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Traveling to Puerto Rico - food questions

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I'm planning a week-long vacation to Puerto Rico and Vieques (a small island off the Puerto Rico mainland). As far as I understand it, these are my food options, but if anyone has any insight or experience with any of these options, or any other ideas for me, I would love to hear them!
- Chabad of Puerto Rico has a catering service that delivers to local hotels. Has anyone used this and can comment on the quality and freshness of the food?
Since I don't think Chabad will deliver to Vieques, which is a 2-hour ferry ride from the mainland, I think my choices on the island are limited to double-wrapped frozen meals and possibly cooking there on a George Foreman. A few questions:
- Will I run into problems bringing raw frozen meat into Puerto Rico? Would there be any other reason not to cook on a George Foreman?

- What kind of frozen meal options are there out there? Is there anything significantly better than the standard Meal Mart type dinners? (I'm willing to pay extra to eat tasty food!)

- I am concerned about all the transfers of the frozen food, and about how to store the frozen meals throughout the week. Does anyone have any experience/advice regarding getting a freezer in a hotel room, or possibly having the hotel store the food for me? I have even heard that some hotels will heat it for you and serve it to you in the hotel's dining areas with salad and bread (I would be ok eating salad in a hotel). Does anyone have any experience with this to say if it is worth doing or easy to come by?

Any other creative travel food ideas, or general travel tips, would be greatly appreciated. Thank you in advance!

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  1. dunno, but if Culebra has decent grocery stores (although not K, I'm sure) then surely Vieques has a few.

    and oddly enough, most of the fish outside of restaurants around those parts is sold frozen.

    sounds like more than a few of your food storage questions would be best answered by your hotel/guesthouse. it's OK to ask as most people speak at least Spanglish.

    4 Replies
    1. re: hill food

      and Fed-Ex/UPS deliver (just no 10:30 AM guarantee)

      1. re: hill food

        Thanks for the tip about the grocery stores...regarding fish, what could I do with frozen fish?

        1. re: DevorahL

          I think hill food was referring to the practice of some who keep kosher . . . they buy fresh fish, double wrap it, and ask for it to be cooked in the hotel/restaurant oven.

          1. re: queenscook

            oh I was referring to what can be found retail fresh. K? not a chance. but you're surely not the first observant Jew who has gone and this question has to have been raised before with your hotel. just saying the grocers there have more or less what you'd find in one in the 48. not much help I know, but there was more than I expected on Culebra so V MUST have better options. get ready for fantastic beaches and snorkeling!

            I'm used to staying in far more squalid places than Vieques where one takes what one can get.

      2. there are lots of restaurants in the ny area that will pack food thatll last the flight for you- where are you?

        2 Replies
        1. re: shoelace

          I'm in NY--which restaurants do you recommend? Will they ship directly to the hotel?

          1. re: DevorahL

            ive used noahs ark in teaneck, and theyll either pack them to travel with you, or ship them for you
            http://www.noahsark.net/block_tm.asp

            many of te kosher chinese places in queens/li, will pack for travel, ive used both chosen (in great neck) and annies (on union

            )

            ive never dealt with them directly, but ive partaken of house of glatt in crown heights travel meals- i feel like they charged a ridiculously low price

            chap a nosh in the 5 towns and traditions will do it as well with advanced notice

        2. Mealmart and a few other companies make shelf-stable meals, similar to the frozen types. If they're available where you're located, and you'll have access to a microwave, I would recommend bringing at least a few of them. I have been pretty happy with the Mealmart ones (much less so with the La Briute ones that self-heat, which were barely edible). It's definitely not gourmet food, but they travel well, are easy to prepare, and are surprisingly decent, considering.

          1. Your best bet would be to email the concierge at your hotel regarding storing food. The concierge can speak with the food and beverage manager and one of them will email you back. Many hotels will be happy to heat your double wrapped food and serve it in the restaurant- they may charge you a surcharge or ask you to order drinks/salad.

            If you do go this route, print out copies of the emails and bring them with you. That way if the people you spoke with aren't there, you will be able to be helped.

            8 Replies
            1. re: cheesecake17

              Good idea re: printing emails! Thanks for the tip! Any suggestions regarding where to get frozen meals?

              1. re: DevorahL

                Yup, it's really helpful!
                I cooked my own meals, froze them double wrapped in throwaway pans. Labeled each with numbers, and kept a corresponding list. (I would call the f&b people in the morning and tell them to heat up #1)
                Many restaurants in NYC will prepare food to be frozen. Just let them know how you want it packed.

                1. re: cheesecake17

                  Thanks - I spoke to the hotel yesterday and they were absolutely willing to hold my frozen meals and heat them for me! It seems like cooking my own meals would be more economical than buying potentially subpar meals...any tips on how to make it come out great! I never use a microwave at home---what do I have to know about what kind of food to cook, how to cook it, etc? Thanks!

                  1. re: DevorahL

                    The hotels that I've been at were willing to heat my food double wrapped in the disposable pans.

                    Things that have worked well:
                    Baked ziti
                    Shepards pie
                    Zucchini or spinach quiche (no crust)
                    Rice & lentils
                    Vegetarian chili
                    Lasagna (meat or cheese)
                    Brisket (with gravy)

                    Steamfresh vegetables are great, since they can be microwaved. The hotel may be willing to put stuff in the fridge for you too - we once brought sealed packs of turkey

                    1. re: cheesecake17

                      Thanks - I'm going ahead with homemade double-wrapped meals. I'm using storebought microwavable trays, but any suggestions on what to use as a second wrapper? (I never use microwaves, so not sure if there is a difference between using plastic wrap, ziploc bags, any other wrapping?)

