Hola, ¡Paisano!

Los Paisanos Restaurant is just a few minutes walk from Sullivan Square and the Sullivan T stop. For those coming from the West Somerville area, it is also accessible from the 89 bus.

Los Paisanos Restaurant

62 Broadway, Somerville, MA

(617) 629-3502

Stepping over the threshold of Los Paisanos in East Somerville is like stepping into a part of El Salvador. The restaurant is modest, but the people inside bring a warmth and welcoming attitude.

Los Paisanos restaurant is a melting pot of Latin American cultures. Orlando Aldana, the owner of this new business and Salvadoran by birth, was inspired by the places he’s visited in Latin America and the food he has tasted, and has really delivered that international flavor to his customers (free delivery, might I add, to Somerville, Medford, Charlestown, and Cambridge). When I first opened the menu, I was overwhelmed by the different nationalities represented in his cuisine-Guatemalan, Honduran, Salvadoran, Mexican, and Peruvian, amongst others.

one of several pages of the Los Paisanos menu; they have over 60 dishes! Photo Credit https://www.facebook.com/pages/Los-Paisanos-Restaurant/115587408464620

Plato Los Amigos (Friend’s dish), Orlando’s favorite dish, represents what Orlando calls the “authentic latin flavor.” The best part about this mouth-watering dish is its blend of Columbian, Mexican, and other Central American style meats and sides. On just one plate you’ll find carne (beef), chicharrón (Columbian-style pork rinds), queso (cheese), aguacate (avocado), chorizo, yuca (cassava), ensalada (salad), arroz (rice), and frijoles (beans). As one of the popular dishes, Orlando says that is “so big that you can share it” and that frequently people come with their friends to enjoy the fun, friendly atmosphere, and dig into a “Los Amigos.”

If you come to Los Paisanos on Tuesdays after 4, you can get two featured specials for the price of one. Photo credit https://www.facebook.com/pages/Los-Paisanos-Restaurant/115587408464620

As if you needed any more reason to stop by this charming Salvadoran restaurant, now you can come by on Tuesdays and receive a discount! Los Paisanos is participating in a new program sponsored by East Somerville Main Streets called “Two for Tuesdays,” in which customers receive two specials for the price of one past 4pm. This week, the specials are pupusas, burritos, and tortas. Yum!

You can find out more about Two for Tuesdays and the other participating restaurants in the area, here.

Los Paisanos takes its name from a Latin American expression loosely translated to “friend” or “compatriot.” Orlando says that a heart-felt “hola, paisano” is exchanged whenever he sees a familiar customer, or even a fellow latino. Like its name, Los Paisanos evokes a sense of community and solidarity. Its a place where latinos can feel at home and adventurous Americans can experience an innovative compilation of Latin American flavors.

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The new kid in the square – Casa B

Casa B
253 Washington St
Union Square, Somerville
phone: 617-764-2180

http://www.casabrestaurant.com/bienvenidos.html

Chef Alberto puts the finishing touches on his delectable creations! photo credit:http://www.casabrestaurant.com/

“[The restaurant represents] all our life experiences before. We’ve been married for 13 years and together for 15, and it’s just  what we have been growing together as a couple and as professionals….personal, travels and experiences, all together into this place” – Angelina Jockovich

Casa B, a soon to be upscale “pinchos & tapas” restaurant in Union Square, may not open until December 1st, but already the restaurant is creating quite the buzz on the Boston foodie radar. Located next to The Independent, Casa B is the brainchild of architects and husband and wife team, Alberto Cabre and Angelina Jockovich.

The Casa B storefront, though under construction, already gives passerby's an idea of the aesthetic "clean lines" and "modern design" that husband and wife team (and licensed architects) Alberto Cabré and Angelina Jockovitch remodeled the restaurant's space with!

Chef Alberto Cabre hails from San Juan, Puerto Rico, and Angelina Jockovich from the Atlantic Coast of Colombia. The duo have spent 15 and 17 years, respectively in the United States, when they attended Massachussets schools for degrees in architecture. After becoming a licensed architect, Alberto realized he had to “make a choice about what [was] next”. Says Alberto, “At that time I had the option to go do a PhD in architecture or do something else, so I chose to do something else and I went to culinary school, and I became a professional chef”. He says he “always had the passion for food, but never saw it as a career”. But in 2000 he took the leap to culinary school, and with the creation of Casa B, has since been able to fuse his two passions into a long-held dream of owning a business with his wife.

