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(506) 223-1327        Published Wednesday, Feb. 13, 2008, in Vol. 8, No. 31            E-mail us
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Maine politician tapped to be new ambassador here
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

In a surprise move, President George Bush nominated a politician from Maine to be the new U.S. ambassador to Costa Rica Tuesday.

The nominee is Peter E. Cianchette, a partner at CHK Capital Partners, LLC., according to the White House. He was the 2002 Republican candidate for governor in Maine but lost to John E. Baldacci, a Democrat.

The former ambassador, Mark Langdale, left the post last month to become the head of the Bush Library in Texas. He is a Texan. Typically ambassadorial appointments to Costa Rica are political in nature. Appointments to more demanding locales generally are made from the professional State Department staff.

Cianchette also served as a state legislator in Maine from 1996 to 2000 and is one of the state's representatives on the Republican National Committee. He also was the state chairman for the Bush campaign in his state in 2004.

The nominee also served as president of the Cianchette Group. Earlier in his career, he served as chief operating officer and executive vice president at Pierce Atwood Consulting, said the White House. Cianchette received his bachelor's degree from the University of Maine, the White House said.

Earlier Bush appointed Cianchette to the Internal Revenue Service Oversight Board. His term is to expire in 2010, but he would resign if he were confirmed as ambassador.

When Cianchette served in the Maine legislature
new ambassador
Peter E. Cianchette
he represented a section of the  Cape Elizabeth community.

Many in Costa Rica and at the embassy expected the post to stay vacant, particularly since the United States has presidential elections scheduled for November. Politically appointed ambassadors serve at the will of the president. Of course, Cianchette, who must be approved by the U.S. Senate, could continue as ambassador if a Republican is elected in November.

Melissa Guzmán samples the fragrance of one of the family's  many, many roses. This one is the Papa Meilland variety.
Melissa smells a rose
A.M. Costa Rica/Anne Clark

Growers working hard to ease rose shortage impact
By Anne Clark
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Red roses are a meaningful gift any day of the year, but giving them on Feb. 14 makes them extra-special.  This Valentine's Day, however, roses
rose couple at farm
Miss Guzmán and fiancé David Karr may hold  their wedding reception
at Solo Rosas.
are at a premium.  The weather has hit hard at the independent rose farms this year, making the rose crops smaller than normal.

Solo Rosas in Llano Grande de Cartago is one such farm.  With 300 varieties of roses,  the grounds are like a conservatory.  The operation grows both potted roses and pruned roses for traditional bouquets.  The company sells roses on-site and distributes them to flower markets all over the Central
Valley.  At Valentine's Day, the red rose is the most desireable.

“With the problems with the weather, we have half the production we had before,” said owner Martin Guzmán.  “All the rose producers have the same problem because roses are so sensitive.  This year will be difficult to find red roses.”

“If it's too cloudy or too cold, the plant won't produce the flower, just stems and leaves,” added his assistant and daughter, Melissa Guzmán. The workers at the farm prune the rose bushes in mid-November to create blooms in early February.  
They also prune to provide ample roses for Costa Rican Mother's Day in August.

During poor seasons in the past, Solo Rosas has imported roses from Ecuador.  Employees maintain that that will not be the case this year, even though the farm sold 5,000 dozen roses last year.

“This Valentine's Day, we are going to sell 2,000 dozen.  In a normal week, we harvest 1,000 dozen. There will be 30,000 dozen roses bought in all of Costa Rica.  We sell everything we have for Valentine's Day. We never say we're not selling.  If you have 5,000, 10,000, you sell it,” Guzmán emphasized.

Prices for bouquets and individual roses always are marked up significantly for the holiday for lovers, whether there is a rose shortage or not.  Solo Rosas increases its wholesale price per dozen by 500 colons ($1) to vendors, who, in turn, mark the price up 7,000 colons ($14) more. 

