Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Friday, January 28, 2011

Today is our last full day in stunning Costa Rica. We got up early for our hour+ drive to catch the 9:00 ferry. It takes longer to drive here, because the potholes in the roads (even if they are paved, and most are not) are huge and require careful navigation. We arrived at out hotel in Allejuela at about 2:00, just in time to unload our things and get organized before heading off with the hotel’s owner/chef Nhi (pronounced “nee”), who took us on a tour of the big market here. Allejuela is the second-largest city in Costa Rica, after the capitol, San Jose, and the market is wonderful! We tasted zapote (mamey sapote, my new favorite fruit), caimito (star apple, delicious and amazingly beautiful), and drank pipas, the liquid found in an immature coconut, drunk through a straw inserted through the husk. We saw many other exotic (and not so exotic) fruits and vegetables: pejivalle (peach palm, said to be loved by the Ticos and not so much by the rest of us), mangos, papayas, figs, water apples, several varieties of avocado, pineapple, blackberries, small red bananas, watermelon, cantaloupe, passionfruit, starfruit, citrus, and much much more! We also tasted fresh and smoked cheese that showed up in our salad later. Doug got some great pictures and we had a wonderful time. Nhi also bought eggs and fish, and now we are resting up, waiting for her to turn all this bounty into our dinner. I’m starving!

Later note: the fish Nhi bought for dinner is called cusk-eel – not an actual eel, but similar in appearance.  Dinner was marvelous! We had a luscious faux-spinach salad, I think made with Malabar spinach – not a true spinach, but grown in warm climates or in summer as a spinach substitute. Its leaves are thicker than true spinach, and it has a similar flavor. The eggs we bought at the market had been hard-boiled and topped the salad, along with a tangy vinaigrette. Slices of the smoked market cheese and toasted bread were the perfect accompaniments.

The main course was the cusk-eel, poached and served on a bed of pureed sweet potato, with grilled carrots and green beans on the side. The fish was silky and luscious, a variety I would seek out again. The sweet potato and veggies were cooked to perfection! We were stuffed.

And then they brought out dessert. An ├ęclair so light and fluffy it had to be held down with a filling of blackberries and a topping of chocolate sauce. Those of you familiar with my tastes know that I rarely eat dessert – and yet this was so wonderful I ate (almost) all of it! No one talks about the food when you plan a trip to Costa Rica, and yet I have to say I was impressed at every meal – and the scales show it. Another meal to live for!