Friday, July 30, 2010



I would like to use this opportunity to both appreciate and introduce you to the two couples that do the hard work that brings me the organic produce I value so highly. Mauren Jimenez and Ademar Varela, who own and run Los Coreotos, their own certified organic finca, are one couple and Marjorie Cerdes Mora and Bolivar Cortes Gomez, the operators of Diamante Organico are the other. These two couples, between them, supply me with 90% of the produce (all organic) that I put on my plates. In each family both partners share the workload, and interestingly, on both farms, the women handle the ordering, the paperwork and the bulk of the communication.

I have written here at great length about my trips over the hill and down into El Valle de San Isidro to visit the Thursday Feria in Perez Zeladon. The market there is immense and the beautiful produce is a multi-colored reflection of the bounty the valley has to offer. My visits there, however, are not of the onions and carrots, garlic and potatoes variety; the nuts and bolts of cooking, if you will. The Thursday Feria is where I hunt down the newly seasonal, the small batches and special growths, the perfectly ripe tomatoes and the handpicked watercress that screams “use me today”. I should note that there was no watercress yesterday, it was eaten by a tapir.

The real workload and major part of my tiny supply chain comes, however, from Los Coreotos and Diamante Organico.

I first met Mauren and Ademar at the Perez Feria a year and a half ago. My boss, Geinier Guzman, introduced me to them on my first day back at the market after a long absence and suggested that if I really wanted to go all organic that they were a good place to start. They had a table in the line of tables in the back corner of the football field sized platform and Mauren wore the green blouse that showed that she was selling “certified organic”. Geinier introduced me to a couple in their early 40’s who were a bit “Tico shy” at meeting a gringo, but I pulled out my somewhat rusty Spanish and we were off.

Mauren is slender with tousled curly black hair and the patient but world weary look of someone who has raised three children while partnering in a small self-sufficient farm. It appears that sleep is somewhere down the list of her priorities, but she is warm and open and we have become good friends. Ademar is the muscle, the physical part of the farming and he looks the part. He is short and strong with a dark tan, a firm grip and and ever present white straw cowboy hat perched on his head. I am so immensely grateful that we all hit it off from day one.

My buying history with Los Coreotos began with me making one buy from them at the Thursday Feria in Perez Zeladon and then another at the Saturday Feria in Uvita. At that time La Cusing was buying our "nuts and bolts" from a local non-organic vendor. I wasn't happy with that arrangement, nor the quality of his goods and I wanted a change. It became clear over time (and as our business increased) that we would need a delivery early in the week and we struggled with how to put that together. Los Coreotos is above the San Isidro Valley and it is a long trek to the coast for Ademar to service just one account.

In February of this year Mauren and Ademar courageously pooled resources with a local seafood vendor and opened a small retail outlet here in Uvita. This was great news to me, but sadly, community support was tentative at best. Signage was bad and our local gringos went on buying produce and frozen fish from far away at La Corona and the BM as they had in the past. But what this did do was open the door for Mauren and Ademar to develop a small produce distribution network here along the coast.

They say that when a door shuts a window opens, and suddenly I was able to get not only my specialty produce from Los Coroetos, but also to have them pick up and deliver the potatoes, onions, carrots and garlic that we need on an ongoing basis. Now I get three deliveries a week and we're all happy. Additionally, Mauren and Ademar have begun to participate in yet another Feria further south in Ojochal and their business is good, but not doing much for Mauren's world weary smile.

My introduction to Marjorie and Bolivar at Diamante Organico came in a much more roundabout way. Diamante is owned by Linn Aosjia, a vibrant woman with spectacular blue eyes who split her time between farms in California and the San Salvador valley, between the coast and Perez Zeladon. Ironically, I had met Linn during my riotous days at the Lookout Hotel in Ojochal and had even catered the week long party that was her wedding in Spring of 2006.

