El Blok hotel in Vieques serves up Christmas, Puerto Rican style
El Blok sits atop a hill in Vieques, the most secretive and politically controversial gem in Puerto Rico’s archipelago. The small island’s fate has been fiercely contested between Puerto Rico and the United States Navy, which had employed the territory as a bombing range, until 1994.
With its 55 square miles of lush tropical landscape, pristine coastline and the brightest bioluminescent bay in the world, today Vieques enjoys much deserved respite from political strife. In lieu of the inevitable frenzy of developers, mega resorts and chain stores, only a select handful of distinctive properties have sprung up, sparking a much welcome trend of methodical and thoughtful development. Thus Vieques remains a peaceful and secluded retreat meant for those who desire a more zen and environmentally conscientious escape.
The property of El Blok proves to be a shinning example of this philosophy at first glance with its striking yet seamless design that abides by the tried-and-true tenants of Caribbean architecture: tropical cross ventilation, natural light and the view…always the view.
The San Juan design firm Fuster + Architects envisioned and executed a curvaceous and looming structure that evokes 1950s Tropical modernist design and prays tribute to the shape of the surrounding coral reefs. The interior common spaces emphasize an artistic pursuit of natural light, often filtered through Moorish latticework. Inside the 21 minimalist suites you will find cool-to-the-touch exposed concrete and distressed indigenous local wood in a bright and airy space leading to private terraces.
But perhaps main draw at The Blok is The Restaurant by José Enrique. This Puerto Rican chef has been a Food and Wine Best Chef South winner and James Beard Award Semifinalist and is currently one of the Caribbean’s top culinary revelations. Not only is José Enrique helping the world discover Puerto Rican haute cuisine, he often focuses his talents and efforts to raise the Caribbean region’s profile as a bona fide global culinary destination.
With The Restaurant, José Enrique has reached a trifecta of establishments under his name (Miel and Capital), and brings his signature beachside cuisine, with steaks and fish cooked over indigenous sour-orange wood, as well as a healthy minimalist selection of starters, raw dishes and ceviches that incorporate locally sourced organic ingredients.
The holiday season in Puerto Rico is a lengthy affair, and festivities typically linger until late January. Along with their distinctively lively music, the celebrations revolve around the island’s savory cocina criolla based around signature dishes like roast pork, plantain-based pasteles, arroz con gandules and island sweet treats like arroz con dulce and tembleque.
Tapping into the local favorites of the rambunctious Holiday season in Puerto Rico, guests at El Blok you can expect a sampling of Pitorro, the high-octane local and only-recently-legal moonshine spirit. Meanwhile, José Enrique will also be serving up lots of crispy roasted pork and spicy blood sausage all through the merry months of December and January.