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Boquete’s “Blue Vistas” Dinner

Written on February 9th, 2011 by no shouts

When it comes to Underground Dining, Chefs Renny Kranich and Marvin Pupino raised the bar on Boquete’s craving for gourmet events.

Twenty-four lucky guests accepted invitations to enjoy the mountainous blue vistas rising high above the home of Mary and Jack Mossette, as well as the delectable 5-course menu laced with blue cheese, blueberries and a touch of blue in the martinis. Most of the invited guests dressed in blue to enhance the evening’s theme. Everyone sensed that this was a “happening”, not to be repeated again.

The menu reflected the market cuisine of Panama, and the chefs utilized local ingredients throughout the dinner. The lettuce was organically grown in Boquete, white fish was fresh-caught off Panama’s shores, and the fresh whipping cream came from local dairies here in Chiriqui Province.

This is the entire menu, you may want to duplicate some of the pairings at your next dinner.

Fusion Consommé
Croistini topped with Eggplant Relish

Green Salad with Blue Cheese Crumbles

Intermezzo: Beer-soaked Green Grapes

Roast Pork with Cherry Liqueur Sauce
White Fish with Asparagus-Bacon Sauce

Cucumber-wrapped Zucchini
Blue Ribbon Winning Black-eyed Peas

Blueberry Tres Leches Cake
Fresh Whipping Cream

The dinner was preceded by “Happy Hour”, the “signature drink” was the Blue Martini, of course. These martinis were made Blue Curacao and Beefeater brand London Dry Gin, as they were originally invented.

The choice of entrees included fresh white fish or roasted pork and the guests were equal in their selections. Before dinner, guests were presented with a toy pig or fish, depending on which entree choice they made. The pigs were wearing blue ties!!

Throughout the evening, music could be faintly heard wafting across the dining room, blues music, of course.

This was a magical evening for honeymooners from New York, Rick and Pam Wake. They were visiting the mountains of Panama for a short time and happened upon this very special Underground Dining experience in Boquete.

Everyone wished them many happy years together, hoping they would return soon to Boquete. It was a beautiful way to begin their new lives together, as well as to experience what fine Panamanian cuisine can be.

I love this photo of the Blueberry Tres Leches Cakes. The chefs topped each slice with different colored cherries, but no blue! I could have made blue ones, don’t you think? The fresh whipped cream was a huge treat.

Chefs Renny and Marvin made this evening very special in many ways. They brought together folks from all over the world and treated them to fine foods prepared in Panamanian style. They were beautiful to look at, delectable to taste, glorious to enjoy with new friends.

Thanks very much to Jack and Mary for sharing their “Blue Vistas” of Boquete with all of us, their home is delightful in every way.


Updating Panamanian Market Cuisine

Written on February 5th, 2011 by no shouts

As Chef Juan Linares was designing his new cooking class to include fresh and different ways to use ingredients found at most markets in Panama, he began thinking about the rich supply of farm products we have here in Boquete, often called “Panama’s market-basket”.

So many of Boquete’s newer residents and visitors see these various ingredients in markets, and they can’t imagine how they would ever learn to use them in their daily lives the way most locals do.

We commonly see otoy, tree tomatoes, plantains and tiny red peppers offered on menus in local restaurants. Achiote seeds, culantro and packs of panela fill the shelves of our local markets, but so many of us don’t know how to use them.

With that in mind, Chef Juan opened up his second series of classes offering techniques and tips on how to prepare more of these common foods to make our local Boquete cuisine even richer and more appealing.

Twelve lucky participants gathered in my kitchen to help Juan prepare Tropical Cosmopolitans, Plaintain Chips, Ceviche, Red Sweet Chili Rice, Round Salad with Fresh Tomato Dressing, Fish Moqueca, and Corn-Coconut Pudding. Each dish was made using farm-fresh ingredients such as those listed above.

Well, not every ingredient was found in the local market. The Herrerano Seco comes from Panama City, Boquete’s favorite alcoholic beverage. Juan and I both demonstrated how local residents use it with tree tomato syrup to make a very appealing and tasty cocktail.

It was fun to see Juan’s Round Salad take shape as eager participants assembled the variety of ingredients into gorgeous, colorful towers and then topped them with fresh tomato dressing and chiffonade of culantro.

To my good fortune, photographer Betty Dabney joined in on the fun, and she graciously contributed all the photos in this blog.

