Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Follow-up to Previous Post - the Dinner that SHOULD Have Been

I've been working in the yard all morning thinking about food and last night's crappy dinner. With all the beautiful ingredients here this is what I would have liked to have eaten:

In my imaginary Puerto Rico restaurant there is really good, fresh food.
Appetizers: a really good fruit and cheese plate. No, not the white processed block of queso blanco with jelled fruit paste, a nice little plate with a flavorful cheese like cambazola, or smoked cheddar, manchego or port wine cheddar and some lovely fresh fruit like - HELLO- mango, carambola, lechosa. Stuff that is ripe now. Maybe a flower petal or two for garnish or a rambutan. There could even be a nice reduced glaze of parcha drizzled on top. (I think I'm going to the supermarket after this to get some ingredients).

Bread: pan criolla is a nice bread...why drown it in garlic oil? In my restaurant it is heated and served with a pat of butter on the side. Or butter with a few fresh herbs mixed in. It couldn't be in a fancy shape because of the heat, but it could be in a nice dish instead of a plastic cup.

Drinks: I am not an alcohol person often, but on special occasions I like a decent drink. Why aren't there any? Why is it all sweet? I just want a lemon drop, or something tangy with all the citrus that grows here, why not a carambola champagne thing? Why not a mango club soda thing?

Main course: the main course is a simple normal size piece of red snapper, or bar jack, or maji maji with grill marks on it (NO OIL) and a nice strip of mango salsa with culantro, cebolla, carambola on it OR a simple chicken breast without bones and skin and fat dripping off it. Maybe it has a nice basil (albohacca?) pesto on it or a culantro pesto over it.

Side dish: not a block of plantain mush and not a wad of beans or upside down cup of rice. Why not a lighter green mango or green papaya salad? A pickled cucumber salad? Why not something simple with carrots or a simple tomato/basil/olive oil salad? Or the onion/guineo thing? Just not a giant block of white. Or a real salad with nuts, herbs, carrots, tomatoes, mandarin orange slices, sunflower seeds...

Dessert: my restaurant does include molten lava cakes, but here in Puerto Rico where chocolate is not king I would have upside down passion fruit cake, mango cake, how about a fresh passion fruit or mango or lime sorbet with an almond cookie as a sidecar? How about just a fruit cup of perfectly cut local ripe fruits in a little whipped cream instead of the dreadful syrupy lechosa dulce that doesn't even resemble fruit. Why not toasted coconut over a slice of banana cake or even a hot fudge sundae? Or a tropical twist on the idea and have guineos, with 2 different sorbets and whipped cream and almonds with a drizzle of reduced mango or parcha syrup of it?

End of meal: you have to have a little bit of coffee to end things with a little wafer of a cookie of some kind.

So this is what I wanted on my anniversary and of course nothing here will ever be fresh or come close which is a shame. There are so many wonderful ingredients...I guess I'll have to cook something today!


Jeff and Katrina Kruse said...

Sounds Great! Will it be ready when I get home tonight?


Cassie said...

There are some pretty nice restaurants in Rincon. We went out to dinner with Nick and Miri our last trip to Casa Islena which is a tapas bar and that was really good (somewhat expensive though).

Also, Britton and I ate at Villa Cofresi. It was really good too (again expensive but worth it for a special occasion) and of course there is the famous Horned Dorset which we didn't go to (even more $$$), but from the pictures and reviews we read, it is THE place to go for a fancy meal. It even requires semi-formal dress for the dinner meal.

Maybe it's because there are more gringos over there, but they seem to at least understand that we don't want french fries with our Chinese food -a Puerto Rican classic I'll never forget! :-)

Anonymous said...

Jeff and Katrina,

Here is my suggestion to you:

Check out his Pikayo Restaurant, but more important check out the menu. While at Pikayo visit the Puerto Rican Museum of Art too.

Unfortunately, you will have to plan a trip to the Metro Area and perhaps spend the night in a nice hotel. You might find some good deals in hotels due to the recession.

