Wow! It’s been a bit since my last post, but you all remember that I warned you that I was visiting the Dominican Republic to do food research. Well, I am happy to report that the food in the D.R. was even better than I could have hoped for! My trusty right hand, Miggy, had explained to me that the D.R. has a very diverse population of immigrants that have made the D.R. their home, and of course, after a few generations, traditional dishes from the “old country” are morphed into new and delicious staples which incorporate local ingredients. I invite you to join me, on my very limited (this means I have to go back!) culinary tour of the island of Quisqueya!
We arrived at the Las Americas International Airport in Santo Domingo to sunny skies and beautifully warm weather. Miggy’s mom (let’s call her Miguela to avoid confusion) had arranged for a driver to pick us up and take us directly to the beachside town of Boca Chica, famous for it’s beautiful beaches, beachside food stands, and incredibly friendly people. It was strongly suggested that I try a Yaniqueque (think funnel cake, only less lacey and much crispier), which is a Boca Chica specialty.
Needless to say, all that yaniqueque and beach works up a girl’s thirst, so we headed over to El Neptuno, a waterside restaurant that has been at the same location for about 15 years, and is famous for it’s fresh seafood, and innovative preparation of local products. We decided to have a couple of noshes to go along with our refreshing drink, and opted for the Seviche Peruano and the Dominican Sushi (a roll that sported tempura shrinp, short grain rice, and nori, and wrapped in a alice of sweet caramelized maduro, and finished with a deliciously tart tamarind sauce). Our waiter brought us a complimentary plate of Yuca fries that were creamy on the inside and crispy, crunchy on the outside.
That evening we were guests at the home of Dr. and Mrs. Ubaldo Estevez, who along with their wonderful family prepared a feast fit for royalty, to welcome us to Santo Domingo. Their oldest daughter Ninotchska (and sister to our good friend Walewska) planned the mouth watering menu, and what a menu! We were met on the terrace with a picadera plate filled with an assortment of olives, nuts, and cheeses.
Now the real fun begins; platter after platter of tantalizing platters are brought out of the kitchen to the delight of all of the guests. Ninotchska must have been cooking for the last 48 hours: Pollo a la Mostaza was tangy with the hint of mustard, and Creamy Pasta Salad made with fresh Ricotta was delicate and satisfying, and the Filete de Cerdo en Salsa de Pimienta was tender, juicy, and fragrant with pepper. Dona Magda, Ninotchska and Walewska‘s mom, made a delicious Arroz Amarillo garnished with scallion and crispy bacon, and Waleska’s contribution was a finger licking Gratin of Potaoes with Jamon, served along a lovely Green Lettuce and Tomato Salad, but the dish that cut my legs out from under me was the Pastelon de Vegetales, which was a delicious pie filled with vegetables in a creamy bechamel sauce.
One would think that no mere mortal could possibly have room for another single bite, but Ninotchska had gilded the lily and prepared not one, but two delicious desserts, a Sorpresa de Fresas, which was light and delicious (I’d compare it to a Strawberry Trifle) and Budin de Guineo con Nueces, Crema y Caramelo (think caribbean bread pudding with walnuts, cream and caramel)…somebody pass me the oxygen mask!!
When I closed my eyes that evening, I swore that I wouldn’t be able to eat another thing for 5 days, but we were up and ready to go the next morning. After a light breakfast of coffee and fresh fruit, were were off to a local hot spot that is a favorite of old and young, male and female, rich and poor! Barra Payan is a sandwich shop (it’s been at the same location for the past 51 years!) which which is open 24 hours, so it is the logical stop after a night of clubbing, or after the opera, lunch, dinner of afternoon snack. In fact, I can’t think of time that a stop to Barra Payan doesn’t work. The fresh fruit batidas are delicious and refreshing, and the sandwiches are enough to make your knees weak.
We ordered some fresh fruit batidas (Morir Sonando, Granadillo, Leche Batida, and Papaya with milk) and thought it prudent to order two sandwiches and share, after the previous evenings’ bacchanalia. We chose the Salami and Cheese (Aguila cheese) Sandwich, and the Payan Especial (the Dominican take on a Cuban sandwich). My only regret was that I could not grow another stomach to eat more!
The service at Barra Payan is attentive and helpful. Our waier, Juan Carlos, brought out a granadilla, which I had never seen before. Granadilla is a cousin of the papaya, but its flesh is more “perfumey” than papaya, and it makes an incredible delicious batida.
Looks like we were off to a veerrry good start to our culinary expedition in the Dominican Republic. Stay tuned for the next installation of
Thelma and Louise Daisy and Miggy’s adventure on the island of Quisqueya!