The academic backgrounds of Alberto and Angelina have been funneled both into the physical design of the Casa B space and the meticulous planning they used to attack the daunting process of starting a business. The Casa B two-story space has been under construction since July, and Alberto describes the architecture, as having “clean lines” and being “something new for the square”. The upper floor is more casual, a cozy space where customers can enjoy tapas, and a more formal dining room downstairs, perfect for a special group dinner out. To the owners, Casa B is truly a culmination of all of their previous “life experiences”, pulled together in a modern and innovative concept that the couple believes brings something new to the dining hot spot that Union Square is becoming. As locals themselves, Alberto and Angelina want to “push, to develop something” in their own community.

And nothing reflects this idea better than Casa B’s menu! Latin customers will recognize the textures and flavors of traditional dishes of Alberto’s Carribbean home, but see the dishes reinterpreted with a “contemporary approach”. For example, one of Alberto’s speciality’s is an updated Carne Mechada, a traditional Puerto Rican “pot roast”, as he describes. Instead of the traditional red tomato sauce, Alberto adds a porcini mushroom stuffing and a wine reduction. Instead of the traditional yucca fries, Alberto serves the dish with yucca gnocchi, using the same technique that is used in Italian cooking and applying it to the Carribbean root to create a new dish.

Alberto and Angelina seek to offer a dining experience that will appeal to both the foodie customer who will be excited to try an upscale, modern interpretation of Carribbean dishes, and those seeking a traditional piece of Latin food that reminds them of home. They’re excited to tease and surprise the Union Square palate and invite everyone to come get a bite!

Check out what the City of Somerville had to say about the opening of Casa B at:

http://www.somervillema.gov/businesses/success-stories/casa-b

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La Papusa con Cortido, El Caffeten Salvadoreno

El Caffeten Salvadoreno

Salvadorian

402 Mystic Avenue

(617) 776-4422

Photo Credit: Christopher Tracey

Cash Only

Open 7 am – 10 pm daily

Jose Mario Morales, with the help of his family, opened El Caffeten Salvadoreno in 1993. When asked why he opened the restaurant, Mario explains “there’s a lot of people here who wanted Salvadorian food but didn’t have a place to go!” Since then he has been offering the Somerville community delicious Salvadorian dishes and a comfortable space to eat and relax with neighbors and friends. The interior is painted a sunflower yellow and a dozen round tables fill the rectangular open space.  The storefront is lined with windows that amply light the café and the feeling is friendly and warm.

On one wall there is a handful of paintings, mostly flora and fauna, reportedly drawn by the mother of a loyal customer. Photographs, maps, and flags from El Salvador line the other wall with the exception of a small framed photograph of Michele and Barack Obama.

When you enter the restaurant you are immediately offered a table and a menu and a complimentary basket of crispy chips and sweet salsa. You might chose to watch the TV, playing either a teary telenovala or Central American news, or you might just sit and chat with your friends.

The menu (written in both Spanish and English) offers a wide selection of food from breakfast meals like omelets to  Salvadorian specialties like the customer favorites pupusas and tacos, “American food” like burgers, and an array of fruit smoothies and hot drinks. El Caffeten is a relaxed and informal dining experience that provides tasty and reasonably prices foods inspired both by American and Salvadorian cuisine.

I began my meal with a banana con fresa (banana with strawberry) ($4) smoothie. It was cool, thick, and sweet. Anyone interested in a smoothie has a variety to chose from! They can get a banana con leche (banana with milk), mango, banana con fresa, piña (pineapple), and papaya.

Cortido, a traditional Salvadorian salad

Next, I was ready for lunch. I asked the owner, Mario, what his favorite item on the menu was and he recommended the pupusa. Meals at El Caffeten are, if you want them to be, an all-inclusive experience. Mario and the staff at the restaurant are friendly and happy to offer you recommendations.

