Dominican trip – Part 1

I’ve just returned from a visit to see my good friend Janelle, who is living in the Dominican Republic for a couple of years.  So I wanted to share a few of my food experiences from the trip! We ate at a few different restaurants and Janelle also arranged for me to spend a day cooking with her friend Mercedes in the countryside. I’ll share some photos and recipes over a few upcoming blog posts. The following – part 1 – is a description of the food we ate during a day spent in the touristy beach town, Cabarete.

The first place we went on our beach day wasn’t even ‘Dominican’ – but a Belgian bakery. Janelle knows that I’m always interested in bakeries, since my parents own a bakery in Virginia. I was amazed at all the pastries they were able to produce in such a humid climate! I had a lovely and delicious almond pastry filled with chantilly cream.

Janelle enjoyed an eclair and we also split an apple tart. Just a forecast of the carb-fest I would be enjoying during my week in this country :)

After this brunch, we spent the rest of the day at the beach in Cabarete, souvenir shopping and swimming. The most obvious sign of the high tourist presence in Cabarete (other than the hotels and restaurants flanking the beach) is the abundance of circulating beach vendors, selling almost anything you could think of – straw hats, jewelry, cigars, massages, hair braiding – and of course, snacks!

I bought a coconut candy snack from this gentleman, who was selling an assortment of sweets made of coconut and peanuts. The coconut treat was very sugary with the flavor of ginger and thickly shaved coconut pieces. On the beach, we later bought a couple of bananas (or guineos as they are known here), from a woman carrying around an assortment of fresh fruit.

That evening, I asked Janelle if we could eat somewhere with traditional Dominican fare, rather than the oceanside restaurants geared towards tourists that served everything from French seafood to Italian pasta. She knew of a small authentic Dominican restaurant across the street where she had eaten a few times. I ordered sancocho, a stew of root vegetables and meat (chicken and beef), served with a large plate of white rice. This was the “small” or appetizer size, little did I know that would be enough for a meal in itself!

The sancocho was not hot spicy, but nicely flavored with herbs and spices, and contained chicken and beef pieces, yucca, jautia, and batata (I think, my ability to distinguish these root vegetables is somewhat limited). I ended up taking half of the sancocho home for the next day’s breakfast, since I had also ordered mero de coco – filet of grouper in a tomato, pepper and coconut sauce.

I’ll share with you in my next post some of the cooking tips and maybe a recipe or two (if I can decipher enough from my notes to reconstruct recipes!) from our cooking lesson in the campo.

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