Giovanna Huyke, Mio's’ executive chef, has a mission. Not only does she want diners to experience her native Puerto Rican cuisine. She wants them to appreciate its culinary influences. This week she is serving a “Flavors of History” small-plates menu tracing the development of the island’s cooking from the days of the Taino Indians who lived there before the Spanish arrived, to its current, cosmopolitan chefs. Here’s a run-down on the dishes in the menu that will be served through February 23, with her notes about their history. The full tasting is $80, but individual dishes can be ordered, along with the regular menu.
Casabe, Crab salmorejo, achiote cream - “When the Taino Indians were the inhabitants of the Island the ingredients in their daily diet were casabe (yuca bread), cocolias (a kind of crab). Annatto seeds were used as dye and to color their faces for rituals. Anatto seeds (achiote) was used later to imitate saffron by the African women working for the Spaniards.”
Plantain, apio and codfish, coconut, lime and chile broth - “The ships, brought plantains, coconut, salted cod fish and some new crops like limes and chiles. This dish is inspired by the flavors of the new ingredients that grew and prospered in the Island and what was readily available like the codfish.”
Pan-seared scallops, white beans and longaniza stew - “This dish is entirely dedicated to the Spanish influence on the Island using the Puerto Rican version of chorizo. Stewing and beans also have roots in the Spanish favada.
Pan-seared foie gras, ripe plantain bread, pomegranate gastrique -“This dish reflects the influence of the Europeans who came to the Island in the ‘80s. Puerto Ricans started travelling and the cuisine in the Island prospered with new European restaurants. We translated the influence with our ingredients like the ripe plantain bread.”
Guinea hen and duck confit, dehydrated wild herbs, artisan cheese - "A new generation of chefs are using local ingredients, but taking it further.”
Barrilito rum braised pork cheeks, roasted pumpkin pastel, salsa cruda - “This is a tribute to the part of our history that remains. We make the best rum, Barrilito being the finest. We grow excellent pork and still feature it; and the pastel which is the Puerto Rican tamal with a twist but still wrapped in banana leaves.”
Soursop ice cream, sweet ají marmalade, Puerto Rican shortbread cookies - Soursop ice cream is still sold by street vendors. The sweet chili peppers are used in our sofrito and are perfect for marmalades. The cookies are our version of the Spanish polvorones.” (1110 Vermont Ave. NW; 202-955-0075).