I ordered the pupusa con cortido.

La Pupusa is a Salvadorian classic, a thick corn tortilla filled with cheese and beans. It is served hot and with a side of cortido (a cabbage and vegetable salad, also a traditional Salvadorian food) and tomato based sauce. Delicious! If you’re a meat lover you can also order la pupusa con carne (papusa with meat).

All in all, El Caffeten Salvadoreno offers both a delicious meal and a holistic experience where community members, friends, and family, come to spend time together and enjoy the scents and flavors of Salvadorian cuisine.

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Capital Brasil

Craving some quick, cheap, and delicious food but all burnt out on traditional fast food restaurants? Look no further than Capital Brasil, a new Brazilian restaurant located at 99 Broadway in East Somerville. For only $5.20 you can grab a tasty Brazilian-style hamburger and some delicious fruit juice in flavors like pineapple and guava. With a menu in Portuguese and English, all are welcome and encouraged to try out this new spot.

In addition to food, Capital Brasil also offers calling cards and a selection of Brazilian music and films for purchase.

The ‘Brazilian Burger’

According to Capital Brasil owner Geraldo Magela Silveira, Brazilian hamburgers are slightly different from American hamburgers. While the basic parts are the same – bread, beef patty, lettuce, tomato – Brazilians include some extra ingredients to give this classic American dish a little flair. The most basic burger on Gerlado’s menu is the “Hamburger,” which at Capital Brasil is finished off with some corn. From there, the burgers get more complicated (and even more delicious). The “X Tudo” has cheese, ham, egg, bacon, mayo, and, of course, potato sticks. The “X Galinha” has the same ingredients but with chicken in place of the burger. And, for the hungriest customer looking for the ultimate Brazilian burger experience, the whopping “X Guloso” combines all the ingredients you could ever want: beef, chicken breast, bacon, cheese, ham, egg, lettuce, tomato, mayo, potato sticks, and corn. Wash this down with a refreshing açai or passion fruit smoothie, and you won’t leave hungry!

At a restaurant across the street, a Brazilian flag hangs next to an American flag in the store window.

Building the Brazilian Community in Somerville

Geraldo opened the restaurant with his mother about four months ago. Although there were already a couple Brazilian restaurants in the area (Gauchao Cuisine at 102 Broadway and Rodizio Steakhouse at 129 Broadway), business for Capital Brasil has, so far, been good. According to Geraldo, there is a little friendly competition among the owners of the restaurants, but for the most part, everyone has been helpful to him as he starts up his business. One of the other Brazilian restaurant owners, for example, directed Geraldo to Restaurant Depot, where he now goes to purchase ingredients and supplies for the restaurant’s food (homemade by Geraldo’s mother). Although it may come as a surprise that these business owners work together, they do all have one thing in common: they are working to build the Brazilian community in Somerville.

When Geraldo first came to the United States, he moved to North Carolina, where a couple of his uncles already lived.  However, there were few Brazilians other than him and his relatives. Somerville, on the other hand, is known for having a strong Brazilian community, of which restaurants like Capital Brasil, Gauchao, and Rodizio form the base. For Geraldo, the decision to open his restaurant in East Somerville was a no-brainer. Brazilian food is in high demand here, and despite the other Brazilian restaurants, he knew his mother’s food would be popular. Along with the restaurant owners in the area, Geraldo works with other Brazilian business owners; the sign at the front of Capital Brasil and the menu inside, for example, were both made by a Brazilian sign-maker, who speaks Portuguese and understands what will work for Geraldo’s clientele. All of this collaboration helps make Somerville feel a little bit more like home for Brazilian residents.

For $1.75, this Enroladinho is a nice snack at any time of day!

How to Get There

For Somerville residents who tend to stay in the Davis Square area or Bostonians who don’t make it out of the city very often, getting to Capital Brasil might sound like a puzzle. However, there are a few simple ways to get out to East Somerville for some chicken-filled Coxinhas or ham and cheese Enroladinhos.

From Davis Square, take the 89 right down Broadway. Get off at Franklin St. and you’re practically there.

From Boston, take the Orange Line to Sullivan Station. Capital Brasil is about 0.5 miles down Broadway – a bit of a walk but definitely worth it.

