Friday, June 15, 2012

Costa Rica: Cooking Around the World

Unlike most of our other countries in this cooking adventure, where we travel vicariously through regional and national dishes, we have actually been to Costa Rica. We spent 10 days there during one fall break to celebrate both my parents' birthday. It took us three plane rides one way and four plane rides the other, but we ate and adventured all over the country to make it all worthwhile. So, this post will be a recounting of some real culinary adventures.

Whenever we travel, we try - as much as possible - to become local. We shop at local markets, we eat at neighborhood restaurants when we do eat out, and we frequent the fruit stands on the sides of the road during our day trips. It's a great way to discover what is fresh and local in the area.

Within minutes of arriving at our home-away-from-home, Riley was across the street. In a tree. Pulling down guavas for us to eat. They were delicious.

On our first day, we hopped on a bus to the central market where we saw some things that I would never buy, but wanted the boys to see that other people eat them. Case in point: turtle eggs and chicken feet.

Caffeine-addict that I am, I smelled the coffee shop before I saw it. And we wandered in to see the process of roasting the beans from yellow or green to that deep, perfect brown. And, naturally, I walked out with a bag full of beans.

Throughout the week, as we traipsed all over, from Manual Antonio on the Pacific coast to the Arenal inland and the rainforest towards the Caribbean, we stopped at various stands where we picked up fruits I knew, such as mangosteen and rambutan, to fruits that were complete foreign. I still don't know what they were called. But they were all luscious, vibrant, and tasted like the tropics. So, if you have any idea what some of these things are, let me know.

Dylan really loved star fruit. Thankfully, it was everywhere and the little boy was able to grab some each day.

We discovered a favorite dish, gallo pinto (Costa Rican rice and beans), and ate it almost every day - for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. And since returning, it's been a potluck favorite. The boys attend an international school and whenever Riley has to bring an international potluck dish, that's his pick. Click here to read more about that dish and how I muddled through a stilted conversation to get the recipe.

And, I'll leave you with one recipe. Since it was the Nonni's birthday trip, we had to have a birthday cake. A local restaurant surprised us with a Tres Leches cake. Gooey, sticky, but unforgettably delicious!

 Tres Leches Cake
Click the title for the recipe that I found on from Charlotte, an actual tico! (it might be tica, for a female. I don't know.)

Well, I think that's enough to check Costa Rica off our Cooking Around the World Adventure. And here's a photo to leave you with: our ziplining adventure.

My mom had it in her head that she really wanted to zipline through the rainforest canopy for her birthday. I said, "Great!" Then I realized that she wanted us all to go. All, as in with my (then) five and six-year-olds. Seriously? Okay. So, we signed the waivers, strapped on hard-hats, clipped into the safety lines and went for it.

What a ride!

As we continue in our culinary travel, we're headed to the Ivory Coast (Cote d’Ivoire) next. Stay tuned.

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