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Saturday, October 23, 2010

A Taste of “Quisqueya,” the Dominican Republic

Continuing to follow the advice of my late Mexican-American friend Yolanda Gutierrez, that is, learning the culture if I'm going to speak the language (Spanish), I made it a plan to visit an area of my hometown New York City while on vacation. This community has grown into what is known as Quisqueya Heights, formally known as Washington Heights. Quisqueya is what the Dominican Republic was called by the native population before the Spanish invasion.

I affectionately refer to this area as “Dominican Harlem,” since it is directly north of Harlem where I grew up. My first task in learning the various Latino cultures is exploring my favorites: the music, the African heritage, and the food. Being that I already have a collection of bachata and merengue music from the Dominican Republic, and being that I have already read about the African heritage in the Dominican Republic, the only thing left for me to explore was the food. Although, I sought advice from people I knew of Dominican ancestry, I found that I had to wing this one on my own.




















Therefore, my first stop was El Malecón at 4141 Broadway. This place is known for its roasted chicken, and the frequent patronage of a lot well-known Dominicans in the community. The waiter appeared limited in English, and I insisted that he speak to me in Spanish because I needed the practice. When I'm in any Spanish-speaking restaurant, I tip better when I'm spoken to in Spanish. My waiter was very good in helping me make my selections of roasted chicken with rice and beans, and a batido de chinola, a passion fruit shake, which the waiter assured me is “very Dominican;” just want I wanted----something very Dominican to try for the first time; quite tasty, I might add.






















On day-two of my trip to Washington (Quisqueya) Heights, I chose another popular, but more expensive and elegant eatery called Albert's Mofongo House, described in an on-line review as a Dominican restaurant where most people come for a family meal, paid more than $50, and tipped less than 15%.





I couldn't leave
“Dominican Harlem”
without
Dominican Rum







Upon my entering, I was greeted with a very happy smile by the maitre d', which gave me a positive first impression, and their having black Dominican waiter on staff gave me even a better impression. Then my waitress came over speaking Spanish----I loved it! I had a scrumptious seafood platter with rice, and for desert, something else that was very Dominican; dulce de naranja (a sweetened orange). The music in the background consisted of jazz, bachata, merengue, and salsa; right up my alley.

Upon leaving, the waitress thanked me profusely for coming. My bill was $38, but my tip was well over 20%. She deserved it!