Thursday, April 13, 2006

Culinary Pros Tour Boquete

by Barbara Gibbs-Ostmann

A whirlwind tour of Boquete was the icing on the cake for members of the International Association of Culinary Professionals (IACP) who were in Panama in February for a Board of Directors meeting. After four days in Panama City, which were filled with sightseeing, official ceremonies, exquisite lunches and dinners and, of course, business meetings, about half the group stayed on for an optional post-tour to the coffee plantations of Chiriqui. It was a wise decision.

Charlie Collins, Boquete’s well-known native son who is chef/owner of Ma Cuisine in Panama City and chef of the Panamonte Inn and Spa in Boquete, and Elena Maria Hernandez, director/owner of Academia de Artes Culinarias in Panama City, were the key organizers of both the mini-conference in Panama City and the tour of Boquete. Both are active members of the IACP (, an organization with more than 4,000 members from more than 35 countries. IACP’s membership is literally a 'Who’s Who' of the food and beverage world.

Upon arrival in Boquete, the group was treated to conversation and naranjilla cocktails with the delightful Inga Elliot Collins at the Panamonte Inn. Mrs. Collins’s stories of the early days of Boquete tourism and her knowledge of and passion for the customs and traditions of the country added immensely to our Boquete experience. In addition to several outstanding breakfasts and dinners at the inn, we also were treated to a folk dance exhibition by darling children dressed in beautiful traditional costumes.

Our coffee tour began with a stop at Cafetalera Fernandez, where we were given an in-depth, personalized tour by Ricardo and Teresita Fernandez, then enjoyed touring their beautiful home and having an al fresco lunch on their patio. After a panoramic tour of the highlands, we stopped at Valle Escondido for a look-see before returning to our respective lodgings, the Panamonte Inn and Boquete Country Inn. The next day, our coffee explorations continued with visits to Finca Arco Iris, owned by Mrs. Mireya Moscoso, the former president of Panama, and Kotowa Estate Beneficio, owned by Ricardo Koyner MacIntyre. Koyner led us through the various steps of coffee production, from the coffee bushes to tours of both the old and new processing plants. In the tasting room, we learned more about his family’s coffee heritage while sampling his various blends.

So many people helped make this visit exceptional, including the dozens of local people who attended dinners and luncheons and shared their love of Boquete with us. Dinner at the home of David and Michelle Brewer in Panamonte Estates, a tamale picnic lunch on the grounds of Ricardo and Benita Koyner’s home, a tour and tasting at the Deli Baru, and chats with Yalta and Ron Mager at Boquete Country Inn were among the many memorable moments. The crowning touch was the gala dinner at the Panamonte Inn, featuring New Panamanian Cuisine prepared by Chef Charlie Collins and graciously hosted by Inga Collins.

We also managed to find time for some sightseeing at the Flower Fair Park, plus shopping along Boquete’s main street.

'There’s no country in the world more joyful than Panama,' said Teresita Fernandez. 'People are always enjoying life, and it’s a good life. The people in Panama make a party out of everything.' I am so glad to have been invited to the party – and I hope to return for many more.

Barbara Gibbs Ostmann served on the IACP Board of Directors for four years, and is now serving on Board of Trustees for The Culinary Trust (, the philanthropic arm of IACP.

Read the original article at: Bajareque Times

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