Interested parties, in love or otherwise, can visit Solo Rosas and save a good bit of money.  “We have 1,000 dozen available here for people to buy,” Ms. Guzmán said.  “If you come here and want to buy one dozen, we sell it for 3,000.  The same dozen in San Jose is between 8,000 to 15,000,” she said.  Rose buyers can save between $10 and $24 buying direct from the farmers.

The price of love in the United States, on the other hand, is significantly steeper.  1-800-FLOWERS offers an “Abundant Love Bundle,” featuring a dozen roses, a teddy bear and some chocolates for $99.99. 

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Bandits invade dwelling
of ex-police school head

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Police have arrested four men suspected of robbing the Santa Ana house of the former director of the national police school Tuesday, according to officials.

Four armed men entered the house of Cólon Bermúdez Tuesday morning, and tied up him and a friend, said Roy Chavarría, captain of Fuerza Pública in Santa Ana.

Police arrived at the scene in Alto de las Palomas as the robbers were gathering up a computer and other valuables, said Chavarría. “They were behind a curtain trying to leave,” said Chavarría. Police arrested two suspects on the scene, one of whom, was a 14-year old boy. Two persons hid inside of the house and later escaped, according to officials.

One of the robbers shot a private security guard in the foot when he tried to call for police, said a Fuerza Pública official. The guard, Elvis Barrantes, went to hospital México, said authorities. He was released because the bullet did not hit any bones, said Chavarría.

Two hours after the robbery, police detained two more suspects, said Chavarría. The suspects arrested in the house were last names, Rodríguez Amador, 23 and Barboza Murillo, 14. A third suspect is in a clinic after being shot in the hand, said Chavarría.

The other names have not yet been released. A total of 12 police from the Escazú and Santa Ana units were at the scene, said Chavarría.

Bermúdez is well known in law enforcement circles and has been an adviser to officials at the Ministerio de Gobernación, Policía y Seguridad Pública.

Business leaders optimistic
about economy this year

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Costa Rican business people are optimistic about the remainder of the year. They expect that they will create more jobs when and if the free trade treaty with the United States comes into force.

This is the finding of a panel study of employers by the  Unión de Costarricense de Cámaras y Asociaciones del Sector Empresarial Privado.

The index of confidence came in at 7.7 out of a possible 10, said the organization. This says that the persons surveyed expect that their businesses will do as well in the future as they have in the past, said the organization.

The survey was done during the early weeks of January. It is a panel study because the same 400 respondents are questioned each time the survey is taken. They are distributed by size of company and location in Costa Rica, according to a summary of the survey's methodology.

The business leaders assessed the fourth quarter of 2007 at 7.16 when compared with the same period in 2006, said the survey.

Some 53 percent of those surveyed said they were planning to increase the investment in their business.

However, the business leaders in the survey cited difficulty in obtaining mid-level technicians and university professionals as employers.

Paquera ferry operators
plan protest at docks

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Paquera group that operates the Ferry Peninsula plans a protest at the docks in Puntarenas tonight against what it terms the monopoly of its competitor, Naviera Tambor.

Naviera Tambor now has the exclusive right to operate its two ferries between Puntarenas and Paquera on the Nicoya Peninsula. The Sala I of the Corte de Justicia Jan. 31 ordered the Asociación de Desarrollo Integral de Paquera to stop running its ferry.

The association said at the time this decision would affect the income for 60 families in Paquera. It estimated it would lose 46 million colons (about $92,000) a month.

Naviera Tambor won a concession in March 2007 after a public offering, but the Paquera association prevailed on the Ministerio de Obras Públicas y Transportes to allow it to continue with the third ferry as a temporary measure.

The event tonight is from 6 to 10 p.m.

Robbery suspect detained
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Investigators arrested a suspect accused of robbing numerous pedestrians in Pavas, said officials.

The suspect, José Garbanzo Rodríguez, 24, was arrested Tuesday morning in his home in Finca San Juan, said officials. The Judicial Investigation Organization said they have been investigating the case for months.

