Sunday, April 2, 2017

PUERTO RICO: LUNCH AT A LECHONERA ON PORK HIGHWAY

On Day 2 of our trip, we discovered that even in a parking lot, Puerto Rico's flora and fauna is exceptional. Check out the anole's ragged toes. I'd recommend a pedicure:

Our first stop was the Levittown Ward of the Toa Baja Puerto Rico Stake. The service, though conducted in Spanish, was wonderfully familiar:

Then we headed due south on Highway 184 towards a little town named Guavate, a distance of about 30 miles, much of it on narrow, winding roads. 

As we left the city, we passed this cyclist being pushed along by a guy on a motorcycle.  Now THAT'S my kind of cycling!




So why drive up a windy road to a little town in Puerto Rico's hill country? One word: lechoneras (or a few more English words: slow-cooked-pig-on-a-spit restaurants).

This YouTube video features Bizarre Foods TV personality Andrew Zimmern and his visit to Guavate, where he sampled lechon and called it "the best pork I've ever eaten in my life."

Bob had researched where to go and selected Los Pinos based on a recommendation by Anthony Bourdain, the host of the TV food show No Reservations:

There are about a dozen lechoneras lined up on both sides of the street in Guavate, and each one has an impressive window display of a roast pig. This is the pig in the Los Pinos window:

The skin of the roast pig looks (and tastes) like a thin leather handbag:

While the food may be exquisite, don't expect fine dining in a lechonera. It's more like a canteen with its open walls, picnic tables, and paper plates and plastic utinsels. 

Our group ordered a wide assortment of side dishes to eat along with the moist, fatty, rich, melt-in-your-mouth, kiss-your-diet-good-bye pork.

Bob ordered a bowl of liver stew. Okay, now that we've tried it, we never have to order it again, right?

The fried sweet potatoes were crispy and tasty:

. . . but the blood sausage falls in the same category as the liver stew:

I did love the "pigeon peas" and rice side dish. Pigeon peas are actually a bean that grows on a perennial bush:

We also had some potato salad that was good.

The desserts were unspectacular, especially in comparison to the flavorful meat, and included flan de queso (cheese flan) and tembleque, a coconut pudding dusted with cinnamon that is a traditional Puerto Rican dessert.

We got to Los Pinos at the beginning of the lunch hour, but by the time we left, the place was quite crowded. A band was setting up on a small stage in the dining hall, and it looked like there might be dancing starting up soon.  There was only one other group of non-natives in the room, which is a good indication of authenticity and quality. Guavate is a popular destination for puertoriquenos on the weekend.

Just as one ice cream stop was not enough for my ice cream-crazed siblings on the day prior to this one, one lechonera stop was not enough for my meat-crazed husband. Our second stop was at Bruny's--for no special reason other than that it was was readily available:

At Bruny's outdoor roasting and carving station, we had a much better view of the process:




Bob ordered pig cheeks and ribs, and if it's possible, I think this meat was even better than the meat from Los Pinos.

Having pigged out on pig just a bit too much, we wobbled back to the car and made our way back to San Juan. We spent another hour or two in the city before returning our car to the rental office and being shuttled to the port.

Our ride for the next week was this little boat, Royal Caribbean's Jewel of the Seas, capacity 2,501 passengers and 842 crew.
Photo from here

Boarding time was 4:30, so we had some good daylight hours for a round of miniature golf and some views of the New Town part of the city from the upper deck. I was shocked by how many skyscrapers there were. On another trip to Puerto Rico, we're going to have to go to this non-tourist part of the island.

There was at least one other cruise ship docked in the harbor, and dozens of sail boats were skimming past:


As night set in, we were loosed from our moorings . . .

. . . and off we went:



FIRST STOP: ST. THOMAS

2 comments:

  1. I probably only get to Guavate once, so why not try several and see how they are different and similar? The blood sausage was great, but I can see why you weren't thrilled with the liver stew. A great cultural and food experience.

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  2. This was an unexpectedly fun day with lots of good food.

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