I just got back from 4 days in the Dominican Republic soaking up the sun and enjoying the people. The Scandinavian people that is. Home base for me during this trip was this bar on the beach in Sosua:
That’s the owner Tom, a Norwegian expat who cooks great simple food for really cheap prices and blasts the best music on the beach (lots of good ol’ American southern rock!). My good friend Mike was the one who organized this trip, coordinating it with all of the friends he’s met over the years at this bar on his past trips, none of whom I had ever met and many of whom were flying in from Scandanavia. So it was at Tom’s bar that we all converged, probably 8 or so of us from NY and a dozen others from Noway and Sweden. All really good guys, but ranging widely in age and degrees of insanity (all insane in a good way, I assure you).
Mike had already been there a few days when I arrived on Sunday. After grabbing a quick dinner of German sausage at Tom’s, we rounded up a bunch of people and headed over to Eddy’s Sports Bar to watch the Super Bowl. It was of course one of the most incredible football games ever played, one of the hugest upsets in sports history, and since I was in Sosua and surrounded by Giants fans, it was also one of the most surreal sporting environments I’ve ever been in. Cover charge was 200 pesos, appx $6.60 US, which included one free drink and a hot dog. A big pale hot dog, but still. Even Tom showed up after closing his bar (it’s a beach bar so he closes at sunset), but all he did was gripe about the lameness of American football and then he left to go to the disco.
The disco in Sosua is quite the meat market. Within 5 minutes of being at the bar, I had some horrendous chica coming onto me and trying to get me to take her home. Um, no thanks. After checking to make sure she hadn’t lifted anything from my pockets, I used my busted Spanish to tell her my friends were heading upstairs and I was going to leave too. She gave me a dirty look but I could tell she was a pro at getting rejected. Well, let’s just say she was a pro, period. But then again, it seemed almost every girl down there was a pro. That definitely took some of the allure out of the otherwise hopping scene at the disco because no matter how good a girl looks, if you know she’s for sale, then there’s really no thrill in trying to meet her. By contrast, the girls who were attractive were the ones who we couldn’t touch- Tom’s waitresses who were off limits out of respect to Tom, and the beautiful blonde German bartender in my hotel who was not permitted to fraternize with the customers. No matter, I still had fun, and my Norwegian buddies sure did too, because they did love the ladies in the club.
My afternoons were spent on the beach at Tom’s, playing cards and sipping caipirinhas and bloody caesars. Everything down in the D.R. was so inexpensive. I would have two meals and drink all day at Tom’s for $30 US. Absolutely incredible. As for my dinners, I had two great meals at an Italian joint called Bologna’s. One night I had a delicious simply prepared sea bass, and on the next night, an off the hook fettucini with lobster and shrimp in a cream sauce. But the real culinary highlight of the trip was on my last night of the trip. Mike knows I’m a food nut so he insisted that we all had to take a trip over to Cabarete to have dinner at La Casita de Papi for my sendoff dinner. Mike said I would love the shrimp there. Man was he right. Ladies and gentlemen, may I present the greatest shrimp dish I have ever tasted, Camarones de Papi:
As you can see, the shrimp were quite large. What you can’t see is that the sauce was an incredibly garlicky yet nuanced cream. Trying to google it, I discovered it was a garlic Pastis cream sauce, yet I honestly can’t say I recall tasting any hint of anise flavor, so I dunno about that. There was a touch of spicy heat to it too though. All I know was it was insanely, ridiculously addictive. Since they were cooked with the head on, you could suck the juices out of them and that was the best part. All that delicious sauce made even more over the top by the sweet and briny intensity of the shrimp heads. To die for! I ate until I was full and probably ate another loaf and a half of bread just sopping up the sauce.
I wish I could say that was the beautiful end to my excellent and relaxing trip, but unfortunately it wasn’t. We all got a complimentary shot of mamajuana before our check arrived and it messed me up pretty good. Apparently mamajuana is made from tree bark and herbs mixed with wine and honey. It’s supposed to be like the Dominican Viagra, but every place makes it differently. I had one at Tom’s and was fine, but this one from Papi’s, within minutes had my heart racing like crazy and I started feeling a weird flush of anxiety. So unfortunately that ended my last night a bit early as I had to go back to the hotel and curl into a fetal position until the effects wore off.
In the morning, I headed back down to the beach one last time to say goodbye to all my new friends. To Tom, who has the best bar on Sosua beach. To little Johnny, the 13 year old Dominican kid with a 3 month old baby. To all my new NY friends- Mouse, Teddy, Chris, John, Tony, Cyrus and Nicky. And of course to my new Scandinavian brothers whose names I can only phonetically spell- Yon, Svine, Tura, Steined, the guy whose name I don’t even know because Mike kept calling him George Clooney, the lunatic Geir who learned all his English from bad movies and kept yelling “FOCK ME SIDEVAYZ!”, and Tom’s friend Pele Blanco who knows celebrity chef Marcus Samuelsson. I learned a lot on this trip too. I learned how to play knock rummy, I learned that -son names are from Sweden, -sen names are from Norway and it takes 5 hours to make Norwegian meatballs. All important things. Great vacation.