Qué Pasa: Dine Out West

Qué Pasa: Dine Out West: Sophia's Caribbean Sushi Bar Photos supplied What’s best out west? Participants in the recent Saborea Puerto Rico, A Culinary...

Dine Out West

Sophia's Caribbean Sushi Bar
Photos supplied
What’s best out west? Participants in the recent Saborea Puerto Rico, A Culinary Extravaganza, held at famous Escambrón Beach in San Juan, discovered dishes that dazzled them—and inspired trips to the Porta de Sol region of the island.

Sophia’s Caribbean Sushi Bar (787-370-3605), located at PR115 at km 12.4 in Rincón, has garnered top ratings on restaurant review sites, including such comments as “Some of the best, most inventive sushi I’ve had” to “A little gem.” The restaurant was the only one in Puerto Rico to make Miamibased Caribbean Journal’s 2014 Best Sushi in the Caribbean list.

Chef Joerick Rivera, Sophia’s
Co-owners Chef Joerick Rivera and Charlyn Rodríguez (the restaurant is named after their youngest daughter) and their team prepare and serve some of the best Japanese and Latin American dishes—and, of course, sushi—in Puerto Rico, the culinary capital of the Caribbean. The fish is all locally sourced—for freshness and to support local businesses.

If you are lucky enough to live in the Rincón area, Sophia’s will cater your next party. You can order take out, enjoy the restaurant’s intimate indoor or outdoor settings, or just sip one of its three trademark sangrias outside as the famed Rincón sunset does it thing.

Sophia’s is open Mondays through Saturday from 5:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m. and Sundays from 2:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. You can keep up with the action at the restaurant by following it on Facebook: “Sophia’s Sushi.”
Fish Taco Appetizer, Textura Restaurant
 Textura Restaurant (787-436-5953), located on PR2 km at 120.8 in Aguadilla, serves Caribbean specialties created by chef-owner Oscar Estrada in a small, charmingly casual dining room—and also offers catering and takeout services.

At last count there were 54 places to dine in the Aguadilla area, but there is only one at the very top of the list: Textura. Diners almost invariably give it five stars—one of the 72 happy reviewers on one site calls it “Simply delicious! Best restaurant in Puerto Rico’s west coast.”

The newest menu features traditional Caribbean dishes prepared with a flair: local beefsteak served with a creamy mushroom sauce, pork loin with grilled pineapple and coconut sauce, Parmesan-breaded chicken breast with a fresh tomato and basil sauce, and broiled shrimp with lemon in cilantro oil. The Fish of the Day is just that—available only when local anglers snag it! Among the appetizers are breaded fish tacos with cilantro mayonnaise and homemade coleslaw.

Chef Oscar Estrada, Textura Restaurant

 Textura is open for lunch on weekdays from 11:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. Dinner is served Wednesday and Thursday from 4:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. and Friday and Saturday from 4:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m. The restaurant is open for lunch or early dinner on Sundays from noon to 6:30 p.m. You can see the latest menu (and confirm operating hours) by searching “Textura Restaurant” on Facebook.

Puerto Rico From a Different Point of View

San Juan Bay/Bahía de San Juan
 Text by Ronald C. Flores. Photos by Salvi Colom
Accclaimed photographer Salvi Colom knows Puerto Rico intimately—he once spent 29 days traveling our coastline on foot! He followed this with a year on the island and on Vieques, Culebra, Mona, and Caja de Muertos, taking thousands of images with his specially adapted infrared camera.

He then created 300 panoramic photomontages that he published in his book, El Puerto Rico que yo conozco (The Puerto Rico I Know). Why infrared? “Objects that absorb infrared rays, such as the sky and bodies of water, appear darker than usual. And such objects as clouds, sand, skin, and vegetation shine and glow because they reflect these same waves. It is neither a camera trick nor the magic of Photoshop. It is pure reality at its maximum expression,” Colom says.

