A Man, A Plan, A Canapé: Panama

You want to hear something funny. SippitySup has a rank of 4332 in Panama. It’s my best rank per country in the world. Which means that SippitySup is a very popular site in Panama. It seems so random, but it’s true.

I start with that little fact because I have some exciting news; SippitySup has been invited to Panama to lead a cooking demonstration for a group called Boquete Gourmet. Somehow little tiny SippitySup has managed to catch the hearts of a group of food loving ex-pats living the high life near the border with Costa Rica. Boquete is a beautiful town adjacent to the mighty Volcan Barú, and I am very honored and excited to be invited.

Boquete is a peacful little mountain community that is often described as Paradise. In fact Forbes magazine recently rated Boquete as one of the top 10 places to retire in the world. Harper’s Bazaar says, “Panama is the most beautiful retreat in the world and almost undiscovered.”

Well Sup! is about to discover it in a big way!

volcan baruOf course this honor is not with out its pressure. You know me; naturally I have been wracking my brain. I mean I want this evening to be special. These people are not only paying good money to hear what I have to say, but they are hosting me in a gorgeous little mountainside cottage in the middle of a beautiful jungle. I want to earn my keep.

It’s not that I have any problems passing along what I know about food and cooking, it’s just that I want to choose a subject that is both entertaining and delicious. Naturally we will be eating the fruits of my labor too, and I can be a picky bastard.

Well in instances like this I say, stick with what you know. I have worked in Show Biz going on 20 years. So I know Hollywood. Therefore, I have decided to do an evening of small plates with recipes from some of the Legendary Haunts of Hollywood.

Restaurants have helped define the glamour of the film industry for generations and there are many that have become a part of the allure that is Hollywood. Old classics like The Brown Derby will be included in my presentation, as will The Cocoanut Grove, Don The Beachcomber, and Romanoff’s. But I also want to include the iconic extroversion of 80s glamour, best represented by the famed Trumps. And what would a discussion on Los Angeles restaurants be without the inclusion of the currant and perennial hot spot Spago? So make room for Mr. Wolfgang Puck…

So you see it will be a very eclectic evening as I prepare a recipe representing each of my chosen dining destinations. But like I said this is a big deal. I am certainly NOT just going to wing it. Nope, I am going to practice here on SippitySup first. I am going to prepare my entire menu, one dish at a time between now and Christmas and post the results here. Hopefully you guys will pitch in and give me some feedback on the dishes I prepare.

I am starting with Trumps. The term foodie got its start in the excessive eighties and Trumps became a foodie Mecca. The simple, streamlined South Western influence of the architecture was just a façade for the extravagant tastes and flavors that Chef Michael Roberts was presenting to the Hollywood players that stopped in night after night.

Many credit Trumps for finally putting Los Angeles on the culinary map because it was as sophisticated and imaginative as any Manhattan eatery and had the extra allure of the grandest of Hollywood pedigrees. Agents, actors, directors lunched there because the room was flooded with the magical glow of the Los Angeles sun. Everyone looked good, which is massively important if one of the prime purposes of dining is to see and be seen.

But the main attraction was the food. It was adventurous and ever changing. The oh so sophisticated creative community demanded new tastes and unusual combinations. An emphasis was placed on food with a certain glamorous flair, but always slightly exotic. Quesadillas stuffed with grapes and Brie was served with a sweet pea “guacamole”. So you get the idea…these new and creative taste sensations were embraced proudly and with a vengeance. We foodies rejoiced and some of my earliest experiences with the truly gourmet happened at Trumps and during this decade.

trumps plantains with caviarThough the restaurant came to define the 80s, nothing lasts forever. Trumps quickly closed shop about 1992 when the chef decided he had had enough. I was lucky enough to be treated to a (unknowingly) final meal there right before they closed the doors for good.

Well, I am going to breath new life into a classic Trumps appetizer. I am bringing back a simple Canapé of plantains and caviar with a black bean puree. This appetizer is really just a creative new look at the classic blini, with caviar. But the bold flavors, combined in a very confident and unusual manner, were what made this dish so fresh and provocative.

Plantains with Caviar and Black Beans

serves 6 CLICK here for printable recipe

  • 1 c salad oil, or enough to fill a medium skillet to a depth of 1 inch
  • 3 medium-size plantains, peeled and diagonally cut into 1/2 inch slices
  • 4 heaped tablespoons sour cream or crème fraiche
  • 4 heaped tablespoons black bean puree (recipe below)
  • 2 T of black caviar
  • 2 T of golden caviar
  • 1⁄2 medium red onion, finely sliced tip to root
  • 1 large carrot, roughly diced (about 1 cup)
  • 1 medium onion, roughly diced (about 1/2 cup)
  • 1 small ham hock ( 3 ounces)
  • 1⁄2 c dried black beans
  • 1 sprig of thyme or 1/2 teaspoon of dried
  • 2 c water


Heat oil in a medium skillet over medium heat to 375 degrees. Add plantain slices, in batches if necessary, without crowding the skillet. Fry until lightly golden, about two minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon and repeat until all slices are fried. Using the side of a cleaver or large chefs knife, gently flatten the slices to a thickness of 3/8 inch. (Can be prepared to this point up to 8 hours in advance and kept covered on a plate at room temperature.) Re-fry slices until golden, another 2–3 minutes. Remove with slotted spoon and drain on paper towels.

To serve, arrange 3 to 4 plantain slices on each plate. Spoon sour cream, black bean puree, and black and golden caviar over slices. Garnish with slices of red onion.

Cook carrot, onion, ham hock, black beans, thyme and water in a small pot over low heat, covered until beans are soft, 1 to 1 1/2 hours. Drain. Discard ham hock and any water.

Puree beans in a processer until smooth, with slight chunks. Prepare beans no more than one day in advance. Reheat, in the top of a double-boiler for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.


Greg Henry