In numerous incidents a man pointed a gun at pedestrians and then robbed them of all their belongings, primarily in central Pavas, said officials. One case involved two men who robbed 6 million colons ($12,000) from a citizen as he was leaving a bank.

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Are you ready to try some real chili for charity?
By Anne Clark
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Hot or not, meaty or vegan, spicy or with beans, chili is all kinds of delicious.  Kay Costello has organized an opportunity to taste many varieties at her second annual Chili Cook-Off Competition Feb. 24 in Atenas.

Last year, more than 100 people showed up to judge 10 samplings.  “Last year's champion and second placer are both in this year's competition, plus two others from last year,” Ms. Costello said.  Only seven contestants have signed up so far, but the competition is expected to be sizzling. 

The Chili Cook-Off is a benefit for Hogar de Vida, a children's orphanage in Atenas.  It costs 3,000 colons ($6) to get in, sample the chili and vote for a favorite.  All cover charges are donated to Hogar de Vida.  “The kids need all the help they can get.  The orphanage takes up to 30 children and they range in age from infant to 10 years old.  You can sponsor a child for $30 a month,” said Ms. Costello.

 “I'm 60 and my husband is 77 and we're doing this for the little kids who need help.”   The couple run Kay's Gringo Postres in Atenas.

Last year's cook-off totaled $460 for the orphanage, but there was only a 1,000-colon cover charge.  This year, the Costellos are hoping to at least double attendance and profits. 

Ms. Costello is still debating what prizes to award the first, second and third place winners.  “Last year, we gave pots and pans and knives.  I haven't made up my mind for this year because the girl that won last year is here again, so I can't give the same thing because she 
hot chili mouth

might win,” Ms. Costello explained.  “Maybe a salad set
this year, maybe a chili pot.  Whatever the prizes are they lean towards cooking and kitchen stuff.” 

There is also a booby prize for the worst chili in the competition, so chefs could shoot for that, if worse comes to worse.  Prizes are purchased with the chef's entry fees. 

Raffles will auction off Spanish and English classes, pilates classes and dinner for two.  The event is BYOB, but soda will be sold.

Readers who think they are packing heat can prepare two gallons and come up with a 3,000-colon chef's entry fee.  Then they can show up to Finca Escondito around noon. Tasters will arrive around 1 p.m.  Registrations are with Ms. Costello at 373-3629.  She is accepting chili registration entries until Thursday.  The venue has a pool, so those who can't handle the heat can cool off.

FBI says an animal rights bombing suspect might be here
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A man accused of bombing two corporate offices in the United States, is presumed to be hiding in Costa Rica, the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation said Tuesday.

The man, Daniel Andreas San Diego, 38 is a U.S. citizen described as an extreme animal rights activist and also a skilled computer technician. The U. S. government is offering a $250,000 reward for information leading to his arrest. The FBI did not say why agents suspected San Diego to be in Costa Rica.

San Diego, is accused of bombing Chiron, an international corporation that specializes in blood transfusion research, in August 2003 in Emeryville, California. The first bomb went off in the main entrance of the Chiron building, and a second bomb was found shortly before most officials arrived at the scene. It is possible that the second bomb was intended to kill the firemen and police as they arrived at the scene, said the FBI report. The area was evacuated however, and no one was injured in the incident.

In September, 2003, a single bomb strapped with nails exploded at the Shaklee Corp., located in Pleasanton, California. The bomb was covered in shrapnel, most likely to inflict extreme injuries and damage, said the FBI report. Shaklee makes biodegradable cleaning products and describe themselves as a part of a movement for a healthier planet.

Both Chiron and Shaklee have been targets of animal rights groups because of their apparent links to Huntingdon Life Sciences, a research firm that uses animals for testing, according to a Dec. 5, 2003, report in, the online news source of the San Francisco Chronicle.

The FBI linked him to San Diego to an alleged international network of animal rights extremists, the publication said, noting that San Diego vanished in October of 2003. He has been a fugitive since that time because an FBI surveillance team lost him.

