Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Dining in Costa Rica

Eighteen of my family members traveled for a fabulous ten days from the San Jose to Arenal Volcano to Jaco beach areas. We all love to eat and keep moving. We were pleased with both activities, most of the time.

Breakfast was American – eggs, bacon, muffins, cereal, fruit; and Costa Rican – beans and rice (gallo pinto). For lunch and dinner, gallo pinto becomes casado.

When eating local, which was often, we experienced the ultimate Fried Beige Diet – white rice, white bread, fried plantains, fried chicken, fried fish and fried beef (thin, not too leathery). Although these dishes came with beans, they were heavy in oil. There are also tasty rice and chicken or fish dishes, but there’s not much chicken or fish in them. Spices are mild and suited our palates. A salad consists of lettuce, lettuce, lettuce and a slice of tomato. We started missing vegetables and grew tired of these meals.

Sometimes there was a bean soup or ceviche as appetizers; or a whole tilapia fish with head and tail. Add their Salsa Lizano sauce, similar to Worcestershire sauce, to make everything tastier.

We did try a few excellent restaurants that serve gourmet meals with shellfish, lamb, tasty salads and vegetables. Expect to pay close to New York prices.

We had a fabulous and a dreadful buffet – check before lining up. Feel comfortable to move on, even if the price is in the included in the tour.

One evening we bought a freshly caught, enormous ahi fish, about two feet long. My chef son and nephew de-scaled it. The tail was used for ceviche. The rest was barbequed. That was absolutely delicious.

A couple of nights, members of our family cooked. Those meals were also very tasty.

Desserts included tres leches (3 milks), rice pudding, bread pudding, ice cream and caramel flan.

For beverages, coffee grown in Costa Rica was good and plentiful. Many family members enjoyed Imperial beer. We drank tap water and that was no problem.

Good news - food is inexpensive. Not such bad news - service is slow and orders can be wrong. When food is brought out at different times, relax. It could be that we were eighteen customers arriving at the same time, or their English is not great. It sure is much better than our Spanish. Ten percent tip is automatically added to all meals.

Activity is great. Many walking tours, hikes up volcanoes, to lakes, down the side of waterfalls, swimming in pools and in the sea. Most of my family enjoyed zip-lining and ATV bike riding. Both looked very scary but they were absolutely invigorated by it.

Costa Rica caters to tourists so roads are good, there are many stops that serve a variety of beverages, snacks and meals while looking at fantastic views. One hilltop hotel had a view of the sunset overlooking the sea, with music and drinks. We had a fantastic time.

As the food was not too delicious for me, it was my excuse to overdo the desserts. On my return, the scale was not kind. Back to eating well! Ugh……