Puerto Rico’s first culinary farm lodge hosts pop-up dinners

Nestled in the Cayey mountains, a young Puerto Rican entrepreneur has turned her home into a welcoming space for travelers looking to escape the city and locals in search of unique meals.  El Pretexto is Puerto Rico’s first culinary farm lodge and the creation of Crystal Diaz, a relentless foodie who found an ideal retreat high in the Cayey sierra.

The farmhouses at El Pretexto in Cayey offer visitors a rustic and relaxing retreat. Image by Rafael Ruiz, La Mafia Puerto Rico

A rustic country vibe emanates from the wood-paneled farm houses, which are divided into private bedrooms or villas, each sleeping up to five guests. The sweeping windows and terraces afford remarkable views from the highlands all the way to the southern coastlines of the island.

Chefs Francis Guzman and Natalia Vallejo work in tandem at the outdoor kitchen at one of the culinary pop-up experiences. Image by Rafael Ruiz, La Mafia Puerto Rico

Food plays an integral role at the lodge and for Diaz, who co-founded the digital C.S.A. PRoduce! and led communications for Cinco Sentidos Culinary Group, a celebrated local restaurant group. The lodge boasts an agro-ecological farming area carved on raised beds on the property’s foothills, as well as a culinary forest of fruit-bearing trees. It’s from these gardens that Diaz and partner - food blogger Rafael Ruiz from La Mafia Puerto Rico - source ingredients for the lodge’s morning meal.

The stage is set for one of El Pretexto's pop-up culinary experiences Image by Rafael Ruiz, La Mafia Puerto Rico

The true piece-de-resistance, however, is the large wooden deck and its outdoor kitchen, where most meals are held and where El Pretexto hosts its culinary pop-up events. Featuring varying local chefs, the pop-ups are intimate experiences where guests mingle over a family-style meal served outdoors around the deck’s picnic wooden tables, for a truly sensorial experience featuring orange-pink sunsets over the mountains and coastlines of Puerto Rico.

Fresh Caribbean spiny lobster is skewed and prepped to be served over stew and pumpkin pasteles. Image by Rafael Ruiz, La Mafia Puerto Rico

The pop-ups vary in style and menu but are meticulously curated, from a produce-focused tandem venture by chefs Francis Guzman (Vianda) and Natalia Vallejo, to a Patagonian dinner by Chef Martín Louzao (Cocina Abierta), or a New Year’s Day Brunch by Levain Artisan Breads.

Just be sure to make reservations ahead of time at this adult-only venue. Diaz reminds visitors that, “we are not a restaurant. El Pretexto is our beautiful home that we choose to share with our guests in the hopes of supporting a micro-economic movement by consuming high-quality locally-grown products.”