Pop quiz Friday: where is one of the best places in the world to see stars? Hint: it starts with Costa and end with Rica.
For years, Costa Rica has been raved about as one of the top 10 places to take in the cosmos, so if it's not already on your bucket list, pencil it in, along with the "Taste of the Stars" dinner at the Four Seasons resort at Peninsula Papagayo, which incorporates the elements of space – weightlessness, extreme temperatures, darkness and luminosity amongst others – into dishes.
The five-course molecular gastronomy dinner was thought up by executive chef Mario Alcocer and Costa Rican native and retired NASA astronaut Franklin Chang Diaz. Diaz has been to outer space seven times and on four space walks, so he holds quite some records for space travel. And although he's retired, he's working on creating a space rocket to get people to travel outside the stratosphere. What have you done this week?
Anyhow, this week Edge Steak & Bar at the Four Seasons in Brickell is hosting a collaboration of flavors – urban jungle meets the real jungle if you will. And since Miami and Costa Rica are both quite tropical in their own right, you can expect there to be a bevy of mouthwatering dishes.
Last night, we got a taste of some of those, along with one of the courses from the "Taste of the Stars" menu and even got some Skype Q&A time with Diaz. What do you ask an astronaut? About food, naturally.
"Food in 1966, the year of my first flight, was not that great," he laughs. "It was mostly powder stuff and paste. It's gotten much better over the years, but it's still a struggle – everything floats." As for having a glass of wine, Diaz says "it's not that simple. Just kidding, we don't have wine." Bummer.
As for the comestibles of the "Taste of the Stars" dinner, they are put under a black light to bring out the natural elements within them, which we got to experience with the first-course, dubbed the big bang (naturally). It's how it all started after all…
The cantaloupe and watermelon molten sun gazpacho was stupendous. "We thought about the big bang theory and the explosion of the universe and wanted to simulate fragments of procreation," says Alcocer Hence the pop rocks on the prosciutto, which mimic explosions (only these happen in your mouth) and the prosciutto's brininess balances out the dish beautifully. If you were in the Four Seasons in Costa Rica having this, well you'd admire Cetus during your first course since the dinner is held outside in the patio and a server comes around with a telescope to let you in on the fun happening up above. But before you book your reservations, make sure it's from November to May (that's when the "gold" [and rainless] season is). They do one dinner a night and cost is $250 per person.
Of course considering it's paired with vino, including one made from a meteorite, which we sampled last night, the astronomical price is well worth the astronomical experience.
As for Tican flavors, which you can chow on through the weekend at Edge Steak & Bar and chat up chef Alcocer, there's a jumbo prawn avocado cannelloni with mango textures and ginger citrus sauce that's easily one of the most unique and delicious things I've ever tasted, and also an award-winning dish.
If you want to eat what the locals eat, then the slow cooked Caribbean chicken with rice and beans and plantains is a perfect representation of Costa Rican flavors.
Pacific achiote lobster tail and slow cooked short ribs with smoked roasted baby beets, corn and celery root with green apple puree, cuadrado chimichurri, and that Meteor wine, which has been turned into a jus.
"We have 16 gelato flavors over in Costa Rica." All of which they make in house. We got to taste three – pineapple guaro vanilla, tarrazu coffee Frappuccino, and Caribbean devil chocolate macadamia.
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Other offerings from the collaborative pop-up, running through Sunday, include Puerto Caldera tuna tiradito (freshly caught yellowfin tuna topped with soy sauce, avocado, roasted corn, cilantro, and red onion), plantain crusted Pacific sea bass served with the award-winning avocado quinoa cannelloni pictured above, ticos tuna with avocado, mango, plantain chips and spicy mayo, hearts of palm ceviche tossed with passion fruit, cilantro and bell pepper, and arroz con leche paleta with orange sauce and centenario golden raisins.
You can have a taste of Costa Rica by trying three dishes for $59, or ordering them a la carte through the weekend. Or if you're an overachiever, there's always actually going to Costa Rica. Pura Vida!