Storyteller in Residence: Nicaragua

Client: Cayuga Collection

About the Project: Storyteller in Residence: Nicaragua is an immersive VR/360 project celebrating the food cultures of Nicaragua through the lens of eco-sustainability. We traveled to Nicaragua to profile three important aspects of Nicaraguan food culture: coffee, fish and markets. Using immersive 360 video, we told the stories of these foods with behind-the-scenes footage of the whole cycle, from land and sea to dish. Our final VR footage and personal stories were paired with 3 courses of food and cocktails, matched to the corresponding topic, and presented to the Nicaraguan Tourism Board as well as locals and hotel guests at Cayuga Collection's Jicaro Island Ecolodge. 

What We Delivered: By working closely with Cayuga Collection's team, we were able to showcase Jicaro Island Ecolodge's dedication to sustainability across all facets of their hotel operations through the use of intentional food & drink. For example, our course on fish highlighted Jicaro's thoughtful supplier/vendor relationships; our exploration of coffee included explanation of Jicaro's all-natural spa remedies for otherwise "useless" coffee grounds; each cocktail discussed the importance of the closed-loop water filtration system on the island to provide clean water for guests and staff alike. Guests and media alike were able to dine and interact together in a festive atmosphere while naturally learning about the sustainability initiatives in place at Jicaro Island Ecolodge. Some snippets from the tasting is available below.

the story of coffee

Deacachimba

This coffee-based cocktail draws inspiration from Sopa Borracha ("drunken soup"), a rum soaked cake. The idea was to replicate the heft and indulgence of the cake in liquid form by using full-bodied alcohol and the mouthfeel of a sour. 

I combined Flor de Caña añejo classico rum, Selva Negra "Mousey" blend coffee, sweet lemon syrup (literally, a lemon but sweet) and coconut milk for the cocktail base, then added egg whites for an extra creamy body. The drink is topped with fresh coffee cherries and coffee beans, which are surrounded by a lightly sweet pulp.

Deacachimba is Nicaraguan slang for "awesome" or "f*cking A", a word we were taught by the wonderful staff at Jicaro Island. This felt a fitting way to close out the tasting and say thank you.

- Matt Dorsey, Mixologist

photo by Sarah M. Park

Guabul Milk cake

&"gallo Pinto"

ice cream

This cake was inspired by Tres Leches, or "3 milks", a popular Nicaraguan dessert made of a fluffy cake soaked with a mix of whole milk, sweetened condensed milk and evaporated milk. I adore the classic version, and also wanted to incorporate another Nicaraguan favorite: guabul, or green banana and coconut milk dessert soup.

So for the cake, I used Selva Negra espresso beans and cumin to flavor a classic sponge base, soaked it in guabul for 24 hours, then topped it with green mango and guava jam (a common fruit jam eaten for breakfast). On the side I turned the national rice & beans combination ("gallo pinto" or "spotted rooster") into ice cream and topped it with a chocolate & coffee crumble for texture.

- Jenny Dorsey, Chef

fish: tales from the water

Si Quieres

Nicaraguan markets are filled with delicious non-alcoholic beverages, flavored with everything from flaxseed to cacao to naranjilla. An especially popular one is chicha, a lightly fermented corn that is often turned into chicha bruja (corn beer). It is typically sold in small bags and colored bright pink with a "raspberry" flavoring. 

 

This drink took inspiration from chicha morada, the Peruvian beverage made from chicha, but is built on Nicaraguan bounty. Pineapple vinegar, sourced from the coasts renowned for their lush fruit, offers an acidic component while grama tea, a grassy root used for herbal drinks, adds body. Papaya seeds and tamarind marmalade from Santa Clara Farm balance the natural texture of the chicha and the national spirit of choice - Flor de Caña rum - is the liquor.

- Matt Dorsey, Mixologist

Seabass Ceviche

with smoked naranjilla

Classic Nicaraguan ceviche is dressed with lime, tossed with red onions and packs a little heat. I wanted to maintain this foundation while highlighting some of the gorgeous produce I saw at the markets and also play with a ceviche style from a similarly tropical area across the world: kinilaw from the Philippines. 

I took naranjilla, a fruit that looks like a persimmon but slices like a tomato, smoked it with applewood, pureed and strained it, then combined that with sour orange (literally, an orange but sour) as the acidifying base. I mixed in passionfruit seeds for crunch, lots of sliced mimbro (a tiny juicy green pepper-like vegetable that is super sour), freshly extracted coconut milk (macheted, grated, pureed on-site); and Congo pepper (a tiny, tiny pin-sized pepper that is very spicy) for heat.

- Jenny Dorsey, Chef

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Site Credits

Photography: Stacey Salter Moore, Briana Balducci, Joseph Magnelli, David Chow, BK Narayanan, David Nguyen

Videography: Federica Nanfeng, Sarah M. Park

© 2020 by Studio ATAO, Inc. A 501(c)3 nonprofit.