Cooking and eating through a new culture

Archive for the month “December, 2011”

2011…in review

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So I made it a year. Tis the time to look back and reassess, adapt and move on. Usually, moving on meant just barely keeping my shit together, but this year I seriously evolved. This was not something I was actively trying to accomplish either. It’s just that when I think back, to things that only happened a little over a year ago, it seems like an eternity and I am such a totally different person. Funny, since I have been following other bloggers, not many have hung on. Yes, I could have written more, and more often. Sometimes Rafa and I would just sample a place quickly, and I would think to myself “Next time, I will write about this.” So, here are a few places we hit that I have failed to mention and that are worthy of your colones:

Product C

Rafa and I stopped in on a Sunday afternoon and had a small nibble. There is a dramatic pause here because I am reliving the sheer awesomeness of their raw oysters. They were a special that day and I was leery of even thinking about getting them. Oysters are an all time love of mine and I have had some silky sweet succulent sliders. Raw (well, duh) with a drop or two of lemon, only. My good friend and sailing aficionado, Jess, and I would wander into places sunburned and surf soaked to suck down some cocktails and seafood and nothing would get us going more than harassing the staff on the quality and constancy of their oysters. Moving to Newfoundland and opening up our own oyster farm was something we seriously considered (after imbibing said cocktails). I had believed the only good oyster was a cold water oyster but Product C changed my mind. If you are jonesing for some hardcore fresh seafood, look no further. This place beats them all hands down. Oh yeah, we had some pretty amazing carpaccio too.


Now this place claims it’s a pub. It’s not. It’s just a tiny bar (with no stools) and a handful of tables. It caters towards the younger set, so if you wander in after dark, it’s usually booming. It has Costa Rica Craft Brew, but not on tap (hence, not a pub). They do play good music, but (God forgive me, I am getting old) it can get quite loud. The kicker is they do have a nice kitchen that offers up some good grub and some excellent fish and chips. And that’s my problem. I haven’t written about this place because I cannot stop ordering the fish and chips. My hometown has fish fry dinners that are out of this world and the Hoxton’s fish and chips remind me so much of home that I am willing to deal with all the pretentious 20 year olds and the fact that my ears will ring for days afterwards.


This place is only a few doors south of Olio. We wandered in, of all the nights, on belly dancing night and I must say, it was fun. Run by two Turkish gentlemen so full of energy (and probably ouzo) you cannot help but be impressed at how much they are able to accomplish. Service was good even amongst the gyrations of the belly dancers and the food was superb. Real honest to God Mediterranean and lamb balls to die for. Yeah, I belly danced too. I had nothing to drink that night, so I can say this with a clear head: I really think one of the dancers was a dude.

La Petite France

This is a tiny little place tucked into a corner of Curridabat on a very busy street. A street we happen to use often since EPA is on it, and well, yeah…the kitchen. Anyway, we stopped in out of curiosity and were not disappointed. It’s French and there is no two ways about it. Open only for a few hours a day, with a tasty but limited menu, it’s worth sitting and overlooking the crazy street for these lovely baguettes. As much as I try, I cannot help but also have one of their superb éclairs. I can pass over any of the local sweets, but when it come to these pastry perfections, I sweetly succumb.

My consumption of alcohol has dropped precipitously. I hardly drink beer anymore, but if I do its only CRCB and the most I can do is two pints. Same goes for wine too. Rafa and I can share a bottle (over dinner) and that’s enough. Mostly we just save up for Sunday mimosas, which are certainly drinks best enjoyed leisurely, with tasty snacks and a nice view. Besides:

Unfortunately, I have become MORE addicted to cheese this year. Being on a tight budget certainly reined in my consumption but I discovered Pricesmart here has been importing some seriously awesome European cheese. Even as I type this, I am nibbling on a slice of French Blue that I have hidden from Rafa in the back of the fridge.

I am the happy hedondist.

I know I seem to write all about blue skies and rainbows. It has nothing to do with convincing you that I am living in paradise and more with the fact that I have altered my out look on my life. I had a lot of anger stored in my tiny body. I had spent years grinding my teeth smooth, seeing doctors about my stomach issues, and getting headaches that would cripple me. They are no more. Alas, I did have a minor set back a few months ago. A traffic altercation escalated between Rafa and an illegal, non Tico, taxi driver. I had assumed that Rafa, with his silver tongue, would smooth things out but things unfortunately turned physical. With 20 years of self-defence training behind me, I shot out of the car like a hellcat and put a beat down on him like he has never had…at least by a woman. This guy was bigger than Rafa or I by at least 60 lbs but there was a ferocity in me I never knew existed. He retreated bloodied and bruised, leaving me behind jacked up on adrenalin and Rafa with a torn shirt. For weeks, the whole situation bothered me. Things truly could have gone horribly wrong. The thought of something happening to Rafa left me cold. As one friend told me, “Yer gonna have to meditate on that one.” And she was right. So mister illegal taxi driver, I am sorry for that level of violence… but I am not sorry for defending someone I love.

