Costa Rica- Menu R&D For Catering & Cooking Classes

We have to do lots of menu R&D, because we do catering menus and cooking classes from all around the world. So we must travel frequently for ideas and inspiration. Tough job, but somebody has to do it.

So where to? Since it was the start of the new year, our first requirement for our menu trip was total absence of cold!   Preferably a non-stop flight. Somewhere new so we can get menu ideas for our catering menus.

We decided upon Costa Rica. Crocodiles, rain forests, hot springs, beautiful unspoiled beaches, yoga, warm weather… and food, of course

So our menu team flew out of Newark to San Jose, Costa Rica…(nonstop 😀) Our first stop was The Eden Wellness & Yoga Retreat. It is located on the Pacific side five minutes from Jaco beach (say HAH-co)

On the way from the airport to the retreat, our driver stopped us at a roadside stand for a ceviche of octopus and shrimp. It was sublime. Spiked with chilies, fresh lime, orange, cilantro and very fresh snappy seafood. Three bucks for a big bowl. It will be included in my Costa Rican cooking class, for sure.

Eden Wellness Retreat is tucked on the hills above the town of Jaco.

Only about six guest rooms, a pool, nothing fancy, but tranquil and beautiful views of the Pacific Ocean. The sunrise yoga and morning meditations are a great way to start the day.

For the next four days we did yoga, Qi Gong, fitness scans, colonics (ouch), ionic foot soaks, ozone saunas, counseling, and more treatments to optimize our health. Of course, we did sneak into town at night to taste the local beverages and sample the local scene and cuisine. Oops.

After four days of health and wellness, we needed some luxury and decadence. So we checked into Jaco’s fanciest hotel, The Croc’s Casino. Well we are Crocs you know!!

A funny sidenote, totally unplanned. My first job out of college was at the Eden restaurants in Philly. That’s where I learned catering. Then, after Eden restaurant, my next job was when I opened Crocodile Cafe! Get it? Eden then Croc’s… the exact same sequence as the two places we stayed on this Costa Rica vacation. Hmmm. Coincidence!

So we got a well-appointed room with an huge, amazing balcony that overlooks the Pacific Ocean and Jaco Beach. Great pools, attentive service and even a small casino.

While staying at Croc’s, we were delighted to discover the Pacific Ocean has super warm water, perfect for swimming, mud baths and tanning.

Jaco beach is an idyllic, 3 mile crescent lined with palm trees and gorgeous sunsets. And there are women on the beach that give great massages (just $40 for 1 hour). They had me almost writhing in pain from the force of their strong hands.

The hotel was charging $140/hour for mud bath therapy, so we decided to do our own version (the free version). Just take a little of the silty and and scrub down then let it dry in the hot sun. Minerals, exfoliation… the mud leaves your skin soft as a baby’s behind.

On Jaco beach (and in the little town) there are lots of fun places to eat and drink. The restaurants are uncrowded, abundant and very cheap by US standards.

A couple favorites…

The Taco Joint, The Beer house (Costa Rican craft beer), Graffiti Restro Cafe & Wine Bar (coffee-crusted tenderloin), The Green Room, El Hicaco (local seafood right on the beach), Carlito’s On The Beach (whole fried snapper to-die-for), Villa Caleto (jaw-dropping, romantic views, pricey). And so much more! It’s fun to just stroll around and see what you find.

You will see lots of Costa Rican menus on our catering menus and our cafe menus as well. We can’t wait to go back. I may even buy me some ocean front property. It is very affordable. Let me know if you know someone who has purchased property in Costa Rica.

Bon Appetit!