Thursday, January 19, 2012

bits of Bolivia

These days I’m really wishing I could get temporarily adopted by a Bolivian grandmother so she could teach me her delicious cooking ways.

In the mean time, I will continue to frequent hole-in-the-wall (and even some surprisingly cute) eateries along the Columbia Pike corridor, the for-all-intents-and-purposes Spanish speaking section of Arlington in which my boyfriend is lucky enough to live.

Cafe Sazon is super adorable and super delicious and basically where I meet everyone for coffee and hanging out, because it’s also wonderfully cozy and has a blissfully bizarre soundtrack going (the owner told me they just Pandora whatever they feel like: this has ranged from hours of Weezer and other 90s delights, to Phantom of the Opera, to reggaeton).

I tend to not like drinking my calories but make an exception for api-morado, the intensely sweet, thick, and comforting purple-corn based drink:


My new love is linasa, a flaxseed and lemon infused drink (?!)

Honestly, I thought flaxseed and the like was mainly the providence of upper middle class white female food bloggers (no?). However, a bit of Internet research informs me that in fact fresh flaxseed juice (flaxseed= linseed= linasa, get it?) is an incredibly popular street food in Bolivia.

The way they serve it at Cafe Sazon is warm and lemon and spice infused. It is enormously comforting. Imagine Theraflu if it tasted delicious. Which is basically impossible, I get it. But that’s what this is!


I finally brought my mom there when she had some time off over the winter holidays. I’d been raving about it like a lunatic, and was delighted to finally get here there. I was also happy because that meant getting two drinks and swapping sips! Hurrah.

We also got an actual entree, something I don’t do that often, actually.

I just spent like twenty minutes googling it, and cannot for the life of me remember what it is called. I will likely wake up at two this morning with it in my head. At which point I will go back to sleep. I am not that devoted to this blog.

Anyway, it was yellow rice topped with a fried egg with fried plantains. So obviously it was awesome. The rice… again, I need a Bolivian grandmother to teach me!


It actually turned into a fun little outing, because then my mom and I walked to Shirlington and did some Christmas shopping at my favorite olive oil store. (Yes, these pictures were taken awhile ago!)

And then I decided I needed some frozen yogurt.

To add joy to my life, they had POMEGRANATE SEEDS! Delicious, light, and expensive: the perfect kind of topping when you pay for frozen yogurt by the ounce. I love gaming the system :D

There were also globs of froyo in strawberry, taro, and apple pie (!) flavors. And a peanut m+m garnish.

So fun!


Back to Cafe Sazon… another day. I go there all the time, man.

They are delightful because sometimes they have edible art:


I mean. How cute.


But actually that particular trip was just a pit stop, because Steve and I were taking a stroll (despite the fact that it was, oh, 30 degrees out.)

We just stopped in to have an appetizer (cheese empanada for him), and then made our way to another place of which I’ve grown quite fond: Pan American Bakery.


We’ve actually been to both Pan American (a bakery with chairs) and Pike Pizza (their sister place, a sort of sit-down restaurant next door). Pike Pizza is hilarious. They serve no pizza. More importantly, they have an all-Spanish, earnestly serious karaoke night. Steve and I had a blast, in the way that people do who know everyone will be talking about them the second they leave.

Anyway, Pan American is great when you just want to run in and grab something. There’s no visible menu at the place, except a few specials written only in Spanish on a board. It seems best to just point at what looks good.

Steve did that and got this:


Dude: Deep fried pastry with powdered sugar (awesome), then stuffed with cheese.

He was in heaven.


And then I saw (mystery plantains and rice and egg dish) on the menu and went, “Ooh, I’ve had that, that’s good!”

And this arrived:


Dude. The Cafe Sazon one was good but this was AMAZING. The rice was equally delicious but the plantains were both more abundant and sweeter.

And the egg was perfectly fried.


Mmm mm mm mmm mm.

Okay, so all this being said, all of the aforementioned things are fun to eat but not particularly healthy. (I actually enjoyed a few bites of the plantain thing but then went home and ate a salad. My body thanked me.)


Linasa! Flaxseed and lemon! Doable!

I found this linasa tutorial on the Internet and made myself a delectable delight!

Infuse water with cinnamon and cloves:


(mm, the aroma!)

Then add the flax.

They gave you the choice of whole or ground flax in that recipe, so I consulted with my pals at Cafe Sazon about how they do theirs and they say they do ground but grind them themselves.

So, I put my flaxseeds with perhaps a cup of water in a blender and blended away.

After their simmer, it looked pretty revolting!


I drained it, and was left with a LOTTTT of flax at the bottom. And abhored the waste. and thought there was still flavor to be had.


So I added some lemon (because my initial taste of the unlemoned stuff made me miss the citrusy zing I get from the lemon at Cafe Sazon), and more water, and cooked more.


And had a big delicious BUCKET of linasa!

As an added bonus (bonus?), my mother, my boyfriend and I have all been sick to varying degrees, so its throat soothing properties have been particularly appreciated.


The flavor is kinda nutty, kinda sweet, kinda lemony. It is simple, nourishing, and nice.


So what’s next, Bolivian grandmother?


marie said...

I love, love, love fried plantains. And Taro is my favorite yogurt flavor, did you like it? Not many do but I always have my friends try it.

MelindaRD said...

Very cool looking eats. I don't think I have had Bolivian food, but I have had Peruvian, and while not the same, I can see some similarities. Looks like you found some great places with great eats.