Friday, January 7, 2011


“Summer’s here and the time is right for…” buying your produce at the grocery store? I hope not!

I am seeing a lot of old friends but also new faces when I make my stop at the local grocery stores in Uvita for my ration of club soda. But sadly, I am noticing a lot of grocery carts filled with equally sad produce taken from the shelves of these grocery stores (which shall remain nameless).

I would like to remind everyone, full timers and summer residents alike, that we have access to locally (!) grown organic produce at two Ferias here on the coast so that you don’t have to buy wilted goods trucked in from somewhere far away.

There is a farmer’s market at Citrus restaurant in Ojochal on Tuesday mornings and another in Uvita at the Rincon on Saturday mornings. Additionally there is the massive Feria in San Isidro on Thursdays and Fridays. Please join with me in supporting our local growers as well as treating yourself to fresher tastier veggies.


A great way to utilize those organic lettuces you got at the Feria is with a big salad with a nice piece of organic fish or chicken on top. I like to serve mine with organic tomatoes, cucumber and delicious local hearts of palm. A piece of grilled fish on top is perfect. A squeeze of mandarina over the top is all you need for the perfect evening meal after a day at the beach.

This is a great basic salad dressing recipe that holds up in the fridge for days.

Food Processor or Blender

1 Whole Egg and 1 Egg Yolk;

1 TBS Dijon Mustard;

2 Oz. Good Red Wine Vinegar;

Juice of 2 Lemons;

6 Cloves of Garlic, finely chopped;

Dash of Hot Sauce, Tabasco, or any other;

Sea Salt and Freshly Ground Black Pepper

¾ Cup Good Olive Oil (Not Extra Virgin)

¾ Cup Canola or Light Cooking Oil

Put the first six ingredients, plus a good pinch each of salt and pepper into the food processor, turn the motor on and blend them well. With the motor running, begin to add the oil, first in a very slow but steady stream, and then bit by bit, more rapidly. As the oil is absorbed into the egg/mustard mixture you will hear the sound of the motor change slightly as your dressing begins to emulsify. If the dressing is a bit thick, add a few teaspoons of water with the motor running.

I know there will be the standard yelp that the organic prices are higher, but remember, the product is pristinely fresh and its shelf life will be longer. The yield from locally grown products will be greater (you won’t be peeling those floppy leaves off the outside of your lettuce heads) and the difference in flavor is easily worth whatever extra colones you may part with. Treat yourself to buying and eating locally.

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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.