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Local Romantic Birthday Adventure

Local Romantic Birthday Adventure

By on May 31, 2014 in Blog | 0 comments

Taina Asili

Featured Song:   I love traveling, but Gaetano has more complicated feelings about it. A comfortable vacation for Gaetano often looks like being in town and doing the cozy things he loves. So, instead of planning some elaborate vacation for Gaetano’s 30th birthday, like I would want to do on a 3 day weekend, I decided to keep it local and all about what Gaetano loves which includes: A) good food he does not have to cook, B) good music he does not have to travel far away to hear and C) alone time with me. Our birthday weekend surprise adventure began at Umana Restaurant and Wine Bar, which recently opened just 5 minutes from our house. I heard about this restaurant from my trusted BFF Leah who had went on a date there with her Love. She explained that a visionary woman, originally from Guyana, had opened a new fabulous restaurant, and Gaetano and I would love it. Well, girlfriend knows us well, because we absolutely did. They describe their fusion cuisine as “street foods and wines from around the world”, but the food also has elegance in its taste and presentation. The atmosphere is equally elegant and very artistic, reminding me of thee decor of some my favorite Philadelphia restaurants. The centerpiece of the spacious dining area is a mesmerizing mural painted by an artist from Troy. Photo from the Times Union The owner, Dale Davidson, came to greet us, and explained that everything in the restaurant was placed with intention and attention to detail. For example, some of the furniture was hand-made in Haiti, and even the wooden plates were hand crafted by international artisans. She also explained that the word “umana” comes from the Wai Wai term “umana yana” meaning “meeting place of the people”. This was her intention for the restaurant, to bring people together. And they absolutely worked their best to include our vegan diet in the food they presented to us. I called a couple weeks ahead to let them know I was coming and to ask about their vegan options. They assured me the chef  would prepare something special for us. What I did not expect was that they would have an entire...

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Winter Vacation in Boston

Winter Vacation in Boston

By on May 12, 2014 in Blog | 0 comments

Taina Asili

Featured Song:   One of the things I love most about living in Albany is that we are just 1 to 4 hours from every amazing city in the Northeast. That makes gigging and vacationing a lot easier. Boston is one of those amazing cities. Just 3 hours away from Albany, it is the perfect place for a vegan family to visit, especially in February when new options for indoor fun and dining are running slim. So off we went for a weekend winter vacation, and an unexpected (but happily welcomed) performance. The first place we hit was the Children’s Museum of Boston, which is free on Friday nights. Though I love that in theory, it was so packed we could barely breath, so we decided to return again the next day. The following day Caona and I met friends there while Gaetano and Yabisi went to see a travelling circus from Australia.  I was super excited to see our friends Evan and Erin and their child Saorsie. They are a vegan, musician, queer, activist family, just like us. (Check out Evan Greer’s moving music and activist work here!) While Saorsie and Caona ran around in the enclosed toddler room, I had a rare chance to connect with Evan and Erin about music, movement work and parenting. Afterwards, we went out to eat in Chinatown, and though it was satisfying, what I really want to write about is where we convened for dessert. Evan and Erin introduced us to FoMu, a vegan ice cream shop in Jamaica Plain. I believe most of the ice cream is coconut milk based, which is great for anyone with soy allergies. I also think it tastes better. The flavors are endless, and I honestly thought my son was going to lose his mind with all the options available to him. I honestly thought I was going to as well. We got a few scoops with different flavors, and though I don’t remember the names of them, I do remember that they tasted creamy and fresh and well… hella good.  Before going our separate ways, Evan and Erin recommended we check out Veggie Galaxy. And bright and early the next day that is exactly...

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New Year’s In Isabela, Puerto Rico

New Year’s In Isabela, Puerto Rico

By on May 11, 2014 in Blog | 0 comments

Taina Asili

Featured Song:   As a upstate NY born and raised Puerto Rican, visiting Puerto Rico is not just about vacationing. For my children and I it is about reconnecting with our culture, learning about our history, bonding with the land, and spending time with our extended family. My connection to Puerto Rican cuisine, however, is a bit more complicated. Don’t get me wrong, if I were to only eat one dish every single day for the rest of my life it would hands down be arroz con gandules (rice and pigeon peas). Puerto Rican’s know how to cook, and my grandmother was the Master of all Puerto Rican chefs (yeah, I said it!). I know what good Puerto Rican food is. But, from the pork based diet of the Spaniards, to slavery, to poverty, to theft of access to fresh locally grown fruits and vegetables, to the American fast food infestation, Puerto Rico now has the highest rate of diabetes in US, mainly the result of obesity, making it the third leading cause of death. For me, maintaining a healthy diet is a means of survival, and is a form of resistance to that which has taken my people away from the gifts that our fertile island was meant to provide us with, and the knowledge that our Taíno and Africano ancestors once knew: yautía, guanabana, piña, guayaba, calabaza, achiote, gandules, plátano, y yuca! My grandmothers both grew up very close to the land, and I am blessed to have had the opportunity to return there with both of them before their passing. Rosa, my paternal grandmother, once brought me back to her home town of Isabela. Her mountain, as she called it, on which she was raised had been torn down to build a McDonalds and Kentucky Fried Chicken. So instead of touring me on the land where she once rode horses, she brought me to her brother’s house and toured me around his land full of papaya, platano and aguacate trees, and overlooking the gigantic waves crashing in from the Bermuda triangle. I wish I could say that 2014 was the year I returned to this place I was once enchanted by. But her brother, who was a US...

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