Cooking and eating through a new culture

Archive for the month “March, 2012”

Getting yer Irish on

Green beer at Stan's!

Saint Patrick’s Day has always been a favorite of mine. More so than any of the “big” holidays. Not only is it a time for copious amount of beer and sweet reverie, but as fortune would have it, it is also the day a Latino leprechaun stole my heart. I had never been a big believer in luck or fate, but that day certainly marked a huge and wonderful turning point in my life. I still consider myself very lucky, even with all the crazy challenges here. So crank up some Flogging Molly or Pouges and get yourself ready for a wee bit o’ fun.

Stan’s Irish Pub

Last year, Rafa and I inadvertently stumbled into Stan’s with the thought of a quick beer and an early night. Oh, how wrong we were. It was a banner night and it led to many wonderful discoveries, which I posted last year here. I like Stan’s and I like Stan. He is a great guy and he runs a good business. Besides, this is my hood now and even though I have mellowed these past years, I like having a neighborhood bar.  If you find yourself on the Eastside of the valley, Stan’s is the place. I know there are other places around that may be hipper or newer, but no one will have a world-class bagpipper gracing their establishment making me weep and want to go into battle at the same time.

Time Out Tavern

I have recently given them snaps here. But what I had failed to include (because I finally diverted from my hamburgers and wings) was their awesome reuben sandwich. I don’t know what it is about March and my sudden craving for fermented cabbage, but it happens every year. Sauerkraut is an acquired taste and it is certainly not on the in Tico diet, but I love it, and strangely enough, so does Rafa.  Not only that, this sandwich is huge! Big ol’ pile of corn beef and kraut! It may not have been on the dark rye bread I am use to, but it was still damn good!

Granted, there are other places around Costa Rica but these are my suggestions. Besides, I’m not going to endorse a place I have not been to. I will get to them and vet them carefully. I do have standards, you know!  Rest assured, both offer good food and have Costa Rica Craft Beer on tap too (a MUST). The best part is that CRCB has brewed a batch of stout specially for St. Patrick’s Day. Guinness is certainly a go-to but do yourself a favor and down a pint of CRCB stout. It’s divine. I have been lucky to see and visit parts of this country that maybe are not necessarily on the radar of the typical tourist/expat. At least in my research, there has been nothing that touched on what I wanted to know. Maybe this little blog, with its tidbits about Costa Rica, will help you get lucky too. I can only hope.   

May your days be many and your troubles be few. May all God’s blessings descend upon you. May peace be within you may your heart be strong. May you find what you’re seeking wherever you roam.


Trying NOT to be consumed

I had to post this. Just a small change of pace from eating to being eaten. Anyone, and I do mean ANYONE who has lived here has suffered at the ferociousness of the mosquito. I spent my first few months here dappled with bites. Live here long enough and you do develop a bit of a tolerance, but who hasn’t been woken up with the WEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE of those little fuckers in your ear, or dancing on your face. Turn on the light and poof, like that. They’re gone (said in my best Kevin Spacey voice). I have waged midnight wars, flailing around, slapping myself silly. Begged for screens. Put up mosquito netting. Used bug spray like perfume. All to no avail.

Not a fan of chemicals, I have steered clear of DEET. DEET (N,N-Diethyl-3-methylbenzamide),can cause potential neurotoxicity to humans, especially when DEET-based repellents are used in combination with other neurotoxic insecticides. The EPA concluded  that, as long as consumers follow label directions and take proper precautions, insect repellents containing DEET do not present a health concern. Unfortunately, you never really know what you are getting here, so I have just been airing on the side of caution. I have seen many places mix and sell their own natural concoctions and I have found them to be quite effective. My problem is the application, or should I say the routine application. It’s not uncommon to find me sunburned and bug bitten.

So far, I haven’t suffered from any ill effects, but this is the tropics and dengue, malaria, and yellow fever are certainly flying around here. Not necessarily in the Central Valley, but the coastal areas and all the crazy places tourists like to think they are exploring. Outbreaks of dengue fever have been reported annually from Costa Rica since 1993 and there was over 5000 case in 2011. Malaria, not so much. 2006 was the last outbreak and it was right where our cabinas are in the Caribbean. But lets face it, there will always be something chewing on you on a regular basis.

