Costa Rica Eats Inaugural Culinary Excursion

Central Valley Epicurean Extravaganza: Saturday & Sunday, November 10-11, 2012

Finca Rosa BlancaCoffee, chocolate, honey, herbs, fresh organic fruits & vegetables and fine wine & dining—capped off with a night of luxury at Finca Rosa Blanca Coffee Plantation & Inn. Experience a range of farm to table delicacies from right here in our own backyards.

The tour includes 3 culinary-themed tours, 3 full meals, a wide-ranging wine tasting, transportation, and Junior Suite accommodations at Finca Rosa Blanca. You can opt to not spend the night, and return home after dinner and dessert are served, although you’ll want to stay…

Sibu ChocolatesThe tour begins with pickups around San Jose and the lower Central Valley beginning at 10am, followed by a scenic drive to Sibu Chocolates in San Isidro de Heredia.

At Sibu  Chocolates we will uncover the history and how-to of turning cacao into chocolate, learning how to temper chocolate by hand, and watching as they create their prized organic chocolates.

Sibu ChocolatesAt Sibu, we will also be treated to a full lunch, featuring a warm squash soup, organic micro green salad, homemade vegetarian enchiladas topped with a smoky tomato sauce and baked in their wood-fired brick oven.  We’ll also enjoy our fill of delicious sweet treats and cups of warm hot chocolate.

Costa Rica ApiariesAfter lunch, we drive through the lush hills of Heredia to the Ark Herb Farm, for a tour of this unique organic farm, boasting one of the finest collections of medicinal and aromatic herbs and plants in the neo-Tropics. While here, we will also be treated to a presentation and tasting of fresh honey, mead and goat cheese farmed and produced by Costa Rica Apiaries, who have their bee hives on the Ark Herb Farm grounds.

From here, it’s a short drive to Finca Rosa Blanca Coffee Plantation & Inn, one of Costa Rica’s top boutique hotels, where you can relax in your plush room, walk the lovely planted gardens, swim in the pool, soak in the hot tub, or sign up for a treatment at the hotel’s El Targua Spa.

El Tigre Vestido Dinner will be a 5-course “Coffee Connoisseur” tasting extravaganza at the hotel’s acclaimed El Tigre Vestido restaurant. Featured dishes include roasted tomato and coffee soup with crispy leeks, and filet mignon in a red wine, espresso and cinnamon reduction. A range of complementary wine pairings will be provided by Sabores Argentinos.

FRB Coffee CuppingAfter breakfast in the morning, we will enjoy a tour of Finca Rosa Blanca’s organic coffee plantation. We will experience coffee through the ages; learning how coffee was discovered, traded and consumed, while strolling the lanes of this organic sustainable coffee plantation and learning the entire process of organic cultivation and harvest. Since this is November, we will also be able to participate, in a small part, in the harvesting of some ripe beans. After the walking tour, we will learn how the experts discern and rate gourmet coffee by participating in a “coffee cupping”.

In the end, transportation will be provided back to your home or pick-up points in San Jose and around the Central Valley.

All reservations must be confirmed by November 2. Reserve via the contact form on this web site, or by calling 2282-4973.

 

Maxi’s Caribbean Restaurant In Santa Ana

Maxi's MenuYes, Maxi’s is now in Santa Ana, in an old converted home that had previously housed the Italian restaurant Casa 97. This is the real deal, folks. Ricky Barthley and his wife, who opened the original Maxi’s some 20 years ago, have moved to the city and brought their famous Caribbean cuisine with them.

On a recent weeknight visit, the place was pretty crowded and festive, with heavy wood furniture, painted in the bright colors of the Jamaican flag, filling several rooms and covered outdoor patio spaces. The menu was Maxi’s traditional menu, with classic Rice ‘n Beans coming served with your choice of chicken, fish, shrimp, steak, pork or lobster, alongside a whole host of other options.

Plantain AppetizerThere’s always Ron Don on the menu, as well as seafood pasta and shrimp in coconut sauce over pasta. The mixed seafood platter, or mariscada is also a longstanding favorite.

I’ll admit it, right off the bat, I have a soft spot for Maxi’s. I first ate at Maxi’s over 17 years ago, when Manzanillo was a forgotten little village at the far end of a rugged dirt road.  And I’ve eaten there regularly over the years. This isn’t fine dining, but it is authentic Costa Rican Caribbean cooking.

Red Snapper Rice 'n BeansWe were served a complimentary appetizer of little bite-sized bowls made of plantain filled with a few different fillings—including guacamole, garbanzos, chorizo and refried beans. All were quite good.

My whole red snapper was on the small size (it’s all they had available, and was priced by weight), but wonderful. Maria Jose’s chicken in peanut sauce was a bit bland, and the sauce itself too thick and lacking in finesse. Fabrizio’s fried chicken did the trick, and the patacones were large, thin and crisp, just the way we like them.

RickyAnother plus, while Maxi’s down in Manzanillo had become a bit of a victim of its own success—too crowded, too loud, sometimes lax service—Ricky and crew are working hard to make a name for themselves in a new spot and are very on top of things.

They don’t have a liquor license yet, but you can bring your own, with no corkage fee.

Longtime fans of Maxi’s in Manzanillo will notice the lack of Barcelona futbol memorabilia, although I was assured it was on its way. I was also assured that the original restaurant was going strong under the care of some relatives.

Maxi’s is located about 350 meters south of Broadway Beauty, which itself is just a few hundred meters outside of downtown Santa Ana on the Old Road to Escazu.

Hotel Bougainvillea Wine Tasting & Dinner, October 19

The Club de Catadores, Alpiste Distributors and the Hotel Bougainvillea will be hosting a dinner and wine tasting on October 19. Chilean vineyard Montes has always been a favorite of mine and will be a featured producer alongside Kaiken, from Argentina and Napa Angel, which is also put out by Montes.

Special deals will be offered on wines from all three vineyards.

The event begins at 7:30pm, and costs c25,000 per person.

Montes Wine Dinner

Gastro Bar en el 38

Gastro Bar en el 38Located just off the lobby of the downtown Tryp Sabana hotel inside the Centro Colon, Gastro Bar en el 38 is a chic, new spot equally suited for casual drinks and appetizers or a more formal meal. The décor stands out, with bold colors, striking lighting and a mod-art deco feel. On weekends, the bar can actually get hopping.

Ceviche

The menu features a mix of tapas and contemporary fusion cuisine.  On a recent visit everything was beautifully presented, tasty and perfectly prepared.

Ceviche came with sides of sweet potato chips, avocado and a corn relish. The traditional Andalusian Gazpacho was hearty and flavorful.

 

Pumpkin AgnolottiPasta options on the wide-ranging dinner menu include pumpkin, ricotta and prosciutto filled agnolotti in a burned butter sauce and orecchiette in a rabbit ragú accompanied by garlic chips.

 

TunaThe thick tuna steak was well-seared and served with a herbs de Provence and watercress pesto, while a tender filet of mahi mahi came with a light romesco sauce over sautéed vegetables and lima beans.

 

The tapas menu features a host of traditional favorites: patatas bravas, tortilla espñola, and  shrimp in garlic sauce, as well as a few dishes with Costa Rican and Caribbean influences, including pati and patacones.

GazpachoThe fairly priced wine list is accompanied by a good and varied selection of wines by the glass.

This place offers live music on Thursday evenings, as well as a daily lunch special (plato ejecutivo).