Wednesday, January 25, 2012

New! Evening Taxi Service in Playa Hermosa!

Playa Hermosa is a very small town, and Ginger is fairly short drive from all the major hotels (Hilton, Occidental, etc.) in the area, and it is within walking distance of the small Playa Hermosa hotels. We have driving directions on the website, but for those of you who don’t want to rent a car in Costa Rica, we’ve recently persuaded the one and only official “Red Taxi” driver in Playa Hermosa that he should work evenings.  So now, when you make your dinner reservation either on the phone or via our website, you can let us know if you need a taxi pickup, and we’ll organize that with Jerry, the taxi driver.  There are no commissions involved, either to him or to us, and you pay him, directly. 
And if you need a taxi at any other time, feel free to call him: his cell phone number is 8860 3055.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Lies, damn lies, and statistics

The numbers don’t lie. 
With respect to my last post, when we reprinted the menu in early December, “Lettuce Cups with Twice-cooked Pork Belly” became “Lettuce Wraps with Mango Tamarindo Pork”.  Comparing the same 30 day period from December 15 – January 15, we sold two and a half times as many “wraps” as we had sold “cups” last year.  The dish rocketed up the sales charts, from dead last (after chicken fingers, for god's sake!!!) to number 6 out of 22 dishes.
Now, we’ll have to work a little merchandising magic with the Peruvian- tyle Seafood Salad, which is really yummy, but languishing at the bottom of the charts, just ahead of those damn chicken fingers (pace families who travel with children!)

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Naming a dish

To all you marketing gurus out there (or anyone who just wants to weigh in with their two cents’ worth):  I need a new name for an old dish.  Here’s why:
Several years ago, I had the following description of a dish on the menu:
“Crostini – Toasted ciabatta bread is topped with a relish of marinated black olives and red peppers, Italian Taleggio cheese and marinated, grilled Portobello mushrooms.” 
Great tapa, but not a great seller.  I had a group in the restaurant one evening who were eating it, and raved to me about the dish. I told them, “That’s a shame.  I’m changing the menu next month and that dish is coming off, because it doesn’t sell”.  
When I wandered by their table again twenty minutes later, they told me that they were in marketing, and they had decided that the problem was not the dish, but the description of it on the menu.  The best thing about this tapa is the Portobello mushroom, and that was the last thing mentioned in the description. The word Portobello needed to be in the title.
Because I really believed it was a good dish, it didn’t take too much to convince me to give it another chance, and so when I reprinted the menu, this is what it became:
“Portobello Crostini – Toasted ciabatta, roasted red pepper spread, gouda cheese with herbs, and marinated, grilled Portobello mushrooms”.  And I proceeded to sell a gazillion of them.
Which brings us to the problem at hand: 
“Lettuce cups with Twice Cooked Pork Belly – Slow cooked in a Chinese-style stock, shredded, then baked with a spicy mango tamarind glaze, served with crispy five-spice wonton strips”.  It’s one of my best dishes, if I do say so myself.  It has big, interesting flavors that you won’t find anywhere else.  The richness of the pork, that spicy-salty-tangy-sweet combination in the sauce, the coolness of the lettuce, and that little crunch from the wonton strips….it all works so well together. But it doesn’t sell.  So put your thinking caps on, people, and let me know what you think I should name it!

