Monday, December 3, 2007

Making Y'all Chumps Jealous.

Things I've done over the past two weeks:
-Swam in pictured waterfall in the middle of the rainforest.
-Drank rum while soaking in a natural hot tub in a mountain river.
-Aggrivated a howler monkey.
-Watched a swarm of army ants
-Moved into my new apartment
-Watched Anchorman at least 10 times
-Quoted Anchorman all the way through at least 20 times
-Held a puffed up blow fish in my hands like a spiny basketball
-Jumped off the top of a catamaran into the open sea
-Swam to Isla Capitan (2k round trip) and back twice.
-Slept in a Nicaraguan Colonial garden under a waning full moon and a swooping bat.
-Held a funeral for said swooping bat.
-Attended local Virgin Festival in seriously.
-Bought creepy looking bunny rabbit masks and raw cocoa in the Masaya market in Nicaragua.
-Talked about feelings.
-Bought a new surf board
-Saw a 600lb. tapir hanging out in the jungle.
-Drank my bloodweight in Flor de Cana.
-Ate tortillas and black beans at "the Ladies" in Santa Cruz.
-Fell in love with Costa Rica all over again.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

My Day Off: The List

-Drove to Barra Honda National park at 6.30a
-Hiked to the top of the mountain.
-Threw basketball sized rocks into a hole 60 ft. deep.
-Climbed a tree and listened to the bees.
-Sat in a shed 1,000 feet up and looked out over the Gulf of Nicoya.
-Talked with a troupe of howler monkeys.
-Swam in my skivies at the base of a waterfall.
-Picked lemons off what may be the only lemon tree in Costa Rica.
-Drove to Avellanas.
-Surfed while I waited for my food to come at Lola's.
-Ate a pizza on the beach.
-Drank guava pureed with ice and rum.
-Surfed as the sun dipped into the sea.
-Passed out on the couch reading a western with a smile on my face and still in my clothes at 8.45p

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Music You'll Vote Against

I would never presume to call myself a music critic despite my ability to be quite critical. All that said and done I've recently had a musical experience prompting me to write a word or two. Do Make Say Think's "You, You're a History in Rust" may be the greatest soundtrack to your life that you'll never bother to listen to. I drove home from a night with friends listening to every song as if they were written as a letter to me, each chord and note were strummed out on my spine, each note plucked out between the frets of my being. Instead of titling songs in English a simple title of "distraction #9" or "personal redemption #58" would have sufficed as each beat and melody managed to pertain to each moment near and dear to my tomorrow. Boo hoo hoo I love music and I only wish that you would listen to this trying to figure which triumph and tragedy each tune pertained to in your very own life. You and I could have a very interesting conversation indeed. xoxoxoxo.

PS- entirely too much has happened since I've been back from Argentina. I only wish I could mange to keep up in between Louis L'Amour and trips to the New Yorker to write them all out. Living and loving my life has taken a front seat to trying to embellish the minutiae here in the confines of the Internet. Hugs and kisses to all of you who deserve them. There are a lot of you out there.

Monday, October 15, 2007

ON ICE no less!!!

There is a strong chance (although at this point I'm not at liberty to divulge anything) that I saw High School Musical on Ice dubbed in Spanish. I may or may not have had front row seat in front of some of Argentina's finest celebrities. There remains a possibility that I ate a hot dog with mayonnaise on it.

I don't care what anyone says, by the way. Troy was a total jerk for thinking about his basketball team over Gabriella. Doesn't he know how much he hurt her?! She should have never taken him back so quickly! Psssssh! Whatever.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Right, so...

Last night, over take out empanadas and salad I talked about politics with Sol's parents in their super fast Argentinian Spanish which, I would imagine, is about as easy as talking about auto mechanics in Mandarin. I suffered no side effects aside from a little dizzyness which may or may not have come from the really really good bottle of wine.

I was also attacked by a mob of hungry pigeons in the Plaza del Mayo.

Monday, October 8, 2007


Today I ate meat. A ton of it. So much, in fact that I may be elegible for the death penalty or at the very least severe public humiliation in several nations. I swooned, I think. Vegetarians please do yourselves a favor and forget about this country. Texans are preferred. Well all except one, I'd venture to say.

Sunday, October 7, 2007

The High Life in Buenos Aires

We woke up early this morning and went to the B.A. Central Market where you can buy truck loads of cheap and beautiful veggies, meats and housewares of all types. We bought a kilo of beautiful strawberries, some black skinned potatoes, pork loin and pea shoots for our lunch, which I was in charge of. After a few more errands, I spent the afternoon cooking. We sat down and had a family meal before Sol and I left for an afternoon with some of her friends.