¡Qué Pasa! asked him to share some of his images with our readers, to take us with him to a few of the places he has been, and to see them in a totally different light. We hope you enjoy the view!
Salvi Colom is a commercial and fine art photographer based in San Juan. He is known for the use of multiple images to compose large mosaics, collages, and panoramic montages. He subsequently published El Puerto Rico que yo conozco, a collection of black-and-white panoramic images. His photographs are captured with a converted camera that is sensitive to infrared light. For information or to acquire the book, call 787-507-4906, email salvipics@hotmail.com or visit www.salvipics.com.
Crash Boat Beach/Playa Crash Boat, Aguadilla

Puerto Rico desde un punto de vista distinto

Puerto Rico ya que en una ocasión pasó 29 días viajando nuestra costa ¡a pie! A esta hazaña le siguió un año recorriendo la isla—incluyendo Vieques, Culebra, Mona y Caja de Muerto— y tomando miles de imágenes con su cámara especialmente adaptada para captar infrarrojos. Luego creó 300 fotomontajes panorámicos que publicó en su libro, El Puerto Rico que yo conozco.

¿Por qué el infrarrojo? “Los objetos que absorben rayos infrarrojos, como el cielo y los cuerpos de agua, aparecen más oscuros de lo habitual. Y objetos como las nubes, la arena, la piel y la vegetación destellan y brillan porque reflejan estas mismas ondas. No es un truco de cámara ni tampoco la magia de Photoshop. Es pura realidad en su máxima expresión”, dice Colom.

¡Qué Pasa! lo exhortó a compartir algunas de sus imágenes con nuestros lectores de manera que podamos acompañarlo a algunos de los lugares que ha visitado y logremos verlos bajo una luz totalmente diferente. Esperamos que las disfrute.
Labadie Mansion/Castillo Labadie, Moca
Salvi Colom es un fotógrafo artístico y comercial que reside en San Juan. Es conocido por el uso de múltiples imágenes para componer grandes mosaicos, collages y montajes panorámicos. Posteriormente publicó El Puerto Rico que yo conozco, una colección de imágenes panorámicas en blanco y negro. Sus fotografías son captadas con una cámara especial que es sensible a la luz infrarroja. Para obtener más información o adquirir el libro, llame al 787-507-4906, envíe un correo electrónico a salvipics@hotmail.com o acceda a www.salvipics.com.
La Rogativa, Old/Viejo San Juan

Honeymoon on the ‘Little Sister’ Islands

Club Seabourne, Culebra
Text & photos by Ronald C. Flores

Your destination wedding was a spectacular success. Your family and friends are flying home or staying on for a tropical vacation. You and your spouse want a little time alone before rejoining them at the host hotel or at home.
W Retreat & Spa Beach, Vieques
Puerto Rico has an idyllic honeymoon getaway just a few miles from the bustle and excitement of San Juan and the “big island.” Vieques and Culebra, Puerto Rico’s “little sister” islands, are just a dozen-or-so miles off the east coast—but they will seem like a million miles away.

There are no traffic lights, no fast food franchises, no big-box stores, no malls, and no crowds. Each island has just one main town, a few thousand residents, a handful of roads, one airport, one dock, a few choice places to stay or to dine, and some of the most beautiful beaches in the world. Since there are no rivers or streams, there is no run-off. The ocean water is always crystal-clear and the sand white and wonderful.

There is plenty to do on either island—if it happens in, on or around the water, that is. Culebra is  definitely more intimate and laid back: there is only one endorsed hotel—the highly rated Club Seabourne—one gas station, one bank, one bridge, one supermarket, and one main road. Flamenco Beach is regarded by many as the most beautiful in the world.

Vieques is the bigger sister. It has eight lodging choices, most with fewer than 15 rooms, capped by the sophisticated 156-room W Retreat & Spa. With a population of about 10,000 (compared with Culebra’s 2,000), there is a larger variety of restaurants and shops. Major attractions include Conde de Mirasol, a Spanish colonial fort (now a museum), Mosquito Bay, a bioluminescent natural wonder, a black-sand beach—and about 40 gorgeous white-sand beaches. Even at the height of the winter season, couples will often find themselves the only beachcombers.

