Author Archives: Cassie

Delicious Puerto Rican Piñon aka Pastelon


Posted by Cassie

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It has been so nice having a full-sized kitchen to cook in. I have been taking advantage of having an oven as much as possible. One of the things I wanted to try was piñon also known as pastelon for some time now. It is basically a Puerto Rican version of lasagna that uses ripe plantains in place of the lasagna noodles. I have had it before at some traditional comida criolla (Puerto Rican cuisine) places, so I had something of an idea what it would be like. I gave it a whirl and it turned out really good! It is sort of strange to have a slightly sweet flavor along with all the traditional Italian seasonings you would use in lasagna.

Here’s a video on how I made piñon. It is probably not exactly how you would do it if you were Puerto Rican, but it is my gringo-fied version. Haha.

¡Buen Provecho!

Pinon 2

Making Friends in a Transitory Town


Posted by Cassie

It is often hard to make new friends anywhere you might move, but for people from the states without many ties it can be even harder. However, it is important to establish a social network that you can rely on during life’s ups and downs especially as a stranger in a strange land.

Coming from a working class city in the middle of Colorado (Greeley), both Britton and I never experienced much in transitory populations coming into our town. If people moved it was just to a nearby town maybe 5-10 miles away. No one really came there for vacations. It was not a tourist destination. The only transitory population was that of the university and even there, many of the students came from other places in Colorado. Because of this, when we made friends we would often know them and see them (for better or worse) indefinitely.

Ashley night out
We’ve met some great friends along the way, but many are no longer here (at a going away party a while ago)

Coming to Puerto Rico, and specifically Rincón has caused a shift in perspective on friendships. I suppose looking back now, we were naïve when a long-timer asked us, “So how long do you think you’ll last?” and we answered, “Forever, hopefully!” What we had missed in that short exchange was that this guy who has lived here for over 20-30 years has seen many people with long-term intentions stay for pretty short times. We also started to get what we call the “friend interview.” Things like: So how long have you been here? Did you buy a place? What are you doing for money? All of these were to filter out tourists and very short term people.

Everyone’s path is different and this just happens to be one of those places where people love to get away and think they could live forever but end up oftentimes finding that they want to get back to some of the familiarity of wherever they left. We have seen many people leave and lost many friends due to them moving for better job opportunities, going back to school, having a baby on the way, getting divorced, more or less getting chased out of town, having health problems, having family issues, or they find just don’t like living here and so on. We have been to so many going-away parties in the last 3-4 years (and become the new owners of the stuff that gets left behind) that it gets a little hard to know where to put your time.

Car Club
We are thinking of joining a car club to find friends with similar interests like cruising the coast on Sundays

We have found that we at first subconsciously and then slowly consciously started our own “friend interview” with people we meet here. This is not because we don’t want to meet new people, on the contrary, I learn something from every encounter. But developing a deep friendship or relationship with someone, in my experience, takes a lot of time and commitment. Once you have made the commitment if they were to suddenly leave, there is also a deeper loss. So for a friendship that is anything more than just “acquaintances” people become categorized by their likelihood of sticking around in our lives. In making this list, please don’t take it that any of these are better than anyone else, but just a guide for long-term friendships in a transitory town. In fact, we have at one point in time or another been pretty much all of these. Some “long-timers” have stricter criteria and won’t talk to anyone who hasn’t lived here at least 2 years. We’re not that exclusive and there’s always exceptions.

Here are the categories and benefits to each. Some people fit into multiple categories.

Tourist: A person you don’t already know who is just visiting. There is not much chance of a long-term friendship, but they can often have very interesting stories and it’s always refreshing to see the island from their new perspective.

Tourist with plans: This more than likely will pan out to be another tourist visiting, but they may mention that they want to buy property or they are going to move here soon. There is a slightly higher chance of a long-term friendship, but still pretty unlikely.

On a Wing and a Prayer: These people made it here, but just barely. They saved up maybe $1000, got on the plane and said, “We’ll figure it out when we get there.” These people are often very interesting as they probably have had this tendency throughout their lives to go out and try new things. I love meeting them and they often have really cool talents. They, unfortunately, will probably not make it past one tourist season though. When the money dries out and the rains come in the summer, they are often gone.