We had made phone contact and had circled each other a bit warily, as our previous relationship had had it's ups and downs. We had, however, each been through a few changes (perhaps a bit more significant on my part) and our first meeting was classically defined by her showing up at my kitchen entrance for her first delivery with the Grateful Dead singing "when life looks like easy street, there is danger at your door" from my iTunes. We had a good laugh about the irony of that and the ice was broken. And better yet, the produce she brought me was nothing short of awesome, a word I use infrequently.

Everything she pulled from its bag that first visit was of exemplary quality. I had asked her to bring me a sampling of greens to braise, one of my passions, and the bag she brought had not just three or four, but nine different varieties, beautifully mixed. There were the first Chinese long beans I'd seen in Costa Rica and beautiful bok choy. The red romaine was tender and still crunchy and she even brought me variegated amaranth leaves for garnish. I was like a kid at Christmas and completely sold on Diamante Organico.

Linn was, however called away to the US on long term business at her other property, leaving Marjorie and Bolivar to run the finca. Marjorie is robust, red-faced, jolly (but quite business like when need be) and filled with energy. Bolivar is the perfect foil; slender and quiet, but with twinkling eyes and a look on his countenance that engenders trust. I loved them immediately.

So now each Wednesday Marjorie calls me and we joke and laugh over the bad connection. Diamante Organico sits deep in the San Salvador valley, in reality just over the coastal hills from us, but far, far away as far as climate and phone connections. The valley is in rain forest and when it is raining it looks like a set from "Lost World" with fog hanging in the trees and mists floating through the valley. The finca is quite a special property and the care and love that is taken with it is impressive.

On Thursday morning Marjorie and Bolivar do the cutting and bagging and head out of the valley and over the hill to the coast. They make a stop in Dominical and then head down to see me at La Cusinga to hand deliver their lovely perfect produce. I give them some of my homemade ice cream for their troubles and Marjorie always packs a gift bag with chiles, annona or some of those variegated amaranth leaves for me.

It is so moving to me that these people, these two couples, work so hard to provide to such a limited, specialized market. I don't know how they're making it, but thank God they are. If the produce wasn't just so damned good and if they weren't all such special people, I could never feel this strongly. But they are, and it is, and I feel that it is not just my pleasure but my duty to support them. It is definitely a privilege to count them among my friends.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010



A great part of our business at La Cusinga comes from making ourselves available to various tour groups. This is just smart marketing, something my boss and good friend, Geiner Guzman, is very good at. We put ourselves out there in a number of small internet niches and our guest list reflects this. We have been jam-packed busy the whole month of July, normally a slow month, and have hosted bird-watchers, yoga practitioners, GPS classes and more. Additionally, a lot of our guests who are non-group affiliated come here from Europe, primarily Germany, where we are a big presence on Eco-tour websites.

And this is all great; groups come and groups go. We put on our best faces, put out our best food, show them how to get around and relish our position as hosts at what is a very special place in a very special part of the world. We provide directions and bag lunches for hikes, set up tours, cater to dietary needs and administer to insect bites and nasty sunburns. We answer a LOT of questions. Sometimes, however, it is easy for our ultimate "reason for being who and where we are" to be lost on us. I must confess to getting a bit caught up purely in the work aspect to be able to enjoy and/or appreciate the unique-ness of my position.

Thankfully, we are lucky to have a group or two come by who bring us back to the roots of what we represent and who we are. We had such a group last week and another at the end of May. Last week, Franco, a long-time friend and supporter of the Lodge brought in one of his bi-annual yoga groups for a week's stay. And what this usually means to the cynic in me is a lot of special dietary needs and a fair amount of cosmic woo-woo-ness; this has happened frequently in the past. This was not, however, the case with this group.

