Friday, January 16, 2009
Ahh! Puerto Rico
The Norwegian side of my wife's family and their spouses descended on San Juan, Puerto Rico for the wedding. One of her cousins was marrying a fellow a from Puerto Rico that she met while in medical school. The gathering took place over the New Year's holiday. It was a wonderful time. The image of staid Nordic types trying to learn to Salsa and getting into the Latino vibe caused more than one of us to comment on what a great "News From Lake Wobegon" segment it would make on "A Prairie Home Companion."
The picture above is the view from our hotel room at the Marriott Hotel on the beach in the Condado section of San Juan. This is a beautiful hotel right on beach. Great service, wonderful beds and amenities, a fantastic pool, perfect weather. It doesn't get much better than this.
The first evening the entire clan (more than 50 of us) gathered at Restaurant Barrachina in Old San Juan. This restaurant advertises that it is the birthplace of the "original pina colada", which it is not. I would advise that you stay away from this restaurant as it is a tourist trap.
Old San Juan is really beautiful. It is free and a must visit. Four cruise ships were in port the night of our visit to Barrachina, so the streets were crowded. We headed back the next day without the crowds and I spent some time getting some beautiful pictures of the streets, the vistas and the fort. Earlier that day, I was in the mood for some local Puerto Rican food. I asked a cab driver where he ate and he directed me to the pool grill in the Dutch Inn. This rundown hotel across the street from the Marriot is where the Greenhouse Restaurant is located, which gets a descent amount of the tourist trade. The grill in the pool area is great and local, local, local. Two women who speak no English give you menu with the food for the day. The menu has English translations. I had the roasted pork with rice and pink beans. My wife had the chicken in garlic sauce with rice and black beans. The senoritas ladled the food from large iron pots on the stove. The portions were generous and the the food was very tasty. Puerto Rican food is savory but not necessarily hot. I very much enjoyed it.
The last day were in Puerto Rico, we rented a car and traveled through the El Yungue Rain Forest. This about an hour drive from San Juan. We saw a little place called the Isamar Bakery on Route 26 right across the street from the turn off for the rain forest. We had a great inexpensive, home cooked meal there.
We met the owner, Cookie, who is from New York City. She returned to Puerto Rico and opened this bakery and has been doing very well. Cookie is a devout Christan lady and told us God told her to come back to Puerto Rico to help with the Baptist church that is just down the street from her bakery. Everything at the bakery is homemade and as you can see from the menu, very inexpensive.
Unfortunately the roast pork was sold out, so we had a Choripan and a Bistec Sandwich. Both were served on good homemade Puerto Rican bread. The Choripan was especially tasty. It is eggs scrambled and served with fried chorizo.
Since were were eating at a bakery we had to sample some of the tasty pastry. My wife had a a piece of flan. The folk we were with had guava cheesecake. I had a guava filled cheese danish. Yum.
Now that I am back in Jersey experiencing snow and nearly zero temperatures, remembering my few days in Puerto Rico are making warm all over. I can't wait to go back.