Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Erin and Joe's Jungle-Fusion Culinary Experience

Winning the Jungle Fusion airfare prize and stay at Pura Suerte complimented our travel plans for Joe's 30th birthday last January. We decided to fly into San Joe but then drive to the central Pacific Coast of Costa Rica and explore a few spots on the way to the farm.
We arrived in San Jose late and upon recommendation, stayed in a colorful (but barricaded) hotel near the airport. We rented a car and started early on our first day to drive down the coast. It was a long and windy trek on both highways and through tiny towns but we finally saw the piercing blue ocean near Jaco.

Our first stop was at a rooftop restaurant called The Marlin in Manuel Antonio. Joe was in heaven to watch the NFL while drinking Imperials and looking at the incredible view the small oceanside town offers. This most relaxing hour prepared us for the next sixty minutes of bumpy terrain between Manuel Antonio and Dominical. Driving on this dirt road into the remote countryside was a trip... purchasing cold baggies of coconut water from little girls while waiting for our turn on one-way bridges.... wondering how our rental was holding up against the gravel and bumps... passing men with machetes riding bicycles... passing fields of cows and acres of trees and mountains... it was a plethera of eye candy. Arriving in Dominical near sunset was like approaching the merchant alley at a Widespread show. Vendors hawking sarongs, jewelry and towels, dogs running underfoot and surfboards propped every which direction. We first rented a couple of giant foam boards to give surfing a try and were pummeled. Imperials at Jazzy's softened the blows and we decided to check out a thai restaurant for dinner. We ended up being the only patrons in the restaurant which suffered from frequent power outages and resident cats. We instructed our enthusiastic server on how to make a martini and ended up with a rum/tonic/and O.J. concoction. The server had also not ever heard of an olive but served us amazing fare that was a combination of thai and indian flavors.

The next morning began our trip to the farm... we were refreshed and prepared with driving instructions... "once you see the white church, turn right, then turning left after the fourth bridge". All was well until we lost bridge count and ended up on a steep and rocky road heading into a river. This spurred argument between driver and navigator which was interrupted by four men with machetes coming out of the woods looking at us inquisitively. One farmer with a wandering eye approached the car and kept asking "Jimmy? Jimmy?" while trying to unlock the back door. With a mild panic we hit lock and reversed our direction, thinking we were going to sleep in the Hyundai in the jungle for the night. And still worried about the machetes! Luckily, a few blocks up we run into a silver jeep with a couple who know Drennan and assure us "just keep driving.. you'll hit the farm". We do arrive after a long stretch on a narrow and steep dirt road and are instantly at east with the beautiful surroundings.

We pull into one driveway and explore what will be our cabin made of large pieces of bamboo and surrounded by lush trees and flowers. A tour of the grounds shows us several more of these individual houses, the greenhouses, the main house and the restaurant. We find ourselves wandering down paths through the jungle to the various partitions of the farm, meeting dogs and other visitors along the way. We ended our journey under the mango tree which offered a most excellent view of sunset. We were looking at the same bay as in Manuel Antonio, but miles further and higher, with and incredible view of the jungle's roof in between.
The only three-week-old restaurant welcomed us that night with candlelight, music, tablecloths and good company. Red wine in hand, we enjoyed an amazing cauliflower and mushroom soup with fried onions and fried bread. Next came organic greens with goat cheese, walnuts and raisings followed by baked Ziti and marinated beef. Pudding with homeade marshmallow completed the amazing meal made with local ingredients purchased in trade by Drennan's crew. We met a really nice couple traveling from Manhattan and enjoyed talking to Merrick the chef, a transplant from Denver, who knows restaurant staff from one of our neighborhood favorites, Lola. We headed back to our hut comfortably full and curious about life (from what seemed like worlds away from everything) on the farm. The bottle of wine could not prepare us city dwellers for the noises of the night, how ever. Could have been the lizzard chilling on our pillows when we returned to our room but we lied awake wide-eyed for a few hours before sleep came on. So many noises came out of the trees (croaks.. squeeks... footsteps), but finally we crashed and the next day decided to explore the waterfalls. After small doses of amazingly strong coffee we head down the path in the direction we were instructed the evening before. We arrive at the chilly stream and climb down a few levels into the base of one waterfall. Here we hang out on the flat rocks for hours reading, taking pictures, swimming and relaxing. Surrounded by huge trees that drop fluttering leaves, it was an ideal spot to relax for an afternoon with no agenda and appreciate the surroundings. We do so for hours and finally head back to our hut only to nap, listen to music and read for a few more hours, enjoying the light, the fresh air and the comfortable deck of our bamboo hut. Gathering back at the restaurant that evening we enjoy cocktails and await another tasty meal. This time it's mahi mahi with a coconut coating and a hearts of palm and rice dish. Desert was a chocolate sponge cake soaked in rum and caramel with mangoes. It was amazing! Another fabulous meal and cocktails leaving us fat and happy and ready to stare at the ceiling in bed listening to monkeys chatter in the trees around us. Very wierd sound, by the way... sounds like angry croaking.

