Tropical Plants growing at the Rainforest Inn

As if the Rainforest Inn wasn’t beautiful enough, there are some incredible exotic plants that Bill and Renée have planted on the property. The other day, I was eying them all and decided to investigate. I perused the foliage and took several pictures of plants/flowers I found interesting. Bill told me most of the plants I found were varieties of “Ginger” flowers. At the Rainforest Inn we have several- including torch ginger, shell ginger, pink ginger, red ginger, and white ginger. The white ginger, pictured in the bouquet below, is the national flower of Cuba and has a refreshing perfume.

Flowers pictured above include Yellow Caribe, Torch Ginger, White Ginger, Hanging Heloconia, and Pink Ginger

Flowers pictured above include Yellow Caribe, Torch Ginger, White Ginger, Hanging Heloconia, and Pink Ginger

Red Ginger found near our Buddha statue

Red Ginger found near our Buddha statue

Shell Ginger Plant by our driveway

Shell Ginger Plant by our driveway

Most of the beautiful flowers are Heloconia. Some include the Heloconia Pagota, Hanging Heloconia, and Heloconia Psittaocrum.

Heloconia Pagoda found in our garden

Heloconia Pagoda found in our garden

Heloconia Psittacorum found by our driveway

Heloconia Psittacorum found by our driveway

Yellow Helonica found at the bottom of our driveway

Yellow Helonica found at the bottom of our driveway

Renée often makes tropical arrangements (almost ikebana style) with our flowers for the rooms.

We also have a few plants that attract hummingbirds, such as the hibiscus flower, and several varieties of Bromeliad plants.

Variety of Bromeliad Plant which attracts hummingbirds

Variety of Bromeliad Plant which attracts hummingbirds

Variety of Bromeliad Plant which attracts hummingbirds

Variety of Bromeliad Plant which attracts hummingbirds

Hibiscus Flower found in our courtyard- it attracts hummingbirds

Hibiscus Flower found in our courtyard- it attracts hummingbirds

You can find these exotic plants if you wander around our property, especially by our driveway and the back porch area near the pond. They’re just another reminder of the tropical paradise that awaits you if you decide to stay here at the Rainforest Inn!

Discovery - Culinary Possibilities in Palmer, PR

As I was organizing the binder of local restaurant menus that we have for guests at the Rainforest Inn, I became intrigued with the variety of restaurants in the nearby town of Palmer. Palmer is at the main entrance of El Yunque National Rainforest, about a 20 minute drive from the Rainforest Inn. Because of its location at the main entrance to “El Yunque”, the town of Palmer gets frequented by a lot of tourists on a daily basis. The influx of tourists coming to this small town has led to several interesting and eclectic restaurants opening on the main street, the “calle principal”.

On a Tuesday afternoon, Bill dropped me off in Palmer to explore the food scene. My first stop was Lluvia, a sit down restaurant open for breakfast and lunch. The interior of Lluvia was very aesthetically pleasing, with a clean and spacious look. They also had AC, which is a big plus for those summer days in Puerto Rico where temperatures down in the lower elevations can be high.

Lluvia interior

Lluvia interior

Lluvia Interior with a bakery case of delicious choices for dessert.

Lluvia Interior with a bakery case of delicious choices for dessert.

I ordered a salad that had romaine lettuce, walnuts, goat cheese, dried cranberries, chicken, red onion, (sorry Bill and Renée it wasn’t vegetarian), and balsamic vinaigrette. It was really tasty, and I had a refreshing watermelon juice that paired well with the meal.

Salad with Romaine Lettuce, Walnuts, Goat Cheese, Dried Cranberries, Chicken, Red Onion, and Balsamic Vinaigrette.

Salad with Romaine Lettuce, Walnuts, Goat Cheese, Dried Cranberries, Chicken, Red Onion, and Balsamic Vinaigrette.

My next stop was at a vegan juice bar called Degree 18. The restaurant opened in 2016, but recently had a change of ownership. The owners are passionate about vegan food, as well as showing vegans and non vegan skeptics how delicious and innovative the cuisine can be. In the future, they hope to expand to other areas of the island.

