Balneario de Carolina
Carolina Public Beach, Carolina, Puerto Rico
Saborea Culinary Extravaganza Celebrates Puerto Rico's Resilience and RecoveryWith Puerto Rico's communities wiped out, hotels battered, and power grid devastated, Hurricane Maria's landfall on September 2017 was the worst storm ever on record for the island. Included in this destruction from which many are still recovering are small farms producing coffee, plantains, livestock, and other fresh fruits & vegetables. Even 100 days after the storm, half the island was still without power and many lacked access to potable drinking water.
There was serious discussion about whether it would be possible or even appropriate to hold Saborea: A Culinary Extravaganza, an annual culinary festival now in its 11th year. Ultimately, suppliers and organizers decided that one of the best ways to continue recovering was to welcome travelers back to the island reminding them why Puerto Rico remains the Caribbean's top foodie destination.
Borges Meat, Agropeck, Microgreens of the Caribbean, Semila, and Empresas Bobet stepped up to be primary ingredient purveyors of Saborea ensuring that participating chefs directly supported Puerto Rican agribusinesses. Cocina criolla (Puerto Rican cookery) has Spanish, African, Taíno (Native American), and French influences but lately, forward-thinking chefs are redefining the boundaries of their culinary traditions, merging new techniques while retaining local flavors.
Considered the Caribbean's largest culinary festival, this year's Saborea held April 4-8, showcased nearly 70 restaurants accompanied by an array of top chefs and mixologists from Puerto Rico and North America. The festive ambiance and dancing are just as much a part of the festival as the enormous variety of samples ranging from tostados and mofongo using plantains, Puerto Rico's baseline ingredient, to whole roasted pig that after being hacked off the spit was meticulously prepared and garnished with pineapple chutney and pepper aioli. Other dishes had an internationalist twist like samosas and sushi.
Only 15 minutes drive from Old San Juan overlooking the city and bay of San Juan, the majority of this year's Saborea was held at Balneario de Carolina, one of Puerto Rico’s blue flag beaches and largest urban beach in the Caribbean. Sustaining $1.5 million in storm damages, the park reopened just in time for the festival welcoming nearly 6,000 attendees including an increasing number of tourists.
Festivities began with Bubbles and Bites overlooking the beach at the Intercontinental Hotel with light bites ranging from escabeche, to yam burgers and chicharrones served with bubbly in its many forms in a chic night club ambiance on the pool deck. The night after, Saborea Sunset took place under the gastronomic pavilion at Balneario de Carolina with the ocean front views, music, and tastings evoking all that Puerto Rico has to offer. Festivities continued the next morning with brunch samplings like bananas foster and fresh baked treats.
Primary sponsor Delta Air Lines was on hand with a welcoming VIP lounge area celebrating their 65th anniversary flying to San Juan, also the longest uninterrupted service throughout both the Caribbean and Latin America, with 3 daily flights from JFK, and 4 from Atlanta.