Birthday Dinner at La Masa

After the crazy year I’ve had, when my birthday rolled around two weeks ago, I wanted everything to be really chill. What better way to celebrate than a laid back dinner at La Masa in Morris Park?

While I had gotten a taste of their food about a year ago at an event at Bronx Coworking Space, I had yet to actually visit in person.

With cute, modern decor with pops of red throughout the restaurant, La Masa has a vibrant and relaxed atmosphere, which is perfect for catching up with friends and family.

Our server was really friendly and provided us with some really great recommendations for drinks and entrees. [I ordered the sangria which was really refreshing and strong!]

First of all, everything on their menu sounds amazing, it was really hard to decide. Their empanada selection is crazy, with over 15 to choose from, they have savory and sweet selections as well as vegan and gluten free options. I tried the bacon mac and cheese, beef , and cilantro lime chicken. All of them were good, but the ground beef was my favorite. Can’t go wrong with a classic. I did get to try some of the Husband’s apple pie empanada and it was also really good. (I feel like there’s an innuendo lurking somewhere there. Oh well.)

For my main course, I got the mahi mahi a la parilla because I can’t think of another place in the Bronx that serves mahi mahi! (If you do, please let me know in the comments!) Both my sister and Husband ordered the bandeja paisa, which is this behemoth of a meal including steak, chicharron, chorizo, maduros, rice, beans, an arepa, salad, and a fried egg. So I picked off of my sister’s plate when I was finished with my own.

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It was a great way to wrap up my birthday and I can’t wait to return and try more empanadas.

 

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Tacos & Margaritas at Cocina Chente

I don’t know about you all, but probably 75% of the pages I follow on Instagram are just restaurants I want to try out someday. Cocina Chente in Riverdale is no exception. Bright colors, a hanging bicycle, a cute outdoor eating area, and of course gorgeous (and tasty) food – these are the things Instagram foodies dream of.  My friend and I decided to check it out on one of the few and far between nice weather days we’ve been having.

The first thing I noticed was the decor – someone put a lot of thought into all of the little details here and it absolutely pays off. The ambience is fun and lively, with a million conversations going on at once (in a good way. Have you ever been to a quiet restaurant? It’s weird.)

It was super packed, but we were able to get a table pretty quickly. I ordered the carnitas tacos and my friend opted for the tequila-lime salmon. I wanted to try the chili tacos, but they don’t allow mixing and matching, so I’ll give them a try next time. Both were really good, but I think I liked the salmon even more than the tacos. Of course, we kept the margaritas flowing all night.

Their brunch menu also looks super legit so hopefully I’ll get try it out soon.

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Dinner at Da Franco & Tony

A while back on Instagram (like maybe a year ago-ish), I shared a picture of my go-to dish at Da Franco & Tony Ristorante – garganelli alla norma. On my most recent trip there a couple weeks ago, I realized that I never posted about this amazing restaurant here on the blog, so here we go.

A coworker had actually recommended this hidden gem, so when my friends and I needed a place that was close to work, we decided to check it out.

The. Customer. Service! This place hands down, has the best customer service I’ve ever experienced at a restaurant. From the moment you enter, you’re greeted and seated immediately.

Every time I’ve been, they have an impressive list of daily specials and of course I love that they’re super knowledgable about their wine.

They have a pretty extensive menu and there’s definitely something for everyone. Despite all of the amazing specials and delicious, as previously mentioned, I always go for the garganelli alla norma, a pasta dish with fresh tomato sauce, mozzarella, and eggplant. I had it the first time we came here and I’ve had it every time since. One day I promise I’ll order something else, but in the mean time…

I’m one of these people that never orders dessert (I know…like, I’m just full…) but somehow, I always end up splitting dessert with one of my friends here. The thing is, they bring out a tray with all of the desserts, and it gets us every time. Last time, I went with the creme brûlée cheesecake, which I’ve never seen anywhere else. While it didn’t have the exact crunch of creme brûlée, it was still really good.

Honestly, this place is perfect for any occasion and is the exact sort of local gem that got me started with this whole blogging thing in the first place. So do yourself a favor and head over asap.

 

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Georgia O’Keeffe: Visions of Hawai’i Comes to NYBG

Renowned painter, Georgia O’Keeffe, famous for her intricate, close up paintings of flowers, went on a little known trip to Hawaii, creating a series of 20 painting based on her time there. Commissioned by what is now known as the Dole Pineapple Company, O’Keeffe was to paint pictures of pineapples for an ad campaign. Though skeptical at first, the artist became in awe of Hawai’i natural beauty. These paintings are now on display at the New York Botanical Garden, right here in Bronx. This marks the first time the paintings have been on display in New York since their debut in 1940.

Over in the Conservatory, visitors get a chance to experience a bit of what O’Keeffe did on her trip, taking in vibrant hibiscus flowers, birds of paradise, and fragrant frangipani among many others brought over for the exhibition.

In addition, contemporary Hawaiian-Chinese sculptor, Mark Chai, has a series of outdoor  sculptures inspired by the same plants O’Keeffe encountered on her trip, that are on display along Garden Way.

