Yo ho ho and a bottle of rum

Last night I hit up rum club at La Isla Puerto Rican Restaurant in Ballard. La Isla is one of my favorite and definitely my most frequented bar. I do love all of the folks that I run into there. I also love rum and they have one of best selections in Seattle.

This Rum Bum get-together was all about testing and training the palette. For the first ‘taste,’ I had to plug my nose, roll a jellybean around on my tongue to analyze the sensations and then take a swig of rum. Sweet and sour stimulate different taste buds and salivary glands – once you know where that is in your mouth, it is easer to figure out if the alcohol has fruity or acidic nodes. I’m going to be straight up with you and let you know the I usually guess on the nodes. Now, I hope that I can make more educated guesses and, ojala, hit the jackpot from time to time.

After warming up our mouths, we tasted six locally infused rums. The apricot/orange peel (I guessed grapefruit) was the most clean and crisp. The anise was delicious, although overpowering. At half-time (after third infused rum), food started rolling out. We nibbled on tostones, fried yuca, sweet potato fries and chicharrones. La Isla has reached a good balance of pouring tastes and serving enough food so that I can get to work the next day.

This was a great introductory session for folks who are new to tasting. I suspect that they will repeat this format from time to time. I do look forward to next month when they will be cracking open some yet-to-be-announced sugar-sweet delights. Rum, I love you.

Cafe Cuzco in Ballard

My girlfriend Claudia was in town this weekend and crashed at my place last night. She loves cofecito con leche and I didn’t have any milk or cream in my fridge, so I suggested that we check out Cafe Cuzco in Ballard.

I drove by the cafe a couple of weeks ago and the word Cuzco caught my eye. I couldn’t find too much about the cafe on the net, but I did find some yelp.com entries that indicated both coffee and food are served in this joint.

The menu is relatively small and features authentic Peruvian eats (ceviche, tamales, potato dish, empanadas, alfajores, some sort of fancy sauce that I can’t remember) as well panini press sandwiches. We decided to order lattes and alfajores (yummy butter cookies with dulce de leche filling sprinkled with powdered sugar). Claudia also ordered some tamales, empanadas and papas with the special sauce to take home for dinner.

The cafe has a cute setup – there are four small tables and one larger table that was occupied by a men’s bible study group. The tables are adorned with artisan Peruvian placemats that add some color to the mostly wood decor. Claudia and I plopped down on the black leather couch near the large TV mounted on the wall that was tuned in to European soccer.

This is definitely a mom-and-pop style cafe. The owners were very friendly and the coffee was excellent. I think this might be a new study hangout for me.