Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Dining In Nicaragua

In July 2007, my good friend Melanie invited me for eight days to the South West area of Nicaragua. My neighbor asked to join us.

Of course, my columns are about the food so you need to understand that neither of my petite friends have ever had a weight problem. Hmmm…. I see challenges here. Genetically slim people order whatever foods they feel like and leave most behind. They also LOVE to do active and exciting things. As I am former fatty and stay slim from eating well and being active, I will have to be careful with all the food temptations and try to keep up with my companions.

In Granada, we stayed at the delightful La Gran Francia and ate breakfast in their courtyard. Food choices were numerous, starting with freshly squeezed fruit juice and a delicious fruit plate. Fruit picked ripe sure taste better than those that travel for weeks before reaching us in the USA.

There were a variety of cereals, granola, eggs, pancakes, French toast and other Western choices served with rice and beans. Nacatamales, a typical Nicaraguan dish consists of smashed corn and potatoes wrapped in a banana leaf along with some pork meat, tomato, garlic, salt and oil. The leaf is tightly wrapped, tied with a string and boiled in water. The local wait staffs were very excited that I was willing to try their favorite dish, giggling together. Well, I could only eat half and still remained stuffed for the rest of the day. So a warning, local food is very tasty and VERY rich.

Lunch and dinner were at really excellent restaurants, with a wide variety of local and Western type foods, as well as Thai, Chinese, French, Italian and Spanish. Prices were quite inexpensive. Most dishes include rice, beans, corn, plantain (green, starchy banana) and/or tortilla (thin, flat bread).

For a fun nightlife, Granada has open-air nightclubs with live music and beverages. It’s quite wonderful to sit in a garden and listen to bands. Local beer is reasonably priced. Mixed alcohol drinks add up quite quickly. Tipping is from 10 to 15 per cent.

Eating at the hotel and good restaurants are safe but street food could be hard on your stomach as unusual bacteria grow in the heat and humidity. We didn’t get sick; other travelers did.

For exercise, there are great opportunities to walk around the town to the markets, lakes, around volcanoes (inactive) and swim in a crater lake and hotel pool.

Our next stop was Morgan’s Rock, an ecolodge, which means many flying bugs, spiders, scorpions and crabs. They serve a wide variety of very creative dishes from mostly local products with a fusion of Nicaraguan, Central and South American, French and Asian cuisines. The fish of the day is whatever they catch, so that varies too.

Crabs everywhere

Every dish was delicious. Offering half portions was a great option. Why don’t we have that in the USA?

Fruity drinks and tasty desserts were delicious and my downfall!

For exercise, we explored, walked trails, swam in the ocean and in the pool, kayaked and climbed steps to our rooms high up in the hills.

The next stop was Juan del Sur at Pelican Eyes, an American type luxury resort. The fabulous infinity pools had bars so the fruity drinks were tempting again. For meals, I chose salads or appetizers only, then had a few bites from my friend’s dishes.

Twice we had electricity cuts for up to 6 hours. Not to worry, candles and torches are always nearby. Talk to strangers in the dark; it’s a bonding experience.

Swimming, walking and exploring is a good form of exercise here too.

I did gain 2 lbs, due to the fruity drinks and the irresistible desserts, so spent a week eating perfectly to drop this weight. It's the only way to maintain a healthy weight.

Have fun!