Sorcé opens at W Retreat & Spa Vieques Island
Sorcé, the latest dining spot at the W Retreat & Spa Vieques Island, has opened. Located eight miles off the southeast coast of Puerto Rico on Vieques Island, Sorcé’s kitchen is headed by Fernando Coppola, the former sous chef at Alain Ducasse’s Latin and Caribbean miX on the Beach. Sorcé replaces miX on the Beach .
Named after one of Vieques Island’s archaeological sites, Sorcé has an indoor and outdoor dining space that offers views of the Caribbean Sea.
Sorcé’s seasonal menu features Puerto Rican cuisine that is locally sourced. Signature dishes include fish marinated in mojo; Vieques-style mofongo , chicken, skirt steak, and shrimp with fried plantains; stuffed Caribbean lobster; and sopa de marisco a Viequense, a bouillabaisse of fresh scallops, jumbo shrimp, cartucho, and local organic root vegetables. The drink menu includes wines from North and South America, cocktails, and rum flights.
"We would like to thank chef Alain Ducasse and his culinary team for creating a dynamic, first-rate dining destination that was key to this successful launch," said Greg White, general manager of the 156-room W Retreat & Spa Vieques Island. "As we evolve to meet the needs of our jet-set guests, our food and beverage strategies remain critical to enhancing overall guest experience while also drawing in locals."
Lauren Mack is the Travel Editor at The Daily Meal. Follow her on Twitter @lmack.
[Many thanks to Nalini Natarajan for bringing this item to our attention.] In “Puerto Rico enacted strict Covid measures. It paid off, and it’s a lesson for the mainland,” Nicole Acevedo (NBC News) writes, “Puerto Rico used curfews and rigorous sanitary measures, ‘and the pandemic was never politicized,’ a health expert said. It saved lives — and its health care system.”
Janny Rodriguez, 47, a community leader in the neighborhood of Barreal in Peñuelas, Puerto Rico, is an operations supervisor at an asphalt plant. During the height of the pandemic last March, he couldn’t stop working, since he’s one of a few workers tasked with maintaining the composite material liquid.
The father of three was worried about potentially exposing his oldest son to the virus, since he suffers from a lung condition, or his elderly mother who lives next door to him. After all, the World Health Organization had just declared Covid-19 a pandemic.
Rodriguez and his colleagues wore masks, kept their social distance, lived through stringent curfews and had their temperature checked and their hands and shopping carts cleaned every time they went into a supermarket or drug store.
A year into the pandemic, his fears of Covid-19 haven’t come true. So far, neither his children nor mother have been infected with the virus. In fact, no one in his neighborhood, which is home to roughly 200 families, has been infected, Rodriguez said.
Puerto Ricans in the U.S. territory avoided overwhelming their already fragile health care system during the pandemic, mainly because of extraordinary measures the local government put in place early on — and people’s willingness to comply with them.
“In Puerto Rico, the pandemic was never politicized,” said Daniel Colón-Ramos, professor of cellular neuroscience at Yale University and president of Puerto Rico’s Scientific Coalition, a group of experts advising Gov. Pedro Pierluisi on the island’s Covid-19 response. “People were really rowing in the same direction.”
Since the start of the pandemic, at least 94,336 Covid-19 cases have been confirmed in Puerto Rico, an island of 3.2 million. The virus has killed at least 2,073 people in the island so far.
However, Puerto Rico has not seen an uptick in cases since December, even following big holidays such as Christmas, New Year’s Day and Three Kings Day. The lowest positivity rate was reported in February (5.2 percent) since Covid-19 deaths rose around Thanksgiving.
With the Covid-19 vaccine rollout underway, Puerto Rico is now on track to fully immunize two of its municipalities: Vieques and Culebra, both smaller islands off the coast of Puerto Rico. [. . .]
In a drastic effort to limit crowds, Puerto Rico was among the first U.S. jurisdictions to implement an islandwide curfew last March that asked people not to leave their homes after nighttime. Nonessential businesses were shut down. All schools closed down and cruise ships were banned from docking on the island.
Puerto Rico went on lockdown the following month while the curfew was still in place. Puerto Ricans had to stay home at all times. If they left, it could only be for essential purposes and they had to be back home before the nighttime curfew.
Puerto Rico was also among the first U.S. jurisdictions to issue a mask mandate, alongside New Jersey.
“Most people don’t leave the house without first grabbing their phones. Now, people grab their face masks first and then their phones,” Rodriguez said in Spanish. [. . .]
Critics pointed out that officials were putting drastic restrictions in place without having enough scientific information to back their decisions. Puerto Rico had the lowest per-capita testing rate compared with any state at the beginning of the pandemic and lacked an islandwide contact tracing system.
But they knew one fact: Puerto Rico was relying on a few physicians to bear the brunt of the pandemic, according to a report from the Urban Institute, mainly due to a decade of a massive exodus of doctors to the mainland U.S. According to the Health Resources and Services Administration, 72 of the island’s 78 municipalities are considered to be medically underserved and face “unmet health care needs.”
To some extent, Colón-Ramos said he wonders if the experience with Hurricane Maria, one of the deadliest U.S.-based natural disasters in 100 years, which led to the deaths of at least 2,975 people in 2017, contributed to an overwhelming majority of Puerto Ricans taking Covid-19 restrictions seriously. [. . .]
Currently, Puerto Ricans are not allowed to leave their homes after midnight. The curfew has changed over time depending on the number of new Covid-19 cases being reported on the island, making it the longest pandemic-related curfew of any U.S. jurisdiction.
