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PUERTO RICO HERALD
A Horn Of Posh Plenty Awaits You In Rincón
By Natalia de Cuba Romero
July 4, 2003
Photos accompanying story: Copyright © 2003 Cook / Jenshel, The Horned Dorset
I'm a big Rincón fan; just 20 minutes or so from my home in Mayagüez on a pointy peninsula in the extreme west of Puerto Rico, it is a world apart from the concrete frenzy of Route 2. I love the easy-going beaches, the rumpled surfers, the rum-punch flavoured sunsets and the fact that there are more and more places to get a decent meal.
But I also like luxury. And new developments at the venerable Horned Dorset Primavera Resort mean that there is more luxury per square inch on this exquisite property than ever before. So if you've never been to the Horned Dorset, you're going to be amazed by its lush tropical privacy and elegance, while previous visitors who haven't been back in a while will be delighted by the changes.
One of the best resorts in all of the Caribbean and the only Relais & Chateaux property in Puerto Rico, the Horned Dorset is eight-acres of beautifully, yet naturally, landscaped seafront grounds, tucked away in one of Rincón's least trafficked areas. Scattered with graceful Spanish-style buildings, the property feels very much like you've been invited to spend a week at the hacienda of an old-money friend. Elegant without being formal, the Horned Dorset wears its luxury without ostentation and with practiced ease. And it has its own beach. Even Travel + Leisure magazine recognized this property as one of the best in the world in 2002.
Now the Horned Dorset has expanded. The new options are just as swish as the old, and blend smoothly into the property.
Where do we start?
You could always get a fabulous (and expensive) French meal with all the bells and whistles at the Verandah Restaurant, but now, the new Blue Room restaurant and terrace offer a bistro menu in two different intimate settings. I sat out on the terrace for my first meal there and what started as a sedate dinner for eight by became a jovial passing around of plates for tasting as the candlelight, sea breezes and excellent food took magical effect. The Blue Room is open Sunday thru Tuesday and La Verandah Wednesday thru Saturday during the summer season.
Aaron Wratten became executive chef of the Horned Dorset Primavera in 1996. Leonardsville, New York, home of his family's Horned Dorset Inn and restaurant, is where he learned the basics of French cuisine. He began cooking at home, in the middle of a sheep farm, vegetable and herb gardens, and an apple orchard. He has a degree from L'Ecole Ferrandi in Paris and has worked under Charles Palmer at Aureole and Daniel Boulud at Restaurant Daniel, Eduard Loubet of the 2 star Michelin restaurant Moulin de Lourmarin and with Antoine Biancone of the Relais and Chateaux, Les Frenes.
The basis of the menu is French, with Caribbean accents. Each day's menu changes with the local catch -- there is fresh locally caught fish daily -- and what's available on the market. Ceviche of Dorado with Avocado and Lime, Crepinette of Queen Snapper with Citrus and White Asparagus, and Grilled Yellowfin tuna with Black Truffle and Yucca. I went for the meat, sampling a Moroccan lamb dish that was just out of this world -- subtly smoky and tender.
Desserts using local produce may include a Warm Mango Napoleon, Frozen Lemon Soufflé with Minted Citrus Gelee, and a Chocolate Rainforest Gateau with Coconut Anglaise. Whee-hee!
You can dine inside Blue Room as well. It only seats 20 and it is lined with hand-glazed Italian tile made specially for the resort.
And an even bigger change has come with the Horned Dorset Villas, a small village adjoining the sea front suites of the original hotel. You want plush? These 22 two-story, town house suites all have king-size beds, private terraces and individual plunge pools facing the sea, some with cliff views. Furnished in custom Spanish, Dutch, and Caribbean mahogany and teak, these lush spaces reach back to the 17th Century Spanish Empire of Carlos I. The baths are all marble; even the closets are lined with marble. It's just posh, posh, posh - ideal for a weekend escape for two.
This brings the total rooms available to just 53, guaranteeing that the quality of service guests have come to expect since 1986 continues. And the original rooms continue to feature mahogany four-poster beds and footed tubs, as well as privacy and quiet, uninterrupted by telephones or televisions. But if you should want to leave the property, you've got the surf, beach bars and funky ambience of Rincón just minutes away. Talk about the best of all possible worlds.
Summer rates start at $440 a night, double occupancy for a superior deluxe room and include breakfast and dinner. Rates drop for local residents to start at $350. The villas (Primavera suites) are a bit pricier, starting at $590 for a partial view. There are package deals for stays of more than three nights. The honeymoon package is especially sweet: from $4,250 to $6,600 for seven nights in a Primavera suite including a welcome bottle of Dom Perignon, ground transfers, welcome gift and a tasting dinner for two. Romantic! Prices do not include 9 percent government tax, 9 percent resort fee or gratuities. And guests must be over the age of 12. For more information visit www.horneddorset.com or call 800-633-1857.
Natalia de Cuba Romero is a freelance travel, food and arts writer. Her column, "Sights, Sounds & Tastes of Puerto Rico", appears weekly in the Puerto Rico Herald. She can be reached at NataliaHerald@centennialpr.net.