Piantini Pleasures…Good Eats in Santo Domingo

We must have a pie. Stress cannot exist in the presence of a pie.–David Mamet

I am not a glutton.  I am an explorer of food.–Erma Bombeck

Santo Domingo has surprised me with its wealth of food choices– from mega groceries full of imports to familiar chains and international cuisine.  While many coworkers have cooks and cars,  I have neither, so I try to do a big grocery trip on Saturday or Sunday  as I did in Morocco to make  comfort food–cold salads for lunches and seafood chowder, chilli, Irish beef stew, or jambalaya for dinners–to last the work week. But come the weekend (or sooner when I miss my deck and grill so much I have to find a place to sit, sip, and socialize outdoors), I head up the street in my Piantini neighborhood to an area that after four months here finally feels like home.

Sweet Spot: La Cuchara De Madera

Two blocks from the apartment–dangerously close for sugar overload– is a bakery/brunch/tapas/coffee destination.  A coworker took me to La Cuchara De Madera (The Wooden Spoon) last August promising it “feels like visiting a friend’s house.”  She was right.   On a second visit, I met the owner’s father who gave me a tour.  I have always loved baking, but in the heat (only the bedrooms are air-conditioned) up until the last month turning  on the oven was done on a must-do basis. Knowing cheesecakes and cherry pies are just around the corner is a lovely thing. To locals, La Cuchara is Birthday Cake Central, cozy quarters for a late breakfast, battery recharge station for afternoon coffee, and  gathering spot for evening wine and tapas.

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Taylor and I noticed after first moving here the long lines anytime of the day at the mall for Krispy Kreme, but we fell for this place–especially the Nutella Frozen Cappuccinos.

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Cheese, ham, and chicken croques and empanaditos are popular here. So are bolitos and mini burritos.
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How I love a cherry pie

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The Volcano is their signature dessert–a Santo Domingo legend.

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The pages-long sweet list  includes churros, bagels, muffins, cheesecakes, and ice cream. img_3274 Also on the menu are tea sandwiches, beer, wine, and breakfast.  Above is the typical Domincan breakfast–eggs, fried cheese, grilled ham, and Mangú de Guineos (green plantains cooked with onion and olive oil). They also serve omelets, crepes, pancakes, and waffles and tea sandwiches. 

Piantini Patios: Bravo Forna, Maria Bonita, City Market

A couple of blocks beyond are three patios illuminated by twinkling lights and friends’ laughter.

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Bravo Forna offers Italian dishes, fresh salads (Insalata de Pollo Santa Fe below is my fav), fantastic sangria and great music in a relaxed setting.

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Taylor’s chocolate mousse was amazing.

Next door is Maria Bonita with gourmet Mexican dishes, seafood, and  grilled beef and lamb.  The service here is five-star from friendly and attentive waiters who make solo diners feel welcome.  In fact, the staff allows locals to camp out on laptops here and I’ll never forget the kindness of the  chef who, after I’d had a bout of illness and decided to brave solid food again, made me  plain grilled chicken and rice–not on the menu.

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Just beyond is City Market, a  small grocery with fresh produce and a popular deli of cheeses and meats.   Packed into their few aisles are imported foods and wines.   Here locals  gather for lunch or after work for sandwiches and salads.   I stop in here as often as my family did at the minute market just around the corner from where I grew up.

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Some nights there are free samples of food and wine.  My favourite find, the bees’ knees, is this local honey (miel in Spanish and French) which ties for the best-I’ve ever-tasted at La Maison Arabe’s cooking school.  I love it in my coffee.

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On the Grill

Another place I’ve enjoyed my weekly fix of grilled steak is Sonoma Bistro–always full of locals.  They have a deli and wines, cheeses, and Angus beef in the market next door.  But of course the ultimate treat is meat on a grill surrounded by friends under the stars.  For a cookout on our friend’s rooftop terrace, we bought some ribs and Italian sausages at Sonoma and turned them over to our friend, Master Chef Moises.  Between the meat, the view, and Dharma’s hospitality (and potato recipe) it was the perfect night.

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Moises Cordero now caters for Destination Weddings at Punta Cana, Samana and beyond (for catering, call  829-944-1521), but when I first moved here he was the man behind the grill at Shorthorn at Galeria 360 just past Agora Mall–both within walking distance of my street brimming with beautiful (though out-of-my-budget) boutiques.  Below are photos of our feast there last summer with Steve, Sana, Taylor and Mariya, our friend and coworker who is marrying Moises in January.

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Moises also took us to his friend’s seafood restaurant next door, Pier 47 , which was delicious and and just around the corner from the mall’s Margaritaville.

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Cafe Culture

Recently I took Griselda’s advice (below) and checked out Ciao–a great place in our neighborhood not only for healthy soups, wraps, and salads but also a great American-style burger.  And around the corner just before Blue Mall is a popular trio of restaurants where folks frequent for food and drinks at 2 for 1 prices–Francesco Trattoria, La Posta Bar, Julietta Brasserie (beautiful indoors and out).

Everyone here has been gearing up for Christmas since trees sprouted all over town November 1.  It’s almost 11 PM here and outside my window speakers have started blaring from a party in the courtyard next door.  Think I’ll check it out…salsa music calling…

(Added the next morning…So The Who may still hold the title for the World’s Loudest Band by the Guinness Book of World Records for a 1976 concert,  but the DJ under my window  until 4 AM last night blasted that record with speakers we used to call “mind-blowers” (this from a girl whose hearing was maimed by bands like Aerosmith, YES, and Pink Floyd back in the day).  The good news is the rooster that crowed from the same apartment building starting at 4 AM hasn’t been heard since Thanksgiving.)

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Cindy McCain

A Southern Girl Gone Global, I flew from my empty Nashville nest in 2014 to land in Africa where I lived two years in magical Marrakesh, Morocco. Now I live in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic and continue sharing my journey--so far across 27 countries on 4 continents and the Caribbean. This travel/lifestyle blog is about letting go of fear, clinging to faith, and following your heart's desires. It's a celebration of beauty, adventure, relationship...roots and wings.

2 comments

  • Cindy, I think all you do is eat out! This is one of the few writings I have seen from you. You a made me hungry just reading. Will you be home for Christmas? Hoping to see you. Love, Betty

    Sent from Betty’s iPad

    >

    • I feel like all I do is eat and work sadly though I typically eat out just once a week. 🙂 A typical city where people shop (which I’m not much into), eat, work, repeat. These photos were taken over the last 4 months. I will be home on December 21. Can’t wait! Hope to see you and love you, too!

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