This weekend after many months of construction and waiting for electricity to be connected our vecinos restaurant finally opened. And I have to tell you it was well worth the wait.
Those who have travelled to Panama and visited Casco Viejo will likely recognize the name Manolo Caracol. Those of you not familiar with this innovative chef and restaurateur can read a little about his restaurant here or here.
The new restaurant is named “La Huerta”; which in Spanish means “The Orchard”:
It’s located on the edge of town on the road to the new airport on a beautiful piece of property bordered by a creek. The property is with all kinds of organic produce, herbs and flowers. The first time Manolo proudly took us on a tour of the property we were amazed at what he and his workers had planted. The second time we were at the property they were harvesting maize. On Thursday morning we stopped by briefly and SU was given a tour of some of the new gardens and we came home with a couple of Habanero peppers.
Some of my Panamanian cooking adventures have been brought to me by Manolo and his lovely wife Josefina such as this one and this one . We have also become the benefactors of Josefina’s lovely sauces and mermeladas and Manolo’s extra palms and plants.
Here’s mi amigas Jamie, Josefina and I at the new restaurant:
Josefina is in charge of the production of most of the sauces, chorizo and tamales for the restaurant in the city. For now the new restaurant here will only be open Friday and Saturday evenings from 1100 to 2300 and on Sundays from 1100 to 1700. The specialty items and sauces made from fruits and vegetables from the garden, their land out in Oria, and local producers will continue to be made here.
Manolo having a chat with Jamie and I:
Friday was the “soft” opening night where some of us were invited to come by and enjoy a few drinks and samplings of some of the menu items. We were treated to fresh vegetable and plantain chips, baby clams, fresh bread and tomato sauce, and a scrumptious fish ceviche with passion fruit and pineapple. There is a complement of great staff in place, primarily Marsha a young woman new to the campo who obviously has as much of a passion for food that Manolo does. If you look closely at the sign to the restaurant you’ll see the words “cocina con amor” meaning “cooking with love” and you can tell that is true by the first bite. We had a lovely evening with great friends and delicious dishes of food.
This is the wood fired oven that will be used to make meat and fish among other things:
On Sunday we returned to have lunch and again we weren’t disappointed. Everything on the small menu is a twist on tipico Panameño food from the double plated Lobster and Fish Ceviche to the La Huerta Special Rice full of seafood and served with chunks of Lobster, Langostina and a chicken leg, and all the meals come with a fresh green and herb salad dressed in a light and fresh vinaigrette. The menu will change according to what fresh produce, fish and meat is available as will the dessert of the day. The postre on Sunday was a delicious flan with a passion fruit topping. Yum! I wanted to lick the bowl.
We were having major issues about town with electricity yesterday so lunch was a ray of sunshine in an otherwise not so great day. La Huerta is a relaxing place in the countryside where one can sit back and listen to the birds chirp and enjoy fresh, healthy, local produce that you can see growing all around you. I call it a little tranquilo slice of foodie heaven, in the campo.