01.03.2014 - 01.03.2014
One of the things we love about travel is eating local traditional food. Trying sometimes new foods and sometimes just the more authentic version. We came home from Thailand making Thai green curry and from Malaysia making noodles and satay sauces. We returned from Greece eating Greek yogurt over fruit with walnuts and honey drizzle; savory crepes; spanikopitas; and tzatziki. Italy inspired us to keep pasta and pizza simple. Cuba set us on tropical fruit for breakfast and rice with black beans. Most countries we visit inspire me to recreate some of their food in my own kitchen on a regular basis.
Well, I have to say, I had only two meals I actually enjoyed in Los Angeles which was a seafood gumbo and salad on Santa Monica Pier and 4 different styles of shrimp at Bubba Gump Shrimp Company, also on Santa Monica Pier. Our usual experience in all countries including New Zealand, is don't eat at the convenient beach front spot where all the tourists go. They generally have high prices, poor service, and crap food. They aren't aiming for repeat business. However, there the USA bucked the trend. My previous experience in the States was that they do an OK salad which topped with a decadent blue cheese dressing became a great salad, but otherwise the food was pretty darn average. That was my experience this time too, with the surprising exception of Santa Monica Pier. So I was looking forward to some good criolla (local) food when we got to Puerto Rico.
Now this I don't understand. On a tropical Caribbean island where fruit ( and vegetables) grow like weeds, we got eggs, ham, bacon, and a variety of bread options. No fruit. Not until our very last day when the fruit spread was incredible!!! And filter coffee. Yes filter coffee. Now I expected and accepted filter coffee in the USA because most Americans seem content with that, but those that know me, know I get pretty darn crabby without my espresso. Unfortunately (for Puerto Rico and for a coffee lover), Puerto Rico's economy is largely dependent on tourism from the USA, which means filter coffee is acceptable). So each day we set off in search of the elusive espresso machine. In New Zealand I have a "long black", which is meaningless anywhere else in the world. Americans have an "americano" which is a watered down version equivalent to a filtered coffee. The fun I've had throughout the world asking for a double espresso with a little extra hot water in all sorts of languages....... In Puerto Rico it tended to just be what we would call a "short black", a very small double espresso. It did the trick. But that and Sean's cafe con leche ( coffee with milk -requiring stipulation that the coffee was to be espresso not filter) set us back anything up to $10US and a good hour or two tracking it down.
Pretty much any meat with bread was available. Salad with it was not a given. Not very inspiring really.
Here the fun begins. Mofongo is the typical criolla. It's basically mashed banana, but a non sweet banana called plantain, stuffed with meat of some sort. Usually with a tomato and onion sauce which was quite tasty. It was OK. I wouldn't be able to make it at home due to lack of plantain but I'm not sure I was that inspired anyway. We had a couple of lovely meals, one at the first restaraunt at Esperanza on Vieques island called Bananas. The best mussels I've tasted, in a gorgeous spicy sauce, and mahimahi (fish) in a tropical mango sauce. I caved on the last night and ordered ceviche at a Peruvian place, because we always try to eat local but I just hadn't found any criolla really good enough and I did so love Peruvian food. Ceviche is a raw fish/seafood soup/salad dish. It's great when done well.
All in all, on the food front, a disappointing trip. I've not come home with any recipe inspiration at all. I did ask for the mussel sauce recipe but they said if they told me I wouldn't be allowed off the island........ It was tempting......
And I must state....... Real cheese back in the air New Zealand koru lounge was a real treat after 2 weeks of processed melted cheese on everything!