Tuesday, December 29, 2009

La Catumba

la catumba

If you're on the western side of the island and you're craving for traditional Puertorican food, there is a place I  recommend:  La Catumba.  It's in the hills of Cabo Rojo.
La Catumba is a small traditional neighborhood store, which is also a bar, and a restaurant on Sundays and holidays.
harry the chef

La Catumba has been roasting pork for over 28 years, and along with it they also serve arroz and gandules, or rice and pigeon peas and pasteles.   That's all they serve and folks from as far as San Juan visit to dine.
  Pasteles has no English translation because it's a food that has been inherited since the times of the Taino Indians.  Pasteles are made from ground roots, or green bananas wrapped in banana leaves and boiled.  Pasteles have a stewish mixture in the center and it is either pork, beef, chicken and at times cod fish.  Pasteles are the Eucharist of Puertorican culture.  A Christmas without pasteles is no Christmas at all.
The pasteles served at La Cantumba are made from Cassava, which some folks call yuca; and green bananas.
ruben Sanchez

 Ruben Ramirez, the owner,  met us as we arrived and treated me like a long lost friend.  He shared with me coquito, Puertorican Eggnog with moonshine ( or rum) and Chichaito, a mixture of Anis liquer, honey and rum. And then he pulled out 3 pasteles for my son, my wife and myself, and hmmmm, they were good.

He showed me his roasting process.  The pork is split and wired to a grill.  Coal is tossed along side and it is turned slowly, cooking with indirect heat.
roast pork

On the stove he had a huge pot of arroz and gandules and the pasteles were just coming out the water.
I met his master roaster, Harry Sanchez.  I asked Harry what time he woke up to start roasting.  He said he started roasting at 10 pm the night before and had not been to sleep yet.

 Ruben said the night before there was a paranda till 4 in the morning, and he had only time to go home shower and return to the restaurant to check on the roasting pigs.  A paranda is a communal singing activity.  It is much fun.  Singing is part of the Christmas bond in Puerto Rico.

14 pigs were to be roasted and most were already sold.   Ruben showed me his tables and the view overlooking a valley.  He lamented we arrived too late to see a troup  of monkeys crossing the valley.  They lived  nearby.

We took an order to go, and I did not know there was a waiting list.  Folks kept showing up, or calling and Ruben had to turn them away.   Ruben made sure we got our order and we took it home for our Christmas Eve Dinner.  I felt a little guilty for jumping in line.   I appreciate the way I was treated.  This is the country and Puertorican country folks, called Jibaros, are known for their warmth and generosity.
The food was delicious.  The pasteles had the flavor of Christmas in Puerto Rico.
Getting to La Catumba.  Many friends recommended La Catumba, but not one could tell me how to get there.
1-From Rincon PR, take 115 to highway #2 and take a right.
2-Take highway #2 to highway to highway 100.  It's right past the Mayaguez Mall.  Take that right.
3-Go down highway 100 to Camino Vincent Torres and take a left.
4-Take your first right on Pr 103.
5-Look for a bakery on your right.  The road next to it is Pr 300, take a left.
6-Go straight.  When you get to a fork in the road, take a left.  There is a sign that says Catumba, but it's the size of a license plate.  This road is called Camino La Capilla. (Church road)
7-When you get to the next fork in the road, take a right, and you're about a minute away.
Check out this Google Map of La Catumba
Remember to call before you visit to reserve your food.  Ruben's number is 787-943-9570.  Tell him Luis from Rincon sent you.

Monday, December 28, 2009

San Juan Puerto Rico Christmas Spirit

We went to Old San Juan on Christmas day.   From Rincon it's only a 2 hour drive if there's no traffic.  We arrived around 7 am.  The streets were empty and cold.  Not even the pigeons  were moving.
We shot photograph after photograph.  There were a few homeless persons already asking for money.   We gave out a few Christmas dollars.
Around 10 am we heard singing in the distance: Christmas Carolers.
We found them singing and giving out food.  They sang near the parks where homeless slept.  This church group returns every Christmas.  We followed them for a few songs.  They sang traditional Puerto Rican Christmas songs and gospel music with Spanish lyrics.
Their singing invoked the Christmas spirit to Old San Juan.

Puerto Rico

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Mayaguez 2010 Plaza Colon

Plaza Colon

Recently we visited Plaza Colon in the center of Mayaguez City.  There was an activity called:
HECHO EN PUERTO RICO: BEMBÉ CULINARIO Y COLAITO MUSICAL or rather Made in Puerto Rico, Culinary Dance and  the last phrase has no English translation because they're playing with words, but it means something like:  freshly brewed coffee musically or freshly brewed musically coffee.

stage at Plaza colon

The activity reminded me of plazas in Europe:  music and food under a perfect peaceful night; coffee conversations, a mellow crowd,  families strolling through the music, watching children playing.  This could have been any plaza in Spain, but it wasn't.  It was Mayaguez, Puerto Rico.  Rarely have I spent a night like this in the past 20 years in Puerto Rico. 

 magical night
Several restaurants offered samples of food and wine, but it was the music of Mijo de la Palma which made the night magical.
Mijo stage
They started late, but their music drifted like a the aroma of light floating through the night's breeze:
hypnotic and  peaceful.  It was a night I thought about for many days. 
 Mayaguez 2010

   January 7, 2010 they'll return to Plaza Colon.  7 pm.  Come see for yourself.

