Creating Occasions to Celebrate Food, Wine & Spirits at Hacienda AltaGracia
Jul 18, 2016
Sugar Cane Cocktail Class
“Sugar cane is very popular in Costa Rica,” Hacienda AltaGracia’s Food and Beverage Director Ivan Longhan points out. “There are plantations everywhere.” The national alcohol made out of sugar cane is called guaro. “My goal when I got to the resort was to rework the cocktail menu to showcase signature sugar cane drinks, such as the Guaro Sour. That is why we also decided to hold a class about this very important local product at the resort in January.” You can find the recipe for this cocktail on page 50.
Like many other alcohols in the world—cachaça in Brazil and rum in the Caribbean—guaro is made by first pressing the sugar cane for its sugary juice, fermenting it with controlled yeasts, and then distilling the liquid. The distillation process is quite lengthy to ensure the end result is clean, clear, and completely transparent like water. In Costa Rica, there is only one guaro producer—Fanal (Fábrica Nacional de Licores), which is owned and distributed by the government.
Pejibaye Harvest Festival
The pejibaye, or peach palm, is about as Costa Rican as you can get. “The big debate is whether it is actually a fruit or a vegetable,” says Food and Beverage Director Ivan Longhan with a smile. He describes the taste as a cross between a roasted chestnut and a perfectly buttered potato. “Once you sample a freshly cooked pejibaye topped with mayonnaise, a typical Costa Rican preparation, you will understand why it is so good. Anyone who comes to this country must try this, and that is why we wanted to celebrate it with an event this July.”
Pejibaye lends itself to a plethora of dishes that will be featured at the festival: in salads with hearts of palm, a cream of pejibaye soup, with rice and chicken or alone with rice, as pejibaye croquettes, and even in beef tacos. Celebrate Costa Rica’s Independence Day with Chicharron September 15th marks Costa Rica’s Independence Day, and to commemorate, Hacienda AltaGracia will host a party featuring the ultimate celebratory food: Chicharron! “Anytime there is a holiday or celebration in Costa Rica—a holy day, town fairs, block parties, an occasion when friends or family gather—chicharron is served,” explains Food and Beverage Director Ivan Longhan. Fried pork rinds, chicharron are the ultimate mark of a good time and pair perfectly with beer.
“Our national beers are very important to us,” says Longhan. “Both brewed by Cerveceria in Costa Rica, Cerveza Imperial and Pilsen are pale lagers that are immensely popular here.” In addition, Longhan points to local craftsman beers that are gaining popularity. “Local producer Baden Brau was started by a Costa Rican who lived in Germany for many years. These German-style beers are a great example of the thriving artisanal scene in San Isidro.”
Costa Rican Tamales Class
“Tamales are a time-honored and delicious Christmas tradition in Costa Rica. Costa Ricans love December because it is tamale season, and so it is the perfect time to hold a class to showcase this Costa Rican specialty,” says Food and Beverage Director Ivan Longhan. For generations, Costa Rican families have marked the holy days by preparing tamales: a dish of seasoned meat, usually pork or chicken with a little cooked rice or potatoes, onions, carrots, sweet peppers, and snow peas, rolled in a cornmeal dog and wrapped in banana leaves. “It is the masa, or the preparation of the corn dog, that is the most important step in imparting flavor. Anytime you visit someone in December, you will be offered a tamale and a coffee.”
Longhan also suggests artisanal beer pairings with tamales. “We offer a local lager called Ambar that has a rich flavor, is well-balanced, and is made from 100 percent malt.” He also suggests a Trigueña Weissbier. “This is a full-flavored ale, fresh and crisp with a nicely balanced fruity taste, that is 50 percent malt, 50 percent wheat. Perfect for a warm climate.”