Riggin Family Goes to Costa Rica

As we entered the second floor of the place that we would call home for the next five days, the expansive view of expressive sky, craggy mountains, and lush greenery settled around us, just as the heat and the moist air, like a light shawl or a deep sigh.

I’d forgotten how ‘outside’ living in a tropical climate can be. For us in Maine, most days “outdoor living” means layers of clothing. Even in the summertime when we are sailing, our wool sweaters, down vests, and hand-knit cowls are not far from reach. But here, in Santa Teresa, Costa Rica, not only were we without a single wool item or second layer, we looked out at three sides of a view though… nothing. No windows, no walls. While sheltered by the shade of the roof, the rest of the home was open on three sides to all kinds of weather. What happens if there’s a Nor’eater Jon thought? All day rain? Oh, right, not in Maine any longer. Right.

I’d forgotten the feeling of warm air on my skin, even as the sun goes down. Even as the sun is all the way down… no need for layers of clothing because the air is so warm. And no bugs like the Maine state bird (mosquitoes) ready to suck the life blood out of you. Just a couple of beetles and some moths drawn to the light of the night. (Although to be fair to the state of my heart, Maine does not have all sorts of snakes and bugs that can actually kill you.)

Jon and I spent three years in the Caribbean working on a yacht and moving up and down the Windward and Leeward Islands before we bought the Riggin. It’s been years since we’ve been back to a Caribbean climate and it didn’t take long for the sarongs, beach dried hair, and flip flops to feel like normal garb.

The impetus for this trip was to see where Chloe had spent the last 3 months of her studies. Based in the Cloud Forest of Monteverde, she explored the country through the lens of environmental science, studying the climate and natural world of Costa Rica with all of its abundance and diversity.

 

Monteverde, Costa Rica airbnb
Where we stayed the first couple of nights in Monteverde.
Costa Rica travel
Climbing the inside of a ficus tree
Monteverde, Costa Rica airbnb
Monteverde view
Costa Rica travel
Chloe trying to remember the Latin name to everything on the trail

Costa Rica travel

Our first foray into the mountains of Costa Rica was a hike into the… woods? The sensation of hiking into tree-shrouded trails, feeling the earth beneath our feet, and the birds chirping above felt just like hiking at home, except…. The leaves on the forest floor were not oak and maple, but rather, unknown The trees had abutments, vines, and epiphytes that covered their trunks. The birds did not sound like the birds at home. It was the oddest sensation of the familiar and the not, as if in a dream where you know where you are, but then it shifts into the unknown.

A trip to this country is not complete without the experience of zip lining! I could have gone again and again. Initially created by scientists to study the forest canopy in the 80’s, zip lining has become a staple of the ecotourism trade. Sailing over the tree tops, the unspoiled views are priceless. Our first meal, at Taco Taco a favorite of locals and visitors alike, introduced us to the flavors of the region. And thus I began dancing with avocados, cilantro, and lime. Also there, we had a flight of local beers which were unexpectedly good.

After exploring Chloe’s homebase, we made our way to Santa Teresa, a quintessential beach town with rolling surf, international visitors, and yoga galore. At the southern tip of the Nicoya Pennisula, there is just enough panache in Santa Teresa to make it feel like a groovy destination rather than a distant outpost. That overdevelopment has remained largely in check is due in no small part to the state of the roads one must travel to get there. Not to belabor the point, but these dirt ditches, rivulets, ponds, rock walls, and steep grades are distant cousins to the paved roads of our towns at home and yet, by the end of the week we found ourselves feeling somewhat confident in our driving abilities and blessing the roads that keep Santa Teresa so idyllic and low-key.

Santa Teresa, Costa Rica vrbo
The view from our Santa Teresa home
Santa Teresa, Costa Rica vrbo
Playing around with local veggies and food for breakfast (and lunch and dinner)

Once ensconced in the open air vrbo, we hardly wanted to leave to adventure. And some days we didn’t. Other days we explored the town, the beach, a nature preserve, and of course did some yoga. Casa Zen, recommended by our host for yoga, is a dorm-like hotel attracting all sorts of hipsters and 20-somethings hanging out in hammocks and a community lounge. Pranamar is on the other end of the spectrum with individual cabins set in lush grounds and an open-air yoga studio right next to the meandering pool.

