Saturday, March 10, 2012

Fish and Chickpeas...and The Love of My Life, Cabarete (Internal Tourism, anyone?)

A h, C a b a r e t e - also known as Cab, the North Coast, or to the fiancé, simply, "la costa" (the coast). He doesn't have to clarify; I already know which one he's talking about. One day our wedding will be there, and until then, it is our getaway. When I think of Cabarete, the name cartoon-ifies with glitter and stars and small-shaped hearts. My mind relaxes, and I remember what it feels like just to be. It's that intense.

Where is it, you wonder? Cabarete is on the Northern coast of the Dominican Republic. By plane, it's about 2 hours from Miami. You can fly directly to Puerto Plata and after a 15 minute taxi ride, or public car, you will have landed in a very magical place. 
Luscious.  It's a beautiful drive from Santo Domingo to Cabarate.

Cabarete has always been one of a kind, but the fiancé tells me that up until around 2007, it was undiscovered. He and his friends spent their weekends in the sand all day, at the barcitos all night, and when it was time to rest, they slept on the beach. Can you imagine? It sounds like a dream.

Even with Cabarete’s recent popularity boom, the atmosphere is open and laid back  - the perfect surfer’s paradise. Depending on the weekend, the beaches are sprinkled with foreigners, particularly surfers and kite boarders, from all around the world. The people that live there and those that visit have one special quality in common – their free spirit. Stress is prohibited and a Presidente or two are encouraged. It is the perfect spot to go with friends and family to unwind, eat (good lord, the food...) and drink well, and truly to enjoy each other. Speaking of food, my next Cabarete post will have to be about the grub. I'm already on it.

However, sleeping on the beach is no longer advisable – a rise in tourism comes with it’s inevitable moochers…as in, don’t leave your schmit alone, and don’t be an idiot and sleep on the beach. It’s important to note that I’ve never felt slightly unsafe in Cab, so just use common sense.

The Beaches: Cabarete Bay, Kite Beach, Playa Encuentro

Cabarete Bay:

Footprints in the sand. I mean, really?
Some of my favorite meals have been on the beach in Cab -
Restaurants line the beach and they are amazing, and not just for the view.

Cabarete at Night

Our favorite restaurant in Cab.

Where to stay in the town of Cabarete:

Winding our way to the bungalows,
Hotel Kaoba
Hotel Kaoba: Our hotel of choice, Hotel Kaoba is in the center of town and it is also the most economical choice the fiancé and I can find. For 35 dollars a night, we have our own bungalow, which includes a double bed, a twin bed, and our own bathroom. Hotel Kaoba’s bungalows wind around what feels to be a palm tree forest, with a charming pool in the center.

Hotel Villa Taina: For a more luxurious option, Hotel Villa Taina is the ticket. Still right in the city center, Hotel Villa Taina also has a gorgeous beachfront property. Highly recommended, this charming hotel starts at around $80 a night, and it might be where we reserve rooms for our wedding!

There are literally tons of other options. Apartments and condos can be extremely affordable, and if you are looking for a resort, there are a couple options for that as well (particularly the Velero Beach Resort). This is one of the best list I have found of places to stay in Cabarete.

Kite Beach:

Still technicially in Cabarete, but a ways down from the bars and restaurants, you are close to the action while still feeling remote. One of my favorite images of Cabarete is the view of Kite Beach’s hundreds of kites in the sky at sunset from Cabarete Bay.

Cabarete Bay looking into Kite Beach in the distance
See that beach across the way? That's Kite Beach.

Playa Encuentro:

Part of the North Coast’s new found popularity is the prime opportunities to surf, windsurf, and kite board. Playa Encuentro is just a bit outside of Cabarete, and this beach is one of the best surf/kite boarding spots. Devoid of hotels and other manmade anything, Playa Encuentro is all beach, all the time. It’s bareness takes you far, far away from the real world. It's also what attracts international surfing, kite boarding, and wind boarding competitions, like the Master of the Ocean, featured below.

Ah, there it is.
Master of the Ocean Watersport Competition, Playa Encuentro, Feb. 2012
Playa Encuentro
Master of the Ocean Watersport Competition, Playa Encuentro, Feb. 2012

Master of the Ocean Watersport Competition, Playa Encuentro, Feb. 2012
Riding in the back after a long day at Encuentro.
Tough life.

Cesar and Mariela - Our partners-in-crime in Cabarete

Do you see it's magic, too? It feels like a home away from home. We have a routine that is comforting - our breakfast spot knows us, we go to the same restaurants at night, and our days are split between Encuentro and Cabarete Bay. And it's always a teary goodbye when it's time to leave. Maybe La Buena Fe will have it's own café there one day. A girl can dream, right?

Speaking of beach-related things, I thought a fish recipe would be fitting for today's post. Fish and Beans (in my case, Chickpeas) is a traditional Spanish dish, and it is easy and absolutely delicious. The best part about this dish is it's versatility. Change up the type of fish, type of beans, or add roasted potatoes or chopped greens. Use this recipe as a starting point for greatness.

Thank you, Mark Bittman, 
for an endless array of simple, beautiful recipes.

6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Four 6 oz. thick white fish fillets (I used cod)
cornmeal, for dredging
salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 medium onion, cut into 1/4 inch slices
4 cups cooked chickpeas or cannellini beans (I used canned, but if you cooked them, which is recommended, save the cooking liquid.)
3/4 cup white wine
2 tablespoons minced garlic
1/4 cup chopped parsley leaves (I went in a different direction and used cilantro. It worked, but parsley would be a better fit.)
dash of hot sauce, red pepper flakes, or cayenne (optional)
juice from 2 limes (1/2 lime per fish)

Pre-heat oven to 300 degrees. Put 2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil in a large pan, large enough for the fish to fit in one layer, and make sure it is over medium-high heat. Dredge the fillets in cornmeal and when the oil is hot, add them one at a time. Let them cook for about 5 minutes, or until the cooked side is browned evenly. Turn the fish onto an ovenproof dish, browned side up, and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Place the fish in the oven for around 8 minutes.

While the fish is in the oven, add 2 more tablespoons of oil and the onions to the large skillet for 1-2 minutes. Add the chickpeas to the skillet (with about 1/2 cup of the cooking liquid, only if they were not canned), cook, stirring, for around a minute. Add all the white wine except for 1 tablespoon, and raise the heat. Cook, shaking the pan a few times, until the liquid is almost evaporated and the chickpeas are starting to brown. This should take around 5 minutes.

Stir in the garlic, salt, and pepper and cook for around 1 minute, stirring occasionally. Stir in the remaining olive oil and white wine. For a kick, add a dash of hot sauce, red pepper flakes, or cayenne pepper!

By this time, the fish should be done. If not, keep the chickpeas on low heat until the fish is white and flakey. Serve the fish on top of the chickpeas, and squeeze juice from 1/2 lime on top of each serving.
Serves 4.

a buen tiempo!


  1. looks delicious, missing you both so much!!!

  2. Beautiful pictures! Delicious meal!