Panama – Days Seven and Eight

Our hotel, The Boquete Garden Inn, is one of the most gorgeous places I’ve stayed. The grounds are exquisite, and the rooms just as nice. We’ve been looking to buy a cord to transfer pictures, but no luck.

I’m preparing to cook a little. I’ve got some great local produce and meat. Today I marinated olives, and got some fabulous local, fresh cheese (pretty much like my grandmother used to make), and some unbelievable Manchego. We had our own happy hour! I forgot to buy the homemade cheese from Cala Mia before we left, and was pretty upset about it, but I love the new finds. When you’re traveling, try always to buy local and fresh and you can’t go wrong.

Our drive through the country today was really wonderful. I just have to get the pictures posted for you, because I can’t adequately describe it. It’s very much an agricultural society. We saw lots of farming up the hillsides, and lots of greenhouses, lots of bags of coffee waiting to be picked up, and entire buildings full of freshly harvested onions. The smell of fresh onions was heavenly.

We stopped at a coffee farm to have a light lunch. We had some great juice from freshly pressed fruit, and some ceviche / sashimi of sea bass using the herbs in their front yard. I also bought some cocoa lotion, chocolate covered coffee beans, cardamon flavored truffles, and coffee flavored truffles, all produced on that farm. It just doesn’t get any better for me!

Dinner on Wednesday was at the Panamante. We had a tuna appetizer, then Don had an amazing smoked pork chop with mashed potatoes, and I had an incredible fettucini with short rib ragu and fontina cheese.

Today, Thursday, we took a coffee plantation tour. We left so early, so I put together some local banana, local strawberries, local pistachios, and local honey. And we had cheese toast on some incredible local wholegrain bread. OK, now I’m back on track with the tour! It was a beautiful ride up the mountain, and a great education about the coffee beans. We tasted 5 different types of ripe fresh beans (they grow 10 varieties). They roasted beans to light, medium, and dark, and we sampled those and freshly brewed medium roast. Light roast has the most caffeine and dark roast has the least. Health wise drip coffee is the best, and any kind of perking, boiling, or reheating produces harmful chemicals. This company only produces 15,000 lbs of coffee a year, and they took second in the international tasting this year. The name of the coffee is Royal. I’m still trying to figure out how to buy some, and that’s assuming I could even afford it.

For lunch we had some great fresh fish at a local place. I cooked dinner tonight. It’s rice and beans with a huge salad. For the beans I sautéed some pieces of fresh bacon with extra virgin olive oil, then added onion and garlic. After the onion softened, I added the beans I had soaked with a little vinegar then drained (they are like a creamy large pinto), carrots, oregano, salt and pepper, and water. I put a lid on the pan and put it in a slow oven overnight. This morning almost all the water was gone, and I chopped some fresh culantro and put it in. They’re delicious. Culantro is similar in taste to cilantro. Today I fixed the rice. Again I sautéed onion and garlic, but this time in extra virgin olive oil and butter. Then I added capers, oregano, salt and pepper, water, and cooked it about 45 min (it’s local brown rice). The salad is all fresh local veggies including beets (that I cooked first), with a dressing including fresh orange juice. I love the challenge of cooking when I’m out of town with few ingredients and few cooking devices – I know it’s kind of crazy.