"MIJO en Directo" has 7 songs and is available for a $25 money order to:
Melvin Lopez (composer, guitarist and singer) P.O. Box 272, Rincón,
Puerto Rico, 00677.
Note: Mijo has offered to do a free concert in Rincon's Plaza either January 2, 3rd or the 9th.
Rincon's Tourist office is closed, is there anyone reading that can help facilitate communication with Rincon's Tourist office?


Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Cabo Rojo National Wildlife Refuge

Cabo Rojo National Wildlife Refuge is located on the southwestern side of Puerto Rico in the municipio of Cabo Rojo. It was established in 1974, when lands were obtained from the Central Intelligence Agency. There has always been strange rumors of flying saucers and top secret government programs operating here.  There are also rumors of UFO bases and alien abductions.
I asked the folks at the Lighthouse and at the welcome center about this.  Everyone smiled as though they were in on a joke, but no one eye witness to anything strange.
They did mention a pair of young flamingos appearing during the summer.  They said this couple was white and was easily mistaken for egrets.  But after 4 months of dining on the shrimp in the area, they became pink.


Saturday, December 19, 2009

Cabo Rojo Light House

We returned to the Light House in Cabo Rojo.  The Lighthouse makes a great day trip.  It's less than an hour from Rincon and half an hour from Mayaguez.  Take your time and soak up the scenery along the way.  Bring water and your hiking shoes.  There is a quarter mile hike from the parking lot to the lighthouse.  Take your bathing suit as well.  
 There's a beach, Playa Sucia which is considered one of the best beaches on the island.  The limestone cliffs drop around 200 feet, and just thinking about stepping to the edge gives me the hebe-jeebies.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Secret Garden Art Gallery

The Secret Garden has a new walk through video.  I did  the gardens, it's fun getting lost in plants.  Recently my neighbor cleared his lot, and this has brought in much sun from a new angle.  Our jungle surrounding the art gallery will grow.
Rincon Puerto Rico

Monday, December 14, 2009

Rincon PR Farmers Market

Rincon has its own organic farmer's market every 1st and 3rd Sunday of each month.  They offer all sorts of goodies and each time I go I spend too much.  I picked up Christmas gifts for my wife and her sisters: home made soaps with awesome aromas and a few great tasting jellies.  I found turmeric rhizomes- wow.  Turmeric has all sorts of great properties, one of which is anti-inflammatory.  I take the pill form, but fresh is always better.  I bought a bunch so I planted it in my yards.
I tried a veggie yucca lasagna and drank a juice made from toasted sesame seeds and pumpkin seeds.
It bothered me that when I returned for a second piece of  yucca lasagna it was all gone.
This past summer I picked up exotic ginger plants whose flowers looked like wax sculptures.
December 20th is the last Sunday before Christmas.  If you haven't gotton all your presents it's your excuse to visit the market.  After 9:30 is good, because you want to arrive just after they've set up.  By early afternoon almost everything is gone.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Happy Holidays

This is Fluffy, our one eyed white dog.  I have 5.  He's the calmest dog I know.   My wife at times doesn't believe he's a dog, because he rarely barks.  He's so calm I had to speed up this video 225% to give him some life.
The other day there was a cat in the yard and we heard the dogs barking and we didn't recognize Fluffy' s bark.  I told my wife "You see, he really is a dog."
She thinks he'd be happier if he barked more often.  But he is happy, he just doesn't have anything to say.
He likes mirrors, and sometimes he can spend hours in front of one if we let him, but we don't.  Fluffy wasn't always so beautiful.  We found him on the side of the road.  He was so small  I could hold him in one hand and he was full of fleas and a nasty rash.
Fluffly is a gift.   We'll share him with you.
Peace and prosperity to you in the coming year.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Rincon Puerto Rico on CNN

rincon puerto rico CNN
I write occasional articles and post videos on CNN iReporter.  This week they contacted me and asked permission to use my video for cable broadcasting.  It was a video I shot, and my son edited music into it.  This is the link: Rincon PR Surf Capital of the Caribbean

Rincon PR CNN Video

I've been shooting with a Lumix GH1, a fine camera that shoots in full high definition.  It has been a month now, and the more I shoot the more I learn how to use it.  The surfers I shot were about 100 to 150 yards away, yet this camera was able to get a good sense of them.
When I thought  about why they liked this video, I can see it tells a 40 second story.  Opening shots of waves, panning left to a group just entering the water.  These are surfing students from a local surf school.  The music underneath the video creates tension.  Everyone is focused on the waves, then I shot surfers riding waves.  Every time I see this I feel it's too short and it leaves me wanting more.  I follow my intuition so I'm going to combine the second part and add a third for a longer  clip.  I shot about two hours.
I've added the video below.  Check out my Youtube Channel: Puerto Rico Villa Orleans and subscribe.  I have about 45 videos up, and I'm working on editing a project on Mayaguez 2010.