If you have access to a car, there is usually a parking spot to be found! Unlike Davis Square and parts of Boston, the streets are much less crowded and are generally car-friendly.

Finally, if you’re in the mood for some tasty Brazilian treats but can’t get yourself out of the house, Capital Brasil does delivery!

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The Neighborhood Restaurant

When you go into Union square, take a left onto Bow Street, and you will find this gem of a restaurant which offers unique Portuguese inspired breakfasts and lunches.

When I first looked up at the Neighborhood restaurant, I could tell that it had been a family run place. The blue and white awning states to the customer that “the Borges Family Welcomes You”.  Once you open the doors, and look inside, the restaurant feels homely, with its small wooden tables and green walls. The windows are decorated with traditional bread cabinets, and while they are a sign of a Portuguese heritage, the restaurant itself does not really show off it’s Portuguese culture. The wait staff is kind, and relaxed, and made me feel very comfortable while being served. It seems to be a place where regulars love to eat, with families eating with their kids during the weekends. Many customers are used to eating here, with many having casual conversations with the wait staff. Overall, The Neighborhood it is a great restaurant, with a down to earth atmosphere where American and Portuguese foods culminate offering a diverse menu at affordable prices.

(Photo Credit: Evan Winter)

The Neighborhood restaurant was opened in 1983 by Mario Borges. As the son of Portuguese Immigrants from the Azores, Mario had a background with baking Portuguese bread, and began making bread for the community. After trying to sell bread, with little reception from the community, he decided to start serving eggs with toast. People went crazy about the food, and have since embraced the restaurant as part of the Union Square community. Since then, the restaurant has been serving breakfast and lunch to the hungry residents of Somerville, keeping its Portuguese origins alive with interesting menu options like linguica (a type of sausage), and Portuguese style pork. Sheila also mentioned that her restaurant does tons of take out orders for people on the go.

Their famous cream of wheat with cinnamon is a must have with breakfast (Photo Credit: Evan Winter)

Since Mario’s death 7 years ago, his sister Sheila has taken over the business. Her passion for serving the community is apparent in the approach she takes to serving them. Sheila, in our interview, told me that her passion came from wanting to serve the people with affordable, homemade food, so that people could keep their wallets full as well as their stomachs.  Her menu consists of both traditional American breakfast food, and Portuguese dishes like shrimp croquets. Either way you look at it, the restaurant offers a wide variety of food for the customer, and is a great place for people in the mood for a bit more than the typical American brunch.

(Photo Credit: Evan Winter)

“We just want people, with us its volume, you know? It’s getting 80 dollars from 80 people, you know what I mean? Which is ok, because this is the Neighborhood Restaurant. Just come in here and hang out, have fun, and eat all you can eat. Try something new.  I’ve seen people come in here, and then I watch their kids come here so, if we can do that for another 30, we would be happy” (Sheila Borges).

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Sushi rolled with care

Ebi Sushi Bar
290 Somerville Ave.
Somerville, MA, 02143
(in Union Square)
phone: (617) 764-5556
email: jose@ebisushi.com
website: www.ebisushi.com

the delicious crunchy spicy tuna roll! Photo Credit: Rebecca Small

phone: (617) 764-5556
email: jose@ebisushi.com
website: www.ebisushi.com

Hours
Mon – Sat:
lunch: 11:30-3:30
dinner: 5pm-10pm
Sunday:
open continuously from 11:30am-5pm

Takeout and delivery to Cambridge / Somerville Available ($3 delivery charge)

Transportation and Parking: after 6PM, parking is available at Mike’s Auto Shop across the street from Dunkin’ Donuts, on Somerville Ave. Multiple bus lines also provide easy access — take the 85, 86, 87, 91 or CT2 and you’ll be right in Union Square!

Link to map: http://g.co/maps/f2mr4

Union Square is an easy place to have a global culinary tour – in a two block radius, a passerby will see Brazillian grocery stores, Taquerias,  Thai tapas, and a Korean market bigger than many of our houses. Yet until May of this past year, there was a notable lack of sushi and Japenese food around the square, and those craving pristine slices of silky smooth sashimi or a bowl of steaming,  slurup-able udon noodles would be out of luck.

