Donkey Sherbet’s Icy Grill Helados Fritos: Keeping it fresh with custom soy ice cream in Playa del Carmen

The sudden heat wave unleashed upon us here in Los Angeles recently has really got me craving a certain ice cream treat.

nieve de mamey

Last year I went on a family vacation to Quintana Roo, more specifically Cancun. Though, we ended up getting a little sidetracked after taking the “combi” an hour north to the beach ruins of Tulum and ended up spending our entire vacation at Playa Del Carmen.

For one thing, it is more affordable since it’s not as touristy as Cancun (although there are now plans to open up a Cheesecake Factory and the first ever international House of Blues). Whereas the entire city of Cancun has become smart and jacked up their prices during vacation season, at Playa del Carmen, only the shops on Calle 12 have done this. Meaning, if you stray a couple of blocks, you can still find some awesome regional Quintana Roo cuisine, things like Pan de Cazon and Huevos con Chaya.

But I digress, so the cool thing about Playa del Carmen is that there is a long avenue right by the beach. Kind of like El Malecon at Puerto Vallarta or Universal Citywalk, but a dozen blocks longer.

donkey sherberts signage

During one of the repeated laps walked on Calle 12, I saw the sign for this ice cream place and thought, hell yeah! Finally some Mexican gender equality!

The dive turned out to be pretty a cool little find, it’s apparently a small family run chain (they also have one on Acapulco somewhere) that does soy-based ice cream straight up jocking Cold Stone. Only, really, really making the ice cream fresh on this frozen plate out of your custom selection of blended ingredient sludge instead of flavoring that pre-frozen paste at Cold Stone. And they had pretty bad ass ingredients, things like glistening mamey wedges and goat milk cajeta, which go figure — is exactly what I got!

mangoneada in action
the icy grill
my mamey in action

It’s just one of those tacky places that are actually brilliant ideas without the right guidance. The final ice cream product ends up tasting pretty damn good, kinda like frozen coffee creamer since soy milk in Mexico is pretty much just that. Though, it melts fast so you got to eat it even faster.

Nonetheless, if you ever find yourself going to Cancun, don’t! Cancel your reservations and take a combi to Playa del Carmen instead and book a hotel right by the beach for a quarter of the price. Then you can go out, laugh at people who dress flashy and still don’t get in to clubs while eating some soy custom ice cream!

A Moment for Marquesitas: A Southern Mexican Street Food Dessert Favorite

If it’s a summer night and you are in downtown Merida, a “Marquesita” will most likely be in your near future. The pedal-powered street dessert hawkers are basically in every corner of the Zocalo and central tourist district. No, they aren’t swordsmith’s crafting metal as they push down on their blue-flamed, huge waffle-machine like cast-iron griddle set up with all their might, they are just making Marquesitas.

marquesito griddle

The traditional filling is actually a base of shredded “Bola de Queso” or Edam cheese with whatever else you’d like. The older couple who were in front of us asked for theirs with peanut butter and the zesty cheese, while the lady behind me ordered hers with the cheese and smothered with cajeta de cabra envinada (Mexican goat’s milk caramel flavored with red wine).

If the smell of toasted sugar and vanilla doesn’t lure you in, the curious Indian dosa-like funnel shape of it will. The French have crepes, the Italian have pizelles, the Indonesian have Teram Bulan and well, this is like a combination of all those but better. A sweet version of a paper dosa? Err, even more crispy and fragile than that, it is almost like a freshly made pirouette cookie even. Especially when prepared with creamy nutella and lechera like I did when I got mine in Merida.

marquesita in action

You might also luck out if the local feria is in town; I caught one at the Feria de Playa during my stay in Playa del Carmen too. The ingredients to stuff it with were more varied there. Nonetheless, I got mine with nutella and sliced banana. As if it wasn’t going to taste bad, haha. Whatever stuff’s your Marquesa with…its all good. Just make sure you eat it with your arms extended because the filling tends to leak from the bottom. Or you can just eat it like a sword-swallower like I did.

marquesita money shot
Marquesita in 3D!

Drago Centro: Italian Dessert Ultra Violence

drago urban signage
Urban Signage

So I finally made it out to Drago Centro. It was long overdue really, if you’ve seen me or talked to me lately…you know why. I was quite excited.

It was a Monday, gloomy and I had school at 2:00 PM. But I had delayed this outing long enough.

