TOP 12 LESSONS LEARNED IN PUERTO RICO – COURTESY OF DOS GRINGAS TOURS
12) Manifesting in Puerto Rico is no different than string theory anywhere else. Upgrade your rental car and hotel simply by believing you are royalty and acting as such.
11) Rough looking campesinos in camouflage wielding machetes aren’t always scary: sometimes they’re there just to hack up your chicken or your pig before you eat it.
10) Stalk the uniformed service staff when they get off shift. They will lead you to the best food.
9) “The Zika” is rarely contracted in winter – even though 2 mosquito bites yield chills and a fever.
8) Chills and fever are most likely a severe allergic reaction to feral cats.
7) Feral cats are to be revered from afar, VERY afar.
6) If you WANT to spend $18.00 on Benadryl, go to La Farmacia. If you’d like to spend that money on a souvenir or trinket (or roadside food), then get your Benadryl at Walgreens.
5) Do NOT trust Siri to lead you to ANY destination through the mountains. She will lead you to a crack house with guard dogs – some caged, some chained, some jumping wildly on your vehicle.
4) Perform a Spanish Inquisition when ordering a salad. Otherwise, you will get iceberg, a hothouse tomato, and an onion slice. Avocado is always available for about $10.00 for 2 slices. In short, fresh veggies are not Puerto Rico’s strong suit.
3) You really need to like garlic. If you don’t, learn to like garlic. It is often the only condiment available.
2) You will not go to jail if you choose not to eat Mofongo, though it is implied that you will.
1) Get in good with your rental car valet. He will make your speeding ticket disappear.
There’s so much to DO in PR – sun, sand, sea for people like my traveling companion Michelle of Flourish Design, and food, drink, the outdoors and culture for me! I have to go back because I missed some pretty awesome adventures. The ones I DID experience I want to experience again (except the crack house).
The rainforest was beyond beautiful and serene, and a hike to the top amongst the clouds yielded a view of the Virgin Islands through cyan and cerulean waters. Hiking makes you hungry though, and protein fits the bill. Protein is job ONE in PR – a lot of pig and of course, seafood. What I love about Puerto Rican meat is that it’s unadulterated. Pure, charred, juicy, barky, rich MEAT. Tender, fresh, briny, translucent, fall apart FISH.
A few plugs because they DESERVE it:
Casa Melaza was our host for a magnificent rum tutorial and tasting. You can taste one or 20, but there are 3 organized tastings that they steer you toward – lower end “flavored” rums (think raspberry vodka), mid range white and amber rums, and rich, dark anejo rums. Of COURSE I fell in love with the most expensive ones… but the winner IS….drumroll please…. Don Q Anejo Reserva. It is here that our wonderful informative host inspired me with his description of the Puerto Rican Palate to come up with my latest menu item: The Don Trouble Slider. Some of you have already had it – go ahead – tell everybody how delicious it is!!
Octopus Tostones at the 5 star Hotel Vanderbilt . Octopus is very difficult to prepare for even an accomplished chef – its tendency to be tough overwhelms most expert hands. Not at this restaurant! I’ve never tasted such tender tentacles!! The tostones themselves, twice fried unripe plantains with a dusting of cornmeal, were crispy yet tender at the same time. Our bartender Pablo at the pool bar deserves a special mention because even though he works for tips, he did not have to be THAT helpful – with handwritten lists of out of the way unknown places for dancing, eating, and people watching.
Aqui Se Puede Bar – this hole in the wall means BUSINESS. Any serious barfly (me) knows when they walk into a PUERTO RICAN bar and see 15 or so different scotches including Glenrothes that they’ve found the motherland. I see you nodding. You know who you are. These folks dry their own fruit, make their own bitters and shrubs, and smoke your cocktail (if it calls for that) right in front of you. My Don Q was unadulterated except with a huge block of clear ice that allowed it to chill ever so slightly without becoming diluted.
Ostra Cosa Bar & Restaurant – They don’t have a website, but they have a facebook page if you’re interested. This was maybe the friendliest place I went all week (the anchovy pic is from here – and boy were they good). By the time I left, I was family with the manager, his mom & dad, his aunt, and the owner. The owner is the brother of a very famous singer, whose name I cannot remember (no it’s definitely not J-Lo). This is in no way an aspersion on the famousness of the singer – it is a slam to my lack of latin music knowledge.
El Tenedor – take a drive up into “central” Puerto Rico to this destination restaurant famous for its skirt steak. Sometimes, simple is best, and they know how to grill a steak, with ONE MORE TIME a side of garlic sauce (this time some herbs are mixed in and it’s called chimichurri). Housed in an old rum distillery, this place has been welcoming families from all OVER the island for decades. Kind of a Sunday drive sort of thing. They have a pet parrot that will flirt unmercifully with you! I fell in love.
In short, I WILL be going back, hopefully sooner rather than later. And I will drag Gordon even if it’s kicking and screaming. He has no IDEA what he missed!
A Note From Chef Lori
With Easter and Mother’s Day right around the corner, we’d love to help you “eat in” this year – enjoy your family celebration in the comfort of your own home while we do the work…We’ll deliver the day before and you can take the credit! Details here: