Marie Elena Martinez is the founder of a unique multi-day culinary experience called Meets NYC, which for the past two years has aimed to both entertain and educate New York City’s dining audience on the culinary legacies of destinations around the globe.
As Marie has explained in the past, “Meets NYC hones in on a destination and highlights the intersections of visiting chefs and New York’s own treasured talent for unique, one-night-only pairings. We attempt to move the envelope on international culinary tourism, by embracing the city that does culinary tourism best: NYC.”
Martinez has a true love for the art of food and is a testament to the success of pursuing one’s passion by taking a risk in doing what they love.
When she quit her day job in order to travel to Quito, Ecuador, she embarked on the journey of a lifetime that has led her to create this extraordinary food endeavor. From Sept. 30 – Oct. 3, our great city was graced with the best of Puerto Rican cuisine, utilizing chefs that explored the culinary expertise of Puerto Rico and tapped into the Nuyorican network of their largest home base, NYC.
I attended their invite-only media cocktail party to commence the festival on Sept. 30 at Botequim in Union Square. It was an evening that captured the taste buds of many and had me on my phone searching for the next flight to Puerto Rico. This event included a tasting of a diverse series of canapes curated by the visiting, talented chefs, as well as a series of specialty cocktails that enraptured my senses.
We covered the best samplings (with some English explanations for the gringos):
Crispy Arroz Pegao (crusted rice), White Bean Escabeche (marinade)
Chef Wilo Benet
The pegao was crunchy, bite sized, and flavored well with the white bean escabeche. It was just the right amount of bite that got me prepared for my next set of eats.
Tostones (fried plantains), Lump Crabmeat
Chef José Santaella
The tasty crabmeat mixed with the fried plantain was a combination I never thought could work, yet it left me wanting this party in my mouth to continue forever. (This is definitely within my top three dishes to try while in Puerto Rico.)
Smoked Churrasco (beef), Charred Arugula Aioli, Papaya Chimichurri, Queso del Pais (Puerto Rican white cheese)
Chef Kevin Roth
Although the egg was not part of the dish as I was mixing and matching canapes, the plantain chip was a nice addition, and the beef was delicious. I licked up the chimichurri and cheese because at this point I was a food animal craving more from all the deliciousness abound.
Shrimp Coconut Sofrito Croquetas, Guava Glaze
Chef Mario Pagan
Croquetas usually include a potato filling with some type of meat, but shrimp coconut? Gimme, gimme, more, Britney Spears style. The sweetness of the coconut shrimp with the crunch of the fried lining made for a beautiful pop-em canapé.
Salty Chicharrón (fried pork rinds) Dipped in Chocolate, Rum Icing
Chef Roberto Treviño
You can’t go wrong with a sweet and salty combination. Although the mix is nothing new, the chocolate on my beloved pork rinds took this dish to the next level; A true game changer. This was great to continue snacking on while sipping cocktails.
Potato-Morcilla (blood sausage) Cake, Comté (French cheese), Quail Egg, Avocado Cucumber Gazpacho
Chef Juan Jose Cuevas
Much to my surprise, a quail egg tastes very similar to an ordinary chicken egg. Mix that up with some potato-morcilla cake, and I think this chef is truly onto something that can spread far and wide in the culinary world.
Longaniza Sausage Lollipops, Cilantro Lime Criolla Salsa
Chef Pedro Alavrez
Without the cilantro lime salsa, this may have just tasted like an ordinary Spanish sausage. Instead, there is an added burst of flavor that takes this from meh to ahhhh.
Lechón (pork belly) Mofongo, Cilantro Sage Jus
Chef Xavier Pacheco
The cream of the crop, the crème de la crème, and the holy grail of mofongo, pork belly, and of all things great in this universe are in this dish. You’d think that after four servings I’d stop frantically searching for when this dish was coming out again. But that just speaks to how amazing it was. Kudos to the chef for creating something so tasty that I immediately started planning my visit to Puerto Rico for the sole purpose of inhaling this again.
Cachaca Infused Brigadeiros and Dolce de Leche-Dipped Sonhos
Chef Erin Cayaban
Since the locale was technically in a Brazilian restaurant, the traditional dessert called a brigadeiro, basically a higher form of a chocolate bon-bon, was served and did not disappoint. The sonhos were really delicious munchkins in a more exquisite form not found at Dunkin Donuts.
This event surpassed all my expectations and more, with a doggie bag given at the end that contained all the best of what the event had to offer (besides my beloved mofongo). Next up, Marie will be launching a Latin American-focused culinary travel media brand called New Worlder in November. Keep supporting our NYC Puerto Rican businesses! If you couldn’t already tell, the food will change your life.