Monday, February 7, 2011


These two pieces will make up my final contribution to Dominical Days, at least for a while. But fear not, blog fans, the blog will live on.


Sadly, loyal readers, that this will be my final column for Dominical Days, at least this time through, I want to express my gratitude to Marcel for offering me this space as well as to those of you who have suffered through these 18 or so months with me.

I am leaving La Cusinga after two years and the reasons are the usual culprits in my industry; money and trust. I’ve had a good two years there and am grateful for the opportunity, the freedom and the beautiful environment. I got a little off track for a while, but in these two years I feel as if I’ve gotten my “Chef” back. My mission was to show the area that we could cook world class cuisine using all local ingredients and I feel as if I’ve accomplished that.

I’ve had thanks a plenty, but as we used to say in the kitchens when I was a drinking man, “Thanks doesn’t buy the beer”. Now that I’m sober I find that it doesn’t help with the rent, the dentist or at the taller either. I suppose in every work situation there are promises made as to the future but when they are denied and two years of loyalty is rewarded with mistrust, it is time to move on.

In this time here I have made some amazing friends and have developed some of the world’s most loyal eaters. Chefs thrive on seeing people eating and happy, and I have seen some awfully happy faces these last two years. It took us a while to get the word our into this community, but in January we had the largest number of “non-hotel guest” diners that La Cusinga had ever had..

I will miss you all, I will miss the amazing local ingredients and I will miss this coastal paradise for whatever length of time I am gone. Pura Vida.


I wasn’t sure what I wanted to write in this, my last recipe column, but when my good friend Richard suggested to me that I write an entry in my blog ( about sourcing the ingredients I cook with, it seemed like it matched up perfectly.

I buy all local organic produce and get most it from Mauren and Ademar (Finca Coreotos) at the Uvita Feria on Saturdays and at the Feria de San Isidro on Thursdays. They are also at Citrus in Ojochal on Tuesday mornings. I buy specialty items from Marjorie and Bolivar at Diamante Organico in the San Salvador valley. They deliver to Maractu in Dominical on Thursdays, so perhaps an arrangement could be made for delivery there.

I have been buying whole fish from Victoriano in Playa Tortuga and filets from Jose who has the stand at the Uvita Feria. If you stay on top of Jose the quality is usually excellent.

My delicious organic chickens and eggs also come from Mauren and Ademar at the Uvita Feria.

I use a lot of specialty items and get many of them at the big Feria in San Isidro. The Mennonites sell excellent goat cheese as well as sweet butter and goat’s milk yogurt.

There is an older Tico right next to Mauren and Ademar’s table in the organic section who sells the best honey I have tasted here. There is also a smiling shortish man at that end, but one row over who sells a nice selection of frijoles tiernos (fresh shelling beans).

Mario (in his white straw hat) has organic portobellos and other mushrooms, but get there early.

Elena’s table is at the far end of the market and she has a wealth of wonderful things. I get organic brown rice, black and white sesame seeds, organic mustards and more. You can find her at

Adios y pura vida, Chef Dave

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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.