Costa Rican Cocina, Coffee, And Capuchins

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    We have a tradition of celebrating my sons’ birthdays somewhere interesting. In the past they’ve blown out birthday candles in the U.K., Paris, Iceland, and natch, Disney World, and last week they turned 14 in the noisy and spectacular jungles of Costa Rica.  I’ve been to Mexico, Belize and Guatamala, but found the high-quality food and exceptional beauty of this Central American country to be a cut above their neighbors. Sigue leyendo para más información…

    First stop, just outside of the capital of San Jose, was the lovely Finca Rosa Blanca. A tranquil coffee plantation overlooking the city and the 9,000 foot Poas volcano in the distance, this small hideaway decorated with local art and enormous fig trees serves up local produce–as in from 50 feet from the kitchens–cooked up with a pan-Latino flavor. One night salad came with chayote, leeks, mixed greens, and a passion fruit vinaigrette, followed by grilled shrimp marinated in ginger and garlic and served with caramelized pineapple and patacones, or green plantain fritters. Cold mango and coconut milk soup was a delicious and refreshing way to end the meal–that and a delicious cup of rich Costa Rican coffee.

    Finca Rosa Blanca was a great way to ease into the real jungle of Lapa Rios, situated on the Osa Peninsula. This spectacular eco-lodge puts a premium on sustainability and education. Happily, good food and stunning decor are also abundant.

    This peninsula, situated on the country’s southern border, is apparently the second most bio-diverse place on earth. We saw sloths and monkeys, snakes and iguanas, dolphins and clown fish, macaws and toucans. The days were taken up with hiking, swimming, snorkeling, and oh yes, zip lining (an experience I never need to repeat), but the nights were devoted to filling our growling stomachs.

    Amid the howler monkey’s deafening whoops and the macaw’s swooping cries, we dined every night in the resort’s enormous palapa (pictured above). Because the hotel is 45 minutes down a very rutted road from the only (tiny) town, much of what Lapa Rios serves is grown or caught on the 1000-acre property, including yucca, plantains, papaya, beans, and citrus. I gorged on very fresh fish most nights, especially lots of local tuna, marinated in pejibaye fruit and black olive sauce, but also loved the olla de carne, a traditional beef-based soup loaded with local veggies. Bread was made with cassava, pancakes with corn meal, and dessert highlighted star fruit, pineapple, and mango in as many guises as deliciously possible. The trip was, to use a term from my favorite Latino author, magical realism–almost impossibly fantastical and fantastic.

    by Tanya Steel

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