I felt right at home at Degree 18. Seating is outdoors only, but there are plenty of umbrellas and canapés to ensure you find a shady spot to enjoy your meal. As a lover of vegan food, I was eager to see what yummy concoctions this place had in store for me. All ingredients used at Degree 18 are as fresh as possible, and some are even grown on their own property.

Degree 18 Front Entrance

Degree 18 Front Entrance

Degree 18 Seating Area

Degree 18 Seating Area

Degree 18 Counter and Menu

Degree 18 Counter and Menu

For my meal at Degree 18, I ordered the pink tide smoothie bowl. The base of the bowl had bananas, strawberries, raspberries, and mango. It was topped with blueberries, bee pollen, hemp seeds, and granola. It was very refreshing and delicious! The portion was a good size, and I actually couldn’t finish it because I got quite full.

Pink Tide Smoothie Bowl

Pink Tide Smoothie Bowl

The menu at Degree 18 features a wide variety of smoothies, smoothie bowls, juices, and vegan grub. In true Puerto Rican fashion, you can add hard liquor to any smoothie or juice for a slight up-charge!

Bill and Renée told me about their amazing veggie burger with a curry sauce. They also get their lentil wrap. I went back a couple of days later with my family (visiting Puerto Rico that week and hiking in the rainforest) and got their curry sauce veggie burger. It was amazing and my family was impressed with their meals too.

Another thing I liked about Degree 18 was the friendliness of the staff. They are eager to give customers information about all the wonderful things this island has to offer, and answer any question you might have whether it be related to the juice bar or not.

The next food establishment I checked out in Palmer was Mi Vida Cafe. I was still too full to try anything, but I ordered a coffee from the bar. Bill tells me this place has great fish tacos, as well as a good selection of fine whiskey.. This place definitely attracts locals and tourists alike. They serve traditional Puerto Rican food, as well as other unique dishes. They will serve your veggie or beef burger with tostones for the bun if you are gluten free.

The owner sources his coffee straight from the island, it’s Adjuntos coffee from Puerto Rico Coffee Roasters in the central mid-west zone of Puerto Rico. Unlike other restaurants in the area, Mi Vida was able to reopen right after hurricane Maria due to a backup generator.

Mi Vida Cafe Exterior

Mi Vida Cafe Exterior

Mi Vida Interior

Mi Vida Interior

For my last stop, I headed to Peccas, a gourmet ice cream and coffee shop. This is one of Bill’s personal favorite spots, so I met him there for a quick treat. Unfortunately, I was too full to order anything. Bill, however, got what he likes to call the “Rainforest Inn” frappe, a concoction he invented that which is made with whiskey coconut ice cream and fresh espresso. I had a taste and it was heavenly.

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The interior of Peccas is very cheerful and vibrant, which proves to be quite inviting to costumers. They have a minimalistic menu, and it appears as though ice cream flavors rotate on a daily basis. They also serve dessert crepes, as well as espresso drinks. Peccas appeals to the tourist that wants a unique, artisan ice cream experience. Better yet, it’s a woman owned business!

Interior of Peccas

Interior of Peccas

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A few other perks about Palmer is that parking is very accessible, as there is a large parking lot across the street from Mi Vida. Additionally, all restaurants are within walking distance from each other on the same street, so it’s easy to check several out at once! From visiting Palmer, I was able to get the full foodie experience I had been craving since coming here. Overall, my culinary journey in this small town was very positive. This is definitely a stop guests at the Rainforest Inn don’t want to miss!

Bill and Renée’s grandaughter enjoying some artisanal ice cream at Peccas. Livy their new german shepherd puppy had a taste too!

Bill and Renée’s grandaughter enjoying some artisanal ice cream at Peccas. Livy their new german shepherd puppy had a taste too!


Recipe Testing for New Breakfast Menu Items at the Rainforest Inn

Renée prides herself on making innovative gourmet vegetarian breakfasts for the guests here at the Rainforest Inn. Her passion for delicious healthy cooking brightly shines and is evident in the way she prepares the meals through every step until the plating which is always beautiful. Even from my fairly short time here, I’ve observed that guests are consistently blown away with the food served every morning. During breakfast time, Renée and Bill go above and beyond (as usual) to make sure everyone feels right at home. After the meals are served, they usually sit down with guests and talk about fun things to explore on the island, or have general chit chat about life experiences. I was eager to become a part of this daily ritual, one that greatly impacts guests’ overall experience at the Rainforest Inn.