Not too bad for an anniversary celebration IMHO. After so much work, perhaps you both might welcome a little pampering.

Take care,


Fran and Steve said...

Wilo Benet has been featured on Andrew Zimmern's show as well as on Top Chef. From watching those, it appears he is superb at nouvelle Puerto Rican cuisine, or whatever it's called when you mix PR food with other influences (fusion?). Pikayo is on my list of to-dos for a special dinner in San Juan. Pricey, I'm sure. Too bad there aren't more of these influences around the island. Best to create your own fusions (as you do now) at home and deal with the fried stuff (it can be yummy...) on occasion. Stefan mentioned Pollo Tropical on their blog. Yes, it's fast food, but I've had good experiences there, my fave is asopao de pollo. Fran

Anonymous said...

Thanks everyone - Now we have some spots to try! I have Wilo Benet's cookbook of traditional Puerto Rican foods but the menu on line looks intriguing. I've also heard of Latitude something or other in Aquadilla and a new french place La Auxirre or something in San German. They were closed on Tuesday. I guess there is hope. We just don't eat out much - fast food or otherwise- I don't want to bother eating unless it is going to be good. katrina

Anonymous said...

Oh - I forgot...Chinese and french fries? When we first got here we were starving and went to Taco Bell after Sams club and I saw a bean and potato burrito. At home I put potatoes and cheese and paprika in burritos. To my surprise there were FRENCH FRIES in the bean burrito! Added a slight crunch that wasn't bad but quite a shock! katrina

Anonymous said...

Hmmm, I never thought french fries with chinese food was such an oddity until I came to mainland and couldn't find it on the menu, LOL!

I'm really looking forward to our next trip to PR when I want to try Chef Wilo's new restaurant Varita. It is located in the Condado Plaza Hotel and it has a lot of rotisserie meats on the menu.

By the way, I think when you grow up in an island you get used to some pretty odd things. For example, I really thought it was a bit odd to see so much spam on the menu of a Hawaiian restaurant in LA. My former boss lived in Hawaii and took us to this place. Apparently, Hawaii is the capital of spam consumption in the world. I even had some California sushi rolls with spam in them. I did not mind since I ate spam quite a bit as a kid in PR, LOL! Yes it is odd, but apparently my grandparents survived the Great Depression on spam and vienna sausages. My grandmother used to cook "sopa de salchichon" (or salami soup), and "arroz con salchichas" (or rice with vienna sausage).

By the way, we live in Virginia now surrounded by water and I can not say that I've been much impressed with any seafood places around here either. I can say that I have tasted some pretty awful crab cakes and I'm currently looking to start making our own at home.

Good luck in your quest of dining places in PR!


Fran and Steve said...

As a native I will defend to my death my right to stockpile and consume vienna sausages, much to the amusement of my gringo husband, LOL! Though I've switched to the chicken variety. Sorry to get off-topic! Fran

Anonymous said...

Fran, I understand your craving for vienna sausages too, LOL!

Another thing I had to get used to when I moved to mainland from PR 20+ years ago was to have cold sub sandwiches. As you know, in PR (as in most mediterranean countries that I've visited) your typical sandwich is assembled and then hot pressed in some kind of dual contact grill (like a George Foreman) or at least warmed up in a regular grill on both sides. Only recently have I started to see this offered more frequently at sandwich places. When I talked to mid-westerners about a hot sub they actually thought that was very odd. Nobody in Ohio had even heard of a Cuban sandwich way back then. Sorry to keep drifting away from the main topic. Ham (no cheese)

Anonymous said...

Things in little cans creep me out! I'm trying to think of mainland things that are staples like rice and beans or gandules and rice or velveeta and little sausages and I am coming up blank. Maybe pizza? I miss BBQ chips. In Seattle everything is all about salmon, but it is made in a variety of ways so it isn't always the same. I don't think anyone in the states eats the same thing for lunch and food was always hamburgers and hotdogs I suppose and potato salad...stuff for BBQs that you don't eat at home much. No little velveeta sandwiches on white crustless bread or pinchos. Kind of interesting to think of the things people think of comfort foods. Hmmmm. katrina

Fran and Steve said...

