Recently we headed to Puerto Rico with (we admit) vague ideas of sun, sand and rum drinks. We returned all wide-eyed and “who knew?”—giddy with excitement over this island’s fresh and innovative flavors, which we sipped and dined on with pleasure.
Nearly every bar or restaurant we visited offered its own specialty cocktail—a creative concoction that usually starred rum. From light and icy fruit frappés served beachside to Martini-style drinks and sangria that enticed us into the pulsating city nights, we’ve rarely seen so much panache in a glass.
The food had us reeling as well. With its African and Spanish influences combined with the island’s own ingredients, the dishes were a blend of fresh and fried, spicy and cool, starchy and sweet.
To pair with our house cocktails and the upcoming outdoor season, we created three appetizers and one dessert as a tribute to the Puerto Rican cuisine that inspired us. We also came up with easy and fun ways to outfit your table. Sea shells, banana leaves, hibiscus flowers, orchids, limes, paper umbrellas and a little bit of turbinado sugar or sand are all you need to transport you and your guests to the tropics.
- Banana leaves: Visit your local florist, World Market or Pier One for large banana leaves that can serve as placemats.
- Turbinado sugar: Fill glasses with turbinado sugar for the look for sand. Top with paper umbrellas from Pier One or asianideas.com
- Orchids: The ultimate in luxury, look for sprays of orchids at your grocery’s floral department.
- Limes in glasses: What could be simpler that stacking a few vivid green limes in a clear glass vase.
- Bamboo knot skewers: Available from World Market (worldmarket.com)
By Lisa Holderness and Wini Moranville, food writers in Des Moines, Iowa.