We drove out to Las Tortugitas, essentially the Beverly Hills of B.A. where we took part in a garage sale of sorts, had tea at the country club, and sat around chatting at sunset. I, at points, completely lost in this wave of completely new spanish, would sit back and watch everyone interacting, amazed at how it was almost identical to any afternoon in the States (aside from the whole country club polo part). We finished the eveing by going to "El Viente", a movie with Nicolas Cage and Jessica Beil which was just as bad, I imagine, in another country as it would have been in the states. It was still fun to lay back in the theater and listen to everyone watch the movie. Everyone loves Nicolas Cage afterall.

Sorry I cán't really post any photos. I can't connect my camera to this compu with out the software. I guess you'll just have to wait.

Friday, October 5, 2007

Un Beso

I landed at 7.30a in the middle of the thickest fog I´d ever seen. This Argentina place was looking alot like England at this point. Passing through Imiration and Customs snap quick I was nabbed up by Sol and her family and we were off.

Took a quick nap and spent the afternoon wandering around town. As the sun was setting, we stopped to have a cup of coffee at a small cafe along the edge of one of the many parks in town.

Had Faina, an amazing pizza like thingy made of chickpea puree and then baked in the oven and then I headed up`for bed. As I passed by Sol´s father, issuing my "goodnights" he said "un beso" and lightly slapped me in the face. I went up the steps laughing my head off. Did he just pop me in the face? I was finally in Argentina.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

The Deep DEEP South

So this is it. I'm heading out in about fifteen minute to Argentina, a new frontier for me. This photo, a bird's eye shot of Argentina, is one of the very few things I've actually seen of Buenos Aires, and I can barely see it at that. I've intentionally kept myself from looking at much information so that I can have zero expectations for my trip. This will officially be the furthest south I've ever been, although I picked up a travel book on Antarctica (I KNOW! They actually have one! Crazy huh?). That needs to be added to my list for sure. I've got a charged camera battery and a decent chance of hitting some Internet time so I"ll do my level best to write down a word or two here.

Ciao, chow, chau, or whatever it is that they say in hoity-toity places.

Sunday, September 16, 2007


And now, ladies and gentleman, I'm pleased to announce the 2007 Flyswatter Magazine Reader's Choice Awards! I, Zachary Andrew Meloy, chef and nominee for "Best Chef", am here to talk with you all about the importance of exercising your right to vote! For those of you who missed last presidential election, you now have the opportunity to take part in an equally if not more important election. The poll is located at in the top right hand corner.

See you at the polls!

ps: This election is super important. I might not get a date to the Tamarindo prom if I don't get elected so if you don't vote for me I'm totally not talking to you. Whatever...

Thursday, September 13, 2007

How Rude!

This morning I was shocked to find that a troupe of monkeys had peed and pooped ALL over my car. Trust me when I say this is far worse than the occasional bird dropping. I guess it could be worse. At least it wasn't an elephant. Or a crack head.

PS-Apparently there is a video game called "Super Monkey Poop Fight." I'm speechless.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Impossibly Famous for All of the Right Reasons

"How do you do?" she said in her impeccable English accent.

"Gurgle herm um...hi, hi hello," I managed, unwittingly triggering memories of her life in the wild with chimps, I'm sure.

So here I am cooking a five course vegan meal for Jane Goodall, a celebrity who more than any other drunk-in-public, panty-flashing, dead beat heiress, deserves her fame. She had just arrived from San Jose, another stop in her 300+ day tour to promote "Roots and Shoots" program.

The week before I got a phone call. "How would you like to cook for Jane Goodall? Your name has been mentioned and if your schedue permits..."
"I'd love to," I said. And that was it.

Of course, you always hear about someone's interaction with a celebrity and how they were just like any other person, every bit as quirky. That was exactly how it was with the doctor...only she had spent more than 10 years of cumulated time living in the wild with chimpanzees. She had a very strong matronly air about her. A wisdom accrued from her decades of more "civilized" interaction.

Rightfully so, Dr. Goodall is vegan, making the planning of a five course meal a little more tricky but in the end, super fun.

Jane Goodall's dinner:

-Roasted Cauliflower Veloute with Achiote Garlic Confit and Caramelized Florets of Cauliflower
-Salad of Cumin Fried Potatoes, Roasted Capsicum, Nicoise Olives, Fresh Basil and Smoked Tomato Vinaigrette
-Thyme Roasted Portabella Mushroom Cap with Wild Mushroom Carnaroli Rice and Parsley Puree
-Fresh Papaya with Coconut-Rose Sorbet and papaya seeds
-Warm Lavender infused Soy Milk

This experience, with no surprise, was one of the most flattering opportunities I've had and it was a tremendous honor to cook for such an overwhelming figure. And I managed to make it through the entire evening without askeing her if she knew any famous chimps like "Bubbles."