Santa Teresa, Costa Rica vrbo
Silly faces (and Ella, if you’d held still, you wouldn’t be fuzzy, so don’t give your Mama grief)
Beaches of Santa Teresa
The Capt. on vacation!

Costa Rica travel

Santa Teresa is known for its Pacific surf, which attracts surfers of all ages. I wanted to get into the water to play in the waves, but had to screw up my courage to make my way into the 10 to 12 foot surf. After riding the waves for a while, with my trusty captain keeping an eagle eye on me, I made my tuckered way to his side on the sand. That said, even after going out into the fray, I’m not sure I was ready to do it again. It might have almost taken even more courage to venture out a second time the strength of the waves was so impressive.

Where we ate:
Fishbar – delicious mojitos and every dish was delightful and well-balanced.
Habaneros – right on the beach, watched the sun set.  Skip the margaritas and go straight for the ceviche, homemade chips, and the specials of the day.
The Bakery – After 3 months of tortillas, rice, and beans, Chloe was craving a pastry. She found satisfaction at this little gem which albeit caters to its visiting international clientele.
Sodas – The Tico (local Costa Rican) version of a Maine diner. Perfect for a bite of local eats or a fresh juice.

Costa Rica food
One of my favorite things about traveling. The soap comes in a tub, the cream comes in a box, and the creme fraiche (ish) comes in a bag.

As we said ‘so long’ to Santa Teresa and made our way off the peninsula, we stopped at Montezuma for a quick hike up to a waterfall. A little bite at Soda Tipica Las Palmeras and we were off to meet the ferry. I swore I would not step foot on a boat while were on vacation, but saving 4 plus hours of driving seemed a small price to pay. The North Haven ferry pales in comparison to this behemoth.

Montezuma, Costa Rica
Montezuma waterfall

Our last meal in San Jose, a hidden gem called Café Rojo, found only after following the gps in what seemed like one-way devilry, was a delight. A Vietnamese restaurant, set next to a local bookstore and art installation, it felt as if we could have been sitting down to a meal in any city in world. It was the perfect segue back into our busier stateside life.

Thank you Costa Rice for the adventure and relaxation in equal measure. Pura Vida!

 

 

 

Give Experiences, Memories, Time

Having just returned from a first-ever family vacation, I can attest with absolute certainty that there’s nothing that replaces time with family, making memories.  Presents under the tree are wonderful (and the hand-made ones are the best).  But even more, the gift of unrestricted time, to allow the day to unfold without an agenda and with each other, is truly without compare.

With that said, we now have a way to order gift certificates online.  You don’t need to purchase a whole trip, but could just contribute to a trip for someone you love.  I realize now, more poignantly, how we participate in these memories and are honored to do so.

Maine Windjammer - Schooner J. & E. Riggin
Photo credit Bob Trapani

Happy Holidays to you all!
Annie

Top 10 Gifts for the Bakers in Your Life

baking powder biscuits
As anyone who has sailed with us knows, Kitchen Aides and Cuisinarts are not a part of my tool kit on the Riggin.  They require electricity, something I don’t have in my galley.  What I do have is good, old-fashioned muscle and technique.  I use very basic tools to make very special baked goods and I don’t need a lot to accomplish this.

Also, because I have limited space, the tools I do have on the boat need to be ones that I use all the time or they need to do more than one task.  Here’s my list of tools that I wouldn’t go sailing without and that might spark an idea or two for the baker in your life, whether they bake on dry land or on the water.

My three favorite stores for baking and cooking tools are: The Good Table, Now You’re Cooking, and King Arthur Flour.  All are wonderful, local stores with a well-curated supply of useful baking tools.

Sifter – While a whisk will work for this task, there’s nothing that works better for making light, fluffy cakes.

Scale – The best bakers weigh all of their ingredients.  If nothing else, sometimes a recipe calls for a weighed amount and not a measured amount.  Super helpful.

Thermometer – All baking is about details and precision.  Don’t over or under bake anything again by removing it from the heat at just the right temperature.

Parchment paper – A gift from the non-stick gods.  Lining cake pans and cookies sheets with parchment or with a silicone sheet helps with the least favorite part of baking – the clean up!

Whisk – Just don’t try a baking life without one.  Great for thin batters, egg whites, and whipped cream, but a whisk will also work as a sifter in a pinch.  Just not for those super fluffy genoise cakes and such.