It was time–

To psyche me up for this meal, I had extensively been listening to the Rotten Bois, an Italian street Punk band who only had songs like Ragazzi Di Periferia

ambiance shot
My Type Of Lunch Crowd: I Blended Right In

Bed headed and still groggy from yet another late night’s debauchery, I showed up with a spray painted “Discocks” D.I.Y shirt and my tightest of fading 501’s; the hostess pulled my seat for me to sit. I was here for the food man.

But there is no such thing as an ordinary ‘quick lunch’ when certain people know you are a food enthusiast.

Sooner than I knew it, an impromptu tasting menu of Ian Gresik’s favorites, the chef di cucina at Drago Centro, was set to take place.

Michael Shearin, Drago Centro’s beverage director, came out and showed us the old cocktail list in addition to a sneak peek of their new spring cocktail list to be unveiled next Wednesday at 6PM for $6 each, look at website if interested.

Only one drink was kept.

clockwork orange
Arancia Meccanica: Monday Ultra Violence

Although I had to send back the first attempt due to wateriness, Michael showed me what’s up with one he made himself. A unique sweetness was achieved with the sweet pepper boosted agave while the cilantro–in unison with the Sombra Mezcal’s smoke profile–added a savory element. And that smoked salt only left you wanting more of smoky nectar. Italian for “Clockwork Orange”…this just might probably be the official mixed drink of The Glutster for now.

truffle agnalotti
Luscious: How Superlative Can A Pasta Get?

Agnolotti stuffed with a creamy Ricotta, and bathed in a truffle and fine-herb enhanced butter sauce. Each tender-to-the-bite little pillow literally exploded with molten cheesy goo. Sheer glee in every bite, the bar was set high with this.

crack stix
Bread Sticks: aka Crack Sticks

Some crispy bread sticks were brought out to the table by the pastry chef, flecked with kosher salt, my taste buds suspected some Parmesan action went into it. Hence the gourmet cheese-it addictiveness of them. I ate three in a minute.

pizzoccheri della valtellina
I Pizzoccheri Della Valtellina: The Rich Earth

My first time having a Fettuccine-like and cream based dish in a long time, these chewy noodles were made with Buckwheat flour and was served with fried sage leaves, cooked cabbage, crispy potato ball things, lotsa Fontina and an underwhelming sage cream. This dish definitely had potential to be outstanding, had everything going on: texture, appearance, portion. If my lunch mate and I didn’t have to ask for some salt to make up for the kitchens under seasoning, nothing a couple pinches mended right up though.

lamb bellyyy
Lamb Belly: The New Belly In Town

Crispy skinned with a gamy, sinewy bite that almost squeaks as you pleasurably chew it, this is what pork belly aspires to be. Served with those pretty dots that I think was some sort of balsamic reduction, shelled and buttered fava beans, some type of mushrooms and a crispy potato halves. I was pretty damn satiated.

But the reason for me being here was dessert.

jashmines fruits of labor
Like A Breath of Fresh Air: Spring

Harry’s Strawberries, sweet raspberries, blackberries, blueberries, mandarin oranges, blood oranges, and ultra tart passion fruit seeds were polk-a-dotted with the classic balsamic reduction as well as a tantalizing aromatic basil syrup. The sorbets were tangelo, piña, and coconut and left me licking the edges of the spoon as I kept my dignity this one time and didn’t lick the plate.

jashmines cakes
Basil And Avocado: The Odd Couple

There was something oddly complacent about the sudden mating of smooth, creamy avocado and the balmy, perfumed basil gelato, talk about sweeping me off my feet. La Torta Di Primavera‘s complexity in textures of spongy olive oil cake, crunchy homemade Campari candy and tart grapefruit segments came out of nowhere with its clean, fruity and strangely comfortable flavors.

jashimines chocolate mousse
Il Budino Di Cioccolato: All of A Sudden

Keeping the decadence train going, the chocolate custard was smooth and luscious, the pecan crumbles and pulled sugar added that bomb signature texture contrast while the conceptually named date carpaccio was sweet and chewy. That caramel gelato with its burnt sugar decree only bounded it all together.

By this point I was pretty much sweeted the hell out but I almost never will refuse MORE DESSERT.

jashmines cookie plate!

