¡Saborea! Taste of Puerto Rico

Last Thursday I posted about a very exciting event happening at the Philbrook Museum here in Tulsa, ¡Saborea! Taste of Puerto Rico.  The Philbrook hosted the 2010 Puerto Rico National Culinary Team on Saturday September 25, 2010.   The culinary team represents Puerto Rico in multiple national and international competitions and works with the Puerto Rico Hotel and Tourism Association to introduce the Puerto Rican culture around the country. Philbrook Museum is one of only two appearances outside of Puerto Rico.  Not only did the event have this incredible culinary team but they also had live music thanks to Grupo Salsabor, Latin dance lessons and of course food, food and more food.


The 2010 Puerto Rico National Culinary Team consists of Chef Lucía Merino, professor of the Instituto de Banca de San Juan; Chef Francisco Murphy of Murphy’s Cuisine Concept in Ponce; Chef Luis Castillo and Chef Germania Diaz.  Chef Xiomara Rotger of Augusto’s Restaurant will be the pastry chef and Ded Chazulle Rivera is the bartender. The team’s coach is Chef Elvin Rosado, professor at the Universidad de Puerto Rico in Carolina, while the team’s manager is Chef Ariel Rodríguez of Augusto’s Cuisine. Chef Ariel Rodríguez will soon be appearing and competing on Iron Chef America on the Food Network.

2010 Puerto Rican Culinary Team

I cannot express how excited I was when I found out that thanks to Foodbuzz’s Foodie Correspondent Program, who hooks up their featured publishers with media access to cover local happenings,  I was going to be able to attend and cover this event.   Obed and I both did happy dances in the living room and I pulled a muscle in the process, but I was ok with it because we were going to have a good time.

We arrived early so I could get some shots of the location and food before it was devoured.

Saboreate I first when to the station that has main course and side items.  They had a great spread.  Here we have yellow rice with ham and one of my personal favorites habichuelas guisadas (beans in tomato sauce).

Saboreate Then of course no self respecting Puerto Rican food event can make a presence without some pork on the menu. Here is some masitas de cerdo frita con cebolla (Fried Pork with Onions).

Saboreate My favorite rice of all time, arroz con gandules (rice with pigeon peas), this rice is traditionally served during special occasions, especially Christmas.  Every home in Puerto Rico has a pot of arroz con gandules steaming on the stove during the holiday season.

Saboreate This tray has morcilla and batatas (blood sausage and sweet potato).   Blood sausage or black pudding is exactly what it sounds like, it is pork blood, rice, onions and spices stuffed in casing.  It usually has a little bit of heat added into it.  My husband and I are not really fans but our parents seem to love them.

Saboreate I then made my way over to the appetizer station.

Saboreate This beautiful seafood salad I am sad to say never made it on to my plate.  I took a shot of it and by the time I made it back it was gone.  I could have cried because everyone that got to try it was raving about it.  Just thinking about it makes my eyes tear up.

Saboreate This table was full of all the roadside treats, called frituras that I grew up eating while on road trips back home.  It was pretty much my favorite table.   The list of delicious fried treats was almost endless.  In the picture above the top plate has arepas de coco, they are little puffy delicious fried rounds of dough made with coconut milk.  My mom use to make them for me when I was little.

The bottom plate was full of crispy bacalaitos (Salted Cod Fritters).  They were a little crispier that I was use to, but they were still delicious and full of salted cod flavor.

Saboreate Mini empanadillas de Carne (Beef Empanadas) also made an appearance.  If I had room I would have eaten 10 of these but I had to ration myself to be sure I got to try everything.

Saboreate I was excited to see sorullitos de Maiz (corn fritters), fried sticks of yellow corn meal.  I remember my grandmother making these by the dozen and freezing them.  She would pull a few out and fry them up as a treat for me and my sister.

The word fried is making quite and appearance in this post, isn’t it?  Here it goes one more time.

