As a resident of the San Francisco Bay Area, I live in what might be the birthplace of foodie-ism. Surrounded as I am by world-class restaurants and beautiful local food, I still dream about the meals I experienced at a secluded treehouse on a protected island in Panama's Caribbean.
La Loma Jungle Lodge is tucked serenely away on Isla Bastimentos, accessible only by boat. Our accommodations were an open-air platform in the rainforest with nothing but romantic netting to protect us from Jurassic insects and nocturnal creatures while we slept. By day we paddled through mangroves, explored bat-lined caves, and body-surfed crystal waves. Come evening, we were treated to dinners the likes of which I have yet to experience in the Foodie Capital of California. Every bite - animal, vegetable, and many of the spices - was grown on the island and much of it on the property itself. Try this out: a starter of stuffed green plantains with a pepper cocktail followed by carolla chicken with fresh tumeric, plantain, and taro paired with cinnamon and cardoman rice and banana-coconut chutney with habanero. What just happened in my mouth?!
Our hosts showed us more than good meals and enviro-luxuries. They were social, knowledgeable, and supportive. They wanted us to have more than just a good time, but a life experience. Back in the Bay Area fog, we recall the evening of dominoes and rum with locals followed by a night walk on the premises to spy on anteaters. That and home-grown chocolate.