When visiting a country who’s primary language isn’t english, one may learn to ask where the bathroom is or how to order a cocktail in the resident language. While both are valuable to communicate, none compares to the desire to order food without being poisoned. During my week long stay in Puerto Rico, I was pleasantly surprised to find that “Comida sin gluten, por favor” was most effective in communicating my needs. I also found that a great deal of the local fare was naturally gluten free. And might I add, AMAZING!?
At a local restaurant in downtown Old San Juan, I had a tasty version on Escabeche with a tangy olive oil based sauce on fresh shrimp and calamari. At a quaint restaurant near our hotel I had Puerto Rican grilled pork chops. Everywhere I went I ordered tostones and sweet plantains. And my favorite meals came from our hotel, The Ritz Charles San Juan. I’m in awe of their preparation. Buffet lines were labeled gluten free, dairy free and vegetarian. Every chef I encountered knew, not only how to cook gluten free, but how to make some of the most delectable meals gluten free.
Most people think of room service as a last ditch effort to gain sustenance during moments when pizza can’t even be delivered. It’s not typically to find a gourmet meal that leaves you wanting more. I was fortunate enough to experience a room service meal that was unparalleled. According to a local bartender (who was extremely informative) plantains are used as a substitute for gluten based ingredients in many local dishes. This includes my room service meal, Lasagna. Layers of plantain were used in place of noodles to layer this thick casserole dish. As a result, I’m ordering a puerto rican cookbook and changing up some of our family meals to reflect much of the Puerto Rican cuisine.
From the weather, to the culture, sandy beaches and bright sunshine, the trip left me yearning for another week. It was Chef Simon Porter at the Mares restaurant in the Ritz that put the visit over the top. Not only did he create for me a lovely version of blueberry gluten free/rice free pancakes on the spot, but he also pre-prepared a gluten free/rice free version of a local delicacy for me, Guava Pancakes. They take forty-five minutes to create as they are infused with homemade guava paste. They are likely the most mouth watering treat I have ever had the pleasure of enjoying.
Feel comfortable traveling to Puerto Rico and know that if you take a suitcase full of granola bars with you, you will be paying to bring them home too.