As this Chicago winter rolls on, I seriously think that Janice and I brought back some of the sunny warm weather with us from Costa Rica. Seriously, there has been little to no snow in Chicago, and I´m loving it! However, today’s post is day 2 in my Costa Rica travelogue. By the way, If you haven’t read day one on my blog, I highly suggest it if you are a seafood lover.
Anyway, day two kicked off with a classic Costa Rican breakfast that is a little bit different than the ol’ eggs, bacon, and pancakes as big as your face back in ‘Murika. Instead, we were greeted with the quintessential Costa Rican breakfast of gallo pinto, tortillas, and two different types of plantains. First, there is gallo pinto (“spotted/painted rooster” in Spanish) whose name is derived from the ingredients bearing a resemblance to a type of cockerel. As for its origins, some believe the dish came over with the African slaves that migrated into Latin America while others believe it came from Spain where its known as cristianos y moros (Christians and Moors). Whatever you call it, it was delicious. It wasn’t heavy but very filling and flavorful. I could see that it came from humble but rich roots with the black beans mixed in with the seasoned and fried rice. It made a great filler for the tortillas on the side to make small breakfast burritos which do not exist in traditional Costa Rican fare (not every Latin American country has tacos and burritos!). I do have to say that the Costa Rican tortillas were better than any of their Mexican counterparts I’ve tried. They are both corn based, but the Costa Rican ones were super resilient compared to their relatives up north. That scored big points on my foodie scorecard. As for the two different plantains, there were both baked and fried varieties. While down in Costa Rica, I also learned the difference between plantains and bananas, and it isn’t the difference in size. While bananas can be eaten raw, plantains must be cooked if they are to be consumed by humans. If I had to pick one or the other, the fried ones were my jam like during day one, and they were the ideal sweet compliment to the savory rice and beans. Once we finished our breakfast to the tunes of a marimba band, we were off on a catamaran to Isla Tortuga on the Pacific coast. What better to go with the pristine view of the Gulf of Nicoya than a cold, Costa Rican beer? So, I got an Imperial which is the official beer of Costa Rica. Once again, this supposed king of beers was a mere pretender to the throne. It was an average, light lager that was crisp and non-offensive for a beautiful day. Once we landed on the postcard that was Isla Tortuga, we enjoyed snorkeling, swimming, and some breathtaking views. When it came time for lunch, it was anything but normal. First, we were summoned to the feast via a conch shell. Then we got a full salad bar that was freshly made in the kitchen hut. The mixed salad was verdant and coated in a semi-sweet vinaigrette, but I was more partial to the cucumber and onion mix. It was smooth and filled with some funky dill that made a potentially bland salad really pop. The real star of the show though was the local peccary that Janice quickly made friends with. Apparently this wild pig has been coming by the cookouts for over 15 years, and the marimba music was almost like its intro song. It was very friendly and fell over whenever someone would pet it. I could see that it was smarter than it looked since it worked the room by getting free food from each table. Lunch was much more elaborate in the form of a full meat and veg platter complete with a Hibiscus flower for a flourish. This meal didn’t even need a flower to be fancy and eye catching. The chicken breast was muy sabroso (very tasty) with just the right amount of char-grilled flavor to compliment the sweeter, coconut based curry sauce that had specks of the white fruit sprinkled on top. The bread was warm and soft, but the butter was oddly bland. I especially enjoyed the vegetable hash on the side that consisted of pan-fried carrots and cassava strands. As for dessert, it was a rich but understated tres leches cake whose vanilla laced crumbs were topped with a drunkenly placed strand of whipped cream. It, like most other Costa Rican meals, was fresh, filling, but not heavy like most American meals. It gave us the energy to take on a lame banana boat ride and to savor the final views of that enchanting island that immediately made us realize of the beauty Latin America had to offer.