Thanks very much for your photos Betty, you captured the essence of the evening.

We understand that you’re an excellent cook as well as a photographer, having attended a couple of the finest International culinary schools. It’s so nice to have you join in some of our culinary events here in Boquete.

This little mountain town has so much to offer, especially when it comes to sharing talents of its residents and visitors. Chef Juan and Betty, two very talented friends, are busy doing just that.

Enjoy the markets in Boquete, they’re bountiful!

Creamy Chicken and Broccoli Soup

Written on February 1st, 2011 by no shouts

It’s nice to have visitors coming to Boquete from all over the world, especially when the weather is beautiful and all systems are up and working.

The crystal clear water is flowing, internet is fast and television reception is perfect, and we have high definition service! Life is good here in our little mountain town in Chiriqui Province, Panama.

What better way to spend the day of the final Superbowl playoffs than making a big pot of piping-hot, nourishing chicken and broccoli soup. Visitors Carmela and Jack went to Volcan, on the far side of Volcan Baru, and brought back three big, bright heads of fresh broccoli for us. I was inspired.

Chicken is the staple in every Panamanian’s daily diet, so I thought it would make the perfect ingredient to accompany these gorgeous heads of broccoli, and to add protein to make the soup a main dish.

My built-in stove top includes an electric iron grill, which made it easy to cook the chicken breasts, and it seals in the chicken flavor and gives it rich color.

The soup came together easily. I first cleaned and prepared the broccoli and set it to simmer. And, I included most of the stems to add more of the rich vitamins. The remaining ingredients were chicken broth made from Maggi Consome’ de Pollo, a few chopped onions, my “Bella” herb blend and evaporated milk.

When everything was ready, I got out my new black ceramic soup pot with two lids. It was made in China and cost $50.00 in a local Chinese market. It is a little over 12 inches high, weighs 12 pounds and is safe to use on the stove top. The double lid catches the steam and drips it back into the pot. It’s a very clever design, indeed.

Finishing the soup, I de-boned the chicken, cut it into bite-size pieces and added it to the pot.

By the time our guests appeared, the soup was piping hot and ready to serve. Warm, home-baked sourdough bread from Mort’s clay oven was just the right accompaniment.

I added a few croutons and we all enjoyed this healthy, refreshing soup, as well as lots of good conversation with new-found friends.

What a beautiful afternoon in Boquete!

THE ROCK Declares Two Top Winners

Written on January 26th, 2011 by 2 shouts

THE ROCK, a “Food for Senses” restaurant, sponsored the “First Annual Recipe Contest” yesterday in Boquete, Panama.

The contestants came with their carefully-designed creations, and using the restaurant’s professional kitchen for finishing and serving, presented their dishes to the judges, Executive Chef Heiner Gellenberg and me. The winner(s) will be featured in The Rock’s new menu, as well as in 9°80° Magazine.

It was a surprise and honor to be asked to help judge such worthy recipes in this very important restaurant, located on the banks of the mighty Palo Alto River.

Georgiann Evans, Irene Bentley, Juan Linares, Jennifer Sayers and Bev Walker submitted their recipes to the panel, knowing they were to be evaluated based upon creativity, flavor and originality.

The panel was amazed by the entries, a complete Ceviche Bar, Chocolate Box Cake, Baked Rosemary Onion, Salmon and Spinach Shell and Artichoke Cakes, just to name a few of the recipes designed by these very talented chefs.

After much admiration, tasting and consideration, the undisputed winner was Georgiann’s beguiling Grown-up Grilled Cheese Sandwich. Even after naming each contestant a winner, Heiner and I kept thinking of that sandwich, along with Irene’s Chocolate Box Cake. We decided that both of these recipes rose above the other winners to be the top dishes in the contest.

Every contestant listed above will enjoy their recipe being featured on The Rock’s menu over the next few months. Maybe the two top winners will remain there for many months to come, I certainly hope so. Both recipes far exceeded the judges’ expectations, each one truly titillated our senses!

Be sure to visit The Rock in the near future, their acclaims have been heard throughout Boquete, Panama and Internationally. You won’t want to miss tasting Georgiann’s Grilled Cheese Sandwich, for grown-ups, of course.

Thanks Heiner, for including me in this most challenging of assignments, especially when we had to choose a winner from all these delightful, eye-catching entries. It was difficult!

Don’t miss tasting them at The Rock soon.

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