How to Get There
Culebra Kayaking
By Air
The following commuter airlines offer scheduled and charter flights to Vieques and/or Culebra from   LMM International Airport in Isla Verde, Fernando L. Ribas Dominici Airport in Isla Grande or José Aponte de la Torre Airport in Ceiba (call to confirm airport, schedule, and destinations):

Air America (787-276-5669), Air Flamenco (787-724-1818), Air Margarita (787-529-2336), Air Sunshine (787-791-8900, 800-327-8900), Cape Air (866-227-3247), MN Aviation (787-791-7090), Seabourne Airlines (888-359-8687), and Vieques Air Link (787-741-8331).

By Public Ferry
A ferry travels between the town of Fajardo (on the “big island”) and Vieques four times a day, and between Fajardo and Culebra three times a day, year-round (see schedule in this issue.) You must purchase your tickets at the ferry office in Fajardo one hour before departure. At peak vacation time--such as spring breaks and weekends from May to August--you’ll want to get there two hours before.

Snorkling at Culebrita

Where to Stay
There are eight PRTC-endorsed hotels in Vieques and one in Culebra. See our lodging list for details. “At press time, the Vieques-Culebra-Fajardo passenger ferries were not operating, please call to confirm before traveling to Fajardo.”

Culebra: Club Seabourne.

Destination Weddings… Top Reasons to Say: ‘I Do’ in Puerto Rico (and 10 Great Places to Say It)

Text by Ronald C. Flores
Photos by Saul Padua

According to a recent mainland U.S. study, the top 10 spots for destination weddings right now are beaches, historic ruins, food festivals, gardens, golf courses, historic churches, sailboats or yachts, underwater, hilltops, and private oceanfront villas. Puerto Rico has them all—and a lot more.

To help our readers find them, ¡Qué Pasa! interviewed some of the top professionals who deal with different aspects of destination weddings on the island. Here is what they say about why Puerto Rico has become the preferred destination in the Caribbean for visitors to tie the knot—and where their clients celebrate their ceremonies.

Jessica Durán, of First Class Destination Solutions, divides her clients’ most popular wedding venues into four convenient groups: Spanish colonial, contemporary, tropical sophisticated and tropical intimate.

At the top of the list are Spanish colonial settings: Castillo de San Cristóbal fort, San Juan Cathedral, Hotel El Convento, Casa de España, and Capilla Mayor (Main Chapel) at Sagrado Corazón University. “Casino de Puerto Rico in Old San Juan is definitely the most ‘in’ place right now in this group,” she says.

The six places she sees most in demand for a contemporary wedding are: Condado Vanderbilt Hotel, La Concha Resort, the Museum of Art of San Juan, ElSan Juan Hotel, the Ritz-Carlton San Juan Hotel, and El Caribe Hilton Hotel.

For sophisticated tropical weddings, clients choose the Dorado Beach, ARitz-Carlton Reserve and St. Regis Bahía Beach Resort. For more intimate affairs, it is the beach at The Beach House/Café La Plage, Soleil Beach Club, San Juan Water Beach Club Hotel, and Villa Montaña Beach Resort in Isabela. Chezelle Rodríguez of Chezelle Dezines—one of the top destination wedding organizers on the island—says her clients love our beaches, Old San Juan in general, and forts San Cristóbal and El Morro in particular.

“Many couples have never been to Puerto Rico before, but have a close friend or relative who was married here. Often a member of the couple is Hispanic and they both are attracted to the culture, the accessibility to the U.S. mainland, the ease of getting a marriage license, the fact they don’t need passports, and the affordable airfare,” she says.

A few of her clients have sought really unusual settings, such as the Caves in Camuy, for example. One couple wed amid the ruins of the Spanish lighthouse on the beach in Aguadilla and another eloped on Vieques and got married on paddleboards.

“My groups average 80 to 150 people and stay about one week. There doesn’t seem to be a favorite time anymore—people are getting married here all year long, even in the hurricane season, because they can negotiate really great rates and get a block of rooms together, not scattered all over the place. A wedding planner will know the deals and the ways to save money.”

Irene Castillo of Castillo Tours considers Vieques a wonderful wedding destination. “Vieques is beautiful,” she says. “We have done several weddings at W Resort & Spa and at a private residence there. We have done small weddings on the Barefoot IV [catamaran] where we anchor off Palomino Island for the ceremony and hold the reception on the boat. Hacienda Siesta Alegre is one of my personal favorites, and our clients love it there. I think, however, that the majority of brides who come to Puerto Rico to celebrate their wedding want to do it on a beach.”