Officials say it is quite possible that San Diego is working
Two views of fugitive San diego
FBI photos
Two views of Daniel Andreas San Diego

and living in Costa Rica. He most likely associates and works with other English speakers, said FBI officials, since he did not speak Spanish before he left the United States. He is a strict vegan and has numerous tattoos including a circle on his chest which has a picture of flames and the inscription, "It only takes a spark," a black and white image of burning collapsed towers on his left abdomen, burning towers on his lower back, and a leafless tree on his upper back. He possesses a 9 mm handgun and is considered armed and dangerous, according to the FBI.

San Diego is considered a terrorist, as such he is fair game for overseas surveillance as specified in the USA Patriot Act, and one source believes it is likely that U.S. law enforcement intercepted a telephone call from San Diego in Costa Rica to friends or family in the United States.

San Diego shares his place on the FBI's Web site, with César Armando Laurean, a former Marine wanted for his alleged involvement in the killing of Maria Lauterbach. Lauterbach, 20, was a Marine who was pregnant at the time of her murder in North Carolina. The remains of Lauterbach and her unborn baby were found in a shallow grave in the backyard of Laurean's Jacksonville home, according to the FBI Web site. Recent news reports say that witnesses saw Laurean in Mexico, but he may have moved further south.

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Venezuela's oil company to cut sales to ExxonMobil over freezing of assets
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Venezuela's state-run oil company has announced it is cutting crude sales to ExxonMobil, the largest U.S. oil company, because of Exxon's efforts to seize Venezuelan assets.

Petroleos de Venezuela said in a statement Tuesday its move is retaliation for what it calls ExxonMobil's economic harassment.

ExxonMobil has not yet responded to Venezuela's decision.

British and Dutch courts last week granted ExxonMobil's demand to freeze as much as $12 billion in Venezuelan oil assets.
The company is challenging Venezuela's decision to nationalize a large oil project in which ExxonMobil had a large financial stake. The petroleum giant is pressing its case in the International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes, a World Bank affiliate.

Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez has threatened to cut off oil sales to the U.S. if the court decision freezing the assets is upheld on appeal.

But a senior Venezuelan oil official Bernard Mommer said Tuesday Chávez is unlikely to carry out his threat, saying it would be costly for both countries.

The United States is Venezuela's biggest crude oil customer.

Importance of digital information stressed by coordinator of legal resources
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Traditional libraries are losing their central role in disseminating information as the world goes digital, an American law librarian said while speaking in the Centro Cultural Costarricense Norteamericano's rather traditional Biblioteca Mark Twain Monday.

Costa Rican lawmakers and librarians gathered in the San Pedro building to listen to Janice Hyde speak about the importance of the Global Legal Information Network.

The resource is an online database of laws and judicial decisions gathered from 49 countries scattered across the globe, and translated into 13 languages, aimed at making a worldwide information network that is relevant to a globalized world. Almost every Spanish-speaking country in the world is included in the database.

Costa Rica joined the network in 2003, and won the model station award two years later for diligence in uploading the country's laws and keeping the legal information up to date.
Ms. Hyde, the information network program coordinator, said that librarians' traditional skills and preoccupations with collecting information, such as an emphasis on reliability of resources and diligence in keeping the library up to date, are still very important.

Cooperation between counties is essential, she said, as the sources and varieties of information available to us become more abundant. People will increasingly expect to be able to access all information, however technical, online, rather than going to a library to find paper-based records.

The database can be accessed through the address

The Corte Suprema de Justicia, the Procuraduría General de la República and the Asamblea Legislativa are involved in an agreement that united these three branches of government, legislative, judicial and executive, into a program to strengthen the information network in Costa Rica.

The network is based here in the legislative complex.

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Season tickets go on sale for symphony lovers
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Costa Rica's leading orchestra fills the Teatro Nacional with classical music from March through to December, and season tickets are now on sale for those who do not want to miss any of the Orquesta Sinfónica Nacional's performances.