Saboreate Another one of my favorites piononos.  These are sweet plantains that are stuffed with savory beef filling and then dredged in an egg mixture and deep fried.  They are to die for! piononos are basically a mini version of pastelon.  They are a perfect balance of savory and sweet in a perfect little package.

Saboreate Then I turned around I found this beautiful spread of sweet delicious treats at the end of the room.  All of the incredible sweet treats of my childhood.   I was very excited!

Saboreate Little tiny besitos de coco (coconut kisses) or what you may know as coconut macaroons.

Saboreate These little cups are filled with arroz con dulce (sweet rice pudding).  I have vivid memories of sitting on the counter stirring a pot of arroz con dulce with my mom, usually for some holiday festivity.    I also remember getting in trouble for fishing out spoonfuls when my mom wasn’t looking.

Saboreate These light little pillows of puff pastries are filled with a delicious guava filling.  They were literally as light as air.

Saboreate When I was still back home with my parents my dad and I would jump in the car first thing in the morning and go down to the corner bakery.  We would pick up a newspaper, a fresh loaf of pan de agua and a box of quesitos (little cheeses).  When we got back home my mom with have a fresh pot of hot coffee ready and we would sit down at the breakfast table and enjoy our treats.   Quesitos are just a light puff pastry filled with a sweeten cream cheese filling and very lightly glazed.  These quesitos were delicious and I debated if I should grab the plate and hide in the stairwell keeping them all to myself, but I managed to exhibit some self control.

Saboreate Obed’s favorite that night was the guava filled mini cheesecakes, and rightly so…these little cheesecakes were one of the softest, lightest cheesecakes that I have ever had.  I am not a huge fan of cheesecake, usually because I find it too heavy, but these little cakes were very light yet very satisfying.

Saboreate By then the guests started to arrive.  As soon as you walked in the bar was there to greet you and of course the line quickly began to form.

Saboreate The bar was stocked with Puerto Rican rums from Don Q and Bacardi.  I am not a drinker, my body temperature goes up about 110 degrees when I drink so passed on the rum.  However, while I was photographing the food my very friendly and chatty husband befriended Chef Germania Diaz and because of some freezer issues we got hooked up with some delicious tamarind juice.  We had our own little pitcher of juice sitting behind the bar. It made me feel special. 😀

Saboreate The guest started to trickle out to the Philbook’s beautiful courtyard.   The weather was perfect to sit out in and enjoy food.  The museum also has some incredible gardens that you must visit if you’re ever in Tulsa.

Saboreate Upstairs in the rotunda they had some traditional plena dancers.

Saboreate This was a treat to watch, especially el caballero (the gentleman) on the left.

Saboreate He was very proud and strong with his dance.  He was pretty smooth.  I loved the whole look of both of them.

Saboreate I finished up my rounds and chatted a few people up.  I was shock to hear so many people around me speaking Spanish in thick Puerto Rican accents.  I have been in Tulsa for almost 2 years now and I was starting to believe we were one of the few Puerto Ricans in the Tulsa area.  All of a sudden I was surrounded and it was a treat.

Running around taking photos and chatting with new friends I worked up quite an appetite.  I made my first plate of frituras.  All of my favorites, bacalaito, pionono, arepa de coco, sorullito de maiz and some empanadillas.   The little sauce on the side is what we call mayoketchup, and it’s what it sounds like, a mixture of mayo and ketchup with a few other things tossed in.  It makes a great dipping sauce.

Saboreate I then headed to the main dish and sides station.  I got, arroz con gandules, batata asada, carne de cerdo frita, yucca, morcilla and a croqueta.   I got the morcilla to see if my tastebuds had changed some, but I learned that I am still not a fan.  The croqueta was my favorite on this plate. It was made using the broth and rice from the seafood soup and then rolled in crushed crispy plantains.  I thought I was going to faint when I bit into it, delicious!

