bi-weekly print & online magazine
for Roatan, Utila & Guanaja

island homes
Foster Diaz built the mango tree house as a place to get away and meditate. He undertook the project with a friend, Gene Holms; after two months of work, the tree house was ready. It was 1983 and the young owner didn't mind climbing the tree house with a rope. The tree house is carried by one of three main trunks of a mango tree. The tree was planted 120 years ago by the great grandfather of Foster Diaz.
Building the little hotel and a tree house, on then quiet West Bay beach, was like planting a stake for Foster. He was going to keep the land that his father and grandfather owned. Eventually, Foster became the only black person that didn't sell his West Bay beach property. "It's easy to sell. (…) The key is to find a way to live off the land you own," says Foster.
Built with pressure treated pine, the house uses a minimum of nails. Foster's father requested that the mango tree was not to be scarred. The four foot diameter tree sits 150 feet from the water. The site used to be that of a sugar cane mill Foster's grandfather, Christopher, operated. There is still sugarcane nearby, but little else in West Bay remains as it was 30 years ago. "I sometimes still go there to meditate," says Foster. There is a lot of privacy 45 feet above the beach, and for that reason alone, the tree house is often chosen for a honeymoon getaway.
The 14 foot by 16 foot structure is suspended 45 feet above ground. Screened windows are at all sides of the room. Two corners accommodate a shower and a sink and there is even a small balcony. The breeze keeps the house cool and birds songs wake you up in the morning. Foster resisted the idea of putting air conditioning in it. Hurricane Mitch did little damage to the structure, but in 1997 the tree house was remodeled: electricity, plumbing and stairs were put in. Now electrical wire, PVC pipe for water and waste meander through the trunks of the mango tree.
Some houses are like their owner's lives; tree houses are more like their owner's souls. Tree houses are statements of the mind reflecting the dreams of their builders. They are expressions of their owner's childhood dreams. Their design isn't always practical, or even beautiful, but they often are a realization of a vision the person had as a child: to live up from the ground, in their own, separate world.
Working in collaboration with the architects, the owners of this West Bay Beach home experimented with a variety of hardwoods and stone. Architects Maria Eugenia Toro and Roberto Laps from Tegucigalpa helped in conceptualizing a vision of a low-lying house profile surrounded and shaded by palm trees and fruit trees. It is like living in a wooden mosaic of a garden. The entire floor plan is built around a swimming pool and a patio accessible from the four sides of the house.
Maria Elena San Martin created a mosaic at the beach entrance to the house. Each bathroom is decorated with tiles inspired by water themes.
For Cheryl and Julio Galindo, there were several pre-requisites in designing their third home on the island: no stairs and a goal of using as many materials native to Honduras as possible. A vision that wasn't realized was a tower serving as the dominating feature of the 6,400 square foot house.
Throughout the house, 20 hardwoods native to Honduras were used for floors, cabinets, decorative trims and furniture. There are the typical hardwoods as mahogany, cedar, teak and cypress and the much less common redondo or rosalia.
Kitchen counter-tops are from granite cut and polished in Honduras. The stone floors of the patios and pool areas provide a contrast to the warmth of the untreated hardwoods.
"The only thing that we imported were the windows and roofing material," says Julio Galindo. The Anderson windows and "hardy shakes" (a mixture of concrete and asphalt) proved to be very resistant to the moisture and salt of the sea, just a 300' from the house.
With all the children living independently, the house serves as retreat and provides an environment to pursue passions: collecting sculpture and paintings for Cheryl Galindo and researching palm and fruit trees.
While Cheryl Galindo took charge of the house, Julio Galindo's interests focused on the garden and 47 acres of grounds surrounding it. The garden is extensive with a collection of over 100 types of palm trees, dozens of tropical fruit trees and flowers. No existing trees were cut during the construction of the house.
The 120' by 110' house was built in 14 months and completed in 1996. "We even had to stop for a month because of the rain," says Julio Galindo. Builder Boyd Svoboda poured the foundations and contractor Nelson Abbott completed the construction of the four bedroom, five-and-a-half bathroom house.

