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.
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.
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