Most businesses are now operating at 50 percent capacity — except bars, night clubs and stadiums, which still remain closed. Shopping malls are open but only allow one person per 75 square feet.
Ninety-six of Puerto Rico’s 858 public schools reopened for the first time Wednesday, exactly one year since the pandemic hit, with restrictions. Starting on Monday, children in Head Start programs will be able to return to class.
Since Covid-19 hospitalizations have gone down so dramatically, most patients currently in intensive care are those with chronic conditions whose care was interrupted amid the pandemic, not people with Covid-19, Ramos said. [. . .]
[Photo above by Ramon Zayas / GDA via AP: A student wears a mask at a school in Cayey, Puerto Rico, on March 4, 2021.]
In San Juan, Puerto Rico, a Culinary Movement Takes Off
Escaping to Puerto Rico is an easy way to feel relaxed, thanks to its soft sands, sparkling blue waters, and breezy Caribbean vibes. But lately the "Enchanted Isle" is seeing to shift travelers’ attention away from the beach, toward the exciting culinary scene in and around San Juan.
The capital city, including historic Old San Juan and the outer districts of Condado, Santurce, and Loíza, are home to a growing number of talented chefs and memorable restaurants committed to serving seasonal, local produce — solidifying the island’s place as a bona-fide foodie destination.
This Puerto Rican gastronomic revolution began growing roots about a decade ago, thanks in part to a modest collective-farming operation called Frutos del Guacabo that cropped up in the small town of Manatí. The collective is the vision of founder Efrén Robales and his wife Angelie Martinez. The couple wanted their island to reduce its reliance on food imports, and instead cultivate its own fruits, vegetables, herbs, dairy products, and other edible goods.
Today, Frutos del Guacabo is succeeding in its mission, growing its own goods, raising chickens and other farm animals, and producing seeds and seedlings to sell to professional and backyard farmers. The collective also has a test kitchen where local chefs try out ingredients, hold cooking and butchering workshops, and host pop-up dining experiences. Its primary function, however, is working with more than 50 small farms devoted to “culinary agriculture,” supplying around 200 local eateries with fresh daily produce.
From Farm to Plate
San Juan has become a city of inventive food, fusion menus, and a return to historic dishes and indigenous ingredients like root vegetables, fish, and leafy greens. Since the early 2010s, the island has seen the wave of culinary enthusiasm grow. When Hurricanes Irma and Maria struck in 2017, many restaurateurs temporarily shifted serve fellow Puerto Ricans stranded without power and water. Other native chefs returned to Puerto Rico to reinvest in the island and help fuel its recovery.
Among them is local star Chef Mario Ormaza, who stepped up post-storms he’s now at the forefront of Puerto Rico’s food scene. His trio of Loíza restaurants embody the range of go-to dining options (they use produce from Frutos del Guacabo). Ormaza’s open-air Tresbé serves high-flavor bites like seafood empanadillas and tamarind-bbq wings from a converted shipping container, which shares space with a juice-centric bar and casual Japanese eatery Dospalillos. Across the street, his bistro, Sabrina, is a local go-to for elegant dining. Recently, Ormaza has put to use recipes from a rare 1859 Puerto Rican cookbook at Azucena Fonda.
Where to Go and What to Eat
Past the Calle Loíza’s vintage stores and vivid streets murals, Cocobana Café serves vegetarian fare while nearby Double Cake bakery dazzles patrons with both sweet and savory treats. For more traditional Puerto Rican cuisine, join the locals who rely on Ana’s Café for perfect mofongo (mashed fried plantains) and other homemade staples. Or eat where Obama did back in 2011, at bustling cafeteria-style Kasalta, where you’ll find the island’s best bistec (steak) slider and P.R.’s famous Mallorca bread (a sweet or savory bread traditionally made with pork fat).
Blocks away in central Santurce, check out La Placita de Santurce, where you'll find a farmer's market during the day. On weekend nights, the plaza transforms into a popular bar zone and nightlife hotspot. In the vicinity are restaurants Santaella and Jose Enrique, each helmed by their acclaimed eponymous chefs. Or go casual with bites at gastronomic park Lote 23, where you can choose from assorted ethnic food stalls and trucks, and kick back in the cocktail garden with DJs or live music.
The popular beachfront neighborhood of Condado is part of the culinary renaissance. Don’t miss the fresh surprises at Cocina Abierta on Calle Caribe, like its plantain carpaccio with tuna tataki and ginger and turmeric–braised chicken. A few blocks away, head to the rooftop of the new AC Hotel by Marriott for poolside tapas and tipples at AC Kitchen or get romantic at its street-level speakeasy-style restaurant La Bodeguita de Manolo. If you’re more tempted to dine beachside, try fresh fare at Gingambo restaurant inside the Marriott San Juan Resort & Casino, which wraps up a $30-million renovation this year.
Old San Juan’s cobblestoned hills and colorful row houses make the neighborhood a photographer’s delight, but it’s the restaurants that keep you coming back. Don’t miss the Caribbean-Asian fusion dishes at Bluefin Scratch Kitchen (another Frutos del Guacabo customer). And, while La Factoría remains one of the world’s best bars for its craft cocktails (and rightfully so), you’d be right to front-load a base of traditional Puerto Rican classic dishes at El Jibarito on Calle Sol.
