Friday, December 31, 2010
Tuesday, December 14, 2010
|awards night with my kitchen crew|
spend qt with my favorite older brother, Matt... & have some fun: check.
move to a small island in the Nicaraguan caribbean and start again: check. wait, what?
The new gig is an established resort on the island, with great owners and the location is paradise... it will, no doubt, be an adventure. Adios, mainland! hola to this:
Monday, December 13, 2010
Hmmm... a big one is limited supplies, planning ahead: for example, we run the range on propane tanks which are monitored based on guest count as well as days passed... it takes about 4 days advanced notice to replace the tanks. I've had a very healthy staff, but if someone goes home sick, it is not as simple as calling a replacement to run in. It involves organizing a taxi to the port & coordinating a boat to come and receive the employee. I bet there are more, but I might be accustomed to them by now, I've forgotten.
Now, I will explain the odyssey it takes to get food out to an island resort in Nicaragua.
|detailed schedule of inventory, providers, etc.|
The easy stuff, actually, is proteins. Fisherman stop by to sells freshly caught guapote and mojarra. We also have a weekly drop off with scaled, gutted fish from a friend of the head of maintenance. I order Pellibüe, the shorn sheep, butchered into primal cuts. This is a verbal order when I see Don Leonel, the marina boat tour captain. I order 3 days in advance and pay in cash. He gets the animal from his neighbor on Zapatera island and then drops it by the staff dock on his way to work at the port. I now give him a cooler with ice as well. The first time he dropped off a freshly butchered animal, still warm, I couldn't stomach butchering it. The freshest I've had, but I do like to handle my meat when it is cold, not body temp.
I place orders for most dry goods through email, which is great. I have different vendors for bulk, organic, fancy products. The companies that email are easy to understand, reliable and consistent. For the most part, obviously. They drop their goods off in our marina office during office hours, the goods (hopefully) get checked against my order sheet and the receipt, and then sent out to the island with the next boat.
Dairy: 2 days a week with the first boat leaving the island we send a cooler of ice for the chicken, dairy, beef or herbs that come to the port.
Twice a week I order goods from the market, as well as include a list to the local grocery store. After a few months, we had desired products down pat, and our taxistas (a husband and wife team) are doing a fabulous job of substituting or omitting items if the first choice was not available. Rice and beans come from the market, not a bulk provider, because "why would we sell rice and beans when you can just get them from the market?" It nice and frustrating to work in a society of content & little competition.
For produce from the market, Doña Modesta can be reached at one of 3-4 phone numbers. Modesta doesn't have her own phone, so I call all of her friends and family to see if they are nearby to her. Her son will take the order if he picks up, which takes half the time. Quick tip: ask for a half dozen (media docena) each/pounds of an item, because seis and tres (or, in Nica, with no S: sei y tre) are just too similar to the ear, especially the 80? year old ear of my produce vendor, Doña Modesta. Once it is ordered, I confirm with the taxista, and it is picked up, checked and delivered to the port with the next day's afternoon staff!
Managua: twice a month we send a taxi to the country's capital for Organic Grains, Dried Fruits, Domestic Salamis, Cheeses from the north of the country, and a run to "PriceSmart" (like Costco, complete with chicken bakes!). This involves preordering products 7 days in advance and coordinating a good day with the taxista, who will keep the products cold in his fridge if he can't get back to the port before our last boat.
Just like in the US, sometimes things don't arrive, or arrive in not so awesome condition, I talk to the chain (vendor, taxista, receptionist, boat driver, kitchen staff who unloads), and we do better the next time.
this process also involves cash from the accountant, credit slips, facturas; a jumble of finances that would be a blog in itself. but like most of my experiences here in Nicaragua, somehow, it works.
all in a day's work.
Wednesday, December 1, 2010
|mango, coconut, sweet milk, mystery flavor|
|Elsa also gets to wash the burnt pot afterwards|
Saturday, September 25, 2010
I've used an American sensibility in creating a picnic with local products to maximize caloric consumption & replenish sugars while hiking around the country.
a few standouts in the picnic:
The hard salami. Serving a hunk of meat with a knife was a new concept for our tour guide, but he jumped on board rather quickly. We get ours, nationally made, from Bavaria Delicatessen in Managua: a German influenced store -I choose to say store, because they don't make sandwiches here, it is more of a meat counter- that sells imported meats & beers as well as those made nationally. They sell the Nicaraguan hard salami as spicy or mild, and sometimes have both in stock. I also use their domestic salami in our breakfast sandwich.
Tropical Dried Fruit Cookie Bars. Sweet and chewy with a crunchy oatmeal topping, these are great for energy when taking a break from a climb to soak in the view of Lake Cocibolca. When I send a car to Manags to get the sausage, I organize to pick up goods from a handful of purveyors out that way, including Naturaleza, which offers natural, unprocessed products and Eastern remedies. We use their brown rice, organic oats, spices and seeds. This recipe also uses dried fruit from Sol-Simple, another one of my favorite local purveyors which solar-dries and hand packs organic fruit. This company focuses on renewable energy: solar energy for food drying, bio-digestation to convert waste material, and electricity powered by used vegetable oil as well as focuses to employ single mothers in marginalized communities. We use their dried fruits, all natural guava pulp (for cocktails) and certified organic cashews. also,
Bah-duhduh-daaaa! I'll be adding recipes to my blog! for example,
- Preheat oven to 325° F. Grease and flour an 11 x 11” baking dish.
