DEVOURING QUITO With Jet Set Zero

Lunch in La Floresta, QuitoCeviche de Camaron in La Floresta, QuitoAlmuerzo in La Floresta, QuitoJet Set Zero in Quito having lunchKid playing in the restaurant while JSZ lunches in La FlorestaI LAST SAW JENNA MEISTER TWO YEARS AGO when we convened in South America for a two-week trek from Buenos Aires to Rio.

In Argentina, we spent our pesos on extra large steaks – roughly equivalent to a small loaf of bread – and washed away our twentysomething woes with Malbec. In Brasilia, we breakfasted, lunched, and dinner-ed on pão de queijo and sliced meats at the buffet-style churrascarias. In this way, we made new memories over food while reminiscing about those blissful college years when we were roommates who spent the bulk of our days in the dining hall. Minus the collegiate setting, not too much has changed.

Last week, Jenna emailed me from Quito where she’s been living with the cast of Jet Set Zero since early May. Jet Set Zero is a travel web video series that follows four wanderlusters in their mission to see the world. That’s Jenna on the left with her co-cast members Ryan in purple and smiling Freddie in gray. It’s like The Real World with less glamour, more hustling; fewer five-star hotels and more five-dollar-per-night hostel stays.

I wanted to visit Jenna in South America, but didn’t plan to leave til July. In a surprise turn of events – and because petty thievery abounds here – Jet Set Zero‘s camera got stolen and the team learned the hard way that Ecuadorian customs and security checks makes the mailing of electronics near impossible. Would I be their camera mule?

So here I am, four days into Quito. Internet is spotty here, but the living, eating, and traveling is cheap. One US dollar buys a cab ride to La Mariscal, the “tourist ghetto”, where Jenna works in an Irish-run Vietnamese restaurant; two dollars is a one-way bus ticket to Mindo Nambillo Cloud Forest – home of orchids, lush canopies, and a gazillion types of birds, like roosters who crow without stop between four and seven in the morning – two hours away; and fifty cents equals two homemade cheese empanadas sold by ebullient bus-hopping food vendors en route to Mindo.

The Jet Set Zero clan went rock climbing yesterday while I maintained my stubborn fear of heights and took photos from the ground. Afterward, we stopped by a small cafe for almuerzos aka daily set lunches comprised of potato soup, a rice dish with chicken or beef, and a glass of juice. At around $1.50 for three courses, almuerzos are a steal, but I chose to splurge and spent four dollars on a tangy shrimp ceviche instead. “This is how the locals do it” Freddie said, topping his own bowl of ceviche with popcorn.

While waiting for our meal, I spotted the cafe owner’s young son peeking at us from under a table across the room. Behind him, Mexico just beat France on the cafe’s staticky 20-inch TV. I was struck by the distance between us and the World Cup in South Africa just then and, for a second, I thought of other far away places, like New York City. amy june 18, 2010

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June 18, 2010. Tags: , , , , . Seafood, South America, Travel. 5 comments.

Five Leaves Left By Heath

The Five Leaves Bar

Five Leaves 18 Bedford Ave, Brooklyn, 718 383 5345 | offManhattan.com

AT THE SEAM where fast gentrifying Greenpoint meets the Williamsburg bar strip, a charming American bistro with an Australian accent caters to empty bellies at its own leisurely pace. With the likes of Sharkey’s Auto Driving School flanking one side and mom and pops running the rest of the block, the triangular storefront of Heath Ledger’s Five Leaves fits well in its working class neighborhood. (more…)

May 15, 2009. Cheeseburger, Greenpoint, offManhattan, Seafood. Leave a comment.

FIVE LEAVES • offManhattan.com

The Five Leaves Burger

Five Leaves | 18 Bedford Ave, Brooklyn, 718 383 5345 | offManhattan.com

AT THE SEAM where fast gentrifying Greenpoint meets the Williamsburg bar strip, a charming American bistro with an Australian accent caters to empty bellies at its own pace. With the likes of Sharkey’s Auto Driving School flanking one side and mom and pops running the rest of the block, the triangular storefront of Heath Ledger’s Five Leaves fits well in its working class neighborhood.

One late Friday morning, I stopped by to explore the breakfast menu. I ordered the ricotta pancakes, which arrived garnished with berries and a sizable cut of banana. As I plotted my attack, Jud Mongell, the owner, stopped by the bar where I sat scrutinizing the fluffy stack. “Pour some more on there. Don’t be so skimpy with the syrup!” he teased. I asked why he had numbers scribbled on the back of his hand. “It’s what I owe the fish guy,” he shared with a grin, noting that the grilled salmon seemed especially popular with the ladies.

The clientele appeared to share a penchant for plaid and designer thrift while tattooed bartenders sport trucker hats and engaged in easy conversation with regulars who stopped in to shoot the breeze. Throughout the day, passersby bobbed into view at the “Coffee To Go” window for their caffeine fix before hustling to their next destination. Apparently, dinnertime draws a crowd made up mostly of pairs. “It’s more fancy at night,” says Alston Paresa, who has worked the bar since Five Leaves opened last September.

With a persimmon-colored bench stretched across one wall, distressed timber planking, and maritime furnishings (note the oversized prow-shaped bar and the submarine door to the loo), the quirky interior provides a striking setting reminiscent of outdoor dining, but on the inside.

Off-the-menu dishes change daily with Aussie elements that pervade the regular breakfast, lunch and dinner listings. Some favorites are available from noon to midnight, like the savory and subtly sweet house burger, which is topped by fried pineapple and a mouth-watering golden egg served sunny side up.

While Jud’s friendship with the late Heath Ledger kindled their partnership on Five Leaves and helped put this cozy corner bistro on the dining map, it’s the Aussie accents that make it irresistible. After all, there are few things more disarming than a neighborhood joint whose regulars jokingly plead, “Please don’t write about this place ’cause then everyone will know…” in an effort to defend home turf. Still, if you must come, they recommend you try the oysters.The Five Leaves Bar

May 15, 2009. Brooklyn, Brunch, cash only, Greenpoint, offManhattan, Seafood. Leave a comment.