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Tasting the Rain Forest, Vegan-Style

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Down Highway 34, past acres of palm trees, with a right turn down a gravel driveway, into a dense tropical forest, we sit down to experience an elegant vegan meal at the Waterfall Villas Resort, a six-room hideaway between Quepos and Domincal near the southern Pacific coast of Costa Rica.

In these 15-acres, the water rambles through, the waterfall a series of gentle cascades rather than one splendid outpouring. That soothing stream sings symphony during our candlelight dinner in the open-air Balinese-style pavilion that Fateh Baser Bolivar and Franco Bolivar created in this forest.

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Before Fateh and Franco met, in 2004, they both carried a dream. Fateh, who is an international entrepreneur with experience in culinary arts, marketing, and business, envisioned opening a healing center in Australia where she could teach yoga, gather healers, and welcome people to a diet of delicious plant-based foods.

Franco, who has extensive experience in the hospitality industry, dreamed of opening a hotel in Costa Rica.  When Fateh traveled to Costa Rica as part of a business trip, she met Franco and the two instantly connected. As they got to know each other, their dreams began to mesh.

Then a friend said to Fateh, “You have to see this land that’s for sale in Costa Rica.”  Together Fateh and Franco visited the property and within hours, they knew this was their spot.  The gorgeous acreage had a few shortcomings: to reach it, they had traveled over 20 miles of pot-holed dirt road.  There was no electricity or water. But those details did not deter these visionaries.

 

They began to build and within two years, the government had paved the roadway, and they created a beautiful center, using all local staffing and offering fresh local organic fruits and vegetables.

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Today, they welcome guests from all over the world. Some come for the cuisine, which is varied enough to keep one gentleman eating happily for a month. Others come for the peaceful environment and lush surroundings. Still others come to improve their health or change their diet.

Fateh has created a four-day “Diva’s Detox,” which often attracts models from New York and Miami. She offers various detoxing packages and includes yoga, coaching, and the support people need to restore their health and vitality.

For the first three years, Fateh spent much time in the kitchen, training her local staff to cook her unique globally-influenced vegan recipes.

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She established relationships with farmers and learned the nuances of the region’s organic markets. Today, she buys the produce from a variety of well-vetted vendors, going to area markets as often as five days a week.

On our first evening, we shared a cooked meal and a raw meal and both were creative and delicious. A frothy raw zucchini soup lightened with coconut milk (directly from a coconut) and a smooth butternut squash soup soothed our palettes and offered a creamy comfort.

The raw vegan ravioli with brazil nut “cheese” was rich and flavorful and the heated vegetarian paella brimmed with cauliflower and artichokes and sparkled with saffron. The frozen blackberry mousse tasted so delectable we scraped every morsel off our plates.

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Then we strolled back to our room and sat on our private balcony, listening to the music of the tumbling water and the night sounds of the jungle.

“People are looking for peace of mind and rejuvenation,” Fateh says. “Perhaps they want to reset their digestive system and or work through grief.  We create a space so people can renew and restore themselves.”

We were there to restore our sense of calm and creativity and even after our first evening, we were already feeling better.

Deborah Shouse is a writer, editor, traveler, dementia advocate, and author of Love in the Land of Dementia: Finding Hope in the Caregiver’s Journey. Her new book, Connecting in the Land of Dementia: Creative Activities to Explore Together comes out in October 2016. Visit her at DementiaJourney.org

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