I have been using this time to finish and polish our cookbook, "Cooking at La Cusinga with The Chef of the Jungle" and while it is a mouthful, hopefully that thought will be prophetic. I have included many of the soup, salad and salsa recipes that have gotten us a lot of attention and paid homage to my growers and producers as well. We have engaged a local graphic artist to do our cover and layout work and she has come up with what I think is a brilliant and eye-catching cover. The next step will be the high resolution food photos we need to finish the cover and to place opposite the pages where they are relevant. Following that, the text goes to the person who will put it all in book form and finally, God willing, the printer.
I must admit this has been quite a learning exercise for me. I can order food, build menus and put together what I think is a pretty good meal, but putting together a book by oneself is another thing entirely. I went into this project both green and cold, barely knowing what each next step would be and I'm sure that's kept us from getting the thing to the printers as soon as we would have liked. I have written, re-read and re-written every recipe at least three times and have cooked all the recipes to see if they really work. With the help of Geinier, La Cusinga's GM/owner and the people involved in the final processes, hopefully we will see this book sometime in mid-Spring; fingers crossed.
In the time between, I have been working on getting us set for another busy season at the Lodge. I've been setting up arrangements with some new organic vendors (there are a new goat cheese producer and a new organic vanilla producer to bring on board), and working out new recipes as well as refining old ones. I have finally found a new source for organic cacao so I am back in production of what I think is the best chocolate "style" ice cream I've ever tasted. I've also been trying out a lot more fruit ice creams made from the local goodies. A huge favorite of the whole staff is Maracuya, or passion fruit. This ice cream is rich and both tart and sweet at the same time, just as the fruit is. I'm also mixing pureed mango with canned coconut milk for an interesting mango-coco flavor.
We have huge bookings for January and February and a group of 18 coming in Christmas Eve. With any luck, I'll be able to come up for air from time to time, but we are coming to "our"season and this is the time when Chef Dave does what he does best, "turn 'em and burn 'em" as we used to say in the high stress restaurant business. Here in the jungle it takes on a slightly smaller degree of stress and volume, but the idea is the same; great food, great service and of course, our amazing view. Get on down here and check us out.