Have you ever traveled to a destination solely for its culinary delights? Are you a travel foodie or in the process of becoming one?
Little did I know that I was going to be educated at one of Costa Rica’s most prestigious and eco-luxurious hotels on the Central Pacific, Parador Resort & Spa Not only do they promote sustainable tourism and have created programs, they lead by example.
I had the enormous privilege of interviewing its star chef, Alejandro Torres, after breakfast to discuss more about his special project which brings fresh farm to the table ingredients,
What exactly are micro greens?
They are small, organic, savory, nutrient-packed vegetables grown in a pesticide-free, temperature-controlled greenhouse and protected against insects and elements over a period of 8 to 10 days.
Chef Torres took some time from his super busy schedule (he supervises a team composed of 26 members) to personally show me the invernero or greenhouse located right on the hotel premises, only a short distance from the main kitchen.
He had this idea of growing local produce to add even more flavor to the dishes, especially salads. Therefore he shared his vision with the hotel owners who happily agreed to support him and helped make it a reality. The invernero was built and it has been running around the clock for a few years now.
Now all food served at all entire hotel restaurants does not go entirely to waste. As Mr. Torres explained, it is separated before being discarded. Fruit and vegetable waste is then stored in special containers for 10 weeks. After it dries up, it is mixed to soil and mulch which is used to maintain gardens and especially the soil used in to grow the micro greens.
The green house is looked after by a team of grandfather and grandson. They water the micro greens once every morning with collected rain or treated water that is stored up to water flowers and plants throughout the property.
A very interesting and fun fact I learned is that the micro greens receive musical therapy! Yes, you read that right! Soft classical music is played all-day long.
You probably know by now that it stimulates their growth and therefore produces healthier and tastier leaves and stems :)
There are different varieties of micro greens such as:
and so much more!
Each tray where an organic seed is planted is dated, time and TLC makes magic happen!
When it is finally time to reap the harvest, Chef Torres comes to snip them as close to the soil as possible,
deposits them over paper towels on a silver tray and are then carried directly to the kitchen where salads can be immediately prepared to be served and tasted by hotel guests.
Can I be completely honest with you?
Nothing, but absolutely nothing prepared me the gourmet experience.
I had the privilege of meeting Silvia Hernandez, Parador Resort and Spa’s wedding planner extraordinaire and an amazing human being over dinner.
We ordered the Ensalada de brotes de mostaza or Mustard cress “micro greens” salad as an entrée. Seriously, what came next was a show stopper. Art on a plate? Absolutely!
It was love at first sight and at first bite. This had to be one of the most beautiful, freshest, tastiest salads I’ve ever seen and obviously a true feast for the senses!
The salad comes with small fried cheese blocks, mandarins and strawberries, drizzled with blackberry sauce and to top things off? Sprinkled sliced almonds.
Did I say love at first bite? No, that’s not it. Let me take that back. It was like an explosion of flavors or party in my mouth. The only word I could utter after tasting it was simply wow! That was crunchy, citrusy, light, juicy, healthy and that hint of mustard added to the mix made it a definite winner.
Having been to the source, the greenhouse and learning more about the entire process (which allows to bring all the goodness and nutrients from the soil to the table) made me appreciate even more the meal I was indulging in. I had never been to an epicurean paradise but now I know it exists and it has an address. I am truly grateful I had the chance to discover and experience it.
My sincere gratitude goes to Chef Alejandro Torres for his precious time, his passion for the art of cooking and for showing me that Costa Rica, particularly Parador Resort & Spa, deserves to be considered as a world-class culinary destination in any foodie’s world map!
I can’t wait to see what other recipes he creates next!
Now over to you.
Have you ever tried micro greens?
Do you buy and eat regular or organic fruits and vegetables?
Tell us all about it in the comments!
Until next time.
All the best, PURA VIDA!