‘Piñones’ the mention of its name conjures images of native Puerto Rican food deep fried in boiling oil, that has been under the constant care of a deep orange fire. One that’s eating away the wood carefully placed on its grasps.
A black street jammed with traffic on a Sunday afternoon, serves as a venue towards the hundred of vendors alongside it. Crossing the bridge in road 187, located just along the entrance of Carolina’s Yatch Club, you get a first insight of what you might expect in your ride through the coast line of Loiza. It offers a relaxing day for those who stay to enjoy the pleasures it harvest like bike riding in the Mangrove Forest, bathing in the sun or kayaking. A world that harvests kiosks where anything but healthy food can be found. Yes, mostly everything in Piñones is deep fried or cooked under the fire! And yes again, we Puerto Ricans enjoy it.
From the brown alcapurrias filled with ground or crabmeat, made from plantains or yucca, to bacalaitos, a fan like salt cod fitters better eaten crispy and hot. There’s the Pastelillos with an assortment of styles, some filled with lobster, others meat or cheese, and, like I learned this weekend, with conch (which I prefer served cold on a glass prepared with green peppers, onions, olive oil, garlic, lime juice and a hint of vinegar). Pork shish kabobs; slow roasted pork; restaurants serving rice with green pigeon peas, to mofongos and so much more.
Once you see the concrete sign “Welcome to Loiza”, the windows most be rolled down and let the salty breeze of the beach infuse your car with the aroma of burning wood traveling in a white smoke that, know and then, slips in from the vendors of the street.
Haitian vendors offering an assortment of bright color hammocks, dark wood ‘pilones’, souvenirs, shirts…, the list goes on and on. The view of the beach is blocked by old abandoned houses and a long line of kiosks that are half wood half concrete roofed with aluminum planks. But from time to time you might see the golden sand stretching itself under the dark blue Atlantic waters. Until you get to ‘la posita’ where most families go with their children for its shallow waters, and where the street for bicycles keeps on to the Mangrove Forest. There the boardwalk stretches a few more miles hiding under the shades of the mangrove trees.
My stop ‘El terraplen’ is by that shallow beach. There I find ‘El cacique’ the kiosk I always go to. The ambience is that of a typical kiosk a street away from the beach in which the bathing suit is the norm for most of the visitors. A line of people separates me from the food, and when I reach the woman who takes the orders I eagerly ask for alcapurrias, bacalaitos, and lobster pastelillos, of these last one they ran out, so I ask for one of conch.
Now with my delicacies in hand I share them with the familia and dig in. Taking care not to burn my tongue, I devour my alcapurria of yucca like there was no tomorrow, or at least not to soon trip back to Piñones. Ah! Not as good as my abuela, but good nonetheless. My daughter agrees to the goodness of the food after she stuffed her face with her bacalaito. Satisfied we head back the same black road we came, only to stop to purchase some quenepas. A road that will lead new comers to any kiosks to taste local flavors and enjoy the ambiance of a place along the beach, but a straight path to those of us that come back again and again and know the best flavors that will satisfy the native palate.For Deb, whom I promise an alcapurria would be consumed in her name.
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