Emilio Olabarrieta and Julio Cintrón of Arquetipo are seeing a wave of affluent clients, who are being attracted to the new five-star resorts such as Dorado Beach, A Ritz-Carton Reserve, the St. Regis Bahía Beach, and W Resort& Spa Vieques.
“They are small groups with big budgets,” Olabarrieta said. His clients demand the best of everything, and they know he can provide it. They also know—or discover—that Puerto Rico is what he calls a city-island with an edge.

“We have five-star resorts and spectacular beaches, but we also have a vibrant nightlife, good museums, fine-dining restaurants, modern communications, and easy access by air. Other Caribbean islands can only provide part of their needs, even for the event itself,” he explains.
“Here, for example, you can get flowers from all over the world, not just tropical flowers. Clients have their choice from a huge inventory of sizes and styles of tables, chairs, linen, crystal, and silverware. We are up-to-date on the latest trends in design: if a bride sees a beautiful setting in a magazine anywhere, she can have it here.”

Olabarrieta has seen a major increase in wedding parties from Latin America, particularly from Panama and Venezuela. “It is very fashionable right now for them to travel with their 400-500 guests to Puerto Rico. They arrive two or three days before the wedding and stay two or three days after. These are high-end events that include four or five parties and plenty of business for our hotels, restaurants, transportation companies, and other services.”

Another recent trend is the increase in couples originally from India, who also bring large groups of people to their party. “They like the easy access to the island from New York, that they can use the U.S. dollar, and that U.S. citizens need no passport. It is relatively easy to get a marriage license here, and they know they will be treated with respect.”

Another attraction for all these groups is that it is no hassle to arrange for special chefs to prepare Indian, Muslim, Kosher or any other particular food.

“I think it is amazing that among their favorite venues are the forts in Old San Juan. They fall in love with them. Suggest a wedding in an old fort to many local couples, and you’ll get an ‘Are you kidding?’ reaction. We even had a couple insist on getting married in a tiny derelict garden in the last section of San Francisco Street near La Fortaleza in Old San Juan! The bride thought it was charming!”

Castillo Sightseeing Tours & Travel Service (787-791-6195) is a full destination management company with watersports and tour & events divisions. For info: www.castillotours.com, Facebook: Castillo Tours.

Chezelle Dezines (978-549-2522) is a full-service design and production company that specializes in distinctive destination weddings. For info: www.chezelledezines.com, Facebook: Chezelle Dezines.

First Class Destination Solutions (787-296-5466) provides premier destination management services to meeting and wedding planners, and specializes in luxury transportation services. For info: www.limopr.com, Facebook: First Class Destination Solutions.

Flora by Arquetipo (787-268-5228), Puerto Rico’s premiere event planning and services company, creates social and corporate events locally and internationally, and specializes in destination weddings. For info: www.arquetipoinc.com, Facebook: Arquetipo.

Editor’s Note: Saul Padua is one of the top photographers based in Puerto Rico specializing in destination weddings. He is an active member of Wedding & Portrait Photographers International (WPPI) and Professional Photographers of America (PPA). In addition to collections of hundreds of happy couples around the world, his photos have appeared in Brides, Grace Ormonde Wedding Style, Imagen, Wedding Wire, Get Married, and many other publications. For more information, call 787-340-2003, go to www.saulpadua.com or email info@saulpadua.com.

Where to Tie the Knot
Photographer Saul Padua has captured happy couples in unique outdoor settings all over Puerto Rico. Here are 10 of his clients’ favorite places to tie the knot: on a pier, at a waterfall, at a fort, at a firehouse, on a beach, in Old San Juan, on a golf course, in the ocean, on a boat and at a lighthouse.

Bodas de destino Las principales razones para dar el “sí” en Puerto Rico (y diez estupendos lugares donde hacerlo)

Según un estudio reciente efectuado en los Estados Unidos continentales, hoy día los diez mejores lugares para celebrar bodas de destino son las playas, ruinas históricas, festivales de comida, jardines, campos de golf, iglesias históricas, veleros o yates, bajo el agua, colinas y villas privadas frente al mar. Puerto Rico tiene todo esto y mucho más.

