Liquid Diets {From The Raving Dish}

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The days are getting hotter, the body ain't looking too fine and the never-ending thirstiness can't seem to get quenched! Those are the thoughts roaring through my wee noggin on a daily basis. For real, what's a girl to do but go on a liquids-only diet—well, at least at the top of the morning.

Right now, I've got three kicks: caffeine, health and sugar. They all do a little something different for my system, but any which way you look at it, I'm addicted to all three.

The Caffeine Fix: Cafe Ennui
This is one of my nearby neighborhood coffee houses and I simply adore it. A cutie named Juan is usually whipping up potent goodies behind the counter, the sun shines in brightly, and the wi-fi is fast and free. But, my main reason for coming back is the insanely perfect coffee frappe. This is a smart little drink that puts the Starbucks Frappuccino straight to shame. I was raving to a pal the other day, "It's like they liquefy the ice." They blend it so well that the drink is freezing cold yet remnants of ice are non-existent. It's like air ice. And, you don't even need a hit of mocha to make it tops, because the sugar content is spot on. Plus, the coffee high is sublime—literally, off the charts. The only problem is that with an almost $5 price tag, refills are simply out of the question. Well, sometimes.

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Strawberry Daiquiri's Are the Drink of the Moment

Img_0261There ain't much finer in the world than a perfectly made, super strong, beautifully frosted strawberry daiquiri.  I've been choosing that as my drink of choice lately.  There's something iconic in that first slurp when it hits the back of my mouth--between the intense strawberry flavor and the caramel hint in the rum, it's a soul-satisfying taste that instantly transports me to the islands and more low-key times.  A perfect one in Chicago is at La Finca (3361 N. Elston), while a truly classic one (picture right) in LA is at Tia Juana (11785 W. Olympic), a little Mexican joint in Santa Monica.  Me and my pal Chez slammed a few of them last week while I was out there and then headed over to another one of our fave places, Chez Jay, a dark and ancient bar right near The Ocean Lodge (oh, the nights I've spent there) and the Santa Monica Pier.  LA is what you make it and with a couple of daq's, some killer homemade tortillas smothered in butter, and a follow up cuba libre at the Jay, it becomes a city fit for a king.  But, until the next time I'm out there, I've always got La Finca~


Kilimanjaro Beer on the Beach in Zanzibar

017_09a_1I haven't been a beer drinker since my early 20's...I find it to be one of the most horrifying drinks in the world to be honest with you.  But, sometimes and I mean sometimes...I have a major craving for it.  It usually comes whirling out of nowhere--like on the beach in Mexico after frying all day in the sun or when I think about the Carolina coast and have a hankering for oysters on the half shell (what better to wash it down with than an icy cold one?).  While I was in Z'bar I went sailing one day out to this tiny little island (there was a pitstop on the way there at this speck of a pure white sandbank where the snorkeling was intense) and the happy-go-lucky sailing crew had grilled up all these fat prawns and giant lobsters on the beach and in their handy coolers, loaded down with ice, were these HUGE Kilimanjaro beers.  Now, come on...I've gotta crack into one of those, right? Meanwhile, they were so gigantic and it was so sweltering, I couldn't get 3 -4 slugs down before it was piss warm...so, I'd turn them over to the non-English speaking boat crew and demand (to their sheer delight) another one.  They were excited that I was blowing through so many...the more for them to slam down whilst tucked away behind a swaying palm tree munching on a fistful of lifted octopus ringlets.  I still despise beer, but when in such lovely tropical locations, one must do as the locals do.  No doubt about it~~p.s. I 've also been known to toss back a Bohemia here and there (thanks to Lisa).
*Oh and FYI--the local currency in Zanzibar is the SHILLING; you need a yellow fever shot to get into and out of the country (which you can get at the clinic in the J'bg airport for about $50); and you can buy a visa on arrival at the tiny airport on Zanzibar island...just in case you're thinkin' of hitting the road soon (man, it's easy)...


Drinking Black Water in Spain--

Dscf0977_1I've tried giving them up, I really have.  But, when in Spain, do as they Spaniards do.  Actually, if I drank as much coffee as they seem to, I'd be flying to the moon by 10 a.m. This tiny cortado (small espresso cut in half with hot milk) is enough to fuel me for an entire afternoon and if I have two of them, holy moly!  Watch out~ and there is nothing like a chocolate stuffed croissant to go right along with it.  I've gotten into the daily routine of having one at around 9 am and then I'm usually good, unless things at work get wildly hectic...then I just run downstairs and slam another one.  I've been trying to eat/drink at different cafes every single day, but I've broken that self-imposed rule a few times--especially when I located the perfect veggie sandwich with homemade french fries right across the sreet from the production office.  But, every meal here is better than the next and the more Spanish I learn, the more the world of food seems to open up~


Minty Moroccan Green Tea~

Dscf1004_1Today I discovered the most sublime mint green tea. I was wandering through a funky side of town when I happened across a tiny market full of creative artists.  They were all hawking homemade bits and pieces and plopped just at the end of the sun-splashed set-up was a Moroccan family with their whole shindig splayed out on the plaza.  They were selling veggie samosas and honey-drenched pastries galore and for just about a dollar, you could wash it all done with this super-sugary tea.  They poured heavy from silver teapot that was about a foot up in the air and  when I had my first sip, I was done.  It was already laden with many teaspoons of sugar and tons of fresh mint and made me realize how much I've been missing tea (thanks, cafe con leche addiction~).  I bought some of the tea (a Chinese gunpowder blend) and can't wait to get back home to whip it up Moroccan-style!


