Dinner & Drinks with a View at Zona de Cuba

With the opening of Zona de Cuba coinciding with my birthday week, I decided to add it on the the week’s festivities. The much hyped rooftop bar and restaurant is the first of its kind here in the Bronx in that it is fully on the rooftop (as opposed to say, Pine, where the restaurant is on the lower level and there is a bar on the upper level). When I found the entrance (hint: it’s NOT on the Concourse, but on the other side of the building), there was a long line of people waiting to get in. The entrance isn’t super flashy or anything, but you can tell it’s upscale and they are serious about that dress code because a guy was definitely turned away.

A friend was already waiting upstairs for us and said the place wasn’t really crowded, so I’m not sure why the line took so long (they also didn’t fill the elevator up as much as it could have, without being too packed. There was only one elevator in use.). There was a line for people with reservations, but when we had called to make them the day before, the line was busy. The woman at the front said they would be revamping the reservation process soon. (Update! They have updated their website to allow reservations online.) The whole entry process could definitely be streamlined.

Once we finally made it upstairs, we loved the decor. Whoever designed this place deserves all the applause. There are comfortable couches (definitely a must) in the interior dining area, surrounded by an assortment of lush greenery, and chandeliers adorning the ceilings. The outside area offers up surprisingly gorgeous views of Harlem amid brightly colored couches and flags from various Latin American countries.

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My friend who had arrived before us had yet to receive her drink, after waiting over half an hour. The waitress who dropped it off, turned and walked away without acknowledging me or my other friend, so we had to flag someone else down who was as attentive as she could be given how hectic things seemed to be for the servers. She had mentioned that there was a back up at the interior bar and ended up taking our drink ticket to the bar outside. (I’m not sure why this was, there appeared to be only one bartender outside, while there seemed to be 4 inside.) My drink, the te picó  el burro de Tito was not my favorite. The flavors tasted watered down and overall wasn’t a strong drink, which was disappointing for a $15 cocktail. My friends did like their drinks, though – the tamarindo con tu Henny and the guava mojito.

Our food, however, did come out at a decent time. I ordered the como pollo con grano, which was essentially a fancy arroz con pollo. The portion size was huge, I ended up having leftovers for like two days afterward.

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Later in the evening, a live band started to play and people began to dance. The music was very loud throughout our visit, so Friday night is probably not the time to have any deep conversations here.

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Overall, it’s a gorgeous venue and I hope they’re able to work out some of the kinks to make it a really great place to hang out.

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Travel Tuesday: Sydney

On my quest to visit all* of the continents by 30, I finally finally made it to Oceania this February. This post will be dedicated to my trip to Australia, I’ll save New Zealand for next time.

Where We Stayed

One of the few times my Bank of America travel card has come in handy (I can do another post on travel credit cards if you guys are interested. I’m still new to racking up points.) was in finding a place to stay for this trip. We finally settled on Manor Boutique Hotel because we got a pretty decent deal on it. The pictures of the property were gorgeous (click on that link. It really looks like that on the outside!) and even though some of the reviews talked about it being a little outdated, we figured it was fine.

It was an…interesting experience. So, the room was not bad. However, the internet was in and out. When you travel, you really do rely on the internet a lot to look up…pretty much everything. Then, our tv remote stopped working.  We brought it to the front desk and the woman there gave me another. That one also didn’t work. I brought it back to her and she said she’s be back with another one and..just never came back? We got another one the next day. I know these are first world problems, but at the same time, when you’re told to expect these amenities, you expect them to work. They had a very basic continental breakfast. There wasn’t much change from day to day.

I don’t think I’d stay here again, but it wasn’t the absolute worst.

What We Did

It rained every.single.day. that we were in Sydney until our very last day. Apparently, this is very rare. I came prepared to live on the beach and yet…I was prepared to see some kangaroos and YET. We got really lost and missed our entire tour. I was devastated.

  1. Sydney Opera House, Museum of Contemporary Art,

We made an obligatory trip to the Sydney Opera House and went to the Museum of Contemporary Art (which was free!). My favorite exhibit was a screening of a powerful documentary about protests against racism and police brutality in Townsville.  It was striking to see parallels between what black folks have been fighting against here and what has happened literally across the world. Afterward, we explored The Rocks and had a quick lunch.

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2. Blue Mountains

Because we missed the Blue Mountain tour on the first day, we decided to take a chance with the hop on, hop off  bus tour. This involved hopping on a commuter rail train (akin to our Metro North or LIRR) for about two hours and then getting the bus. It was decently’ priced and we actually had a nice time, hiking through the trails and getting to see the Three Sisters through the fog.

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3. My absolute favorite thing we did on our very last day. It was also the only day without rain. Blak Markets is an indigenous arts marketplace on Bare Island. All around Sydney there are land acknowledgements to recognize the indigenous people of the area, but the entire week we were wondering “okay, so where are they?” In short, similar to here in the U.S., Aboriginal people have been pushed out of many areas and it’s a constant fight to correct the wrongs have been done. We were so glad to be able to speak to Aboriginal artists and support their work. I bought all of my souvenirs from here.

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Where We Ate

As I mentioned, our hotel continental breakfast left a lot to be desired, so we ventured out to brunch at The Silly Tart Kitchen. We order the Lot, which was so good. They get lots of their ingredients from their garden and you can absolutely tell because everything is so fresh.

You can’t go to Australia and not have a pie.  We went to Bourke Street United. We opted for beef and a chicken, sweet potato one. They were delicious! And way bigger than we expected.