Ham, I'm dying for a sandwich cubano or medianoche. I used to call them smashed sandwiches, but now they're called panini, and really don't compare to the real thing, at least not in Sacramento, LOL! However, I don't miss Velveeta.. Katrina, here in Sacramento, you could say tacos, burritos, rice and refried beans are staples. Love the Mexican food, except for the yukky refried beans and flavorless "Spanish rice"! Fran

Anonymous said...

I started making our own Cuban sandwiches at home in our George Foreman. I can find comparable bread, however, it is really hard to find good roasted fresh ham (pernil asado) to go with my Virginia Ham and Swiss Cheese. So I get a fix for my craving, but not the with the real thing.

I just watched the Top Chef Masters episode with Wilo Benet and he talked about a new street sandwich called the "tripleta". I have now one more thing to try when I visit San Juan.

I have to admit that I don't miss Velveeta at all. However, I do have a craving every so often about "Sandwiches de Mezcla". Sorry Katrina this is bound to creep you out a little more. This is served typically at parties and the mezcla is basically done with 1 large Cheez Whiz, 1 small Spam can, and a full roasted bell pepper (from a can, what else right?). You basically blend all the ingredients with a tiny bit of water to not burn the blender motor in the process, LOL. You apply the mezcla to the sliced white bread and make little sandwiches by cutting the corners and then cutting them up in triangles. Voila! I do this at home maybe twice a year and I love the mezcla with french bread. I hate to admit that its one of my comfort foods.

As far as staples, I guess it all depends on the part of the country where we claim roots. I lived over 10 years in the Midwest in the midst of many eastern european communities: Polish, Slovak, Hungarian, Ukranian, etc. All of them Roman Catholic or Eastern Orthodox. I remember learning to appreciate the fact that you couldn't find much meat (if any) offered on Fridays in any restaurant menus -- Pierogies and Fish was it. I have to say that after a while it grew on me. Now I cook pierogies at home often (from Mrs. T's), with sauteed onions and sour cream. I miss going to the West Side Market in Cleveland and seeing the ladies (still wearing babushkas) going to their favorite pierogi stand. I don't do sausage often, but I remember Kielbasa as well as German and Italian sausages being a standard. Heavy types of food for sure usually accompanied by red cabbage, sauerkraut, or bigos (cabbage and meat stew).


Fran and Steve said...

Oh, I had forgotten about the mezcla sandwiches, they were yummy. We didn't make them in a blender, but rather ground the Velveeta and Spam (or canned ham) manually with a counter-clamp-on meat grinder. Yes, for family beach outings! We included mayonnaise as part of the mezcla, mixing it into the bowl of ground stuff, to make it more spreadable and tasty. Also, in Andrew Zimmern's show, Wilo Benet took him to the street food tripleta sandwich, which I'd have to say would probably be better if it were "smashed", LOL! Not very healthy either, although those two don't seem to care, judging by their physiques! Katrina is so right. Puerto Rican comfort food is not particularly healthy. Moving back to PR will probably be the death of me! Fran

Anonymous said...

I'm sorry, I forgot to tell you not to miss their recipes at "La Tienda" website. Buen Provecho!


Summer said...

Katrina - We found a gem for you! You guys have to try The Chefs Table at the Mayaquez Resort and Casino. It's kind of hidden, as you have to walk through the buffet to get to it, but I swear I had almost the exact same dinner that you described there...

Anonymous said...

Thanks Summer! I'll give it a try. I'll also try the Wilo Benet one eventually - it was closed some months ago when the museum was closed for renovation. Let me know about any new good things...katrina

Reinaldo Jose said...


True&Skai said...

Peace this list of yours resonates with me. I am in the process of opening a Veggie/Healthy cafe here in Luquillo. I cant wait because I am so interested in finding different ways to use local ingredients in a less fried, less greasy...more fresher way. Ill let you know when we open, so yall can come on down. peace skai