Field Trip: Puerto Rico

July 14, 2010 at 12:56 pm (Current Events, Our Favorite Things, Travel, What we are eating, What we are thinking, What we're drinking) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

by Ms. Rachel Driver

Recently, I ran away on a brief whirlwind of a trip to San Juan, Puerto Rico for a wedding and mini-vacation.  And, I realized how easy it is to get to PR, minus a passport, and within about 6 hours of travel.  Must go back. Often. 

Our stay began with four nights with the wedding party at the Ritz Carlton in Isle Verde…a gorgeous, more casual Ritz resort…although, they highly recommend dressing properly in common areas and not wearing flip flops (right).  But, the pool led out to the beach with silky white sand and balls and games to play, as well as copious options for imbibing rum quickly. Mmm, mojito.  One of the main Bacardi Rum factories are on the island, and thus ever present and available. While on the island, the World Cup was in full swing, so we spent many early mornings at local bars drinking the local brew, a pilsner I believe, Medalla.  Only good as a very cold, refreshing beverage that hints at beer.  Worked well enough!  The wedding was gorgeous, the local dinner party extremely tasty with loads of pintxos (oh, succlent morsels of skewered chicken!).  It rained.  Much.  But, with the lovely, mild heat and beach and booze, I was quite fine with falling droplets.

Not too much food of note, excepting the amazing experience depicted below at Jose Enrique.  Ditto with drinks…the bottle of Marguet Champagne that I toted from LUSH in Chicago was nom nom, and a few chilly glasses of Spanish Albarino and Godello.  Oh, and a Bell’s Two Hearted.  Yum.

The El Yunque rainforest was the show stealing element to the trip. I mean, the beach is awesome and relaxing, but climbing a mountain suits my temperament a bit more. Cascading rivelets crashed down upon very slippery rocks as they transformed into waterfalls. No bugs! And, random towers on the tops of peaks, along the ridgeline…providing a glimpse through the dense canopy of green with waves of misty clouds and waves of fatty rain drops.  Crazy little coqui frogs chirped, unseen, from the trees and the jumping lizards adorned tree leaves.  Towering trees of fern seemed like something out of Jurassic Park.  Food and drink trended toward water with lemon, prosciutto, cheese, peanut butter and apples.  Good fuel. Nice hike.

A little foray into Old San Juan on the bus was windy and warm, steep, and full of culture.  Barred windows, tourist shops, and local bars were full of color and vibrancy, and shimmered with energy.  Quick tapas and white wine complimented our sweaty and salty demeanor.  And then the tragedy of a bus system that stops running without warning.  Sigh.   Oh, and a nice sushi restaurant that serves awesome fish, yummy sake, crazy cocktails, and then clones your credit card.  Awesome.

However, a full on, just quite perfect vacation excursion.  Hope y’all didn’t miss me too much.  Thanks for coming along for the ride! Until next time…

JOSE ENRIQUE Restaurant

176 Calle Duffat
San Juan, PR 00907
(787) 725-3518

Holy bajesus, batman.  This was one of the most amazing dining experiences I have ever had.  For serious.

Very professional yet laid back staff.  Awesome wine list, and I am that fanatic about wine, duh.  Rocking fish and various seafood.  An array of giant chalkboards of daily menu options, nearly five for each course, are presented between courses.  The kitchen was tiny and hopping, with a window to the dining room.

Amazing foie gras stuffed in dates with marcona almonds.  And a ‘chiccharron’ of bacon wrapped fried shrimp with lemon aoili. Damn. Head on red snapper quickly deep fried with a succlent moistness and impeccable spice rub…on top of mashed sweet potato.  And a giant filet of juicy yellow tail plopped on to of a zucchini, eggplant, and tomato ‘ratatouille’.  Playful pairings and combination of flavor and texture.  Loud, but energetic ambiance.

Yes, you will think you are lost in a Puerto Rican neighborhood.  No, there is not much of a sign.  Please do not be a jerk or ridiculous and rude tourist.  This is a lovely neighborhood experience.  Love it.

Thanks for a perfect evening.  And also good beer.  After gallons of mediocre Medalla, a Bell’s Two Hearted Double IPA was extremely refreshing.  Pirat was on hand, too.  Mmmm.  And, shhh, they sold me a second bottle of wine to take to back my hotel room!  Extra refreshing Spanish whites, with options for German Riesling and really excellent European choices.

Go. Now.

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