Hey, no monkey business. (enter nerd laugh effect here)

Friday, August 31, 2007


I kicked off my sandals and hid them away so they wouldn't get stolen, rolled up my pants to keep then sufficiently dry and padded out over the sharp rocks to where the shipwreck is and...I saw it. Chunks of rigging, the central masting and the enormous chain running out to sea just like I said. A huge bath tub drain. Then we went fishing for snapper and octopus hunting. THEN I started reading a Joseph Conrad book before making a sandwich out of fresh mozzarella made down the strret by some italian lady in her tico kitchen. This is even BETTER than vacation.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Sunken Ships and Sea Urchin LIps

It's been a week since my little jaunt to Los Angeles and although it would have been super fun to hear back from the Top Chef folks, I have been really happy to get back to Langosta. I've had a few private dinners to cook for some folks, a wedding to plan, and plenty of time to soak up some L'Amour western wisdom.

I woke up early today and headed up to the B&B to sip a cup of coffee and give the staff an armload of empanadas and tortillas I bought yesterday at Co-op Tortilla in Santa Cruz. The moon tide was really really low so I took the opportunity to enjoy a rare moment of winter sun here and wandered out to the reef to wade through the tidal pools and look at the Chinese freighter shipwreck. Run aground in the 70's, there's a huge section of mast that is visible when the tide wanes and although I've not spotted any of it yet, there are big sections of anchor chain that run along the bottom of the reef and out to the near-by churning sea. While I'm looking for the chain, I always end up thinking about that old cartoon where someone inevitably pulls the link attatched to the ocean's drain plug and in a foaming whoosh of water the sea bubbles and gurgles down the tube.

I gingerly poked through the bubbling pools toeing around grumbling sea urchins, lathargic sea snails, and a bobbling juvenile blue puffer fish taking his time to make sure all of the slick rocks were polished and clean.

There's no way, in evaluating life, that I could ever be upset about the way things managed to turn out, Top Chef or not. Especially since there is a new grocery store here that sells 8 different types of Haribo Candy. Mmmmm...Addiction. Delicious.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Top Chef to Be?

I decided that the best thing for me to do while I relaxed in my Los Angeles Westin hotel room would be to officially order room service for the first time. An expensive venture, I know but hey, maybe if I actually make it on this's something I could get used to.

This is the official update on how all of this is going to work out, in case any of you were wondering: I have absolutely NO idea. It's 6.48a here and I've already been up for an hour trying to convince myself that I'm not all that nervous about cooking today. The impossibly early hour is giving it away though. I'm nervous and desperately fighting off the Meloy urge to over-caffeinate (flashes the O.C. hand signals to Rebecca).

After missing my first connecting flight, I got here at 4am yesterday morning finding my bags, including all of my knives lost and the rental car lot empty. As I looked at the several families sleeping in the lobby of Advantage Rentals I thought "Dang this isn't such a good start." But smiles and jokes prevailed and I was soon driving the worst looking bright yellow Jeep Wrangler to the Westin to sleep in the greatest bed in the history of modern bedding.

The next morning I rounded up my bags, a phone charger, and a friend for lunch and drove out to Hollywood to find out where this nonsense was going down. "Les Deux" the super clubby and often seen (read scene) restaurant on North Las Palmas was where I would be testing my ability to endure four hours of nerves mixed with knives and flames. As soon as I snuck a peek inside I knew I had seen this place before in "The Hills." Yeah I've watched it...guilty as charged. Around 4pm or so I headed back to the hotel to finish up my application, iron out my new coat, and relax a bit.

I'm about to shower and shave my face before I head back over to Sunset. I figure I'll show up really early just in case everyone in LA is there. Gulp. That's all I know. There is absolutely no other information I can provide and trust me, I've looked. I don't know what I'll be doing. I don't know how long I'll be there. I don't know what the format is although I hope they just call it all off as soon as I walk in. "OK people thank you for coming out! Our Top Chef JUST walked in so everyone can go ahead and go!"

Delusional? Yeah, maybe. Over-caffeinated? You bet.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Remember me? Probably not...

A very brief account of what happens when you mess with the laws of nature. Enjoy.

Culinary Speed Bumps in the Road of Life and the Cultural Ramifications of Chocolate Cheese or Lost in Translation: A Guide to Surviving Really Really Bad Ideas

My guard went up instantly, and not without reason. The garishly colored sign posted in front of my favorite Costa Rican milk shake stand declared “A New Way to Enjoy Your Cheese” in the most eloquent Spanish I imagine they could find. Up until this very moment I had never even considered a new way to enjoy cheese even possible much less needed. I mean, it’s a perfect food already right? I was always the first to joke that cheese was perfect with everything but I was now very quickly regretting any glib cracks I had made in the past. I scanned the panel and read “Cheese Delicately Flavored with Chocolate” in the foreground over an image of rolling verdant pastureland and bucolic cattle grazing under lazy drifting clouds. Considering Spanish is not my first language, I had one of those cartoon-esque double takes, squeakily rubbing my eyes as I confirmed in fact that I had not misread anything. Dear God…I hadn’t.