Island Mom's Cooking

The very original "Sacrifice Bar and Restaurant" sign up front gives the expectation of a relaxed, reggae type of a place. Sacrifice restaurant has been around since December of 2002, when Mrs. Dorette Martinez brought her Belizean cooking experience to the Punta Gorda seaside.
Six tables line the walls of the restaurant's wooden structure. Visible is the metal roof and two by four wooden rafters. A bare frosted lightbulb provides the lighting at night. Cicada songs, ocean waves and reggae music provided a backdrop for the meal.
Sacrifice is also a local hangout. If you are after tuxedo wearing waiters, fork and knife placed on a napkin or a foreign beer served in a chilled glass (or just any glass) you couldn't feel more lost here. But, if you are after genuine island cooking, you came home. The hostess, cook and waitress was all Dorette Martinez and she presented her soul food with a commitment of a four star Michelin chef.
Our entree, a cow foot soup was hardy and filling. Not for the squeamish however as one could overanalyze the cow's foot structure and be distracted from the smoothness of this home cooked dish. The tenderness of the tendons and fat made this a perfect starter for the home-food starved guests. Boiled plantains, pasta and vegetables made good company with this little appreciated side of beef. Or is cow foot no longer qualified as beef and is just an extremity? I await your comments.
The fish is always a fresh catch brought in by local fishermen and according to Mrs. Martinez even occasional swordfish or shark makes it onto the menu.
Flour tortillas served with the main course were fresh and delicious. Plantains tasted a little dry and a little under salted for my taste. Side salad was a delight: green leaf, carrot and cabbage

with tomato in a creamy sauce. The two deep fried lobsters were fried just right and nicely presented with cut and twisted lime. It was one of several details that remind us that we are tasting island food with a little international flare.
The wooden walls of the 10-foot by 15-foot space were decorated with maritime murals. A Picasso-like painting depicting a shark attacking a swordfish reminded me of Hemingway's Old Man and the Sea. The murals author is Eloy Martinez, a co-owner of the restaurant who hails from Belize. Two other artists: Marcos Tuilo Guillen and Dennis Luma lend a hand in decorating the restaurant in sea themes, making quite an impact.
Plastic tablecloths, plastic chairs, plastic flowers…… yet there is nothing artificial about the food. Mrs. Martinez's cooking is about good quality ingredients, proven recipes and a little imagination in the presentation. Fufu (Creole) AKA Machuca (Spanish) AKA Hudut (Garifuna) is one of the restaurant's specialties. To prepare this island classic of boiled plantains, fish and coconut milk, Mrs. Martinez needs a day's notice and 40 LPs per person for this meal for five.
At the end, a lack of something sweet made us feel a little blue, but one look at the calmness of the Roatan's north shore sea brought the calm. A cup of good instant coffee with real cream completed our meal and woke us up for the bill. Paying 340 LPs for two, it was a real island food at old island price. We still had more than enough money left to catch a 100 LPs taxi to French Harbor.

quality ****
price $4-6/plate
value *****
atmosphere ***

Pampa by the Beach
3000 miles from Buenos Aires Posada Argentina gives mortals a glimpse of “Gaucho Heaven”
It is a place where you think about coming for a Valentines dinner, it's a kind of a place you perhaps went to with your parents on Sunday after church. This classic West End restaurant evokes many memories... with its proven and consistently good menu it is a as close to Argentina as one could get without a going through customs in Buenos Aires.
The clientele was varied in age and origin: there were tables with Islander families, expats of first dates and diving aficionados. Posada Argentina is clearly a carnivore's paradise, but prompt and bilingual wait staff could make up for the lack of non meat choices on the menu.
Music was a well choreographed "beach ambiance," perhaps the sole departure from the Argentinean theme of the restaurant. Perhaps Mercedes Sosa, or even a quiet tango, could echo the feelings of Pampa the delicious chimichuri sauce of parsley, garlic, olive oil, vinegar, lemon, oregano and chili paste.
For appetizers we picked Grilled Beef Kidneys and chorizos (sausages), both Argentinean classics at a perfect place to find out why they are so. One could not change a single thing and we looked at our appetizers disappearing with regret, a sure sign of great food. The feeling didn't last long as within a couple minutes our main dishes arrived.