=”font-weight: bold;”>Testing The Limits of The Glutster:
Jashmine Corpuz’s Cookie Plate

Canoli, biscotti, torrone, baci di cioccolato, nocciolati (hazelnut chocolate), savoiardi (lady fingers)…I could write a whole other post on just this cookie plate. Whipped ricotta filled canoli, nougat-like, meringue based torrone with pistachios and dried fruit, baci di cioccolato chocolate cookies sandwiched with hazelnut ganache, a raspberry jelly nocciolati and the most airy, light ladyfingers that only led me on thinking how her Tiramisu is…

For the first time I actually opted for some coffee on the fact that Drago got a custom blend made from Lamill coffee. And after all that sweet fondling, a serving of their slightly long-pulled espresso hit the spot. Like an unforeseen sock in the face with its intense, bitter almost astringent qualities. I payed for the uber high caffeine content later though.

drago custom LAmill blend espresso
Black: This Espresso Don’t Mess Around

jashmine corpuz
Jashmine Corpuz: Drago’s Dessert Devotchka

Thanks to Jashmine Corpuz for making all this possible and being awesome.

By the time the feast was over I realized my journalism class was about to start in ten minutes…all the way in Pasadena. Oh well, ditching school and many other “important” things in life for food is the story of my life. And I don’t care really, when those experiences are worth it…like this.

Drago Centro
525 South Flower Street
Los Angeles, CA 90071-2200
(213) 228-8998

Drago Centro in Los Angeles

Drago Centro on Urbanspoon

Two Rounds of 17 Artisan Chocolate Tastings Later: The Day of Chocolate Judgement at the Los Angeles Chocolate Salon

Thy Day of Chocolate Judgement had come, and thousands (literally) of calories later, I am still alive to tell the tale. After many day’s of anticipation, painful day’s filled with chocolate sobriety and caloric rationing…thy day had finally come

I have found a new respect for thy human body, I shall never underestimate it again. I never knew it could withstand so much chocolaty-driven debauchery, I am left absolutely awestruck.

Today…I truly lived up to thy name Teenage Glutster. r (glutster: derived from the word gluttony.

Bear all, the mercy of thy Chocolate Commandments which has been blessed upon me. (For the first time in my life, I actually got recognized; thanks to all those who gave me ‘special treatment’ and those who put me on the ‘press list’)

Yum: Virgin, Raw, Ecuadorian Chocolate Goo, truly made from the heart. Made with hexane-free coconut butter and sweetened with Blue Agave, in enlightened flavors like Turkish Spice, Bombay Curry & Tibetan Goji Berries (just try to decipher all the maca-infused spices) and last but not least, Japanese Wasabi-Pearl (made with Grade A Matcha powder and REAL Wasabi). Like the label says, “taste and see the lord is good”, Exec. Chef & Owner Koina has spoken, and she is on a mission.

Amano Artisan Chocolate: Sincerely dedicated about bringing forth some of the best-tasting chocolate available, with its “floral essences, rustic smokiness, and raspberry finishes”, and paying annual visits to their cacao suppliers in Venezuela, such dedication is not gone unreturned.

L’ Artisan du Chocolat: : “Utmost quality in the ingredients and lightly sweetened”, the most velvety, crafted chocolates in the strictest french etiquette.

The Tea Room: Tea-infused 100% organic chocolate, winning an award in the San Francisco extension. Bedouins Fear(Peppermint, Nana-mint Orange Peel and Ginger) filled truffles and Green Earl Grey(a dark truffle, 58% cocoa, infused with a green tea with Bergamot).

Malibu Toffee: Locally made, good ‘ol, almond-based, buttery, crunchy toffee.

How food Saved (or Ruined?) My Life: Finding my Happy Spot at Mani's

Calories…there i said it.

Something we’re all too familiar with. The unfathomable part of food. A foodies natural born enemy, superfluous to many (including me), but sadly…crucial in the long run. No matter how hard we try to ignore them, their there, pillaging your conscience like…well, me on Chocolate cake-Vegan German Chocolate Cake to be exact.

A recent study showed that…According to….A more recent study done by researchers found out that food is _________. Lately, food has been more of a stress to me than a passion. Sometimes it drives me insane thinking about the food i eat, what, where, and how much? Trying to balance everything in order to feel good and thinking twice about doing this as a career. So naturally, i’ve fostered a fancy for “guilt-free” food: natural, macrobiotic, and even vegan food. I still ain’t one of them though!
It’s just a little salvation from my damnation.

