I spent majority of 2019 on a plane, traveling for work or pleasure. Either way, I ate well. When I dine, I like to take note of the entire experience: the lighting in the main room, the font type and food description on the menu, the art decor, the smells, the way the bartenders make eye contact, how the staff talks to one another, the sounds from the kitchen, all of it. I want my senses completely immersed, full-bodied. If all things hit the perfect combination of excellence, flavor and flair, it sends me on a natural high. It’s also why I prefer to dine alone, so I don’t have to entertain anyone while I’m trying to absorb the scene. It’s why you’ll catching me writing notes before and after my meal, because I want to remember how it all made me feel. Was I brought to a sensory climax…Did I leave feeling inspired, full of love?
Full-body dining is a rare occasion. Although I’m always searching for it, I realize that most folks see dining as an opportunity to just be “out the house”, to floss, to eat something tasty they couldn’t make at home, to connect with others. As long as the food is edible and salty enough, some people hardly notice what they consume. Insomuch that a lot of restaurants gloss over the details, encourage you to order on a tablet (thus distancing you from the charm of a dedicated server); they pre-plate favorite entrees to make sure the food comes out fast so they can turn the tables and maximize daily profits. As a result, I’ve grown more appreciative of moments when people demonstrate love and excellence in their work; when they offer attentive service, delicious cuisine, at an affordable price.
When I reminisce over my travels, there is hands down one place on Earth that offered all of this in 2019: L’Olivo by Cristina Suites in San Jose, Costa Rica. Seriously, you have to go when you touch down in CR… A one-of-a-kind dining experience that left me feeling respected.
The ambiance almost made me feel like I was at an old friend’s house. Totally reminded me of my cozy nights in Tuscany, Italy. It was rainy season so it was appropriately gloomy and they matched that with a glowing warmth. Being there just felt safe, a sort of incandescent coziness. I wondered, how did they preserve an inner summer amidst a cold, wet, tired city? Or was that just my second glass of Merlot talking? Either way, I ordered another, and continued to relish in this secure environment. I was all about the energy and pulse of the room. The sounds of conversations that appeared like affectionate connections in Spanish, Portuguese, English, Arabic. The clanks of glasses, forks, the sublime sound of thirsts and appetites being satiated handsomely. Everyone was present. I wondered about all of their stories, how many degrees we were separated. Anyway, there also stood a wine cellar- a lush sight to a lush’s eyes.
There’s something special about the bread basket. Either because it was fresh out the oven, homemade, or remnant of pizza bianca bread or all of the above. It was a flakier and more dense version of Hawaiian bread but roasted and toasted with Parmesan cheese, basil, rosemary and olive oil. Almost got lost in the sauce but then… the main course arrived! Lovely as ever. Smelling like pure wellness and love abounding. I was already buzzing with joy and Cabernet but this was just what I needed. The melt-in-your-mouth culingioni with salmon swimming in vodka sauce. Simply perfect- heat, texture, seasoning, weight on the tongue. Bravo!
The staff was charming, good looking, funny, professional yet personable. What I liked most is that everyone working seemed calm, in control and aware. When you go, prepare to sit and embrace a full-body dining experience. This is not the place for you if you want to squeeze fast dining into your itinerary. Note, they do accommodate special diets: vegetarian, vegan, gluten free.
Go in grace and come out drenched in gratitude.
Thank me later.