Renting a house in Costa Rica

In celebrating our friends big birthday we rented a great house in Costa Rica for a week. We have rented houses from “Luxury Retreats” http://www.luxuryretreats.com, or call Jay Lunan 1877-993-0100 he has helped us rent perfect houses around the world.

The house we rented was Residence Pacifico in Tambor, 6 bedrooms with in suite bath and plenty of room to enjoy a week of relaxation after a winter of grey days and cold.

We flew to LA and spent the night since the connection from Seattle to Costa Rica is difficult. We flew on Alaska nonstop to San Jose the main airport in Costa Rica. We then chartered a plane from Sansa to fly us to small airport in Tambor. The plane seated all 12 of us and luggage, cost was $1200 round trip a real bargain. The other option is a 4+ hour drive and a short ferry ride to reach Tambor. Our driver pick us up and drove us to the house with a stop at a little grocer for a wine supply.

The house chef made us a great welcome dinner, helped us get settled and make plans for the week. There is a hotel just down the beach from the house so the next morning after breakfast of fresh fruit and beans and rice we ventured out. The hotel, Tango Mar, has a 9 hole golf course, nice spa and tennis courts and horses for hire.

We had lunch at the hotel several days and love their salads and gazpacho. We were here to relax, so time at the pool with our books was the activity of the day. We went back to the hotel for dinner and gave the coconut shrimp an A+.

Costa Rica is very hot and humid so be careful when you are playing outside on the beach. The next day we did an ATV tour with our guide Edouardo Sanchez tours, 506-87037199. We cruised through the jungle, across the rivers and ended at a lovely water fall for a swim. The tour was about 3 hours of laughter and discovery. Back to the house for lunch and pool and beach time.

This evening started with a 45 minute drive to Montazuma, a small town with shops and local restaurants. We had a simple dinner at “LAS PALAMS”, served on a deck of a family home. The family prepared whole snapper, fried perfectly with sides of rice, vegetables and fried plantains. Dinner was about $22 a person including wine, this is true in most places we ate. Most places have a simple wine list of good wine from Chili, Australia and Argentina.

The next morning we went snorkeling with a guided tour group called Zuma . Our driver picked us up and we went back to Montazuma where we boarded a boat for the trip to a small group of islands. The water was very warm and clear, there were a few fish, but also a lot of other tours in the same place. After about an hour in the water we headed to a lovely white sand beach where our tour group served a nice lunch and plenty of beer and soft drinks. We discovered later the hotel does also offer a snorkeling tour leaving from their beach, saving you the long trip back and forth to Montazuma. A great excursion worth the $120 per person cost.

That night we had dinner close to the house at a great family restaurant, “RESTAURANTE CRISTINA’S, about a 10 minute drive to Cobano Puntarenas where the owner and his mother served us lobster and fresh roasted fish. The owner, Eduardo Gonzales is a guide of Tambor Adventures, egonzalesb79@hotmail.com. You can use him also to drive you around so you do not need a car. The next evenings were spent at the house where the staff created fun dinners, built fires on the beach for us to enjoy and served lobsters around the pool. Nothing was to much to ask and so the afternoons were enjoyed with onsite massages down by the beach with the cool breeze blowing.

We bought our own liquor at duty free on our way down to Costa Rica and had to make sure we drank it all during our week long visit. The food is clean, simple the mood is easy going and the weather is HOT and humid.

We did not see much of Costa Rica, but enjoyed the small corner we explored and believe it is a place for young people of old hippies. It is not expensive so makes it an easy choice of a vacation in the sun.

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36 hours in San Francisco

For a belated birthday Merrill and Marisa took me to San Francisco for one night. It had been a long time since I was there to just wander the streets, stop in small shops and enjoy great food.

We checked into the Fairmont Hotel, dropped our bags and started walking. We walked down to Gump’s for old time sake and bought a few special gifts for those April birthdays. Then since it was a perfect 75 degrees we headed to The Ferry Building. The shops in the Ferry Building are all unique, along with specialized food vendors, there is something for everyone. Lunch at THE SLANTED DOOR at the far end of the ferry building is always a treat. Everything we ordered was delivered hot and perfect to share, try the green papaya salad and crispy imperial rolls.

After a big lunch we headed out to walk along the Embarcadero to the Fishermans Wharf and down Pier 39, a lot of tourist and trinkets and trash. After a quick walk along the pier we headed out toward China Town. When we reached China town decided it was time for a little shopping so we called an Uber and went to Fillmore street. The real shopping started we went in and out of small interesting shops. Could not help myself, the shopping for grandchildren was contagious as we explored one store after the other.

