Bar Marco's Jamilka Borges shares a Puerto Rican holiday treat | Food | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

Bar Marco's Jamilka Borges shares a Puerto Rican holiday treat

Borges opts for holiday dishes from home, including "the Puerto Rican version of eggnog."

Bar Marco's chef de cuisine, Jamilka Borges, describes innovating menus for the restaurant's tasting room as "the ultimate chef dream." But when it comes to holiday meals, she still prefers traditional foods.

Borges learned to "love the idea of feeding people" from her mother, who would start a new dish with a main ingredient and build on it with what was available. And growing up in Puerto Rico meant access to endless fresh produce, "along with a crazy amount of pork."

Now, far from home, Borges opts for holiday dishes that remind her of family, such as roasted pork with garlic, pumpkin soup and coquito — "the Puerto Rican version of eggnog," Borges explains.

"Coquito is something that I have on hand through the holidays," she says. And in Borges' family, the holidays continue for months: "The [Christmas] celebration starts on Thanksgiving Day and continues until 'Dia de la Candelaria,' on Feb. 2."

For seasonal cheer well past the New Year, pair Borges' signature holiday beverage with her family's favorite non-food tradition: the Song Game.

"Every New Year's Eve, we each play a song that moved us that year and explain why," Borges says. "It goes from funny to sad and back."

Jamilka Borges' Coquito Recipe


2 cans coconut milk
2 cans evaporated milk
2 cans cream of coconut
4 cinnamon sticks
2 tbs. cloves
2 tbs. star anise
1½ cups water
1 cup white rum
1½ cups dark rum


1. Place all the spices in a small pot and cover with the water, let simmer until water is reduced by half.

2. Mix all the liquid ingredients — except for rum — and bring to a low simmer, stirring constantly.

3. Combine the spiced water with cream mixture and strain through a mesh; let cool.

4. When cool, add rum and transfer to a glass container. Let it rest in the fridge for a day, then enjoy over ice. 

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