Puerto Rico Rainforest

Site inspections usually consist of staying at a hotel property and then looking at countless suites and luxurious bathrooms! Occasionally, I manage a local visit to the countryside, the souks and the mosques; an ocean location also includes a mandatory swim or at least a toe dipped in any body of water. I was once discouraged from swimming in Lake Victoria in Tanzania when the Goliath size Monitor Lizards slithered toward the rocky shore of Bird Island. I understand they are vegetarians, however the thought of an encounter kept me on the power boat, toe dipping sufficed.

Puerto Rico sightseeing, besides the obvious sandy beaches, exceptional surfing at Isabela, and spectacular golf, should include a day of exploring in the deep green canopy. Hiking through the rain forest on the fairly well placed paths is magical and majestic.  I highly recommend a few hours amid the massive ferns, skyscraper height bamboo, beautiful songbirds, fragrant ginger and orchids the size of your hand. Trek up the hill early in the morning avoiding the afternoon heat and humidity.

El Yunque is the only sub-tropical rainforest in the continental US. The forest contains many unique plant species, the endangered Puerto Rican Parrot and enchanting chirping coquis (indigenous tree frogs). Formidable waterfalls, bottomless pools of water invite floating under the cascading falls.

My 60 year old guide, Francisco Robles, joked he was leading a couple of seniors into the rain forest, as he adeptly climbed over boulders, crawled under pounding waterfalls and pointed out obscure beetles and butterfly’s. When I made an observation, or attempted to communicate in Spanish, he would exclaim Es-actly! Yes, the s was pronounced instead of a z. I imagined hiking with Ricky Ricardo, his humor kept me trekking in the 80 degree heat and humidity. As he reminded, we are of a generation who live by the motto: Never Give Up. Es- actly!

Hiking  through the rain forest is as majestic as walking through stands of old redwoods. Embrace the majesty and be guided by a man with great knowledge and a sense of humor!



Mi Casa, Jose Andres. Dorado Beach Puerto Rico

Proclaimed as one of the world’s most highly celebrated chefs and stimulated by the Puerto Rico location, Mi Casa offers discriminating diners an epicurean dining experience.

The artfully crafted menu of locally caught seafood and avant-garde dishes make ordering a challenging experience. So many delicious descriptions, a foodie flock would be an advantage, sharing tapas. Small plates and featured entrees focus on farm-fresh ingredients, appetizing combinations and a novel signature style. Featured offerings emphasize redefined yet enticing classics, and decadent desserts showcase native fruits and flavors.

My evening repast commenced with a bartender appearing at my table to ascertain my cocktail preference. Did I desire a sweet concoction as a starter or would I like to open my digestive system with a specific spirit? Who ponders a drink selection in this manner? Here to appreciate a fine meal, Si, let’s open the digestive system. Based on my recent whim for Rye Manhattans, he described the Smoky Roy he would prepare. And deliver. Shockingly smoky and a delightful digestion device, scrumptious!

2 oz Laphroaig 10 Year scotch, .5 dry vermouth,  ½ oz Grand Marnier,  2 dashes of chocolate bitters,  2 dashes orange bitters,  Orange Zest – burn the outer skin- the juices flame a bit and stimulate a smoky sensation.

Marvelous introduction to the detail oriented meal to follow. My waiter, David, continued the specific counseling on my meal.

Jamon Iberico de bellota Fermin – challenging to find Iberico, always order! Legendary acorn-fed black footed Iberico pigs of Spain. Served with thin slices of olive oil bread spread with a grated tomato coulis. Savor, slowly.

Second course was an invitation to lick the plate, of course I resisted, but one of the best dishes of my life! Gambas al ajillo con mojo negro. Sautéed shrimp with shallots, arbol chile, poblano pepper lime and sweet aged black garlic. Over the top divine – not certain if the black garlic, which is apparently fermented garlic, makes the dish or if it is the combination. I haven’t figured out how to ferment garlic yet. Oh and corn nuts grated on top.

Pollo con datiles, amarillos y bacon. Seared chicken thigh with confit dates, ripe plantain puree and crispy bacon. Intending to investigate native dishes, plantain puree called out to me. Pureed plantains, delicate dates and topped with the thinnest strip of bacon, one could graze on pureed plantains every day. Seared and bound slices of chicken thigh with the combination of tender dates and rich chicken were exceptional.

I can usually semi duplicate a meal I’ve enjoyed, but I haven’t yet mastered even the cocktail. Fermented garlic, if you know the secret, please share. Otherwise, I will have to return to Mi Casa.

Executive chef Rudy Lopez from Los Angeles interprets and implements Jose Andres recipes.http://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/mcmurry/ritzcarltonmag_2013summer/#/106