We walked back to the hotel to complete our 20,000+ steps for the day, 8.9 miles. Quick change of clothes and a cab to dinner at “OCTAVIA”, 1701 Octavia street. This special neighborhood restaurant is small, but offers a nice selection of small plates to share. A jewel and worth making reservations if you have an extra evening.

My friend Joanne Weir had recommended Octavia and so when she suggested our breakfast should be at TARTINE, 595 Alabama, I knew we were headed for another great meal.

This was the amazing breakfast egg sandwich I had on a soft bun. We watched the bakers taking loaves of fresh bread from the massive ovens while we ate breakfast, it made me wish I could take some home.

Since we only had an afternoon left to explore before we had to catch a flight home we took off walking to “Hayes Valley”. Fun stores, interesting restaurants and people watching. Found a great store called “Outdoor Voices” nice workout things in soft colors.

Lunch was back in the Financial district, BARBACCO”, 220 California Street. They have lovely salads and simple Italian fare, the room is sleek with a lot of stainless and glass.

Time to hike up the hill to the hotel and back to the airport for our flight home. Sometimes the best way to enjoy a city is limit yourself to 2 days and just start walking.

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Couple of days in New York with Joanne Weir

Why do we go to NY over and over? The shopping, the restaurants, a great show or tour of another exhibition at one of the many museums.

Joanne Weir asked me to join her for a couple of days to attend a conference about food, new cookbooks, and how the public communicates about food in 2018 and beyond. Understanding the internet and understanding what is next in food trends. The past 10 years has changed where a person cooking finds their recipes. Do they watch a video on how to chop an onion? Pull up an Instagram post on how a dish in the hot new restaurant looks or go to a recipe site to fine 15 versions on how to make Mac and cheese? We know that people are still buying cookbooks, reading publications either on line or hard copy and sharing their new discovery of the best way to roll out pie dough.

Along with the many hours of all the information we were taking in, we also had to sneak away to share a special meal. We arrive a day early so we could explore some of our old haunts. We checked into the Midtown Hilton, since that was where the IACP conference was being held. Dropped our bags and headed out to a new Spanish restaurant, TOMINO TABERNA, 192 Grand Street. Tomino is only a few months old and making a name for its self. They offer small plates of perfect Spanish tapas. We loved the little sausages served on a skewer in a cast iron pan that is flaming as it is placed in front of you. The service is excellent and the owner, Phil, was on hand to make sure everything was to our liking.

The next morning was our free time to head out and start exploring. We headed to Chelsea Market, this is a must for any foodie. We first stopped at DIZEN GOFF, the best hummus you will ever eat. Served with fresh out of the oven pita and a selection of sides, we chose the pickled beets and harissa carrots. Go early because it gets busy and there are only a few stools to sit on. Then we began wandering through the market, next stop LOBSTER PLACE, as you enter you see one of the largest selections of fresh shucked oysters in front of you. Choose one or ten set in front of you to savor with just the correct topping or just a squeeze of lemon. Toward the back they are serving whole steamed lobsters and a huge array of fresh fish of every kind to take home. You can find any type of food from around the world here so plan to just wander and sample to your hearts content.

Since we were in the area it was a short walk to Soho and a little shopping. We went to one of Joanne’s favorite shops, MORGANE LeFAY, they have beautiful selection of simple dresses and jackets that will please everyone, 464 Broome Street. Time for a glass of wine and light snack before we return for the first event at the conference.

Great stop in Soho is always THE MERCER KITCHEN, 99 Prince Street. The main floor as you enter has a coffee shop busy with late afternoon tea, wine and small desserts. We headed downstairs where it is cozy on a rainy afternoon, sharing a glass of wine and small veggie plate was the perfect way to finish our afternoon adventure.

We spent the next couple of days learning how to create a better video blog, write and photo graph a winning cookbook or bone a duck. The next food trends and where prepackaged food and meals are going. One afternoon Joanne and I did sneak out for a perfect bowl of noodles at KUNGFU KITCHEN in Time Square, 610 8th ave. They also have one in HELL’s Kitchen, 811 8th Ave. This was a great find for one of the best bowls you can have. I had the spicy beef with hand shaved noodles and Joanne had the veggie hot pot with chicken. They also had a nice selection of dumplings and bows, make time to go.

Later that night we went a couple of blocks away to MOMO FUKU, 15 West 56th Street. You will go down the steps to the simple dining room with bare tables and a simple menu. We shared several small plates and enjoyed the clean flavors of things like razor clam ceviche, broccoli salad with a miso mayo dressing and spicy fried chicken. They have a nice selection of wines by the glass to pair with the spicy food.

