First Time Having Atole

Santos is a guy in my neighborhood who parks his SUV, sets up his white foldable table and takes out three big orange Gatorade thermoses. Here’s the thing…the thermoses don’t have Gatorade.

I saw this truck set up and I was curious. Not Karen curious…just curious about what he was selling. On one of my work-from-home days, I had to drop off my car for repair, so on my walk home I popped over to the table and got some answers.

“What are you selling?” I asked.

He responded sort of timidly, like he knew I wasn’t going to know what in the world he was about to tell me.

He was right. He told me that he was selling Atole.

“Come again?” Well, that’s what I was saying in my mind. He patiently told me that he was selling Atole de Pina and asked me if I wanted to try some. I told him I didn’t have any cash, but this sweet curator of all things Atole said, “Just pay me next time.”

I closed my eyes and fully took in the experience of the warm, sweet drink with an abundance of pineapple chunks. Honestly, I wonder how I could have lived so long without knowing anything about this. I savored every sip. He said, “Do you want some more?” I decided to take my blessing and then do some research about this comforting flavorsome beverage.

I found out that many Central American countries serve Atole, but it has Mayan roots, so it is generally considered native to Mexico. The Mayans drank it as a corn-based beverage. It’s called Atole de Elote—it’s the O.G. Atole. The traditional drink is usually made with fresh corn, sugar, and water or milk.

Atole has been around for a long time. In fact, says that Spanish conquistador, Hernan Cortes spoke about it in one of his letters calling it a “warm and energetic drink.” Timetabling that bit of information would, at least, put us in the 1500’s. However, that calculation is wrong since that’s just when Atole was recognized by Europeans. It’s really a prehistoric drink from Mayan civilization.

In a later visit with Santos, I bought a cup of the pineapple version (Atole de Pina), but he also gave me a taste of the Atole de Elote. Again, it just gave me the feels. It felt like a warm snuggle up in a cozy blanket

I likened it to corn chowder. Santos agreed. I also asked him if his versions were Salvadoran or Mexican. His was Salvadoran, but there are Guatemalan, Honduran and Caribbean iterations of Atole as well. It is typically eaten with tamales and tortillas.

I experienced a warm corn and pineapple versions, but Atole can be served cold. Atole is also made with fruit like guava, strawberry, and plum. Chileatoles are salty or spicy and are mostly served as a soup or main dish.

Try this Mexican recipe for Atole de Elotte from


How Sweet it Is Pineapple Juice Cake

Hi there! It’s Monica here…your MCCN Editor. I’m just dropping by for a quick talk about this awesome recipe.

I’ve been wanting to add this pineapple juice cake recipe on the site for a while because I personally loved making it. I’ve made the cake four times and it’s been a hit each time. The recipe is relatively simple, and if you have kids or grandkids, what a fun way to spend some quality time together!

Now here’s my disclaimer…it’s super sweet. I mean, “How sweet it is!” but OMGoodness it’s going to be a sugar shock for some. I’d venture to say some may have to lay the fork down after two or three bites.

Now for the natural sweet tooth people like me…pace yourself.

The cake has a strong pineapple presence inside and out. The pineapple juice is baked right in, and when the cake is finished, you soak it, and I mean ladle it on thick, with the pineapple juice glaze.

You could gain 5-10 pounds nibbling on this cake. It can’t stay in my house. I’m not trying to dissuade you, I just want you to know what you’re getting yourself into.

Here’s the thing I’ve made it drenched, and I have also drenched it less. One way or the other, it’s supposed to be drenched. Just decide for yourself how far you want to go down that rabbit hole.

Decisions! Decisions!

I took this cake to my office, frankly because I wasn’t going to eat a whole cake. I sliced it, put it into a container, and left it in the break room for whoever wanted to eat it. 

Then something strange happened. I started hearing the commotion.

“This cake is so good.”

Office wolker

“Who made this cake?”

Another office worker

I must admit, it was a lot of fun to hear more and more people talking about this really delicious and mysterious cake.

I came clean to one of the ladies at my job, and assured her that I wasn’t some super baker. I simply saw an image on Pinterest that made the ultimate greedy girl in me have to investigate. That’s when I found a video by Stacey from Southern Bite, and filed it in my mind as a must-try.