Para ayudar a nuestros lectores a encontrar estos lugares, ¡Qué Pasa! entrevistó a algunos de los principales profesionales que se encargan de los diferentes aspectos que conllevan las bodas de destino en nuestra isla. Aquí nos dicen por qué Puerto Rico se ha convertido en el destino preferido en el Caribe para que los visitantes contraigan nupcias y dónde sus clientes celebran sus ceremonias.

Jessica Durán, de First Class Destination Solutions, divide los lugares de boda preferidos por sus clientes en cuatro convenientes grupos: estilo colonial español, contemporáneo, sofisticado tropical e íntimo tropical.

Encabezan la lista los lugares de arquitectura colonial española: el Castillo San Cristóbal, la Catedral de San Juan, el Hotel El Convento, la Casa de España y la Capilla Mayor en la Universidad del Sagrado Corazón . “El Casino de Puerto Rico en el Viejo San Juan es sin duda el lugar más ‘in’ en este momento dentro de esta categoría”, indica Durán.

Los seis lugares de mayor demanda para una boda contemporánea son: el Hotel Condado Vanderbilt, La Concha Resort, el Museo de Arte de San Juan, El San Juan Hotel, el Ritz-Carlton San Juan Hotel y el Hotel Caribe Hilton.

Para las bodas tropicales sofisticadas, los clientes optan por el Dorado Beach, A Ritz- Carlton Reserve y el St. Regis Bahía Beach Resort. Para ceremonias más íntimas acuden a la playa de The Beach House/Café La Plage, Soleil Beach Club, San Juan Water Beach Club Hotel y Villa Montaña Beach Resort en Isabela.

Chezelle Rodríguez, de Chezelle Dezines, —una de las principales organizadoras de bodas de destino en la isla— dice que a sus clientes les encantan nuestras playas, el Viejo San Juan en general y los fuertes San Cristóbal y El Morro en particular.

“Muchas parejas nunca han estado anteriormente en Puerto Rico, pero tienen un amigo cercano o un pariente que se casó aquí. A menudo, un integrante de la pareja es hispano y a ambos les atrae la cultura, el acceso a los Estados Unidos continentales, lo fácil que es conseguir una licencia de matrimonio, el hecho de que no necesitan pasaporte y los boletos de avión asequibles”, nos dice.

Algunos de sus clientes han buscado parajes realmente inusuales, como las Cuevas de Camuy, por ejemplo. Una pareja se casó en medio de las ruinas del faro español en la playa de Aguadilla y otra se escapó a Vieques y se casó sobre tablas largas para remar de pie (paddleboards).

“Mis grupos tienen un promedio de 80 a 150 personas y se quedan [en la isla] alrededor de una semana. Ya no parece haber una época predilecta. Las personas se casan aquí durante todo el año, aun en la temporada de huracanes, ya que pueden negociar precios excelentes y obtener un bloque de habitaciones juntas, no dispersas aquí y allá. Un planificador de bodas conoce las ofertas y sabe cómo ahorrar dinero”.

Irene Castillo, de Castillo Tours, considera que Vieques es un maravilloso destino para bodas. “Vieques es hermoso”, declara. “Hemos efectuado varias bodas en el W Resort & Spa y en una residencia privada en dicha isla. Hemos preparado bodas pequeñas en el [catamarán] Barefoot IV que ancla en la Isla Palomino para la ceremonia y la recepción se lleva a cabo a bordo del navío. En lo personal, Hacienda Siesta Alegre es uno de mis lugares favoritos y a nuestros clientes les encanta. Creo, sin embargo, que la mayoría de las novias que vienen a Puerto Rico para celebrar su boda añoran casarse en la playa”.

Emilio Olabarrieta y Julio Cintrón, de Arquetipo, están viendo una ola de clientes acaudalados a quienes les atraen los nuevos hoteles de cinco estrellas tales como el Dorado Beach, A Ritz-Carlton Reserve, el St. Regis Bahía Beach y W Resort & Spa Vieques.

