Sunday, December 27, 2015
Puerto Rico - Eating our way through Old San Juan
What to do on our first morning in San Juan? Why, join a food tour, of course! We've discovered over the years that food tours are one of the best ways to introduce oneself to a new town. You learn right away what to eat, where to eat it, and if the tour guide is any good, something about the history and culture of the town where you're eating it.
We booked through Flavors of San Juan Food and Culture Tours and were given the enigmatic instructions to meet at 10am "in front of the bank with the giraffe-cat statute."
|Turns out the giraffe-cat is this whimsical creation of a local artist.
Our guide Kathy was there with a group of other travelers and, after a quick round of introductions (together we came from Seattle, Colorado, New York, Utah, Chicago and Mumbai), we were on our way.
|Kathy gave us a quick overview of the town's geography and history. Founded in 1521,
San Juan is the second-oldest European settlement in the Americas and the oldest
in US jurisdiction.
|First stop: Rum bar in a leafy restaurant at the base of the old city walls.
|On the left: A 19th century recipe for eggplant and chicken with cinnamon, brown sugar and mint.
On the right: Ham and cheese croquettes.
|Climbing back up to the top of the city wall for our next stop.
|Artisanal popsicles! Will this be the next fad in America?
|I got a coconut popsicle. Good flavor and not too sweet. Melted very quickly.
|View from the Plaza de las Palomas
|Tiny house! Only 7 feet wide and 15 feet deep.
The round openings above the window are called "bulls eyes" and are
meant to let the hot air near the ceiling escape.
|La Capilla de Cristo de la Salud
It's a tiny 17th Century chapel perched on the city wall.
|Alcapurrio (fried plantain paste filled with pork)
|San Juan's cathedral
|What looks like a hairy tree trunk that Jim Henson might have invented
is actually a type of tree that sends down root starts from the branches.
|Rosa de Triana (the bright yellow building in the middle).
It was a jail in the 17th century and now houses a charming restaurant and patio.
|We made mofongo, a traditional Puerto Rican dish made from mashed fried plantains
with butter and garlic.
|Justin, mashing his plantains
|Once the plantains were mashed, we added shredded chicken. It was delicious.
|The Puerto Ricans do rice and beans better than anyone else I've encountered in the Caribbean and/or Central America.
The beans have a delicious, light flavor.
|The pina colada was invented in Puerto Rico in the 1960s (we know the guy who did it, but there's a dispute as to
where he did it -- either the Hilton or some other place). We asked for ours to be sans alcohol.
|Our last stop was at La Vaca Brava. They served a cheese flan.
I'm not normally a fan of flan, but this was terrific.
Three hours later, we parted ways with "full stomachs and happy hearts" (as the Puerto Rican saying apparently goes). What a great way to begin to discover San Juan!