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Ultra Fresh Food in Costa Rica – February, 2024

In keeping with the the Costa Rican theme of Pura Vida, the food we were served was ultra fresh and wonderful.

Bob and I have been learning about Ultra Processed Foods since last month’s Caribbean vacation, and I realized that most of what we were served during our time in Costa Rica was ultra fresh and highly unprocessed, the exact opposite of ultra processed food.

 

ARTE DE PLUMAS

Ultra fresh components

Here we have baskets of plantain, mango, pineapple, carrots, chayote, peppers, sweet potatoes, and onions at Arte de Plumas, awaiting Daisy and Carol’s magic touch.

First breakfast at the bird lodge

After an hour of birdwatching our first morning, Andre led us to the open-air dining pavilion for a breakfast of fruit, beans and rice, fried eggs, plantain, and toast. Refueled, we continued birding.

 

AFTER-RIDE LUNCH AT RANCHO JSM

Lunch out

Bob drove the four of us an hour north to Finca Tres Equis where Carrie and Lyle went for a birdwatching hike while Bob and I rode the Farm and Forest Trail (see Caballos de Costa Rica). Half an hour from home we stopped at the junction for lunch at Rancho JSM.

Carrie, Lyle, and Bob awaiting patacones

Andre had suggested we test drive JSM’s patacones, plantain coins, smashed and fried, with toppings such as refried beans, guacamole, and pico de gallo. They were immensely satisfying, a bit like pizza in their versatility, and very filling.

Cookie found a horse, of course

Bob asked me to pose next to a large, carved horse head that appeared to be taking a drink.

A typical lunch

We asked Daisy to make us lunch when we weren’t out day tripping. On this day, she made us a delicious white bean stew with salad, a potato/chayote hash, tortillas, and pico de gallo. They were happy to accommodate our meat-free diet and—worried about our protein intake—made sure to supplement each meal with eggs.

 

BIRTHDAY SURPRISE

Conspiratorial cake

Lyle and Carrie’s birthdays fell a day apart while we were upcountry, so I asked Andre if they could do something special to help us celebrate. Over the next three days, he, Carol, and Daisy’s twinkled with the mystery of the surprise.

On Carrie’s birthday, our last day at the lodge, Daisy beckoned me into the kitchen and showed me what she and Carol had done. I gasped at the heart-shaped cake. They had frosted it in pink and white, topped it with raspberry jam ringed by grape halves and strawberries and, at its base, surrounded it with peach slices, and more grapes, and strawberries.

Surprise!

Carol, beaming, presented the cake and Carrie showed her delight which made all of us extremely happy. I always say, a birthday is not complete without a cake with lit candles. It just isn’t.

Carrie makes the obligatory wish

Naturally, we urged Carrie to make a wish and naturally, she complied.

 

FRUTA DE PAN

This is a picture of determination

I was determined to have breadfruit if breadfruit could be had, and although it wasn’t technically breadfruit season, we had seen the occasional fruit hanging from those gorgeous trees, full and dripping with white sap.

So we all began scanning the produce stands for what Andre called Fruta de Pan, until finally, on our way out of town I saw one! Bob stopped the car and ran across the street to make the purchase, and I vowed to find a restaurant willing to cook it down in Cahuita.

Giuseppe decides to humor us

Each day, I unwrapped my Fruita de Pan and squeezed it, and each day it grew a bit softer and a little sweeter. And each day, I worried a little more about who I was going to find to cook up my beloved breadfruit until Lyle helped me get the courage to speak with Giuseppe.

At first, Giuseppe said, “No,” explaining that they cooked Italian food and that was what they did. “Oh my god, it is so good,” I said, complimenting their home made pasta and the flavorful sauces. I asked him which part of Italy he and his wife were from, told him that my brother, Joseph, was named after Sicilian immigrants, and that my name, too, came from our Italian side.

Perhaps there was a restaurant in town that served breadfruit? I asked, because I had brought one down from Turrialba and would happily give it to any kitchen that might use it. “You have one here?” he said, and that’s when I knew he was about to make my dream come true.

Pleased with the results

I ran to fetch my baby fruta and before long, we were eating fried breadfruit, sweet and doughy, just the way I love it! I ate until I couldn’t handle another piece, then took the rest back to our room for another day.

 

POTTY BREAK AT THE COFFE PLACE

The writing on the orange wall

Halfway through an early-morning bird tour with our guide Manuel, we circled back through Cahuita and stopped for coffee. I ordered a fruit drink and, thinking it prudent to make a pit stop, saw some wonderful cat graffiti on the rest room wall.

Da Lime

On another day, Bob drove us south to Puerto Viejo (home of many retired expats) and discovered DaLime Beach Club Restaurant & Bar, tucked among the trees, well off the main road.

Cool drinks

We put in our food order and sat on the deck, sipping tropical drinks and listening to the calls of the Great Green Macaw.

Lacy tree

Every tree a work of art, I thought, bathing in the many patterns and colors surrounding the restaurant.

Veggie tacos

The food was delightful, too. Fresh and beautifully presented. Bob and I ordered the tacos and mine came with guacamole, grilled vegetables, and pickled radish with sides of pico de gallo and a red pepper sauce.

Fine dining in the rainforest

Lyle and Carrie went looking for the Great Green Macaw while Bob settled our tab. While I waited for Bob, I stared out into the trees and was surprised to see one of those big, green birds fly across an open area!

Yum!

Our culinary adventure was very fulfilling in every sense of the word and we returned home determined to eat as fresh and light as we did in Costa Rica.

So far, we’ve done pretty well, but I now realize how highly processed our favorite vegetarian meat analogs are and will be phasing those out in favor of lentils, beans, and tofu.

Tonight, for example, I have made a bean stew which I am serving with Amy Armantrout’s hand-harvested wild rice and collard greens from our garden. We’ll spike it up with artisanal vinegar and orange jalapeno peppers that I pickled last fall. Bon Appétit and Pura Vida!

By Camille Armantrout

Camille lives with her soul mate Bob in the back woods of central North Carolina where she hikes, gardens, cooks, and writes.

4 replies on “Ultra Fresh Food in Costa Rica – February, 2024”

Love it! It’s so easy to eat clean over there…especially when fruit and veg vendors seem to be everywhere or even better, come by your house a couple times a week. I will say that casados can get a bit tiring when you live there and you’ll realize that things you’re used to seeing in the States are curiously absent (or cost a whole lot) in Costa Rica. Peaches, lemons, strawberries, grapes, apples, raspberries, blueberries…all export items. But the best pineapples, mangoes, bananas and papaya you’ll ever eat. You come back hoping to replicate what you’ve experienced….and then fall back into the old habits you had before. I hope you can keep it up because yeah…I’m seeing how highly processed foods are here vs. NZ and find myself WANTING IT because 1) it tastes good and 2) it’s convenient. Or it reminds me of what I used to eat so I want it again. My skin looks bad because I’m eating more sugar (and nuts). I seriously need to get a grip and stop with the American “diet” of crap food or I’m gonna regret it! Maybe I just need to move back down there again lol. Come visit if I do?

another very satisfying read – thank you for sharing your wonderful adventures
xo
ang

Oh Ang, you are the Queen of real food. We so miss your restaurant but are thrilled you are not working so hard every day. Restauranteering is beastly business!

And Steph, well, when you come visit we’ll replicate a Central American pure food menu in our kitchen. Won’t that be fun! We can probably even pick up a breadfruit in one of Raleigh’s Asian markets.

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