Saturday, November 7, 2009

Just Another Saturday


I woke up at 5:45 this morning to the sound of the yapping dog owned by the constantly changing group of Germans who live across the street from where I am house-sitting. The dog's incessant barking continued for almost two hours and came just four hours after the German's had shut down the thundering backbeat of the techno music that they play almost every night. This is what earplugs are for.

I rolled down the road to the Uvita Feria somewhere around 9:00 and shook hands with almost everyone. I had big orders with all my vendors as we've got a party of 18 checking into La Cusinga this Tuesday for three nights and seven of them are vegetarian. I had chard, beets, organic lettuce mix, bok choi and a number of other fresh organic delights waiting for me, all bagged up. I also picked up a couple of kilos of smallish but ripe mangos and two kilos of maracuya (passion fruit) for sauces and juicing. I live for and love to walk out of there with bags of beautiful produce in my arms.

It was Feria to fereteria (hardware store); a classic Saturday morning jaunt and while I was having keys made I ran into Deepak. I met Deepak while he was having dinner at The Gecko and knew him by reputation alone as an Indian chef. I had heard just recently that he had taken over the Mar y Selva resort and is making quite a name for himself with private dinners of spectacular Indian food. He suggested that perhaps we should do a dinner for the public together and I thought this was a great idea. I suggested that we do an alternative Thanksgiving Dinner for the turkey-less locals and we made plans.

Deepak wandered away and almost immediately Christian, a tall and quite lanky young chef from Cristal Ballena wandered in. We started talking food and it turned out that he had a German friend, Axel, who worked in the fereteria, but was interested in selling German food products locally. Christian called Axel over and he burst in to excellent but highly accented Spanish while he described food he had for me to taste.

Axel ran to the car for his samples and while he was gone Deepak strolled up and I introduced he and Christian. Axel ran back to join us, red-faced and panting and there we were; an American, an Indian and two Germans, all chefs, talking food in the middle of a hardware store in the Costa Rican jungle. Ticos and gringos alike veered around us as the four of us talked excitedly about cooking, food and dinners amidst the typical clutter and hubbub of a Saturday morning in the fereteria. A classic morning here in the Zona Sur. Pura Vida.


  1. A great image, a great life. So happy for you.

  2. Sounds like a fantastic morning. You just inspired me to cook some beets with my dinner. a


Wednesday May 13, 2009 La Cusinga and Me

This words below are from our website describing La Cusinga.  The story, however is much deeper and much richer than these introductory words can describe.  La Cusinga represents a noble and successful effort to preserve this section of unspoiled coast and to keep it alive as a model of what true ecology can accomplish.  The dreams and visions of John Tresemer, the owner of La Cusinga and the Finca Tres Hermanas that surrounds it, have been realized here in what is a true example for all who would preserve and protect what remains of this, or any natural wonder. 

La Cusinga 
La Cusinga Lodge is a coastal rainforest eco lodge dedicated to marine and terrestrial conservation and environmental education. Its location on the southern Pacific coast provides guests with sweeping ocean views and a relaxing beach vacation. In addition La Cusinga is part of a private nature reserve that supplies the visitor with an unparalleled look at Costa Rican wildlife and rainforest. The reserve consists primarily of 250 hectares of virgin rainforest that borders thousands of more acres of privately protected forest. On Costa Rica’s still wild south-western Pacific coast, La Cusinga Lodge borders Ballena Marine National Park which was developed to protect the humpback whales that frequent the coast. La Cusinga Lodge was established in order to share the unique site with Costa Ricans as well as international visitors. Besides getting exposure to rural Costa Rican culture and beautiful vistas, visitors have access to highly prolific areas of primary tropical rainforest and unspoiled coast, all conveniently accessible. 

i returned to La Cusinga this past January, 2009, with a dream in mind.  I wanted to create a cuisine for our guests that would bridge the gap between what La Cusinga offered physically and spiritually, and what they were putting in their bodies when they ate here.  I knew from having previously lived in Costa Rica for over two years that there were organic farmers and that sustainable agriculture was being practiced, but at that time it had been limited in its scope as well as its distribution.  

My first steps upon returning were toward the local Feria to seek out and communicate my ideas with the growers and vendors who could provide me with a local, organic and sustainable product.  The fertile valleys of San Isidro that lie over the coastal mountains and to the Northeast of our Pacific location are rich and productive but are only now exploring the potential that they hold.  

I had in mind a vision that would support local farmers, fishermen and food artisans and one that would recreate (or perhaps, create) a new cuisine of Coastal Costa Rica.  I visit the markets each week to talk with growers and to develop the  relationships that I believe will be mutually beneficial as Costa Rica experiences its rapid growth on an international level
Organic farming is a new and not heavily supported concept in our part of Costa Rica.  It is a brave step for farmers to make, as local communities of both growers and consumers have never placed, or not known to place, an importance on farming organically and sustainably.  I feel a responsibility as a Chef here to be at the forefront of those encouraging and supporting these pioneers  

I came to La Cusinga almost three years ago not knowing what to expect.  My first time through here was characterized by a lack of understanding and appreciation on my part as well as an inability to recognize or connect with the local "flavor" that would make for a coherent package for out guests.  I now feel as if I have made a "connect" with the property and the vision.  I am not completely satisfied and hopefully, never will be, until we are able to produce, right here at La Cusinga, the greater share of the produce we serve.  However, the groundwork has been laid with local farmers and the availability and quality of organic produce is impressive.

Now at La Cusinga I serve a variety of organic lettuces and braising greens.  My salads include wedges or slices of rich red tomatoes as well as sweet !00 and yellow pear cherry tomatoes.  I roast organic beets and marinate them in balsamic vinegar to be served alongside the lettuces and topped with a locally made organic goat cheese.

My soups are made from roasted and steamed local organic vegetables and tiny organic yellow creamer potatoes have found their way onto my plates, nestled against filets of locally caught fish.
I am now using a local organic cocoa powder that still contains the nuggets of cocoa butter unlike the fined cocoa powder in the markets.

And better still, I am able to use palmito (hearts of palm), ginger, cilantro and its sawtooth leafed cousin culantro coyote, mangoes, hot and sweet chiles, mandarina limes and yucca root from our own Finca Tres Hermanas to serve in my dining room at La Cusinga.   The connection from jungle and farm to table is evolving.  May it continue to grow.