Green Sustainable Restaurants in Costa Rica and Nicaragua
Sustainable food and Green restaurants are a growing trend in today’s culinary world. At the Cayuga Collection restaurants, we offer local fare with an international touch. Learn more about the different options below.
Situated above the beautiful Central Valley of Costa Rica, Finca Rosa Blanca was built with the goal of creating an ecological haven and a sustainable tourism destination in a high-quality, aesthetic environment for visitors who want to experience the biodiversity of Costa Rica. As well as ensuring all the cuisine served at the Inn is locally grown and represents the authentic tastes and menus of Costa Rican culture, owners Glenn and Teri Jampol also love coffee. So when 30 acres of land became available next door to their inn, they bought it knowing the rich volcanic soils, temperate climate and some tender loving care could yield some of the best tasting organically grown coffee in the world. Today, learning about planting, picking, processing, roasting and tasting coffee has become an integral part of their guests’ experience, attracting coffee lovers from around the world.
However, the culinary experience does not stop there. The Jampol’s re-introduced a spectacular garden at their award winning resort, that includes as many edible fruits and vegetables as possible so that guests can truly understand where the indigenous ingredients come from. And what they can’t grow enough of, they buy fresh from the market and almost exclusively bought from a cooperative of small organic and independent farmers or local merchants. They also purchase organic or biodynamic food whenever possible and every item is home made in their kitchen or in the community.
During dinner, local Costa Rican servers take time to explain the local ingredients, even presenting them in their raw form. Examples include:
- Pejibaye – a fruit from the heart of the palm tree, used in soup and salads.
- Yuca – similar to a potato and also used to make flour.
- Narubib – the fruit of the cashew nut that when cooked creates a rich syrup used on desserts and ice cream.
- Nampi – similar to a Yuca and used in soups
All food waste is composted and their garden uses a drip irrigation system to cut down on water usage. And finally, 5% of the Inn’s profits from the restaurant and bar go to support many projects including community schools and to Barva Volcano Sector of the Braulio Carrillo National Park.
Finca Rosa Blanca Coffee Plantation & Inn, the first certified sustainable hotel in Costa Rica, has evolved over the last 20 years to become the highest ranking member of the prestigious Sustainable Tourism Certification program (CST) and the only hotel that has achieved a perfect score of 100%.
Lapa Rios Eco Lodge: DINING IS ALL ABOUT HONOURING THE LAND AND THE COMMUNITY
Set in a private nature reserve spread over 1,000 acres of Central America’s last remaining lowland tropical rainforest in Costa Rica, Lapa Rios Rainforest Ecolodge overlooks the pristine point where the Golfo Dulce meets the wild Pacific Ocean. Lapa Rios has won worldwide awards for social and environmental excellence, and is a featured sustainable tourism pioneer in many international publications and research projects. By staying at Lapa Rios, guests support the conservation of the rainforest and provide direct employment and income to more than 45 families in the area.
The lodge’s restaurant Brisa Azul specializes in freshly-cooked authentic Costa Rican cuisine infused with a hint of the tropics and offers breathtaking vistas and an experience of the rainforest that grows up around the ecolodge. The restaurant offers a wide variety of seasonal and organic foods and also features a fine selection of international wines to compliment the meals.
While Lapa Rios does not employ a classically trained chef they are proud of their staff of eight local men who were courageous enough to leave their farms and have learned the art of cooking under the expert tutelage Lapa Rios’ founder, Karen Lewis. Lewis, who also loves to cook, developed the program to ensure it provided a sustainable income to local Costa Ricans. She was instrumental in getting the culinary program off the ground; including sourcing local suppliers and working with local farmers to grow the ingredients that were needed to please international palates. While Costa Rican ingredients are brought into the remote resort from further away – emphasis is placed on using the ingredients that are grown on the Osa Peninsula and guests are treated to an every changing selection of fresh juices, menus and can even try their hand at making their own tortillas.
Lewis believes that great food is an essential part of an enjoyable, memorable experience and the arrival of fresh ingredients to the kitchen is treated as a celebration, often arriving with the guests themselves to cut down on the carbon footprint of delivering it separately. Additional sustainable initiatives related to the culinary experience at Lapa Rios include:
- Use of locally grown ingredients for all cuisine including recently launching a small-scale project in which they are growing hydroponic lettuce;
- Coconut shells and crafted bamboo replace metal bowls as snack servers;
- A 6-cubic meter insulated ice chest for transporting 16 fresh produce boxes replaced the idea of a refrigerated truck;
- An insulated storeroom to cool fresh produce with an air conditioner substituted the need for a walk in refrigerator;
- Food scraps and peelings from both guest and staff kitchens are fed to pigs; their manure creates methane gas to fuel the staff kitchen stove.