Food, and more specifically eating, is an amazing thing; an overwhelmingly yet often overlooked sensual experience dictated by our own cultures, controlled by our own personal tastes and constantly compared to and even acting as a rival to sex. From the day we are born, we are told when to eat, what to eat and how we should eat it and aside from the tortured few who produce dishes with wasabi flavored foam (or anything on a menu in quotation marks for that matter), the majority of us don’t really question those rules.

But at what point did Americans get to have Apple Pie as their national dish while the Chinese got stuck with Thousand Year Eggs, a duck egg rolled in ash and lime and buried in the back yard for 100 days until the white coagulates black and jellied in the shell? As strangers, our first reaction when we come across little cultural gems like this is revulsion, cold sweats and maybe a touch of dry heaving most likely forgetting that to others, our everyday food could be just as exotic and quite possibly as disgusting sounding. Hot dogs…point and case.

So in my fledgling intercultural understanding, I figured I might need to step up, walk the walk, and at least try the most recent and completely unnecessary improvement on cheese before I declare it unfit for consumption. So, as I stood there eyeing the tray of now more-than-room temperature samples, my palms began to twitch just a bit in that “oh crap” clammy kind of way and the young girl in charge of manning the display of slightly sweating cubes of brown “cheese” wandered over.

“Would you like to try our new product?” she asked me with an enthusiastic smile. I told her I wasn’t sure how to answer that question. She repeated herself, a little slower this time, most likely guessing that the flustered gringo in front of her didn’t understand Spanish properly and needed a little help. I assuaged her doubts as I nabbed up a caramel colored chunk of choco-cheese and popped it in my mouth before I could justify running to the car.

For those first few seconds, I was ok as my brain told me “Mmmm Chocolate” but then it got confused somewhere in between chews and the message very quickly became “Oh no it ain’t chocolate. It’s cheeeeeese.” The cute sample girl beamed on with a broad smile that said one of two things: “Heh heh. I tried it too…pretty nasty, huh?” or “Mmmm chocolate cheese” but I really couldn’t tell as the tears began to well up and blur my vision. It was absolutely all I could do to get that tiny treat down and it took every ounce of my being to kindly thank her before briskly walking out into the rain feeling cheated, dejected and just down right bummed out.

I had done what I was morally obligated to do hadn’t I? Don’t knock until you try it, RIGHT?! In all of my own internal hemming and hawing about trying new things and having an open mind when it comes to culinary experiences, I overlooked a huge key point: You don’t always have to try something to determine if it’s not really a good idea. Many times you can take a quick look and use a little reasoning (read “common sense”) to make a sound decision. These things most likely can be safely avoided: experimental parachute testing, crocodile wrangling, crack cocaine, and cheese delicately flavored with chocolate.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Upon the Stormy Seas

I sat in a low slung salt air battered beach chair and watched the midday tide roll in as the air vibrated from the green season afternoon storm pushing through. It's remarkable how it seems like I can have a relatively busy week and still feel a sense of calm contentment knowing that the only thing that really mattered at that very moment was watching the pelicans swoop in and run out the line on the foamy right breaking waves.

I've been fairly lax on keeping these pages updated, not because nothing is really happening but because I feel like the things I am loving right now might not come across all that interesting.

-I cooked six consecutive private three course meals for a couple from NYC.

-I ate some silly hot chiles from Jose the guard's home garden. He warned me "Tio (he calls me uncle) these are super hot" but I assumed that they couldn't be THAT hot considering the Ticos just don't eat spicy food. He was right though. They were super hot. He laughed. I cried. And then I laughed.

-I listened to a ton of music.

-I got full on pineapple.

-I read a page or two of Louis L'Amour, the unsung hero.

-I had a sip or two of Flor de Cana rum.

-Sleeping sleeping sleeping. I don't sleep late but I've been sleeping hard, a pleasant development considering I hadn't been sleeping too well in the states.

-I've been out at Las Casitas kayak surfing four days this week learning how to read the waves, catch them on the shoulder, bottom turn and use my paddle to turn back up the face of the wave. Each time I drop down the face of the wave feeling the spray come up over the nose, I laugh. Every time I paddle out into the break not sure if the next wave is going to pound down on my head and I punch through it and sling salt water everywhere with a whip of my head, I laugh. When I roll over in bed and I feel those two little muscles in my lower back tense and burn from another day in a boat, I grin and sleep like a stone.

-I have felt the healthiest I've felt in a long time.

-I am quickly adjusting to slower ways of life and Costa Rican handshakes.

(The painting above reminded me of this rediculous 3 Inches of Blood song, who by the way, Charles, have a new album out. PIRATE MEATAL...YAR!)