Thus, the arrival of Ebi Sushi  Bar earlier this year came as a relief to those Somerville residents hungry for the delights of Japanese cuisine without having to venture far for their tempura fix! Owner José Garcia, previously a chef at Bluefin Sushi in Porter square, has opened up a friendly and warm space where customers can sit and enjoy his delicious cuisine:

photo credit: Rebecca Small

When you sit down at one of the spotless tables, each guest is immediately offered a complimentary steaming hot green tea in a Japanese ceramic mug, a traditional part of dining in a Japanese restaurant, yours to enjoy as you mull over the extensive menu and make some difficult (but ultimately delicious) decisions. A specials menu posted on the wall offers items cheerily written in bright markers such as okonomiyaki (japanese savory pancake) grilled hamachi kama (halibut collar) and spicy grilled scallops.

Ebi Sushi offers an extensive sushi menu, with all manner of classic nigiri such as hamachi (yellow tail) and sake (salmon), and specialty rolls such as the volcano. (a big sushi roll artfully cut into triangles and arranged in a spicy mountain of deliciousness, with bits of crispy fried tempura batter and spicy mayo adorning the “mountain top” filled with spicy tuna balanced with the crisp freshness of cucumber on the inside:

a selection of sushi rolls at ebi sushi. The aforementioned volcano roll is in the upper right hand corner. Photo credit: Yelp

José, originally from Puertos Barrios, Guatamala, got his start in the restaurant business when he first came to the United States and became fascinated with Japanese food and sushi in particular, which he describes respectfully as “like art”. His care and attention to his craft is clearly visible in each item he prepares; from the wasabi molded into a tiny leaf shape to the immaculately folded sushi rolls, and a sushi bar counter so tidy and well-organized, the container store could take lessons. José and the servers are all courteous and helpful if you need guidance in navigating your meal options. José’s warm presence radiates throughout the atmosphere and your meal, and comes through in little touches such as a complimentary bowl of marinated squid and seaweed salad he sent over to our table as a mini -appetizer to wet out appetites – it was a delightful combo of briny, acidic and bright. I savored each little bite and was convinced I could have eaten a gallon-sized bowl – but was dissuaded from this decision when I saw the real menu and realized there were about 20 other dishes I wanted to try.

Ebi offers a complete menu of traditional hot and cold Japanese dishes as well, such as yaki soba (stir fried soba noodles with vegetables) and my personal cold weather favorite, donburi, which is an combination of egg cooked with marinated meat and scallions served over a steaming bowl of rice:

mmm. Slippers are great and all, but when the going gets snowy in a few weeks, my weapon of choice is a big old bowl of katsu don to ward of the chill! photo credit: ebisushi.com

Jose is excited about the diversity that Ebi Sushi contributes to the Union Square area as a Japanese restaurant – though there are types of numerous other Asian cuisines represented around the area, such as Korean, Indian, and Chinese, Ebi is unique in providing a solid array of specifically Japanese dishes.  His customers agree – many of his regulars from Blue Fin have followed him over to Ebi and are now regular patrons. Jose says that many of them actually living in Somerville, but would venture into Porter Square to Blue Fin for their sushi fix. Now, with the arrival of Ebi Sushi, they can stay even more local and still enjoy the benefits of José’s fresh fish, such as this maguro sashimi:

photo credit: Rebecca Small

With the taste of the garlic eggplant appetizer fresh in my mind, I cannot wait to return to Ebi for further exploration of José’s culinary delights! Whether you are a sushi fanatic like me, or shiver at the thought of eating raw fish, Ebi sushi has something special and exciting to try.

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House of Tibet Kitchen

House of Tibet Kitchen
235 Holland St. Somerville, MA
(617) 629-7567

According to Yeshi Lokyitsang, owning one of the best Tibetan restaurants wasn’t a part of her plan; it was something that “just happened.” Yet here she is, owner of the successful and, if I do say so myself, delicious, House of Tibet Kitchen located in Teele Square.

Background:

Yeshi Lokyitsang, owner of House of Tibet Kitchen, took over her restaurant in 2008 and has maintained the authentic feel of a traditional Tibetan restaurant.

