4/8/13 The Guest Chef
Kurt and Karen were leaving in the early morning for their trip to Austria, so we arose early enough for a last coffee and conversation before they left. Kurt came down sadly with his leather jacket in hand and said he would probably be needing this for where he was going. It was sad to see them leave as we always have such a wonderful time with Kurt and it was fabulous meeting Karen, but we took solace in the fact that we will be getting together again soon. Hopefully for our next trip both Kurt and Harold will be here for a full reunion.
Our plans for the day were to travel to Flamingo to finalize our banking here. Finally, after 10 months and two banks, we might be able to put this matter to bed. However, at 7:00 AM, a Facebook message pops up on the screen from our friend Alex, stating that his chef is in Nicaragua and he has some people coming for his barbecue. He asked if I could lend a hand. Jackie and I had planned on dining there this trip, so I gladly offered my help. Then the request turns to not only helping, but me being the guest chef, which at first sounded a bit daunting, but it was nothing more than a barbecue so it could not be that bad. I offered a challenge to Alex to have a South African vs. United States chef cook-off, which he accepted and the trash talk began. He asked me to arrive at the farm at 4:00 and since we were picking up Lonna and Ellen downtown that afternoon, we invited them to join us, which they accepted. But Alex still needed to sign a letter of recommendation for the bank, so he said he would stop by the lodge in an hour.
Two and a half hours later, Alex shows up…obviously he is using a Costa Rica clock which always runs slowly. But one comes to expect this from Alex. He is a Type A person with many projects going at the same time, and appears to be bouncing off the walls at all times. So he signs his letter and we are now able to start our way to Playa Flamingo. When we arrive at the bank (and pass through security, of course) we see that Daniel is with another client so we take a seat and wait…and wait…and wait. About 45 minutes later, he completes his dealings with that couple and invites us to join him at his desk. Folder in hand, I start the process of handing him documents, corporate reference, personal references, our ownership documents for El Sabanero, our U.S. bank reference, and once he asked for our passports, I knew we were in business. The computer network at the bank was running at a snail’s pace, but after a 2 hours visit to the bank, we walked out with a checking and savings account. Wonders never cease.
By now, we had little time to do much before we were to head to Black Stallion Farms to meet Alex, so we opted for a light snack by the pool and a quick dip. Alex was still at the lodge and had not even gone to get the food for dinner, so we shooed him off to get what was needed…typical Type A. The water was very refreshing until, as I was leaning on the side of the pool, I felt a sharp sting on my stomach. Looking down, I saw a satisfied bee and a poke in my belly (which obviously the bee could not miss). I took the stinger out and guided the bee to the skimmer in the pool for his final resting place. Just once I would like to visit here without getting a sting of one sort or another.
After a quick change, Jackie and I head to Black Stallion where we met up with Alex, showing two families the horse and the new foals, 1 and 3 days old. But he still had not gone to the market! After about 1/2 hour, he finally took off, leaving me to start the teak wood fire in the grill, and Jackie took off to meet Lonna and Ellen. As it turns out, there were 20 guests coming for dinner and none of the meats were marinated yet. When I asked Alex what time he was expecting to serve, he said, “whenever it’s done”. So Jackie is in the kitchen preparing salads and rice, I am cutting up the chickens, marinating the meats and preparing the rubs, and Alex is running around talking to everyone, offering them more beer. I could tell this was not going to be a cook-off. The grill was super heated by this point, so on went the chicken quarters and wings, marinated in beer and slathered with Lizano Salsa, a sweet concoction that is popular here. next came the chorizo, followed by the steaks and mahi-mahi. I also made some roasted red pepper salsa to go with the rice, but after being over the grill all this time, I was ready for a beer…but Alex miscalculated and ran out of beer. He kicked Jackie out of the kitchen and sent her on a beer run, which is not as simple as it seems for a non beer dinking person. But she did well coming back with six-packs and quarts of the local brew…the wine drinker did well.
With all the libations in order, it is time to serve, plattering everything for family style dining. Conversation was lively throughout the dinner and plates being loaded and reloaded again, wine bottles being popped, and the beer flowing smoothly. I think everyone loosened their belts after that feast, but Alex had one more surprise in store. He brought out a dessert of ice cream fresh fruit and, for the adults, a rum syrup topping. Everyone was going to sleep well this evening.
Before we knew it, the time had become 10:30, so the fiesta started to unwind. Alex’s clean-up crew was hard at work as we said our goodbyes, but it was truly an evening to remember, and I will gladly fill in for the chef at any time to experience this again.