December 2, 2018 - Last night, Silver Spirit remained overnight in San Juan, PR and, today we have booked the San Juan Culinary Walking Tour through Silversea's Shore Concierge.
We met with the rest of the folks on the tour, about 15 total, outside the cruise terminal building. We were greeted by Pablo Garcia, our local tour guide for the day.
As soon as everyone from the group arrives, we head off through the streets of San Juan. Along the way, Pablo was eager to point out the history of San Juan and the significance of the buildings we passed on the way to our first stop. Even though it is late morning, a stop for a locally-sourced cup of coffee sounds like a good idea.
Milletras, which translates to "thousand letters," is a locally-owned and operated coffee shop that specializes in artisan, hand-picked, single-bean-variety coffee and homemade pastries. We were each served a cup of latte and a pastry with a guava filling. The coffee was very mild and delicious.
Rickee is not a coffee drinker. In fact, before our visit to Milletras, she had never tasted coffee. What a great time to try something new!
We depart Milletras and walk a few blocks to our next restaurant, Hecho en Casa, for a traditional Puerto Rican dish: Mofongo.
Mofongo is made from green plantains, a cousin to the banana. Plantains are larger and typically less sweet than bananas and are a staple in Caribbean cuisine. To make Mofongo, green plantains are cut into pieces, deep fried, then smashed using a wooden mortar and pestle. Hecho en Casa is known to have the best Mofongo in San Juan. Each guest is served a bowl of Mofongo with chicken and a garlic cream sauce.
I have never tried Mofongo, and I loved it. The texture sort of reminded me of cornbread dressing. The next time we cruise into or out of San Juan, this is a place to which I would gladly return, and it is not a long walk from the port to this delightful restaurant. After our Mofongo, we walked less than a block to the next stop on our tour: Chocobar.
At Chocobar, our group got to sample delicious milk chocolate squares atop, of all things, cheddar cheese!
It sounds strange, but the flavors actually complement each other. The chocolate was so good that Rickee bought some to take home. Next, we each enjoyed a chocolate rum Martini which, too, was delicious and refreshing.
As we enjoyed our chocolate rum martinis, we had an opportunity to visit the art gallery located upstairs from Chocobar in which the works of local artists are displayed. After departing Chocobar, Pablo warned us that we may be walking a few blocks and offered cups of ice water to keep us hydrated.
The walk to Plaza de Armas, the main square, was not too far and when we arrived, Pablo shared with us the history of the square and the surrounding buildings.
I should also point out that it is a beautiful day with temperatures in the 80s. It is a great day for photos like the one of City Hall above. Our tour continues down to the waterfront where we learn even more about the history of San Juan. Then, it is time to cool off with a refreshing ice cream bar from Señor Peleta, a local ice cream shop. With ice cream bars in hand, we walk back along the waterfront to our final stop on the tour: Princesa Gastrobar.
At Princesa, our group gathered in a private room where Pablo educated us on Caribbean Sofrito, a blend of vegetables and spices used as a base in many Caribbean dishes. We were each treated to a refreshing Mojito made with rum, mint, sugar and club soda and enjoyed a bowl of stew made with chickpeas, grouper, rice and, of course, Sofrito. Another delicious treat!
After our meal, some guests decided to do some walking on their own in town while Pablo guided a few of us back to Silver Spirit, even though you really cannot get lost in San Juan. Once back at the cruise terminal, we said goodbye to Pablo, vowing to meet up with him again on a return visit to San Juan.
We have been fortunate to do quite a few culinary tours, and, this was one of the best, largely due to Pablo. His extensive knowledge of San Juan and Caribbean history, along with his enthusiastic delivery style, made it fun to learn. You can tell he truly enjoys what he does and is proud to introduce visitors to venues that are locally owned and serving locally-sourced food. We highly recommend this tour.
This afternoon, we enjoyed our balcony with a wonderful view of El Morro as we sailed away from San Juan.
Tomorrow, Silver Spirit will be in Basseterre, St. Kitts.