Yeshi was born and raised in Dharamsala, India, an enclave of Tibetan exiles, and immigrated to the United States in 1996. After working in a few restaurant-based jobs, she took over House of Tibet Kitchen in 2008 from its previous owner. House of Tibet Kitchen was originally opened around twelve years ago, and was the first Tibetan restaurant in this area. Since taking it over, Yeshi has put an emphasis on the health benefits of traditional Tibetan foods such as yak, something that is difficult to find in the United States, and has used her food and decor to exemplify Tibetan culture.

Décor:

Pictured prominently behind the counter is the Dalai Lama, the spiritual leader of Tibet, along with other representations of Tibetan culture. Photo Credit: Alex Neff

The first thing you notice when you enter House of Tibet Kitchen are the many representations of Tibetan culture. Prominently displayed behind the counter is a photo of the Dalai Lama. Below the traditional Tibetan prayer flags on the walls are paintings representing aspects of Tibetan life, from their holy city of Lhasa to everyday activities. These paintings were done by the brother of the previous owner, and brought from India. They add to the traditional, yet comfortable, ambiance of the restaurant that makes it the perfect place to come with friends.

Food:

Fresh made momos. Photo Credit: Mimsie Ladner

As charming and personal as the atmosphere may be, the best thing about House of Tibet Kitchen is the food. You are likely to be served by Yeshi herself, who, in addition to being open to a great conversation, is always willing to give a recommendation on a menu that is foreign to most people who walk in for the first time.  The dishes that stand out most are those with yak, a traditional meat in Tibetan cooking. According to Yeshi, it is difficult to find in Tibetan restaurants around Somerville, House of Tibet Kitchen is one of the few that serves it.  Customers love the yak so much that they have come all the way from New Hampshire for it!

As a vegetarian yak was not on my list of things to try when I first visited House of Tibet Kitchen. In fact, the primary reason I was at House of Tibet was momos. The first time I ever had a momo was in Dharamsala, in the house of a Tibetan family, and they were delicious. Despite simply being dumplings, I loved them. Yeshi’s momos were as delicious as those first ones I had tried. Handmade by Yeshi and her family, they are one of the few things that are not made immediately when you order them, simply because of the time it takes to make them, yet they were absolutely worth the visit.

House of Tibet Kitchen is an adventure into the delicious food of Tibet, a cuisine scarcely found in Massachusetts. The bustle of Teele Square adds to the comfortable atmosphere of the restaurant. Ask for a recommendation from Yeshi, and don’t forget to try the momo’s!

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Aguacate Verde

Aguacate Verde Restaurant
13 Elm Street
Somerville, MA 02143
617-666-0677
www.aguacateverderestaurant.com

Hours:
Tue – Sat: 11am-9pm
Sun: 10:30am-7pm and Special Events
Closed Mondays

Map:

http://g.co/maps/7depa

Walking into Aguacate Verde, you are likely to receive a warm “hello” from a friendly woman behind the counter or straightening things up around the restaurant.  Upon further investigation you will quickly learn that this woman is Silvia De la Sota, owner and founder of the new restaurant, Aguacate Verde, at 13 Elm Street in Somerville.

This new Mexican restaurant is situated on the corner of Elm Street and Porter Street, about two and a half blocks up from Porter Square.  Neighbored by a skate shop and in the old location of Tacos Luptia, Aguacate Verde’s physical location has always been a hot spot for those looking to enjoy quality Mexican cuisine.

Silvia De la Sota hopes that those who enter Aguacate Verde will feel comfortable and welcome. She asks customers about their food preferences as she is making their dish and checks in to make sure that each guest enjoys their order.

Silvia has always had a knack for cooking and opened Aguacate Verde this past May as a challenge and a way to connect with the community.  Her professional background ranges from public health to social work to karate, in which she is a black belt.  Her restaurant management techniques are closely tied to her public health experience, given that she takes care to create food that is healthy for her customers.