Monica Johnson, Multi Cultural Cooking Network Editor

Cleveland’s Pizza 216 to the Rescue

I was in Cleveland, for a conference, recently, and you know what happens at a conference. You may have the continental breakfast offerings in the morning, and they might even cover your lunch. However, more than likely, you’re on your own for dinner. 

I admit…I had all these grand ambitions about what I was going to eat, but there’s something about listening to people talk for nearly eight hours that can take the wind out of you. I just wanted to grab my din-din and go. Sometimes simplicity is golden.

I walked down a few blocks from my hotel on Euclid Avenue and saw a few people dining outside. Figuring that I had walked long enough, I wandered into Pizza 216.

So now I’m about to see how Cleveland gets down with their pizza.

Pizza 216 is a brick oven pizza joint, and the hostess let me know it is on a list for “Best Pizza in Cleveland.” Now, I’m feeling pretty good about my choice.

The place has a pretty chill vibe, surprisingly, since there’s a lot of neon red with black going on. I’m not bothered, black and red works for me. I even see one of the people from the conference as I get ready to order my carryout. He’s is waiting for his order, and excited because I’m wearing a t-shirt that says, “Podcaster.” It was his company’s shirt. How about that ROI?

Glad to make your day Sir!

So what’s on the menu? Pizza, of course…but what kind? The menu boasts of pies like Pierogi pie, which is topped with whipped mashed potatoes, ricotta, cheddar, caramelized onions, green onions, and sour cream. The menu also includes The Bianca with olive oil, classic blend, ricotta, garlic, and fresh mozzarella and provolone cheese.

They also have more pies on the menu like The Margherita, The Spicy pie, and The Carnivore. 

Whoa! Back up…that’s it! We’re going full carnivore tonight.

So I ordered a small brick oven Carnivore Pizza, and let me tell you, “No lies detected folks.” It was loaded. It was hearty! And it was packed and stacked with sausage, pepperoni, bacon, ham, and meatballs. The fresh homemade pie crust was awesome as well. 

In retrospect, what was also impressive was the story of the owner Johnny Lis, who attended pizza school in New York City. As a native New Yorker, I understand the full flex of that statement. So after pizza school, he headed to downtown Cleveland where he opened up a shop in 2015. That small New York-style pizza joint, serving handmade pies, Buffalo wings, and drinks, has become a place where tourists and homers come to enjoy a slice of comfort food and maybe a Cleveland Guardians, Browns or Cavs game.

The Pizza 216 menu also offers the 216 Smash Mouth— a handheld short rib and brisket blend with lettuce, tomato, onion, American cheese, and burger sauce. There’s also garlic knots, Buffalo Chicken Nachos, Toasted Ravioli, and a variety of wings (Buffalo, Garlic Parmesan, Honey Mustard, BBQ, and Sweet chili).

Never let it be said that I can’t get back to the point!

If you’re visiting downtown Cleveland for business, pleasure, or even a conference, I have a quick rescue plan for what to eat in Cleveland. Pizza 216 is a solid choice for something simply sumptuous and satisfying.

Fall Favorites: Candy Apples Were Born in the USA

When it comes to the fall, our minds turn to some of our favorite comfort foods, but let’s include some confection in this category as well. Candy apples are just right for the season. With the temperatures cooling, you can enjoy this festive American treat throughout fall, and right into the Christmas season.

The history of the candy apple originates in Newark, New Jersey in 1908. According to sources, candy-maker William W. Kolb was testing out a new confection for Christmas and decided to grab the attention of people passing by his candy shop by coating apples in his new red cinnamon candy.

Now, if you have ever seen a glossy-red candy apple, you know that it will not only catch your attention, but there’s a certain mouth-watering aspect to the glossy color treat.

So It seems the candy maker had a genuine surprise on his hands. After showcasing those apples, which were simply meant to bring attention to the candy, people were more interested in the entire display rather than just the candy. People came into the shop to purchase the apple, which he sold for five cents.

Soon he did what many a great entrepreneur does, he expanded his audience and candy apples became popular at the beach on the Jersey Shore as well as festivals and circuses.