What we were lucky enough to get was, instead, a group that got us. We got a group that was so ready to love us, and where they were, that when they arrived in the pouring rain they stood right out in it with their arms outstretched to the skies. The lavished and sloshed in its "cleansing feeling". It was easy to see, from minute one, that these folks would be different.
I immediately referred back to my meal roster. The only person with special dietary requirements turned out to be Franco, the leader. And I already knew he was vegan and was ready for him.

This may seem odd, but we do indeed get groups of people who will come down for their first dinner with us and not say, "hello" or "hola" and not even make eye contact. It is an open kitchen and we are right there in their faces, but somehow they choose to ignore us. And odder still, we get guests who remain that way for the duration of their stay. There is really nothing that makes one feel more like "the help" that being ignored in such close quarters. Not these guys, though, they came down to eat and to have a good time with grins, laughter and smiles of greeting mixed in with their "Como esta"'s. These people came down dancing to the music I was playing in the kitchen. It was so refreshing.

Dinner that first night was consumed with so much gusto and appreciation that I couldn't help but understand how different this week was going to be. And as the week eased by, there never ceased to be smiles of appreciation and even wonderment on the faces of this group. It seemed as if every one of them stopped at some point to make contact, to express amazement at where they were, or simply to thank us for being there. Soon, it seemed as if I, at least, was seeing La Cusinga through their eyes. The views, the yoga pavilion, the rain, the sunsets, even the food I was cooking all took on renewed value and a renewed quality of "special" for me when seen through the eyes of people seeing it and falling in love with it for the first time.

So, I need to thank Franco and all the great people in his group for helping me, in the middle of a three week run with no days off, to revisit and recapture the magic and the wonder of the place I work. La Cusinga is one of the special places on this Earth, and I have the Greatest Job in the World. Thank you.

Monday, July 12, 2010


This is a sneak preview of my articles for the August issue of Dominical Days...


Gasp! Did he just say that? Does the Chef of the Jungle freeze fresh things? Doesn’t that go against all he stands for?

Yes, mis amigos, I am here to tell you that I keep a number of flavor bumpers in my freezer so that they may be at my fingertips, in the pan or the sauce, or over the fish in moments.

There are just some things that cannot and will not suffer by being frozen; particularly if one takes the proper steps to freeze them. Good zip locks made for freezing work quite nicely but to save a bit of money, I wrap as tightly as possible in clear wrap, and then do it a second time to prevent freezer burn

Something I always, always do when I pack my zip-locks for the freezer is squeeze the air from them and pack them flat. This helps for two reasons. Once the package is frozen, it’s easily stacked when flat; and second, a flat package thaws in almost no time.

I freeze roasted tomatoes in zip-locks, to use for pastas, fish sauces or tomato soup at a moment’s notice. I freeze chicken stock, not in ice cube trays, but flat in both small sandwich sized and large zip-lock bags. Again, done this way, they stack so nicely.

Something else that I make as a flavor booster and which also freezes quite nicely, are different pestos. A fresh bright green pesto, so dazzling with pasta, remains equally green when frozen, is much more easily portioned and doesn’t get all mucky and brown on top.

Basil grows so well here in our coastal climate that it’s always available at the Saturday Feria in Uvita, or if you want to make a big batch of pesto, it’s plentiful and cheap at the Thursday Feria in San Isidro. You might even grow it yourself; basil loves it here.


The Italian word, “pesto” comes from the same root that pestle, of mortar and pestle fame, comes from, and it means “to pound or to grind”. Traditionally pesto making has been a long and arduous process, learned at one’s nonna’s knees and never varied from, at threat of excommunication. Drizzle and pound, drizzle and pound…

I’m not much for long and arduous, and am here to tell you that you can assemble a great batch of pesto in less than five minutes and never have to look over your shoulder for your nonna’s shadow.

Like almost everything I make or do in the kitchen, the “mise en place”, or assembly of ingredients is key. For me, there are few worse feelings than stumbling around the kitchen searching for an essential ingredient in mid-cooking.