Monday, June 11, 2007

New Nicknames

After my momentary bursts of singing love songs in spanish and my panting relay of the crocodile story to the staff at Sueno del Mar, I now have two new nicknames: El cantante and El cocdrilo. I guess I could do the very least they aren't calling me gordito any more.

Friday, June 8, 2007

Cocodrilo en Salsa

So there we were...My friend Ashton, for the past few weeks, has been hounding me to paddle up the Langosta estuary with him in kayaks so finally out of lame excuses and feeling even lamer about being so lazy, I relented knowing that as soon as I sat in the boat it was probably going to be really fun anyway. We went and picked out boats, slathered on some sun screen, and dragged our goods down to the river's edge.

"You know, we're doing this at the most difficult time right?" Ashton asked as I fought the initial wobbles of being in a boat and we started our paddle up stream. The tide was going out and the current from the river was running shallow and strong towards the sea. "That's ok," I said, "I could use the exercize anyway", thinking about the load of "hey you got fat in the US" comments I've received from the Ticos.

After getting situated and remembering what I had been tought in my Chattahoochee kayak lesson from older days, we made it around the bend and up into the woods. I was shocked to see how quickly we left behind any trace of human influence and slid into through neighborhoods where the locals are river oysters an purple fiddler crabs lined up on the shore watching the strangers cruise past.

The further up we went the narrower the pass got and soon we were busy dodging the branches from either shore reaching down into the murky water. "The general estuary rule here is 'don't touch it'" Ashton said as we slid under our first low hanging branch. "That's the best way to get bitten by a weird spider or have one of those crazy tree snakes drop in your boat."

"Great" I thought to myself.

Despite my being green in a kayak I was having a great time learning how to paddle and steer and soon enough I finally felt comfortable enough that we could paddle one or two times and then coast in earsplittng silence up through the dense forrest.

After a slalom of four or five arched branches, we slid up, one in front of another, into a shallow lagoon, as far up as we were probably going to make it before the tide came in. I paddled once and coasted, saying over my shoulder "It looks like we've hit the end of the li..." and before I was even finished there was a huge cracking noise twenty five feet of the nose of my boat as a six foot crocodile freaked out and shot, Steeve Irwin style, straight out into the narrow pool.

What do you think my response was? Yup...scream like a girl. Yup...backpaddle and fast. I knew in my head that he was definitely way more scared than I was but I was having a hard time getting that info from my brain to my now charging arms. I was absolutely floored, laughing hysterically as I paddled hard, blasting past the branches I had gingerly snuck past fifteen minutes earlier. As I broke out into an open area (where I couldn't see any crocodiles) I finally stopped paddling and coasted, leaning back in the boat panting.

"That was insane," I said to Ashton.
"That happens all the time," he said.
"If that's the case...can we do this again tomorrow?" I asked guessing that there was probably no way I'd get to see that again in my whole life.
"Any time," he said.

We paddled back out, taking a break on the shore in front of the ocean before heading out to try my hand at kayak surfing...and now I'm addicted. Every time my arms ached as I rolled over in my sleep, I would grin and replay that lizzard ricocheting off the water in my mind.

Saturday, June 2, 2007


Honestly, sometimes I have little guilty twinges about my life. I sneak shifty little glances at my feet while I dig my toes into the sand, all the while somehow knowing I’m not supposed to enjoy this as much as I do.

In the past three to four weeks that I’ve been absent from the computer, there have been a ton of things going on probably better told in the timeless and efficient list form. I guess we’ll just start out right where we left off.

And away we go:

-Spent an exceptionally relaxing long weekend in San Jose including a day in the Mercado Central buying up the weirdest fruits we could find, finding tiny Costa Rican clothes for the now infamous collection, and eating bizarre cajeta candies.

-Cooked a dinner party for new and old Tica friends before being “dragged” out for an evening on the town. I had my first “Miami velvet rope” club experience which was only magnified by the fact we were nowhere near Miami.

-Caught a bleary-eyed flight back to Guanacaste for two more private dinners before packing up for my trip back to the US.

-In true Costa Rican networking form met a wonderful new client while waiting for our flight to the states to arrive. Apparently I’m now catering her 60th birthday party in Playa.Negra.

-Bought a ton of Louis L’Amour books. I’ve found that he’s actually really hard to find in book stores only confirming what I already know: He’s now obscure and therefore really cool.

-Catered a private dinner party for 14 eighteen year old girls. Needless to say it was more than a little disappointing to hear them express surprise that I had graduated from their school ten years prior. “What was Mr. Yeomans like WAY back then?” It was one of those moments.

-Watched my mom try beef cheek tacos. Smiled when she said “Hay, that’s pretty good.”

-Got addicted in an instant to the original “Legend of Zelda”

-Traveled to our nation’s capitol to reconnect with an old friend from middle school. Spent four days improving on an already proven formula.