I had the pleasure of experiencing one of her chicken quesadillas upon my first visit to Aguacate Verde.  From the perfectly melted cheese to the plentiful amounts of rice, chicken, and other delicious ingredients, I was thrilled with both taste and quantity.  I was easily able to take home my leftovers and eat them for lunch the next day, a wonderful realization for me as a college student always looking to make food last.

Another time Silvia let me in on more of her cooking secrets, as I got to go into the kitchen with her as she and her newest employee showed me how to make cheese pupusas, one of the multiple types of pupusas available at Aguacate Verde.  Here I witnessed the amount of precision and expertise that goes into each dish and could truly understand what Silvia meant when she told her employees to always make the food with “a lot of love.”

While beans and rice are two staple ingredients when it comes to Mexican food, love and care take top priority in Aguacate Verde's kitchen. Here Silvia and a new employee work together on the pupusas, explaining each step to me as they go.

So one might wonder, why “Aguacate Verde”?  Translated into English, it means “Green Avocado.”  Avocados are a signature ingredient in all of Silvia’s vegetarian dishes and, as she points out, they are a source of protein, vitamins, and the good oil that helps to lower cholesterol.  Speaking of vegetarian options, Silvia takes care to make sure that everything on her menu has a vegetarian option so that her food is more accessible.

Ordering at the counter, one can then watch his or her food being prepared from start to finish, a fascinating and comforting aspect of the setup. There is a menu on the wall above the window and another, more detailed one on the countertop that customers may also peruse.

Silvia’s not only focused on the food aspect of her restaurant, however—she is also committed to educating the community about nutrition, health, and culture.  Born in Lima, Peru, Silvia feels an obligation to create opportunities for her customers to learn more about Latin American culture, whether it’s at her every-other-Thursday-night karaoke events or her weekly Sunday morning tamale brunch festivities.  Pulling in her public health knowledge, she sees the importance of promoting balance and mental health as well– be on the lookout for her upcoming laughing workshops, teaching how to laugh often and well in order to alleviate stress.

If you have not yet checked out Aguacate Verde, it is a serious must. While you’re there, be sure to introduce yourself to Silvia and share in her enthusiasm for food, culture, and health.

When asked her goals for the future, she noted that she sees food as a necessity but also a vehicle for personal connection: “It’s a way to share, but also to show that we care about people’s health and well-being.”

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Chapéu de Couro

Chapéu de Couro plant

During our tour of Union Square markets, I came across an interesting herb called Chapéu de Couro.

Chapéu de Couro, or “leather hat,” is a plant native to the American continents, found from southern Mexico to Brazil. The plant appears in swampy areas, and it can be identified by its large, leathery heart-shaped leaves and white flowers.

Chapéu de Couro leaves in Union Square

The leaves of the Chapéu de Couro plant are used for medicinal purposes; the extract is effective in treating rheumatism, arthritis, liver ailments, kidney and urinary infections, syphilis, and dermatitis. It is also used as a laxative.

Mineirinho Refrigerante soft drink

In the Brazilian state of Minas Gerais, tea known as “Chá Mineiro” is made from its leaves. It is also a principal ingredient in two Brazilian soft drinks, Mineirinho Chapéu de Couro and Guarana) and Mate Couro (Chapéu de Couro and Mate).

http://www.mineirinho.net/

http://www.matecouro.com.br/

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Choclo

Choclo, or corn, is a staple in Peruvian cuisine. I was fortunate enough to try this sample, along with a cheese sauce, or Choclo a la Huancaina, at Machu Picchu’s food stand during the “What the Fluff!” festival in Union Square.

While maize is popular in much of Latin America, choclo is a much larger kernel that is generally unpopular outside of Peru. The grain is large and yellow, which belies its flavor; it is actually not very sweet, and is often complemented with a sauce to offset the nutty taste. This grain is mainly grown in the coastal areas of Perú.

In Chile, one popular way to use choclo is in the famous pastel de choclo, which is a beef and corn casserole topped with caramelized cream corn.

Machu Picchu, Restaurante Turístico features choclo in many of its dishes, including the house salad, the Sancochado soup, and alongside their shrimp, to name a few. You can follow this link to Machu Picchu’s menu, to see how they employ choclo in their cooking:

http://www.machupicchuboston.com/eng/menu.html

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