Cortado, Cortado, Cortado

Dscf0890Right now, I'm overseas working for the next month and a half and I've just discovered what will get me thru the shoots...a little drink called the cortado.  Usually I don't drink coffee at all, but when you work in production, sometimes, you need a bolt of mad energy at the 24th hour.  The cortado is very much like my favorite coffee drink--a cafe con leche (pictured, right).  EXCEPT that it is literally cut in half.  SO imagine a tiny shot galss full of espresso and then topped with just a splash of milk (cortado means "cut"-- as in cut in half).  It is so delicious and somehow, even though it is much smaller in size, I have been tossing in the same amount of sugar as I would with my cafe con leche.  Old habits never really die, I guess. 


Coconut Killer Cocktail from Casa Luna, in Ubud, Bali

Dscf0489My new favorite drink in the entire world hails from Casa Luna, a charming restaurant in the mountain village of Ubud, Bali.  Every day on my recent trip, I would head to their tiny bar and order up a Coconut Killer, and then another and then another.  In the sweltering heat, this drink was the perfect remedy---just when I'd be about to pass out from sun exposure, I'd sling a few down (and trust me, they go down quick).  I quickly became known as the Coconut Killer girl and when the friendly staff saw me coming, they knew to get the blender ready.  One afternoon, I situated myself near the bartender and watched her whip one up...Here's how it goes (super simple):
1 shot of Bacardi
1 shot of white rum
1 shot of midori (melon liqueur)
3 small scoops of coconut ice (I'm thinking sorbet would work, too)
A handful of ice
~Blend 'til frothy, garnish with pineapple and drink away

This is literally THE SUMMER DRINK (and spring, winter and fall)!!!!


Spanish Hot Chocolate @ Angel Food Bakery~Still Incredible

Dscf4116My very first Raving Dish ever was about Angel Food Bakeries mind-blowing drink called The Barthelona.  Their Spanish version of hot chocolate is like liquid gold capped off by an insanely thick dollop of homemade whipped cream with little specks on vanilla peppered throughout.  I first tasted it back in Nov. of 04 and literally, it prompted me to hop on a flight and spend weeks in Spain, just to make sure the hot chocolate was legitimate (it was).  I was daydreaming about this drink on Sat. (after a fascinating day spent at the Field Museum, $10, if you're a Chicago resident) and hauled up to Montrose to make sure she was still alive and kicking.  Yep!  She was right there and even though the drink is still expensive (almost $4), it is bar-none one of the best things I've ever put into my mouth.  So rich, so dense, so creamy, so Spanish.  You will never be able to have regular hot chocolate again after tasting this wildly delicious version.


Flor de Cana Rum--Nicaragua's Best Rum

Dscf3991They say the best rum in Central America comes from Nicaragua and I don't doubt "they." Who are "they"?  As my granny would say:  "They" are the people on TV.  If they say it, then we believe them, huh?  Anyway...my point is---Nicaragua makes the best rum ever and it's called Flor de Cana.  When I came back from Nicaragua last month, I hauled a giant bottle of the stuff in my tiny backpack (I jammed all my clothes in a itty-bitty backpack for an eight day trip and at the end of the trip, still managed to cram a huge bottle of Flor de Cana AND a bottle of homemade mojitos from Casa Iguana into it--basically never travel with things that you can't leave behind).  This rum is super caramelly and is perfect for mojitos, rum & cream sodas (which I was introduced to recently), rum and cokes, rum and everything....very smooth and not bitter at all.  My bottle is 1/3 of the way gone now, sadly and my poor bottle of mojitos was slammed down in a couple hours over the holiday season--all by me...even my family thought it was insanely strong---wha?  Rum--done right--is my new favorite drink.


Rooibos Caramel Red Tea...sooooo good~

Dscf3930_2There's nothing like new discoveries and my latest is South African Red Tea (thanks yet again to my friends at Whole Foods)!  I'm usually swilling mate (or my most recent favorite, Jasmine), but for some reason this little package of bright read tea caught my eye (re: the word caramel was screaming my name).  I was delighted to see little chunks of actual caramel mixed in with the tea...who knew?  Though it's caffeine free, it's still the perfect sipping tea, especially when I'm working my way through a major sugar craving (those come on about once every few hours).  Rooibos actually means "red bush" and is super rich in antioxidants.  In other words, every good for you--especially the caramel.  Yum~