-Ate way better than I should have at both Zengo and Oya, two excellent DC restaurants.

-Visited my first winery in Central Virginia and watched a lazy summer storm roll in over a picnic in the grass.

-Spent a few more days running around Atlanta gathering up “Hey while you’re up there…” items for everyone in Costa Rica.

-Piled onto a Liberia-bound plane back to “real” life.

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Back in Chepe

The past few days have been a little on the hectic side (or at least as hectic as things can get in breezy Tamarindo) hence my blog and web page neglect. I managed to wrangle up five private dinners in a row leaving me to beg, borrow, and steal ingredients around town. ON both of these nights I sat and fed a mother raccoon bits of orange from my hand while the rest of the paying guests finished their dinners.

1st: Salad of Watermelon, Cucumber, Fresh Basil and Local Feta Cheese.
2nd: Roasted Dorado with Local Organic Baby Zucchini, Nicoise Olives & Smoked Tomato Vinaigrette
3rd: Chilled Cantaloupe Soup with Lemon Sorbet and Pearled Melon

1st: Shaved Pear and Fennel Salad with Cucumber and Queso Fresco
2nd: Seared Loin of Tuna with Bacon Roasted Mushrooms, Sweet Corn and Jalapeño Puree and Tomato Jam
3rd: Roasted Bananas with Brown Butter Caramel and Vanilla Gelato.

With a few free days on the cooking calendar, Fernando and I left Tamarindo early this morning for San Jose to go out with some friends, have a small dinner party, and price out some kitchen ware for the promising operation there at Sueno del Mar.

In Costa Rica, and quite possibly the rest of Central America, it seems that there are only a few terms that can be used in the naming of restaurants, much like the infamous Chinese Restaurant Syndrome in the US (Golden Jade Buddha Moon China Palace II). One of the most popular themes here is the "party theme": Chicken Party, Seafood Party, Corn Party, granted they all have a bit of a nicer ring to them in Spanish. High in the hills above Atenas and few hours out from San Jose, we stopped at Fiesta de las Pupusas for a quick bite to eat. Now, if you have known me for even a minute, you will know that Pupusas, the little Salvadorian bean and pork rind stuffed tortillas, are very quickly climbing the ranks on my list of favorites, nestling comfortably somewhere between corn dogs and fried blueberry pies.

We sat at chest high concrete tables and ate until we were almost swooning from delight (ok I was completely swooning). Pictured above is a shot of one of my three pupusas smothered in pickled cabbage, and encurtido, mixed vegetables soaked in vinegar and hot chilies. To push back the fiery spice I drank a batido of Blackberries in milk and sugar as we made plans for future road trips and book itinerary (including personal cooking lessons from Fernando's Salvadorian Mother) before paying up and heading downhill towards the city.

At this point, a nap, shower and shave were in order before a night out on the town with friends.

Saturday, May 5, 2007

I cooked another meal tonight at Sueno del Mar, this time for five different guests. After last night's (exhausting) extravaganza this evening's dinner was much more relaxed, aside from the troupe of raccoons pan handling for rood and the mangy skunk I came face to face with in the composter.

1st: Panzanella salad with Cucumbers, Tomato, Red Onion and Aged Manchego.
2nd: Pan Roasted Dorado with Creamy Polenta, Organic Baby Summer Squash and Tomato Pico de Gallo
3rd: Ginger Bread Pudding with Honeyed Chantilly.

As I was cleaning up, one of the guests approached me and asked if I would cook for he and his wife for the next four days, an unbelievable honor considering he's a cook for the unstoppable Jean Gorge Vongrighten in NYC. Taking his flash bulb resume into consideration, it seems funny to me that he said he was envious of my life. I think I definitely made the right choice to be back here because i couldn't agree more.

ps: the poorly lit photo is from last night's dinner. A new camera is in order, me thinks

Friday, May 4, 2007

Today I cooked what will hopefully prove to be the first of many private dinners at Sueno del Mar. Bill and Lauren, a newlywed couple from Philly were treated to Cocktails and Hors D'oeuvres on the beach at sunset followed by a four course meal:

1st: Chilled Cucumber Gazpacho with Tomato Confit, Salted Radishes, and Crema Mexicana
2nd: Mixed Green Salad with Avocado, Local Goat Cheese Crostini and Smoked Chile and Tomato Vinaigrette
3rd: Serrano Ham Wrapped Dorado with Sweet Corn Salad, Garlic Roasted Marble Potatoes, and Cilantro Pistou
4th: Pan Perdido with Spiced Pineapple Compote and Rum Scented Cream

As I worked through my prep for the evening, I managed to tie down dinner for all of the guests in the hotel tomorrow and a guest who would like private meals for the next five nights. Not a bad start at all if I do say so myself.

