The Four Season Resort, Costa Rica - A Culinary Destination Beyond Expectations

 The flight from San Jose to Liberia on Sansa Air is breathtaking …we fly low over waterfalls, rivers and lush vegetation. When we land, a driver from The Four Seasons Golf and Spa Resort is awaiting my arrival. The hotel has recently renovated their restaurants and spa, and I am here for the taste and touch of “pura vida”.

The Four Seasons sprawls over acres of rolling hills, forests and challenging golf links on the Peninsula De Papagaya in Guanacaste.  It is surrounded by two beaches, one on the Bay … the other on the Ocean.

General Manager Pascal Forottti and Resort Manager Manuel Leal are waiting to greet me, and I immediately feel at home. The soothing colorful lobby has an interesting history:  a flowered fabric in shades of the sea, was selected for couch pillows, and then sent to Italy to translate into wall tiles. 63,000 tiles were produced in the same pattern, boxed, shipped and then installed; the results - possibly the only tile wall mural with matching pillows.

 

My spacious room is tastefully furnished; its large screened in terrace is decorated with a couch and two wicker chairs. Evening breezes from the sea, and the sounds of the surf, inspire me4to keep the sliding doors open, no need for AC or the ceiling fan. 

The hotel recently reconfigured their poolside restaurants and expanded   their culinary and wine offerings, focusing on the abundance of locally sourced organic ingredients, fish and seafood …and on the dedication and talents of creative chefs and well trained restaurant managers and servers.

Cena Sociale Italian Kitchen and Wine Bar has a modern Italian ambiance.

Inspired by the Mediterranean and Amalfi Coast of Italy, Chef Dario Montelvere proudly showcases an innovative menu of homemade pastas, gourmet pizzettes, locally sourced produce and fresh seafood from Puntarenas, Costa Rica’s southern west coast on the Pacific Ocean. .

The night of my arrival, I begin the evening at Cena Sociale’s Wine Bar. The 13 seat marble island bar, elegantly appointed with bar stools on both sides, is seductively conducive to making friends, and I am comfortable being here alone 

The wine list is extensive and impressive; a unique wine dispensing machine offers excellent wines by the glass, in 2, and 5 ounce pours. I opt for “A Taste from Piedmont”, a sampling of three wines for $25: Roero Moscone Arneis 2012, Dolcera D’Alba Moscone 2011 and Barolo Montefore D’Alba Moscone 2009   it gives me the opportunity to discover the damp and foggy forests in Piedmont, a region known for its truffles. The bar appetizer menu sounds delicious, and I ask for a recommendation.  I am served a glass mason jar filled with baby buffalo Bocconcini, a local cheese marinated in basil pesto, garlic, olive oil, shallots, salt, pepper, parmesan cheese and crushed pine nuts. It’s layered savory flavors compliments the truffle notes of the wine, and I order a second glass of Dolcera. 

 

The maitre d’ leads me to a candlelit table on Cena’s terrace. The Insalata Organica, a mix of greens, fennel, and shaved garden vegetables, is served with sugarcane white wine vinaigrette. The yin and yang of tart and sweet tossed into crunchy is masterful. The restaurant’s Specialties: “Grandma’s Lasagna Bolognese” (Chef Dario’s family recipe) and “Chioppino”, made with local seafood in a shellfish broth, are tempting, but the linguine alla moda, enhanced with a lobster tail wins me over. It is a flavorful and decadent mix of dried cherry tomatoes, a raw egg yolk and smoked bacon (butter smoked with chips from a local tree) in a rich cream sauce. Mario Alcocer, Executive Chef of the resort, Dario, Chef de Cuisine, and Randall Cerdas the Restaurant Manager stop by the table to welcome me. They take great pride in the dishes that come out of the kitchen, and are here to please your palate and elevate your taste buds. My culinary odyssey reaches a crescendo with a sampling of gelato flavors, developed exclusively by the Resort’s culinary team.

I begin my mornings with a hug from server Anne Mary who loves her job and shares her energy with guests. The breakfast buffet is bountiful with fresh fruits, smoked and pickled fish, meats, salads, waffles, pancakes and omelets made to order. I fill my plate and carry it out to the terrace. It is a glorious day, and I am blessed to be here. 

