This past weekend I attended the 2nd annual Puerto Rican food festival, Saborea Puerto Rico: A Culinary Extravaganza, at Escabrón Beach in San Juan. As I headed down to La Isla del Encanto I began to think about the food that reminded me of my family, childhood and roots. I came to the conclusion that I've been bombarded with so many different dishes, fusions and cooking techniques, that I’ve sort of ignored and neglected the food that I grew up loving.
It seems right to establish and promote Puerto Rico as the “Gastronomic Capital of the Caribbean.” This beautiful island filled with fresh seafood and plentiful agriculture has specialized in a cocina criolla—dating back to the 1500's—that is full of flavor, unique and distinct.
The event was even better than the last, featuring acclaimed Boricua chefs like Efraín Cruz, Exec Chef of Gran Meliá PR Resort, Robert Treviño of Budatai, and Mario Pagán of Lemongrass, just to name a few. What was more impressive were the non-Latinos attending the event, like Mr. Chocolate himself, Jacques Torres, and Iron Chef Cat Cora. The cooking demos were great, pairing a Puerto Rican chef and non-Latino chef to cook a meal! My faves were the rabbit in chocolate sauce created by Efraín Cruz and Jacques Torres, and Cat Cora and Robert Treviño’s yummy crab cake sandwiches. The best part of all was being at the tasting pavilion and having the opportunity to try dishes from 50 of Puerto Rico’s best restaurants while learning all about local spirits and wine of the island like Bugalú Puerto Rican rum, and PR's own brewery, Old Harbor. Who knew?!
This food festival meant more to me than just great food—it was chance for me to reconnect with the food I grew up knowing and loving. Saborea Puerto Rico is doing a great job of introducing the exciting culinary adventures happening on this tiny island in the Caribbean. Before you know it, there is bound to be a world wide love affair with the cuisine of La Isla Borinquen.