Special Contributor: Abigail Gullo of Rye Girl

Atlantico Rum Fieldtrip to the Heights. A Dominican Rum/Food/Cigar/Dance Crawl

by  Abigail Gullo

Sunday March 14th was cloudy with rain but in Washington Heights and Inwood the Dominican sun was shining on the USBG.  Effie Panagopoulos, Manny Pena and Brandon Leib from Atlantico Rum treated us to a field trip to the most vibrant Dominican Neighborhood in New York.

Our journey started at Elsa’s La Reina de Chicharrón on the corner of Academy and Broadway.  A small shop with just 6 seats in the window, Elsa serves of traditional Dominican Chicharrón along with fried sweet potato, boiled yucca and sweet plantains.  Those three root vegetables are my favorite, but throw in fried pork belly and I am in heaven!  All of this tasty food was washed down with a refreshing cocktail of Atlantico rum and Mambi Taino, an herbal Dominican soda made from Behuco Indio. 

Our next stop was a new fine dining addition to 207thst st, Cana Y Café.    Chef Harold Breton treated us to a 5 course contemporary meal with traditional Dominican flavors.  This was, of course paired with Atlantic rum in the form of lovely cocktails like a Light & Stormy (Atlantico Rum and Ginger Beer).  The first course was tasty Piquillo peppers stuffed with creamy cod.  A refreshing palate cleanser of a mixed salad with sweet melado and cilantro vinaigrette that had a nice peppery kick followed.  The next course was a crowd pleaser at my table, Oxtail Ravioli in a morel mushroom sauce.  Morels are real popular with the chef crowd for their rich savory flavor and Chef Breton knocked this one out of the park

I’d like to take a moment to point out how great the service was.  Our plates and silverware were refreshed and our waters, spikes with lemon and fresh rosemary, were always full.  This is especially wonderful considering the restaurant has only been open for a few weeks!

The final two courses were spiked with rum, Atlantico Rum, natch.  Camarones with pomegranate molasses and pork lion encased in crushed fresh sugar cane served in a ragu of butternut squash, raisins and apple.  There were loud cheers from all the tables thanks to the delicious food and the rum that kept appearing in our glasses.

The rum itself is a very special brand.  Brandon gave a demonstration describing the techniques that make Atlantic so different.  Using the solaria method and a blend of cane and molasses rum, the taste is rich and unique.  After aging 15-25 years the rum is bottled and signed by hand.  Samples of the base components of rum were passed around for smell and taste, including an amazing jar of fresh sugar just three days old!  It was grassy, juicy and sweet.

Herded like the drunken cats we were becoming into waiting vans, our next stop was Fumée on 181st street, a cigar lounge where we got a lesson in the production of fine Dominican cigars and the three types of tobacco it takes to bind them all together.  The samples leaves were fragrant and the aroma went perfect with sips of more rum.

After a thwarted effort to go to a Dominican club (packed to the gills on a Sunday night!) we settled in at another Dominican nightclub nestled under the el train.  Here, under the thumping soundtrack of meringue and the sweet smell from the hookas, Manny pulled out a basket of fresh fruit and we got to go behind the bar and play!  Pineapple, bitter orange, blueberries, kiwi – all went flying into shakers for a delicious cacophony of concoctions. 

It was a unique experience and I heard more than one bartender proclaim that it was the best event they had ever been too.  Very fun.  This bartender in particular was pleased to spend some time exploring the wonders of the neighborhood she has called home for the last 14 years!


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