Tastes of Puerto Rico at MLH
By Sarasi Paranamanna
What is the first idea that slips into your mind when one talks about Puerto Rico? It’s the dance, food and the Puerto Ricans’ exuberance that come into everyone’s minds. It’s a country full of colour and energy and right here in Sri Lanka we were able to enjoy the vivacity and tantalizing tastes of Puerto Rico.
The Mount Lavinia Hotel this week brought down a lady chef from Puerto Rica to give a tantalising experience of Puerto Rican delicacies. In the soft sea breeze and tuneful Puerto Rican melodies in the background Chef Germania Maria Diaz displayed culinary skills to the guests who were present at the Puerto Rican food Festival.
The lady chef defined her culinary style as contemporary and a multi-sensorial cuisine. With a lady’s touch and Puerto Rican culinary secrets the delicacies were an unforgettable treat as everyone helped themselves to the rich, filling and mouth watering dishes.
Starting from the starters which came sizzling right out of the frying pan to the table every treat was different and delicious. Chef Maria has worked her magic through all the tasteful dishes because every dish was a favourite. Puerto Rican cuisine has got its tantalizing flavours from many countries though it’s somewhat similar to Spanish, Cuban and Mexican food. As chef Maria explained Puerto Rican food has a unique tasty blend of Spanish, African, Taíno, and American influences.
The starters included delectables made out fish, pork and cheese and it was served with their indigenous sauces which added a tangy and a spicy effect to the tasteful experience.
Almojábanas which was a starter made out of a filling of creamy cheese and flour was served with dipping sauces made out of Puerto Rican indigenous seasonings and ingredients such as coriander, papaya, cacao, nispero, apio, plantains, and yampee. Other sizzling starters too were loved by many. The hot food included Red Snapper with Creole sauce chicken fricassee pasteles, Okra stewed, along with several salads like Caribbean Sea food salad with aañitas and patacones, bacalao salad with potatoes and avocado, potato salad and chayote salad which brought a rich and filling effect to the Puerto Rican gastronomic experience.
The desserts included flan de coco, dulce de coco bread pudding (with coconut and raisings) with rum sauce and several other delicacies which were sweet, creamy and rich in flavours.
Chef Maria who is one of the few female executive chefs in the world truly defined the cuisine of Puerto Rico as everybody fell in love with the uniquely tantalising delicacies of Puerto Rico at Mount Lavinia Hotel that evening.


Late lunch special at Seven Degrees North
By Shabna Cader
Busy bees in town are in for a treat on Saturdays when other restaurants are closed for the afternoon and Seven Degrees North remains open to offer a special late lunch menu. Maybe work’s taking too much of your time over the weekend or you’ve got the kids to drop off at class; perhaps class is taking a bit too long to get done with and you’ve missed lunch, so head over to Cinnamon Grand for that special lunch.
Lunch at Seven Degrees North is available between 1pm and 4pm. Their new Spanish Chef Alejandro has introduced two varieties of the Spanish dish – seafood paella and vegetable paella. The idea behind the concept of paella is simple really; it involved cooking a special type of Spanish rice and boiling it with seafood or vegetable stock. This allows the rice to suck in all the flavours of the seafood or vegetables and gives an added touch of originality to cooking rice rather than the ordinary way.
“I’ve created both the seafood and vegetable paella to please the local as well as foreign guests’ palettes. Originally paella is served with no add-on but perhaps a small appetizer and salad on the side. However, here at Seven Degrees North we’ve added a range of seafood like cuttlefish, prawns, clams etc as well as vegetables like cauliflower, carrots and beans to the paella so that it is a meal by itself” said Chef Alejandro. He also added that the rice gets its colour with the use of saffron on occasions as well as olive oil to ensure it’s cooked in a healthy manner.
The seafood paella seemed like the Spanish version of a Muslim Biriyani. The rice had a very exotic taste to it (thanks to the seafood stock and saffron that gave it a buttery yellow colour) and the seafood variety served along with it was delicious. I wasn’t too sure about the clams; but I loved the fish and prawns that came with; both went perfectly with the paella.
A chilled glass of Sangria is also offered, compliments of the hotel to enjoy the paella only like the Spanish do. A live band also sets the perfect tone for a chilled out and relaxed, stress free Saturday afternoon.
If Seven Degrees North’s setting overlooking the Beira Lake doesn’t work for you, move over to the Terrace and let the kids play by themselves whilst you enjoy your late lunch special. This offer is available until the end of the month.