“Se trata de grupos  pequeños con grandes presupuestos”, indica Olabarrieta. Sus clientes exigen lo mejor en todos los  aspectos y saben que él puede proporcionárselo. También saben —o descubren— que Puerto Rico es lo que él llama una ciudad-isla con ventajas.

“Tenemos hoteles de cinco estrellas y playas espectaculares, pero también tenemos una vida nocturna vivaz, buenos museos, restaurantes de alta cocina, telecomunicaciones modernas y fácil acceso por vía aérea. Otras islas del Caribe solo pueden satisfacer parte de sus necesidades, incluso para la boda misma”, explica.

“Aquí, por ejemplo, usted puede conseguir flores de todas partes del mundo y no solo flores tropicales. Los clients Official Magazine P.R. Tourism Co. 19 pueden elegir entre un gran inventario de tamaños y estilos de mesas, sillas, mantelería, cristalería y cubiertos. Estamos a la par con las últimas tendencias en diseño: si una novia ve una hermosa decoración en cualquier revista, puede recrearla aquí”.

Olabarrieta ha visto un marcado incremento en bodas en las que los novios y los invitados provienen de América Latina, en particular de Panamá y Venezuela. “En este momento está muy de moda para ellos el viajar con sus 400 a 500 invitados a Puerto Rico. Llegan dos o tres días antes de la boda y se quedan dos o tres días después de la ceremonia. Estos son eventos de personas pudientes que incluyen cuatro o cinco fiestas y representan mucho negocio para nuestros hoteles, restaurantes, empresas de transporte y otros servicios”.

Otra tendencia reciente es el aumento en las parejas oriundas de la India que también traen grandes grupos de personas a su boda. “A ellos les gusta el fácil acceso a la isla desde Nueva York, el hecho de que pueden utilizar el dólar y que los ciudadanos estadounidenses no necesitan pasaporte. Es relativamente fácil obtener una licencia de matrimonio aquí y ellos saben que van a ser tratados con respeto”.

Otro de los atractivos para todos estos grupos es que no hay problema alguno para contratar chefs especializados para preparar comida india, musulmana, judía (kosher) o cualquier otro alimento en particular.

“Opino que es increíble que entre los lugares favoritos figuran los fuertes en el Viejo San Juan. Los novios se enamoran de ellos. Sugiérales una boda en un antiguo fuerte a muchas parejas locales y obtendrá una reacción de ‘¿Estás bromeando?’ Incluso tuvimos una pareja que insistió en casarse en un pequeño jardín medio abandonado en el último bloque de la calle San Francisco, cerca de  La Fortaleza en el Viejo San Juan. ¡La novia opinó que era un lugar encantador!”

Castillo Sightseeing  Tours & Travel Service (787-791-6195) es una empresa de manejo de destinos con divisiones de deportes acuáticos, excursiones y eventos. Para más información: www.castillotours.com, Facebook: Castillo Tours.

Chezelle Dezines (978-549-2522) es una compañía que ofrece servicios completos de diseño y producción y se especializa en elegantes bodas de destino. Para más información: www.chezelledezines.com, Facebook: Chezelle Dezines.

First Class Destination Solutions (787-296-5466) les brinda excelentes servicios de manejo de destinos a los planificadores de reuniones y bodas y se especializa en servicio de transporte de lujo. Para más información: www.limopr.com, Facebook: First Class Destination Solutions.

Flora by Arquetipo (787-268-5228), la principal compañía de planificación de eventos y servicios de Puerto Rico, crea eventos sociales y corporativos a nivel local e internacional y se especializa en bodas de destino. Para más información: www.arquetipoinc.com, Facebook: Arquetipo.

Nota del Editor: Saúl Padua es uno de los mejores fotógrafos con sede en Puerto Rico que se especializa en bodas de destino. Es miembro activo de las asociaciones Wedding & Portrait Photographers International (WPPI) y Professional Photographers of America (PPA). Además de figurar en las colecciones de cientos de parejas felices en todo el mundo, sus fotografías han aparecido en Brides, Grace Ormonde Wedding Style, Imagen, Wedding Wire, Get Married y muchas otras publicaciones. Para obtener más información, llame al 787-340-2003, acceda a www.saulpadua.com o envíe un correo electrónico a info@saulpadua.com.