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Thursday, December 15, 2011

Good Friends, Gourmet Food and Golf!

Tico chefs

What a whirlwind of activity, travel and parties the last two weeks have been for us! It’s hard to know where to start on our various adventures. There was Francis and Brian’s excellent backyard party mentioned in my last post. We enjoyed dancing to the live music and nibbling on our friend Marcial’s delicious Italian sausages, grilled to perfection by a couple of happy Ticos, plus chicken, veggies, beer and wine. Lots and lots of wine! We met so many of our Santa Eulalia neighbors and several hours into the event, Daniel, my publisher from The Costa Rica News (TCRN), joined us at the festivities. After the music ended and we were satiated with food and wine, Daniel and Layne and I returned to our house for another hour of convivial chat. Oh, and more wine.

Earlier this week we joined a crowd of expats at Mark and Nancy’s lovely home in Guacimo where we enjoyed more good food and wine and made lots of new friends. Then last night we taxied into Atenas with Marcial and his lovely wife Sadie to Colinas del Sol for a wine tasting party featuring the excellent imports of our friends Shannon and Rolando along with delicious appetizers from the restaurant and Marcial’s great sausages again. We saw so many friends there, including our dear former landlords Odie and Eduardo and our former upstairs neighbor Linda. It was a festive evening!

But the high point of recent days was undoubtedly our visit to Hacienda Pinilla, a stunning 4500-acre beach resort and residential community near Tamarindo in Guanacaste province on the Pacific Coast. If you think the place looks nice on their website, you should see it in person. The long-time owner, a North American from Georgia, has developed the property with a commitment to keeping as much of the land and beaches natural and environmentally pristine as possible. They plant thousands of trees each year, preserve acres and acres of the land in its original condition and in many ways, encourage ecological practices in the hotel, the restaurants and in the building practices used in new construction.
The Beach Club

Our bedroom 
Recycling at La Posada Hotel, Hacienda Pinilla
A mention of golf in my column in The Costa Rica News some months ago led to our visit. Their charming young sales director Cynthia apparently read my article, then contacted me and offered a complimentary stay so that we could experience their golf course and other amenities first-hand. How’s that for a stroke of good fortune?

Putting on the 15th hole
And speaking of strokes, I think the Adams Golf clubs that Hacienda Pinilla loaned us for our round took at least a stroke per hole off my game. I was hitting them long and straight. Although I prefer my own Cobra driver (which is, unfortunately, in a bag in Portland, Oregon, at the moment), I really liked the hybrid 5-iron for fairways shots. Over and over, I turned to that club for distance and accuracy. I was also pretty wowed by the putter, which helped me get a par three from a lie just off the green probably seven yards from the cup. Between the broad open fairways and smooth true greens of Hacienda Pinilla and those Adams clubs, I almost felt like a “real” golfer. And when we came to the spectacular oceanside 15th hole, we could imagine what it’s like to play Pebble Beach.

After golf we returned to our big, comfortable suite and were delighted to find a bottle of champagne and birthday greetings for Layne, courtesy of Cynthia, since Saturday the 10th was his big day. Later that evening we enjoyed sipping the bubbly as we gazed up at a full moon above. So romantic!

Then there was the food. Oh. My. Goodness. Gourmet hardly tells the tale. As usual when faced with a huge selection of appetizing options, making the decision of what to eat at each meal was the hard part. Although a tough choice, I’d say my favorite was the Herb-crusted Tuna with Ginger-Basil Aioli that I had at lunch at the Beach Club the first day. It was just delicious. Layne took the chef’s recommendation, Garlic Sea Bass, also excellent. We both so enjoyed the Fried Calamari appetizer with its delicate batter and spicy dip that we had it again the second day.

The Conchal Hotel pool 

Simon and Hilda
When we reluctantly left Hacienda Pinilla, we drove north about forty-five minutes to the tiny beach town of Brasilito and spent the night at the Conchal Hotel, a charming little boutique lodge just a short walk from funky Playa Brasilito, Run by a delightfully low-key couple, Simon and Hilda, it was the perfect place to unwind and relax after the busy two days at the resort. And while we thought the food was good at Hacienda Pinilla, we were simply amazed at the fabulous fare at the Conchal’s cozy Papaya Restaurant. Chef Hilda serves a marvelous array of gourmet seafood and vegetarian dishes. Our one night there was not nearly enough to enjoy all the area offers; we certainly hope to go back soon for a longer visit.

So now we’re home and trying to settle back into our routine, with the feria tomorrow morning, the organic market on Saturday and my TCRN column due next week. But we made enough memories in the last week to sustain us for a while. Pura Vida!


  1. All thing are looking wonderful...Best of luck..

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