Last Saturday, I had the pleasure of being invited to the Flavors of San Juan Food & Culture Tours. Being a local, I thought that there was not much more I could learn about Old San Juan, particularly since I worked there for some many years. Luckily, I was wrong.
I met up with the group at Carli’s Café Fine Bistro and Piano. When I arrived, the group was already seated at the bar and enjoying a trio of appetizers consisting of a Pumpkin fritter (Barriguita de Vieja), Ceviche topped plantain (Tostón con Ceviche), and Codfish fritter (Buñuelo de Bacalao). They were delicious and made us hungry for more.
After the group was done eating and chatting up a storm, our tour guide Victor escorted us outside to give us a little background on Puerto Rico’s politics. After concluding his explanation, we headed over to our second stop Café Cuatro Sombras, one of the best coffee houses in Old San Juan.
While we where there, Victor explained to the group that the coffee beans come from Hacienda Santa Clara in Yauco, thus, making it 100% Puerto Rican coffee as well as other details regarding its preparation.
It was now time for the best part: the tasting. The coffee was exquisite. It can be best described as a medium bodied coffee with a well-leveled acidity. The group was extremely pleased with the coffee and some even purchased a few bags to take back home.
After leaving Cuatro Sombras, Victor gave the group a bit of background on the architecture and history of Old San Juan. As Victor was giving his explanation, we were walking up Tetuan street and taking in the beautiful scenery and the spectacular sunset.
It was then that we arrived at our third stop Café El Punto. There the group was treated to one of our most adored foods: alcapurrias (ground beef fritters made from a mixture of yautía and green banana). You could tell they were made from scratch and were served to us immediately after frying. These babies were a huge hit with the group. Who can blame them? They are scrumptious!
For our fourth stop, we headed over to Barrachina, the birthplace of the Piña Colada. Although I must point out that to this day there is some dispute as to its true origin since both Barrachina and the Caribe Hilton Hotel claim they invented the creamy pineapple drink. I guess we will never find out the truth. I was a little skeptical as to how the drink would taste since they serve their Piña Coladas from a machine and not made from scratch by the bartender, but it was delightful!
Four our fifth stop, we headed up to Rosa de Triana were the group would attempt to make mofongo. After we were seated, we were each handed a Pilón, which is a mortar and pestle used to mash the fried plantains and seasonings that make the mofongo. It brought back memories of my childhood when I watched my great grandmother make this traditional Puerto Rican dish. As a plus, they gave us a side of chicken in creole sauce to top our mofongo and rice and beans. I was very surprised by the quality of the food since Rosa de Triana is a traditional Spanish restaurant, but they definitely did not disappoint!
The group was feeling pretty full by this point, but everyone agreed that there is always room for dessert, so we soldiered on. We walked down Paseo la Princesa as Victor gave us the history of our city walls. We then arrived at our final stop Café La Princesa to enjoy a decadent coconut flan.
At Flavors of San Juan, you can expect to be treated with the history of Old San Juan while enjoying authentic Puerto Rican food. As a plus, between each stop, you get to take in the sights and sounds of the Old City. Our tour guide Victor was friendly and knowledgeable (he had an answer to every question you could imagine). You could tell he had a passion for the Old City, its history, and the food. I can honestly say that the tour made me fall in love with Old San Juan all over again.
- Keep in mind that it is a three-hour walking tour, so make sure you wear comfortable clothing and shoes.
- Come hungry, it’s a lot of food.
- Let them know about food allergies and/or preferences ahead of time. I witnessed how they accommodated vegetarian guests.
For additional information or tickets visit their website.