We stayed an extra day after the conference to explore the shops on Madison and see what the new year has to offer in clothes and food. Look for everyone wearing crazy tennis shoes, and simple casual shoes with white soles, of course there are all those very high sexy high heel shoes for over $800, in every store.

We share a lovely lunch with friends at NELLO, 696 Madison, 212-980-9099. This beautiful restaurant adorned with branches of the first spring flowers was a lovely way to relax and dine instead of eat. I enjoyed the shaved baby artichoke salad with just the right amount of lemon dressing and slivers of Parmesan cheese. The pasta dish with fresh shaved black truffles looked and smelled like Italy. We had amazing white burgundy to top off the experience and left the restaurant thinking we needed a nap.

The last night in NY was a true contrast to our lunch. We invited a couple of true foodies to join us for dinner at ESTELA, 47 E. Houston Street. Estella is a very small restaurant up a short flight of steps. When you enter you will be greeted by loud excited chatter in a room holding about 50 guests. The long bar runs half the length of the restaurant with little room to move past all the happy customers crowded onto the bar stools. We were seated at a small table and given the one sheet of interesting dishes to choose what we wanted to share for dinner. We had a hard time eliminating any of them so with a consensus and the help of our attentive server we settled on 7 dishes each one better than the next. The textures, seasonings, flavors and combinations of each was perfect. We loved the azzoz negro, the fluke ceviche, endive salad with anchovy dressing and topping of toasted walnuts, toasted bread crumbs and small bits of cheese, the lamb ribs fell of the one and the simple crunch on the top was delicious.

Always fun to spend a few days in any major city around the world with friends that love food and the adventure of discovery. Pick a new city and just go for 3 or 4 days it really makes you want to go home and try your hand at cooking something new.

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SKIING IN TELLURIDE

Every other year our ski group of 9 friends ventures from our home ski base, Sun Valley, to a new area. On the off year we explore a U. S. Ski resort that we have not been to before. This year it was Telluride in Colorado. Telluride is surrounded by high peaks and sits in a closed valley that in the late 1800’s was an old mining town. We flew into the town of Montros about an hour and half from Telluride. We were pickup up by a large van, use Mountain Limo 1888-564-6894, our driver Jerry was great and took us to our hotel in the village above the old town of Telluride. We checked into hotel “Madeline”, and headed out to rent our skies. The hotel is nice, clean rooms but in need of more attention to details. They directed us to the ski shop they use called NEVE, helpful, but not the best equipment most of the skies were a couple years old. The skies were sent to the hotels ski room and the next morning everything was ready for us.

The first night we had dinner at a restaurant called “ALPINO VINO” a small cabin high up on the mountain reached by first a gondola ride then you board a snow cat for a 25 minute ride to the front door. Alpino is a small log house, there is a set menu either with wine paring or you can choose your own wine from an extensive list of very high price wines. Plan on about $300 per person if you choose your own wines, more if you do the pairing. Lovely 5 course meal beautifully prepared and served a fun way to start your visit to Telluride.

Since our hotel sits at 9,400 feet several of the group could feel the altitude especially the next day as we ventured out under blue skies to ski in a foot of new snow. We hired mountain guides and they were the best. Marti Martin-Kunitz has been in Telluride since 1976 and was amazing, if you go contact her at (mkuntz@wic.net or 1970-708-7072). Marti brought another guide Ken and they gave us the grand tour and made sure we all had an opportunity to find the best powder and ski the best runs. We stopped at Giuseppe’s for hot chocolate around 11 then continued to ski until 1 when Marti had reserved lunch on the mountain at Allred’s. This restaurant is a beautiful lodge feeling space serving lunch and dinner. Just a short gondola ride from our hotel. They have a large menu plus a nice soup and salad bar followed by a dessert bar. We skied until 4 then headed to the hotel jacuzzi and a nap. When you ski at 11,500 feet you can really feel the altitude.

You take a gondola from the upper village down into town where there are many good restaurants. We went down early to walk the Main Street, have a drink in the famous Sheridan Bar before our dinner at the Chop House, also located in the lobby of the Sheridan. The food was perfect and service great, the steaks were large and the restaurant was happy to let us share everything.

There are not many restaurants up in the village and the hotel had a very poor restaurant so breakfast was either at a little coffee shop, Starbucks with no seating or a long wait at the hotel. We did stay up by the hotel this one evening and went to a little Italian restaurant next to a pizza place. The food was fine and the owner was very attentive, however there were only 3 tables full so there was not a lot of energy in the place.

