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Molecular Fusion and a Night on the Town

Destination: Jaco

I could think of no better way to wrap up this vacation than a peaceful yoga session contrasted by a night on the town. I arrived at Hotel Doce Lunas for Bikram yoga at 5:00 p.m. Also known as "hot yoga," Bikram classes are held in a room heated to 105 degrees Fahrenheit with 40% humidity. Under normal circumstances, the last thing I need is additional warmth in Costa Rica -- but today I was excited for the lesson and its incredible cleansing properties.

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However, this was not meant to be. The Bikram teacher was on vacation, so a substitute would be giving class in asana-flow style. The less strenuous session suited me just as well. My body ached from the week's physically demanding adventure tours, and I was tired.

An hour and a half of stretching later, I was revived and ready for dinner at the Marriott's Nuevo Latino, or New Latin. The restaurant's specialty is novel in any part of the world, but particularly here in Costa Rica. Inspired by the famous El Bulli restaurant in Barcelona, Nuevo Latino features molecular gastronomy: a cooking style focused on producing interesting food textures with scientific processes and chemical reactions -- like flash freezing, foaming and frothing. Xavier (pronounced "Sah-vee-air"), manager at The Marriott Los Suenos, joined me for a culinary escapade.

Everything about the food and atmosphere at Nuevo Latino was colorful and entertaining. Even the dishes' names are creative, playfully bouncing off the tongue when said aloud. To start, Xavier ordered an avocado and lobster tower with orange chipotle dressing, along with a suspension of mussel ceviche with mint and citrus calypso. As if this weren't enough, we also ordered a leek and potato cold cream soup topped with cheese foam and gold powder. Yes -- it was topped with gold powder.

After putting a sizeable dent in the appetizers, the chef personally brought us a basket of homemade bread and whipped butter. He invited me back to the kitchen to observe his culinary genius -- but on one condition. I had to wear a goofy hairnet. (It was worth it.) Behind the scenes, I watched him assemble the plate of filet mignon I had ordered as an entree. He then concocted watermelon caviar using various flasks and liquids in eyedroppers.

Back at the table, our meals had arrived. Although they tasted wonderful, they were just precursors to what really blew me away: dessert. Following the maitre de's recommendation, I ordered the "chocolate sphere perfumed with tangerine, stuffed with soursop, watermelon sauce and Cointreau liquor ice cream." It, too, was sprinkled with flecks of gold. The hard chocolate exterior needed a solid bang to crack it open, and inside was a delicate key-limed flavored cloud with a hint of almond.

After that first bite, I took a moment of stunned silence to really appreciate what I had tasted. It was phenomenal! I did not let one bite of the confection go to waste. The entire meal was so filling that it tided me over until supper the next day.

Afterward, I returned to Jaco to meet up with my Chicagoan friends, Katie and Peter. The three of us went out on the town, scoping out major highlights like Bar Riveria, Ganesha Lounge and Club Plankton. We finally ended up at Monkey Bar, which had pool tables and wonderful dance music (the DJ was a great sport, playing all the songs we requested). We stayed until the early hours of the morning, when it really got packed. At one point the bouncer guessed my age and was off by five years --in the wrong direction. He sent us a free round of drinks as an apology, and then we returned to the hotel.

And that was how I said farewell to Jaco. I had made scores of new friends and acquaintances, experienced dozens of activities and finally stayed awake late enough to experience the city's legendary nightlife. Without a shadow of a doubt, every aspect of my holiday in Jaco was a complete success.

Molecular Fusion and a Night on the Town in Pictures

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