The next morning the ocean becons us to return so we decide to start the trek back to Manuel Antonio where we will spend Joe's 30th on the water. We enjoy coffee back in the restaurant and appreciate the sunlight on the beautiful restaurant structure, surrounding plants and the view for the last few moments. We run into Drennan and compliment his creation profusely, thanking him for his hospitality. We talk about how it must be for him to have so many people come and go. We're headed back and he's starting yet another day of projects on the land... this time filling in the dirt roads to the restaurant with enormous trucks of soil. We so admire his corner of the world and what he is preserving and promoting. We laugh at ourselves for feeling "threatened" by any local farmer as the individuals we met were friendly and gentle. Drennan seems to have an awesome repor with his community.

Anyone with the opportunity to travel to the farm and enjoy a day or a week of serene quiet, lush vegitation and fabulous hospitality should make the effort to see Pura Suerte.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

The Jungle-Fusion Localvore Challenge

Win a Jungle-Fusion Culinary Experience

Most people who read our cookbook don't live near a jungle. Like you, the foods grown closest to their homes depend on the specific climate and landscape of their local environment. These variables support unique foods and define the character of their local foodshed.

Although our recipes were born in the rainforests of Costa Rica, at its essence Jungle-Fusion is about adapting to the food resources of any local environment. Why is this important? Because, local foods require less fossil fuels to get to the market, reducing the carbon footprint of our food purchases. Plus, consumers of local foods (localvores) support nearby family farms through their purchases. In return, these family farms offer local foods with fresh seasonal flavors.

Following the lead of Localvore organizations around the country, we are hosting 2 seasonal Localvore challenges in 2007. Winners will be announced on the Summer Solstice and the Fall Equinox.

Click HERE to find out more.

Localvore activities include:
  • hosting potlucks
  • visiting your local farmer's market
  • drinking local wine and beet
  • stopping at local farms and dairies
  • the 100-mile challenge
  • picnics

For every friend who accepts your invitation to join our Localvore Challenge, we will plant one tree in the rainforests of Costa Rica. This is an easy way to support our reforestation efforts.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Useful links for Localvores:

http://www.100milediet.org/ This web site allows you to calculate a 100 radius of your home for eating locally.
http://Worldwatch.org/features/food Features what individuals can do,"Tale of Two Tomatoes", links, info on the book "Eat Here:Reclaiming Homegrown Pleasures in a Global Supermarket" by Brian Halweil
http://www.sustainabletable.org/ Features issues (ex. animal welfare, antibiotics, genetic engineering, fossil fuels, health,), sustainable food in schools, recipes, cookbook reviews, feature articles.
http://www.locavores.com Culinary adventurers supporting food grown within 100-mile radius of San Francisco with rationale, recipes, food and cooking links.
http://www.localharvest.org Locate farms, CSAs,food co-ops and restaurants that feature local foods across the U.S.
http://vitalcommunities.org/Agriculture/agriculture.htm Locally Grown Guide (for much of VT and NH);Tidbits newsletter; Dartmouth Local Food initiative; Localvores: rationale, recipes, food sources, etc.
http://www.vtcommons.org/node/189 Article by Bill McKibben "Can Vermont Feed Itself?". (After reading this excellent article, click on "Journal" in the menu and scroll down to Issue 6 October 2005; the entire issue is dedicated to local foods in VT.)
http://www.coopfoodstore.com/html/about_producers.html Photos and descriptions of many VT/NH farmers supplying the Hanover/Lebanon-Co-op. See "Issues" in menu: excellent articles on food issues.
http://www.coopfoodstore.com/news/Archives/arch_9_04/editor.html "Shopping for the Common Wealth"
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/sci/tech/4312591.stm Features article "Local Food "Greener than Organic"
http://www.museletter.com/archive/159.html "What Will We Eat as the Oil Runs Out" by Richard Heinberg, FEASTA Conference, Dublin, Ireland, June 2005.
http://www.omorganics.org/page.php?pageid=197 "Think Locally and Act Neighborly"; a comprehensive rationale for eating locally-grown foods

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Eat Like a Localvore

The produce that we eat travels, on average, 1500 miles before reaching our local market. Locally grown produce, however, averages 45 miles. The seemingly simple choice of what to eat has an enormous impact on how our limited fuel and land resources are used. By purchasing locally-grown foods, we can reduce the impact of each meal while supporting a sustainable food economy that benefits family farms and rewards sustainable agriculture.

Locally grown foods arrive at the market fresh and ripe. As much as it may be reassuring to know that our purchases are more nutritious and contribute to a sustainable economy, we can also do it simply for the flavor.

One way to bring the pleasures and politics of eating locally-grown foods into your house is to design and document your own "Eat Local Challenge". Create your own ground-rules and send your videos, photos and recipes to: contest@jungle-fusion.com.

Here are some ideas to get you started:
  • Create one meal using exclusively ingredients produced within 100 miles of your home.
  • With small exceptions (coffee, tea, chocolate, sugar) live for one day eating only food and drinking only wine or beer produced within 200 miles from your home.
  • Create a simple entree or dessert using solely ingredients produced within 200 miles of your kitchen.
For the next year, we are going to give away a customized Jungle-Fusion Experience to one member of our Jungle-Fusion community at the end of each season.

Find Out More.

We will be posting new ideas to help you celebrate your local "foodshed" on this Jungle-Fusion Recipe Blog throughout the spring. Check back regularly.

Friday, April 20, 2007

My Jungle-Fusion Culinary Experience

As I call New York City home, the contrast in way of life that I found on a visit to Pura Suerte was jarring. Delicately, serenely, greenly jarring. It required great effort to realize that in just a 5 hour's journey I could be back in the asphalt jungle, the mecca of commerce and chaos that is New York.

On several evenings during my stay at Pura Suerte I was off to a peaceful slumber in the palatial Stretch hut soon after a fresh and flavorful meal prepared in the new restaurant. My toucan alarm clock eased me into the day as I threw open the doors of my hut to practice yoga looking out over the lush jungle and its flitting post-dawn avian activities. Other mornings I found myself out for a walk around the finca before meeting my travel compadres for banana pancakes and freshly blended costa rican coffee. On our agenda: to decide if we would find our way to the beach for the day, hike down to Nuayaca Falls, or maybe spend time working on the farm.

But it was the quiet time spent in any hammock I could commandeer that brought me the true clarity and
vision that is now helping me to knit together my daily life back in this huge U.S. city. The Tico way of life distilled each day with a necessity, peace, calm, frugality, simplicity, and respect for the natural resources that was so visible with every glance around the landscape. I now have had the chance to reflect on the choices I make day in and day out as I buy my lettuce from a New York City grocer or famer's market while fondly recalling picking it myself in the greenhouse next to the pineapple patch.

- Nora Martin