Feria del Gustico Costarricense…I want this! I must have this! Where do I get this?!
It’s easy to miss things here. Advertising just doesn’t have that gringo aggressiveness I am use to. So imagine my surprise when Rafa returns from a morning run and tells me about the Feria del Gustico Costarricense, at the old customs building, La Antigua Aduana. Basically, this was a Costa Rican small farm expo. I was so excited about this, I eagerly changed our plans from a quiet picnic in the mountains to spending a day jostling for free samples and checking all about what I didn’t know about Costa Rican agriculture. Needless to say, it’s a lot. Let me summarize some of the highlights.
The venue held just about a hundred stands representing different agricultural businesses from all over Costa Rica. From tiny family run operations to big plantations, each one was unique and wonderful. Costa Rica is getting all locavore! I love it!
The three biggest commodities represented were coffee (well, duh), dairy, and chocolate. This is what I found to be the most interesting about coffee, although Rafa has said this to me before: the best coffee is exported and the crappy stuff stays in country. Now, crappy coffee here is still hands down better than anything I have had stateside, but when you are able to sample the brews of literally dozens of farms, you would be astounded at the differences. Each kiosk offered such unique flavors and complexities, my limited taste buds couldn’t keep up. That’s why I have those three sentences in my title, because I could not stop repeating them over and over. The stores just don’t offer this!
Next came the chocolate. Chocolate does not seem to be a local favorite. Or maybe it’s like the coffee, and just not offered, because I had to beat back some persistent old ladies to snag my samples. Costa Rican chocolate is mainly sold to gringos. Any of the shops that sell it, are geared towards the tourist crowds, which is a shame since it is outstanding chocolate. I should know. I worked in three different gourmet chocolate factories when I was in college, so I have sampled my fair share. Do yourself a favor and hunt some of these places down. You just have to hunt hard. Many do not have websites, but you will not be disappointed.
Last, but not least, dairy. Oh, lovely bovine bliss. How I covet thee. Yes, I have talked about the diary here before, but they are certainly doing a lot more than I had given them credit for. Artisan cheese is breaking into the market here and it’s about time! It’s baby steps, but at least they are trying. My goat cheese lady, from the blog “Got Goat”, was there too offering a Camembert that had a beautiful subtle flavour and texture despite her protests that it did not fully ripen. But what really made me squeal with delight was the buffalo cheese ricotta. When I sampled it, I literally had a ricotta acid trip and flashed back to all the wonderful Italian meals I had consumed over my lifetime. It was that good.
Okay. Those were the big ones but what really got my heart racing was the unexpected: Quail eggs and meat, pickles and preserves, specifically Jaleas & Mermeladas with their fig jam and limited edition sweet goat milk caramel. I bought Rafa the 100% organic strawberry jam and the owner, Fiorella Medrano, assured me of its authenticity. I love people who are passionate about their products. Makes me want to start asking for jobs! There was also grape seed oil, spirulina, dried fruit (to eat, and believe it or not, to wear!), beauty products (soaps and lotions), AND (I saved the best for last) MUSHROOMS!! Yes! It’s true! Fresh, fantastic fungi. But wait! BioFungiCR offers classes TO GROW YOUR OWN! WhoooHooo! I was so excited when I saw them, I nearly began to weep. I will be the over eager gringa in the next class with the Spanish/English dictionary sticking out of her back pocket.
It was wonderful to see so much but I know there is more out there. This is my wish list of what I thought was missing: organic meat and sausage, avocado oil, quinoa, coconut oil, fresh pasta, and farm raised fish. I have been hearing rumblings of trout being farmed up in the mountains, but I have yet to get my hands on some of this. Avocado and coconut oil are hot commodities now, both in cooking and for beauty products. I bought some coconut oil while I was in the Caribbean for my curly hair and it is divine. Far better than any product I could purchase at Sephora. And why no quinoa? It’s the South American super food and I cannot find it anywhere.
I am sorry to say I don’t have a good representation of all that was offered and some places just didn’t have any contact information either. I tried scratching up a list from the show itself, but I could not locate it. My only hope is that this keeps happening on a regular basis, and more and more people are exposed to what Costa Rica has to offer. We only heard of the expo on Sunday and it was heartbreaking to learn it had gone on for three days and had free classes too. It’s tough keeping your eyes peeled to all that is going on in this tiny country! Below are the places that I could not get enough of.
A good place to start looking for these items: https://www.facebook.com/FeriaVerde
Queso Artesanal (of “Got Goat” fame) tel: 8910-2808 or email@example.com
Italacteos Mind blowing mozzarella and Ricotta: http://italacteos.com/ (but it is under construction. Hurry, damn you!) tel: 2470-3000
COFFEE: Cafe San Vito (they had the Italian and Japanese exports) http://www.cafesanvito.com/
Aprocetu tel: 8970-2017
Cafe Forestral http://coocafe.com/cafeforestal/index.html
CHOCOLATE: Sibu http://www.sibuchocolate.com/
Association of Amazilla Women of the Caribbean , a group of rural women from Pueblo Nuevo de Guacimo dedicated to the production of organic chocolate.
Association of Indigenous Bribrí Women of Talamanca.—ACOMUITA Chocolate Production
Preserves: Jaleas & Mermeladas J & M tel: 2297-7864 firstname.lastname@example.org
Quail: Montesland tel: 2446-6404