2 Cups Tightly Packed Basil eaves

4 Cloves Peeled and Chopped Garlic

¼ Cup sliced, blanched almonds (tradition calls for pine nuts, but we’re non-traditional)

2/3 Cup Good Olive Oil (it need not be Extra Virgin)

¼-1/2 Cup Good Parmesan


Put the basil, garlic and almonds in your food processor with some salt and pepper and pulse-grind them for 30 seconds. Turn the machine on and add half the olive oil in a slow stream. Turn off the processor and add the cheese. Turn the machine back on and add the rest of the oil in a steady stream. The pesto should remain a bit chunky. Taste for salt and pepper; pack it flat into zip-locks and freeze.

You can (and I do) substitute spinach, parsley, arugula, or even cilantro for half the basil. Heck, you can leave the basil out entirely.

Use pesto as a sauce for fish, spooned right on top; toss it with cooked small potatoes or green beans, stir it into mashed potatoes or into mayonnaise, and definitely eat it with pasta.

Friday, July 9, 2010



Although there is some dispute as the the finer details of this particular process, as it now stands, if one, one like me for example who does not have residency, is living in Costa Rica, it can only be done on a tourist visa; essentially a 90 day pass. In order for one to "refresh" that visa, one must leave the country for (and this is where the dispute comes in) for either 72 hours, or, as some would have it, no time at all; just a quick in and out.

In order to keep my slate clean and so as to not jeopardize my situation in their lovely country, I have been a strict observer of the 72 hours out of the country every 90 days during my time here in Costa Rica. Whether this makes me any better or worse of a "perpetual tourist" in the eyes of Imagracion, I have yet to discover. And since I do indeed wish to stay here, doing what I do, I have my fingers crossed that I am doing this in the honorable and correct fashion.

It turned out that after a somewhat drab and dreadful June at La Cusinga, that we would be besieged for much of July and it was suggested to me that I make my 72 hour foray a bit earlier than the 90 days, which was fine with me. I engaged Nathalie at the Jungle Pet Lodge to take watch over Booker the Dog, I made reservations for a cabana at Isla Verde in Boquete, Panama, I packed a bag and I was ready to exit the country.

It always seems as if it should be an easy proposition, this crossing of the border, but one never knows what surprises, mysteries and downright puzzling things await.

I got up at 5:45, took Booker for our long and hilly morning walk (I'm on a big hill climbing campaign these days; cardio-vascular and all that), finished packing, consumed smoothie and tea, and he and I rambled off to the Jungle Pet Lodge. He was excited the whole time up there, but when he saw that he was going to have to share Ms. Nathalie's attentions with a 14 year old shepard/mastiff mix and a St. Bernard (yes, a St. Bernard, here in Costa Rica) he became decidedly less enthusiastic to the point of pulling back on the leash when she took him, which he has never done before.

I continued rambling on and made the border by about 9:45 or so and then the fun started. I usually park my car on one of the congested streets and some encrusted drunk or another comes over, throws cardboard over my windshield and I tell him I'll be back in three days and I will compensate him richly ($3-5) upon my return, for watching my car. But today, the streets were packed with all kinds of parking hustlers and when I parked my car, a guy with missing teeth and a blood-spattered shirt told me it would cost $100 for him to watch my car. I informed him that I parked there in January and again in April for a far lesser sum and told him we would discuss it when I got back.

There was virtually no one at the Costa Rica side of the border, but when I dragged myself and my bags through the puddles, mud and various forms of human degeneration to the other side of the terminal, the scene at the Panama side was like a panel from a painting by Bosch. The lines (were there lines?) were mobbed and there must have been 150 people competing for two exit windows. There were people pushing, posturing and parading; all of it performed at high volume. I shuddered and kind of attached myself to a couple of moderately well-to-do Costa Rican families and after 75-80 minutes of disorganized jostling we made it to the window and then were spit out. I then got on a packed shuttle bus and we careered on down the highway to David. At David, one transfers to these somewhat charming old yellow Bluebird school buses (and with all the comforts you might remember from your school bus) and the final hour and half descent to Boquete is made in a bouncing reeling fashion, marked by perhaps 30-40 stops along the way.