Saboreate This is the sopa de mariscos (seafood soup) that I was talking about, the one that was used to make the croqueta.  It was divine.  I could just picture myself enjoying this soup on a breezy deck at the sea side.  It was so full of wonderful flavors and the shrimp was perfectly cooked. With the chilly weather approaching I may have to do one of these soups at home soon.

Saboreate I took a break from eating and headed up to the rotunda again.  They had opened up the dance floor for some salsa dancing.

Saboreate The couple that you see here are the salsa instructors.  They were very impressive doing all kind of turns and tricks.

Saboreate I considered hitting the dance floor but my belly was very full and I was toting a heavy camera that I wasn’t ready to separate from.

Saboreate Although, apparently I wasn’t full enough to pass on some dessert.  There is always room for dessert!   Even though I wanted three pieces of each treat I only got one.  I do have some control, as little as it may be.   The big red dot on top of the cheesecake is a guava and passion fruit sauce.  Need I say more?

Saboreate Toward the end of the evening my friend Jen, who is the event planner at The Philbrook, has some down time and came to try the food.  Obed is here educating her on everything at the frituras table.

Saboreate We had been chatting with Chef Elvin Rosado who is the culinary team’s coach and he came over to help educate our friend Jen.

Saboreate Here he is explaining to her what is an alcapurria.  He’s telling her how it is a puree of green bananas, pumpkin and I think they also used yucca, stuffed with a filling.  These alcapurrias are filled with crab and Jen is not a seafood eater, so she requires some encouragement.

Saboreate I was surprised that after just a small amount of peer pressure Jen was willing to try the alcapurria stuffed with crab.  I had to photograph this and document it for posterity.

She dips…..

Saboreate ..she bites.  The verdict?  She liked it.

I quote, “This is really good!”  I never had any doubts.

Saboreate Then it quickly progressed into a mini Spanish lesson.  Jen is learning to say “this is good” in Spanish.  She is really focused, “esto esta bueno”.    After two or three tries, she got it.

Cudos to Jen for willing to try something new and learn some Spanish.

Saboreate The evening was a great success.  The food of course was the star and a great treat for Obed and I.  I was just a delighted to have this little bit of home right here in Tulsa.  Everyone that we met from the team was friendly and down to earth.  Chef Elvin raved about how great they had been treated since they arrived in Tulsa.  He said they treated them like stars, like they were Menudo.

The Philbrook did an incredible job hosting this event.  I was told that there were a total of 207 guest that evening and a lot of them were speaking Spanish and having a great time.  I can only hope that they decided to do this again next year.  I would be one of the first in line.

Thank you Foodbuzz for the hook-up, thanks to The Philbrook for hosting such a great event and thanks to the team for such incredible food and inspiration.



  1. Andrea Matos says

    Boricuas…en Tulsa, OK?!! How ’bout that!!! Your pictures are making my mouth water! Looks like a really fun event. Thanks for sharing. Love, love, LOVE your blog y recetas.

  2. says

    I really enjoyed your article! I am one of those Puerto Ricans in Tulsa and would love to see more of our culture in the city! I missed this event but I was hosting a memorial event for families of victims of homocide that day. One of my friends, an advocate, was honored for her work that day and so was I for my work for the families as a facilitator of a support group. Tulsa Chief of Police and many others were there that day.
    Going back to PR food, I decided to offer PR desserts in Tulsa, delivery for now! I will love to know of any PR gatherings in the city! Thanks again for an article so well presented!!!! It was exciting, fun!

  3. Terry says

    Just wanted to tell you that I love Puerto Rican food and I love your blog!

    keep taking pictures of that delicious food…yum!

  4. Millie Gonzalez says

    Congrats to you & Obed! This report brought back memories of what all us PR ex-pats feel whenever a PR event hits our hometowns. I spent over 12 years living & working in the Washington DC area in the 80’s & 90’s and I experienced the warm & fuzzy feelings you described every time one of these events showed up. So glad you got a chance to share in them (and with us).

  5. Princila says

    LOVE LOVE LOVE this post… Brought back so many memories of my family and the island.. What a great event.. sounds awesome!

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