There are a myriad of products out there ranging from simple to extreme, but as a hardcore DIY kinda girl, I was giddy to find this article. As you read this, I will be putting these together and placing them strategically around. I am hoping in combination with making sure there is no standing water, blocked gutters, or anywhere else those little blood suckers like to breed, I will get some peaceful nights. Also, wordpress has added a global map on my statistics page and I have readers in Africa! How cool is that! So I hope this helps all of you too.

Time Out Tavern…A gringo’s guilty pleasure.

I love food. That should not come as a shock, but I love all food and as conscious as I am about what I eat, I do have a soft spot for comfort food, like a big o’ piece of meat and a beer! A woman cannot live on bean sprouts and green tea alone, especially this woman. So when the mood strikes, Rafa and I will head to the Time Out Tavern to drink good beer, watch sports, and nosh on some exceptional bar food. Now, I will be the first to admit. I was rather reluctant to check this place out. I just never thought they would be able to capture what it is, at least for me, to be a honest-to-God real American, hometown bar but it is a skill the proprietors have. That’s because the Grahams are from upstate New York and no one quite does a tavern than a drinking area with a sports problem (that’s for you, Nickel City).

The Time Out has a large horseshoe bar usually lined with the assortment of people you would expect…or maybe not. Don’t be surprised to find people representing every corner of the globe and with the added social lubrication of alcohol, be warmly invited into conversation. And that’s what sealed the deal for me. Bars from my hometown were not meant to be places to hunker down and hide. You went there to escape the cold, but expecting people you know, or know you through someone else. There was, at the most, maybe three degrees of separation from anyone within a 100 miles of where I grew up. Here you’re not recognized from high school, but as a fellow outlier and that’s pretty comforting. Regardless of the circumstance that brought you to Costa Rica, and keeps you in Costa Rica, it’s good to get back to your roots and commiserate with your fellow expats.

The bar is lined with not only choice sports paraphernalia, but 13 TVs tuned to every sport imaginable. For us, it was our guilty pleasure of watching the live UFC fight over a pint or two. For some time now, Rafa and I would find ourself snuggling on the couch gleefully watching men beat the living shit out of each other. It may have stemmed from the fact there is nothing on Costa Rican cable (and not enough pirate taxi drivers), but we are now avid followers of the UFC. Other treks to the Time Out have included getting my hockey fix, especially now since the playoffs are gearing up, and trying to find some sort of redemption in my hometown football team…which lasted about 3 games, *sigh*. There is not a doubt in my mind that they would tune to any sport on one of the numerous TVs, if asked politely. The World Junior Curling Championship is going on now if you are so inclined to sit down to a brew and watch the excitement.

If sports are just too stimulating for you, the Time Out also has a book exchange. Sometimes finding a good English read can be challenging here and it is a great service they offer. Easy to see them lined along the wall as you walk in, or as you peruse the specials board, you may be pleasantly surprised at what you find. For us it was, The God Forsaken Sea. I have passed along a few of my own too. No Dan Brown or Stephanie Meyer, please. Have some decency people.

This most recent time around we just stayed with a pitcher of the new IPA by Costa Rica Craft Brewery. CRCB never disappoints and their IPA is no exception. But if you should need to soak up some of that fine brew, rest assured the menu is sure to please. Daily specials are listed when you walk in and it will be full of any number of local hometown favorites. Pizza seems to be a very popular option too, although I just haven’t been able to go beyond the usual burger or chicken wings. They also offer blue cheese with their wings, which may seem like a no-brainer, but can be a challenging find here. If you are going to watch your favorite team (getting their asses handed to them, like mine), beer and burgers are the way to go. Then again, nothing says UFC than chewing the meat off the bones of something smaller and tastier.

300 Meters South of the Costa Rica Country Club, 1250 Escazú, Costa Rica

La Feria Orgánica Buena Tierra Escazú

On Wednesdays, beginning at 8am, there is an organic market in Escazú.  Again, it was something I had heard about but had never gotten to. Type in “organic market Costa Rica” into Google and  La  Feria Orgánica Buena Tierra  is one of the first things to pop up. Since I have been all curious about this organic market trend, I talked Rafa into going with me before he had to be at work. Risking life (it was a restricted day for our car) and limb (I only had one cuppa coffee) we ventured out to see what this place had to offer. Passing the place three times, we finally realized this was it:

I hear crickets.