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Highlights of a Moontan

In an effort to conserve energy here in Costa Rica, during week, the power is turned off for two to three hours every day leaving everyone to get creative with their now TV-less time. Since yesterday was a holiday (Costa Rica has a major state holiday once every three weeks or so) the power was left on all day leaving us with a double dose of outage today, the second of which came between the hours of 7 and 9, a rather difficult hour to be powerless. In an effort to pass the time, I smacked my Ipod on, wandered out of the house and down to the beach, my path lit by dappled moonlight slipping through the lethargic palms. I sat on a pile of rocks in the middle of the wide open stretch of Tamarindo sand watching a summer thunderstorm crowd in from the south over the now dimly candlelit village and as I listened to M. Ward, sporadic flashes of heat lightening, briefly lit the soundly sleeping silhouette of the mountains across the bay in Playa Grande.

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Home again home again jiggity jig...

Today was my first full day back in Tamarindo and I have to tell you that it has changed and all for the better. Granted, the best part about it is probably that I just don't have as much negativity in my life anymore, with the newfound ability to see so much of the good around this place but life, my friends, is just fine. I can't wait for everyone to come and visit because all of my pawing isn't going to show you. You just need to see it for yourself.

PS-this isn't my photo but I watched it all happen just like this this evening over guaro and Pilsen. Hurry up and get here soon.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Home Sweet Home, kind of...

Right, so, the photo here is how I want to be forever remembered: Laughing my head off as I eat something delicious (Cuban okra in this case).

I made it back from 10 days in Cuba with amazing experiences that very few tourists get and some wonderful new friends. We landed here in San Jose today at around 4.20p and I've been doing laundry ever since. Tomorrow, early, we head out for the pacific where I will be sure to eat too much, write too much, and surf entirely too much. I love you all more than rice and beans and I'll be more on top of this bit here as soon as I get ten free minutes and a solid internet connection.

(any and all travel stories will be posted starting tomorrow on the Chispa link at the right so don't be a houndin' me here, galdangit! I need some SLEEP!)

rum and dancing,

Thursday, April 19, 2007


Shhhhhh...I can't talk right now (heh heh)

Trust me. Everything you "know" about Cuba is absolutely wrong. This is one of the most engaging and interesting places I've ever been and the people, aside from the very very thorough security at the airport are wonderful.

Planned activities for the week:
Theater in Havana tonight
Dance classes with some Cuban friends
International Film Festival in Gibarra

I don't have any more time to write but you will hear much (maybe too much) later.

Hugs and kisses,
Sub-commandante Zach

Monday, April 16, 2007

Back again for the first time once more

This is going to be a brief post:

I'm back in Costa Rica, I'm super full and it is actually more wonderful than before.

Gimme a minute to catch my breath and I'll do you a good one.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Zeke the Killer

There was no doubt in my mind that I had chosen the right partner in crime when I mentioned wanting to read all of the Louis L'Amour books to Tammy. With more rugged wisdom per page than an entire Kurt Russel film, the first installment of the Sackett Series provides more than enough reasons to pack it all in and head out to start over somewhere new.

If anyone wants to join in, you're more than welcome to check out the link to the right. I'm pretty sure you won't be sorry.

"By that time, I had my pants on and was stamping into my boots. Believe me, I sure hate to face up to trouble with no pants on, and no boots." I mean seriously, can you ask for more than that? With quotes like that, who needs Hemingway?

Monday, April 9, 2007

You misweble POOP!

Easter weekend passed quietly (aside from this insanely loud PA short out at the insanely early sunrise Easter service) at home with my folks and Rebecca. The Easter bunny, in trying to make up for the fact he hasn't left me much since I was 10 or so, decided he would go completely apey and leave me at least 10 kilos of gummy candy at the foot of the bed. Zach receiving candy before sunrise? I think we can see where this is going.

I spent the majority of the afternoon seeing if I could pay him tribute by jamming my face full of Haribo delicious and acting like chubby bunny only succeeding in having candy hallucinations and acting the goat at an exceptional Easter dinner.

After the haze lifted and the dishes were cleared there was a family viewing of "Throw Momma from the Train", the late Anne Ramsey's greatest work to date. The rest of the evening was spent trying to shake the visions of gummy bears dancing in my head in front of Iron Chef.

This weekend and the week to come have and will be a good respite in the flurry of "zach's life is spring break" activities before heading back south again hence the lack of content on the old web log here. I have to think back over the past few weeks and just rub my temples and shake my head. I love it, I love it.

Saturday, April 7, 2007

Chispa Stories

I've begun a new project and if I may be so bold and self-indulgent, a quick moment of promotion. Please note to the right, the new link for Chispa Stories, my new food web site I've started working on. Essentially, it's a collection of food and travel stories I'll be maintaining during my time in Central America and I'd love to have as much support as you can muster. It should be well stocked with photos and maybe even half-way entertaining as I eat pretty much everything I see (even that weird smelling brown tinted cheese at all of the Saturday farmer's markets).

