Cuba Libre Ropa Vieja

The rain was pouring when I reached DC and I was anticipating a happy hour but the circumstance led me to Cuba Libre. They took my luggage and the ambiance was sultry, perfect for the weather we were having. They were running specials and considering I missed my happy hour plans, I was ready to opt for the new sangria drink they were advertising.

Sangria Cuba Libre

I’m not going to lie, I was a tad bit disappointed with the lack of urgency my waitress had. However, this was all forgotten when the bread and mango butter reached my table.

Bread & Mango Butter

I was talking about this butter for three weeks. The bread was just perfect but this mango butter is the top 5 best spreads I ever had and probably will ever have. Yes, it is that good. I thought about taking it home or buying it by the tub if I could because it was just that delicious.

Ropa Vieja with Tostones

For dinner, I ordered the Ropa Vieja with tostones and rice, which is basically like a pulled pork and fried plantain. From the looks of it, I didn’t expect it to fill me up but it most certainly did the job. Not to mention, we ordered more bread. Cuba Libre seemed very family friendly and certainly hot date friendly. I am anticipating a return already.

Brown Betty icecream

After a Taste of Chicago, I had high expectations for A Taste of Philly. I happened to be visiting Philadelphia for two days and lucky me, I was just in time for the event. Outside of the entrance, plenty of food trucks lined up and I also got to try some of the worst mac and cheese ever, very sad.

Taste of Philadelphia banner

But that didn’t stop me from buying more tickets to get more food. Like the Taste of Chicago, you pay for a few tickets and then they are used as “money” when you visit the stands. Surprisingly here, the tickets can only get you one size portion,  in comparison to Chicago where they actually offered “a taste” and then that same portion doubled for a few more tickets.

Taste of Philadelphia tickets

The sun was scorching that day so the first thing I got my hands on was an ice cream sandwich from Brown Betty Icecream Truck.Brown Betty

I love strawberry ice cream so I really got a chance to appreciate the authenticity and quality of this sandwich. Did this woman make this ice cream from scratch? I could really taste that she did. The chocolate portion that kept it all together was more like a brownie to me, rich and creamy even, pulling all the flavors together.

Brown Betty icecream

Then I realized I needed some kind of “real” food in my system so I tried the chicken satay at the Twisted Tail stand. It’s always exciting to see the food being cooked fresh right in front of me.

Twisted Tail

And even better was the chicken I got to try.

Twisted Tail chicken satay

The rest of the festival was mainly theme park stands that sold your everyday theme park food, no specialties. I would try to return but towards the beginning of the festival for sure.

Chocolat Calamari Salad

I’ve been catching a lot of our Instagram followers getting a Taste of Harlem at Chocolat lately.  Just in time for me to take my second peak here, I had the honor of being invited to a tasting of their new menu, along with a few other great bloggers and I’m excited to share.

Chocolat is on restaurant row and the ambiance is pretty sexy and exclusive. The music here is great and despite them having a bigger crowd than my last visit, I really appreciated the service this time around.

This was a 9-course tasting and I took dessert home, how could I avoid to? We started with 4 appetizers, went onto 3 entrees and ended with 2 dessert dishes. The Blackened Mahi Mahi Satay was very light and seasoned evenly, which my taste buds do not take for granted. The mango salsa was really a hit and added a kick to the lightness of the mahi mahi. The Shrimp & Watermelon salad is great if you’re looking for something refreshing and the two blended well with one another.

Blackened Mahi Mahi Satay with Mango Salsa Watermelon Shrimp Salad

The calamari salad here is actually a signature dish and very popular amongst the guests. I felt that the salad needed more dressing but I could see why it’s a local favorite. The short rib empanada reminded me of a puff pastry because it wasn’t deeply fried which is a good thing. The salsa that came with it really pulled the rib flavors together, so always dip this bad boy if it’s kept on the menu.

Calamari Salad Short Rib Empanada

I wasn’t a huge fan on the jerk chicken and rice but I’m sure since the tasting, this dish has likely been taken to the next level. The chicken was just lacking that jerk kick to it but it was cooked through and still had great flavors going. The yard bird came with another amazing sauce that really did it. But I did feel as though the bird had an awkward set up with only watermelon and corn on the cob to accompany it.

Jerk Chicken and Rice Southern Crispy Yard Bird

Closest to the best thing I had all night was the grilled salmon fillet that was served with sautéed kale, leeks and a mango coulis. We really had to ask the chef, Joseph Guittierez, what was in the sauce. The salmon was just made to perfection and the heat radiating of off it paired with the coolness of the coulis and the fresh mango flavor was just doing wonders. I would go back time after time again for this specific dish and it’s highly recommended. It really stole the night.

Grilled Scottish Salmon Fillet

Nothing ever ends if it doesn’t end with dessert so of course I was indulging in the black cake a la mode, which was really good. Nothing made my heart melt more than the pastelles of guava and queso. I am somewhat biased because this is a childhood favorite of mine but i really admire Chocolat for pulling this off perfectly. I even took a few of it home.

Jamaican Black cake a la Mode Pastelles of Guava & Queso

With restaurant row really becoming a staple “go to” in Harlem, it’s safe to say the owner of Chocolat, Leon Ellis, is ahead of the race. With some fine tuning to the menu, it has some great potential and more than few great dishes on the list already.

Chef and Owner of Chocolat