I consider myself to be a fairly knowledgeable cook, but when Renée asked me to develop new recipes for the inn, I was a little nervous. The recipes she makes now are so creative and diverse, I was challenged to come up with new ones that were as amazing. Luckily, I have some experience making vegetarian and vegan cuisine, so I relied on my previous knowledge to come up with some exciting new recipes.

When brainstorming ideas, I headed to trusty Pinterest for inspiration. Renée had mentioned she wanted to make a new version of the vegetarian sausages she serves several days of the week. The ones she served now are delicious and proven guest pleasers, but Renée wanted me to find a new recipe that used natural ingredients from the Rainforest Inn gardens as well as other local sources. I flagged down a few recipes that looked good, and headed to the kitchen to try them out. The one I chose seemed simple enough, it used mushrooms and beans as a base, which sounded delicious to me! The dough was easy to make, but I knew the hard part was yet to come. Later, I had to hand roll the sausages, and individually wrap them in plastic wrap. That in of itself took me an hour! At this point, I was feeling pretty discouraged, and was hoping this dish would be worth all the effort.

Base of the veggies sausages- mushrooms, apples, onions, and garlic

Base of the veggies sausages- mushrooms, apples, onions, and garlic

Veggie sausages after they had been rolled out and individually wrapped

Veggie sausages after they had been rolled out and individually wrapped

Unfortunately, after tasting the sausages I came to the conclusion that they weren’t worth the effort. They were ok, but definitely under-seasoned, and the ones Renée serves for breakfast were far more tasty. Feeling a little defeated, I decided to make some other breakfast recipes that I had tried before, and knew were good.

The second breakfast item I made was chia seed pudding layered with mango puree and coconut flakes. I’d made chia pudding before (it’s very simple and quick to prepare), and this one was a big hit! The tanginess of the mango puree complimented the thick creaminess of the chia pudding very well. Renée tried it and really liked it as well. She said it would make a great addition to her breakfast repertoire.

Chia seed pudding layered with mango puree and coconut flakes

Chia seed pudding layered with mango puree and coconut flakes

The last recipe I made was also something I had made before; blueberry and rosemary scones. They’re vegan too, which is an added bonus for guests that come here and subscribe to that kind of eating. Rosemary is my favorite herb, and I love the combination of sweet and savory. Renée grows rosemary in her garden on the property, so I picked some fresh for this recipe! The scones are surprisingly easy to make and that means a lot coming from someone who isn’t very keen on baking! They came out great and everyone who tried one really enjoyed it- even Bill who can be hard to please!

Rosemary blueberry scones before going in the oven

Rosemary blueberry scones before going in the oven

Fresh out of the oven!

Fresh out of the oven!

The final result

The final result

Recipe testing for new breakfast items at the Rainforest Inn was a sometimes stressful, but mostly enjoyable experience. As someone who loves to cook, I feel right at home in Renée’s kitchen, especially because her kitchen is so large and complete and she has basically every cooking gadget known to man. I will follow with further blogs of more ideas for the breakfasts and also which ones Renée has chosen to include. You will never have a boring meal here at the Rainforest Inn!

Hiking in the Rainforest - our choices for the best hiking shoes and clothes

Hiking in the Rainforest - our choices for the best hiking shoes and clothes

Hiking boots or even most trail running shoes just become caked mud ice skates when hiking El Yunque trails. Laurie discovered the aggressive lugged-tread flexible souls of Inov-8 shoes and now I bought some new ones and tell of my experience with them.

Let us spoil you at the Rainforest Inn

Let us spoil you at the Rainforest Inn

When you stay at the Rainforest Inn you have options. Think of us more like a boutique hotel. Instead of joining the conversation with other guests at the breakfast table you can choose to be served on your private porch or even bring a tray to your partner in bed. Let us help you make your stay as romantic as possible!

Fresh Papaya for breakfast

We are lucky to have a couple of papaya plants that we grew from a Hawaiian papay seed. It is a delicious tasting papaya that has hints of floral and none of the strong smell of ordinary papayas.  

 

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The best way to pick papayas is with a tall ladder. If you use a fruit picker pole  you risk damaging the soft ripe fruit.