Wednesday, April 4, 2007

Strike Three's a Turkey

I bowled until three in the morning, drank warm Pabst from a pitcher that was questionable at best and ate three corn dogs in a row, tripling my corn dog record for the past ten years or so and proving, finally, that I am in fact, a gleaming living legend. I can never die!

Short Wisdom in Tiny Shoes

And now my Cosby-esque "kids say the most insane things" sans Pudding Pops.

I passed by a mother who was hurrying down the side walk with two young boys in tow. She was involved in one of those conversations reserved for parents and old married couples where one party is chattering on incessantly and the other is Uh-Huh-ing all the while rolling their eyes. The younger of the two boys took a break from his chipmunk-like giggity giggiting long enough to take a deep breath and exclaim "Mom I just stepped on a crack and so that means you're dead." I thought to myself my how things've changed since I was a wee one.

It was a busy afternoon in the grocery store and I was all but scraping whole sections of shelving clean in an effort to get out alive and sanity intact (or at least semi-intact). As I came around a corner in the deli, I squeezed past a woman and here four year old daughter, who was tucked away in the cart with her little paws jammed in a bag of grapes. As I passed the girl, mouthful of grapes, pointed at my now very colorful left arm and said "Oh mama look. He's lucky. I wish I could have..." the rest of the words muted by mama's hand with a nervous giggle. With no time to chat, I laughed and looked over my shoulder as I passed saying "sorry about that, mom."

Thursday, March 29, 2007


Right, so then I returned from a greatly extended trip to Colorado bleary eyed and sleep deprived only to find about half an inch of pollen on my car at the airport and Spring exploding out of Atlanta's earhole. Sniffle, cough, sneeze it's always wonderful to be in the south during spring time despite the extra bit of snoring my lungs are capable of due to the sweet pine haze.

And when Tal runs in the backyard it looks like a muscle car with smoking tires zooming past in a drag race. Sniffle, cough, sneeze.

Our pollen has tusks clearly shown above.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Update, Schmupdate

At this point, I'm waaaay beyond making both excuses and apologies for not posting in a while so I figured a list of things I've done over the past month or so might be in order, if for no other reason, to act as a reminder about how fun life can actually be. This is going to be entirely too long.

-I finished up my job at Aria deciding that not only was I ready to have a go at things in Costa Rica again, it's something I SHOULD do.

-Spent a weekend with Maney at the Outer Banks in the cold. Ate corned beef hash in a restaurant called Whitey's, so named decades before it was decided that Whitey's probably wasn't such a good name for a restaurant or any establishment, for that matter.

-Saw Explosions in the Sky. Had my heart gently rocked to sleep.

-Traveled to Denver to fulfill some promises long ago made.

-Decided that music may be one of the best ways to cope.

-Received an email with the headline "Heavy metal 'a comfort for the bright child'" pretty much confirming everything right in the world.

-Cooked a lot of food for a lot of new and old faces.

-Went out dancing and really loved it. Took part in a dance off which I lost despite the heaviest of efforts.

-Got a pirate heart and cross bones tattoo with Tammy. Love pirates, Yar!

-Managed to find "My New Favorite Band" every time I logged into, noting that most of them end up being Canadians.

-Took back old memories and made them my own.

-Ate Japanese, Ethiopian, Mexican, Sushi (including a live scallop), and some classic diner fare.

-Got not one but two nicknames. I now answer to Squirrel and Britches. Beef tips managed to hold strong, Maney.

-Got my hair washed and cut at Floyd's, the greatest cheap barber ever. Even got a neck massage. Ahhhhhh.

-Saw the Photo Atlas play at the Hi Dive. More dancing.

-Realized this list is getting ridiculous.

-Remembered that our lives are entirely too short to not enjoy them. We aren't as important as we think we are.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Can you believe THIS?

Yes, dear reader, that is in fact a personal Red Velvet cake made to look like a giant conversation heart, just as you suspected. And yes it does in fact say "get radical" on it. Custom made for me, you must be asking yourself? Oh yes. The only way this cake could be any cooler was wait, it couldn't be any cooler. Without a single doubt in my mind, THE greatest valentine ever to be issued. And to think, I was the Valentine's Day equivalent to "bah humbug."

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

So, this is the new year?

With a breath of fresh, albeit unseasonably warm air, I wash my hands of the old and dive headlong into the new. I have been thinking to myself "self, that would have made an excellent blog posting but you have in fact killed your blog. maybe you should just give it another go somewheres else?" So I am.

I'll start off with something that makes me smile...the art work of Seonna Hong.

Ah it's good to be back (as I bounce up and down on the sofa) but I can see that it will take a minute to work back into my niche.