 

Overall, I had really high expectations for Sydney and was a little disappointed by some of our setbacks and the torrential downpours. I’d love to return to Australia some day and get to other parts of the country.

(*I’m not doing Antarctica. I’ve thought about it a lot and….it’s just not gonna happen.)

Taste of the Bronx to Launch New Subscription Box

Taste of the Bronx, a monthly pop-up market featuring local Bronx vendors, is set to launch a brand new quarterly subscription box featuring products from locally sourced Bronx-focuses products. All products have to meet strict requirements to earn the Taste of the Bronx seal of quality. The Spring box features merchandise from Sustainable Snacks, From the Bronx, the New York Botanical Garden, Cards by De, and more!

A partnership between Sustainable Snacks and From the Bronx,  Taste of the Bronx ‘s markets highlight local businesses and give them an opportunity to sell the wares and connect with others in the community.  I love that the market and new subscription box are focused on uplifting and spotlighting Bronx entrepreneurs.

Taste of The Bronx gathers Bronx entrepreneurs in a celebration of everything that makes our borough unique. Our subscription box and monthly markets are a true Bronx experience. The Bronx has so much to offer that there will always be something new to see!” says Anthony Ramirez II, Taste of The Bronx partner.

To find out how you can be featured in the Taste of the Bronx subscription box or to sign up, click here. PLUS! you can visit the market and get a taste for yourself (pun obviously intended) at the market at Bronx Cookspace (50 E. 168th St, Bronx, NY, 10452) tomorrow, April 14 1-6pm.

 

Life Updates

So…it’s been a few months…let me catch you up on what’s been going on with me. I’ve been working on a few different projects, which meant that I had to sacrifice blogging for a bit to make things work/not burn out. The most important development (if you follow me on IG, this will be old news. And if not, it’s okay, I’ll wait…) is that I finished the first draft of my novel at the end of December. When I came back from Prague last year and was all depressed and having an existential crisis and whatnot, I made up my mind to rededicate all my time and effort to my original passion, writing. I had been writing the whole time, but I needed to make it my number one priority, which looked like sitting down every single day and writing, meeting my (very strict!) word count – even after a night of going out and drinking (-_-)- and reading in abundance.

When I was in grad school, I remember one of my professors saying to a stressed out classmate “You can either be a really good teacher and an okay student or a really good student and an okay teacher.” So applied that advice to my own situation – I could either be a really good blogger or a really good writer. When it came down to it, writing my novel was definitely way more important. So here we are.

I have some very cool writing news that I can’t give too many details about just yet, but it’s very exciting!

Last month, I got to check off my SIXTH continent by visiting Australia and New Zealand, the post for that will be coming your way soon.

In the mean time, here’s a lovely picture of the Bronx River that I took during a quaint stroll this past Sunday.

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Visiting The Coffee Break Company

Last week, I got the chance to visit Throggs Neck’s newest addition – The Coffee Break Company.

Located in the spot where Brew Coffee House once was, The Coffee Break Company is a joint endeavor by owners Bruce “Blue” Rivera and Brian Martinez who have given the space a total revamp. My favorite feature was the clock walls – a collection of vintage and modern clocks that line the wall during your very own “coffee break.” Another unique feature are the custom tables in the center of the coffeeshop that are made out of doors filled in with coffee beans. Another feature I thought was pretty cool was the jars of coffee beans on the wall behind the counter, which featured the top ten coffee distributors around the world.

Serving up La Colombe coffee, lattes, and tea the coffeeshop also makes all of its desserts in house. I got to try a pumpkin pie bite and a coconut cupcake. Both were so delicious. First of all, I’ve never had a pumpkin pie bite before, but I could definitely eat a 100 of them in one sitting; it’s a perfect fall snack. Second, as a person who doesn’t even really like coconut, that cupcake was fantastic. The icing was light, the cake itself was light as well, so you really got to taste the flavors instead of just straight sugar.

Though still in its soft opening stage, The Coffee Break has a number of events in the pipeline. This Friday, Oct 19, they’ll be hosting a paint and sip event. On Halloween, kids will be invited to help the coffeeshop “dress up” as a barn and around Christmas, there are plans for a cookie decorating event.

While the grand opening isn’t until November, you can keep up with the latest by following them on Instagram or Facebook.

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Pizza, Pizza

When it comes to pizza, I guess you’d say I’m a bit of a purist. I rarely ever get any toppings and if I do, it’s mushrooms. (Obv. seasonings are a must. Pass the garlic powder, oregano, and red pepper flakes.)  How exciting. But, on a recent trip to Kingsbridge Social Club, I was challenged to step out of my comfort zone. Okay, I’m lying, it was not challenging at all. There were honestly so many delicious options that it was hard to pick just one.

My friend and I opted to sit outside in their patio area. It’s only a few tables, but a cute space nonetheless. She ordered the brussel sprouts as an appetizer and they were fantastic. I’m not particularly drawn to brussel sprouts when I see them on a menu, but I’m really glad she ordered them because they delicious. They were slightly charred, which gave them a slight crunch. Do yourself a favor and try them.

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Now, to the pizza. I ordered The Wrecking Ball , which is topped with mozzarella, onions, garlic, and basil and served atop a large, tomato sauce can for an added touch. The crust had that excellent charred taste from the wood fire oven and all of the ingredients tasted so fresh. The crust was thin with the perfect balance between being appropriately crispy, but still soft enough that you can eat the crust and not worry about chipping a tooth.

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Paired with a chilled glass of wine, it was the perfect way to spend one of the last days of summer.

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