I don’t celebrate Halloween anymore, but I do remember it being a staple of the holiday in the early eighties…before the ruiners started putting razor blades in the apples. (There’s always going to be those people who take the fun out of everything.) Nonetheless, the candy apple has evolved to include other variations like caramel and toffee. The creations are as varied and creative as one can dream.

Options for candy various candy apples.(Photos from Pixabay and Wikipedia)

Granny Smith and Pink Lady apples are just two of the apples will work for candied apples, but for a list of other acceptable apples, check out the list by Stemilt World Famous Fruit.

See the video below for The Sugar Geek’s recipe for the Best Candy Apple Recipe.

The Quick and Dirty on Kombucha Tea

Kombucha tea is a fermented drink made with tea (green, black or white), sugar, bacteria and yeast. The drink’s origins may date back to 221 B.C. in China, and it is made by adding a colony of bacteria and yeast to tea and sugar. According to the Mayo Clinic, once the mix is fermented, “the resulting liquid contains vinegar, B vitamins and a number of other chemical compounds.”

You can buy bottled or canned kombucha, but if you are more of a DIY-type, check out this recipe on

Advocates claim that kombucha tea has a slew of health benefits, which include improving bone strength, managing blood pressure, diabetes and cancer. But let’s not jump to too many conclusions. According to the Mayo Clinic, “These claims are not backed by science. Limited evidence suggests kombucha tea may offer benefits similar to probiotic supplements, including promoting a healthy immune system and preventing constipation.” So do your research to decide whether kombucha is right for you.

Check out TheCoolCultureCook, our fun foodie apparel on

The Coffee Hunt

I love when I get an inkling to walk on the wild side! This wild inclination was… (DRUMS PLEASE!!!) to search out a new coffee place.

Okay, I know that may not be super exciting but it was a fun little activity to shake up my Saturday pot of coffee, or even the usual suspect coffee places that we all know and love.

So, in taking this little trip— just under 5 miles from my home—I got more than I expected. Before I even made it to John Brown Coffee Shop in Hunt Valley, MD, there was a charcuterie and a really unique little gift shop with amazingly eclectic presents. By the way the coffee menu is extensive, delicious, and provided lots of pastry choices as well.

I recorded this TikTok video earlier in the year so don’t mind my winter jacket. I only mention it since it is the first day of JULY!

I hope it inspires you to check out something new in your neighborhood.

Garcia Donuts Makes a Mean Cinnamon Roll

Cinnamon roll with cream cheese at Garcia’s Donuts in Laurel, Mississippi

Sometimes you experience something so good that you just want to tell the world…so here goes…

(Clears her throat) Eh…uuhmm.


(echoing voice)


(Pregnant pause)


(echoing voice)


Okay, I’m being a tad bit dramatic, but when I say that I had the best cinnamon roll ever, I really mean it. On my recent trip to Laurel, Mississippi, I was on a mission to get Garcia Donuts. Why?

Well, because the last time I was in the area, I saw that hokey yet endearing doughnut-shaped sign, and I just knew it was going to be a gold-star experience.

I wasn’t mistaken.

MCCN Editor Monica Johnson in front of Garcia’s Donuts sign.

Garcia’s does have a whole menu of doughnuts as well as breakfast and lunch offerings. I’ve heard it’s pretty awesome. Prayerfully, I can save that for my next trip.

When I got to the counter, the lady who was serving told me there was only one cream cheese frosted cinnamon roll left. And my thoughts were, “Come to Mama!” It was so fresh and just the right texture—soft and flakey. And since, I am kind of a sweets fanatic, I loved that the frosting was loaded with such liberality. It was divine.

I know you might think, “All this fuss over a cinnamon roll?!!!” But listen…a really good cinnamon roll isn’t as prevalent as you’d think. If you’re used to your usual convenience store or chain doughnut shop version, Garcia Donuts helps you raise your expectations. I love it when that happens.

No Better Place to be than Betsy’s on Magnolia


Nice little ice cream spot called Betsy’s, but don’t look for her serving the cones, she’s always out in the front of the shop just chilling. #betsysicecream

♬ She Share Story (for Vlog) – 山口夕依

When in Laurel, Mississippi, look for a blue VW Beetle outside of an ice cream shop. Then you’ll know you are at Betsy’s on Magnolia, a sweet little ice cream shop giving good vibes and a great ice cream experience, which includes sitting out on their deck and savoring every taste.

