Sunday, December 31, 2006

Eating in Ponce

The day after we arrived in Puerto Rico, we drove across the mountains to Ponce, on the south coast of the island, to stay at the Hilton. I had a sudden moment of concern that we were contributing to Paris's inheritance. But then The Boy reminded me that, because his cousin worked at the hotel, we were getting a fabulously reduced rate ($50 a night plus 50% off food), so really we were ripping her off. I felt so much better.

The food was largely excellent--a massive breakfast buffet of fresh fruit juices, hambaconsausage, omelettes to order, pastries, etc etc etc. I was delighted to find Swiss muesli, which is generally overpriced in supermarkets, so despite some noises of surprise (no corned beef hash? No homefries?), I had a huge bowl of the stuff, with fresh papaya and pineapple. Luxureh!

The dinner buffet was equally varied and fab, and included whole fried red snapper, lechon (por supuesto), churrasco with chimichurri, salt-cod stew with cornmeal topping, arroz mamposteao, oxtail stew, plus all manner of salad fixins (including white asparagus, anchovies, hearts of palm, artichokes), plus a mountain of desserts (flan, tembleque, arroz dulce, even Stollen).

But the good food wasn't limited to corporate catering. We visited The Boy's aunt Rosin, who'd made grilled tenderloin stuffed with ham and roasted red pepper (and rice and beans and salad and so on). And we went to call on The Boy's mom's cousins, who were having a birthday party for another relative--a funny, lively guy who had just turned 83--and had some incredible fried pork topped with a warm salsa of avocado, bacon, shallots and tomato.

Maybe it's just that the combination of flavors is different, or maybe it's because everything tastes better when it's fried, as pretty much everything is in Puerto Rico--but I can honestly say I've never had a meal I didn't like. If I stayed longer than ten days, I'd become a blimp.

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