How to pick fresh fish
Whenever you can, buy fresh seafood, you’ll get top quality and the best taste experience. The best way to buy fish for preparation ease, is in fresh fillet or steak form. Fillets are normally bone free and steaks are usually cut into serving portion sizes making your prep time shorter.
Don’t buy anything more than one day or at most a couple of days old, especially if you don’t plan to cook it that night. Pick fish that are blemish-free with the outside skin being neither slick nor soggy. Fresh fish should be firm and the flesh should spring back when touched. The fish should smell subtly of the water from which it came. If it has a strong “fishy” smell, it is not fresh and not for you. Ask at the counter when the fish came in.
The most economical way to purchase fish is in the whole. When you buy a whole fish, look for clear glossy eyes; shiny red gills and a firm body. Again make sure that the skin is free of any dark blemishes. The tail should not be dried out, brittle or curled. Ask the counter person to fillet and portion it for you, or wash and cook it as. Whole fish are great for BBQ or banquet affairs.
If you have a whole fish, you can cook what you need and freeze the rest. Use the bones to make fish stock for soups and stews. The bones will freeze and the stock will also. Fish stock packed in plastic tubs with tight fitting lids freezes well. It’s a good idea to date everything you freeze and use it as soon as you can.
No matter the form, avoid seafood that has been in a display case for extended periods, even if it is on ice. If you are unsure ask if there is more in the back. If there isn’t fresh fish available buying fish that has been frozen at sea is your next best alternative.
If you are shopping at a grocery buy fresh seafood on your way out of the store, take it directly home, and cook it within 24 hours. Take along a cooler to keep it cool going home. If it’s not possible to cook it immediately warp it good and freeze it. Keep the fish as cold as possible until you are ready to cook it, store seafood in the coldest part of your refrigerator.
When shopping for fresh whole shellfish always buy live or if unavailable buy cooked products that have been canned or frozen and dated. In the case of shucked shellfish meats such as scallops buy those in a fresh state, again ask how fresh they are. Don’t buy live clams and mussels that have gaping shells, they should be close or shut with a little hand pressure. Lobsters and crabs should be moving and not be sagging at the joints and tails.


A new twist at Margarita Blue!
Positioned in a perfect setting, overlooking the Indian Ocean, The Margarita Blue sets the mood for a modern yet cozy atmosphere with splendid views of the sunset from the garden terrace.
The Margarita Blue sets the mood for exotic Shisha, a rich Arabian tradition practiced for Centuries halfway around the world. Lounge at the Galadari as you lose yourself in the dim lighting inside the ‘Blue, or bathe yourself in rich sunlight at our garden terrace overlooking the vast Indian Ocean.
Proudly offering more than “twelve flavours”, including double Apple, Strawberry, Mango, Coconut, Banana, Lemon, Peach etc; the Galadari by far possesses the largest assortment of flavoured tobaccos that Colombo has to offer. Whether you come by solo, on a date, or with a large group, the Margarita Blue is sure to keep you enticed in its casual, friendly, inviting surrounding offering you the best service every time.
Frequently experimenting new flavours, and enhancing flavours with rose water, cognac and a variety of liqueurs, the Shisha promotion remains a must try at the ‘Blue . Be sure to ask your server for new flavours, all-time favourites and suggested combinations of two or three favours that adds a touch of a novel twist to this ancient Arabic tradition.
Relax layback and step in to this rich tradition amidst this contemporary lounge bar with live entertainment and lip smacking snacks complementing each other to make your evening a complete experience. Offering games such as Darts, Snooker and Pool and the latest in sports on a giant screen, the Margarita Blue is the ideal venue to chill out and enjoy grand Shisha and extraordinary food.