Smart travelers might consider joining a jaunt with Spoon Food Tours for a filling overview of so many great tastes along the Loíza Food and Street Art tour, the Old San Juan tour, evening cocktail or microbrewery crawls, or even a cooking class with local ingredients (tours from $75). Because as Puerto Rico’s culinary dynamism continues, trend-watching tours are a reliable means to tasting just how rich and flavorful this island really is.
11 Puerto Rican Cocktails
Regarded as the world’s most loved mixed drink, the Piña Colada was conceived on the island, specifically first served at the Caribe Hilton’s Beachcomber Bar in 1954 (as they claim). This iconic rum-based cocktail is the ultimate beverage for your sweet senses, and is made with cream of coconut, pineapple juice, rum and is usually garnished with a maraschino cherry, pineapple wedge or both. The increased popularity of this beverage has given rise to several variants of Piña Coladas including Ciña Polada, Coast Colada and Chambord Colada. However, a classic Piña Colada is made with just the ingredients mentioned above, and is served either on the rocks or blended with ice.
Also referred to as ron caña or ron cañita (cane rum), this, often illegally produced moonshine rum from Puerto Rico is much stronger than commercial rum, and at times may surpass 100 proof. Pitorro is definitely not a drink for the faint hearted. Made from sugarcane, Pitorro can be “cured” with sugar and fruit including tamarind, papaya, coconut, mango, and even chocolate and coffee flavors.
The curing process of this home distilled moonshine rum begins when sugar and flavors are added to the rum, which lowers the intensity of the alcohol flavor. To accelerate the curing process and integrate the flavors, Pitorro may at times be buried underground. Although it is illegal to produce, getting your hands on some Pitorro is easy with the right connections, especially during the holidays.
You can also find a few Pitorro brands on the market and available in stores—at a much lower proof. Buy them in the supermarket or pick some up at the airport when you are flying out of Puerto Rico to share with friends.
This daiquiri on the rocks is a simple mixture you can find all over the island, and something easy to make at home. Simple combine Bacardi Light rum with lime and 2 tablespoons of sugar and ice. Shake well to serve.
Made famous at Candelas Bar in Old San Juan, the Papa Jac is the official cocktail of the San Sebastian Festival, and is now commercially produced. The recipe is a mixture of passionfruit juice and rum.
This is basically a shot that is a blend of Palo Viejo brand white rum and then combined with anise liquor. The anise makes the drink sweet and adds to the flavor of the rum similar to licorice with a twist.
This traditional Puerto Rican drink has been around for hundreds of years and it’s not really a cocktail, but deserves mentioning since it’s one of those drinks that you very rarely find outside of Puerto Rico. Mavi contains a small amount of alcohol—or more—depending on how it is brewed. You can usually find mavi being sold by the gallon on the side of the road. It’s sweet, bubbly and refreshing, Puerto Rico’s champagne. The recipe calls for bark from the mabi (mavi, mauby) tree, spices, sugar and water, mixed with yeast and fermented for about three days.
A common cocktail made with Mavi (Mabi, Mauby) is the Mauby Libre, which combines the sweet drink with dark rum and lime.
Traditionally known as a Cuban cocktail, there is no shortage of Mojitos to be found in Puerto Rico, the rum capitol of the world. Rum production on the island started as early as the 1600’s and is showing no signs of slowing down.
The Mojito is simple to make and requires just 5 easily available ingredients such as sugar, white rum, lime juice, mint and sparkling water. Puerto Rico offers its own variations with the tamarind, passion fruit, and mango mojito.
This alcoholic refreshment is already irresistibly fresh and punchy and serving it in frozen state simply ups the ante. Just like a regular Mojito, a frozen Mojito is a mint-flecked, frothy, light and limey beverage that is made by combining the aforementioned ingredients and then adding lots of ice for that frozen feel.
You will most always find coconut water available as a mixer in Puerto Rican bars. Mix it with whiskey or rum and serve with ice for a refreshing cocktail under the hot Caribbean sun.
Originally from the island of Vieques, just off the east coast of Puerto Rico, Bilí is a version of Pitorro made from a favorite island fruit, la quenepa. You can find quenepa for sale on the side of the road and in markets when it is in season. These sweet-tart fruits are mixed with brown sugar, rum (or moonshine), vanilla and spices and then aged underground for a few days just like you would cure Pitorro.
Since Puerto Rico is the rum capitol of the world, we can’t leave it off the list. More that 70% of the rum consumed in the United States is from Puerto Rico and every city seems to have a brand. There are over 30 brands on the small island, with the most popular among locals being Don Q. Ron Barrilito 3 Star is often recommended as one of the best high-end (though not pricey) rums to drink on the rocks or neat.
This popular Puerto Rican beverage usually makes its rounds around the festive season, and is an alcohol laced eggnog like refreshment that is easy to make. This traditional Puerto Rican drink can be enjoyed with or without rum and its ingredients include coconut milk, rum, egg yolks, sweet condensed milk, nutmeg, cinnamon, clove and vanilla. Variations include the Chocolate Coquito and the Pistachio Coquito.
- 1 can evaporated milk
- 1 can condensed milk
- 1 can coconut milk
- 1- 1 1/2 cup white rum
- 1 cup water
- 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
- 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
- In a large bowl, whisk the evaporated milk, condensed milk, rum, water, coconut milk, nutmeg and cinnamon together. You can add more rum if desired. For non-alcoholic Coquito, replace the rum with a cup of cold coconut water or ice.
- For true flavor, refrigerate the drink for two hours and garnish it with a bit of cinnamon and serve chilled.
