Culinary Travel: Raising the bar in Costa Rica

In terms of availability of fresh ingredients for great food, Costa Rica is a blessed country. It is sourounded by two Oceans, cattle graze on open praries and just about anything that you stick in the fertile volcanic earth will grow.  That is the theory…

However, Costa Rica does not have a strong culinary tration and culture and most Ticos cannot live without their three daily portions of rice and beans.  Only recently, this has changed and sustainable luxury tourism had a lot to do with it.
Local ingredients are an important part of sustainability at Arenas del Mar Resort.

In the fall of 2012 and 2013, Arenas del Mar Beachfront and Rainforest Resort in Manuel Antonio organized a series of guest chef events bringing world renowned chefs to Costa Rica and creating magic by combining the freshest locally harvested organic ingredientes with the experience of International Haute Cuisine.

Due to the great success of these events, not only for the guests at the hotel, but also for the hotel staff that learned new techniques and the concept of quality, starting on August 23rd 2014, a new series of culinary events will take place at Arenas del Mar.  Here is the Fall 2014 Schedule of Events:

August 23rd through 30th.     Chocolate, red wine and other antioxidants.

Arenas Del Mar is conveniently located 30 minutes from Villa Vanilla, a farm growing many spices including cinnamon, vanilla and chocolate. Previous hotel guests who have visited Villa Vanilla and purchased their spices report that cooking with them at home was an amazing experience. Their taste and freshness are unknown to almost all North American cooks.

Finding a chef to work with this bounty was not difficult. Food-loving residents of New York City and Philadelphia know of Shola Olunloyo of Studio Kitchen. www. He is universally known simply as Shola. He doesn”™t have a restaurant, just a table for 10 in Philadelphia.   Shola agreed to cook for us because, with his unique cooking skills and style which always maximize flavors, he could not resist the opportunity to cook with such fresh spices, fruits, vegetables and fish.

September 13th through 20th.     A gluten-free week for the Celiac Community.

Travel for the celiac community is always a challenge. 3 times a day, 7 days a week celiac sufferers are constantly worried whether each meal will really be gluten-free with no issues of cross-contamination in the kitchen. Arenas Del Mar has successfully prepared hundreds of gluten-free meals over the years for its celiac guests. But this week all meals in both restaurants will be served gluten-free.

In support of the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness   (NFCA) , the week will feature Chef Monica Glass, who herself has celiac disease, accompanied by Chef Nicole Petrongolo. Monica has worked as the pastry chef at the acclaimed seafood restaurant, Le Bernardin in NYC, 10 Arts in Philadelphia and now at Clio in Boston

All the supporting kitchen staff at Arenas Del Mar will also have completed the NFCA”™s Great Kitchens training program which is accredited by the American Culinary Foundation.  This week will be repeated from November 8th through 15th with 2 different chefs.

Arenas del Mar Aereal View
View of

September 20th through 27th.     Microbrews and local cheeses

Costa Rica is becoming a mecca for small, innovative microbreweries. Their quality ranks high among the world”™s best beers. For 5 consecutive days, each of 5 microbrewers will present their craft beers during afternoon tastings, make the beers available for Arenas Del Mar”™s Hours of Happiness and then pair the beers with a specially prepared dinner. Cheeses from the local Monte Azul will also be served.

The chef will be Patrick Feury of Nectar in Berwyn, PA. The host for the week will be Bill Covaleski, Founder, Brewer and President of Victory Beer in Downingtown, PA, who has also threatened to bring some of his own beers with him for our guests to also taste.

Patrick and Bill are good friends and have worked and played together in many kitchens and dining rooms on many different occasions. Knowing these 2 ” gentlemen”, we predict that this week will also have its fair share of humor.  This week will be repeated from November 1st through November 8th with a different guest chef and host.

September 27th through October 4th.  Sugar Cane and Central America”™s best rums.

This event will evolve around raw organic sugar. The chef will bring out the best of this locally produced ingredient in his tasting menus. The experience will be complemented by excursions to visit a traditional sugar mill operated by oxen as well as tastings of some of Central America”™s best rums.

The guest chef will be Chip Roman, chef/owner of Blackfish, Mica and Ela in the Philadelphia area. A couple of years ago Blackfish was named the Top Restaurant in Philadelphia by Philly Magazine.   Chip is a key player in the kitchens of Arenas Del Mar. He started as the trial guest chef in 2012 and returned in 2013. By popular demand he is again on the 2014 schedule.

November 1st through November 8th.     Microbrews and local cheeses.

This will be a repeat of the week in late September, but with Jeremy Nolen, the exciting young chef of Brauhaus Schmitz in Philly. Jeremy and his wife Jessica, the Pastry Chef, live and breathe in a world of beer. The host for the week will be Steve Wildy, the Beverage Director of the Vetri Group of Restaurants in Philly. Steve is an extremely knowledgeable beer guy.

November 8th through November 15th. A second week for the Celiac Community.

Last week”™s beer will be banished from the kitchen and the original week from mid-September will be repeated. This time the two chefs will be Michael Solomonov     and Steven Cook, both of Zahav, Zahav, like Chip Roman”™s Blackfish, has also won the Best Restaurant in Philadelphia award from Philly Magazine.

November 15th through 22nd.     Avid bird watching and fine dining.

Who says that these two subjects have to be mutually exclusive? An excellent chef (to be confirmed) will team up with specialists from Cornell University”™s Laboratory of Ornithology to provide the best of both worlds. Costa Rica is a mecca for bird-watchers.       Arenas Del Mar, a small boutique hotel of just 38 rooms, employs   two full-time naturalists and they have recorded more than 160 species of birds within the hotel property itself.

December 13th through 20th.   Great Food and the Costa Rican Youth   Orchestra.

This week is a treat for the senses. Classical music, young talent, exceptional food, beautiful beaches and the rainforest with its teeming wildlife. Mid-December is the best time to visit Costa Rica, and this year you can have it all.

Local talent from the Youth Symphonic Orchestra of Costa Rica will perform. Wow! In addition, 5 course tasting menus (as well as the regular menu) will be prepared by superb chef Christopher Sanchez of Long Beach Island, NJ. Wow, again!   Christopher, of neighboring Panamanian heritage, is a frequent visitor to Costa Rica and knows the local ingredients very well.

For further information, please contact Arenas Del Mar at or 1-888-240-0280.  Alternatively please contact Jeremy Allen, Program Director and Hotel Partner, at [email protected]   or 610-407 9371.

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