Hustlers: The Wing and a Prayer people who made it through the first season. They found their niche. They made the connections and did the hard work to make enough money to stay. Many transplant people are hustlers in Rincón. The drawback to the hustlers is that they are always busting their butt to make money, so they don’t have much time for just chilling out with friends.

Long-term renters: These folks are probably also hustlers, but now they can finally settle down into a place that feels more like home. With a long-term lease, they are more likely to stick around at least until the end of the lease. Most people rent in Rincón because it is so cheap. The drawback to a deep friendship is that if they are renters, they can also just up and move if they want.

Snowbirds: These people generally come from up north and like to spend the winters or part of the winter in Puerto Rico to escape the cold weather. A deep friendship is much more likely if the snowbirds also happen to own property.

Seasonal: Basically the younger, broker version of snowbirds who come down every year for the season for work and partying, but will go back north in the summer. They more than likely do not own anything that would tie them here long-term.

People who own property: People who have bought real estate here are basically saying “We are committed and have the resources to stay!” These are very good candidates for long-term friendships. Some people own property, but rarely visit. They are still good to know and often have great parties, but since they are just not here you can’t just meet up and hang out on the spur of the moment.

Long-timers/Year-rounders: How long a person has been here will give you something of an indication of how they have weathered the storms both literal and figurative of island life. It is not always easy to live here. The long-timers know this and they will be the first ones to try to categorize you in order to know the likelihood of running into you again. These people also often have great stories and histories. There is a high chance of developing a friendship with these people as long as you are also worthy of investing the time.

Boricua/Family ties: The best chance of knowing someone long-term and building a deep friendship is to meet someone born and raised here. They are generally immune to the whims of the tourism economics and have a lot of resources, most notably their family, to help them stay. They are comfortable living here since that is what they have always known. They are great candidates for long term friendships, though they are often even more leery of letting an “outsider” in to their inner circle. Like all friendships, it helps to have a common cause (work/hobby/kids) and, especially in this case, to speak Spanish.

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Some friends at a beach party

I am not sure I will every feel the same amount of security and familiarity as I had in Colorado, but having a good group of friends definitely helps.

8 Best Places in Rincón to Eat for Cheap


Posted by Cassie

Food at Cambija

Going out to eat is one of those luxuries that is just so nice every now and then. Living in Rincón we have some of the best food around, but it is not always cheap. Food in general is expensive in Puerto Rico due to shipping costs and so eating out is often even more expensive. In Rincón it can be really pricey because it is a tourist town and you can easily find yourself in a “tourist trap” paying outrageous prices like around $20 for just a hamburger if you aren’t careful. Even in more moderately priced locales, if you have a couple of drinks, add in the tax and tip, two people could easily spend $50 on a night out! So in order to still be able to enjoy going out in our own town, eat something fairly healthy and not a chain (AKA not Churches or Burger King) and spend under or around $20 for two people, here’s what we do.

Firstly, we don’t go out anywhere feeling famished. We eat a couple of boiled eggs, bananas or some chia seeds to fill up on our way out. That way we can often just order one entrée and share it!

Here are our top 8 + stops when eating out on the cheap. Also note that businesses are always coming and going in Rincón so keep your eye out for new places and realize that many of these may not exist in a year or two. (Editor note: This is current for March of 2017.)

Nopales

1) Nopales. This place just opened up in the new Econo strip mall and we love it. It is basically a Chipotle or Qdoba concept of burritos or tacos. We order one burrito and split it. $6 plus tax. The women who work there are also super friendly and nice. Definitely our current #1 favorite place to eat out on the cheap in Rincon.

2) Panaderias. Pretty much any panadería in town (or on the island for that matter) you will find lunch or dinner specials. Try EC, Calvache, Rincoeño or Econo’s cafeteria. A huge stryrofoam container full of chicken or lechón, and rice and beans will set you back about $6 plus tax. Or sometimes we order a sandwich for about the same price. I like the pollo asa’o.

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3) Food trucks. These can actually sometimes be a little more expensive because they are run by the owners themselves and often with fresh, local ingredients. Sometimes they later become brick and mortar locations like Mi Familias and Jack’s Shack.  Pizza Truck on the 413 is a quick, easy and cheap stop, but maybe not the healthiest fare. We love all the trucks on the corner by Mama Mel’s. Generally, most of these have shareable courses for around $8-12.