This sums up our list of typical alcoholic drinks you’ll find living in Puerto Rico. Is there a Puerto Rican cocktail we missed? Add your favorite drink to the list in the comment section below.
Welcome to Isla de Vieques, one of the Islands of Puerto Rico.
Isla de Vieques, one of the offshore island municipalities of Puerto Rico, is located just 7 miles off the east coast. Vieques is one of the last destinations that truly remains like the Caribbean of the past: quiet, lush, uncrowded, with unmatched natural beauty. Vieques is home to Mosquito Bay, the brightest bioluminescent bay in the world, and with dozens of undeveloped beach coves, one can experience the true meaning of tropical bliss. This small Puerto Rican treasure is also home to the largest natural wildlife refuge in the Caribbean.
As you explore the island, you’ll pass elegant Paso Fino horses roaming free. In Vieques there are no traffic lights, driving in Vieques is a pleasurable experience, narrow roads lead to breathtaking scenic spots, charming colorful towns, and beaches naturally landscaped free of development. Be warned, once you step foot on the beaches of Vieques, you’ll be spoiled for life.
Vieques. Home to the Brightest Bioluminescent Bay in the World
It really is like magic…right out of a movie scene…only real…and you’re part of the scene…
The world famous bioluminescent bay in Vieques is brighter than ever. Back in 2006, Puerto Mosquito was declared the brightest bioluminescent bay in the world by Guinness, back then the bay had about 1 million dinoflagellates per gallon. After Hurricane Maria, the bioluminescent bay went dark, after months of waiting for a recovery, 2.5 million dinoflagellates per gallon were recorded. This is the best time to visit Vieques. If you’re vacationing on the main island of Puerto Rico, stay at least one night to have this magical experience. + about the Bioluminescent Bay – Vieques, Puerto Rico.
Tourism on the Island.
For decades, this pretty island was a secret escape in the Caribbean for a few in the know. With the Navy’s departure in 2003 , the island began to get more attention and the secret was out. Vieques has become one of the hottest destinations in the Caribbean, yet when you’re here, it’s quiet and uncrowded. Vieques is not a cookie cutter Caribbean destination, whether you’re coming for a family vacation, romantic escape, or with a group of friends, everyone seems to have something in common when they leave…they end up coming back.
If you’re searching for a unique vacation, one that brings on feelings of wonder and relaxation, one that connects you back with nature, then Vieques is for you. Nature lovers will have plenty of activities to be wrapped up in blissful natural beauty.
You may arrive as a tourist, but you’ll leave as a traveler. In Vieques, it’s all about the journey leading to extraordinary experiences under the sun and a starry sky.
Isla de Vieques. A Beach Lover's Paradise
The beaches of Vieques are like works of art painted by the Master Hand with perfectly coordinated shades of blue, shores with sand ranging from soft white, to honey gold, to sparkly black. Beach hop all day without seeing crowds. Swim and snorkel in crystal clear waters with colorful gardens underneath. Beauty, tranquility, and awe await. More about beaches of Vieques, Puerto Rico.
While most Caribbean destinations focus their efforts on keeping guests confined at the resort property, the focus in Vieques is the island itself. Vieques offers various points of interests, most visitors are attracted to the island of Vieques for its gorgeous beaches, but beyond the shore there’s more. Experience one of the greatest treasures of Puerto Rico , the world-class bioluminescent bay under a starry sky, visit the last Spanish Fort built in the Americas, and more. More about attractions in Vieques, Puerto Rico .
Most activities and things to do are focused around the island’s natural treasures. Vieques is a nature lover’s destination offering activities such as snorkeling, scuba diving, horseback riding and even a little surfing. Kayak through mangrove channels, hike nature trails leading to secluded beaches, go bicycling, book a fishing charter, and more. More about things to do.
Why aren't there more Puerto Rican restaurants in the Bay Area?
1 of 6 The Pernil Asado (Slow-roasted Pork marinated in garlic and oregano) served at Parada 22 restaurant in San Francisco, Calif., on Thursday, May 18, 2017. The restaurant specializes in traditional Puerto Rican dishes. Carlos Avila Gonzalez/The Chronicle Show More Show Less
2 of 6 The Chicharrones de Pollo served at Parada 22 restaurant in San Francisco, Calif., on Thursday, May 18, 2017. The restaurant specializes in traditional Puerto Rican dishes. Carlos Avila Gonzalez/The Chronicle Show More Show Less
3 of 6 Tostones (Fried traditional Green Plantians) served at Parada 22 restaurant in San Francisco, Calif., on Thursday, May 18, 2017. The restaurant specializes in traditional Puerto Rican dishes. Carlos Avila Gonzalez/The Chronicle Show More Show Less
4 of 6 The Yuca Al Mojo served at Parada 22 restaurant in San Francisco, Calif., on Thursday, May 18, 2017. The restaurant specializes in traditional Puerto Rican dishes. Carlos Avila Gonzalez/The Chronicle Show More Show Less
5 of 6 An enlarged photo showing traditional Puerto Rican life and Puerto Rican flag on the wall at Parada 22 restaurant in San Francisco, Calif., on Thursday, May 18, 2017. The restaurant specializes in traditional Puerto Rican dishes. Carlos Avila Gonzalez/The Chronicle Show More Show Less
6 of 6 Family photos and Puerto Rican mementos adorn the walls at Parada 22 restaurant in San Francisco, Calif., on Thursday, May 18, 2017. The restaurant specializes in traditional Puerto Rican dishes. Carlos Avila Gonzalez/The Chronicle Show More Show Less
My grandparents came to Northern California in 1955. My grandfather packed up my nana, mother and uncle and moved to Sacramento. They knew no one there. Why my grandpa chose the area is unknown to anyone but him. But I&rsquom thankful he did.
