Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Area 51

Here in Puerto Rico there are many "area 51's." Areas that are not secret military installations but rather secret places where things like bread and real chocolate are hidden. It takes years to ferret out these locations and thanks to friend Liz I was able to find yet another one today. If you are from the states this may not seem like a big deal, but here in the land of liquid cheese, cheap soda and particle-board "meat"...the land where everything is in a can or has a shelf life of a million years fresh food is rare. This is NOT because we are on an island - it is NOT because "things are hard to get here."..(over 95% of food is imported) is because people don't know about these things, don't want to try them, and only eat a handful of unadventurous things. (I say this as a person who has eaten everything that grows on my property, things very adventurous and unknown to me until I lived here). So where is this special area? Across from the Holiday Inn near the Mayaguez Home Depot there is a cement arrow on the east side of highway 2. If you follow this arrow it will bring you down a road and on the left you will see this sign. If you dare, you enter this "distribution" area and head toward Warehouse Number 4. The road is empty and large. There is no traffic (this is a secret place). When you arrive there will be a few cars parked haphazardly (as always). There are plenty of spots to park in but make sure you block people if you can.

So how do you know you have arrived? You kind of don't. If you get to a door that has a glass display case with some cheese in it you know you are there. Then you enter clear hanging plastic "car wash" style strips and you are in the land of forgotten vegetables! There are no prices, there is no way to weigh things, there is no list of the secret ingredients that have been beamed down. You need to lift boxes, open boxes and look on every shelf to determine what is there. Some of it is in great shape, some in inedible shape (bendy broccoli) and a lot in large quantities (quantities too large for 2 people). But if you look hard enough there are treasures to be found. You put things in what ever container you bring and then go to the guy in the front who calls the gal from the unknown area to jot things down, weigh things and give you a total that you must pay in cash. Here's what $39 got me. Yes it was pricey but hey, haven't seen a baby carrot in 6 years (sorry, carrot cores don't count) and fingerling potatoes???

So I scored some healthy cauliflower, fingerling potatoes, wide rice noodles, zucchini, small eggplant, baby carrots and little veggies, a parsnip and white beech mushrooms! What else was there? There were heavenly bottles of sirachi, tubs of white miso, pounds of baby carrots and baby zucchini...tubs of marscapone, rice noodles, curry paste. There were a few nice cheeses (no cambazola) and a huge amount of marinated anchovies. Enoki and white beech mushrooms, all kinds of fresh herbs and lettuces, arugula, blue potatoes, pouches of "good" chocolate for baking - no Scharfen Berger but 52% which is unusual for here. I was so overwhelmed I probably missed some good stuff!

Other "area 51's" include the Adventist store where you used to be able to get raw bulk nuts, tempeh, agave, Puffins cereal (Jeff likes it) and real peanut butter that is only peanuts. Some of these things aren't there all the time but it is still a good spot. This is directly across from Home Depot - just drive through the intersection toward the field and after a speed bump it will appear on your right.

The Econo on 110 in Aguadilla is another mystery area. If you want 8 grain bread, sourdough or garlic sourdough you go to the imported beer shelf across from the wine area (left when you enter the store). There, hidden in the freezer are loaves of realish bread and even bagels! When you throw your head back in delight you may also notice real chocolate...Lindt 72% (Lindt is not my favorite except the chili and the one with orange slivers and almonds). I think there are even a couple different brands that may top 82% cacao! This store has a few different dark beers, rye bread is in a different freezer across from the wonder bread and there is a really good selection of different vegetables. I have found fresh poblano peppers, dragon fruit, tomatillos and orange cauliflower.

Freshmart in Aguadilla sometimes has almond butter, soy bacon, tempeh agave and nutritional yeast. They are carrying less and less like everywhere else.

So all in all a nice day with a friend and a discovery of somewhere to get some of the more unusual things that might be required for special dining! Still hoping for an "area 51" with scallops, fresh fish and REAL bread - I think I have to get a bread maker. Seafood will have to wait until we are back in the states.


Fran and Steve said...

Hurray for life's little triumphs! If you lived closer to San Juan, you'd find most of the stuff you like, since there are a lot of folks with adventurous palates in the metro area. In Humacao, I end up shopping at 4 different grocery stores, but eventually find most of what I need. Good thing I have time to shop. -- Fran

Linda said...

Edwards in rincon has a lot of that stuff too. probably more expensive though