We have also been dealing with an illness in the family. Not wanting to air family issues or ruffle any feathers, I will only say that personally, it has been challenging to meet up to the expectations of all around me without being intrusive. This is something I have never had to deal with before, but as the year winds down, I feel very honored to be a part of this family and offer all that I can.

Rafa gave me an opportunity to let go of my old existence and build a new one this year. Sure there will be this gap in my resume for 2011, but I feel now that I can conquer any challenge that comes my way. If I had to sum up the year in one word, it would be blessed. I feel very, very, blessed. It’s been a long time since I could look back like this and feel this way. And and even longer time to look forward to so much, with someone.

“In a true partnership, the kind worth striving for, the kind worth insisting on, and even, frankly, worth divorcing over, both people try to give as much or even a little more than they get. “Deserves” is not the point. And “owes” is certainly not the point. The point is to make the other person as happy as we can, because their happiness adds to ours. Because in the right hands, everything that you give, you get.”

Happy New Year everyone!


Feliz Navidad

Ahhh, the holidays. Commercialization and over-consumption at its finest, with a heavy dose of self-reflection tinged with guilt and self-pity. My Father was never big on Christmas. “I hate wholesome.”, he would growl at an age where I should have still been pining for Santa. Even the very act of getting a tree was a stretch at times, so needless to say, tradition was not nurtured or practiced in my house. That doesn’t mean I do not enjoy the holidays. I may not encompass the rabid Christmas frenzy but I do long for…I don’t know, something. I’ve never been able to really put my finger on it, but yeah…something.

Last year, Christmas was a blur. We had only been in country a few scant days and I was still reeling from getting to know my new environment. We had dinner at Rafa’s parents with the rest of the family and all I remember was being tired and so wonderfully overwhelmed. This year, we had decided to take the reins and arrange the Christmas meal.

It was going to be a simpler affair. In September (yes, September) we went to a department store and saw THIS.

The Costa Rican Black Christmas Tree

I have seen white, frosted, purple and silver, but this black one was a first for me. In my wilder days, I would have loved to get it but I had a feeling it really wouldn’t be appreciated as much as I would have wanted to be here. As it stands, Ticos do enjoy real trees for the holidays. They are not the traditional pines and blue spruces, but a carefully trimmed home-grown fragrant cypress. I was intrigued and Rafa would have gotten me one, but I settled on a durable Norfolk Pine house plant I bought last year.

It’s a delicate little tree so I could only put on a few light ornaments, but it still is quite lovely. I only packed one box of Christmas things. As crabby as my Dad was about Christmas, I did inherit some sweet old glass ornaments. Ok, I just took them. It’s not like he would ever use them.

Ticos certainly do get into the full on Christmas mode, even so far as decorating their homes with signs that say “Let it snow!” Sheesh, if it ever did really snow here, you know the apocalypse is coming. What you do get here more that I would have expected are fireworks. All of December, I could hear the pop and distant booms of fireworks accumulating in a Christmas day (at the stroke of midnight) extravaganza. Although, I was rather puzzled at the mid-day display, at high noon no less. Kinda defeats the whole idea to me, but hey, why not?

I kept needling Rafa for guidance on what to expect and prepare for when it came to holding Christmas dinner, but he was terribly ambiguous about the whole thing. I shopped for several options for several different meals, but ended up hitting the store again on the eve and making a seafood paella.

The funniest part was watching my sous chef, Rafa, tackle the calamari. Not one for blood and guts, he bought the whole squid and watching him eviscerate the critter with that big eyeball staring at him, was hilarious. Even his sister had to beat a quick escape at the sight of squid innards. No picture could capture the whole event. None the less, he was a trooper, and the dinner was divine. My Spanish may still be a little wobbly, but cooking crosses language barriers. Nothing says love and appreciation more than a great cooked meal. And well, that is certainly something.

Never a dull moment

“What’s with the pied piper?” I chirp at Rafa. I can hear the pitch and roll of a pan flute coming from the street.

“That’s the knife sharpener.” He’s so matter-of-fact about the statement, I wonder how I could not possibly make the connection. What he doesn’t seem to connect is the fact that I have been pestering him for weeks to get MY knives honed. My granite cutting board is excellent for keeping things clean but really dulls my Henkels.

I stared dead at him. “Oh yeah” he giggles and calls after the guy.

At first I though I would be giving him my knives only to have them returned some time later. Silly me. This man is the whole operation rolled into one on wheels! It was pretty cool. With a grinding wheel and homemade kick stand, he was able to peddle and sharpen. As soon as he stopped for us, neighbors popped out with their dull instruments too. Plus, it gave them a chance to poke fun at my wobbly Spanish. In a matter of minutes, my knives were good as new and all for a couple of bucks, including tip.

Granted, there are a lot of street entrepreneurs around here selling everything from food, to furniture, to orchids, to services rendered. It’s quite a racket and, for the most part, I don’t partake. But I am all for my little sharp wheels guy!

I don’t know how far he travels but if you hear the tinkling of a pan flute in your neighborhood, run and get your knives. You won’t be disappointed.

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