Casa Colombo introduces a new Tapas menu
By Shabna Cader
The word ‘tapas’ originated from Spain and is used to describe appetizers and finger-food. Snacks were equally regarded as tapas in Spain where miniature cold and cold delicacies with add-ons like cheese, olives, and sesame seeds. Casa Colombo has been known to introduce unique and contemporary styled menus that everyone can appreciate and does not put a huge hole in the wallet either.
It’s the perfect place to chill-out with the friends at dusk, and even on sunny afternoons under the shade and stop reddish egg-shaped chairs and cracked glass tables. Zaza is a chic yet comfy garden restaurant that brings together the palettes of Italy, France and American along with a Sri Lankan and Thai twist to it. The new tapas menu is hot and delicious; created by none other than the fusion boutique hotel owner Lalin Jinasena and Chef Shareef Kareem.
As tapas generally include a range of appetizers share the intricacy of spiciness that is not too empowering but is also tasteful at the same time. Some of the tapas on this electric menu include the sesame chicken lollipop, curry flavoured chicken gizzard, the crab cake, spicy fried calamari, Thai fish balls, mushroom and artichoke empanadas, passion fruit prawn ceviche, steam vegetable spring roll, Thai marinated beef kebab, marinated and grilled baby octopus that is both enticing as it is affordable.
The food is prepared using only the best and freshest ingredients and Zaza also ensures that the meat used is Halal certified.
“We’ve introduced a range of new tapas that are not available anywhere else in the country so that our in-house guests as well as other frequent customers may enjoy new flavours and experience dishes that are a combination of the sub-continent” said Lalin.
Zaza’s outdoor space is meant for large gathering and is ideal for group meetings and afternoon quiet lunches. The menu is an ideal addition to the gossip and chatter either during the day or even late at night. It is housed in the fusion boutique hotel that also recently won the 2011 Asia Pacific Hotel Prize Award for Best Interior Design as well as the 2011 Trip Advisor Certificate of Excellence Award. Casa Colombo was also nominated by the World Travel Awards for the Asia Leading Boutique Hotel, Sri Lanka’s Leading Hotel and Sri Lanka’s Leading Business Hotel.


How to spruce up your salad
Add fruit to salad greens. Consider adding fresh fruits like strawberries, blueberries, apples, or grapes. Or toss in some dried fruits like cranberries, apricots, and golden raisins.
Cheese often goes well with fruit. Mixing in blue, feta, or goat cheese is a great way to add tons of flavour and some protein too. And speaking of protein, you can easily turn any salad into a main meal with the addition of shrimp, chicken, sliced steak, or even tofu.
Avocados, olives, and toasted nuts add a whole new taste dimension, not to mention some heart-healthy oils. Cooked whole grains such as hard wheat berries, quinoa, and bulgur add fiber. Beans or chickpeas add protein and fiber.
Choose from a variety of tasty greens: some are sweeter, like Boston, green and red leaf, red oak, and romaine, while others have a nutty or bitter taste, like endive, radicchio, arugula, watercress, and spinach. Mix the tastes and textures and even throw in a few herbs like dill or cilantro so that each bite surprises your taste buds.
Pull your salad together with dressing. Choose a ginger dressing for Thai chicken over a mix of crisp romaine and watercress. Try lime-cilantro vinaigrette for that steak, black bean, and avocado salad. You can make your own healthy vinaigrettes by infusing vinegars with some of your favorite herbs…and you can turn high-fat creamy dressings into healthier vinaigrettes. You’ll have a salad you’ll be proud to serve to your guests!


Tips for making healthy choices at fast food restaurants
Make careful menu selections – pay attention to the descriptions on the menu. Dishes labeled deep-fried, pan-fried, basted, batter-dipped, breaded, creamy, crispy, scalloped, Alfredo, au gratin or in cream sauce are usually high in calories, unhealthy fats or sodium. Order items with more vegetables and choose leaner meats.
Drink water with your meal. Soda is a huge source of hidden calories. One 32-oz Big Gulp with regular cola packs about 425 calories, so one Big Gulp can quickly gulp up a big portion of your daily calorie intake. Try adding a little lemon to your water or ordering unsweetened iced tea.
“Undress” your food. When choosing items, be aware of calorie- and fat-packed salad dressings, spreads, cheese, sour cream, etc. For example, ask for a grilled chicken sandwich without the mayonnaise. You can ask for a packet of ketchup or mustard and add it yourself, controlling how much you put on your sandwich.
Special order. Many menu items would be healthy if it weren’t for the way they were prepared. Ask for your vegetables and main dishes to be served without the sauces. Ask for olive oil and vinegar for your salads or order the dressing “on the side” and spoon only a small amount on at a time. If your food is fried or cooked in oil or butter, ask to have it broiled or steamed.
Eat mindfully. Pay attention to what you eat and savor each bite. Chew your food more thoroughly and avoid eating on the run. Being mindful also means stopping before you are full. It takes time for our bodies to register that we have eaten. Mindful eating relaxes you, so you digest better, and makes you feel more satisfied.
(Source- www.helpguide.org)