Thursday, September 12, 2013

Cafe Berlin- MoFo Post Ten

Post #10 for Vegan MoFo 2013.

International, Puerto Rican, Vegetarian
Today we journey back to Puerto Rico, specifically to San Juan. While we were eating at Cafe Cultura, we noticed that the restaurant next door was Cafe Berlin. The sign caught our attention as it advertised vegetarian food. We had heard about the restaurant on Happy Cow and had visited the website. We were pleasantly surprised by all of the vegan offerings. It was hard to tell online specifically what was gluten free on the vegan menu, but they indicated that they had gluten free pasta and pizza on the menu. Based on this small sampling of menu items, the restaurant seemed like it would offer a nice evening dinner.

One evening we visited the restaurant and decided to sit outside. We overlooked a square in the old part of downtown San Juan. On this particular evening, there were quite a bit of people in the square walking and talking. There were men pushing carts selling ice cream and other frozen treats. Couples walking, talking, and holding hands, and the quiet buzz of children running around and playing in the square. The old part of San Juan was proving to be great place to visit. The area has trees, squares, and colorful buildings. It was peaceful to sit outside and enjoy the local culture. 

We were seated and our waitress was friendly and knowledgeable. She was able to explain the items that suited my needs. After careful consideration, we decided to begin with an appetizer of mofongo. Having a friend from Puerto Rico and being on the Island for several days, we had been hearing about this dish quite a bit. It was explained to me as green plantains mashed together, placed in a mold to make the cone shape, and then fried. The traditional version is most likely made with pork. Cafe Berlin was kind enough to make a vegan version. The mofongo was served simply with a bed of lettuce and two shaved carrots on top. The dish was delicious, but was a bit salty and dry. I kept thinking that it needed salsa or a sauce as an accompaniment, but that does not seem to be the way that this dish is normally served.  I did, however, enjoy the flavor of the green plantains. 

For dinner I ordered a Criollo Tofu which was tofu simmered in a criollo sauce and was served with rice, beans, and plantains. The sauce seemed to be tomato based and had bell peppers and caper berries. Along side of the dish was a small undressed salad. I really enjoyed the flavor of everything on my plate. After the salty mofongo, the salt in my dinner was starting to be overwhelming. If I would have ordered this without the appetizer, I would have probably not noticed the extra spice. The portion was rather large and I ended up having enough leftovers for a cold breakfast the next day. A breakfast leftover of rice, beans, and tofu was just what I needed for breakfast. I had time to recover from the salt of the mofongo and to drink a lot of water! I liked it even better the next day and would recommend this dish. 

John ordered the Veggie Guava Loaf. It was a home-made vegan load in a bell pepper guava sauce served with mashed a mashed potato log and carrots and broccoli. The dish was not gluten free and therefore I was unable to try it. However, John gave it rave reviews. When he saw it on the menu, he knew it was the dish for him. John loves veggie loaf and mashed potatoes. If I had to venture a guess, I would say that mashed potatoes are one of his favorite sides. He noticed that his dish was a significantly ess salty than my dish. Like mine, it was also very filling and he had to take leftovers back to the hotel for breakfast the next day. He attempted to finish it all, but he was concerned that he would be too full afterward. 

Sunset from out hotel room
Once we paid, we decided to take a walk to a local coffee shop and sample locally brewed coffee. I had noticed the coffee shop several days before when we have been driving around looking for a parking space. The coffee shop was connected to an store that contained art pieces by local artists. When we arrived, I was a bit warm and decided that I was not in the mood for coffee, but John was. Luckily for him, the place carried soy milk. He ordered a vegan latte' and spoke to the barista who informed him about local music playing the next evening. The coffee shop had people studying in the back and people chatting in the front. The barista was talkative and spoke English flawlessly, like most Puerto Ricans in the city. He enjoyed his coffee and then we walked back to the car and drove back to the hotel.

We had many evenings were we were able to see the sunset, but only in San Juan. When we were in Rincon, we were facing the wrong direction for a sunset. It was so peaceful to be able to see sun rises in the morning and the sunsets at night over the ocean. I was even able to wake up naturally to enjoy some of the sun rise. Back home, that is unheard of as I need an alarm to wake even get me up in the morning. I guess when I am relaxed and rested, I am able to wake up on my own. It would be wonderful if like was like one long vacation! If it was then I wonder if I would get too used to it an not enjoy vacation as much as I do now.  

Morning view of the beach
The only other thing that rivals ocean sunsets and sunrises over the ocean are sunsets and sunrises over the mountains. Each year, I strive to see one of the other. In the beautiful state of North Carolina, I have the option of seeing both within only a couple hour drive. While the North Carolina coast is nice, the coast in the Caribbean is unbeatable! Nothing compares to the clear water and white sand. It feels like a little slice of heaven. 

What is your slice of heaven on vacation?


Dawn said...

Love your descriptions of your trip. It sounds like a great vacation. Vacation heaven is a combination of walking/being outdoors and not having to worry about food options. Sometimes it's pushed up a notch by traveling alone :)

GiGi said...

Mofongo for Mofo!!! Nice.
Yeah I think I would probably like a sauce with it too.
You are introducing me to a lot of cool ideas this MoFo.