Surfing Capital of the Caribbean

Monday, December 7, 2009

Happy Burgers

 Rincon is called the Surfing Capitol of the Caribbean.  In the winter, during the day, the beaches surrounding Rincon come alive with waves.  I've seen them up to 30 ft.
Night, comes alive with the beach bar/music clubs.  There's a small place to eat, on Road 413, up in Puntas, PR.  It's called Happy Burger.

 Happy Burgers is one of those places you'll never see written about in travel magazines.  It's one of those places all the locals eat at.  It's not a fancy place.  It's almost on the road.  It's next to Brisas Bar.
But the food is delicious.  I'm not a food critic.  I like good food, and for the longest time my brother and other folks have been talking about the food at Happy Burger.  Their signature dish is a taco.  A taco?  A very good taco.  They cost $2.00 at taco happy hour, and $2.50 after that.   You can have either a corn or flour tortilla, with either beef or chicken.  I opted for the corn tortilla with with chicken.  What makes this dish special is that this taco has a thin layer of toasted corn meal on the outside which gives it a great flavor.  The chicken was tasty with sprinkled lettuce, tomatoes and cheddar.  It's served with a side order of sour cream.

Delicious Tacos

 I asked for hot sauce and they gave me this home made green chilli paste.  I like hot sauce that feels like an exploding fire cracker.   This paste is softer.  It's not warm when you bite into it, it's sort of sweet and tasty and then heats like music that's gradually turning up.
Trina and Sasha

I also tried their veggie burger.  It comes with a smile.  I was hoping to get their fish tacos.  Cause when folks talk about  Happy Burgers they mention their fish tacos in the same breath.  They serve a ton of other stuff, from shrimp plates, Cajun Chicken,  Chicken Wings and other varieties of sandwiches.
Their most expensive dish is $7.50.  One thing for sure, you won't break your budget, and you won't be disappointed.  They're open from 5 pm till 2 am.  You can order to go.  Call them: 530 318 5244

happy burger
It's a great late night place to eat in Rincon, Puerto Rico.

413 Puntas

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Mayaguez Farmers Market

I spent a few hours in the Farmer's market. It's a neat place. If you want the flavor of Puerto Rico you must visit the Farmer's Market. The produce and fruits are fresh and local.  The folks in the plaza are kind and friendly.  No one would cross my camera as I filmed.  I was given bananas and mango (and I don't know where they got it, Mango is not in season).  I offered to pay but my money was refused.
There were quite a few people there today.  There was a band outside playing Christmas music.  Santa Claus was there giving candy away.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Cheap Flights to Puerto Rico

Cheap flights to Puerto Rico

I just ran into a website that has cheap flights,  car rentals and hotels listed.  DoHop.com searches over 600 sources to find flight prices.  It took about 5 seconds to list these round trip flight prices.  And this site seems easy to use...... What??? $260 round trip from New York to Aguadilla?  That's cheap.
I checked out flights to San Juan but they seemed more expensive.
I tried looking for rental cars, but it said there were none available, but that can't be right.  Tourism hasn't boomed yet and I know there are car rentals in Aguadilla.
I searched for hotels, and found the cheapest beachfront hotel room at $157 per night for a room.  Our villa has 5 bedrooms and averages $125 per bedroom, but has a kitchen so you save money cooking.
Rincon Villas

Puerto Rico Beachfront Villa

Puerto Rico Villa for your beachfront vacation in the Caribbean.

New walk through video for Villa Orleans. I'm still experimenting with Final Cut Express and my Lumix GH1.  Villa Orleans is in Rincon, Puerto Rico

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Rincon Surfing Monument

Surfer Monument
I was in town yesterday and I noticed this statue.  It says on the bronze plaque:
"Welcome to Rincon, Capitol of Surfing."
Surfing brings life to Rincon.  Surfers are a myriad of persons from high schoolers to doctors, from teenage girls to middle aged women. We had a surfing reunion from a group of guys who'd surfed Rincon in the sixties.  The youngest in the group was 65.  Most were retired with grandchildren.  They hit the waves and partied like they were in college.  My neighbors complained about the men singing in the water at 3 o'clock in the morning.
Surfing brings brings life to the restaurants, hotels and bars.  In season I've had to wait for open tables in my favorite restaurants.  I like listening to music in clubs and having an occasional sunset beer at a beach bar.  I like the feel of new life in Rincon.  I don't mind waiting.  It gives you an opportunity to chat and I've met folks from all over the states.
This statue recognizes the importance of surfers for this community.  We've got to protect the beaches so future surfers return. 

  There's a Surfrider Fundraiser Friday,  December 4, 7pm @ Rum Shack in The Lazy Parrot.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Surfrider FundRaiser

Live at Rum Shack in the Lazy Parrot!

Surfrider Fundraiser
Friday night, December 4, 2009
The Surfrider Foundation is a non-profit grassroots environmental organization dedicated to the protection and enjoyment of our world’s oceans, waves and beaches.