When the announcement was made regarding the first Dominican Gastro Tour in New York City, everyone thought that the idea was to introduce more delicious Dominican dishes to the city. However, no one imagined that the Mofongo – the delicious dish made with mashed green plantains – would be the protagonist of this innovative tour in U.S. territory.
Once in Washington Heights, in upper Manhattan, as we waited for the light to change on St. Nicholas Avenue and 182nd Street, we were on the lookout for the Airbnb apartment where we would stay for nine days. This would be the time we would need to visit a great number of Dominican restaurants in New York City.
I remember that while on the lookout for the Airbnb address, I saw a large crowd that seemed familiar because of the way they moved. Their high-pitched voices, their language – but most important of all the smell of one of the Dominican Republic’s most important treats, sweet beans – told us immediately that we were in the very heart of the Dominican community in New York City.
Stop! I literally screamed at the driver who also happened to be Dominican.
Almost instinctively, he understood that even though the light had changed we would not move until we tried the sweet beans being sold in the street. He quickly rolled down the car window and shouted to the vendor: “Hey! Give me a cup of your classic beans! Later I found out that Doña Nena, the queen of the sweet beans in NYC, has become so popular in the area because she has developed several varieties of the popular treat. We went for the classic treat, with no beans, but with sweet potatoes and small crackers.
I could not have received a sweeter welcome to the city of New York. That’s how I arrived: with a sweet treat that originated in my country and feeling a sense of pride that seemed to be reaching its highest levels.
First Day of the Dominican Gastro Tour 2018
Our gastronomic tour through Dominican restaurants and producers in New York City began on October 9. We opened our tour – “urban style” – by visiting the Empanadas Monumental, owned by Eliezer Bueno. Situated on 181st Street, in the heart of Washington Heights, Empanadas Monumental is the favorite Dominican restaurant for those who want a light, quick and delicious breakfast.
There is a wide choice of empanadas to choose from, such as those filled with cheese, pizza sauce, chicken and chicken with cheese. Not only Dominicans, but the Latino community in general, considers the restaurant as one of its most popular morning stops. The menu offer is not complicated at all, but the empanadas remind the visitor that these delicious patties have been around the area for the past 30 years.
Owner Eliezer is a true connoisseur of Dominican gastronomy in New York City. Thanks to his orientation, the Global Foundation for Democracy and Development, through its initiative Dominicanaonline.org – which encourages the cultural values of the Dominican diaspora in the United States – organized this First Dominican Gastro Tour 2018. The Tour also included special workshops, such as “Gastronomic Writing for Foodies” and “Online Communication and its Role in Promoting Dominican Gastronomy.”
Thanks to Eliezer’s recommendations, we ate lunch at La Casa del Mofongo. If something attracted my attention is the popularity of the mofongo and churrasco among the restaurant’s patrons. The popularity of these two lunch options is unparalleled in other restaurants.
The Mofongo: Synonymous of Dominican Gastronomy in New York City
La Casa del Mofongo, situated on 1447 St. Nicholas Avenue, is the favorite destination for the mofongo lover. The menu consists of 30 varieties of mofongos, including the strangest combinations of ingredients that are mixed in with the mashed green plantains, such as codfish, clams, sausages and vegetables. The restaurant also features a Sushi bar, grilled chicken and a breakfast corner.
The mofongo is well represented in this particular restaurant which maintains the tradition of this popular dish, while at the same time introducing tasty innovations. If you are not necessary crazy about this particular Dominican dish, it is an excellent restaurant to visit because it also offers great Dominican music and stand-up comic shows.
Our first day in New York City ended with a sumptuous dinner at Café Rubio, situated in Queens at 9805 Northern Blvd, in Corona.
Owner Juan Romero, originally from the Dominican mountain town of Jarabacoa, decided to open the restaurant in 2001 soon after the World Trade Center tragedy. It was that specific year that he opened the restaurant and, since then, the restaurant has grown and become an important member of the Dominican gastronomic community in the borough of Queens.
Romero, also known as “El Rubio, is proud to talk about his origins. He recently remodeled the restaurant and placed, in a strategic spot, a giant photograph depicting his childhood in his native town.
Customers say that Romero prepares the best Guinea Fowl au Vin . I must admit that this is one of the only restaurants that we found in New York City – and the Dominican Republic – that offered this delicious dish.
More Plantains and Seafood than Rice
In our country the guinea hen has become a rare treat, served only on special occasions. “El Rubio’s” Guinea Fowl is more than justified, especially when you meet customers who come from all over New York to enjoy this special menu item. Tender and juicy, important characteristics when preparing this particular dish – plus the Caribbean flavor which characterizes its seasoning – is a must for anyone who enjoys this particular dish. Another important treat is the restaurant “Goat with Oregano.”
Another finding is that in the Dominican Republic we consume approximately ¼ of the seafood found in our surrounding waters. That is why in New York City, the mofongos are served with shrimp, squid and lobster. Seafood is the perfect partner for the mofongos served in New York City.
Although the restaurant owners had promised to treat us to three popular mofongo dishes, their enthusiasm surpassed our expectations. As soon as we began to taste the promised dishes, more came coming. That’s when we tried a mofongo made with yucca, one of the main ingredients used by the island’s native, accompanied by scallops and shrimp.
All mofongos have the particularity that they must include bits and pieces of pork, even if other ingredients are added.
Back to the apartment, we gave a sigh of relief and deep satisfaction. As I laid my head on my pillow, I began thinking of the rest of the trip. I thought about the history of each of the restaurants we visited, the popularity of the mofongo in New York City and, most especially, in the Dominican community. I can also state that the mofongo has substituted the basic Dominican traditional dish: rice, beans and various meats.
Gastronomy Reporting: A Great Responsibility
Tomorrow will be another wonderful day, I told myself before closing my eyes. Writing about Dominican gastronomy outside the D.R. feels very different. You find yourself completely surprised by a feeling of pride that you normally do not identify when you are back home.
I felt a strong sense of responsibility regarding this assignment. I have to report faithfully on my findings, while at the same time try to motivate my followers to taste my Dominican dishes, no matter where they are being prepared.
There’s much one can do through social media outlets or blogs to promote the values of the homeland. I encourage you to learn to embark on this project by visiting our specialized communication services which specialize in gastronomy and tourism.
For more information, please visit: https://elainehernandez.com/#section06
Las ultimas noticias/novedades de lo que acontece con los Dominicanos en las Grandes Ligas durante toda la temporada 2019.