Under Chosei Komatsu's dedicated baton, the orchestra will interpret works by hoards of renowned composers, from Beethoven, Chopin and Shostakovich to Mendelssohn, Tchaikovsky and Liszt. Modern musical talents will also feature, with soloists from around the world flying in to join the orchestra during the program of 12 concerts.

World-class violinist Ilya Kaler joins the orchestra in June to play Wagner's Faust Overture, and works by Prokofiev and Strauss. Russian Kaler is the only violinist to have ever won gold medals at three of the world's most important music competitions - the Tchaikovsky, the Sibelius and the Paganini competitions.

Greek pianist  Maria Asteriadou plays the second concert, scheduled for April 4 and 6, and Brazilian oboist Washington Barella continues the international line-up in November.

Other organisations to contribute to the program include the Coro Sinfónico Nacional, a group of amateur singers from all walks of life which will sing with the orchestra on three occasions, and the Spanish Embassy, which will colaborate in the organisation of the eighth concert.

This concert will be played in September, and contain works
such as 'España' by Chabrier, and 'Rapsodia Española' by Ravel.

The Coro Sinfónico has chosen a couple of challenging pieces, including Rossini's 'Stabat Mater', which they have not performed for more than 20 years.

They will also perform Mozart's 'Missa in D minor', which the groups director has called 'a difficult pieces, but very interesting, demonstrating all the genius of Mozart.

The Rossini will be presented on June 20 and 22, while the Mozart appears on Oct. 24 and 26.

The program starts March 7 with a performance by Gabriel Cabezas, a chellist who lives in America but has Costa Rican ancestry.

She will be playing Tchaikovsky's Capriccio Italien, Dvorák's Concerto in C minor and Brahms' Symphony Number One, starting at 7 p.m. in Teatro Nacional. A repeat performance is on March 9 at 5 p.m.

Some soloist spots are yet to be announced, but season tickets are now on sale and will be until Friday. They can be found at the Centro Nacional de la Musica in Moravia, and the price includes a 15% discount.

This makes season tickets for all 12 concerts fall within the range of 30,600 colons to 91,800 colons ($61.20-183.60), depending on the seat chosen. Subscribers with the orchestra can also get 15 percent discounts on individual concert tickets.

Art Galleries ....

Rembrandt exhibition opens to high acclaim in downtown San José

Rembrandt etching
Hailed as the most important exhibition of the year, a collection of the Dutch master Rembrandt's etchings opened amid much praise Thursday.

The 48 etchings usually reside in Amsterdam's Rembrandt House Museum, where the artist lived for about 20 years from 1620-40. They were collaboratively chosen from a wider collection by Dora Maria Sequiera, the director of Museos del Banco Central and Ed de Heer, the director of the Rembrandt House Museum.

Although now better known for his marvelous paintings that capture intense emotion, facial expression, and deeply contrasted light and shadow, the etchings that are now on show in San José are considered by art buffs to be just as important.

“Rembrandt was the most influential and original etchers possibly of all time,” said de Heer. “He is a shining beacon because he changed etching from a reproductive medium to a fully fledged artistic medium.

“He used all sorts of different techniques to get all the possibilities out of the medium — he printed on copper plate, parchment, even sheepskin to make luxurious editions of prints. He didn't want any two to be the same.”

Read more - click here

Chicken suits, foot photos brought to Galeria Nacional by art colony residents

nancy ennisThose with a sharp eye who look closely at Nancy Ennis' collages will find a man in a chicken costume haunting each one.

In some, he is the main focus of the piece, and in others he is as invisible as a smudge behind a layer of material.

“One of my kids gave me this photo of their Dad when younger,” said Mrs. Ennis, as she pointed out the eerie figure, standing amid her as-yet unhung exhibition in the Galeria Nacional. “I like it because my ex-husband was a very funny man, although very irresponsible.”

Mrs. Ennis, an American who lives in New Jersey, has been creating artwork on Costa Rican soil for the last six weeks, working in a private artists colony in Ciudad Colon.

