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A warm, drizzly New York evening and the corner of Kenmore and Lafayette make for the perfect meeting spot for a post-work dinner and drinks. Grab an outdoor sidewalk seat at La Esquina Taqueria and Café, take a deep breath, exhale and de-stress from the workday. Promptly order a pitcher of Margaritas ($42) and peruse the mouthwatering menu.

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Deciding what to order at La Esquina is a difficult task. The menu is pretty extensive, they offer an wide assortment of tortas (a Mexican sandwich, served on an oblong 6-8 inch firm crusty white sandwich roll), interesting salads, delicious tacos and main courses. I kept it pretty simple and ordered the De La Casa ($9), a salad which came with organic baby greens, avocado, sesame seeds, a balsamic vinaigrette and a generous topping of crispy fried tortilla strips. I opted to exclude the queso fresco and instead tacked on a side of grilled fish ($5). If you’re not feeling the fish, they also offer organic chicken ($4.50) or steak ($5).

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There are three different restaurants within La Esquina, the Café is first-come first-served, the Taqueria is a more traditional sit-down restaurant, and the Brasserie & Tequila Bar, located in the basement, is a speakeasy style joint that’s basically impossible to get into. Reservations are required months in advance and I have yet to enter this forbidden temple of hungry hipsters.

This was my first time eating at the Taqueria. It was definitely a different experience — the waiter was grumpy (which he owned up to later on), the awning was a tad too small to keep the rain sprinkles from hitting my shoulder and the prices were a more than anticipated. For now, I’ll stick to the cheap and easy Café for my fish and avocado tacos. But just for you, our loyal blog readers, I’ll put my name on the waiting list for the basement. Hopefully we’ll have a report by Christmas.

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When traveling to far away places it’s great to spend time sampling the local cuisine. But the beverages can be just as exciting, especially when they cost mere pennies a sip.

Created in 1924, Imperial is a Costa Rican brand of beer and is by far the most popular lager in the country, even by ticos (aka locals). Imperial is known as a balanced beer by using a mixture of malts and cereals allowing the taste to be both smooth and mellow with a crisp, light aftertaste. A can purchased from a Costa Rican grocery store will set you back only $0.90 (or 490 colones), one of the most satisfying pleasures of drinking abroad.

We highly recommend cracking open a cold can of Imperial while sunbathing on the secluded beaches of Playa Hermosa. Pura Vida!

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Enjoying the breathtaking view of an active volcano at your doorstep is one of the perks of visiting La Fortuna in Costa Rica. The Arenal Volcano is spectacular during the day, but even more amazing on a clear night when there’s lava pouring down its sides. The last major eruption was on August 23, 2000.

We joined the Liquid Lava Volcano Hike by Desafio Adventure Company and trekked through a lush rainforest near the base of the volcano. When the sun went down, we were driven to an observation point and treated to fireflies, a sky full of stars, lava flow and a special drink called Liquid Lava. Our guide began with a healthy pour of Cacique Guaro, a Costa Rican liquor made from sugar cane (30% alc by vol.). We saw a bottle this same size selling at the supermarket for $8.

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Tropical fruit punch juice was then added to our plastic cups.

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Finally, it’s topped off with a dash of grape juice.

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Our drinks were both strong and sweet, which helped make the stunning nighttime view of Arenal Volcano that much more memorable.

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One of the wonderful things about Toronto is the many options for West Indian food. Deciding which spot has the best food is still up for debate, but best presentation is hands down at Diner’s Corner (3 Gloucester Street, just east of Yonge).

The small oxtail dinner is displayed on a white square plate and includes several dishes: tender oxtail with plenty of sauce, requisite rice and peas, a colourful salad and a festival (fried dumpling) on the side (all for $7, large is $9).

The restaurant’s ambiance is cozy and intimate, and while the tables feature linen tablecloths, the prices are incredibly reasonable. Plus, if you’re ever looking to get plastered, the rum punch tastes like a “quadruple.” I suspect they pour in a shot of fruit punch and fill the rest of the glass with rum. (Note: the fruit punch alone is a highly recommended non-alcoholic beverage.)

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Where do you think the best West Indian food in Toronto can be had? Leave us a comment and we’ll check it out.

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When we traveled to Buenos Aires, we encountered many unexpected things; a 35-minute cab ride that cost only $6, freshly grilled steak and wine from a shopping mall food court, a terrifying and equally humiliating pigeon attack, and unforgettable cocktails and food at a hip Scandinavian restaurant.

Located at Gorriti 5870 in Palermo, Olsen features soaring 12-metre ceilings, a sculptural fountain and an interior decorated in blond woods with clean lines. Our dear friends from Peppermelon suggested starting the meal with two shared appetizers of bite-sized Swedish-inspired sushi, and dense bagels and mini pancakes served with smoked salmon, herring and caviar (shown above).

We blame the unattractively dangling camera strap in that photo on the 60+ vodka cocktails on Olsen’s menu. Our favourite was the Pink Flamingo — a mix of Absolut Ruby Red, Cointreau, slices of cucumber and pink grapefruit — as seen at the very top of the this photo:

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The mains included a goat-cheese salad with balsalmic reduction and melt-in-your-mouth gnocchi slathered in cream sauce, asparagus and smoked salmon. We can’t remember if we had dessert, but we do remember that our taste buds could not appreciate the highly popular drink of Fernet and Cola that we were forced to try. We thought it was kinda like licking a foot with a chaser of soap. Unexpected, indeed.

Olsen / 5870 Gorriti, Buenos Aires
11 4776 7677‎ / Tues-Thurs noon-1am, Fri-Sat 12:30pm-2:30am, Sun 10am-1am

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