                      1. re: DevorahL

                        I'm not sure. I usually have them double wrapped in foil and warmed in the oven.

                        All the micro containers I have require the lid to be off

                      2. re: cheesecake17

                        Hi Cheesecake, do steamfresh veggie count as double wrapped?

                        1. re: PotatoPuff

                          I have no idea. Personally, I'd use them

              2. One hotel I was at (I think PR) let us bring a pan and utensil and made us eggs at the buffet

                1. One travel trip: The ferry service from Fajardo to Vieques was mysteriously cancelled on the day of our travel so we had to fly which was a lot more expensive and but infinitely easier especially upon return to San Juan International. The concierge at the Conquistador Hotel was similarly clueless. Ugh!

                  10 Replies
                  1. re: GreekChorus

                    Thanks--I heard the ferry can be unreliable, so I actually booked a flight from Isla Grande airport, a smaller airport that has cheaper flights than SJU. Thanks though!

                    1. re: DevorahL

                      be advised the flights run on island time. that 1:30 flight might be at 1:24 or 4:15 and may or may not include an unscheduled stop. once the pilot himself came to the panaderia where I was going to get a coffee, to fetch me as he was bored and wanted to get going. other times we waited for hours for our booked flight. (getting back to San Juan they're generally quite prompt)

                      although it can work all different ways, a simple burger in a taverna can take an hour and a half, yet once in our villa the AC went out and the owner had the Walmart in Fajardo load a new one on the next cargo ferry and we had it back and running that night.

                      so call Chabad, deliveries to the outer islands aren't unusual (heck the bulk of the fresh water is piped over from the big island)

                      1. re: DevorahL

                        That is the best way. Are you Wed to the idea of a hotel? It seems like having your own kitchen would make things much easier and Vieques has fabulous rentals.

                        1. re: magiesmom

                          Next time I'll have to look into that. For this trip, we are booked at the W Vieques, which I am pretty excited about :)

                          1. re: DevorahL

                            It is beautiful, but very removed. I hope you have a car so you can explore. V is a favorite of ours.

                            1. re: magiesmom

                              We are going to rent a car. Any tips on what to do or not do?

                              1. re: DevorahL

                                when I was looking into Vieques, it seemed the best beach is very remote on the Western point amid a former Naval testing ground. I have always wanted to snorkel the bioluminescent bay (one of only 2 or 3 in North America) at night with the glow-in-the-dark plankton, there are operators who specialize in taking folks out for that and are found on the web, but again your hotel can assist with finding the right one.

                                1. re: hill food

                                  Thanks for the tips! I'll make sure to do all of those!

                                2. re: DevorahL

                                  Yes, unless you are there when there is a full moon, go to the bioluminescent bay, kayaking if you can do it. Go to purple beach and blue beach.

                              2. re: DevorahL

                                I've heard good & not so good about the hotel! But friends said the staff was willing to please

                        2. Puerto Rico has a decent Jewish Community and according to the JCC's website they have a fully stocked Kosher store.

                          http://www.jccpr.org/

                          1. Hi everyone!

                            Just got back from my vacation and wanted to report back on my food adventures for future reference.

                            There is in fact kosher food available in San Juan - the Chabad house runs a catering operation that will bring food to your hotel, we didn't end up ordering from them so I can't speak to the quality of that. There is also a tiny kosher stand in the heart of Old San Juan that sells kosher pizza, felafel and salad, but be aware that it is extremely basic. We're talking one guy melting cheese onto pitas in a toaster oven. So if you have a well packed cooler with cheese and bread, you have no real need to go there, but if you are looking for something cooked for lunch, it is fine.

                            For my stay at the W in Vieques, I ended up making and freezing my own "tv dinners" in sectioned microwaveable containers. I transported them to the hotel in a large cooler in my checked luggage and then had the hotel hold my entire cooler in their fridge. Every evening, they would bring the cooler to me and I would take whatever I wanted for the evening and heated it up in my in-room microwave. I kashered the microwave first so I could open the containers before heating. It was simple and delightful to eat warm, real food on our room balcony every night. The staff at the W was very accommodating about this, and even threw in the use of the microwave for free (normally there is a fee.) Almost all the food came out great--jerk-style chicken breast, teriyaki salmon and pepper steak were all great.

                            The only thing I would do differently next time is to choose one-dish style meals (like stir fry with rice) that can be packed into a regular plastic container, instead of having to use the sectional containers, which took up a ton of space. Also, make sure to wrap the containers really well with plastic wrap, in case there are any leaks in your cooler. If you pack the cooler tightly, the food will stay frozen solid for a really long time once you get off the plane, which is useful. Also, since the food is fully cooked, you have a little more leeway in terms of food safety than you would with raw meat.

                            Anyway, I hope this is helpful to someone googling for an answer to this particular question someday! Oh and Vieques is AWESOME--highly recommended for completely unplugged, relaxing vacation!

                            2 Replies
                            1. re: DevorahL

                              yeah that's what I like about the "last Spanish Virgins" (just a name for the islands) there's nothing to do and nowhere to go except the beach and snorkel.

                              and now it's back to polar vortex...

                              1. re: DevorahL

                                Happy to hear the microwaving worked out well!
                                I've done chicken and veggie "fried" rice & that heats up well, for the future