The next morning we were surprised to see another 11 inches of new snow over night. Telluride usually gets up to 300 inches of snow and this year they had been very light on snow all over the west. Lunch was at BON VIVANT, an outdoor pop up restaurant on the mountain. Open when weather permits. Dan is eating a mushroom soup with puff pastry on top, their signature dish.

That evening we headed back into town for a very fun dinner at a small bar/restaurant called THERE http://www.therebars.com, a great place about the size of a trailer house. The owner, Jonny, was making drinks, serving small plates of food and describing what our group should order for dinner. Every dish we ordered seemed to be better than the next. We loved the mussels, the pad Thai dish was perfect with just the right amount of spice.

The next day skiing was not on new snow so we just cruised the mountain. Had lunch at a big place called The Peaks, good but not great and slow service. Since it was Valentine’s Day we went to a lovely upscale French restaurant called La Marmotte a couple blocks off the gondola in a very nice new feeling building. The food was lovely and they offered a beautiful cheese board at the end of the meal. The portions were very large and could be shared. I had a beautiful frisée salad and simple seared lamb tenderloin from the appetizer selection. Carl had the rack of lamb and it was way to much.

There is an airport in Telluride, but it is small and very few flights go in our out of the town. Seems all the planes use Montros for safety….. we had a Continue reading

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Trip to Brazil with friends

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Curry seafood salad

This salad was a good way to use al the crab we use to catch while boating with friends in the water around the north west.

3/4 cup of fresh cooked crab meat

3/4 cup of shrimp.  I wi

 

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A few days in Italy spending time with friends

Carl and I flew into Milan and then took the speed train to Florence. Just a note, if you want to do this plan ahead. You will need to get to the main train station in downtown Milan to catch the train. Allow at least 1 1/2 hours. We took the shuttle bus for $8 each instead of 120 euro taxi. The bus is fast and very clean.

We arrived in Florence, walked a couple of blocks and picked up our rental car. Our friends live close to the beautiful resort, Costello di Casole in the Siena region about 90 minute drive from Florence. Since we were staying with friends our days were planned around where our next lunch was. We fixed dinner at home and talked about what the next day would be. 

On the first afternoon we drove to the village of Volterra for a great lunch at Borge Pignano, villapigano@ borgopigano.com, if you are any where close this hotel and restaurant is a must. The grounds/ gardens and amazing pool carved into the rock is a perfect hideaway.  Manager Angelo Pais is there to take care of every detail and the chef created an amazing lunch.

The next day we drove to Siena, wandered through the streets and after a visit to the Duomo, a must if you are in town. Then we had lunch at a charming 75 year old restaurant “Osterisa Le Logge, Via del Porrione 33” just off the main square.  The food was the old style of local dishes, all perfectly prepared and served. 

After these great 3 hour lunches our simple low key dinners on the outside deck watching the sunsets was the perfect way to end the day. Ready for the next day adventure to explore a new village and share another lovely lunch. We drove to the village of “Colle de Val d’ Elsa. Our lunch at IL Frantoio was clean simple Italian fare. This is the village that you will find the famous Lotti terra-cotta cookware lottiterracotte1926@gmail.com. This village is also the place you will find the famous stared restaurant a”Adalfo”. 

The last night we had dinner in Castillo di Casole, they have a menu with many American favorites in the bar with an Italian flair. The next morning we headed north, the area of Parma is where we have long time friends that welcomed us for a short 3 days of food, conversation and exploring new restaurants in the region. After dinner at home and a good nights sleep we headed to the town of Cremona. We visited the Museum of Violins, lunch at a The Tavern La Botte just down the street was a nice local restaurant with lovely home made pasta and soup. After wandering through the town of Fidenza where our friends live and a couple hours of rest we drove to the town of Busseto to a great fish restaurant “L’ Araba Fenice”. If you are in the area this is an excellent choice for dinner, no fancy decor but excellent food. 

A great experience the next day was the opportunity to visit a “Labyrinth  in the village of Fontanellato. This experience was something we don’t get to try figuring out how to navigate the hidden paths,in the U.S. something like this is known to most of us as a maze. Libirinto@francomariaricci.com, is created as a huge maze of paths winding through tall stands of bamboo. When you make your way to the end, if you get lost the have a help number posted in several places, you can enter the museum of the art collected owned and created by Franco Rocci.  You can enjoy lunch at the Labyrinth, but we suggest going to La Forcheta Ala in Fontanellato. Chef owner Chiuso Matedi is there to greet you and promises to bring you the best frito misto and Pizza in Italy. With great memories and a fond farewell to our week in Italy we headed back to the airport in Milan.

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