Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Ruben's Empanadas: A temporary moment of happiness

I don't normally take much stock in the quoatable quotes celebrities choke out in magazine interviews. They all seem a bit contrived and forced -- like a clipboard-yielding publicist is feeding lines into the interviewee's ear from across the room.

"Now tell them that you love eating In-N-Out animal-style burgers and that you were a big dork in high school and that you care deeply about the genocide in Darfur."

Right. And Angelina Jolie is just like us because she pumps her own gas.

Because most interviews tend to involve these types of self-promoting, dubiously truthful revelations, I typically skim such articles and promptly move on to the "Healthy Recipes to Slim Your Thighs!" feature. On Sunday evening however, in an attempt to make my issue of Women's Health magazine take up as much time as possible on my five-hour flight from NY to LA, I actually paid a bit closer attention.

Near the end of the interview with the saucy Zoe Saldana (of Centerstage and Star Trek fame), the confident actress declared that "Happiness is nothing but temporary moments here and there." (page 129) Her point was that being a "happy" person does not necessarily mean being happy all the time. There will still be low points, and one needs to relish those fleeting moments when things are well with the world.

The quote struck me as an apt descriptor for my brief 28-hour visit to New York that weekend. The entire trip was a string of temporary moments of happiness -- like the brief encounter my brother, his friends and I had at Ruben's Empanadas in SoHo on Saturday afternoon.

I was starving after my long snack-free (aside from my pb & j sandwich, carrots sticks and apple) flight, and knew that I wouldn't make it until our 9:30 pm dinner without some additional form of sustenance. My brother and his friends were also feeling the mid-afternoon sugar slump, so it wasn't exactly Derek Shepard-style brain surgery for us to reach the conclusion that some form of food would need to be ingested. Stat.

It was at this critical juncture that my brother's NY-residing friends, an adorable couple who make me believe that maybe I have an other half out there somewhere too, suggested Ruben's Empanadas, a grab-and-go hole-in-the-wall that is famous for their spicy chicken baked empanadas. It also wasn't very challenging for us to decide that we would each be ordering the eatery's most popular item. (Though I was all sorts of intrigued by the broccoli empanada.)

Since my brother's fab San Fran friend and I had already devoured some snacks at Dean & Deluca, including a righteous granola bar that was essentially a really big/thick cookie bar, we opted to share our $4 spicy chicken empanada. As we munched through the butt-shaped (her words, not mine), baked-not-fried concoction, I couldn't help but notice it was like a hot pocket. I'd never had a hot pocket before, and truthfully, have no desire to ever lay my lips on one in the future, but the practicality of the empanada's design was not lost on me. It's the perfect package for on-the-go dining at those times when dinner is too far away or there isn't time to grab a proper lunch. The tender, flaky dough filled with delicately spiced white meat chicken, tomato and onion, packs a hearty one-two punch with its combination of protein and carbs, and the half empanada that I enjoyed was just the right amount to keep my stomach purring until we arrived at our dinner destination.
Beyond merely the satisfaction the empanada brought to my stomach, the few minutes that we spent feasting on our afternoon snack in the middle of an awkward sidewalk park in SoHo was lovely in its humbleness compared to the events that would follow that evening. We all knew that the night would likely be a crazy one given the nature of the celebration and the amount of alcohol that would be consumed, and in many ways, our interlude at Ruben's can be viewed as "the calm before the storm." It was a nice moment. A Zoe Saldana moment -- the type that inspires a "mental picture" to remember during the times when bad things happen. Fortunately, none of us seemed to need it the rest of the trip. It was all happiness and laughter -- even with regards to the stranger in disturbingly tight jeans, who took his shirt off at a nearby bench.

10 comments:

Esi said...

I'm still boggled over how much you got in on such a short trip! Now I want to bake empanadas...

The Duo Dishes said...

Are those empanadas hubongous or are we just dealing with a perception issue? All of that for $4? Wow.

Pearl said...

oh my gosh! happy moments are to live for!

Pearl said...

*kicks self cause she just ended a sentence with a preposition*

Jenn said...

Empanadas never cease to put a smile on my face. A perfect on-the-go snack. That thing looks huge though. The more, the merrier is what I always say!!

The Blonde Duck said...

I love empanadas. Yumm.....

Elra said...

I can see Diana treat herself well! Good for you Di!

Diana said...

Esi - I totally thought the same thing after I ate it! I'm already scouring the Internet for recipes... there's one on Smitten Kitchen...

Chrystal & Amir - No, they are BIG! It's sitting on my legs, so you can size it based on that!

Pearl - Haha, don't worry, I won't tell! ;)

Jenn - They really are! I think I need more empanadas in my life.

Miranda - Aren't they the best?

Elra - Haha, yes, I definitely treated myself well! My thighs on the other hand...

Reeni♥ said...

It looks so good! And it's baked! Yay!

Sara said...

Looks good to me! Sometimes the most unexpected places offer up the best food.