The stay in Boquete was lovely, as it often is. The weather is decidedly cooler, after all it does sit in a valley at the base of the mountains, and they, like us in Costa Rica, had been getting a lot of rain. No problem. I had books, music, the newest issue of the New Yorker, and best of all (a birthday present from sister Barbara and her husband, Pete) access to the NY Times crossword puzzle and it WAS Sunday, big puzzle day. Life was good.

So for three days I read, ate, slept, hiked (when it wasn't raining), got massaged, ate, read and slept. Life was good. I got up early the morning of departure and blithely slipped, unknowingly into yet another adventure. I should know to expect these things by now. I left the hotel at 7:15, Costa Rica time (Panama is an hour ahead), wanting to allow myself plenty of wiggle room for traveling. I took a taxi to the bomba (station) in Boquete and got on another charming old yellow bus; again, more charming than comfy. It took about 20 minutes for the bus to fill with Panamanians on their way to their daily requirements and we jounced off down the hill to David.

The bus terminal in David is quite a scene, but I have learned over the years that it's best not to pay much attention to the beggars, animals, smell and overall mayhem. After one pays $.25 to pee in a disturbingly smell trough, one ventures to the opposite site of the terminal where a line-up of "busetas" (shuttle buses) awaits. Each bus has a driver and an assistant who serves in the capacity of barker. He stands outside the buseta and shouts out the destination over and over again in an apparent attempt to be louder than the guy at the buseta next to him. Slung over his shoulder is a chain that holds one of those old fashioned change making machines that I always associate with the ice cream man of my childhood.

The bus ride out of David is a bit circuitous, and meanders through some fine and not so fine neighborhoods before it heads out on the highway. Once upon the highway the buseta stops intermittently, but frequently. The barker jumps out and yells our destination, "Frontera, frontera" loudly and proudly and people either do or do not get on the bus. Despite there being an open seat, no on wishes to sit next to the only gringo on the buseta, which is fine with me. I check the clock and despite our numerous stops, we are making good time and I will have plenty of time to pick up Mr. Booker, take him home and with any luck take a shower before heading in to work.

We stop and start perhaps 50 or 60 times, but finally the arched top of the Panamanian border building is in sight and we're as good as home. When I came around the corner, however, to stand in line for the "salida" (exit) window to have my passport stamped, it seemed that another experience entirely awaited me. There was a mob of perhaps 300-400 people (who knew how many) standing, pushing, waiting grimly in front of one, yes one window. There was no semblance of a line, none at all, but being the good citizen I am, I walked back along the right side until I found an obvious break in the crowd. This was far, far worse than what I had deemed a "thing most horrible" when I was entering Panama on Sunday.

There is was, I was in "line" at the "salida" in Panama, trying to get back into Costa Rica and there was one window open with one slow moving and most beleaguered senor behind it. Outside his window milling in the waiting zone, the sidewalks and spilling over into the streets (the curb is 18" high) was a nascent mob of maybe 350 people all trying to reach the window at the same time. I tucked into line (ha, line, what line?) with a family of nine from Iowa and we bobbed and weaved together in the crowd like boxers in a ring, like small craft on large seas, like whole nuts tossed into a whirling food processor.
It was as close as I've been to a riot since I ran down Shattuck Avenue in Berkeley tossing bricks through the windows of car dealerships in the name of peace. The crowd grew tired, then frustrated, and then, downright and upright (no where to sit, now was there?) pissed off and began chanting, then throwing things, and then, horribly, just surging forward with only a concrete wall and safety glass windows as their destination.

