Costa Rican food and drink

I wanted to write a few words about the food and drink we’ve had on this trip while the flavors are still fresh in my mind.

Beer & other alcoholic drinks
There are two beers you see everywhere in Costa Rica — Imperial and Pilsen.  Imperial is a lager, not long on flavor but what’s there is good.  Pilsen, despite the name, is not a pilsner; it’s similar to Imperial but has even less flavor.  You can get imported beers as well, mostly German.  Given the remote areas we were in, I stuck to Imperial.

Costa Rica does not produce any wine to speak of.  There are some vineyards that are giving it a go, but the climate’s not right and the product not highly regarded.  Consequently, wine prices are high since everything is imported.

Costa Rica produces sugar cane, so rum and “Guru” (essentially sweet, unaged rum) are cheap and good.  Tropical drinks such as piña colada — really, anything using local fruit — are quite good.  Other hard liquor is imported and expensive.

Coffee
Costa Rica produces a lot of coffee. It’s quite good — usually it’s a light to medium roast, served with a lot of hot milk added.  The traditional way to prepare it is to pour hot water through grounds held in a sock-shaped filter suspended by a wooden frame.  We only had it prepared this way once, and it reminded me of coffee from a French press.

Juice
We had a lot of fruit juice on this trip — with practically every meal.  They’re typically blends of different fruits, and usually not strongly flavored.  Quite pleasant, especially in our hotter locations.

Food
In an earlier post, I referred to comida típica — the typical or traditional Costa Rican fare. This dish, called casado, consists of white rice, black or red beans cooked with garlic & cilantro, salad with vegetables (we saw mostly carrot, cucumber, red bell pepper, heart of palm, avocado, and tomato) with a simple vinaigrette, fried or roasted plantain, and meat — chicken, fish, beef, or pork — cooked with some mild spices and/or marinated in fruit juice.  We saw variations of this dish frequently for lunch or dinner or both. Sometimes it came with corn tortillas, but we saw it just as often without.

For breakfast, we always saw fruit — watermelon, banana, pineapple, and papaya seem to be what’s in season right now — as well as scrambled eggs, pancakes, bacon or sausage (the breakfast sausages are small like US ones but taste like kielbasa), toast, and rice & beans pre-mixed. 

A common alternative to the rice & bean type meal is pasta — I had a quite competent bolognese for one dinner.  I’m not sure where this influence comes from.

Meats here are all pasture raised.  Chicken and pork are excellent, beef less so — the meat itself is flavorful but they have a tendancy to cook it to death.  We saw 3 fish commonly offered — sea bass, farmed trout (famously farmed within walking distance of Savegre, our first lodge), and tilapia. All were quite good.

There’s a local cheese that I learned to like.  It’s mild (not very aged), somewhat squeaky in texture, with pockets of whey.  I don’t know what it’s called.

All in all, I enjoyed the food here, but will be happy to get back to my accustomed more varied diet.  I’ll especially be glad to get back to good old microbrewed ales.

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