Monday, June 7, 2010

Typical. Just Typical.

If you walk or drive around Costa Rica on an empty stomach, soon enough you’ll notice plenty of establishments with the catchphrase “La comida típica.” Translated loosely into English, this becomes “typical food.”

The English translation doesn’t sound at all a bit sexy or unique. Worse, it doesn’t do justice to the types of flavors and techniques that exemplify Costa Rica’s traditional, homestyle cooking—never too spicy or hot but always multilayered with tastes that are both comforting and savory.

Here are just a few examples—both typical and some not-so-typical—that I loved from my trip last month:

Costa Rican tamales make for a satisfying desayuno (breakfast), opening up to reveal a carefully assembled package of plantains, ground cornmeal, a fried egg and gallo pinto (rice and beans).

A typical casado (lunch) consists of meat, plantains, salad and rice, although this one’s missing the plantains.

At Los Cusingos Bird Sanctuary, I got an introduction to pejibayes, a starch-like fruit that tasted like a slightly sweet potato, only a lot starchier.

I’ll never turn down an opportunity to savor pastries, especially during a PowerPoint presentation.

While visiting the San Isidro Farmers’ Market in the off hours, we were treated to some authentic dips and desserts, including this delicious one, made with tuna.

Ahh, the breakfast of champions, from Rancho La Botija: fresh papaya, bananas and pineapple…

…Gallo pinto with scrambled eggs and fried plantains…

…Served with corn tortillas, kept steaming hot thanks to this adorable little tortilla warmer.

I love it when pastries come with a welcome message.

Say cheese: We also visited a small, family-owned cheese farm just south of San Gerardo that specialized in making artisan Swiss-style cheeses.

The cheese in this room…

…Came from these cows.

Time for tasting: from left to right, Swiss, Mozzarella and Peppery Swiss.

At Dantica Lodge & Gallery, we snacked on delicious biscuits filled with cream and blackberry jam.

Lunch (err, dinner) at Los Lagos Lodge was delicious—and long overdue—but totally satisfying: pescado frito (fried fish).

Worthy of an encore blog appearance: chorreadas (corn pancakes) topped with sweet sour cream and gallos (tacos) filled with fried potatoes.

Okay, so ceviche is really more of a Peruvian dish, but I’ll always order it when I have the chance to, especially when it’s as good as this one was from The Springs Resort & Spa.

Organic took on a whole new meeting after a visit to Rancho Margot in El Castillo, not only for its sprawling and beautiful grounds but also for its tasty, farm-fresh fare, including roasted pork topped with a blackberry sauce and accompanied by black beans, rice and lettuce—all produced on location.

The last meal: At Leda’s, a seafood restaurant in Caldera, I took fellow journalist Christopher P. Baker’s advice and ordered the pescado al ajillo (fish with garlic) and I wasn’t disappointed.

And, to top it all off, a slice of pastel de tres leches (cake soaked in three different milks).

So, given the choice between la comida típica or some fancy, nouveau style of Costa Rican fusion cuisine, I’ll always opt for the typical. Just the typical, por favor.


  1. I just ate and now I'm hungry again...

  2. What made the ceviche even better was the massive amount of guacamole that was included at the bottom!