Virtually isolated from other Puerto Ricans, my nana continued to cook in the &ldquoold-fashioned&rdquo style that her mother and aunt taught her, making beans from dried instead of canned, and making sofrito &mdash a paste made from cilantro, tomatoes, peppers, onions and garlic &mdash from scratch.
But because they were the only Puerto Rican family in Sacramento at the time, she quickly made friends with those she could communicate with: her Mexican neighbors. She quickly learned to cook their tortillas, chile rellenos and menudo, and these dishes remained in her cooking repertoire. In 2014, six decades after my grandparents first moved to Sacramento, there were reportedly 11,215 Puerto Ricans in Sacramento &mdash but not a single Puerto Rican restaurant.
Recently, I&rsquove been thinking about why Puerto Rican food is not more popular on the West Coast.
Puerto Ricans are U.S. citizens and can come and go freely &mdash if their economic situation allows &mdash to create a life on the mainland. Yet despite more than 30,000 Puerto Ricans in Alameda, Contra Costa, Santa Clara and San Francisco counties, Puerto Rican food isn&rsquot popular here. (Although San Jose does have an annual Puerto Rican festival, which takes place this year on June 17.)
According to the Center for Puerto Rican Studies at Hunter College in New York, there were an estimated 200,000 Puerto Ricans living in California in 2014, accounting for just 4 percent of all Puerto Ricans living in the United States. For context, about 84,000 people moved from Puerto Rico to the United States in 2014 alone.
&ldquoI&rsquove only ever heard of a Puerto Rican community being in Florida and New York,&rdquo says Paxx Caraballo Moll. Caraballo Moll and partner Audrey Berry are part of a new generation of chefs shepherding a fresh Puerto Rican culinary movement, and recently opened Baoricua, a Puerto Rican-Taiwanese food stand in San Juan, Puerto Rico. So without more Puerto Ricans on the West Coast, maybe that&rsquos why the cuisine is not as popular here, Caraballo Moll says.
And as with many Latin American foods, there&rsquos a constant comparison to Mexican cuisine.
The Mofongo platter served with Camarones a la Criolla, Frijoles, Arroz, and Maduros at Parada 22 restaurant in San Francisco, Calif., on Thursday, May 18, 2017. The restaurant specializes in traditional Puerto Rican dishes. Carlos Avila Gonzalez/The Chronicle
&ldquoThe Mexican demographic is huge and they have implanted their culture and food in a unique way that is perceived as Latin food everywhere,&rdquo says Manolo Lopez of Mofongo, a Puerto Rican pop-up restaurant in New York. &ldquoI only know a handful of Puerto Ricans in the West Coast and none are in the food industry. I spent some time in San Francisco and Los Angeles, and our ingredients are also hard to find: recao, platanos, aji dulces, et cetera.&rdquo
How many Puerto Rican restaurants do you know in Northern California? Yes, there is Sol Food in Marin. Good for you for knowing. But did you know there are more? Well, a few more, at least: Borinquen Soul in Oakland is a take-out restaurant within a liquor store, with great alcapurrias &mdash grated plantain and green banana stuffed with seasoned meat and fried. In San Francisco, Parada 22 has been open in the Haight for seven years, and the Mission&rsquos El Nuevo Frutilandia serves both Puerto Rican food and Cuban food. There&rsquos El Coqui in Santa Rosa, and, of course, Sol Food&rsquos two North Bay locations, which are the mainstream darlings of California-Puerto Rican cuisine. But for the most part, that&rsquos it.
It&rsquos possible the lack of Bay Area Puerto Rican restaurants is due to a lack of support, and certainly there&rsquos the high cost of entry into the restaurant industry. Plus, while a soulful and delicious cuisine, traditional Puerto Rican food is just not sexy-looking it&rsquos double-starch and brown on brown on brown.
With the country&rsquos best-known Mexican chef being Rick Bayless and the best-known Thai chef being Andy Ricker, sometimes I also wonder if Puerto Rican food might need, well, a comparable mainland chef to bring it to mainstream status &mdash or even a Top Chef competitor like Hawaii&rsquos Sheldon Simeon, who showcased the range of Filipino food beyond adobo. He managed to find a balance of re-creating the soulful flavors of his Filipino rustic cuisine but with a refined appearance. Or perhaps we need an Instagram-savvy Puerto Rican to plate carne guisada in a contemporary way utilizing edible flowers.
Maybe we should look to the diaspora for its culinary champions. In Puerto Rico, traditional methods of cooking were once in danger of disappearing in the face of American colonization, due to a complicated import-export relationship, defunct agrarian culture and the introduction of processed foods and fast-food chains, among other challenges. But those of us on the mainland, isolated and trying to salvage our grandmother&rsquos recipes via osmosis, cook the most traditional way.
Only recently has a younger culinary generation found its voice on the island, partly thanks to the duo of chefs Jose &mdash Jose Enrique and Jose Santaella &mdash who have incorporated modern (and often Euro-centric) techniques with Puerto Rican ingredients. They have, in turn, cultivated a new generation of young chefs, including Paxx Caraballo Moll, who have tentacled out across the island creating their own culinary endeavors.
