Monday, July 6, 2009
Feasting on Cobblestones
I’m typing this still slightly buzzed from our three day orgy in San Juan Viejo (Old San Juan). Now don’t blush.. not that kind of orgy… PuLeeze - after 18 years, the only extra there’s room for in this relationship is new restaurants. Hence the indulgent anniversary extravaganza to OSJ.
The trip had only one stipulation: nada traditional Comida Criollo. We have nothing but fine examples of it over in the Porta del Sol. No, this was to be strictly cuisine we cannot normally have by reason of ingredient or technique. Over three days of architectural and historical wonderment we had nine meals. Of those, these were really memory making:
Breakfast at La Bombonera, (259 Calle de San Francisco)
Cavernous, fluorescent lit, replete with formica and vinyl. A little care-worn. PACKED with patrons. Why? - Mallorcas - a testament to the power of Sweet and Salty. Fresh, lightly eggy bread, buttered. Layered with a bit of ham and cheese. Griddled till gold, pressed hot and melty. Dusted with powdered sugar. Cheap. Heaven on a plate, sugar dust in my lap.
Lunch at Pikayo, (Museo de Arte, Santurce)
Having been three times in under a year, we are no longer making visits, but pilgrimages. Replete with fabulous, beautifully presented food in a spectacular room, each has been a treat.
Highlights of this meal included an appetizer special of squid and chorizo in a light broth of cilantro, butter, garlic and white wine with slices of crisp green asparagus. A meaty and tender hunk of swordfish with a slick of tamarind fruit glaze and a crispy pan fried snapper fillet bathed in a smoky paprika sauce. For dessert we were sharing the ethereal chocolate soufflé. Instead of bringing the normal portion with two spoons, the kitchen very thoughtfully prepared two petite soufflés and presented them individually with small shots of crème anglaise. A nice touch. Bourbon Man, (a.k.a. my husband), had his usually menu-perusing drink, followed by bottled water. I was drinking Spanish Cava that I never learned the name of. A by-the-glass recommendation of the waiter; light and dry and well paired with the meal. But then again, wine with lunch is just about my favorite “on vacation” signifier.
Dinner at Trois Cent Onze, (311 Calle Fortaleza)
The Moorish tile and glass rosette on the front of the building only hint at what lies inside – a really pretty and comfortable dining room and one of the most well-prepared meals we’ve shared. One word to sum up the food, décor and staff? Genuine. The food, flawless without being precious. The décor, alluring without being pretentious. The staff, warm and helpful without being intrusive.
We enjoyed everything, especially:
Foie gras laced with raisins, honey and served with brioche toast. A Caribbean lobster tail broiled, split and sauced with a champagne beurre blanc. Lovely little rack of lamb, perfectly cooked medium rare and accompanied by a salpicon using local squash that’s been cubed and baked with broth, butter and herbs, finished with a touch of cream. For dessert we shared the crème brulée of the day - a nutty, sweet pistachio. Capped off by an outstanding glass of Sauternes.
A delicious and flawless evening -- very nearly worth waiting 18 years for!
“For years my wedding ring has done its job. It has led me not into temptation. It has reminded my husband during parties that it's time to go home. It has been a source of relief to a dinner companion. It has been a status symbol in the maternity ward.” - Erma Bombeck