Friday, February 15, 2013

Puerto Rico Part 2: Kasalta

Yesterday was our first full day in Puerto Rico, and obviously it started with: breakfast!

Hyon Jae and Jason had taken a red-eye flight the day before the rest of us arrived, so they had a chance to scope out the breakfast scene in advance. The place where they brought us was a Puerto Rican restaurant-bakery called Kasalta, located in the older part of New San Juan.

This dining establishment was set up like a mix between a cafeteria and bakery: in that one side of the building was lined with glass cases full of the food offerings (anything from empanadas to croissants, and even stews or hearty sandwiches), while the rest of the space was filled with cafeteria-style tables.

Walking in I was almost overwhelmed by the sheer variety of baked goods, deli meats, and other items loading their glass cases. One thing that definitely first caught my eye was a gigantic pastry the size of my face and coated with powdered sugar:

Hyon Jae and Jason eventually ordered this, and although it looks like a powdered-sugar version of a cinnamon bun, the pastry actually had a hint of lemon flavor

I opted for a Puerto Rican version of a mix between an omelet and fritata: basically a combination of egg and french fries baked into a pie-shape:

I also ordered a dessert that was a combination of oreo, caramel, and cheesecake (you can see the cheesecake layer in the middle): definitely as delicious and decadent as it looks

Louis ordered a Puerto Rican stew (Sancocho):

and sandwich with chorizo and cheese

In addition to the powdered-sugar head-sized bun, Jason got a slice of the tres leches (3-milk) cake: the three types of milk typically used are a) sweetened condensed milk, b) evaporated milk, and c) regular whole milk. One of my favorite types of cake of all time, it always reminds me of my childhood (even though I'm not Puerto Rican). My dad used to buy whole tres leches cakes from a favorite bakery of his, and my little bro and I could devour an entire cake just between the two of us in one sitting

Last but not least, Kasalta had great coffee. Normally I'm not a coffee connoisseur, but even I could appreciate that the coffee was done well. Strong but without even a hit of burnt flavor, the coffee is served in mini-cups about the size of espresso cups. There's good reason for this: any larger volume of  their special brew would probably put less experienced coffee drinkers (like myself) into first - palpitations, followed by atrial fibrillation with rapid ventricular response, and finally into cardiac arrest

(I got my coffee "con leche")

*Of note, I actually lied when I said that the first thing we did yesterday morning was eat breakfast. In fact, the very first thing we did was play with animals. The Caribe Hilton where we're staying has a garden area with a variety of animals fit for a petting zoo. This includes several peacocks, both black and white swans, iguanas, ducks and geese galore, plenty of fish, and a turkey!

(Mr. Turkey let me get very up-close and personal for this glamor shot)

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