Welcome to a series of posts on my trip to Puerto Rico: Isla del Encanto! And by encanto, they mean haunted by mosquitoes and rabid mongoose (mongeese?), but I’ll save that for my post on animals.
For today: comida. For food is the first thing I start to think of when I travel to another
country unincorporated territory of the United States. When I travel, I take pictures of the stuff on my plate I am about to consume, especially if it looks pretty. Friends and family make fun of me for this (and you know who you are), but I have finally emerged triumphant, because I have found a realm where not only is taking and sharing pictures of food acceptable, it’s encouraged. So thank you, blogging world. May your mouth water along with mine.
For the most part, the food I encountered on my trip was a combination of American, Spanish, and Mexican/Central American. Mmm-mm.
Day 1 – San Juan
We had some amazing tapas at Hotel El Convento, but since I also imbibed a certain quantity of sangria along with my meal, my camera was sadly (but, in hindsight, appropriately) neglected. It was delicious. I remember shrimp of some kind.
Day 2 – San Juan
For brunch (translated, brunch in MelissaSpeak means I am so fucking hungry because we have now officially missed breakfast) I had this delicious waffle at Cafe Berlin just next door to our hotel. Strawberries and bananas drizzled with creamy nuetella. It was promptly devoured.
Remember how I look when I am hungry/tired?
Imagine that eating this:
Oh, sweet, sweet Hazelnut Heaven.
For dinner that night, Brian made it a priority to go find some local food off the beaten path. That basically means we got lost in a rather sketchy neighborhood.
Getting lost was worth it, though, for we found Jibaritos. We attempted to order in Spanish, and as per usual, the response was met with a smile and rather perfect English. I ordered a plantain pork tamale with Mexican rice and a salad. Brian ordered monfongo (mashed plantain) and beef in a creole sauce. All was very good, and if you ever have the chance to try some monfongo, I highly recommend it.
Day 3 – Arecibo
We had to get going a bit early to grab the rental car so we could go see the largest radio telescope in the world (nerdgasm!!), but first we needed bellies filled with fat and sugar. We walked down the street to a bakery and cafe where they spoke minimal English, which I took as another chance to embarrass myself, so I dove in headfirst. After pointing and grunting, we got ourselves some pastries, sweetbread, and coffee and headed back to the hotel to stuff our faces. On the way back, we saw some real live streetwalkers taking really hilarious walks of shamelessness! Too bad I didn’t have my camera with me.
We ate on the breezy 6th floor balcony overlooking Old San Juan.
After Arecibo, we were led on a wildly entertaining drive through the twisting country roads to the village of Lares, where a friend of a coworker of mine (whom we had just met up with that day) introduced us to the most exotic flavors of ice cream I had ever encountered. Corn, Sweet Corn, Plantains, Sweet Plantains, Garlic, Rice, etc.
I tried a taste of the Ajo (garlic), because hey- I love garlic on one hand and I love ice cream on the other, so as Joey on Friends would say, put your hands together. And it was gross. I almost died.
I went with Sweet Corn and Cherry and I was not disappointed!
Day 4 – El Yunque
This day the plan was to hike to the top of a mountain in the tropical rainforest (which we did with gusto…until I got tired and cranky), so we went to get some sandwiches to pack with us for eating on the trail. We went to a little corner market run by locals. Now these weren’t just any locals, they were morbidly obese locals. Like, so obese that all three of them sat on rolly chairs and wheeled themselves around the store in order to do their jobs. This should have been a red flag for us, but we needed us some sandwiches, so we ordered some in Spanish and went on our way.
It took us a while to drive into the rainforest, and we stopped at the visitor’s center before getting to the trailhead. By that time, we sat down to eat our sandwiches before beginning the hike. I tried so hard to choke down what turned out to be hot, melted plastic cheese logs because I needed my strength for this hike (and because I just hate wasting food), but I just couldn’t. I am sorry, Puerto Ricans, but these are NOT sandwiches.
Now I know exactly how those store owners got to be so friggin obese.
After successfully sumitting the mountain, we went in search of a highly recommended local food joint, which, you guessed it, required that we walk through a really sketchy ‘hood after dark. Maybe the danger is supposed to make the food taste better once you get there. I had rice and beans with shrimp in creole sauce.
Against our better judgement, we decided to stop for ice cream on the way back. To emphasize just how sketch this neighborhood was, we had to be buzzed in AND out of this little shop by the lone woman (who was very sweet) running the joint. Let me tell you, this ice cream was worth the danger, like whoa. I don’t have a picture of it for two reasons: one, it was still so hot and humid out that it began to melt immediately, and two, I was too busy running my cute butt out of the danger zone.
Day 5 – to Vieques
We flew to the small island of Vieques on this day and the very helping front desk lady at our hotel asked us what kind of food we’d be looking for, and we said paella, bitch. Well, the lady was so nice that she dismissed being called a bitch and told us that it just so happened to be paella night at Bellybuttons in town, sweetness!
It was sooo delicious, and we had an awesome talk with the cook about his travels as a poor college student through Southern California.
Day 6 – Our 9th Anniversary
The concrete, open air hotel we were staying at supplied us with a kitchen fully stocked with breakfast makings each morning – thank heaven for fresh fruit, bread, and eggs! We made a feast of fresh Puerto Rican coffee, slices of nectarine, and french toast with the leftover cooked egg. My mouth is watering as I remember eating this.
For our anniversary dinner, we went to the very posh Blue Horizon and I treated myself to a (very punchy) rum punch.
I also got the most melt-in-your-mouth seabass ever. I ordered the ill-tempered variety with friggin laser beams attached to their heads, but the waiter just looked at me funny and then confiscated my punch. Arse.
Day 7 – more Vieques
After a long day at the beach, we came back to the hotel and Brian made us a scrumptious afternoon tea complete with milk and honey, toast and jam. I made sure to stick out my little pinky.
That night for dinner I was craving something fried, and so I got chicken strippy-things (I forget what the Puerto Ricans called them, but they were essentially chicken strips).
Day 8 – more Vieques beach
We pigged out this day because swimming in the ocean and getting slammed into Mother Earth by crashing waves works up an appetite. Behold: deluxe nachos and Brian got a huge burger.
I ordered a Coke, but was served a Pepsi because the entire island was out of Coke (no joke). I wonder how often shortages like that happen…?
Day 9 – last full day of vacation
More delicious breakfast cooked by us! I became obsessed with jugo de pina on this trip. Sooo sweet and refreshing!
We waited forever for this shrimp pizza for dinner at Lazy Jack’s. At least they give you fair warning.
Day 10 – travel day
I will wrap up this post with the only picture I took of the magnificent mango we were given every morning!
Out of respect, I didn’t take a picture of its namesake, the magnificent mango poo. You’re welcome.
Stay tuned for more exciting stories from our Puerto Rican adventure!