- Mix together eggs and dried fruit in a small bowl.
- Mix together flour, salt and baking soda in a large bowl.
- Whip together butter and sugars together in a medium bowl. With a rubber spatula, stir in the egg mixture. Finally, stir into the flour mixture until well incorporated. Spread cookie batter into the prepared dish.
- For the topping, mix the brown sugar, flour, oats, salt and cinnamon in a medium bowl. Using a fork, cut in the butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Evenly sprinkle the topping on top of the cookie mixture.
- Bake in preheated oven for 25 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool for 2 hours before cutting and serving.
Monday, September 20, 2010
Sigh, I guess Ziggy said it best: nobody’s perfect.
Wednesday, September 15, 2010
Now that I am living in Nicaragua, the second poorest country in the free world (to Haiti), I feel very aware of the poverty line, food availability and nutrition. I don't know a lot of stats or percentages, but I do have a few observations.
Some things I've noticed here;
-street food is not 8 dollar curries, creme brulees, or chili burgers, but instead, carts that serve what people who don't have enough money (to eat in legit restaurants that serve items such as above) can actually afford
-instead of a decaf latte no whip double foam, people here can get coffee in the morning from a street vendor for about 15 cents
-food pyramid is not a priority at all, but getting a full belly is
-husbands and wives (with kids in tow on the bike, of course) bring each other hot food at lunch time (no microwaves or break rooms)
-most of the best foods are homemade (cajuada cheese, beet fresco, fresh fruits)
-there is not the American Dream to get ahead, save money or compete with the neighbors. In fact, entrepreneurship is often explored as a first or even second job, leaving many families without a day off. But, maybe it's the weather, the town, or the fun gossip to hear about, no one seems to mind.
My biggest obstacle last year was eating out and being social in SF during the week of hunger challenge. In Nicaragua this is not a problem: First are outdoor, streetside "Frittangas" that serve meats, gallo pinto, cabbage salads, plantains, and a variety of beverages. You can also grab a Quesillo for 50 cents, by the Merced Church, a local hangout. But, most popular, and most economic, is the rural feel of Granada around dusk, when every family fills the sidewalk outside their door with rocking chairs, to rock and pass the night away, seeing old friends and meeting new.
I recommend to anyone to do the SF hunger challenge for even a day! For more information on this year's challenge, check out:
A little information on poverty in Nicaragua (as well as skewed politics):
Thursday, September 9, 2010
|photo by Caroline: thanks! I wasn't in the mood to brave the market with my camera.|
For guests, I keep our beverages and desserts natural... for example, much to the dismay of staff, we don't even put sugar in our juices! gasp (sarcasm=high)!
My staff explained to me that the framboise is used for color, not flavor. The tradition is reminiscent of the neon green relish on Chicago hot dogs, or amount of dye put into a southern red velvet cake. For me, besides the alarming color, the flavor of framboise adds a hint of bubblegum/bay that I could do without.
a little more on the fascination with pink down here...
fact: The head of maintenance at work is having a birthday party for his 12 year old daughter, piñata and all! When I asked if there would be many pink decorations, he informed me that only at the 15th birthday is the theme pink.
fact: pink is the new red for the Sandinista political party... apparently, this soft touch is to evoke memories of "Give Peace a Chance" by John Lennon.
fact: click here for more on the bacon of American cuisine
Monday, September 6, 2010
- fresh, tropical fruits sold door to door
- power outages/water shortages teach me to appreciate them much more when I actually have them
- bike repair done right at home
- gorgeous lightning storms
|(Woodhouse Fish Co. for $1 oysters during my summer visit to SF)|
Monday, August 30, 2010
|our fancy tortilla press. that's right; we use an imported baggie! ziploc, available in Managua.|
|Sandra, amazing kitchen assistant, hard at work, practicing her smile with teeth|
|tortillas ready for service; huevos rancheros, shrimp tacos... we make smaller ones for quesillo, and tiny ones for bocas with papaya salsa|
|employee soup; chicken with handfuls of mint, large cut vegetables; served with thick, hearty tortillas|
|this photo is actually promoting the pair of jeans hanging off the chair in our thatched roof spa|
***I can believe it, actually. There were times of sushi, salads, sandwiches on sourdough; foods that I love, that aren't necessarily enhanced by corn flour patties. I miss them.
Friday, August 20, 2010
|nancite; flavored like over-ripe banana/pear|
|mamones; like astringent, mild lychees|
Nancite are tiny, with mostly peel/seed/dry pulp, so there's not much to cook with. Both they and mamones come in bunches too big to finish, so I combined the extra fruit and macerated the mixture with plain white sugar and water. This turned into a thick, sweet syrup. I've had wine made from nancite (very very sweet), which gave me the idea to booze it up!
