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Bacoa Finca + Fogón: A Gastronomic Experience in the Manner of our Ancestors 

The Juncos restaurant integrates the burén, in addition to the wood-fired kitchen, to surprise its guests

April 11, 2024 - 11:00 PM

Xavier Pacheco, Raúl Correa and René Marichal are the creators of the restaurant, located in Barrio El Mangó, Juncos. (WANDA LIZ VEGA)

Lee la historia en español aquí.

Juncos.- The culinary experience takes on a different meaning at Bacoa Finca + Fogón. They achieve this by using the burén and the ancestral cooking practices of the Taínos who populated Borinquén, in addition to a wood-fired kitchen.

The concept “from field to table” was born in 2018 within the premises of an estate in Barrio El Mangó, Juncos. The large house stands among the pleasant countryside, which is adorned by a beautiful pond with a variety of fish that urges you to relax.

But the magic of Bacoa begins in the minds of chefs Xavier Pacheco, 44, René Marichal, 43, and Raúl Correa, 46, three friends whose passion for the culinary arts led them to join forces to light the fire in “La ciudad de los valencianos.”

“Bacoa is a tribute to what the Puerto Rican dinner table is, with dishes to share. It’s been an evolution of what we initially thought we were going to set up that keeps changing, that’s the good part. It’s high-quality cuisine, well planned, well thought out and well made. We have fresh produce all week,” Pacheco explained.

16 mayo 2023  Juncos, PR
Proyecto Somos en Juncos.
Restaurante Bacoa  Finca + Fogon
Concepto enfocado en utilizar la cosecha local y de temporada  con platos creativos hechos en su mayor’a con lena y que van variando segœn la cosecha. En la foto el Chef Cristobal Contreras trabaja con la lena en el area de la parrilla

Foto: Wanda Liz Vega
16 mayo 2023 Juncos, PR Proyecto Somos en Juncos. Restaurante Bacoa Finca + Fogon Concepto enfocado en utilizar la cosecha local y de temporada con platos creativos hechos en su mayor’a con lena y que van variando segœn la cosecha. En la foto el Chef Cristobal Contreras trabaja con la lena en el area de la parrilla Foto: Wanda Liz Vega (WANDA LIZ VEGA)

According to the chef, their main focus is firewood and the burén, which consists of three stones, the tora (a flat circular clay dish) and fire, where most of their dishes are prepared.

“This technique was used by the Taínos with clay until the Africans were brought over and exchanged it with iron. But that’s one of our trademarks,” Pacheco added.

With this in mind, the chefs make sure most of their dishes are smoked at some point during the cooking process. The group usually varies its menu according to the season, to give guests a variety of options.

“Among the most popular dishes is our seasonal fish cooked on the burén. Whether we have caulk, snapper, whatever, we get away from the fried fish a little bit and decide to do it on the towel, which is the burén. This way it comes out crispy on the outside and very juicy on the inside, and it’s served with some pickled pumpkin and chayote and ajilimójili (pepper and garlic sauce). It’s really good,” said chef Marichal.

The menu usually features a stew, fish, beef or pork cuts, and chicken, which chefs reassure “is unique.”

Rice a la Jaquita.
Rice a la Jaquita. (WANDA LIZ VEGA)

“They ask for it a lot. We cook it in a brine first, then we roast it, it’s always smoked a little and it has its salsa verde too,” Pacheco said.

Another dish that is not to be missed in Bacoa is the Arroz a la Jaquita. It has annatto, pumpkin and onion, stewed beans, two types of sofrito, smoked meat, longaniza, morcilla (blood sausage), fried egg, aioli, coriander and chicharrón (fried pig skin).

“It’s like a glorified mamposteao. They also order it a lot,” Pacheco said.

He also mentioned two classics from their restaurant: smoked cucumbers and El Capricho de Raúl. The latter “is an extremely simple salad of farm kale and cherry tomatoes with a lemon-based vinaigrette, honey and olive oil.”

Bacoa also offers side options “that are more refreshing to balance things up,” along with dips like hummus.

“They’re made from beetroot, pumpkin, and pigeon peas, in addition to labneh which is a yogurt cheese and is more Italian, but it’s part of the influences we get,” Pacheco said.

And, as a typical cuisine that evokes our roots, there was no shortage of cod and glorified fritters, in addition to morcilla.

“We have the house fritters like the bread with morcilla, the bacalaítos, the longaniza that’s ours and the smoked meat that we make here,” Pacheco said.

Some of the dishes they offer in Bacoa.
Some of the dishes they offer in Bacoa. (WANDA LIZ VEGA)

Among their desserts they also present novel dishes such as a mallorca pudding, which according to the chefs is one of the favorites by far.

“In addition, we have the tembleque, the labneh with gooseberry sweets, and the house flan which we usually switch around. We also have baklava, which is a Mediterranean dessert that’s made its way here through the influences in our cooking and what we’ve learned ourselves,” Marichal said.

The chefs also highlighted their cocktail drink offerings which include: Los Hijos del Cañaveral, El Jíbarito Herido, Jíbaro del Campo (alcohol-free) and Juana Bacoa.

“El Jíbaro de Campo” drink.
“El Jíbaro de Campo” drink. (WANDA LIZ VEGA)

The perfect recipe

But if there is a perfect recipe at Bacoa Finca + Fogón, it is that of the friendship and respect that the owners and chefs profess. They claim this is the secret ingredient for the success of their restaurant.

“The project was born out of friendship, mutual respect, love for our country, for agriculture and of food. But it’s mostly a project born out of a friendship and respect for that friendship, camaraderie, and love of food, which has made it successful,” said Correa, who mentioned that each has an individual culinary project and that they will soon come out with another joint initiative.

With their ideas, influences and culinary experiences, the trio of chefs seek to create a legacy and leave their mark in the history of Puerto Rican cuisine.

The outside of “Bacoa” restaurant.
The outside of “Bacoa” restaurant. (WANDA LIZ VEGA)

“Our legacy has largely been to revive Puerto Rican cuisine, of course, with new techniques, [and] different influences because we study constantly and we’re the head [of this place]. But we have an excellent group of workers behind us,” Pacheco said.

“What we want in Bacoa is for people to feel like they’re visiting their granny again, and she’d make all these dishes for them to eat. That feeling you get when you’re home,” Marichal concluded.

The restaurant is open Thursday through Sunday from 11:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m.

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