So, I’ve been really great at blogging lately…sike! The truth of the matter is that I took advantage of my free time and went gringo-honeymooning in Vieques, Puerto Rico for a week with my man-friend. It was a-mah-zing. We sunned, we swam, we ate, we beached ourselves on near-empty palm-lined stretches of sand. I didn’t do a TON of cooking while we were there because 1) I didn’t want to stock a fridge and not be able to eat it all by the time we had to leave and 2) I’ll be cooking for a living here in a few short days, so I was taking it easy.
|One of the many beautiful beaches of Vieques|
Vieues cuisine is an odd mélange of Latino/Caribbean/American influences. A little background on the place: it’s a small island off the coast of Puerto Rico often referred to as “Isla Nena” or the Little Sister Island. There is another such island, Culebra, which we sadly didn’t make it to (we hear it has the #2 beach in the world according to some beach comber’s magazine). When World War II rolled around, the US Army saw Vieques as the perfect place to practice beach landings, island bombings and such because of likeness to the islands in the Pacific where much of the fighting was going on. So the Army said, “Hey locals, we’re gonna need you to give up the East and West thirds of the island (which happen to be most fertile and have the best beaches) so we can set up shop and bomb the crap out of your lovely island.” So that’s how the Army and the American influence got there. Being a Caribbean island, it has those wonderful flavors and spices to draw from. And hello! It was Spanish at one time, so there will never be a shortage of rice and beans (and there is nothing wrong with that).
|Taking in some "tasty" waves|
The first thing we did when we landed in San Juan was beeline it to the closest bar, ordered Mojitos and split a Cuban sandwich. I have been instructed many times by my dear half-cubanoid boyfriend on what he calls “The Care and Feeding of Your Cuban”. Eating Cuban sandwiches whenever and wherever they are available is part of this compendium, obviously. I really can’t complain. They are flippin’ awesome. If you don’t know what a Cuban sammich consists of, here are the basics: two kinds of pork, cheese, mustard and pickles. Panini-it and voila! A porky feast of a sandwich at your fingertips. Needless to say, we had our year’s supply worth of Cubans while we were there. When we arrived in Vieques we went to a place with what we thought was going to be traditional Caribbean but turned out to be Mexican. I think I ordered the world’s largest burrito that night and it wasn’t intentional. It was delicious and it fed my 6’3 boyfriend and me for 3 breakfasts. What more can you ask for? It was filled with pulled pork, rice, cheese, topped with salsa verde and cheese, and came with even more rice and beans on the side. It made for the easiest “leftovers” breakfasts in the world. Slice off a chunk of burrito, chop it up, scramble it in with some eggs and you’ve got a HUGE breakfast. Enough about the burrito. I had Caribbean lobster one night that was as big as my head. They are so much sweeter than the lobster you get from New England. MMM. Then there was Mofongo. This was the boyfriend’s culinary pursuit. When I asked if this was a Cuban thing, he alerted me no, does everything he likes have to be Cuban? No. In fact, Mofongo is Puerto Rico's signature dish. It is basically fried plantains, which are then mashed and added to garlicky, porky (or seafoody) deliciousness and then fried again. Sounds pretty awesome, doesn’t it? It was. I also discovered that you can get “Mofongo Mix” Munchies brand snack mix down there! Plantain chips, Cassava or Yucca chips and chicharrones or seasoned pork rinds. You cannot imagine my delight. I am very into all things Yucca, so you won’t be surprised when I tell you that I went NUTS for this thing I found at a roadside stand: Rellena de Yucca. A fat stick about the size of a twinkie of mashed Yucca stuffed with seasoned ground beef and deep fried. It was soooooo gooood. This same roadside stand had one of the best chicken empanadas I’ve ever had. People in Vieques know how to do stewed, shredded chicken. It was slightly tomatoe-y with loads of onions and a slight fruity sweetness to soften all the spices. Yum.
We brought back some great hot sauce from the island, called Coqui Fire, like the frog, however there are no actual frogs in the sauce! The spice factor of these sauces is from 1-15 and I, being the hot sauce lover bought 7 and 10, thinking I would be safe with those. Holy Cow- I tried the 7 and it was HOT. Can’t wait to try 10. Check out their website to get some- it is wonderful. I recommend Smoldering Frog and Pina Star: http://www.coquifire.com/hotsaucestore.htm.
That was our trip to Puerto Rico! We did lots of other stuff, but it’s not food related, so you can ask me about it yourself if you really want to know!