Stepping out of the stale, air conditioned air inside the Panama City airport, especially after arriving from the frigid winter weather in New York felt like walking into a sauna. We were immediately sweating. But, it felt so good to be back. The kids and I had experienced a rushed morning getting to JFK: movies hadn’t downloaded, the traffic was terrible even at 6 a.m., the security line was incredibly long. We had barely enough time to make it to our gate. Sean was meeting us at the hotel after a business trip to Colombia and some morning meetings in Panama City. Luckily, I come from a tribe of women, my grandmother, mother and sisters, who think nothing of getting on long haul flights alone or with their children in tow. Sean and the kids still don’t understand that there are lots of women who wouldn’t do this. I said this to the kids and they gave me the “why are you telling me this?” look because to them it’s completely normal. (I am clearly not getting the accolades I am looking for!) Luckily for me, my kids are great travelers so it doesn’t end up being too difficult. The four and half hour flight went quickly.
We took a taxi and as we pulled up to the hotel, Sean’s taxi was right behind us. Since Sean travels so often we were lucky enough to get an upgrade to a giant suite at the Downtown Marriott. (I have such a love/hate relationship with Marriott. We are able to do so much traveling using Sean’s many points. And mostly the hotels are good. An upgrade? Fantastic! Having to ask three times for a rollaway bed, the third time after returning from a late dinner with tired kids, not so fantastic! And that’s pretty much the script with this chain. I think I have to write another longer Marriott post!)
By the time we got into our room it was already later afternoon. After such an early wake up the kids were tired so we went down to the pool for a quick swim. On one of his previous visits, Sean had eaten at Tomillo, the restaurant of a friend of a friend: Felipe Milanes. Felipe is good friends with one of our good friends who is also a chef, Geoff Lazlo. (If you ever find yourself in Greenwich, CT go to his restaurant, Mill Street. His food is delicious.) The two of them worked together at Blue Hill at Stone Barns. Felipe moved back to his native Panama about a year and half ago and Sean (of course) ate at his restaurant the first week it opened. He has not stopped raving about it, so for our first meal in Panama, we headed to the old town to eat dinner at Tomillo. (First we stopped for a cocktail at Jeromino, an art gallery/speakeasy that Oscar of all people found for us while we were walking around the narrow, dark streets.)
Tomillo is housed in one of the many old buildings in the old town. We sat in the newly opened courtyard, against the backdrop of the facade of a crumbling monastery. I asked our waiter about the building and he claimed he is scared to work late at night for fear of seeing a ghost. (When I told this to Felipe he looked momentarily panicked and said “who told you this? No! There are no ghosts here, please do not tell me this!”) Sean was not wrong: the food was amazing. We had grouper crouquets, fried grouper with fruit sauce, a vegetable flatbread with fresh and pickled vegetables, risotto and a meat platter with brisket, lamb, two kinds of chicken and sauces.
And for dessert: pana cotta, lemon merengue pie and a chocolate dessert that was rich and decadent. Felipe took us on a tour of the kitchen and upstairs to the about to-be-opened rooftop bar. In the distance we could see the skyline of Panama City. Not a bad way to end a travel day!