May 13, 2010

Costa Rican fare

A few weeks ago, I took at 6-day trip to Costa Rica. I was there for a destination wedding of my friends with my BFF Nora as my date, and to spend a few days with my friend from 20 years ago.

We spent most of our time in the all-inclusive hotel Paradisus Playa Conchal and didn't venture out too much. The hotel food wasn't all that impressive. Actually, for what they boast on their website, it was disappointing.

However, I did discover the joy that is that national dish of gallo pinto--rice and black beans, essentially. The Bride pointed out to me that the local's breakfast is gallo pinto and a fried egg topped with salsa. And if available, fried ripe plantains aka plantanos. Again, one of my favorite things to eat.

And what a breakfast! I mean, I had that for the next two mornings we were at the resort. And it stuck with you too! I mean, I had breakfast at 9, skipped lunch, and enjoyed 2 very strong Zombies at the swim-up bar and I held up wonderfully.

Our first day, though, I had the omelet everyone was raving about. And we did got out of the pool to have lunch. I ordered a steak wrap at the "snack bar". Oh, the glorious, delicious grass-fed beef. Well marinated and cooked to perfection! It was tasty.

For dinner, we dined at the Mexican restaurant. I ordered ceviche and seared scallops, doing appetizers for dinner, and I wasn't impressed with either. I looked around at the table and I didn't hear anyone go ga-ga over their food. Then again, we were all too busy drinking. Hahah!

The best meals I had in Costa Rica, ironically, was the first AND last meals.

We landed in the capital of San Jose at 9 in the morning. By 10 a.m. we arrived at a local restaurant, Calilu, to wait for our shuttle to pick us up to take us to Playa Conchal, the beach where the hotel is. The shuttle, however, wasn't going to get here until 3 p.m.

So I started in on my order.

As far as I know, Arroz con Pollo is a national dish. So I ordered that for lunch with a cup of coffee.


We'd need something to snack on for the rest of the time, so I went with the fried green plantains with guacamole. The guac was more like mashed avocado. But thankfully, they have house salsa.


Oh. My. GOD! They did sell it by the jar and I should've bought it! It doesn't look like much but it hit you smack in the mouth in a very, very good way.


The surprise dish was what was described as "grilled chicken tacos with melted cheese". It was more like grilled chicken tacos drowned in cheese fondue with pickled veggies and pico de gallo to cut the richness. Nora didn't care for it much so we eventually swapped plates half way into the meal. Hmm. Melted gooey cheesy goodness...


My Costa Rican friend Richard took us up to see the Poas Volcano (which we didn't see because of the fog) and we stopped at a local restaurant. The food was so so there. Didn't quite blow my mind.

On our last day of the trip, Richard, dropped us off to putz around Downtown San Jose to wait for our flight. And putz around we did.

My Fedor guidebook has a lot more of restaurant recommendation than what Nora had. And after all considerations, we started to head back to the National Theater for their little cafe we poked our heads into earlier when we were lost.

But then we spotted another menu on the wall of this good looking building. Having only our credit card to rely on at this point of the trip, we didn't care much for the higher price point and headed in.

We didn't know until we sat down that we were about to do lunch at the historic Gran San Jose hotel.

As a parting meal, Nora ordered her own Arroz con Pollo. As for me, I already knew I wasn't going to hold my Meatless Tuesday while in a beef country, so I ordered a "typical" marinated (skirt, I think) steak cooked to perfect medium rare covered in grilled onion with rice, beans, and platanos.

Heaven on a plate, y'all.


Did I wish I was more adventurous with my eating as well as my travel? Yes, a little bit. But at the same time, both Nora and I were going for maximum leisure. Milking the trip for all our worth would mean sacrificing our relaxation time. So we stayed put in the white-wash little resort and didn't go zip-lining or jungle cruising. We didn't even made it to Cameron Dorado just a short walk up the beach.

But hey, when the swim-up bar calls you, you don't walk away from it. ;-)

Read my full account and lessons learned from the Costa Rica trip here.

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