Betsy’s makes you reminisce about that yesteryear experience called friendly customer service. Remember that? I noticed the young man at the window giving out lovely welcoming greetings, polite instructions and finally a “Y’all come back!” farewell. When you live in faster paced cities, a little southern hospitality goes a long way for the soul. And it went down so lovely with my coffee dipped vanilla soft serve with heath bar toppings on a traditional waffle cone.

Can you hear the angelic choirs singing? Okay, that’s just in my head.

MCCN Editor, Monica Johnson enjoying her Betsy’s on Magnolia ice cream experience.

Betsy’s offers vanilla, chocolate and swirl soft-serve, and you can get it dipped for a hard shell covering with flavors like cherry, blue raspberry, white chocolate, coffee, cake batter, and more.

Betsy’s on Magnolia Ice Cream Shop, Laurel, Miss.

Now ice cream toppings are optional…or are they? Just peruse the menu and one of the toppings will eventually pull you in. There are rainbow sprinkles, Nerds, Pop Rocks, shredded coconuts, Oreos and Lucky Charms marshmallows. Are you starting to get the fun factor? We can’t stop there because your cone selection isn’t limited either. Try their red velvet waffle cone for a different twist.

Betsy’s on Magnolia’s is a sweet, laidback, Laurel, Mississippi experience. And what a great little place to sit down, relax, and enjoy your ice cream one lick at a time. For more information, visit Betsy’s on Magnolia website.

Maryland Mallet

Maryland Mallet is located in Westminster, MD and offers an abundance of seafood dishes, as well as meals for people who do not like seafood. The atmosphere is relaxed and the staff is friendly and always smiling. My friend and I split the steamed shrimp and mushrooms stuffed with crab imperial.

The shrimp were perfectly seasoned but out of the two, the mushrooms were the best in my opinion with heaping mounds of crab imperial. For the entrée, I chose the soft shell crabs and my friend ordered the filet and crab cake. We decided to order a side of crab imperial, which we used as topping for our dishes.

Shrimp for two at Maryland Mallet

Dessert was very tempting, but I was quite full by then and even took one of the crabs home. For a beverage, I ordered a margarita and it was a perfect pairing with the food. During the summer months, all-you-can-eat crabs is also offered, and sitting around the table topped with brown paper while cracking into hard-shell crabs is a perfect way to spend a summer evening.

Contributed by guest contributor Michele Yaruta. Visit the Maryland Mallet online.

Bunny Chow is Served!

Bunny Chow is served! Photo Credit: Gourmandise (Flickr)

South Africa is home to the Durban Indian cuisine called Bunny Chow. It is most popular amongst Indians and other ethnic groups in the Durban area. Okay, I know you are wondering…okay I was wondering, “Why the name bunny chow?” Here’s what the website, African Bites, says, the term “bunny” is another variation of the word ‘Bania,’ an Indian class of traders who sold this tasty street food.

Bunny chows have an amazing presentation. This hearty dish is filled with curries using traditional recipes from Durban: mutton or lamb curry, chicken curry, trotters & beans curry, and beans curry.

Other varieties found across the country, using less traditional Durban-Indian food, include chips with curry gravy, fried sausage, cheese, eggs, and polony. These are all popular fillings; the original bunny chow was vegetarian.

Bunny chows are often served with a side portion of salad containing grated carrot, chili, and onion salad. (Full disclosure: I did have to look up onion salad.) This mixture is known as sambals and includes chopped tomatoes, onions, and green chilies served with white vinegar.

Bunny Chow is oftentimes shared with another person. The street food comes in quarter, half, and full loaves. The main characteristic of a bunny chow is the gravy-filled bread (from the curry fillings).

When in a Durban area, just ask for a “quarter mutton” or the more colloquial saying is “quarter mutton bunny.” Of course, just exchange the wording for the actual size and filling you want to order. You will most likely receive your Bunny chow in takeaway bunnies, which are that bunny boxes that retain heat and prevent leaks from the curry.

Take a look at this video telling you where to find some of the best Durban bunny chow in South Africa.

*Thank you Wikipedia