Sous Chef Jose Pablo Brenes reigns over Sol y Sombra, a. festive and colorful Latin inspired Rotisserie and Fish House that captures the rich and exotic flavors of South America’s authentic cultures and savory cuisines. The al fresco ambiance is inviting with lively nightly music there’s a made-to-order ceviche bar, and meats, chicken, fish and seafood are cooked on outdoor rotisseries and grills in traditional South American style.

Pablo is a sensitive, focused and brilliant chef who began his culinary journey at 17 in a San Jose kitchen.  “When I realized how happy people were with food, I decided to make that my life, and everything else would revolve around it”. Now at 31, he has honed his skills, earned the respect of his peers, and is creating intriguing and ambitious dishes that are as artistically plated as prepared. A perfectionist, Chef Brenes engaged a local artesian to make special ceramic plates to enhance his presentations. His take on ceviche is unique, and eager to wow my palate, Pablo sends out a plate with four different and colorful ceviches. The nix of thinly sliced marinated raw fish: includes: queen sea bass with sweet corn, red onion, tomato, cilantro and bell pepper … Chile style mahi mahi, yellow tail snapper, and the “monkey head” seafood combo of octopus, and shrimp marinated with rocoto chili pepper “leche de tigre” peanuts, ginger, cilantro and red onion. His sushi rolls prove to be just as imaginative, such as the tuna masago with asparagus, mango, and lettuce in a tamarind teriyaki sauce.

Pablo makes his own marinades and glaze for the chicken using honey, thyme, rosemary, chili flakes, tamarind black sauce, lemon, salt, fennel and coriander.

After boiling the mixture, he submerges the whole chicken and refrigerates for 24 hours. Before grilling, he adds garlic, cilantro, salt, pepper and parsley; it then cooks on the outside rotisserie for 45 minutes to seal in the complexity of flavors

His oversized plates were artistically designed to accommodate large portions of rotisserie specialties, and I am served a tantalizing selection of achiote marinated chicken, mahi mahi wrapped in apple wood smoked bacon, red snapper chipotle, glazed pork ribs and rib eye steak. Not to be overlooked: …his divine sauces and sides that compliment and enhance the rich and exotic flavors. My favorites: the tamarind BBQ, tomato oregano, chimichuri, and green plantain sauces …and the fried yucca sticks served mojo style.  Chef Pablo Brenes pushes creativity to an exalted height that hovers on genius

 

 

The Four Seasons Spa, dedicated to healing and renewal, self-discovery and reconnection, is rooted in the cultural healing traditions of Central America.  I arrive early to enjoy their signature bathing ritual …alternating 3 minute soaks in warm and then cold plunge pools to rev up my circulation and stimulate blood flow. The spa menu offers a wide selection of massages, facials and wraps infused with local fruits and essential oils. The signature Bamboo Massage, an intense deep massage uses fresh cut bamboo, in varying sizes and  essential oils, to release  stored stress. The bamboo is rolled up and down my spine and into every muscle. It was quite a workout that left me in a carefree state of mind and body.   

This is a family friendly resort with a full schedule of kid’s activities, and many of the water sports are complimentary as is the “Giant Tour” which I would highly recommend. A knowledgeable guide takes guests, in a caravan of golf carts, around nine holes of the golf course and through wooded trails in search of small animals and monkeys that live in the trees. 

The Caracol Restaurant, overlooking the Arnold Palmer designed golf course, is the Resort’s premier American Steakhouse. In addition to their signature jumbo prawn cocktail and 14-ounce grilled rib-eye steak with six sauces, they offer an amazing celestial star gazing dining experience (binoculars upon request) with their “Taste of the Stars” dinner … developed by Sous Chef Gerardo Astorga in collaboration with Costa Rican astronaut Franklin Chang Diaz:  “so people on Earth can see what it is like to dine outside our planet”. The creative dishes, presented with special space stimulated effects, launched my taste buds into orbit…an out of this world ending to a great gourmet visit.

A man from Texas tells me:” When you come to a Four Seasons Resort, you know what you will get, and then some. Here in Costa Rica, thanks to the camaraderie of the staff, gourmet culinary surprises and nurturing spa experiences, I lived the essence of “pura vida” and was pampered and pleasedbeyond expectations”.  

Jet Blue non stop from Liberia back to New York takes less than 5 hours. As always, the airline’s high level of comfort in soft leather seats, and the genuine friendliness of flight attendants, made the trip a relaxing pleasure. I paid for an extra leg room seat and lucked out with three to myself … well worth the premium.

For more info

Four Seasons, Costa Rica  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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