Paola Chacon and Javier Gil enjoy lunch at Parada 22 restaurant in San Francisco, Calif., on Thursday, May 18, 2017. The restaurant specializes in traditional Puerto Rican dishes. Carlos Avila Gonzalez/The Chronicle
Maybe that movement will eventually spread to the mainland. No one seems to know anything about Puerto Rican food here. You&rsquod think it&rsquod be easy bringing the food of Puerto Rico, an island belonging to the United States since 1898, to the West Coast. Now, it just seems like a big order to fill.
&ldquoThere&rsquos simply not enough knowledge outside the community about what (Puerto Rican food) is,&rdquo says Alicia Kennedy, associate editor of Edible Manhattan. &ldquoEven here in New York City, where there are more Puerto Ricans, it&rsquos not spreading beyond those who have a connection to the culture.&rdquo
Lopez, from Mofongo in New York, concurs that education is the first step.
&ldquoWe just have to get people to know our food for it to be able to expand and be recognized around the world,&rdquo Lopez says. &ldquoThe more media (that) write about our pop-ups and collaborations, the more people will know.&rdquo
Bermuda Triangle Survivor!
The legend of the Bermuda Triangle started some time around 1945, when a squadron of five Navy Avenger airplanes disappeared on a training flight out of Fort Lauderdale. Soon, masses were in wonder if there was something strange at the triangle-shaped stretch of oceans between Miami, Bermuda and Puerto Rico?
Today, we have all heard of the triangle shaped stretch called the Bermuda Triangle and over the years, we have heard ample enough of stories and theories which are based on this very triangle . All though you will not find this place on the map, it is however true that the Bermuda triangle is a very real place.
There have been a number of stories in the past about the ghost triangle and stories on disappearing ships, planes and people too. Although there is a reasonable explanation for many such incidents people say there is a mystery to it.
The location of the Bermuda Triangle is off the coast of Florida between Miami, Puerto Rico and the Bermudas. It covers about 500 000 square miles of the gigantic Atlantic Ocean. It is widely known as the Devil's Triangle because Bermuda was once called Islands of the Devils because of its mysteries and ghost trails. The coasts around the island are surrounded by dangerous reefs in which ships ran into throughout the centuries. Survivors of extraordinary and unexplainable events in the Triangle is impressive. Centuries ago, airliner pilots have encountered unexplained and severe jolts out of nowhere leaving them to dash against deep ends. Clouds too have come out of nowhere and caused compasses to spin and engine to drop off. All electronic equipment has ceased for no known reason: cell phones, radios, navigational equipment all seem to give up at this particular triangle.
He is one lucky man who has survived the experiences from the Bermuda Triangle. He has experienced the time wrap theory of the Bermuda Triangle and has lived to tell his story on survival. He is the only lucky person in the world to witness what mystery is behind the Bermuda Triangle and what the Triangle creates to make things disappear. Many others have also seen parts of this phenomenon of mystery and disappearance and some have seen it completely, just like Bruce. It is only after 31 years of his complete research on the triangle did Bruce Gernon discover how he had flown those 100 miles in such a short time and never seen the Earth or sky around him. It is said that Bruce was captured by the electronic fog where in which there have been dozens of planes and boats too which went missing in this fog throughout history. He believes that a rare natural phenomenon may be behind this paranormal happenings in the Triangle. Experts say that the Electronic Fog also explores the Bermuda Triangle's connection to UFO's, a secret navy base.
The Bermuda triangle has claimed over a thousand people during the twentieths century itself. But, has left Bruce alive, so that he can tell you and I the real mysteries behind the Devils Triangle!
Von Diaz’s Essential Puerto Rican Recipes
The journalist and cookbook author, who grew up traveling between Atlanta and Puerto Rico, collects dishes that tell stories about life on the island, and the flavors that bring her back to it.
Von Diaz stirs a pot of sancocho, a stew found all over the Caribbean, as it simmers over an open fire at her home in North Carolina. Credit. Lauren Vied Allen for The New York Times
Intensely green, verging on chartreuse, plantains hang like chandeliers from tall broad-leafed plants across the Caribbean. The botanical name is Musa paradisiaca, the second word meaning “of paradise.”
The plátano is generous, and can be eaten in all stages of ripeness. In Puerto Rico, the greenest ones can be fried, smashed and blended with garlic, olive oil and chicharrones — pork cracklins — to make mofongo, one of the island’s best-known dishes. When their peels turn bright yellow, speckled with dark spots, plátanos can be fried and served alongside rice and beans for that signature agridulce flavor, sweet and salty. And when they finally become black and squishy, seemingly past their prime, their flesh can be boiled, then blended with butter, and then pressed into a pan to make pastelón, a casserole layered with sofrito-laced beef.
I was born in Río Piedras, Puerto Rico, but raised in the suburbs outside Atlanta. My family traveled back to Puerto Rico often — not always the case for those of us on the U.S. mainland — and I was fascinated by those plantain chandeliers. I lived in two worlds in my mind: a lush, loud, exciting tropical wonderland, and a seemingly cultureless, strip mall-laden labyrinth of subdivisions.
The island beckoned me. I longed for the feeling of hot, tropical air hitting my face as I exited the plane, for the interlaced smells of garlicky grilled meat and car exhaust, for the sonorous canopy of El Yunque rainforest.
