It’s Harvest Time at Taino Organic Farm! Twice a week the eXtreme team gets their hands on a whole bunch of fresh, organic greens and veggies to cook up or eat raw at the hotel!
The latest harvest brought us a beautiful basket of tomatoes; avocados; cilantro; plátanos; peppers; and leafy, spicy greens. I love cooking for and sharing Dominican food with my fellow eXtremers so I decided to challenge myself by making a traditional Dominican dish using mostly the food we had harvested and little else. Dominican food is traditionally meat heavy so it was a bit of a challenge but I finally decided on one of my favorite dishes—pastelón de plátano maduro. A cross between a shepherd’s pie and lasagna, pastelón combines sweet, ripe plantains with savory ground meat and melted cheese. Mmmm! This is a vegetarian version I put together on the fly using some veggies we had on hand. It’s not quite how my Abuela makes it, but it’s still pretty good!
10 ripe, yellow plantains
1 small head of broccoli, cut into florets
1 medium sized carrot, julienned
1½ medium sized green peppers, julienned
1 small cubanelle pepper, diced
6 large garlic cloves, minced
1 small white onion, minced
1½ chicken bouillon cubes, crushed
12 slices of cheddar cheese
¾ of a stick of butter
a healthy fistful of cilantro
a healthy pinch of dried oregano
salt and pepper to taste
Peel and cut plantains into chunks. Fill a large saucepan with water, a pinch of salt, and put over high heat. Add the plantain chunks to the water and bring to a boil.
In a sauté pan over medium-high heat, melt a small pat of butter and a small drizzle of olive oil. Sauté the oregano, cilantro, chicken bouillon cubes, onions, and garlic for one minute until the onions become semitransparent. Add carrots, broccoli, and peppers and sauté for ten to twelve minutes. Lower the flame and cover with a loosely fitting lid for five minutes. Remove from heat and set aside.
When the plantains have turned a golden yellow color and are easily pierced by a fork (approx. 25-30 mins), drain the saucepan and reserve a quarter cup of the cooking liquid. In a bowl combine the plantains, the cooking liquid, and the remaining butter and mash until the plantains are a soft, consistent texture.
In a baking pan, spoon half of the mashed plantains and spread it into a thick, uniform layer. Spoon the veggies onto the layer of plantains and spread. Cover in six slices of cheese. Spoon the second half of the plantains and spread evenly. Cover the pastelón with the last six pieces of cheese.
Set your oven to broil and put the pastelón in for five minutes or until the cheese on top has melted.
We suggest you serve your pastelón with a salad of avocado, tomato, diced red onion, and a drizzle of olive oil over some spicy, mustard greens just like we did!
Bon Apétit, or as we say in the Dominican Republic: ¡Buen Provecho!
-We used broccoli and carrots but you can use cherry tomatoes, corn, or any veggies that don’t release too much liquid or your pastelón will bubble up around the edges.
-We also used the stalks and leafy bits of the broccoli but you can discard these if you don’t like them.
-You can use any kind of cheese you like; we especially like cheddar and Swiss but a bag of grated cheese works, too!
-For a healthier version, nix the butter and chicken bouillon cubes and replace with a drizzle of olive oil and a pinch of sea salt.
Santiago de Los Caballeros—the DR’s second-largest city and one of the oldest establishments in the Western Hemisphere, founded by the brother of Christopher Columbus back in the year 1495.
Only a few hours’ journey from Cabarete, today Santiago is the perfect place to get away from your vacation getaway for a few days during your visit to the DR. Simply hop on a guagua to head to Puerto Plata (45 minutes, RD $50) to catch one of the many busses that head south every hour to Santiago (80 minutes, RD $130), and spend a day or two exploring the sights and scenes of a city which locals refer to as La Ciudad Corazón: “Heart City.”
So-named for it’s central location in the heart of the El Cibao Valley, Santiago is known for it’s charm and rich cultural history, and is a place where friendly locals still embody the laid back, undemanding lifestyle and cheery charisma so typical of the Dominican people.
