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.
The pages-long sweet list includes churros, bagels, muffins, cheesecakes, and ice cream. 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.)