Photo: Rick Martinez
|St. Germain Bistro & Café is an intimate corner restaurant found in Old San Juan in San Juan, Puerto Rico.
Puerto Rico foodies tour: Pork, plaintains, potatoes and rum
© 2012 Group Tour Media Blog,
June 15, 2012
By Rick Martinez
SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico — Pork, plantains, potatoes and Puerto Rican rum.
Is there anything else that one really needs when visiting Puerto Rico?
Well, OK, beaches, sunshine, a little poolside time, nightlife, natives and natural locales are a plus. But cuisine and spirits are key ingredients in embracing any local culture and truly getting to know the locals, at least for me.
My four-day visit in San Juan ended Sunday, having taken up the Puerto Rico Convention Bureau on an invitation to see how Puerto Rico puts its best efforts in hosting meetings, conventions and group gatherings.
The bureau’s slogan is “Puerto Rico Smooth,” and the travel media research trip — where I was accompanied by eight other editors and writers from across the U.S. — definitely lived up to its pre-visit promotion.
While the San Juan Marriott Resort & Stellaris Casino was my home, greater San Juan was my base for exploring Puerto Rico.
My first visit to the Caribbean island and U.S. commonwealth was engaging, to stay the least.
I got to embrace my Puerto Rican roots (full disclosure: those also include French-Canadian). I got to explore San Juan’s Condado and Old San Juan neighborhoods. I got to visit some distinctive lodgings and resorts. I got to see and learn about architecture, culture and heritage dating back centuries to Spanish explorers like Ponce de Leon and Christopher Columbus.
Besides the pleasant personalities of the people I met in Puerto Rico, what remains with me is the fare — food and beverages.
The food — native, local, Caribbean and fusion — was amazing and mouth-watering. The fruits and vegetables found on the island are coupled in many dishes with rice, pork, poultry, seafood and beef.
Jam, Budatai and La Concha — A Renaissance Resort’s Perla were the dinner destinations, with their fare a delectable mix of Caribbean, American, African, Spanish, Taíno, Asian and Italian influences with a Puerto Rican flair prepared by ambitious chefs pushing the criolla envelope.
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Photo: Rick Martinez
|Group tours of the Bacardi Rum Distillery in Cantaño, Puerto Rico, outside San Juan include details on the company's iconic bat logo.
Lunch was served on the upper-floor The Bellavista veranda of the Sheraton Puerto Rico Hotel & Casino while caressed by a San Juan Bay breeze; and in a progressive fashion on an afternoon walking tour of Old San Juan with Flavors of San Juan Food & Culture Tours, stopping in at Aromas Coffee House, Spicy Caribbee of San Juan, Rosa De Triana and St. Germain Bistro & Café.
Breakfast each morning was a simple delight at San Juan Marriott’s La Vista Latin Grill & Bar, with an Atlantic Ocean view and trade winds.
Also, being that we were in Puerto Rico, we had to sample at least some Puerto Rican rum because Puerto Rico is the Rum Capital of the World.
We stopped in at the Bacardi (pronounced Bah-car-dee) rum distillery in nearby Cantaño. Lucky us because we were visiting during Bacardi’s 150th anniversary year and got to go on a free tour of the Casa Bacardi Visitors Center.
The Bacardi tours are given every 20 minutes in English and Spanish, take about an hour and include tickets for two free rum samples. The tour guides, which include a bartender, share the considerable history of the Bacardi family and company from its humble Cuban roots to the present-day Bahamas-based spirits empire (which is considerable) and details how rum is made and what it’s good for (which is plenty).
Meanwhile, it seemed like everywhere we stopped, someone was ready to offer a rum-based Bacardi-and-Coke (or Pepsi, which is not embraced by Bacardi officials), Mojito, Pina Colada or Cuba Libre.
I’m not complaining. After all, this was my latest stop on a purely unintentional and unexpectedly eye-opening and rewarding Western Hemisphere spirits tour. Within the past couple months, I’d also had rather grand opportunities to sip Kentucky bourbons in Louisville and Michigan wines in Traverse City and on the Leelanau Peninsula.
Needless to say, my Puerto Rico stay was muy bueno and buen provecho indeed.
Rick Martinez is Editor of Group Tour Media.
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