It’s also home to one of the country’s most popular baseball teams – Las Aguilas Cibaeñas, and scoring a pair of last-minute tickets to a Friday night game was one of the highlights of our visit!
It all started early on a rainy Friday morning, after our search for an eco-village described as a “rustic mountaintop retreat” supposedly located somewhere along the road between Puerto Plata and Santiago completely FAILED, and our curiosity (and lack of a backup plan) led us to follow the highway the rest of the way on our motorbike into downtown Santiago to see for ourselves what the city had to offer.
As it turned out, we had such a great time that I honestly don’t think we could have planned better experience even if we had tried. After riding into the densest, busiest part of the city center and negotiating a couple of tense traffic scenarios, we pulled over to ask where we could find a cheap hotel.
We were directed to a small street just south of the intersection of “30 de Marzo” and “27 de Februar”—yes, the streets here are named after random (or possibly important) dates of the year—where we quickly found a small hotel named “Hotel Shalom,” featuring rooms starting at just 300 pesos.
After realizing we didn’t have enough clothing to stuff into all of the holes and cracks in the walls and windows of our room, we came up with a novel solution for dealing with the mosquitoes which seemed abundant enough that they might have posed a problem:
With all the money we saved on lodging, we were able to absolutely SPLURGE on a taxi (100 pesos) to the stadium downtown where we treated ourselves to a pair of front row tickets (100 pesos each) to the big Friday night game between the Aguilars and the Estrellas. It was a delightful game and for the first time in my life I witnessed a grand slam at a baseball game!
We found that even though there are seat numbers listed on the tickets, nobody abides by these, and seating seems to operate on a first-come first-served basis. So if you do go to a game, make sure to get there early and grab good seats. Also, bring some coins to spend on the interesting treats that are sold by vendors walking up and down the stands, such as delicious peanut-cookies (10 pesos; highly recommended), bags of popcorn (we didn’t buy any), lollipops (5 pesos), and nachos (35 pesos; didn’t buy any either).
We left the stadium during the bottom of the 8th inning to avoid what probably would have been a crowded, hectic street battle to find a taxi ride back to our hotel (80 pesos).
The next day was Saturday, and after taking our bike to the shop and replacing the old battery (now the headlights, horn and auto-ignition switch all work perfectly!), we cruised up to El Monumento a los Heroes de la Restauracion de la Republica, set high up on a hill just east of the downtown area, with incredible views over the entire city:
It also turned out to be a lovely place to catch the sunrise on our last day in town, although we can’t 100% guarantee you won’t get mugged if you show up there with your expensive camera in the wee hours of dawn.
Later in the day, we spent some time at the nearby Fortaleza San Luis, a highly recommended art/artifacts museum/fortress that functioned as a military stronghold from the late 17th century to the 1970s when it was converted into a museum. It’s a great place to spend the hottest part of the day admiring an impressive collection of Taino artifacts displayed alongside the artwork of modern-day Domincan artists:
We spent the rest of the day walking past the shops along Calle del Sol, wandering through street markets, observing a lively political street-rally, watching children from orphanages receive belated Christmas gifts being distributed out of large vans owned by a local organization, chatting with friendly locals, and watching the scenes of life unfold in a community living under the Rio Yaque del Norte bridge. At night we wandered the narrow streets and alleys past food vendors and watched as daytime shops closed down and transformed into homes and living quarters for the workers and their families.
The next morning, after ducking into Catedral de Santiago de Apostol to escape a morning rain shower and observe Sunday mass from the back row of the chapel, it was almost with a hint of sadness that we left Santiago and headed back to paradise.
Perhaps of all the things that amazed me about our visit was the fact that the entire time we were there, the only “foreigners” we saw seemed to be the Haitian immigrants sharing the hallway with us in the hotel where we stayed. But even at the main places of interest downtown where one would expect to see foreigners snapping photos, we were the only tourists in sight. And although we must have stood out greatly to the locals, we found the people of Santiago were just as friendly and lively as our local friends up here in Cabarete.