She is one of several dozen who seek out Costa Rica's tropical climes each year to spend a residency in the Julia and David White Artists' Colony.

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Imagen V show has a few gems but a pack of clinkers, too

videoartshowNew media art is always a bit hit and miss with the potential to come across as a foundationless piece of pretension if it is not done well.

The Bienal Iberoamericana Inquieta Imagen V, a competition for video artists from across Latin America, is a good example of this, containing a few pieces that engage well with the subject and make the most of their medium, but many that leave the viewer cold.

Most of the works are video projections, some as short as a pistol shot and the flight of birds and some as long as a didactic letter that teaches about identity, isolation and fuschia flowers.

Read more - click here

Exhibit condemning illegal fishing would be better elsewhere

For a while now, a large marquee has been standing outside the Museo de Arte y Diseño Contemporaneo in San José.

In it hangs what has variously been described as an enormous bee hive, a throwback to sixties glow lamps or a swarm of schooling fish.

The last explanation is the one that the artists propound. Huge, blue, glowing and transparent, the structure extends almost four meters down from the ceiling, nearly equaling its height with its width. It tapers towards the end, putting one in mind of a chrysalis, and its outside is made totally of clear nylon wires.

Read more - click here

Mistaken identity? No such thing, says new exhibition

historiaoficialCosta Rica is a land of volatile volcanoes, orchids, coffee fincas, Catholicism and Ticos.

Or you could say it's a country of wide seashores, football stadiums, fast food restaurants and beach towns overtaken by Gringos.

Some are clichéd symbols of a tourist nation, while others are part of the country's changing culture, but all are involved in Museo de Arte Costarricense's new exhibition that challenges viewers to reconsider their own perceptions of the nation.

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Festivals ...

Puntarenas Carnaval a mix of the traditional and the modern

If you didn't know otherwise, you could be forgiven for thinking that Puntarenas Carnival is largely about scantily clad ladies fighting it out to be crowned queen of the show.

However, the organisers claim that the carnaval tradition that will fill Puntarenas with people dressed in luminous feathers, steel bands, and brightly-coloured dancers, has roots that go back for thousands of years, to pagan celebrations of Baco, the God of wine.

Over time the carnaval has become related to Christian tradition, the date changing with that of the Easter week, and always falling around the time that Lent begins.

Back in Medieval times, games, dances and a lot of banqueting was the indulgence to get people prepared for lent, before it was placed under strict prohibition by King Carlos I of Spain in 1523, and not restored until the reign of Felipe IV who came to the throne in 1605.

The tradition has certainly revived itself effectively, with carnavals now taking place all over the globe, and the Puntarenas Carnaval is Costa Rica's grandest party of the year.

2008's crowned carnival queen, chosen from a line-up of 10 girls in stringy bikinis, will parade through the streets to start off the celebrations on Feb. 14.

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Mini-mall comes to the rescue of the not-rich-but-hungry

food court

For those in the know, there is a clean, affordable, relatively quiet gastronomic surprise off the pedestrian mall in downtown San Jose.  Between Arenas clothing store and the Patio Restaurant, behind a perfume counter and a Pops Ice Cream sits a food court without a McDonald's, Wendy's, Subway or Church's Chicken in sight. 

Tropical Food is a counter selling relatively healthy food.  While their batidos aren't as delicious as the ones found at FrutiLand in Mall San Pedro, the water-or-milk-
blended-with-fruit drink is a refreshing treat to carry during your walk along Avenida Central.  A batido with the fruit of your choice mixed with water costs 650 colons, with milk, 750 colons.  That's from $1.30 to $1.50.

Adding honey or granola takes you up to a still-reasonable 900 colons ($1.80).  The store also peddles fruit salads, ranging from 700 to 1.600 colons ($1.40 to $3.20).

