. I made a bottom turn and went around it and what I saw in front of me was a clean and very fast wave. I set a line and  pumped once, and then twice. With every pump, the 6'6" gripped the wave and responded with lightning speed. Every pump accelerating me down the line. I made a quick top turn and found the line again still racing. The wave was moving so fast that it was now staking up against the shore pound. What was once a turquoise blue wave was now white with foam mixed with the dark tint of the sand. I had one opportunity to kick out. I jumped backwards over the lip and got mixed up in the whitewash. When it was all said and done. I was shin deep, half in the ocean, half on the beach. One second more on the wave and I would have hit nothing but sand. In the brief few seconds from my time on that wave, my perspectives had changed.

I often think what life would be like on a professionally built board. Shelling out $700 for a typical Channel Islands. But when I think about what I put into the board while shaping it, and how well it has treating me, not to mention how much I've developed on that board. it makes reconsider spending money to get new gear. Why don't I just repair? Why don't I continue shaping boards? It's worked out so far?
I may be the odd man out in Miami by not having the newest model each year. But I don't need that. You can bring up the fact that older surfboards are more sustainable and it's true. But when you have a board that works really well, it just doesn't seem like a good Idea to part with least not yet. And I guess for now, I'm going to Google how to repair old surfboards.

On a very secluded Beach in Ft. Pierce. The orange line is the wave that changed my perspective on my old board. I was literally on the beach at the end of the ride.  

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

I Have Been Running on Dunkin'

Back in October I went full time with my Job. I went from splitting time between two part-time jobs to being very busy. Honestly, it caught me off guard. And while my work did not suffer, my diet did. The time that I once had to prepare food and eat sensibly disappeared, at least it seemed that way. But, conveniently there are no less than three Dunkin' Doughnuts between my house and School, and then a few more between school and work. And it was about this time that I realized that I really liked bagel sandwiches. And I was ok with it. I was making enough money to sustain myself and I convinced my self that I was busy enough to justify the habit. Understand that there were other places, but morning is what got me the most. But then it just got to a point that it just seemed all very wasteful. For me it showed a lack of preparedness, one thing that I like to pride myself on. Furthermore, it highlighted other issues that didn't quite sit well with me. If I was to rushed to cook, I was too rushed for other things, important things like fitness, surfing, Jessica, reading, learning Spanish, paddling. All of which can easily be stamped out of my daily life if I don't prioritize my time to include them. 

So as the new year came and went, I started to purposely shift. It was all very slow at first. I made it my New Years Resolution to read at least one book a month. I am pleased to report that I am on track. But I still wasn't eating any better. And now I am on the South Campus of FIU so I have even less time. But I started to  feel like this wasn't a very valid excuse to continue to eat out so often. 

So this brings me to today, the day before Lent. For the next 47 days, I am going to make it a priority to not eat out. No prepared food can be purchased by me. This is all about the financial side. Yes, there are added health benefits of cooking at home, but you can also eat healthy out....but you still have to pay a premium for it. This will hopefully teach me to be better prepared, think ahead, save money, and to ultimately address the "too busy to" thing I've taken on. What I am looking forward to the most is seeing if I can simplify by forcing myself to set aside more time that I will have to use if I want to eat. I will keep you updated. 

Side project: Hopefully some new recipes will come out of this. And I also am going to be taking a hard look at the impact my food choices have on the Environment. More on that later.  

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

2013.....Not so Bad

I'm feeling nostalgic on this year and I want to put a little bit of it down in words. Mostly, because this last year has been pretty good, one that seems to be poised to continue into the new year. To get a feel for 2013, I have to talk about 2012 a little bit.  2012 was a stressful year. Entering it in bad place, coming off of grad school, with very few prospects for a job of any kind, I was stressed to the max.Things did begin to to turn around in the second half of 2012 and by then end of the year, I began to have a little more hope. So approaching 2013 I had fresh outlook on a few different things. And below are some of the year.

Job: Yep, got a job. A good one. I started in March as a part time fishery biologists with IAP Worldwide Services. I am contracted to work for the National Marine Fisheries Service, and a lot of my job has to deal with auditing and managing data. In October, I started as full time doing a lot of the same things but as this year continues, I will change direction a little bit. This has been a big relief and I am learning a lot, on the job. It still sounds strange to say. But there are so many things that hopefully will open with this. It is going to be very exciting to see where this ends up.

Paper: I got my first paper accepted for publishing this year. The paper will be out in March and it represents a lot of hard work. The time I put into really taught me a lot about making things work, finding solutions, and really putting together a quality product. Here's to many more!

Jess: Jess and I celebrated a year together this year. Now we are at 1 year and third and still going strong.

SUP: Last spring I decided to start competing at something again. I missed the competition from college and needed to get back into something. SUP races were the solution. I entered into three races this year with a lot of early success. Third place, fourth place, and one win. Though all of these were in short or open race courses. This year I have a full schedule ahead of me with one coming in less than two weeks. I'm moving up to the more competitive division.

Travel: Jess and I took a two weeks trip to Costa Rica this year. There are too many things to say about it here, but it was one of my favorite outings to date! This year the plan (as of now) is to backpack and surf from Lima, Peru to Santiago Chile. I've got to get the time off first though. Since that matters now.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Lionfish Ceviche in a Tequila Marinade

About a week before Costa Rica, I entered a recipe contest by Dos Equis with the full confidence that this recipe would at least make it to the voting round. All to win a culinary adventure to Oaxaca, Mexico. Apparently I didn't follow the "contest rules for entry exactly" so I didn't make it to the next round. At least this is what I am telling myself.

Either way the contest was to submit a unique or interesting recipe that you don't often see or get to experience. Below is what I submitted. Also you can follow the link at the bottom to see those that did make it to the voting round.

This is a very simple dish if you have access to the ingredients, mainly the lionfish. To make it all you need is:

Lionfish (cut into pieces, size is your preference but you don't want to go too large)
Red bell pepper
Jalapeño pepper
a silver Tequila- (2-3 ounces should be enough depending on how much fish you have)
Onions (sweet or red, once again your preference)
Limes (many, you need the juice. Don't you dare use the already squeezed lime juice )
Salt and pepper to taste

Prep:  Mix everything together........
Chill in refrigerator or cooler  for 20-25 minutes.
Eat with tortilla chips or the like.

If you don't know much about lionfish or how they taste, check out the video below. The best part about lionfish is that it is a guilt free fish. By taking as many as possible, you are not hindering conservation efforts, in fact you are helping to remove a species that shouldn't be here.

For those of you new to ceviche, the lime and (in this recipe) tequila "cook" the fish. So no heat or prepping, just mix, chill and eat.

I haven't really spent a whole lot of time making ceviche and I'm sure my Peruvian friends may have a thing or two to add to this. So I want to know what you all think about this or if you have any suggestions.


for the dishes deemed "worthy" for voting: