Puerto Rican Heritage Festival

17 12 2008

jibarito-plateEvery two years, the Puerto Rican Heritage Society (Sociedad Herencia de Puerto Rico) organizes and hosts a festival that features food, music, and cultural art. This year’s event was held at a different location than in past years and seemed to attract three times the attendance.  My favorite part of the event, of course, was the food.

We got there about an hour after the start and the line for food was already long. Several vendors were hawking food and the longest line was for La Marginal, a local Puerto Rican restaurant. Two lines formed at their booth to get one of two plates. The “Jibarito” (directly translated as “hillbilly”) consisted of roasted pork, rice and pigeon peas, small salad, and a choice of either tostones (fried plantains, aka “patacones”) or amarillos (baked sweet plantains. The other plate was fricaseed chicken with the same sides. My plate, shown here, was the “Jibarito” with both tostones and amarillos, and a chunk of potato stewed with the chicken. I also opted for the white rice and beans instead. Very yummy.paella

Each line was about 30 minutes long. My opinion is that they were just serving slowly. But the wait was worth it. While waiting, I hopped over to a booth run by Azuca, a restaurant serving Nuevo Latino cuisine. They offered a Spanish Paella and two desserts, a tres leches cake (three milks) and a flan (custard). My wife and I inhaled the Paella before I could get a picture of it. It was absolutely delicious. The rice was tasty, although overcooked just a tad, but it was full of seafood, peas, and carrots. For just eight bucks, I got a heaping plate of Paella that Azuca would probably charge about $24 for at the restaurant.

The Paella was made in a giant pan, probably about 36″ in diameter. It was gone in about 2 hours. La Marginal ran out of food seven times. The owner had to get his restaurant to keep bringing more food. My estimate is that the owner made in excess of $25k that afternoon. La Marginal also ran another booth out back serving fried food and roasted pork sandwiches. As much as I wanted some of this, too, I didn’t have the patience to stand in line again. There was another restaurant serving tapas, and a couple of other minor food sources, none of which I tried. The coffee was decent, the music was good, and the food was great. Maybe you’ll join me next time.

What is so special about pig, anyway?

30 11 2008

Special? May my ears never indulge such blasphemy, and may the infidels who utter such a question be anathema. I pray that my first attempt to roast a pig on December 20 may bless your palate and not rain curses on my household and the children of my grandchildren (um, you should pray, too).

I can think of nothing better to tease you with than to have you watch a short clip (about 9 mins.) of Anthony Bourdain’s show, “No Reservations,” where he visits Puerto Rico.  As he explains in the beginning of the show, this is not your typical tourist travel show. Bourdain sets out to find the real culture of a city or country. He gets away from the tourist traps and the kitsch and explores the places we wish we could visit. He gives you an insider’s view of people’s homes, how they cook, how they interact with their families and friends.  Bourdain sums up his visits not with quaint descriptions of monuments or places, but by identifying a culture or society by its people and their beliefs, and exploring those beliefs through their food.

Here is a quote from Bourdain that I think best sums up this video: “Some people watch porn.  I…watch men chopping pork.

What is your comfort food?

26 12 2007

What is comfort food? Everyone has their own definition, although some of you may not be familiar with the term. You know you’ve eaten comfort food when your brain says: “Oh man! That brings back memories.” For me, comfort food makes me relax, and it brings my guard down. It could be the food your mom makes, or that you remember eating at your grandma’s house. Its the food you serve yourself seconds of, or thirds. Its the “must have” food when you have returned home from a long trip.

For me, its Puerto Rican food. I was born in the U.S. and was raised as an Air Force brat, moving every three years or so to a different region of the States, or to a different country altogether. Both of my parents are Puerto Rican and they have lived in the U.S. ever since my dad joined the military. I’ve experienced different foods and different cultures, but nothing says “home” to me more than a plate of mom’s cooking. That never changed, regardless of the location. Although I’ve never lived in PR, the food is a part of my upbringing. Read the rest of this entry »

Beto’s Comida Latina: Caribbean/Mexican fusion

19 11 2007

I’m a sucker for Latin food. Its probably my heritage, but the food just tastes so darn good to me. On a recent trip to Puerto Rico, my wife and I visited Luquillo beach, a long stretch of beach in the shadow of El Yunque rain forest, unspoiled by hotels, and popular for its tranquil waters, palm trees, and local food. The beach is lined with about sixty food stands, Food stands at Luquilloall serving just about the same food, but each attracting its own share of beach-going families who return to the same exact eatery for one reason or another. The smells are incredible, and the food consists mainly of fried food, rice, seafoods, and beer (lots of beer). Which brings me to tell you about Beto’s Comida Latina.

Beto’s specialties are the empanadas – half-moon shaped pastry dough stuffed with various fillings and deep fried. At Luquillo, and all of Puerto Rico, for that matter, empanadas are the street food of the culture. As long as you have hot oil and a cooler full of empanadas and beer, you’re in business. Read the rest of this entry »