Marisqueria produces delicious looking and smelling seafood dishes.  A customer-friendly hanging chalkboard lists their menu and respective prices.  A small corvina ceviche will set you back 1,950 colons ($3.90).  Get a small rice with shrimp for 2.150 colons ($4.30), 2,800 ($5.60) for a larger serving.  Or try one of the fish filets prepared several different ways, the cheapest being with oil and garlic for 2,600 ($5.20) colons, the priciest fish filet dish is 3,600 colons ($7.20) for relleno with ham and cheese.

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Festive season proves troublesome even for established restaurant

vealBeing a chef in a busy kitchen must be a pretty stressful job, but around Christmas stress is something any successful restaurant should factor in as inevitable.

On a second visit to well-reputed French restaurant Le Chandelier, it soon became obvious that the staff were poorly equipped for the onslaught of Christmas party diners on a Tuesday night, leaving the usually decent food to deteriorate into a procession of almost inedible starters and bland entrees.

Set in an old San Pedro house with brick ceilings and wooden beams that was converted into a restaurant around 15 years ago by Swiss owner Claude Dubuis, Le Chandelier purports to offer French cuisine that has been developed over generations of experience.

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A great meal is not all in the presentation

musslesandfondue120407With a vaulted glass ceiling, palm trees lining the pathway and posh lighting, one would not expect Saga restaurant to be settled behind a dull parking lot in Escazú.

Although this restaurant may look out of place, it doesn't deviate much from the norm in Escazú, an area many would classify as suburban sprawl.

The majority of the cuisine at Saga seems to fit with the setting: classy presentation, yet lacking any profound flavors. Although the restaurant boasts itself as an “international food restaurant” on its Web site, much of the inspired cuisine is lacking the depth which would be found in authentic dishes.

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Dramatic Arts...

Sunny days in San José complemented by free concerts

MAFconcert The hot dry days are being put to good cultural use by the Museos del Banco Central with a series of outdoor concerts in the middle of the downtown area.

Hundreds of shoppers stopped to lean over the balcony in Plaza de la Cultura Saturday, when the Costa Rican singer MAF and her band played a sunny set of pop tunes outside the doors of the museum.

Although the series is named 'Conciertos en las gradas', fewer people sat to on the steps outside the Museo de Oro than stood around the edges, looking down at the stage.

Onlookers were enthusiastic about the music, in spite of the singer's annoying lack of the ability to dance. She has recently released her debut album, Viaje Cosmico, for which she was recognised as 2007's revelationary interpretive artist by Costa Rica's music association, Asociacion de Compositores y Autores Musicales de Costa Rica. 

An alternative offering of rock trip-hop is up next on Feb. 9 at 2 p.m., played by group Parque en el espacio. The band recorded a live CD in San Pedro's Jazz Café during 2006, called Hello Hello.

Miriam Jaraquín and Blues Latino will bring piano and accordion, flute and saxophone to the stage at midday on March 2., with an acoustic jazzy sound.

The final concert of the series will be on March 29., with trio Villegas playing some classic Spanish rock from 2 p.m.

Cultural prizes handed out to 2007's cream of the crop

Premio Magón

maria eugenia dengoA woman who devoted her life to the improvement of Costa Rica's education system was yesterday announced as the winner of 2007's Premio Nacional de Cultura Magón.

María Eugenia Dengo started out by introducing new subjects and professions to the Universidad de Costa Rica in the early 70s, and moved on to such respected positions as minister of Educación Pública and UNESCO regional coordinator for Latin America and the Caribbean.

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National Culture Prizes

Hot on the heels of the Premio Cultural Magón winner have come the announcements of the numerous other national culture prize winners.

María Elena Carballo, minister of Cultura y Juventud, read out the long list of Premios Nacional de la Cultura 2007 Tuesday, in a conference at the Centro Nacional de la Cultura.

Along with the prizes for national theater, music, dance and literature, came two presented by the minister of Ciencia y Tecnología, Eugenia Flores.

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Books ...

Land use in Costa Rica documented by Fulbright scholar

Forty years of living in the jungle, moving between secluded forestry stations and research labs, has led Louisiana resident and NASA veteran
Armond Joyce
Armond Joyce
Armond Joyce to write a book about the changing uses of land in Costa Rica.