A more then generous fillet mignon in black pepper sauce was just raw good. The accompanying it broccoli, carrots and cauliflower were killed to perfection. Quite a contrast to the life of red meat, but it somehow all worked well.
Posada Argentina offers Chilean, Concha de Toro wines by a "smallish glass;" but this is quite inadequate compared to the sizes of the meat platters. A better choice is just buying a whole bottle.
The main course portions were generous and left us just barely enough room for caramel and coconut flan. We spotted tell-tell signs of all natural ingredients, but a puzzling subtlety of coconut.
Banana Flambee with ice cream was decadently sweet and creamy, with a presentation to match. One missing element was espresso coffee to accompany the last minutes of the meal as the drip coffee substitute left us a little lethargic yet content.
The bill arrived promptly and the 758 lempiras for two were worth every centavo. This quality of experience one can find in better restaurants of New York or Madrid...

quality *****
price $6-15/plate
value ****
atmosphere *****

island recipes by Bonette Cooper

Sesame Seed Shrimp Toast

Use uncooked shrimp for this dish, as cooked ones will tend to separate from the bread during cooking.

8 ounces uncooked shrimp, shelled
1 tbsp vegetable shortening
1 egg white, lightly beaten
1tsp finely chopped scallions
½ tsp finely chopped fresh ginger
1 tsp Chinese rice wine or dry sherry
1 tbsp cornstarch paste
1 cup white sesame seeds
6 large slices white bread
Vegetable oil, for deep-frying salt and ground black pepper

1. Chop the shrimp with the shortening to form a smooth paste. In the bowl, mix with all the other ingredients except the sesame seeds and bread.
2. Spread the sesame seeds evenly on a large plate or baking sheet; spread the shrimp paste thickly on one side of each slice of bread, then press, spread side down, onto the seeds.
3. Heat the oil in a wok until medium-hot; fry 2-3 slices of the sesame bread at a time, spread side down, for 2-3 minutes. Remove and drain. Cut each slice into six or eight fingers (without crust).
Serves 4.

Key Lime Coconut Snowballs

5 cups sweetened, shredded coconut
1 14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk (regular, low-fat or fat free)
1/3 cup light corn syrup
2 tbsp key lime juice
1 tbsp vanilla extract
1 tbsp grated fresh lime rind
½ cup graham cracker crumbs
1 pound confectioners' sugar

Preheat oven to 350º. Spread 2 cups of the coconut on a baking sheet and place in the preheated oven for 5 to 7 minutes or until lightly toasted. Toss the coconut once or twice during baking to ensure even browning. Be careful not to let it burn. Transfer the coconut to a bowl to cool completely.

In a large mixing bowl, combine the remaining coconut, sweetened condensed milk, corn syrup, lime juice, vanilla, lime rind and graham cracker crumbs. Beat by hand or with an electric beater until well blended. Slowly add the powdered sugar and beat for 2 more minutes. Place in the refrigerator until cold.

With your hands, form the chilled mixture into 1-inch balls, then roll each one in toasted coconut. Make sure each ball is generously coated. Place them on a large platter in the freezer for at least 1 hour before serving. Makes about 5 dozen.

Store the Snowballs in an airtight container in the freezer for up to 1 month.


Sautéed Chicken
4 chicken breasts
2 tablespoons soy sauce
½ cup orange juice
½ mango
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
Marinate the chicken in the above ingredients for 30 minutes. Sauté the chicken breasts in a pan for 4 minutes on each side over medium heat. Season with freshly ground pepper.
Crispy Potato
2 cups french fries
½ cup flour
1 cup bread crumbs
2 cups cornflakes
2 eggs
2 cups canola oil
Put the cornflakes and bread crumbs in a blender and mix until fine. Roll the french fries in the flour. Roll them in the egg and then the cornflake mixture. Repeat this process only once. Cook the fries in the heated canola oil in a deep pan. Lift out when golden brown.
Mango Ketchup
2 tablespoons mango chutney
1 tablespoon tomato ketchup
½ tablespoon white wine vinegar
1 fresh mango
1 tablespoon soy sauce
½ teaspoon Tabasco sauce
Blend all ingredients well in a mixer.