There’s also a new Poke Truck, which features four different types of poke. (I’m usually skeptical of food trends, but ever since trying poke for the first time last year, I’ve been hooked. So excited there’s a place to get it in the Bronx now, at the NYBG no less!) I tried to classic poke bowl which was a pretty good portion and the perfect lunch for a hot day!

If all of this isn’t enough, the New York Botanical Garden has partnered with Hyatt Resorts in Hawai’i and Hawaiian Airlines to offer a chance to win a trip for two to Hawai’i and experience its beauty in real life.

The exhibition opens this Saturday, May 19 and runs until October 28.

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Photo Courtesy of New York Botanical Garden

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Photo Courtesy of New York Botanical Garden

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Photo Courtesy of New York Botanical Garden

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Photo Courtesy of New York Botanical Garden

 

Dancing While Black May 3-5

Mark your calendars (how many of you are still using paper calendars?) tomorrow through Saturday for the fifth anniversary of Dancing While Black. See below for more info:

Celebrate the voices of Black dance artists at Dancing While Black’s fifth anniversary festival. Presented by Angela’s Pulse and BAAD!, the three-day event will  feature performances led by guest artists, Dancing While Black Fellows and BAAD!’s youth dance program, AATT Academy along with post-performance conversations, a special screening of Gabri Christa’s Another Building dance narrative series, long table discussion and dance party.

Guest master artists for this year’s celebration include ArthurAviles, co-founder/artistic director of BAAD!; Chanel DaSilva, co-founder/artistic director of MOVE (NYC); Jason Samuels Smith, Emmy award-winning tap dance master and Donna Clark, associate director of Alpha Omega Theatrical Dance Company. Alethea Pace, J. Bouey, Jasmine Hearn, Kayla Hamilton, NIC Kay and Shelby Felton are featured as the 2017-18 Dancing While Black Fellows.

Dancing While Black’s Fifith Anniversary Festival takes place hursday-Saturday, May 3-5 at the Bronx Academy Of Arts and Dance, located at 2474 Westchester Ave, Bronx, NY. Tickets range in price from free and pay what you can to $15-20 for the dance performances on days two and three. For more information, visit http://www.baadbronx.org/boogie-down-dance-2018.html.

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A Trip to the 70s at the Huntington Hustle

This past weekend, the Huntington Free Library in Westchester Square held the Huntington Hustle, the 70s themed sequel to last year’s glamorous 20s party. With proceeds going to Loving the Bronx (They are doing such amazing for our Bronx parks) and drinks sponsored by Deep Eddy Vodka, you know I was bound to have a good time. Metro Optics sponsored the door prize for best eyewear (that my mom won, btw) and Morris Perk was there to serve up some light bites.  Plus, who can pass up a costume party?

Anyhow, check out a couple of photos I took at the party. And hopefully we’ll see you at the next one!

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A Taste of Bronx Cookspace

Friday, I had the chance to visit Bronx Cookspace, one of WHEDCo’s many programs aimed at helping the Bronx community. The Cookspace provides commercial kitchen space and equipment to entrepreneurs in the food industry. It also offers resources to members to help them with different aspects of starting a business, such as insurance, product marketing, and networking opportunities. Membership packages start at $140/month or without a package at $25/hour.

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Here are some other cool facts about Bronx Cookspace:

  • 66% of the tenant are own by women
  • 76% of the tenants are people of color
  • 43% of tenants are Bronx-based (A number I’d personally love to see increase over time.)

But, let’s cut to the chase – the food. *insert hungry face emoji*

Everyone I encountered was super friendly and served up some delicious treats, but here are my favorites:

Sustainable Snacks – healthy and delicious dark chocolate-covered bite-sized snacks that you can take with you on the go. I tried the spicy cherry with almond and blueberry and pecan flavors and they were so delightful, and that’s coming from someone who will literally choose almost any flavor over chocolate. I also just love the pairing of fruit and nuts and the idea of providing an alternative snack option (although Takis are amazing…) Another bonus of course is that the owner is a Bronx resident!

5 Island Blend – Created by a husband and wife duo Randall and Guiatrie Sapp, these sauces bring the flavor without all the extra added salt. I loved listening to their stories (and of course trying a sample of chicken which had been marinated in the sauce and then topped with a little extra sauce for extra flavor. A cool fact I learned was that Mr. Sapp was actually born in the building that houses WHEDCo back when it was Morrisania Hospital. Can you get any more local than that?

Joon – I got to try something new when I stopped by Joon’s station, which serves up Persian stews in crispy rice cups. I got to try to the chicken walnut pomegranate and it was soooo good. They can usually be found at the Queens Night Market out by the Hall of Science, but hopefully we’ll see them at some Bronx events soon (hint hint).

Sweet Zahra – Another new experience was getting to try Persian Love Cake which  was adorned with flowers and fresh cardamom. This combination of flavors along with the perfectly sweet icing was so unique and of course, delicious.

 

 

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