Wednesday, 18 December 2013

Flavours of San Juan - Food Tour

My first day in Old San Juan and what am I doing - searching out food (naturally)! One of the best ways to taste your way through a city (if you are short on time) is to do a  food tour of the city you are visiting and there just so happens to be a fabulous one here in OSJ.  I managed to book myself on the Flavours of San Juan evening tour and met our small group at Carli's.   I'm in luck too as a new local foodblogger Myriam has joined the tour.  The great thing about this food blog (one of many great things) is that it is blogged in English.  Go check her blog out (PReats) - it's full of fantastic reviews, tips and local eats!

So, we start at Carli’s Fine Bistro & Piano (Carli was a muso with the Beach Boys for many years) and sampled three morsels - salted cod fish fritter with a spicy mayo , tostone with ceviche (scallops and prawns) and pumpkin fritters with squash. These were delicious and had our taste buds wanting more. 

salted cod fritter, tostone with ceviche and pumpkin fritter

Our group is small and our guide, Victor is an awesome guide and is very passionate about the architecture, the history and culture of the town (he is currently studying to be an architect). Seeing the differences between the Spanish and French buildings was good (I would never have really noticed the difference).

Next stop was Cuatro Sombras and I have to say some of the best coffee I have ever tasted. Single origin, handpicked and dried in the sun, it is roasted and ground on site.  It was a medium bodied coffee and had an amazingly smooth, soft caramel undernote -oh don't I sound like a connoisseur? Not really, but it was a fantastic shot of java - and a tip from the locals have it with brown sugar!

Cuatro Sombras coffee
Wandering the streets on our way to the next venue, we walked past the narrowest house in the world, San Cristobel Church (which isn’t open very often) and down through the shopping streets. 

narrowest house in the world

We arrived at a mask shop which is also Café el Punto for alcapurrias. These are 'similar' to an empanada and are probably one of the most eaten snacks in San Juan. The pocket is made from shredded green plantain and a type of taro made into a dough with seasoned meat inside, then deep fried (like everything in Puerto Rico). They were tasty and piping hot but a little oily for my tastes.

alcapurrias - most eaten street snack in San Juan
Now onto the home of the Pina Colada. We arrived at Barrachina’s where it is reputed to have originated from – however some believe it was discovered at the Hilton. This is a very debatable topic and not one I am going to get into here.  I don’t know which place invented the drink and I don’t really care – it was a good pina colada and this place can sell 1,000 glasses a day! My only gripe is that it's premixed in the churners to freeze, however seeing that they sell that many a day I can forgive them!

It was time for our dinner stop (as if we haven’t had enough to eat) and Rosa de Tiana which is housed in a room at the beginning of the old tunnel system that can be found under the city is the spot to dine. It’s a small, dimly lit restaurant with arched roofing and tiled floors.

Inside and the courtyard at Rosa de Tiana

We are here to taste the famous Mofongo, which is fried mashed green plantain with any number of meats and stews. Here we get our own pilon (mortar and pestle) to mash our own plantains, which is heavily laced with roasted garlic and lashings of butter – the aroma has me drooling as I mash away. It is served with a chicken stew. It’s absolutely divine. Comfort food in a wooden bowl! We devour it!

before, during the mashing and the end result

After a walk through the old gates and along the waterfront and old fort, we wander along Paseo de La Princesa promenade where there are some small stalls selling local products.  We stop at the 'sweet' stall just have to have a look (really) - filled with coconut sweets and snacks - I decide to come back here later. 

sweets galore

To the finish off our tour we arrive at Café de Princessa, an outdoor café along the promenade, lit with fairylights.  It's a romantic spot for a coffee or a bite of dessert. Of course we finish off with flan made with coconut and a side of guava sauce.  The sauce is sticky and sweet and the flan is smooth and custardy.

coconut flan

If you enjoy the local food scene I can highly recommend this food tour. It offers a taste of many local dishes and with the history, architecture and culture aspect it was very educational too. (* but I just came for the food.....really).

1 comment:

  1. What an amazing food tour! And now I really want to try an alcapurrias!