The ecolodge also employs a wait staff comprised of an incredible group of young people who for the first time are being exposed to upscale service techniques and learning to speak English. Together this powerful and supportive team has redefined service in a wilderness setting and has elevated cooking in the wilds of the rainforest to a fine art. A favorite culinary experience at Lapa Rios is dining in front of your very own private waterfall in the heart of the rainforest.
The Harmony Hotel
In an effort to push our sustainability program to the next level, we at the Harmony Hotel have decided to focus on “greening” our restaurant. According to the Green Restaurant Organization, which certifies restaurants for their efforts to incorporate sustainability into their operations, a sustainable restaurant should work to:
- Implement energy efficiency and conservation practices
- Reduce water usage
- Participate actively in recycling programs
- Compost all organic waste
- Eliminate all toxic and environmentally hazardous chemicals from restaurant operations
- Purchase organic and/or sustainably produced fruits, vegetables and meats
- Incorporate “green” materials and design into its architecture and building
Some of our efforts to green our restaurant include:
One of the biggest problems facing traditional agriculture today is the loss of organic materials contained in the soil, caused among other things by the cultivation of monoculture populations, use heavy machinery and use (and abuse) of agrochemicals.
These processes have produced some grave results: Each year, more than 4 million tons of chemical fertilizers are incorporated into the world’s soil.
The Harmony Hotel has implemented a simple, yet complete, separation and recycling system in order to control and manage its waste. Through the process of worm farming, organic waste products (those that decompose naturally in presence of air, water and/or heat,) are recycled as fertilizer, which is then used to maintain the landscape and support the vegetable gardens. The Harmony’s embrace of worm farming techniques has substantially reduced the amount of waste produced by the hotel. What’s more, by teaching hotel staff and guests about the benefits and techniques of reuse of organic waste, the worm farm serves as a valuable educational resource for local farmers.
One of our first steps towards building a sustainable restaurant at Harmony was the creation of an onsite huerta (garden), which produces a number of fruits, vegetables an herbs that we have recently begun to incorporate into our menu.
We are now growing: yuca (a starchy tuber grown in the tropics),cilantro de cayote (cilantro), papaya, zacate de limón (lemon grass),tilo and hierba buena (herbs used by locals to make teas).
According to our executive chef, “these products not only help us to lower our environmental impact by reducing the carbon emissions caused by transport, but are also of superior quality and taste”
You may have also noticed that our pajillas (straws) are made from one of the “greenest” materials on earth: bamboo (family Laciasis sp.).
These bamboo sticks are grown locally by Don Tino, the head of our gardening staff, and have been dried and cured for use in our freshly squeezed fruit juices and cocktails.
In fact, two other hotels in Costa Rica (Lapa Rios Eco Lodge in the Osa Peninsula and Arenas del Mar Beach and Nature Resort in Manuel Antonio) have also caught on to the trend and have begun to buy straws from Don Tino as well.
The Harmony Hotel has also incorporated a number of alternative, “green” plating options to be used in its restaurant, including bowls made from coconut and sushi plates made from re-claimed marble slabs.
The menu in the Harmony Hotel includes a number of organic food items, including organically grown coffee from Costa Rica’s Central Valley and seasonal fruits and vegetables.
Some of these items are even produced on our onsite huerta, including yuca (a starchy tuber grown in the tropics), cilantro de cayote(cilantro), papaya, zacate de limón (lemon grass), tilo and hierba buena (herbs used by locals to make teas).
Arenas Del Mar
Recently opened in 2007, and named one of the hottest new hotels in 2008 by Forbes Traveler, and Condé Nast Traveler, Arenas Del Mar is a 38-room beach and nature resort. It offers spectacular views of the Manuel Antonio National Park on the Central Pacific coast of Costa Rica, set in eleven acres of rainforest with private trails and two tree-shaded sandy beaches.
Created as a model project for sustainable development, Arenas del Mar strictly follows the guidelines laid out by the Costa Rican Certification for Sustainable Tourism (CST). The resort offers two restaurants focusing on fresh local ingredients and Costa Rican recipes.
Over 80 per cent of ingredients are purchased from the local community of Quepos and the resort also purchases organic products like tomatoes, lettuce and cucumbers that are produced on hydroponic plantations owned by ACR Ecological Solutions. Additional vegetables, including cabbage, bell peppers and coriander, are produced by the local organic farms operated by Hortalizas la Cosecha. And as part of the resort’s sustainability tour, where guests receive a behind the scenes tour of what makes Arenas Del Mar a top sustainable resort, guests will visit the resorts newly developed hydroponic plantation for growing its own fruits and vegetables.
Signature drinks and dishes are being created all the time and daily menu discussions with the Chef help guests learn more about the local ingredients and how Chef is enhancing traditional Costa Rican recipes with new flavors.