Greetings From Paradise

The sky is baby blue, even as I type in this pre-dusk hour (sun sets at approximately 6:42 p.m. local time, which is one hour ahead of eastern standard time). I can hear the crashing of the waves from the beach just a few hundred yards away, and the palms are doing their dance, a gentle swishing of their fronds that bears likeness to a dancer luring her partner onto the dance floor.

The view from my cottage at Evamer, in Vieques. (Kim O'Donnel)

Greetings from Vieques, aka Isla Nena, one of Puerto Rico's smaller siblings, just seven miles east of the "big island." Mister MA and I are back at the scene of the crime, where we got hitched one year ago, celebrating our milestone and some quiet time away from the urban jungle. Believe it or not, I really am working this week, but shucks, how bad could it be when my office is a palm-covered canopy, with lizards underfoot? (Ooh, there goes another one.)

I'm sure some of you will be annoyed that I'm not writing about cooking today, that instead I'm sending you a virtual postcard from a truly natural oasis in the Americas, a quirky village where iguanas, roosters and wild horses are all known to stop traffic, cock fighting is a Saturday night pastime and the sound of frogs (aka coquis) can lull you to sleep. I hope you can forgive me.

Ever since the U.S. Navy closed up shop in 2003 (it had been using Vieques as a bombing testing site for 60 years), the island has been making great strides as a tourist destination. Some folks liken Vieques to Key West in its bohemian, pre-tacky t-shirt store days; others remark on its truly unique blend of undeveloped beaches with the cool chic of small boutique hotels and an emerging dining scene of upscale eateries that you might find in more well-established tropical outposts, such as St. Bart's, Martinique and Miami.

Last night's supper was in a treehouse in the middle of the woods, a romantic hideaway called La Campesina. We started the evening off with passion fruit-kiwi mojitos at the bar, twinkling with white Christmas lights, and the cat, Pana, greeted us. Over a plate of duck wontons, we began sipping on a luscious Malbec from Argentina (Finca la Anita 2002). Dessert was an insane chocolate brownie waffle with Johnny Walker butterscotch. I had to pinch myself to make sure I wasn't in some high-falutin' joint back in the States. This kind of cooking is becoming easier to come by on the island, and yet if you want mofongo and conch salad by the side of the road, you can have that too, as well as a cortadito at one of the corner panaderias in Isabella Segundo.

Our drive back to our cottage at Evamer took us on a twisty secret forest road; Mister MA and I put putted along in our banged up Kia with no spare tire and a bent radio antenna (the same car we also managed to get stuck in a ditch in an off-limits beach area on the west side of the island!). If you come to Vieques, you must be prepared for quirky mishaps and ways of doing business that would never fly at home, but people remember you and say hello and the girls at the supermarket, as surly as they sometimes seem, will tell you where to buy local goat for tonight's roast.

By Kim ODonnel |  March 4, 2008; 7:20 AM ET Travel
Previous: March Mag Roundup | Next: Rediscovering Tilapia


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Happy Anniversary!

Posted by: DC Cubefarm | March 4, 2008 8:46 AM

Happy Anniversary!

Sometimes technology is a good thing and in this case it allows you to work and enjoy your anniversary and share with us all at the same time - well, maybe technology is not a good thing -


and know that we miss you.

Posted by: Silver Spring, MD | March 4, 2008 9:38 AM

Happy anniversary, Kim! Enjoy every moment together.

Posted by: Mel | March 4, 2008 10:50 AM

Happy Anniversary - but to bring the discussion around to work - where is the best place to buy a large hunk of marble to roll out pastry? I've heard people suggest getting remnants from countertops (basically the part that got cut out for the sink), but I don't know any retailers that I should go to to ask for their marble remnants. Any ideas? Thanks,

Posted by: Takoma | March 4, 2008 11:27 AM

Well, I guess your exaltation of fine dining is acceptable given your foodie context, but if this is what is happening to beloved Vieques, I am appalled. That leaves Culelbra, which has better snorkeling and food that is food. It lacks the bioluminescence.
My experience says that when the sort of restaurant you describe appears, the localness of the place starts to vanish.

Posted by: Steve | March 4, 2008 7:57 PM

Happy anniversary, Kim! Enjoy every moment of your trip and try not to work too much. Gosh, it's hard to believe it's been a whole year already. :-)

Posted by: Pat | March 4, 2008 11:00 PM

Happy Anniversary! Did you know that March 4 is National Grammar Day? Good wedding day choice for a fine writer such as yourself.

Posted by: Sappho | March 5, 2008 9:59 AM

For the marble shopper--try finding marble at a salvage store. One of those places that sells parts claimed from old homes that are being torn down or remodelled. I don't know if there's one in the DC area, but can't imagine there wouldn't be. I found a lovely 2ft by 3ft piece that used to be a counter top at a salvage store in Kansas City a couple of years ago. It works wonderfully and cost only $35.

Posted by: rmh | March 5, 2008 3:10 PM

So I'm a few days if not a week behind in reading the blog. I was actually up in DC for two weeks and was so slammed I didn't have much time to sit here. Anyway, funny you talk about Tilapia yesterday. I love that fish. Probably one of my faves.

So last night (hadn't even read the blog), I made this super good spicy tilapia made with garlic, crushed red pepper, black pepper, cherry tomatoes and kalamata olives (oh yeah and parsley) Can you imagine it! It was to die for... Here's a link to a different version of it I cooked a few months ago...

Happy Anniversary and enjoy thoroughly!!!!

Posted by: Flanboyant Eats | March 6, 2008 10:08 AM

No need to be appalled, Steve. Three young men, including my son, are leasing the building from the owner. The restaurant had been closed for years, and it took a total gutting and much hauling away of excess jungle to get it suitable for a reopening.

The three are working 7 days a week to provide a few hours of fantastic dining 5 nights a week. The reception from the locals has been wonderful for them.

I think the island has nothing to fear from them. They are very hopeful that it won't turn into another St. Thomas.

Posted by: LaCampesinaMom | March 8, 2008 1:27 PM

Congratulations Kim on your 1st anniversary. I have enjoyed your blog, and have learned so much. Did you and Mr. MA stop by Key West and see your brothers?

Posted by: RobinDuke | March 17, 2008 3:31 PM

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