What a great day! Saborea Puerto Rico, a Culinary Extravaganza took over the grounds of el Parque del Tercer Milenio in San Juan. Hundreds of people from all corners of the island, the US and beyond arrived to the Saborea village to enjoy a sunny afternoon of food tastings, cool drinks, and entertainment.
The Saborea Puerto Rico village included the following pavilions, in addition to the main tasting area:
- Beverages Pavilion
- California wines tasting area
- Coffee and Sweets Pavilion
- Local Products Showcase (new for 2013)
- GE Monogram Demo Kitchen Theater
- Sponsor tents
We spent most of the time hanging at the main pavilion and the Demo Kitchen, although we took a break to enjoy the California wines distributed by Ambrosia Fine Foods & Wines. The showcase for local products was especially fun. They had everything: Artisanal cheese, spirits, sweets, condiments… The sponsor tents had additional seating area, music, and other amenities.
Main Tasting Pavilion
Out of the thirty stations from the restaurants and the culinary academies, these three dishes stood out:
- La Casa in Royal Isabela’s dorado crudo on top of a melonball with artisanal olive oil and merlot salt
- BLT’s braised short ribs on top of a creamy polenta made with mascarpone and truffle essence
- Zest’s Israeli couscous arroz con pollo and the marinated octopus bites
I’m not sure if there will be changes in the restaurant lineup for tomorrow, but hopefully I can taste these delicious bites again. Other memorable dishes include the ceviche from Perurrican in Condado, a tasty fritter with smoked pork from Marullo’s Art Cuisine in Aguada, and a risotto with gandules from Lola Eclectic Cuisine in Ponce.
The GE Monogram Kitchen Demo Theatre was the place to be during the afternoon. Chef Denisse Oller and Chef Roberto Treviño worked the crowd and gave terrific play-by-play of all the cooking action up on stage. Chef Steven McQueeny broke out the molecular gastronomy toys for a very unusual take on paella. Our friend Jimmy Carey traded his chef whites for a bright orange Puerto Rico t-shirt and prepared a grouper filet with root vegetable mash and limón criollo emulsion. His demo companion, chef Fernando Parrilla made fresh lettuce wraps, very suitable for the hot day.
I was very lucky to be invited to taste the dishes prepared by two fabulous “expat” chefs: Giovanna Huyke (“roll wave roll!“) and Héctor Santiago. Giovanna prepared a seared tuna steak with fantastic ájili-mójili on top of a zapote purée. The tuna was topped with nísperos (loquats) lightly sautéed in the same olive oil as the fish and it was all pulled together by a tasty slaw with jalapeños. Chef Santiago prepared a melt in your mouth fantastic goat stew on a spicy sauce. It was served with a bright pink plantain and beet mofongo and a pickled squash blossom. I’m still grinning – it was fantastic to be up there, tasting these great meals. Two of my table companions were representatives from the Puerto Rico Department of Agriculture, and I learned a little about their strategies for making local products even more accessible to restaurants and the general public.
Enjoying food is infinitely better when you are surrounded by great company. I finally got to to meet Madelyn Rodriguez from Karma Free Cooking. She’s a dynamo! We had a very animated conversation about food blogging and communities. We will definitely be collaborating in the near future. I also talked a lot with Paulina Salach and Gustavo Antonetti, the team behind Spün Food Tours and the upcoming Puerto Rico Restaurant Week. They are committed to promoting Puerto Rico as the ultimate foodie paradise and their enthusiasm is contagious.
Saborea Puerto Rico continues on Sunday, April 7th starting at noon at the Parque del Tercer Milenio. Tickets can be purchased on site or online at TicketCenter. The Saborea 2014 dates are out as well. Mark your calendars for April 3rd to 6th for another fantastic weekend of seaside gastronomy.
Great Food 360˚ was granted a press pass to attend the Saborea Puerto Rico Village on April 6th and 7th. All opinions expressed are my own.