Al Dente is one of the loveliest places in the Old City, offering exquisite Italian cuisine in a colonial Spanish setting. This unpretentious restaurant has a decor that evokes a trattoria similar to those found in Palermo, Italy. One might sample the scallops on a bed of spinach, gnocchi with pesto, or well-seasoned calamari. The chef also makes his own desserts, including cheesecake, tiramisu and chocolate tortes. More
A Puerto Rican Christmas is a grand and wonderful thing, and it lasts until January 6, Three Kings Day (although a few diehards string it out a bit longer than that). Three Kings is a special time to be on the island, and if you want to take advantage, check out what the San Juan Marriott Resort & Stellaris Casino has on offer.
The resort's Three Kings' Day package is based on the number three. As in, you get the third night free; daily breakfast for three at La Vista Latin Grill; and three traditional Puerto Rican gifts: a bottle of coquito, a musical instrument used in local festivities and local candy. The package costs $333/night when you stay between January 2-12. In addition, the Three Kings themselves will make an appearance, handing out cookies and gifts on January 6.
A three-night stay is required (with the third night free). You can book online with the promo code XMA.
I covered SoFo already; now it's time to cover the rest of the December calendar of events in Puerto Rico. And there's a whole lot to cover!
Let's start with the food festivals; in addition to SoFo, there are two more culinary events around the island this month. Saborea!, my favorite food fest of all, is hosting its first winter edition at the Courtyard By Marriott in Isla Verde. And a Sangria festival uncorks in Ponce later this month.
If you're interested in culture, let's start with Tchaikovsky's Christmas classic, The Nutcracker, which comes to the Luis A. Ferré Center for Performing Arts. Then there's the Hatillo Masks Festival, which gives you more local flavor and folklore.
Shopaholics will prefer two other events: the Shopaholics bazaar at the Puerto Rico Convention Center in San Juan, where fashion is on sale for less than $50 per item, and the Hecho en Puerto Rico fair, which features local arts and crafts.
Baseball lovers will want to check out a soccer game, because it will be played by some of MLB's current and former greats, like Albert Pujols, Robinson Cano and Roberto Alomar.
Oh, and there's Christmas, of course. This holiday lasts weeks, literally lights up the island, and features its own menu, traditions imported from the Old World, and plenty of local revelry. And finally, Puerto Rico knows how to celebrate, so you can imagine what New Year's on the island will be like. Stay tuned to my blog as we get closer to the date. I'll have the rundown of where to go and who's throwing the best parties.
It's the day after Thanksgiving, so you're probably not all that interested in hearing about food. But I've learned to give my readers as much lead time as I can when it comes to the biannual SoFo Culinary Festival.
This Old San Juan tradition takes place on South Fortaleza Street (or SoFo, for short), a section of the old city that is known for its excellent dining options. From Asian fusion to old-world Spanish to nouveau Caribbean, you can find a variety of gourmet eateries clustered along the end of this road, right before Plaza Colón.
Some of my favorite restaurants are here, and for SoFo, the street closes to vehicular traffic and becomes an open-air block party; restaurants set up outdoor stalls and tents where visitors can sample their dishes and drinks. There's no entrance fee, and the party goes on all day and well into the evening.
Among the eateries that participate at SoFo are:
- Dragonfly - Asian-Caribbean restaurant with ridiculously good duck nachos and other tasty fusion foods.
- The Parrot Club - Caribbean flavors served up with inventive twists and an extensive, creative drink menu (they're known for their mojitos, in particular)
- Toro Salao - Spanish tapas and main courses with a little Puerto Rican thrown in for good measure.
- Aguaviva - Seafood reinvented, with an outstanding ceviche menu, oysters that I have to try every time I visit, and a friendly, casual vibe.
Plan now to be part of Sofo Winter 2013!
Whether you're in Puerto Rico, dreaming about Puerto Rico, planning to go to Puerto Rico, or fondly remembering Puerto Rico, I want to wish you all a wonderful Thanksgiving. (I'm assuming it's one of the above or you wouldn't be reading this.)
And if you do happen to be in Puerto Rico and want to take advantage of Black Friday deals, I recommend checking out the flash sales at Premium Outlets just outside of San Juan. Their after-Thanksgiving flash sale includes some pretty good deals, like 60% off everything at Aeropostale, 50% off everything at Banana Republic factory store, and 30% off everything at the Polo factory store.
You might also want to take a stroll through Old San Juan, where you'll find factory stores by the piers and along Cristo and Fortaleza Street. Guess, Ralph Lauren, Dooney & Burke, and Custo Barcelona are among the retailers here.
As we say in Puerto Rico, Feliz Día de Acción de Gracias a todos!
As we come upon Thanksgiving, we think of family, friends, food and (let's face it) Black Friday deals. But as someone who has adopted this holiday as my own, never having grown up with the concept of Thanksgiving, I think the history behind it is just as important, just as special. And although I recently read an interesting article on some of the myths we commonly hold as facts about this day, we can't argue that the first Thanksgiving as we know it was the result of a great kindness. And for that, we have the native Wampanoag tribe to thank.
In my studies and research for my books, I've found a similar pattern of generosity among many native tribes of Mexico, the Caribbean and South America. Which brings me to the Taíno, the people who greeted Columbus in 1493. And in honor of the native peoples of the New World who welcomed the foreigners when they first arrived on their shores, I thought I'd share something about who the Taíno were. To this day, Puerto Ricans are proud of their Taíno heritage, which can be found in the local language, food and cultural fabric of the island.
Were they at the first Thanksgiving table? No, of course not. But they, like so many native peoples across the Americas, were here when a new race of men came upon them. And they were kind to them (Columbus even commented on their generosity). And for that, I am thankful.