Aug 29, 2019
By Peter Posert
When The People collectively take to the streets and overcome The Forces of Tyranny, Imperialism, Oppression, and Colonialism it renews my faith in the basic decency and righteousness of everyday folks…even long-suffering ones.
Recently, buried deep in the insane news cycle of the past month or so, was the story of the citizens of one of our long-standing territories taking to the streets to demand an end to the corruption, the United States of America’s ruling economic junta, and it’s lacky governor. You may have seen the images coming out of Puerto Rico. It had me thinking that perhaps it was time to visit the sole Puerto Rican restaurant in Sonoma County, El Coqui. What a revelation.
Here now, are we all animated from oil and petroleum, bodies mechanized from insecticide bathed food surrounded in plastic wrappers or are we rejuvenated from worn hands and strong backs reaping the bounty of deep soil and resplendent earth?
A visit to El Coqui will remind you that there are cuisines from the sun and the wind and the waves. There are places where lively dancers swing their hips to vibrant music, sip fresh sangria, thoughtlessly eating vegan, vegetarian and gluten free delicacies and living spiced up lives. Walking in, one is immediately nodding to the salsa beats, smiling with the bright colors, comforted by a genuine welcome from hosts behind the bar. Worthy dishes abound all over the menu, but here are a few standouts.
Tostones, little slider sized delicacies sitting on plantain (instead of wheat buns) are spectacular. This dish is highly recommended with all the fixings aboard.
Tuesday’s plantain spiders with avocado sauce are a thing of beauty. Think of your best latkes or hash browns (or onion ring loaf), add subtle and delicious savory plantain sweetness and drop the potato starch and you have a great appetizer/meal at El Coqui!
Not to be outdone by anything around town, the empanada will stop your heart with its slow-cooked savory meat and raisin filled pocket. You could have 50 empanadas around Sonoma County and not come up with anything better than El Coqui’s version.
The Homemade Sangria Hits All the High Notes along the way with ice cold fruit tones, but isn’t so sweet to be headachy or cloying, or too alcoholic to be annoying – it’s just refreshingly balanced across the palate and cold fun. Highly recommended.
You will from the time you’ve had one at El Coqui. I walked out of lunch satisfied and fulfilled loving the side dish of plantains instead of potatoes – it’s a nice and exciting alternative to the ubiquitous burger and fries.
The stuffed plantain with ground meat, Jibarto, simply rocks the palate. We found ourselves scraping our forks against the plate for every last savory taste of this dish. This dish is offered with a vegetarian option, too. The house standard, Pollo al Horno, features slow cooked chicken surrounded by Puerto Rican rice and beans, avocado, and deliciously slow roasted and caramelized banana. This dish is a tour de force.
Dreamy coconut ice cream is piled onto caramelized plantains that carry just a touch of crunch – a perfect pairing. The flan’s caramel sauce holds just a whiff of background complexity, making it a dish I want again and again. These aren’t simple one-offs or afterthoughts; they bring the restaurant home with aplomb.
There are Standards too, each with its Own Flair. The Pique, Puerto Rico’s vinegar-based sauce, is marinated with pineapple at El Coqui, creating a delicious background sweetness to the sour. Plantains, in a wide variety of creative concoctions, are infused throughout every meal, highlighting a staple that around here is typically only eaten as a sweet snack.
Revolutions Occur for a Variety of Reasons
In the restaurant world of our North Bay region, affordable and interesting adventures abound. To find a North American cuisine in our backyard that is infused with African, Spanish and traditional cultures, all in a melting pot that instinctively radiates vegan and vegetarian base dishes, and salsa/sangria fun(!), is nothing short of revolution for the new Sonoman palate.
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