I love Puerto Rico deeply. It’s where my heart lives, where my mind wanders at night when I can’t sleep. But we don’t always love the places we’re from. My mother, in fact, hasn’t been back to the island in 11 years. For her, Puerto Rico is chaos, rife with machismo, economic instability, crumbling infrastructure and bad memories. Despite the fact that Puerto Rico is part of the United States, those on the island have long struggled with inequities that can make life there extremely difficult.
And yet, my soul dwells there.
The Times asked me to write about some of Puerto Rico’s essential dishes, to choose and share 10 that both resonate with me and reflect the island’s people. It’s challenging, even audacious, to distill a cuisine to any number of recipes, and, because of Puerto Rico’s complex colonial history, it’s particularly difficult to describe its food in simple terms. And so I chose to look closely at dishes that express the innate hybridity of the culture, and celebrate the foundational techniques and ingredients that make its food so compelling, and satisfying.
The cuisine is a culinary mejunje, or mix, of Indigenous, African, Spanish and American ingredients and techniques. In “Eating Puerto Rico,” the food historian Cruz Miguel Ortíz explores how Indigenous herbs and root vegetables African plantains and coconuts Spanish olive oil, pork and tomatoes and American canned foods form the mestizo or Creole cuisine exemplified on the island. And the culinary bricolage of the island continues to expand as a younger generation of farmers and chefs insist on modernizing the cuisine.
“Porque es vivo,” Mr. Ortiz said. “Y simple.” The cuisine is alive, in flux, he said, yet simple and intensely flavored. Its foundation is sofrito — a blend of garlic, onions, peppers, and recao or culantro (cilantro’s earthy cousin, which thrives on the island). Even in the darkest times, the smell of sofrito sizzling in olive oil is a balm blended with tomato sauce and rice, its flavor conjures comfort.
Sofrito, for me, is essential. But what is “essential” is subjective, so I believe it’s about what fulfills a need. For some of us, that need is nostalgia. A dish may be essential because it fills your heart with joyful memories, of smells and flavors, of your grandmother loudly playing Juan Luis Guerra, teaching you to dance, her hair still in rollers. For others, essential might mean nourishing to the body, or a meal that fills you ahead of a long day of work.
The dishes below are essential to me because of the stories they tell, the ways they embody my people’s strength and creativity, and how cooking them has helped me make sense of the brutality of my island. As Jessica B. Harris wrote of African enslavement in her 2011 book “High on the Hog”: “It must be looked at in all its horror and degradation, complicity and confusion, for it tells us where and what we have come from.”
I am a journalist, oral historian and professor of food studies in North Carolina, and, in these roles, I look closely at the global scale of imperialism, and investigate similarities among island cultures. The more I study the impact of colonization on bodies and ecosystems, the tremendous violence that occurs when monoculture replaces biodiversity, when enslavers replace Indigenous cultures and cosmologies with their own, the paradox of loving a place as difficult and complex as Puerto Rico becomes clearer. Because while much has been done to subjugate and disrupt Puerto Rico, its spirit remains.
These recipes tell the story of that spirit — of an Indigenous Taíno population believed to have been exterminated, but still living in the mitochondrial DNA of thousands of Puerto Ricans. You see that story in dishes like yuca con mojo, a humble celebration of the root vegetable that was once the cornerstone of the Taíno diet.
They describe fortitude and la brega, a term often used by Puerto Ricans to describe improvising, hustling and making do. Sancocho, its name synonymous with a mix of whatever ingredients are available, is a stew brimming with classic island flavors: yuca, yautia (taro), plantains, often pumpkin. Arroz mamposteao — just one of the many ways rice and beans are prepared — is scrappy, making magic of leftovers.
They are stories of creativity and tradition, blending colonial ingredients with ancestral cooking techniques. Take pernil, the coveted garlic-and-herb-marinated pork shoulder that is traditionally slow-roasted whole over coals. On the island, there’s an entire stretch of highway through densely forested Guavate — La Ruta del Lechón — dedicated to pork made with precision by families committed to the craft.
These dishes celebrate the contributions of the tens of thousands of Africans taken to the island in bondage, who introduced processes like deep frying, among many other things, and who are credited with cultivating rice, the cornerstone of the Puerto Rican diet to this day. Fritters such as alcapurrias de jueyes — a blend of green banana and yautia, stuffed with delicate crab — hark back to Loíza, a town on the northeastern coast with rich African ancestry.
And then there are completely modern dishes that reference what has always grown on the island. In pastelillos de guayaba, guava — the epitome of tropical flavor — is balanced by crumbly, salty queso en hoja, fresh cheese, which is baked into a beignet and delightfully dusted with powdered sugar. Nothing ancestral here it’s just extremely delicious, and makes use of the island’s bounty of fruit.
Above all, these dishes exemplify a deeply creative people, who make food that is flavorful and soul-nourishing.
What I want to suggest here is that, instead of holding European foods and cooking techniques as the highest standards, we look to the cuisines of islands, of places that have struggled, to gain inspiration from how they managed to make things taste so good against all odds. This is old, deep knowledge, and we can all learn from it, regardless of background, and find ways to integrate this way of thinking into the way we cook.
And to keep culinary cultures vibrant, we must adapt. For the past 15 years, the Puerto Rican diaspora has outnumbered the population on the island, and many of us have been forced to recreate our favorite dishes using very different ingredients and tools. I might need to use a bell pepper instead of ají dulce, or paprika instead of annatto. But as I say in the introduction to “Coconuts and Collards,” my first book, “It’s Puerto Rican because I made it.” These microadjustments ensure that I can still keep the flavors of my homeland in my mouth.