Given my experience, I would definitely go back to Santiago again. And looking back on the weekend I can confidently say that if you’re feeling the desire for a change of pace and are open to participating in an authentic cultural experience, I highly recommend a visit to Santiago!
Extreme Hotel Cabarete, on the north coast of the Dominican Republic, caters to an eco friendly environment. One of the realities of living next to El Choco National Park is that there are mosquitoes during the rainy season.
Dealing with mosquitoes is a fact of life in the tropics. Chikungunya, malaria, and dengue are a few mosquito transmitted diseases that have been contracted in the Dominican Republic, but there are things that can be done to help manage the mosquitoes without having to poison ourselves with chemicals. All it takes is some creative thinking to ensure that we have a mosquito tolerable environment.
One effective measure that works for us is spraying an organic insecticide around the property as needed.
Here’s a glance at our handy man, Oscar, spraying for us (I know you’re singing “Ghostbusters!” right now):
The harmless spray contains a mixture of organic neem oil, water, and a natural detergent. Neem oil is an incredible moisturizer and is widely used today in popular products such as shampoos, toothpaste, soaps, cosmetics, and creams. It also contains vitamin E, essential amino acids, fatty acids, and compounds that offer natural medicinal and insecticidal properties.
In addition to our checmical free mosquito management technique , we offer our eXtreme guests a personal mosquito swat-racket.
There is a technique to using a mosquito racket. Basically the procedure is to close all your doors and windows in your room, checking to ensure that all the seals are closed so no more can get in. Next, use your racket in a gentle swinging manner to clear the room and all the corners of the mosquitoes that have managed to get inside.
These are no ordinary mosquito rackets – our staff ran a trial period of testing out various rackets to see which ones were most effective in zapping away the mosquitoes. We unanimously agreed upon a mosquito racket with wires that only run one way- no crossing! This technology allows air to swiftly fly through the racket instead of being propelled forward and ultimately pushing the mosquitoes out of the way. The end result is dead mosquitoes with minimal effort, and easy sleeping nights with no mosquitoes buzzing around your ears!
Here are a few handy tips for getting the most out of your zap-racket:
1) Close the door behind you! Don’t give insects a chance to fly in as you enter the room. Also, check that your screens aren’t damaged with holes or crooked frames.
2) Make sure the green light turns on when you press down on the yellow activation button. If the green light does not respond, then you need to try rolling the batteries around a bit in order to guarantee that they are receiving proper circuit supply from both ends. If the light still does not respond, then we can switch out your faulty racket with a new one from reception.
3) Mosquitoes love damp, warm areas and are often found gathered in corners of rooms. Sweep your zap-racket slowly around the corners of the room and rest easy as you hear the sweet, succulent zapping sound.
An additional measure we take towards our eco-friendly bug management includes bat housing we installed on the property. A single bat can consume up to 1000 mosquitoes in a night! Citronella plants and Neem trees have also been transplanted onto our property to act as natural insect repellents. You may recognize the scent of citronella (lemongrass) in the air. It is has an energizing citrus aroma used in perfumes, soaps, and incense. We are also continuously inspecting the property for standing water. By eliminating standing water we also eliminate the bug breeding ground that comes with it.
Inside the eXtreme Hotel rooms you will find big fans located directly over top of the beds. These go a long way in reducing the random stray mosquito! Due to the lightweight nature of mosquitoes, the fan makes it difficult for them to maneuver through the air.
Finally, it doesn’t hurt to bring an organic mosquito repellent. You can easily concoct your own by adding a few drops of citronella or neem oil to a moisturizer. Your skin will love it after playing in the sun all day!
Planning a trip to Cabarete? Not sure how to get around? Read on! We do things a little differently around here. If you want to truly embrace the Dominican culture, you will love getting to know the moto taxi mode of transportation.