Calypso PDub
Calypso during an event

4) Calypso. You just can’t beat the happy hour rum punches, sunset view, music and decent bar food here. We usually share some nachos and a couple of rum drinks and can get out of there for around $20. One note: bring your own water. They will not provide tap water but will sell bottles.

Sunset 2 (2)
Sunset on beach by Tamboo

5) Tamboo. Another favorite mainly for the location, but the food is really good too. It is located right on Sandy Beach where we have witnessed sea turtles hatching as well as whales waving their fins at us. We like Mexican Tuesdays where they have really good Mexican food that changes every week. We’ve had awesome chimichangas and stuffed bell peppers. Entrees are usually about $13-14. With a margarita and a beer or two we can walk away about $25 lighter and a belly full.

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Downtown Rincon (la plaza)

6) Downtown. There are now so many options in Rincon’s plaza area. Some are much more expensive than others, but if you are willing to share you can still get out of most of them for $20. Try all of them if you have time: Rincón Beer Company, Rincón Gyro, Café 413, Roots, Cappriccio, Mangia Mi, De Bocas, Brother’s Pizza. Note for those really on a budget: A pizza slice and a Medalla beer will be less than $5 at Brother’s!

La Cambija

7) La Cambija. Kind of a weird location right on the road down from the balneario, but they have some of the freshest fish at decent prices. The parking situation is also a little awkward because they have a little golf cart that will ship you back and forth. I like their fish ceviche, pinchos, tacos and burritos. About $8-10 per course or $4 for a pincho. Another place to bring your own water to avoid paying for it!

cofresi-pirata

8) Villa Cofresí.
Right on the water, it’s a great place to watch the sunset and drink Piratas which aren’t cheap, but pack a punch and are served in a coconut! We call this place the cruise ship of Rincón because it has that sort of feel. There is a fancier, air conditioned restaurant but to eat on the cheap, order from the bar and sit outside. A burger and fries is less than $10 I believe. Note: drink the piratas at happy hour and it’s about $2 less than regular price.

Honorable Mentions: These places are not very cheap, but they are really good, beautiful and/or different. You can still get out for around $30 if you are careful of your selections and share food.

Secret Thai
Having fun at “Secret Thai” or “Thai Lady’s”

Secret Thai: Ask around and you will find it through a series of strange directions that include two snakes. The very best authentic Thai place that everyone knows about but…hush, doesn’t! Bonus: You can bring your own beer!

Dancing
Bar area of Copa Llena

Copa Llena: Right on the water by the marina. Romantic and beautifully lit. After a fantastic meal you can sit out on the Adirondack chairs and put your feet in the sand.

surfer spot
Surfer’s Spot during the day

Surfer Spot: This is the place for the best cheeseburger I have ever eaten and we are from beeflandia Colorado! They have great pies and other food too, but the cheeseburger is just divine especially at $9 including fries that we can share. I don’t even really eat beef, but I make an exception for this cheeseburger in paradise! The only drawbacks are that it is only open really late at night to serve the night scene and right on a busy road (the 413).

English Rose: Up in the hills overlooking the ocean you can have a wonderful breakfast. There are not many breakfast places, and this is the best both in food and ambience. It’s really not too expensive either.
english rose view
View from the English Rose

Island Beauty: San Sebastian and Aguada


Posted by Cassie

We took a day to go out with our guests to one of our favorite spots: Gozalandia in San Sebastian. It is the quintessential tropical waterfall getaway. I always feel that it couldn’t have been designed any better had it been in a movie set. It’s just magical!

Gozalandia
Gozalandia -Main waterfall

gozalandia 2nd fall
Gozalandia secondary waterfall

Petra and Cassie
In Gozalandia with friend Petra

In the Jungle
Jungle Monkey Cassie

turtle
It’s fun to see the turtles too

We also spent some time in Aguada recently and enjoyed a beautiful sunset off the cruising coast.

Cassie stairs
Cool that someone built these steps!

Cassie rock 2

 

Cassie ledge 3
Living on the edge

Sunset Aguada
And another amazing sunset