After winning a presitgious Fulbright scholarship in 1998, he came back to Costa Rica to revisit forest sites that he worked on over three decades earlier as a graduate student. 

Some of the earliest satellite technology available was used in 1966 to take arial photographs of Costa Rica's countryside, and the
book compares these black and white shots with up-to-date images.

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New book dwells on the social aspects of food

Food is not just a selfish pleasure or a way to stifle hunger, but is central to the evolution of art, according to a new book published by Museos del Banco Central.

Artworks by Costa Rican painters are the main content of the hardback book, “Imagenes para Comer,” which follows the representation of food in art since still life painting became popular in the Renaissance.

Full-color pictures of both traditional and modern works are far more common than recipes, as the author Marjorie Ross only provides seven recipes within the book.

All are traditional Costa Rican dishes showing influences from different sections of the community, such as corn fritters, white beans and chorizo and fruit salad.

The book focuses on the meanings that food has within society, and how these are portrayed by art.

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There is a lot to be said for 'limping in' on a hand
Common wisdom in Texas hold’em suggests that you should raise before the flop if you’re planning to play a hand.  The saying goes, “Raise or fold,” but is that correct?  Well, it’s not the worst advice but limiting yourself to one of these two options would be a mistake.

Limping in — entering a pot by calling rather than raising -— is more complicated than raise-or-fold poker because you’ll end up playing more hands.  Also, it’s difficult to put players on a hand when they’re in the pot without making a pre-flop raise.  The big blind, for example, could have any two cards.  Trying to determine his hand can be very tricky.

In certain situations, the best players in the world will limp in rather than raise to disguise the strength of their hands.  Follow these guidelines to add this deceptive tactic to your game, too.

Limp to set a trap in aggressive games

Trap plays work best when there’s lots of raising before the flop and other players have already limped in.

You’ll need to have a premium hand to set the trap, something like pocket aces or kings, or maybe A-K.  Then, call rather than raise, and hope that an overly aggressive player behind you will interpret your limp as a sign of weakness. 

If the trap works and he does try to bully you with a raise, go ahead and re-raise when the action returns to you.

If the trap fails and no one raises before the flop, proceed cautiously because you’ll have no idea what cards your opponents might have.  Any flop could give any player two pair or better.  You’d even have to consider folding your pocket aces if the action gets too heavy after the flop.

When setting a trap, be careful not to get trapped yourself.
Limp from the small blind

The small blind is the worst position to play from after the flop.  At the same time, since you already have half the bet in the pot, it’s usually correct to call the other half of the bet.

An interesting situation occurs, though, when you find yourself in the small blind versus the big blind, with everyone else out of the hand.  Too many players in this scenario make 

the mistake of thinking, “Only one blind left, this should be an easy blind to steal.”

In fact, this is probably the toughest blind to steal because thebig blind will suspect larceny.  Even more important, you’ll be out of position throughout the entire hand.  Playing from the small blind, your goal should be to minimize losses rather than to try to bully a player who has the power of position.

Limp in first to change the pace of the game

Sometimes you’ll feel that the game is too aggressive pre-flop, making it difficult for you to outplay your opponents post-flop.  In these situations, you can slow the pace of the game by limping in first, hoping that other players will adopt your style of play.  This tactic works particularly well if you’re a solid player with strong hand reading skills.

Limp behind other limpers

Your choices are definitely not limited to raising or folding after other players have limped into the pot.  Say that two players have already limped in and you’re holding pocket threes.  In this case, limping in to see a cheap flop is the best approach.

While limping in isn’t a tactic for everyone, the play definitely enhances poker deception.  That’s because the more willing you are to shift gears, the tougher it will be for your opponents to get an accurate read on you.
Visit for information about Daniel Negreanu’s new book, "Hold’em Wisdom for All Players."
© 2008 Card Shark Media.  All rights reserved.

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