Thursday, June 23, 2011

I spend a lot of time reading cookbooks, cooking magazines, cooking blogs and websites.  I frequently come across a recipe that appeals to me, and I say, “I’ll have to try that”.  And off I go to the kitchen…where I find that I’m short at least one key ingredient.  This is exactly what happened today. 
Now, according to the Costa Rican government weather website, there is a massive low pressure system over us, and we can expect torrential rains to start at any moment.  In fact, when I wandered into the kitchen, it had already been thundering for an hour or so, and as I looked out my window, the pavement was steaming from the first few drops of rain. So when I discovered that I had no white sugar, and only a small amount of peanut butter, the idea of jumping on my scooter to see if I could beat the rain seemed silly.  I decided I would just have to be creative when it came to making these Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip cookies, taken from one of my favourite blogs:
Before I begin cooking a recipe that I’ve found on the Internet, I go to the comments posted by other people who’ve tried the recipe, to see what they’ve got to say.  It always makes me laugh to see the degree to which a recipe can be modified and still yield a satisfactory result.  So what if the sausage and mushrooms are replaced with tofu and zucchini?  Or the ricotta is replaced with mascarpone, or béchamel?  The recipe still works!  Baking can be trickier though, because there’s a little more chemistry involved, and the ratio of liquid to flour to fat can be unforgiving.  But in this case, I was really craving peanut butter and chocolate together, so damn the torpedoes! I’m a professional! I'll wing it!
I only made half the recipe, because that’s all the peanut butter that I had.  And half a recipe calls for half an egg, which is just silly, so I threw in the whole thing. So then I skipped the tablespoon of milk. Since I had no white sugar, I used all brown sugar, instead of half and half. (Costa Rican brown sugar is quite dry and coarse, so there’s no such thing as measuring out a ‘packed’ cup, and it never really dissolves at all).  And finally, I used only chocolate chips, because I’ve never seen peanut butter chips in Costa Rica.  As I got to the last step on the recipe and added the chocolate chips, I had one of those Homer Simpson “Doh!” moments.  Because as the dough split into a nasty, greasy mess, I realized that I had tried this exact recipe about a year ago, when I last had a craving for something with chocolate and peanut butter, with exactly the same result.  And that time, I hadn't made any substitutions (except for the peanut butter chips).  There’s something about Costa Rican butter that’s different from North American butter, and my pastry recipes frequently give me funny results here. Last year, when the dough was such  a mess, I continued experimenting with other cookies, and that's how I ended up with the Double Chocolate Peanut Butter Ice Cream Sandwich that's on the menu at Ginger Restaurant.  However, this time, the finished product was none the worse for the dough splitting, and the cookies were beautiful.  And delicious!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Craving Lemons

Cravings are funny things. Lemons are one of my favourite things in the whole world, and until recently, you couldn't get lemons for love nor money in Costa Rica.  Don’t get me wrong, limes are a lovely thing (remember Amy and the pickled limes, in Little Women?).   The big, fat juicy Mecino limes that we get in Costa Rica are delicious.  And cheap. And available, year round.  But they’re not the same.
Whenever I went north, lemons would always be the first thing I would pick up at the grocery store.  I would have a celebratory vodka & tonic with lemon and savour every drop of it.   I have saved the seeds from these lemons, over the years, and planted them here in Costa Rica; so far, I’ve had a couple of completely sterile trees, with nary a sign of a lemon.  I have (gasp!) smuggled in a lemon or two in the toes of my shoes when returning from foreign parts, and I’ve even asked friends to commit the same crime.  But now, thanks to the wonders of Free Trade, lemons have appeared in the grocery store in Coco. And I’m free to indulge in all those lovely, lemony things that I’ve been craving for years.
So today, I give you Lemon Poppy Seed Pound Cake*.  With no poppy seeds.  Thankfully, I tasted them before I dumped the called-for three tablespoons of seeds into the batter, because they looked a little dodgy, and sure enough, they were rancid.  I have a friend coming to visit me from Canada in a few weeks.  Looks like she’s going to be smuggling in poppy seeds.

*The recipe is from The Cake Bible, by Rose Levy Beranbaum.  You're supposed to wait 24 hours before cutting into it, to let the lemon syrup soak in, but the craving was too strong.  

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

The Chef's Cellar

Nicolas Catena Zapata is an economist by trade. While living and teaching at UC Berkeley, he studied the wine makers of Napa Valley, and brought this knowledge home with him to the family vineyards in Mendoza, ArgentinaBodega Catena Zapata continues to collect international awards for wine making, and they make some of the most exciting wines available in Costa Rica.

This month, we are offering two different Chardonnays from Bodega Catena Zapata: Catena Alamos and Catena Chardonnay. We’re offering a special 2 oz pour of each, so you can try them both and compare.

Special pour: 2oz of Alamos and 2 oz of Catena Chardonnay $7
Catena Alamos             5 oz glass $6                Bottle $28
Catena Chardonnay      5 oz glass $8                Bottle $38

Friday, February 4, 2011

Ready, steady, go!

After seven years in business, I am finally breaking down, and doing a webpage for my restaurant, Ginger. It seems strange that someone who first started programming computers using punch cards and COBAL has managed, until now, to avoid using the Internet as a way to promote her business! I mean, I’m a classic ‘early adopter’. I have the Beta version of every gadget ever invented.  I’m still using my iPhone 1, for goodness’ sake! (Although, truth be told, it’s on its last legs.) And though I’ve been muttering for the last year or two that I really should get around to doing something about a webpage, it never seemed to make its way to the top of my to-do list. Until now.
So, with a little help from my friends, Carol Dintelman, who’s doing the techie stuff, and Jeff Lawrence, who shot some beautiful photos (for the low, low price of a couple of martinis!), we’re ready to roll out It seemed like a timely idea to launch a blog as well. It gives me a forum to write about what’s going on at Ginger, and to answer a few of those questions that keep coming up as I wander from table to table, talking to guests.  Enjoy!