January 23, 2009

Costa Rica

I've been back in the land of ice and snow for one week now, and let me tell you, it has been a very long week.  I greatly enjoyed having a reprieve from the weather, and the fantastic food I was able to enjoy on a daily basis.  I must admit, the company was splendid, but I still keep thinking of the food.  I have been delaying on creating this post, for the specific reason that I failed to take pictures of the food, and have been hoping that one of my relatives did.  Alas, I was not the only one having too much fun.  

My family stayed at a lovely all inclusive, that we all gave rave reviews.  Being my first resort, I honestly have no idea how it stands up against others, but the Occidental Grand Papagayo, was fantastic.  I had no problems eating, and were I still a vegetarian (not for 4 or 5 years now) I would still have been able to eat well and without pitfalls.  Of course there were foods that I couldn't even hazard a guess as to what was in them, and getting an answer could be challenging due to the language barrier.  The wait staff spoke excellent English, while the kitchen staff often did not.  Therefore there were times I would ask, and it would take a little while to find someone who undestand the specifics of my question, and be able to answer it, but everyone always seemed genuinly happy to help out.

Now, a little about the food.  

Never have I enjoyed so many choices of fresh fruit and vegetables.  Every time I looked there was always someone enjoying some pineapple, and I have been informed that it was some of the best tasting pineapple - sadly I am unable to eat it.  While I have never been one to enjoy papaya, I was consuming it at least once a day, and more often than not, twice!  There were citrus fruits, that tasted like a mild orange, and several different exotic fruits.  Some of which were a guessing game on just how you were supposed to eat them, but they always tasted delicious.  And the best part, was the mango's.  They were sweet, juicy, and tasted just like sunshine.  I could easily have lived on the fruit alone.  Of course, I didn't.

Every morning I was able to enjoy Gallo Pinto, the national Costa Rican dish.  It's a dish of rice and beans, and to my understanding is often served at each meal.  I had memories of it from my last trip down, 8 years ago now, and almost jumped for joy when I say it at breakfast.  By the end of the week, everyone in my family had tried it and loved it - minus my brother, who likes his "normal" food for breakfast.  I will make it and post about it at some point, I promise.  While everyone else was filling themselves up with gluten filled goodies, I was enjoying steamed veggies, fresh fruit, and this wonderful chicken dish that I never did get the name of, along with my Gallo Pinto for breakfast.  It all tasted wonderful, and I never felt heavy or weighed down after.  I'm thinking I should start eating that way more often.

My other favorite thing while I was there, was something I actually didn't try until leaving, but brought back with me.  In the little gift shop my cousin and I found little bags of chocolate coated nuts, coffee beans and fruit.  We both picked up a couple different flavors and little presents, and I have to admit, I tried the ones I bought, and then couldn't even consider giving away the other.  They were made by Cafe Britt and I am considering trying to order some all the way to Canada.  While I am not a coffee drinker and can not comment on the coffee they produce, the rest of my family is, and everyone really enjoyed it.  I have heard that Costa Rican's make some of the best coffee.  And I do remember bringing home a bag of it for my Grandfather last trip, and that it was very well received.

After all these glowing comments, I do have to mention that there was large pitfall.  The flights.  While snacks are no longer standard fare on Air Canada flights, the buy on board program is pretty scary to someone with a gluten intolerance.  I survived the flight there thanks to a few snack bars that "Santa" had left me, and the flight back, but bringing a little bag of cheese with me from breakfast.  The only times the entire week that I went hungry, were then.  

My final thought on food in Costa Rica for anyone who is considering going, enjoy their traditional dishes as they seem to much less dependent upon gluten containing products than our Western dishes are.  But most of all, just enjoy all the naturally gluten free produce they have, because trust me, that fresh banana will taste so much better than the ones you get at home!

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