At the Extreme Hotel we attract guests that are looking for adventure and exploration, and as such, transportation becomes an integral part of their trip. The hotel staff value guest safety as a top priority and we will always be available to assist you in setting up the mode of transportation that best suits your needs. One option that many of our guests find exciting, cheap, and easy is the the moto taxi.
Just a stone’s throw from the Extreme Hotel sits a moto taxi stop. Here you will find a few of our true and tested local moto taxi guys that wait around to accommodate our travel pursuits.
Meet a few of our guys!
From left to right we have: Luis, Luis, and Vale
The rates are cheap, the ride is fun, and the best part is that you don’t have to wait around like you would for a bus. Fifty pesos will get you to downtown Cabarete; a hot spot for tourists and locals alike. You will find yourself downtown for dancing, drinks, shopping, socializing on the plushy lounge chairs that pepper the beach in front of the restaurants, dropping in on volleyball pick-up games, and live music events!
Ready to ride the moto taxi wave? There are a few things you should know, since transportation can be very dangerous. However, there are basic principles you can implement to avoid unnecessary accidents.
Moto Etiquette: 7 Key Points to Know Before You Go
1) Get on a trusted moto taxi!
-Don’t let just anyone pick you up. Instead, look for an actual moto taxi stop. The taxi guys operate territorially here and will not allow any sketchy business. If you are desperate for a ride and can’t seem to find a moto taxi stop anywhere, you can ask to see a license before you hop on.
2) Always, always, ALWAYS get on and off from the left side!
-Forgetting this tidbit may cost you a severe burn from the exhaust pipe. Ouch! (Not a memento you want to take from your trip)
3) One word- “Tranquilo!”
-If you feel that your driver is going too fast, don’t be afraid to speak up. The word “tranquilo” will basically command your driver to slow down.
4) Don’t get on the moto until it’s facing the direction you will be going.
-This will help you avoid unnecessary turning into traffic.
5) 50 pesos
-Fifty pesos will get you into town and you can fit a third person on the back for 50 more pesos. Four people is pushing it!.
6) Use the same guy.
-Your driver will want to wait for you if you will need a ride back. If you won’t be spending much time at your destination, ask the driver to wait and he will happily give you a ride back. If you will be awhile you can ask him to meet you at a certain hour to give you a ride back.
7) Lean with it!
-It may feel natural for you to lean the opposite direction as the driver when you are taking a turn; however, the driver will maintain balance easier if you lean in the same direction as him.
Study these seven points and you will learn to love the moto taxis as much as we do!
Happy Travels :)
This past weekend in Cabarete, the eXtreme Hotel and Mojito Bar Cabarete hosted the first ever Cabarete Festival! Despite the spring showers, it was an extraordinary night full of delicious food, live musical performances, a local mercado, circus acts, fire dancing and much more! A big thanks from the eXtreme Hotel and Mojito Bar Cabarete to our local community and all of our artisans, vendors and sponsors for coming out and supporting the event.
Entertainment was plentiful at the first Cabarete festival, many talented performers had the chance to show their stuff on our stage and the dance floor.
Local artisans brought tons of creativity to the first Cabarete Festival! Locally made goodies ranged from bikinis to baked goods to body care products!
Everyone wants to remember the highlights, so we crafted a light ring and ran our own photo booth!
For more pictures from the Cabarete Festival check out the Mojito Bar Cabarete Facebook page. Don’t forget to tag your self and let us know what your favorite part of the event was! The highlight for me was the circus performances by Kaicetous Circus, I was so mesmerized by the strength and grace of the performers I didn’t even capture a photo.
To end our first ever Cabarete Festival, we figured we needed an epic grande finale. Four fire dancers performed and brought the house down! Thanks to all who came out to the event, we were thrilled to see our community coming together and supporting the local arts! We hope to host more events in the future so keep an eye out on our Facebook page and around town.
Post by Lynsey Wyatt.