Dominican cuisine, the food of my homeland, is just one of the exciting adventures in the Dominican Republic. I was able to rediscover the cuisine during the 2015 Bavaro Culinary Week.
As a guest of this event, I received complimentary travel and accommodations during Bavaro Culinary Week. But I plan to return on my own dime in 2016 – it was that good!
At the end of 2015, I had the opportunity to be invited on a trip back to my homeland, the Dominican Republic. Specifically, a trip to cover the Culinary Week presented by Barcelo Bavaro Beach Resort and one with a focus on Dominican cuisine events led by local chefs.
This trip was exciting for me because of a variety of reasons but the most important one was that after the dinners, the tastings, and the meeting of said chefs, I had rediscovered my own country’s cuisine. Sure, I was born and raised for 24 years in the Dominican Republic, only to leave to attend culinary school. But you know the feeling of living in a country and not really appreciating all it has to offer? That is what happened to me on this trip.
I fell back in love with the food that I grew up eating and rediscovered how amazing Dominican cuisine really is.
One of my favorite parts of this Culinary Week was the variety of events presented to showcase the food. The above meal was a breakfast dish create by two local Santo Domingo chefs but instead of hosting the breakfast at a restaurant, they served up this delicious meal at the regular hotel’s buffet line. This not only allowed even more guests to experience the flavors, but having the chefs behind the buffet line plating up and taking the time to chat about their dishes really connected us with the food. They also had demos right on the beach, at the casino and bars, as well as food cars set up around the pool area, among the traditional sit down dinners.
Breakfast is an essential part of Dominican cuisine and showcased above was a poached egg that ha been fried, alongside sautéed chorizo (inspired by our Spanish heritage), and a mash of root vegetables sitting a top a cheese sauce. It might sound heavy, but as Dominicans, we love feeding our soul with food that will sustain us through the workday!
Next up, some of the most creative lunches by Chef Edgar Severino. Inspired by the fresh seafood all over the island, he did his take on a classic Dominican soup in a rich squash broth. Fish, mussels, an calamari are showcased in this dish, topped with crispy green plantain.
Let’s talk about the plantain and how much Dominicans LOVE this starchy ingredient. Our long history and love affair with plantains and bananas have their tall tales, such as saying that plantains make us “less intelligent” and cause us to be dazed and confused.
One of my all time favorite Dominican cuisine writers pens about the history of plantains in the country.
You can read about it in this recipe post for Ripe Plantain Casserole.
Another popular recipe on island, specifically during the holidays, are pasteles en hoja, the cousins to the corn tamales you see in Latin American culture. Our pasteles are made using a mash of root vegetables, primarily yucca and plantains. This traditional dish (normally served wrapped in a banana leaf, like these Dominican Plantain & Beef Pockets) was recreated in a deconstructed way. Layers of root mash with a creamy chicken filling on top created the main dish. The garnishes, no other then caramelized bananas and fried shrimp, made this one of the most spectacular lunches by the sea I’ve ever had. So much so, I went back for seconds!
Barcelo Culinary Week took place between two resorts: the Barcelo Bavaro Palace Deluxe and the Barcelo Bavaro Beach – Adults Only. They were just a short walk from one another, which helped us walk off the calories we consumed. The Adults Only Resort was one of my favorite spots for lunch when we had nothing on the agenda. It was tranquil, with a gorgeous view of the sunny beach. Chefs at this buffet restaurant grilled fresh Caribbean lobster halves to order, and some days, my meal consisted of just lobster with a squeeze of lime!
All this lobster, and much more, is included in your all-inclusive stay at the Barcelo Bavaro Beach – Adults Only. Some travelers may prefer a different pace, but not me.
After a long season of working in New England, an all inclusive lets me relax by the beach and enjoy delicious Dominican cuisine with zero effort.
Onto the dinners….the delightful dinners, the thoughtful meals. Created by chefs of all caliber, including a Michelin star chef, Fernando Perez Arrellano. So many meals are still in my mind, but the meal cooked by Chef Arrellano was outstanding. It was the first meal I’ve eaten cooked by a Michelin starred chef, and I’ll never forget it. The way he manipulated ingredients, both local and Spanish (where he cooks at Zaranda in Mallorca, Spain and has obtain two Michelin stars) is amazing. Below, you can experience part of the dinner; a tuna dish with crispy beet chips as well as a shrimp recipe with the most tender chorizo breadcrumbs.
Last, but definitely not least – dessert. Let’s just say Dominicans have the biggest sweet tooth ever known to man. The desserts created by the pastry chefs were inspired in traditional Dominican cuisine. This local ginger panna cotta topped with passion fruit gel and tiny mango fritters was the perfect ending to a delicious culinary week!
Food lovers, if you’re looking to explore Dominican cuisine, this is the event for you.
You can do the entire Culinary Week or just attend for the weekend or a couple of days during the week. Every day is packed with a variety of events including chef dinners, rum & chocolate tastings, cigar demonstrations, leisurely but chef-led breakfasts and dinners, and food carts sprinkled in between. The 2016 dates have yet to be announced, but be sure to follow the hotel on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and their website for when they do announce it – I hope to see you there in 2016!