The first cocktail I made used soda water... but it didn't have a good sweet/bitter balance. It quickly evolved into a beer cocktail! Delicious, refreshing, seasonal!
Nica Rum Shandy
- 2 ounces Flor de Caña extra lite
- 1 ounce sour orange juice
- 2 ounces strained nancite/mamon fresco
- 4 ounces of Victoria beer
Monday, August 16, 2010
|brownies pose for a glamour shot|
Thursday, August 5, 2010
I took my amazing dishwasher (who now makes pastries, and I am teaching her breakfast service), on a walk around the island, a slow, silent walk, to look at our job place from a different perspective. Afterwards, we each returned to a place that we had liked with a pen & paper and had 20 minutes to draw it.
About 15 minutes in, I realized that my blue pen was not capturing the reason why I liked the plant so much: the contrast in colors.
So, back to the kitchen. I rounded up some curry powder and achiote (chile/garlic) paste, and, Voila! made my drawing into a colorful “painting” that smells good enough to eat.
Wednesday, July 14, 2010
Our pellibüe is delivered by Don Leonel, who is also our boat taxista. He now borrows a ice-filled cooler to keep the animal cold after he does his part, because receiving animals so fresh they are still warm is a little too much for me to handle.
I recently spotted Leonel donning silk screened shorts. The front is Tupac Shakur’s face, and the back a quote from 2Pac’s song, “Reminisce.” It happened to be on a day when I had spent the morning butchering meat, during which my mind wandered. I feel a little nostalgic for times past, and this year, I’ve been thinking about high school. It might be partly influenced that I have my 10 year reunion later this year. But also, when I first had fun slicing away with a sharp knife was my senior year Advanced Anatomy class, spending the entire year dissecting human cadavers. I didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life at all (do I now?), but I loved dissecting for many of the same reasons that I like spending time on butchery. No, the day will never come that I get human meat (IASIP) prepped to grill, but the physical act of dissecting is not too far from butchery, and I have a great time with it.
Well, thanks, Tupac and Leonel for the inspirational shorts.
Monday, June 21, 2010
Monday, May 24, 2010
Friday, May 21, 2010
Tuesday, May 18, 2010
After about 6 months, I am settling in with the kitchen & staff.
I have only a few more recipes to write (it's been a long list, since dinner varies every night, plus the extra TLC it takes to write a foolproof method in spanish).
I am getting a full kitchen staff (so I can get a day off).
I am getting providers and inventory in line (i can speak with providers on the phone with somewhat ease, and now always have plenty of rice on hand for staff meal to avoid riots).
I am working with staff on sanitation (do not spit on the floor! ever!).
We are also working on routine (not only rotating food and planning ahead, but doing the same work everyday).also, the food is coming along nicely, as in photo: dinner app. with roasted vegetables, honey from Chacocente and domestic camembert
Different than a restaurant, working at a hotel I get involved with the entire project, not just the kitchen. Example: the other night, I knew that we needed more gasoline for the generator. I spoke with the maintenance employee on duty, and explained;
"Marcos, can you please leave the empty gasoline containers by the stairs to the port so I don't forget them when I leave? That way, I can refill them on the mainland."
a while later, Marcos returns. "Calley," he says. "I am a little confused. Do you want the gasoline containers for the generator, or the ones for the small boat?"
"Marcos," I reply, “which containers are empty? the ones for the boat, or the ones for the generator?”
-"The generator, Calley."
"Well, then, I think that it would be best to put those out to be refilled."
"Okay, Calley. Thanks. I was just a little confused."
sigh. "No problem, Marcos."
Tuesday, May 11, 2010
Wednesday, April 21, 2010
For a short vacation, I recently headed down to the island Ometepe, home to two volcanoes (one active), for a few days off. This island getaway was wonderful. I lounged, horseback rode on the beach, danced with fire nunchucks, helped schoolkids practice english, and created some trails when I got lost meandering around. I also ate some great food.
I ate salad every day, with the most wonderful greens I’ve had since I’ve moved. New to me, and delectable are hibiscus greens, which have a strong berry flavor- great when mixed with the other fresh greens. I’d love to throw them in with goat cheese (available locally) and balsamic vinegar (imported) sometime. yum.
I stayed with Martijn and Patricia, who host the best Pizza Night on the island. They have fresh turmeric growing outside of their living room, which was great! I turned one of the pizzas into a Thai-style calzone; probably the weirdest pizza to hit Pizza Night to date: fresh vegetables and greens with Ometepe banana vinegar, honey and grated turmeric. I feel a little guilty: that orange tint is not coming off the cheese grater any time soon. Thanks for hosting!
The best meals I have had since my move came from “Ometepe Ben’s” new hostel/restaurant: green papaya salad, homemade pasta with eggplant sauce, and leafy greens galore. Plus, he and Sara serve filtered ice. paradise.
I took home some of Ben’s homespun honey, a healthy belly, and the correct spelling and pronounciation of Nicaragua’s prized animal, the shorn sheep: Pellibüey. After trekking down on bus, it was nice to take a cab home.
The video is a small sample of the Wild! spring break that ensued on the rustic island.