Many of my fellow Puerto Ricans may see this list and exclaim: “What about bacalao?” “What about tostones?” Or plátanos maduros, or coquito. There are so many things. I humbly offer these recipes in the spirit of sharing what for me is like mother’s milk, the flavors from which my palate was born — sofrito in the womb, a lifeline to the island.
As you explore and prepare these recipes, I encourage you to consider the blends of flavors. That combination of yautia and green banana with the sofrito and crab in alcapurrias is unmistakably earthy and robust, salty crispness balanced by delicate seafood. The richness of the chicken thighs in pollo en fricasé, simmered in tangy tomato and white wine, punctuated by briny olives, immediately conjures Mami’s kitchen for many Puerto Ricans, just as the smell of pernil roasting in the oven transports us to every family Christmas and Thanksgiving we ever attended.
What to Cook This Week
Sam Sifton has menu suggestions for the coming days. There are thousands of ideas for what to cook waiting for you on New York Times Cooking.
- One of the best things about Melissa Clark’s chile-roasted chicken with honey, lemon and feta is the sweet-and-sour drippings in the pan.
- Yewande Komolafe’s glazed tofu with chile and star anise is a take on the technique behind Sichuan hui guo rou, or twice-cooked pork.
- Mark Bittman’s shrimp burgers are perfect with mayonnaise, mixed with Texas Pete hot sauce and plenty of lime juice.
- This spring-vegetable japchae from Kay Chun is made with the Korean sweet-potato noodles known as glass noodles.
- Millie Peartree’s brown stew chicken is built on a base of store-bought browning sauce, a caramel-hued burnt sugar concoction.
You may notice there aren’t many vegetables in this collection. That is not a reflection of how most Puerto Ricans eat today. On my last trip to the island, just as Covid-19 was setting in, I ate whole ají dulce peppers, flash-fried tempura style, at the chef Natalia Vallejo’s restaurant Cocina al Fondo, which will soon reopen. At Vianda, I had locally sourced radishes with grapefruit and XO sauce. At Bacoa Finca + Fogón, I was enthralled by a spread made from local beets.
But growing up, and in the cafeteria-style Puerto Rican joints I’ve frequented here on the mainland, the most common vegetable accompaniment to our food is a simple side salad. Oftentimes it’s forgettable: limp iceberg lettuce with tomatoes, canned green beans or peas, dressed with olive oil and vinegar. But salads are the perfect pairing for Puerto Rican dishes — they balance the richness with roughage — so I often pair these recipes with a simple salad of mixed greens, avocado, tomatoes and hearts of palm in a cilantro vinaigrette.
The dishes I present here were foundational to my understanding of flavor, and everything I cook springs from them. In my conversations with fellow Boricuas of all ages and walks of life, both here and on the island, these were all mentioned. Above all, I love each one of these dishes, and I hope you will enjoy making them too.
The Amazing Beaches of Vieques… One of the Islands of Puerto Rico
The beaches of Vieques are constantly praised and ranked among the best in the Caribbean. You probably read this on many other destination travel guides, please give us a few minutes to tell you why the beaches in Vieques are so special.
Isla de Vieques, where you can experience beaches in the Caribbean with raw beauty, landscaped by nature alone, free of development. Each beach is different, with sand ranging from pure white to sparkling soft black. Isla de Vieques is the island where you hold hands with your loved one, look back to capture with your camera the only set of footprints on the beach… yours.
In Vieques you will find some of the most scenic, quiet, and secluded beaches on the Caribbean, don’t take our world for it, just ask someone who has been here. Puerto Rico is a very popular destination in the Caribbean with hundreds of beaches and interesting attractions. The beaches in Vieques are very different from the main island, they stand out for its unspoiled and tranquil feel, providing visitors the perfect recipe for relaxation and wonder.
Your greatest task during your vacation in Vieques will be finding the time to explore all the beaches. Vieques may be a small island, but it will take you a little over two weeks to explore and enjoy them all. You may end joining thousands of visitors who end up coming to Vieques year after year.
Following are some of the most popular beaches in Vieques. See the map at the bottom of this page for locations. We have only listed the most popular beaches, we are working on adding them all. Bring your sense of adveture and discover them all.
We’ll start with the beaches inside the Vieques National Wildlife Refuge on the southeast side of the island.
Areas to Visit
San Juan: A business and tourist hub with preserved Spanish colonial architecture, shops, bars, restaurants, and bustling nightclubs. In San Juan, stay close in either Isla Verde or Condado for the easiest beach access, or in Old San Juan for proximity to historic sites, restaurants, and bars.
Northeast: A short drive from San Juan, this area is densely populated, but low-key and home to beautiful rainforests and secluded beaches
Northwest: World-class surfing, natural wonders and some of the best beaches in the island Aguadilla, Rio Camuy Cave Park and Rincon are main draws, but also Dorado, with its golf courses and casinos
Southwest: Arguably the island’s most beautiful region, with white-sand beaches, forest reserves, exotic birds, phosphorescent waters, charming colonial architecture, and opulent villas. Head to the western side of the island to be close to charming towns like Boqueron.
Southeast: It’s the land of contrasts, with luxury living, golf courses, miles of beautiful sandy beaches, and undeveloped areas. In eastern Puerto Rico, you’ll find big resorts, nature reserves, miles of beautiful beaches and luxury living.
Islands: The most famous offshore islands are Culebra and Vieques, with clear waters, breathtaking beaches, and coral reefs uninhabited Isla Mona has beautiful soaring violet cliffs