The terminal manager finally emerged and did a fine job of emulating confusion, care and concern. He tried to enter the mass of humanity that was rudely sullying his fine terminal and was pushed back out as if refracting magnets had come, ever so briefly, together. So he did what any right minded individual would do; he went for back-up and came back with six Panamanian soldiers in camo gear. They did what any soldier would do under the circumstances; nothing. They stood and watched, like good army men.

When it was finally too obvious to ignore any longer, the military began apprehending and pulling the obvious party crashers out of the center of the mob and flinging them off the 18" curb and into the street. Someone threw something and someone got hit with an umbrella and suddenly (and finally, thank God) the brave soldiers entered the eye of the hurricane and started pushing people into something resembling a line.

People fell, bodies were strewn and curses in a plethora of tongues were hurled, but finally the courage of the military won out and there were two lines formed somewhat like steel is forged over a fire; one for senors and one for senoras y senoritas. And so it came to pass that the terminal manager saw fit to open a second window (stout thinking, that) and we all ultimately came to reach the window and get our precious exit stamp so that we could go stand in yet another line on the Costa Rican side. I was in the crush for three and a quarter hours and have never seen anything like it, although Altamont came close.

I passed through the Costa Rican side (where they have chains and stanchions to form the lines) in a relatively breezy 45 minutes. Upon reaching my little Toyota that I had promised my extortionist, the toothless gentleman in the blood spattered shirt, that I would pay to watch in my 72 hour absence, found that I was blocked in by a semi, sporting a full trailer. The woman who was obviously the "Jefa" of the parking mob hit me up for $10 and promised to find the driver of the semi. It was only another half hour before the driver was located, backed it up, and I was on the road. Clear sailing? Oh no, not yet, Chef. At the customs check a huge logging truck was broken down and a senor was waving us all to the left. The left? What was to the left?

What was to the left was the side of Paso Canoas that nobody really wants or need to see. I attempted to negotiate some of the most horribly rocky streets I'd ever driven on, ever trying to keep parallel to the main highway, but working farther and farther away from it. Finally I passed the Policia who told me, "adelante y derecho". Straight ahead, then right; that's what I'd thought.
I continued through lake sized puddles, abandoned cars and dead dogs. An obvious right turn emerged and I took it to yes, the main highway. Clear sailing? Almost.

It had begun to rain while I was waiting in line for the hallowed passport stamps, and now it was coming down harder. I sloshed through Ciudad Neily and checked the gas gauge. A quarter tank; I'd stop in Rio Claro for gas, a fluid discharge and more fluids. Despite the rain, the driving was good until I hit Rio Claro where it seemed to have rained a whole lot more that anywhere else, since the Rio Claro was not clear at all, but the color of mud and instead of staying in the river banks where it belonged, it was up over the road and nearly two feet deep. Traffic was proceeding through the renegade Rio, but slowly, and one lane at a time. When my turn came, I tucked in behind another smaller car and we searched for the high ground as the water came up over our tires.

I was a lot wetter on my brake drums than I wanted to be, but I was through the flooded Rio Claro and up to the town proper for gas. I pulled into the only service station in town and saw to my horror, that all the gas pumps had garbage bags over them. "Gasolina mal" was the muttered response to my yearning question. So I was above "E", but well below 1/4 tank when I got back out on the road. The next distance sign told me it was 47 kilometres to Palmar so I sighed in resignation and hit the gas.

Fortunately, I had forgotten about Chacarita at the turn off to Golfito and I gassed up, grabbed iced tea and club soda and made a final run for it. I was late, so late. My phone had lost its charge and I just had to power on. I got to work at 4:15 rather than my scheduled 2:00 and Booker the Dog had to spend one more night at the Jungle Pet Lodge, and I'm sure it was fine with him, he likes Nathalie. Just another day for him.

So there it is, the glory, the excitement and the thrill of the road. Travel far, see the world, share experiences with like-minded souls, press flesh in ways you never dreamed imaginable. Adelante...

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.