Monday, January 31, 2011

chasing waterfalls in boquete

On Tuesday, the boys and I decided to go on a trek outside of town, passed the numerous coffee plantations, far from Volcan Baru (the tallest volcano in Panama) and all the way to the Cascada Quetzal.
It took us about 2.5 hours to reach it.
With fresh empanadas in hand, we sat to admire it's beauty (and rainbows). 
But I'd be lying if I said I expected something a bit more majestic.
Oh well. It was still a gorgeous hike, great exercise, and gave us the perfect reason to visit this little place afterwards.
We enjoyed multiple cups of all natural, strawberry "ice cream."
It was probably the best I'd ever had. And oh so ridiculously refreshing.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

what the rock is cooking

As I mentioned yesterday, the boys and I dined well in Boquete. We found a local magazine that had published a story highlighting of the best restaurants in the area and we decided to review them ourselves. This, is a story of the best.

The Rock Restaurant is located a quick 15 minute cab ride outside of the center of town. It stands in it's own contemporary building decorated on the inside with natural woods, stones and clean lines. The wine list is comprehensive and menu small yet seasonably thoughtful.
We decided to begin with a Carmenere from my beloved home away from home and a vineyard that I visited myself, Concha y Toro. As I told the boys, Carmenere is wine derived from an ancient French grape brought to South America in the early 1800s and extinct in it's native France today. Up until the past few decades, actually, wine connoisseurs thought it was a Merlot; A distinct Chilean mellow merlot with soft tannins and herbal accents. Funny, don't you think?
To begin, J.P. and I split a green house salad. It was unlike any salad I'd had south of the American border. It was filled with various greens, crisp, cucumbers, grape tomatoes, sweet orange tomatoes, sliced almonds, and shredded carrots.
With it we also had warm, fresh baked bread, high quality olive oil (I could taste it) and real balsamic vinegar. In my travels throughout Latin America, I've often been unimpressed with their pan. I prefer a heartier loaf with thick crust and soft interiors. This one, however, was anything but disappointing.
Matt had the duck as his appetizer. I wish they had a menu online so I could explain to you what came with it, but alas, they do not. It was delectable though. I can say that, he gave me a taste. And I don't even like duck to begin with.
As my entrée, I ordered the river trout wrapped in bok choy, over white rice, and in a coconut milk-based sauce. They did a fabulous job. The last time I had trout was in Ecuador and dare I say that this might've blown that trout out of the water ;).
J.P. had a filet mignon with corn and julienne vegetables,
Matt had fall-of-the-bone pork ribs with papas fritas and corn.
We were ridiculously happy diners. It was like a meal I could've eaten in New York, or any other cosmopolitan city for that matter, but instead, I was in the small city of Boquete, in Panama, sitting beside a friend from Canada (that I met in Costa Rica) and another that I was working with at the time. A happy diner, indeed.
And then came dessert. The three of us split the Brownie Sunday. Or rather, I ate 60% of it, Matt had a bite, and J.P. finished off the rest. Details, details.
If you ever get a chance to smell what The Rock is cooking, (sorry, I couldn't help myself), than please make sure to pay a visit to this spectacular restaurant. In addition to great, fairly-priced food and a lovely atmosphere, it also has amazing service. I found Panamanian food to be rather disappointing, mostly fried, and oftentimes flavorless, but The Rock Restaurant truly does create a dining experience for senses. I'd go right back for dinner tonight if I could.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

blooming in boquete

Boquete is made up of a pretty affluent diverse community of retirees, expats, and Panamanians. As such, there were wonderful little places like Sugar & Spice. And it happened to be located directly in front of our hostel. Breakfast jackpot.
I enjoyed a plate of seasoned scrambled eggs, three chunks of country bread which I topped with butter and fresh marmalade, and perfectly brewed coffee with cream. Perfectly satisfied, we then decided to walk around our little mountain town a bit.
The homes are beautiful but very private and protected by guard dogs.
Thankfully, we stumbled upon a public garden. 
I obviously loved it. Next? Mid-afternoon errands.
A barber shop clean-up and an authentic lunch. 
What you see above is mixed rice, root vegetable salad, pinto beans, and tomato salad. 'Twas absolutely delicious and a whole $2.00.
Afterwards, we ventured to the fair grounds to admire the annual celebration.
The Garden Club of Boquete really did a beautiful job.
Following our day of floral adventures, we went back to the hostel to rest and wash up before dinner time. For three weeks I had gone into a meal situation with a mind of budget and health, but being as I was leaving in a few days (more details to come) the boys and I decided we should go all out. We did, it was amazing, and not nearly as expensive as we'd planned. I'll save that dining story is for tomorrow though, get excited :) really, really.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

from bocas to boquete

They say all good things must come to an end. Most of the time I choose to disagree, but in the case of Bocas del Toro, I get it. Bocas was gorgeous and fun, and even adventurous at times, but it ain't no Boquete. Allow me to demonstrate...
Saturday morning breakfast: huevos revueltos y tostados con jugo naranja.
Wake up call: 8 a.m. Morning thoughts: Exhausted with a chance of hangover.
 Early rise purpose: Full-day boat ride involving dolphin watching, the islands of Zapallar, and snorkeling.
Down time: 5:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. for showers and a nap.
The Happiest Hour & Jungle Party: Panama, face paint, worldly friends.
Nighttime peak: 3 a.m.
Walk home snack: beef and vegetable kabob.
Phew, it's wonderfully exhausting to relive it :). Sunday morning we departed the island party life to head southwest. And that is where Boquete comes in. 
Nestled in the mountains, between the Caldera River and Baru Volcano, Boquete has a temperate climate, beautiful flowers, multiple coffee plantations and endless opportunities for outdoor activities. It's no wonder it's also one of the top international retirement havens ;). Talk about relaxation! Until next time, besos.