(Puerto Real, Cabo Rojo, Puerto Rico)
Since leaving Florida on this sailing journey, our grocery-store experiences have run the gamut.
From the teeny-tiny local and oftentimes poorly stocked island stores in the Bahamas to the super expensive mega grocer in the Turks + Caicos, we have seen it all. Believe me. Shopping for food has typically been very expensive and rather limited on this sailing journey of ours. Shoot, a bag of doritos in the Exumas sold for $9 and a case of Budlight for $52…just to give you an idea. I’m still so thrilled we packed our boat to the gills before setting sail. …Even if we did blow through our stash of 312 cans of beer in no time at all. ;))
For a total wannabe foodie like myself, grocery shopping has become somewhat of a chore on this trip due to the lack of quality products. And I hate that it feels that way. :((( I literally have dreams of shopping at my favorites back home…Publix and Trader Joe’s, with their well-stocked aisles, great cheese selections, and all around awesome products.
And let me tell ya, finding quality fresh food (veggies, fruit, meat, and bread even) has really been the hardest part. It’s one thing to pack a boat full of non-perishables, but our tiny dorm style fridge can only hold so much frozen meat and we all know how long most produce lasts.
Now that we’ve been enjoying life in Puerto Rico for Hurricane Season, I was positive the grocery situation would improve dramatically from our experiences in many of the remote islands we had visited before arriving here. And it has…for the most part. The main grocery stores here (Mr. Special, 100% Fritorifico, Walmart, etc.) are fine, I suppose. Although we were still having difficulty finding a widespread selection of quality fresh foods. That is, until we were given the tip of a lifetime from our new friends and owners of Rincon Sailing, who we recently met while checking out the regatta here at Marina Pescaderia.
We are SO lucky they introduced us to a great source of quality fresh products from El Viandon, a major food purveyor for high end restaurants in Puerto Rico. El Viandon is located here on the west coast of Puerto Rico at the northern end of Mayaguez (the big city over here). If you are planning to sail to Puerto Rico (particularly the west coast) go ahead and bookmark El Viandon’s website right now. ;))
Luckily, El Viandon is not exclusive to its restaurant/chef clientele and is open to us regular folks too! They are located in a warehouse area of Mayaguez with two large refrigerated rooms with loads upon loads of fresh products. They also have a nice cheese, spice, and condiment selection, along with a small freezer room full of different meats and a selection of various organic dairy products (think almond milk etc.). Everything here is sold by weight. Which is great for us. We don’t really need or have the room for a whole bag of carrots let’s say, but we’d love to pick up one or two when we need them.
We hit up El Viandon the other afternoon and were greeted by friendly faces very willing to show us all of their products and help us find what we were looking for. I was so impressed with their focus on quality. One of the stockers in the first produce room literally grabbed a baby eggplant out of my hand as I picked it up and told me to pick from a different box that was fresher. He could’ve easily let me buy the less fresh one since I clearly didn’t know the difference, but he didn’t! Way to go El Viandon! Way to go.
We packed out our grocery basket with tons of fresh produce — 3 different varieties of tomatoes, 2 different kinds of lettuce, eggplant, peppers, plantains, squash, zucchini, broccoli, avocados, lemons, limes, cilantro, scallions, and probably a few things I’m forgetting. We obviously have lots of healthy dinners in our very near future! ;)) We also hit up their cheese selection and grabbed a huge hunk of gorgonzola, along with a bottle of sweet chili sauce that I can hardly wait to start using!
We walked out of El Viandon with three huge paper bags of fresh goodies from our new favorite spot, and all for around $30. Not too bad if I do say so myself!
PS – We’ve already made wheat flatbreads with garlic + lemon roasted broccoli, sun-dried tomatoes, heirloom tomatoes, and pine nuts one night, and then chicken/pepper/onion/zucchini shish kabobs and parmesan couscous another night. Pretty decent meals on board, eh?
PSS – Our other fav spot to shop is the small Selectos grocery store literally across the street from the beach in Joyuda Beach…a quick 5 minute car ride from the marina in Puerto Real.
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