I know i’m not the only one like this, so when you need a little relief, just a little comfort or just feel like eating al moist, creamy tri-layered German Chocolate Cake chock-full of pecans and gooey caramel…go ahead…do it. Not into coconut (don’t know how that’s possible) you say? How about a slice of Strawberry Shortcake? A Blueberry Turnover Perhaps? Whatever your gratification is, Mani’s lets you indulge, without driving yourself crazy thinking about it. They sweeten all their desserts and pastries solely with natural sweetners:concentrated fruit juice, maple, agave and no they don’t taste like cardboard. Their breakfast’s are also pretty good, but their lunch/dinner menu…not so much. But then again they are a bakery and not a restaurant so it’s ok.

A dessert place, something that L.A desperatelyneeds. It’s still not as good Moby’s Teany in N.Y’s Chocolate Macaroon Cake, my background on my desktop is set to to that, but this is damn well close.

Mani’s Bakery
Los Angeles
519 S. Fairfax Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90036
(323) 938-8800

Coconut Epiphany!-Courtesy of Portos

So there i was, bored on a friday night, craving something but not quite sure what, depressing myself over all these negative thoughts. I already had 2 cups of some fresh champurrado i made but unfortunately, that was not what i was craving. I still needed something, my body was still not satisfied. When out of nowhere my mom comes home and brings me just what my lanky body needed. At first i didn’t think nothing of it. But with the first bite of this crunchy dark brown object with the and the buttery moist interior in my mouth. I almost died!

I couldn’t believe how good this little thing was!!! I knew it was something with coconut(of course!!!) resembling a mexican Cocada, but 100x better. The deliciousness of it even managed to rid my mind of the stupid negative nonsense that makes teenagers kill themselves. This is why i love food everyone. In a life that sometimes seems unberable to live in or think about, especially in this stupid age with all the stupid pressures and thoughts……….food always saves me and keeps me going.

Well after a while, i found out my sister had sent them to me from Portos Bakery in Glendale. I’m guessing their the Cuban Version of Coconut Macaroon. But really, this is something truly delicious. If you’re into Coconut try these out, bust a mission just for these. I promise, they WILL BE worth it………trust.

315 North Brand Blvd.
Glendale, CA 91203
tel. (818) 956-5996

La Monarca Bakery: Finally Represent'n

I’m still tripping out, the words

East L.A

on the front page of the food section on the L.A times? I couldn’t believe it. They were doing an article on bakeries and someone finally shined some light onto the Latino culinary community. Finally, people have appreciated all the hard work that goes into making a decent pastel. Whether it being the balancing act of a Tres Leches Cake or a simple Relleno De Fruta, it’s about time!

La Monarca bakery’s Ricardo Cervantez said that he wanted to target a Latino market that is often neglected by the retail food industry. Since it was my little sister’s B-day, i figured why not support the cause?

Of course i had to order the Dulce De Leche cake. I called to order and was suprised to find out that for a “cuarto de plancha”(25-30 people) only cost $40. Normally the places that are mentioned on the paper tend to be on the pricy side and this was just the average cake price you would find anywhere.

When we went to go pick it up, all the pastry’s on display got the best of me. Like always, I couldn’t wait for later. I ended up with their Fruit Tart, a couple of “Bolillo’s Integrales”(Whole Wheat Rolls), Whiole Wheat Biscuits and some Whole Wheat Cemitas lightly sweetened with Piloncillo(unprocessed brown sugar).

The Fruit Tart was unexpectedly light. Normally Mexican Patisserie tends to have a heavy amount of butter or lard. But this was different. The crust was light and flaky without being greasy. The custard was nice, not overwhelmingly sweet. And the pear on top happended to be in season. And if it wasn’t sweet enough, it was all glazed in a simple syrup.

The Dulce De Leche cake looked beautiful enough to be accepted by my little sister, who’s poor life is about to be tortured by the problems of “Teenagerness”. And yeah, it was also tasted as good as it looked. Moist and airy and not overwhelmingly sweet. Again, this had that light taste that the tart had earlier. They were extremely generous with the whipped cream but that wasn’t a bad thing in this case, the custard inside was a different one that i had earlier, also delicate. It was nice to know that they don’t use the same one for everything much like other bakeries do.

Score one for us, finally!