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 JalapeƱo 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.