Rolling pin – Wooden ones are my favorite.  With or without handles, this is an essential piece of any bakers arsenal.

Pastry bag – At some point you’ll want to try your hand at pate au choux or decorating a cake.  The professional way to go is with a pastry bag and at least a few basic pastry tips.

Cookie scoop – Bake cookies that are all the same size by scooping them with this cookie scoop.  It makes the process go so much faster too.

Pastry knife – For making biscuits and pie crust, this tool is essential.  There isn’t a day on the boat that goes by where I don’t use this handy tool.

Bench scraper – Bread bakers, pie bakers, biscuit bakers and basically anyone who gets dough on the counter for any reason will love this tool.  Again, I use it on a daily basis.

Cooling rack – While this is one tool that I don’t have space for on the Riggin, I do use them at home all the time, and there I almost never have enough. 🙂

Annie
Also, doesn’t it go without saying that every baker (and cook) should have cookbooks that they love and trust (like Sugar & Salt and At Home, At Sea)?

Nautical Holiday Cards – First 10 Orders Get One Free

All of these nautical holiday cards are for sale in our little online store.  Anyone interested in cookbooks for the foodies in your life can find them there as well.  The packs come in sets of 10 and the first 10 orders receive a pack of “Santa’s New Ride” for free.

Every one of these beauties was hand-painted by Jon, my super talented husband and the captain of the Riggin.  He’s got an eye for boats, that guy does.

Capt Jon Finger Nautical Holiday Cards numbered
Nautical holiday cards by Capt. Jon Finger

East Forty Farm Visit

One of the special parts of buying locally is being able to visit all of the farms that supply us year round with well-thought and well-crafted ingredients.  Thankfully, the farm purveyors come to us in the summer time when I haven’t a second to do anything but receive all of their good work at the boat.  Yesterday, however, I had the special chance to visit East Forty Farm.

The cheesemaker herself

The farm is owned by Neal Foley and Allison Lakin who recently married and have only been on the property for a couple of years.  Individually, they’ve been honing their crafts for years with Neal providing nose to tail farming and cookery of all sort of animals from duck to beef and in our case, pork.  Allison is an award-winning cheese maker and supplies the Riggin with gorgeous cheese from her creamery, Lakin’s Gorges Cheese.  In addition to everything else, they now offer classes and farm to table dinners to draw fans of their good work to their spot in Waldoboro, Maine.

Deliciousness on a platter
Heaven

Neal and I actually met years ago when, on his former farm, he taught comprehensive butchering classes with Kate Hill of Camont in Gascony, France.  Kate lives in France and comes over at least once a year to collaborate with Neal on traditional French cooking.  My love of cassoulet didn’t begin with these two, but it certainly was fostered and encouraged.

Neal the farmer with maybe one of our pigs afoot.  Photo courtesy of East Forty Farm

For the first time, I got to see where our cheese is made and even the cows that supply some of the milk for said cheese.  And while I didn’t get to meet our actual pig (except in the form of cuts from the freezer), I did get to see where they wander and root in the wooded lots on the farm.  This is the next group to come up the ranks and with a couple more to follow.  In addition, the cows, milked daily were lazing in the sun when I arrived and as I approached, they roused themselves to greet me.

Isn’t’ her face pretty?

As I drove home through the Maine countryside on curving two-lane roads, I was surrounded by the last vestiges of fall – the colors of the leaves dimming to amber interspersed with clusters of green spruce and the splash of white bark from the birch trees.  The sun dappled the fields and farmhouses as I passed and I found myself grateful to live here and to be a part of a local economy that fosters a healthy, wholesome way of life.

Maybe there names are Pork and Bacon? Photo courtesy of East Forty Farm
Babies and their mama in the woods
Cute, huh?

Annie
Got my fill of farm goodness

Edible Maine – Three Squares at Sea

Fantastic articles about the J. & E. Riggin just keep coming. I don’t know what else to say about this write-up in Edible Maine, except I love the story, I love the photos, I love everything about this article. You can read “Three Squares at Sea”  out online or order a copy from the Edible Maine website.

Recipes included in the article are Garden Carrots and Leeks Au Gratin, Clementine Walnut Bread, and Peach Ginger Jam.  You can find some of these recipes in At Home. At Sea – The Red Book, 2nd Edition.

Thank you Claire Jeffers, Douglas Merriam, and Edible Maine!