“That’s it?!” Rafa questions. I look at my watch and it says 9am, on the nose. Granted, the blog post stated to get there early, but we had already stocked up on the weekend so this was just an exploratory trip. Good thing. It was pretty desolate. Do the expat hordes descend at 8am on the dot and wipe the place out like locusts? Or is it a market for agoraphobes?

“Nope. It’s always like this” Sitting out, ostracized from the rest of what little there is, were my favorite cheese people from Queso Artesanal (aka the “Got Goat” cheese makers). We stayed and chatted with them. It seems they are trying to break into the market and they have been there on Wednesdays for some time. We urged them to look elsewhere. Their products are too divine to be only sold at a few tiny places. I found it ironic that people probably breezed past the best cheese in Costa Rica only to snap up a few heads of organic lettuce. Where are your priorities people?! We bought the camembert: because it’s awesome.

Next we came across a seafood seller: Balza Verde. He had a decent assortment of fresh and frozen products, including shrimp, calamari, and various fish. There was also a mix bag with shrimp, shellfish, calamari and Surimi (not a fan of that stuff). If you really need your fish fix, they will deliver to your home…but only if you live in Escazú or surrounding areas. We bought some frozen grouper to try. We’ll see.

Slim pick'ins

Desiccated desirables

Tasty nut butters and chocolate

A small covered structure at the back of the lot held the remains of what little fresh produce was left and a handful of prepared products. There were some preserves, beauty products, honey, and a sweet lady, from Good for you Foods, selling a wonderful assortment of dried fruits. I am definitely keeping her in mind for our next 10k hike. Nothing like making your own gorp! She also makes, of all things, homemade Korean Kimchi. I wanted to mention that since it has been the first time I have seen it here in Costa Rica. It’s not a favorite of mine, but those of you who love it, eat it with wild abandon. Just have a breath mint afterwards please.

I bought Rafa some homemade peanut butter with almonds and honey from Tierra Gourmet. I had seen her before in other venues and I like her spunk and drive…and she makes a damn fine good product. Try the cashew butter for a change of pace or some of her delectable chocolates.

But what was really worth the time and effort was this:


Cured trout! OMG! The stuff is fish crack! I wanted to mainline it. It was so amazingly good. Bruno has a tiny operation out of his house where he cures and smokes fresh trout from the mountains in Los Santos region, and the Escazú market is the only place he sells it. See! I knew trout was around here somewhere.  But we had blown through what little money we had thinking we were not going to get much. Bruno, bless his heart, was going to give us some on credit. Not credit card. The real credit. We couldn’t do that and ended up just running to the closest ATM. When I dashed back with the colones in my hot little hands, Bruno cuts the last slab of trout off its skin, passes it to me and says “Get a bottle of Pinot Grigio with this and you will be happy.” Oh, I like him so much. If you can’t make it to the Wednesday market, he sells out of his house at

People rave about this place and I see it mentioned all over the internet. What I found interesting was the complete absence of any mention of Feria Verde on the sites listing organic farmers markets. Why is that? Is there some Eastside/Westside organic turf war? Or is it that Escazú is its own little enclave and doesn’t recognize anything outside its borders that isn’t Atenas or Guanacaste? When we are in the area and tell people where we live, we almost always get puzzled looks. At first, I thought it was my pronunciation, but no. San Pedro/Zapote just does not register. It’s great that there are options for people who live in the central valley to have access to organic food. That’s not my point. I mean, if I am showing up an hour after it opens and it is picked clean of produce, why bother going? Why entice people to show up? And there wasn’t even coffee let alone any breakfast treats. The La Feria Orgánica Buena Tierra blog site states ” There is currently a selection of more than 70 fruits and vegetables.” I would have been surprised if there was a total of 70 individual pieces of produce!  At least at Feria Verde, there were ample products and if all else fails, there’s a number of places to plop down and nosh on some fantastic food. And it was bustling with people! If you ask me, a market needs that. Afterall, it is supposed to be a social community meeting place, for the benefit of the consumer and the producer.

Maybe we caught them on a bad day? Maybe it’s geared more towards the local regulars who fly in right at 8am? What I think, is that Escazú would benefit more from a farm share operation instead of a straight up market, especially on a Wednesday. People could just pick up and go and not expect the atmosphere of a market. If you ask me, a farm share would be the next step in the evolution of the locavore/organic trend here and if it happens, I would be first in line.

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