Today was one of the most memorable days of my life. A few days ago, I tried pastéis de nata @joeybatscafe and learned that Chinese egg tart originated from it. I then told Joey about Japanese sponge cake called “castella” which also originated from Portugal. Yesterday, I got a sample of castella for them. His mom, Isabel, said she would bake the Portuguese version for me and told me to come back today. I brought five of my friends to sample. We first enjoyed the pastéis de natas with espresso. Then the cake came out of the oven. She drizzled port wine over it—an ingenious combination. I’m not sure if the Japanese have discovered this trick yet! I didn’t take pictures because she said it didn’t come out the way she wanted it to because they don’t have a proper oven for it, but it was still fantastic.
She then pulled out from a small fridge a container full of pork loin marinating in beer and she started cooking it in front of us. It was amazingly tender and flavorful. She then pulled out a big chunk of prosciutto, sliced it by hand, and told us that she used to work for a butcher. Next up was a pot of soup made with potatoes and collard greens. She heated her favorite olive oil with slices of chorizo, and drizzled it over the soup. It was beautiful and delicious. The last course was a cup of Portuguese liqueur called Ginja, which tasted very much like Japanese plum wine. I wonder if the Japanese got the idea from Portuguese.
They offered us all this without expecting anything in return. In New York, you do not expect this kind of generosity and hospitality from someone you just met. They are obviously gifted in making people feel at home. They ooze positive energy and vibe.
The most memorable story Isabel told us was about her stint at an airport directing the planes on the runway. She said she really enjoyed that work. It seems like she is capable of enjoying any type of work, which, I believe, is a hallmark of someone who does not take anything for granted in life. I thought she would be perfect for the role of the angel in “It’s a Wonderful Life”.
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